§ LORD HATHERTON
then rose and said, it became his duty to invite their Lordships' consideration to the Address which he should have the honour of proposing in reply to Her Majesty's most Gracious Speech. The condition of Ireland had necessarily given a prominence to that topic which its all-absorbing importance deserved; and for the first time for a long series of years, Ireland appeared no longer as the arena of political agitation. The question, therefore, which they had now to consider, was no longer a question of party interest or of party opposition, or of party policy; for it had pleased the Almighty, in his inscrutable wisdom, to inflict upon that country a wide-spread and desolating famine, unequalled, he believed, in the past history of the world—certainly not to be paralleled in the history of modern times. The population of Ireland since the year 1792—that was, during the last fifty-four years—had exactly doubled. Even at that period the potato formed the most common article of food throughout that country; and it was well known that from that period down to the present time, the potato had become more and more the principal article of subsistence of a large portion of the Irish people. Not only was it the principal article of subsistence of the cottar and the peasant, but of the small farmer also; and not only of the small farmer, but of a very large proportion of the population inhabiting the suburbs of large towns; not only was it the principal article of sustenance for all these classes, but it entered very materially into the consumption of the animals which the people reared, and on which they were accustomed to depend for food and provision. The value of the potato crop had been estimated at not less 6 than sixteen millions annually, and he believed, that that was by no means an overestimate of its value. When their Lordships considered the immense amount of sustenance which such a crop would afford, some idea might be formed of the awful misery consequent upon its failure. The failure of that root had brought on a famine which had not only proved destructive to the poorer classes, but which threatened the existence of every man in the community. The result of it was that the union workhouses were filled to overflowing, and the governors had been compelled to close their doors against further admissions; whilst he believed that many of those houses were bordering on the verge of bankruptcy. In consequence of the Labour-rate Act passed at the close of last Session, presentment sessions had been held in a great number of the baronies of Ireland. Out of the 326 baronies, 293 had put the Labour-rate Act into operation. In all those baronies presentment sessions had been held once; in upwards of eighty, he believed, they had been held twice, for the purpose of voting public works; and in no inconsiderable number of instances they had been held three times. There might be certain objections to that Act, such as the possibility of undertaking works of a useless kind, and the danger that it might lead to a general neglect of the cultivation of the soil; but he believed that it was regarded as a measure which was passed in anticipation of considerable difficulties, and that it received, at the time, very general support; and he was certainly not aware that at that time any person in authority denounced the measure as inadequate for the purposes which it was intended to accomplish. In this state of things it became absolutely necessary for the Lord Lieutenant, in communication with the Government of this country, to consider what was to be done to avoid these evils, and to continue to employ the people on a principle satisfactory to the landed proprietors, and not ruinous to the country at large. There were but two paths to be taken—one, to assemble Parliament to devise other measures—the other, for the Lord Lieutenant to take upon himself the direction and management of the public money as he best could under the circumstances. In his opinion the Government had acted wisely in not adopting the former alternative. If they had adopted it there would have been a long delay before Parliament could have assem- 7 bled, and a long discussion when it did, and Government could not possibly have had the experience which it now possessed, whilst pending all these proceedings little or nothing could have been done by the landed proprietors throughout the country. The Lord Lieutenant had, therefore, in his opinion, taken upon himself the exercise of the wisest discretion in determining to accommodate, as far as possible, the existing Act of Parliament to the circumstances of the case, by adopting such of its provisions as permitted the application of the funds to the occupation of the people in useful public and reproductive works. But to accomplish this it had been by no means operative to the requisite extent, for it confined the expenditure of the public money almost exclusively to drainage, and many of the landowners had no land which required draining, so that he believed no great advancement had been made under Mr. Labouchere's scheme. A very usual complaint, also, and not an unnatural one, was, that the Irish landlords could not guard against the injustice of the double tax, for a man who had released his land from all charge was not released from his contributions to the baronial expenses. That state of things naturally educed the cry that the area on which the presentments were rated should be much reduced, and that a townland should constitute an area, instead of an electoral division. Whilst speaking upon this point, he would congratulate the noble Duke upon the propriety of the suggestions which he had made upon this subject some years ago, when the Irish poor law was under consideration, and he could only regret that his suggestions had not been still further carried out. There was also another Act of Parliament, under which the Treasury was empowered to grant 50,000l. to be expended in public works, such as moles, harbours, and fisheries; but that Act was clogged with such inconvenient provisions that he believed not one farthing had been advantageously applied under it. Ireland was now in such a condition that drainage, which afforded beneficial employment to so many of the labouring classes, must cease almost immediately. The Labour-rate Act, then, must soon cease in Ireland, because in many districts it would be impossible to find works on which the public money could be advantageously expended. It would be necessary, therefore, for their Lordships, in conjunction with the House of Commons, to find some other modes of employing the 8 people of Ireland. What those modes should be it was not his intention to suggest, nor would he repeat what he had heard upon the subject, for, possessing no authentic or accurate knowledge, he should be sorry to provoke just then a discussion with regard to it. He fully admitted its paramount importance, and the right of the public, deeply interested as they were in the question, to be made acquainted with all that related to it as soon as possible; but it would be the duty of the First Minister of the Crown in a very few days to bring that important question under the consideration of Parliament. Such were the statements which, upon this subject, he had felt it imperative to state to their Lordships. If he had omitted anything which he should have stated, or if he had mis-stated anything, there were so many of their Lordships so intimately acquainted with all the affairs of Ireland, that those omissions would be readily supplied, or the mis-statements corrected; and, besides, their Lordships would presently have the satisfaction of hearing his noble Friend behind him, who had been so long and so beneficially connected with the county of Wexford, and who could so ably supply any deficiency of which he (Lord Hatherton) had been guilty. It was only necessary further to implore their Lordships, in considering this question, to make the case of Ireland their own; and it was desirable that they should carefully examine and consider the different constitution and condition of property in England and Ireland. Nothing could be more dispiriting than the comparison. In England they had a large landed proprietary, who were generally in circumstances of very considerable affluence. They had besides a vast moneyed interest—a moneyed interest not confined to or concentrated only in the metropolis, but an interest extending to every manufacturing town, to every port in the kingdom, and spread generally over its whole surface. They had, besides, a large body of manufacturers and merchants, as well as a thriving and substantial yeomanry on the estates of the landlords. They had also, and this was very important, a long-established system of organization, cemented by the laws under which they lived; and there was scarcely a parish throughout England in which there were not means calculated to render aid to the humbler classes in the time of necessity. But how different was the case in Ireland! There were, no doubt, several large wealthy landed proprietors there. 9 But, with respect to organization, whilst there was undoubtedly an aptitude for organization for political purposes, yet he feared that for any practical useful purposes the people were remarkably deficient of that quality. Let him imagine one or two analogies, to bring the present position of Ireland more forcibly to their Lordships' minds. Suppose it possible that, by some atmospheric influence, an insect were found to infect every bag of cotton imported into Lancashire for the purpose of the manufactures of this country, and that, consequently, the cotton had been rendered unfit for use. Had their Lordships then addressed the great mill-owners of the country in language such as had been addressed to the landlords of Ireland, and had said, "You have reared up all these people, and we now throw their support upon you," though, no doubt, the answers would have been characterized by benevolence and pity, yet they would find that their Lordships would soon be addressed in some such language as this—"We are now thrown on our own resources, and are made responsible in order to meet this great emergency; but we expect that some partial relief should be extended to us by the Imperial Legislature." To bring the analogy near home, let their Lordships suppose that the blight had fallen on the wheat and oat crops of this country, and that no such thing had happened in Ireland, would it be right in such a case that the English landowner alone should be called upon to defray the expenses of supporting the poor? These remarks emanated solely from himself, and had not been made at the suggestion of any party; but he could not have undertaken the duty of proposing the Address to the Crown, unless he had been allowed free license to express his own opinions. Whatever might be the issue of this fearful calamity, one thing was certain, and that was, that it was the bounden duty of all parties, both in England and Ireland, from the highest Minister of the Crown, down to the lowest member of society, to combine, and by every exertion, and by every personal sacrifice, if necessary, to do all in their power to arrest the fearful progress of this giant evil. Let them reflect what would have been the condition of England if the Channel had not existed between the two countries. The consequence to England would then have been as dire as if the calamity had occurred in England itself. Whatever might be the issue of the calamity, they 10 had the satisfaction of knowing that there was a universal determination to do all to alleviate the present distresses. They could only hope that Heaven had in store a better order of things, and that the present trial was only intended to fit them for the better understanding of social duties. Two practical points had been suggested by Her Majesty in Her Speech from the Throne as suited to the present emergency. He alluded to the suspension, for a limited period, of the existing corn law, and to the admission of sugar for use in breweries and distilleries. He could not entertain the slightest doubt that there would be a disposition, both on the part of their Lordships and the other House of Parliament, to concede both of these measures. It was pretended, he knew, by some, that with the price of grain rising in all the markets of the world, and with prices in this country in advance of other markets, nothing was more certain than, by opening the ports for a given period, the importing merchants, factors, and dealers generally, would put all the advantage in their own pockets. But, although the fact was not alluded to in Her Majesty's Speech, he looked for a suspension of the navigation laws for a limited period. And with regard to the admission of sugar into breweries and distilleries, their Lordships must bear in mind that the price of barley was 10s. per quarter higher now than at the corresponding period of last year; and that it was admitted by the most intelligent brewers and distillers that more than one-fifth of the colonial produce could not be safely substituted for barley. The price of beer had been greatly advanced to the retailers, and by them to the public. There was another measure not mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech, but which, in his opinion was necessary to be adopted for the purpose of carrying forward measures of a most important nature to Ireland, as large advances were to be made to landlords upon security of the soil. He alluded to a reported intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to appoint a commission for the purpose of facilitating grants; and if what he had further heard should be true, that a noble and learned Lord presiding over one of Her Majesty's Courts, a person of eminent learning and character, had consented to give his aid in the working of that commission, he anticipated the greatest benefits to the country from it. Indeed, he did not see how it could be justly proposed to 11 charge a considerable sum upon the landlords for the improvement of waste lands, and of other portions of property, without at the same time giving them some facilities for discharging their debts by disposing of a portion of their property. The old-fashioned notions of the sanctity of entail ought not to stand in the way of a modified change of this description; and he should be very much disappointed if the commission did not carry its reforms somewhat further. There was a natural tendency in the long-established practice of conveyancing to multiply entanglements and complications, and for the business to be put in a course which, however profitable it might be to the artist employed, was an immense disadvantage to those for whom it was designed. There was also another object of importance—the necessity which in his opinion existed for the establishment of some great ordinary tribunal for the regulation of exchanges of property. At present individuals wishing to exchange had no course open to them but an Act of Parliament. The Church was much interested in this subject; and there were few persons acquainted with landed property, especially entailed property, who had not seen cases of serious deterioration of the public benefit from the want of such a tribunal. Her Majesty next informed them that She had ordered the correspondence between Her Government and those of France and Spain, in relation to the marriage of the Duke of Montpensier, to be laid before Parliament. As he had no authentic information upon anything that had passed upon this subject, he should refrain from making a single observation upon it. With regard to the occupation of Cracow, Her Majesty informed them She had ordered the Papers respecting it to be laid before Parliament; and also that She had commanded that a Protest against that act should be delivered to the Courts of Vienna, Petersburg, and Berlin. Although he did not propose to do more than ask their Lordships to concur in the Address he should propose, the extinction of the free State of Cracow appeared to be so manifest a violation of the Treaty of Vienna, that he must, in his individual capacity, state his opinion upon it in the strongest terms he could command. Austria, of all other countries, should have most adhered to the principle of that treaty, which formed the basis of the settlement of Europe. Not only was a large and important portion of the fabric of her own 12 empire based upon the provisions of that treaty; but much that had been done in other parts of Europe, calculated for her protection, derived stability from it; and if, upon account of the distance of that ill-fated republic, it was impossible for the other States of Europe to interfere for her protection, it then became necessary, for the honour and the general interest of all, that the strongest protest should be made by all that were interested against this unfortunate Act; and he could not entertain the shadow of a doubt that both their Lordships and the other House of Parliament would respond to the general sentiment of the people of this country—abhorrence of an unrighteous act, which they conceived to be not only a crime, but an evil of the gravest description. Her Majesty next adverted to the hostilities on the River Plate, and expressed a hope that they might soon be terminated. Connected, as he long had been, with a great manufacturing county, it had been his lot to hear incessant complaints upon this subject from merchants interested in the export trade to those parts. At the same time he was bound to say he had not heard either from Staffordshire or elsewhere, the least complaint of want of attention on the part of the noble Earl lately at the head of the Foreign Department. Every attention had been paid, and every exertion had been made by the noble Lord, now at the head of that department, to terminate these hostilities. He most sincerely hoped, not only for the security of the interests of this country, but for the general interests of humanity, that strenuous efforts would be continued with this view. The paragraph in the Speech, which had usually the most prominent place in Speeches from the Throne, was the next to which he should briefly advert—namely, that Her Majesty's relations generally with Foreign Powers inspired Her with the fullest confidence in the maintenance of peace. Although their Lordships had long been accustomed to statements of this description, yet the immense interests of this empire in every part of the globe, to say nothing of the strong feeling, upon every ground of Christian duty, which all must have for desiring the continuance of peace, would always make this announcement upon the part of Her Majesty most welcome. With regard to another topic in the Speech, namely, the sanitary measures advised by Her Majesty for improving the health of towns; living, as he did, in a very populous county, he 13 could bear testimony to the great importance which the manufacturing population attached to this subject. His noble Friend who now represented Her Majesty at Paris (the Marquess of Normanby) was among the first to invite the attention of Parliament to this subject; and he sincerely hoped that measures in relation to it might not long be delayed, for he knew that the discussions in Parliament, and the investigations which had taken place, had greatly augmented the natural anxiety with which the manufacturing population desired to see measures with this object. With these plain observations he should conclude by moving the Address. The noble Lord then read the following Address:—MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,WE, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to return Your Majesty our humble Thanks for Your Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne.WE beg leave humbly to inform Your Majesty that we fully participate in the deep Concern which Your Majesty expresses in having to call our Attention to the Dearth of Provisions which prevails in Ireland and Parts of Scotland.WE beg to state to Your Majesty that we lament to learn that in Ireland especially the Loss of the usual Food of the People has been the Cause of severe Sufferings, of Disease, and of greatly increased Mortality among the poorer Classes. And we deeply regret that Outrages, chiefly against Property, have become more frequent; and that in some Parts of the Country the Transit of Provisions has been rendered unsafe.WE thank Your Majesty for informing us that, with a view to mitigate these Evils, very large Numbers of Men have been employed, and have received Wages, in pursuance of an Act passed in the last Session of Parliament; and we beg to assure Your Majesty that we will take into our Consideration the Propriety of giving our Sanction to the Deviations from that Act which have been authorized by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in order to promote more useful Employment. We thank Your Majesty for informing us that Means have been taken to lessen the Pressure of Want in Districts which are most remote from the ordinary Source of Supply; and that Outrages have been repressed, as far as it was possible, by the Military and Police.WE humbly assure Your Majesty that we participate in the Satisfaction with which Your Majesty observes the exemplary Patience and Resignation of the People in many of the most distressed Districts.WE beg to express to Your Majesty the Regret 14 with which we learn that the Difficulty of obtaining adequate Supplies of Provisions has been augmented by the Deficiency of the Harvest in France and Germany, and in some other parts of Europe.WE beg to state to your Majesty, that, in compliance with Your Majesty's Recommendation, we will not fail to consider what Measures may be required to alleviate the existing Distress, and to take into our serious Consideration whether, by increasing for a limited Period the Facilities for importing Corn from Foreign Countries, and by the Admission of Sugar more freely into Breweries and Distilleries, the Supply of Food may be beneficially augmented.WE humbly assure Your Majesty that our earnest Consideration shall be directed to the permanent Condition of Ireland; and that we will avail ourselves of the Opportunity afforded by the absence of Political Excitement to take a dispassionate Survey of the social Evils which afflict that Part of the United Kingdom.WE humbly thank Your Majesty for the Assurance that various Measures will be laid before us which are intended to raise the great Mass of the People in Comfort, to promote Agriculture, and to lessen the Pressure of that Competition for the Occupation of Land which has been the fruitful Source of Crime and Misery.WE thank Your Majesty for the Information that the Marriage of the Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain to the Duke of Montpensier has given rise to a Correspondence between Your Majesty's Government and those of France and Spain.WE humbly express our Acknowledgments to Your Majesty for informing us that the Extinction of the Free State of Cracow has appeared to Your Majesty to be so manifest a Violation of the Treaty of Vienna that Your Majesty has commanded that a Protest against that Act should be delivered to the Courts of Vienna, Petersburg, and Berlin, which were Parties to it; and for having directed that Copies of these several Papers shall be laid before us.WE beg to assure Your Majesty that we have learned with great Satisfaction that Your Majesty entertains confident Hopes that the Hostilities in the River Plate, which have so long interrupted Commerce, may soon be terminated, and we gratefully acknowledge Your Majesty's Assurance that Your Efforts, in conjunction with those of the King of the French, will be earnestly directed to that End.WE rejoice to be informed that Your Majesty's Relations generally with Foreign Powers inspire Your Majesty with the fullest Confidence in the Maintenance of Peace.WE thank Your Majesty for informing us that Your Majesty has been graciously pleased to order every requisite Preparation to be made for putting into Operation the Act of the last Session of Par- 15 liament for the Establishment of Local Courts for the Recovery of Small Debts; and we beg to assure Your Majesty that we participate in the Hope expressed by Your Majesty, that the Enforcement of Civil Rights in all Parts of the Country to which the Act relates, may, by that Measure, be materially facilitated, in conformity with Your Majesty's gracious Recommendation.WE beg to state to Your Majesty that we will direct our Attention to the Measures which will be laid before us for improving the Health of Towns, an Object the Importance of which we do not fail to appreciate.WE assure Your Majesty that we fully participate in the deep Sense Your Majesty entertains of the Blessings which, after a Season of Calamity, have so often been vouchsafed to this Nation by a superintending Providence.WE humbly thank Your Majesty for confiding to us these important Matters; for the gracious Expression of Your Majesty's full Conviction that our Discussions will be guided by an impartial Spirit; and for Your Majesty's Hope, that by our Deliberations the Sufferings of Your People may be lightened, and their future Condition be improved.
said, that in rising to second the Motion of his noble Friend, he could say with truth that it was always with pain and reluctance that he addressed their Lordships, and that reluctance was increased when he considered that in doing so he should have to advert to the distress and destitution at present existing in Ireland; but he felt he should be deserting the interests of the country to which he was bound by every tie of birth and family, if he shrank now from coming forward and stating his opinions upon that subject. He had been frequently asked since he came from Ireland whether the accounts of the state of things there had been exaggerated? He thought they had not. Last year the distress was confined to a particular district, but this year it was universal. A large part of the population of Ireland, and the poorest part, depended upon the potato for existence. That made them peculiarly liable to distress, and was now the cause of the extreme destitution in that country. It might be said that it was an unsound state of things that any people should depend upon a single article of food; but such was the fact; that food had been struck by an inscrutable visitation of Providence, and the people were starving. In other well-regulated countries employment was the surest test of population. It was not so in Ireland; but the facility with which the potato was produced was the cause which had led 16 to the increased population there. The condition of the district of Skibbereen was most particularly before their Lordships. In former years, both in the quantity and quality of the potato, that district had been most abundant, from the fertilizing nature of the soil. The consequence had been, that a dense population sprang up, and they were now without food and starving. But other parts of the country were more or less affected, and even in the county with which he was more particularly connected (Wexford), there was now widespread distress; and he was sorry to say the small farmers, who were very numerous, were consuming the seed which in other years they had kept for future crops, and were coming upon the public works for employment. This visitation of the failure of the potato crop came early in August; then followed a kind of panic, and it became necessary to put in force the Labour-rate Act; and here he must do to the landed proprietors and farmers of Ireland that justice which was not always done to them, by saying, that when the necessity arose they did not shrink from making themselves liable for the repayment of large sums for labour, in order to provide the means of supporting the people; but the evils of the unproductive Labour Act came sooner than was foreseen. Last year the distress was partial, and much was done by private subscriptions; but this year the whole country came under one gigantic visitation, which it was impossible to exaggerate. The consequence had been, that many persons who were not competent, had been made overseers of the works, and much abuse of the public money had taken place. At length the evils of the system became so apparent that it was necessary for the Lord Lieutenant, upon his own responsibility, to deviate from the strict letter of that Act, and in doing so, he had acted most wisely and most energetically; and although he was still placed in great difficulties, it had led to most beneficial measures. It might be said that it was of no use to talk to a starving population; but yet his hope was, that when it should please Providence to withdraw this heavy affliction, the result would be the regeneration of his country. Allusion had been made in Her Majesty's most Gracious Speech to the cessation of political excitement in Ireland; and probably there was no country where there had been previously greater political bitterness or animosity. It was said that in Ireland there was no neutral ground; but now, Conservative and Liberal, 17 Protestant and Roman Catholic, there met in the same assembly, in the common spirit of humanity, and the only contention among them was who should be foremost in the race of charity and beneficence. He had had peculiar opportunities of witnessing that, for it had been his duty for the last three or four months to organize committees of relief, and he might add his belief that in general those committees had done their duty. Every one who had written upon Ireland had testified to the patience with which the people of that country bore up against misery; but there was now no heart left to them, and nothing was more striking than their general depression. Her Majesty had alluded to the outrages committed in some parts of Ireland. It was true that in some parts of the country outrages had been committed; but in other parts the people had borne their sufferings with exemplary endurance. In his own county he felt pride in thinking that there had been no necessity for troops, and that hitherto there had been no outrage. Now that brought him to disabuse their Lordships' minds of much that had been said with respect to the purchase of fire-arms. It had been said, and he had been much struck with it, as it had a tendency to check private charity, that the money given was laid out by the people in the purchase of arms. He believed that the truth of such purchases had been much exaggerated; and that the majority of the persons who had purchased fire-arms were farmers who had purchased them for their own protection. He would mention one fact that came within his own knowledge. About ten days ago he saw in a newspaper, published in his own county—and he saw it with great regret—an advertisement announcing the sale, by auction, of 600 stand of arms. He immediately wrote to the editor upon the subject, and he would read the letter he had received in reply:—Independent Office, Wexford, Jan. 13, 1847.My dear Lord—You need not be in the least alarmed about the sale of fire-arms, although I deem it both unseemly and unwise at this season of distress and destitution. It is a speculation of the Birmingham gun-makers, and so long as the law shall permit it, John Bull will make the most of his manufactures. The advertisement was taken in by my clerk, but were I present myself, I do not see how I could refuse it; indeed, I question if the law would permit a newspaper proprietor to refuse a legitimate advertisement. Only 30 were sold out of the 600, and those fowling pieces, although the majority of the arms consisted of blunderbusses, pistols, bayonets, &c., not one of the latter having been disposed of. It is the farmers' sons about the coast that are the principal purchasers of those sold, in order that 18 they may be enabled to follow the wild-fowl; and, in these days of threatened famine and its dread concomitants, to protect their properties if any attack should be made thereon—an apprehension, I am sorry to say, which is daily gaining ground, in consequence of the increasing scarcity, and rapid rise in the price of provisions.He stated this to show how much the account of the sale of fire-arms had been exaggerated. At the same time he should suggest that something should be done to regulate the Arms Act. The noble Lord said he would not trespass upon their Lordships' time by alluding to the other topics of the Speech, and concluded by seconding the Motion for the Address.
said: My Lords, it has been of late years the custom—in my opinion a custom generally conducive to the public interests—that, except upon some very extraordinary and unlooked-for emergency, Her Majesty's Government should abstain from introducing into the Speech delivered from the Throne, or the Address made by both Houses of Parliament, in answer to that Speech, I do not say any topics calculated to raise discussion, but any expressions which might necessarily call for hostile discussion, or tend to interrupt that unanimity which is so desirable on such an occasion. And, on the other hand, those who are opposed to the Government have generally felt that it was consistent at once with the public convenience, and their own duty and their wish, to abstain from pressing any premature discussion, and unnecessarily introducing subjects of controversy calculated to provoke contest at the very outset of the Session, and which might interfere with the presentation of an unanimous expression of duty and loyalty to Her Majesty, and of their respectful acknowledgment of their readiness to take into consideration those topics sketched out in the Speech from the Throne. My Lords, I do not mean to say that that practice has prevailed without exception. There have been cases well known in which the responsible Ministers of the Crown have felt it their duty, and of importance to the public service, that on the first occasion of meeting the Parliament the definite and positive opinion of Parliament should be taken on some great principle, introduced for the purpose of regulating their public conduct. And I need hardly remind the noble Lords opposite that occasions have occurred when the Opposition to the Government felt it to be its duty at the outset of the Session to introduce into the Address, in reply to the Speech from the Throne, amendments 19 which determined, and on which turned, the very existence of that Administration. But, my Lords, these are extraordinary and unusual occurrences; and I am happy to express my confident belief, that as in the Speech from the Throne Her Majesty's Government have wisely abstained from introducing any expression that might necessarily lead to discussion; so, on the other hand, there is no wish on the part of those who do not repose their confidence in the present Government to embarrass them by any premature and vexatious opposition. My Lords, we cannot but recollect the peculiar circumstances under which the present Government occupy their seats. I must do them the justice to say, that they attained their present position by no sinister proceeding, nor by any unjustifiable acts—nay, further, that it was by no acts of their own, but by a combination of circumstances to which they in no way contributed; and I believe I may add, that many of them with sincere reluctance accepted the grave responsibility of office; and whatever may be our political feelings, I am sure that both in this and the other House of Parliament there will be a general feeling that a Government so situated would, in any circumstances of the country, have peculiar claims upon the forbearance of the House; and that it is the duty of Parliament not to embarrass a Government so circumstanced by any premature or unnecessary opposition. But, my Lords, I will go further and say, that whatever may be the personal claims of the present Government, grounded on their position as a party, I consider it infinitely less important than that higher claim which the country has upon our forbearance and moderation. The present Government do not hold office under ordinary circumstances—the responsibilities that press upon them are weighty, and serious, and most disastrous. The circumstances of the country are such as require, that not only every man should abstain from harassing the responsible Ministers of the Crown by vexatious hostility, but every man, without consideration or regard of the party who hold office, should lend his earnest and anxious assistance to those charged with the responsibility of public administration, in the task of alleviating the misery under which the country at present labours; and, if possible, of averting the evils and serious dangers which now threaten it. And I venture, on the part of my noble Friends on this side of the House, to assure Her Majesty's Government, that while we do not pretend 20 to say that the composition of the Government in this, and more especially in the other House, is such as would enable us to rely with confidence on its measures, yet so long as the Government walks in the path of the constitution—so long as it abstains from tampering unnecessarily with the institutions of the country—so long as they resist the inducements held out to them by their more violent supporters to enter upon a course of rash and dangerous innovation and experiment, so long the Government, I am satisfied, may rest assured that from this side of the House they will receive not only no factious opposition, but a ready and disinterested support. My Lords, it is in this spirit and temper that I shall now venture to offer a few observations on the Speech that has been this day read from the Throne, and upon the speeches made by my two noble Friends, if I may be so permitted to call them, the Mover and Seconder of the Address, in answer to that Speech. My Lords, as there is nothing in the Speech from the Throne that calls for amendment, so I am happy to say that there is nothing in the speech of the noble Mover of the Address—although he certainly did travel somewhat out of the record, and entered upon some questions in which he did not express the opinions of the Government, but only his own individual feelings and opinions—or in that of the noble Seconder, to call for hostile comment, or to lead to a desire to make any objection or amendment not within the scope of the Speech itself. I cannot, however, refrain from noticing what appears to me a very significant omission in the Speech from the Throne. I mean, my Lords—and your Lordships cannot fail to have observed it—that the Speech makes no allusion, and contains no reference whatever, to the financial condition of the country. My Lords, perhaps this might not have excited attention, if it had not been that the last returns of the revenue exhibited in almost every department a considerable increase over the corresponding quarter of the preceding year; from which it might have been expected that Her Majesty's Government would have congratulated the country on the indications of prosperity conveyed by this circumstance; and I cannot but think it a somewhat significant intimation that the financial condition of the country is not so satisfactory as might appear on the face of these returns, that no notice or reference to the financial condition of the country should appear in the Speech from the 21 Throne. My Lords, the fact is, I have no doubt, that there has been from various causes a great consumption of exciseable articles in this country, and also an increase in the imports of foreign articles, swelling the receipt of the customs, and making up for the reduction on other articles. But, my Lords, I am afraid it will be found that the indication of prosperity denoted by the prosperous state of the revenue, under these heads, is not an indication that can be depended on. I am afraid it will be found, that though there has been this large increase in the imports of the country, there has not been, to say the least of it, a corresponding increase in the exports; so that if the whole revenue has prospered by reason of the large importations from abroad, the home industry of the country has not to the same extent been encouraged by corresponding exports. If this, then, be the case, as I believe it to be, I say there is another indication also which appears to me to be of somewhat an ominous character, to be found in the great reduction which has taken place in the premium on Exchequer Bills. I find that, whereas at no very remote period, Exchequer Bills were selling at a premium of from 35 to 40, they are, at the moment in which I speak, not, I believe, at more than five or six premium; and I apprehend before long, it will be the painful duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise the rate of interest on Exchequer Bills, if he does not expect them to fall below par. I believe that that operation is now at hand; and that it has already begun, which must be the consequence of a continued disproportion between the exports and imports of the country. I see already a considerable exportation of bullion taking place from this country; and I am afraid that, notwithstanding the state of prosperity indicated by the customs' returns, you will before this day six months see the effects of continued imports over exports, by a very large and very inconvenient reduction in the amount of bullion in the coffers of the Bank. Passing, then, to topics that are included in the Speech, I am quite sure, my Lords, that there is no one who will not rejoice that there is no danger of interruption to the general peace of Europe. But, I confess, my Lords, that I do not altogether found that confidence, which I, for one, fully entertain, so much on that to which it is ascribed in the Speech from the Throne—namely, the state of our foreign relations—as to the growing 22 conviction in this and all other countries of the impolicy, the folly, and the wickedness of war. I believe that what would some years ago have almost inevitably produced war, would now be repudiated by the good sense of these days as utterly insufficient to justify such an extremity. I am sure, my Lords, that in a commercial nation like this—powerful as it may be—capable of the greatest exertions in war—peace is not only desirable, but all but necessary. I believe that to be a conviction deeply rooted in the minds of the people of this country; and although on the continent of Europe the generation has almost passed away which personally witnessed the horrors of war, and this which is now living, though it has experienced the blessings of peace, yet has not had the means of contrasting them with the horrors of a different state of things, yet I believe on the Continent also there is a general appreciation of the blessings of peace, and a sincere desire that it should not be frivolously endangered. I cannot say I look with satisfaction to the state of our relations with Foreign Powers. My Lords, among the Powers of Europe there is no one, in my humble judgment, with which it is more essential that this country should be on terms, not of amity merely, but of cordial co-operation and union, than the great neighbouring State of France. My Lords, throughout the world—in every quarter of the globe—we have with that Power innumerable points of contact, which, if there be not a thorough good understanding betwean the Governments of England and France, must from points of contact become points of collision, perpetually endangering the peace of the world, and leading of necessity to inharmonious action between the two great Powers, whose harmony and concert are of the utmost importance to the maintenance of the general tranquillity. Entertaining this opinion, I cannot but deeply regret the altered tone which appears to have prevailed in the course of the last six months in the relations between the Government of this country and that of France. My Lords, I do not apprehend any disturbance to the peace of the world. I am perfectly ready to admit that it would be inconvenient and unwise to enter into a detailed examination now of the statements which, although officially submitted to the Legislature of another country, have not been officially submitted to this; or to judge the conduct of the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department on a mere perusal of documents 23 which, of course to a certain degree, have been selected by a party opposed to him in the discussion. At the same time, my Lords, it is impossible not to see, and seeing, not to regret deeply, that that cordial good understanding which, in the time of my noble Friend the late Foreign Secretary, subsisted between this country and France, has been materially altered for the worse by the events of the last four or five months. My noble Friend alluded to another topic to which the Speech refers, and on which he most wisely refrained from calling for an expression of opinion on the part of the House—namely, the marriage of the Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain with the Duc de Montpensier. The reference to this topic is certainly most vague and dubious. Her Majesty informs us that "the marriage of the lnfanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain to the Duke of Montpensier, has given rise to a correspondence between my Government and those of France and Spain." My Lords, I must say I cannot refrain from expressing my regret at much that I see in the tone of that correspondence. Up to the period of the change of Government it appears to me that the communications between the representatives of the two Crowns, if not always in accordance with the principles laid down by sound reason, were, at least conducted with entire frankness; that the two parties acted on a feeling of mutual confidence, and with reliance on the honour of each other; and, moreover, that in this particular event which has led to so much discussion in the course of the last few months, there was every prospect that a conclusion would have been arrived at unanimously and harmoniously between the representatives of the two countries. I am not saying where the fault rests; but I say it is melancholy to behold two statesmen representing the Foreign Departments of the two greatest States of Europe bandying about recriminations of underhand proceedings, of the suppression and interpolation of documents—of secret intentions to accomplish that from which they were debarred by good faith and by honour. I read them with pain, not only on account of the statesmen themselves—but I read them with much more pain because I see in the possibility of such a correspondence having passed, an alteration in tone and temper between the two Governments which bodes ill for a cordial understanding and co-operation, however consistent with the amicable relations subsisting. My Lords, of the marriage in question, while I dissent—and I 24 must take the earliest opportunity of saying so—from the construction put by the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs on one portion of the Treaty of Utrecht—on which construction, however, I see the noble Lord has entered his formal remonstrance and protest against the marriage—while I differ from that construction, and while I differ, also, from the construction which, on the part of M. Guizot and the French Government, has been put on the stipulations of the Treaty of Utrecht—though I do not pretend to pass any judgment on the comparative merits of the case, this I say, that the correspondence, let the fault rest where it will, has taken an unhappy and unfortunate tone, and that the result has been a measure adopted by France, not in my judgment detrimental to or affecting the material interests of this country, but carried on in a manner which, in point of fact, is, to say the least of it, a slight and discourtesy towards this country, such as I humbly venture to say would not have been passed on it in the time of my noble Friend the late Secretary. I must say also that this misfortune of the noble Viscount at the head of the Foreign Office, has not stood single or alone. My Lords, I cannot but think that that unfortunate alteration of tone between the Governments of England and France has had something to do with another measure, against which we are told that Her Majesty's Government have entered their formal protest. My Lords, I do not wish, although the noble Lord who moved the Address entered somewhat fully into this question, and expressed a very strong opinion as to the conduct of the three Northern Powers in the occupation and extinction of Cracow as an independent State—I do not wish at the present moment to express any opinion as to the fact whether or not the annexation was justifiable by circumstances of which I am no judge, not having them before me—I do not mean even to express an opinion as to whether that annexation is strictly to be called a manifest violation of the Treaty of Vienna—that that annexation is at variance with the agreements and stipulations of the Treaty entered into between Austria, Prussia, and Russia—entered into, I believe, under the auspices of England, and confirmed by the signature of the Powers, and incorporated in the Treaty of Vienna. And yet I am not sure that good grounds might not be shown, on the footing of precedents, of the example of former treaties, and the example of this Treaty of 25 Vienna itself, that a violation of the stipulations of a treaty incorporated in a subsequent treaty, provided that violation met with the assent of all the three parties to the original agreement, is not to be held and deemed a violation of the treaty into which it has been incorporated. I do not wish to express a positive opinion on the subject at present. The Answer to Her Majesty's Speech does not necessarily require that we should offer any opinion on that subject; for we merely acknowledge the information from Her Majesty that it appeared to Her Majesty to be a violation of the Treaty of Vienna, and that, consequently, a protest has been entered by Her Majesty's Government. I suspend till we shall see the papers—I suspend till we shall have an opportunity of discussing the subject—the formation of any positive opinion as to whether such a violation of the treaty has taken place as to justify so grave a step as the insertion in the Speech from the Throne of a declaration that three Powers in Europe have violated their solemn engagements with this country, and that that violation has been followed on the part of this country by a late and unavailing protest. I hope we shall have laid before us not only the protest of Her Majesty's Government after the fact, but also any information which the Government may have received from their diplomatic agents at the several Courts of these three Powers, detailing the course likely to be adopted, and thus enabling Her Majesty's Government to have taken steps, if they thought fit, previously to, rather than after, the accomplishment of these facts. But again, it is not to be denied, and I do not pretend to deny it, that the act of the three Powers in breaking through engagements entered into by themselves, but under the mediation and auspices of England, and taking that step without consulting, and without taking any step to communicate their intention of making such a change to the Powers under whose auspices these engagements were made, was between nations a slight and discourtesy which, I will venture to say, would not have been put upon us if it had been understood that the understanding between France and England was still on the same cordial footing as before. I approach now a question infinitely more interesting, infinitely more important to the well-being of this country, than anything connected with foreign policy; I refer to the awful visitation which has afflicted 26 from one end of it to the other the sister island of Ireland. I believe, my Lords, that no exaggeration can go beyond the awful reality; and I am quite confident that, for the prevention and palliation of the present evil—for the purpose of rescuing this country from the guilt of permitting a large portion of its population knowingly to starve, there is no sacrifice, no efforts which Her Majesty's Government can call upon the people of this country to make, which will not be cheerfully responded to by the Members of your Lordships' House, and by the representatives of the people in the other House, who will in that case speak the deliberate and cordial sense of the whole country. I do not wish to speak harshly of the measures taken by the Government for the alleviation of the evil. I have had some little experience of the Irish people. I know, in the first place, that the extent of the visitation came upon the Government in a great measure by surprise. I know, when it did come on, the difficulty of obtaining correct and trustworthy information; I know that with the best exertions of the Government there will always be local abuses and local interests perpetually meeting and contending with the Government, thwarting their best intended efforts, and converting their best devised measures to some purpose of petty local and personal interest. I do not wish to speak disrespectfully of the Irish people; but I know that in that country, in the administration of relief, and more especially when that relief comes from the public purse, it requires, to say the least of it, on the part of the Government, a degree of watchfulness and circumspection not required in this, and probably in most other countries. If the measures taken by the Government were insufficient—if they were not entirely adequate to the object which they had in view—I am not here for the purpose of embarrassing the Government by any captious objections on the subject. But I say that great errors have been committed. I require no more proof than the speeches of my noble Friends who moved and seconded the Address, who admitted that the Labour-rate Act was a great blunder, and had had the effect of diverting capital which might, have been usefully and profitably employed, instead of being compulsorily applied to works absolutely useless, and in many cases positively injurious. The landlords, who, as my noble Friend says, are for the most part not men in the same affluent cir- 27 cumstances as those in this country, at the very moment when they were using their best exertions to meet the calamity which had come upon them and their tenants alike, were prevented from employing their capital in the manner most advantageous to themselves, and compelled by an authority which they were unable to resist, to employ the capital which they knew was needed for the sustentation of their tenantry and the improvement of their estates, in filling up imperceptible, hollows and lowering invisible hills; and the effect was actually this—that throughout the length and breadth of the land enormous sums of money were squandered for the purpose of making the face of the country absolutely impassable. I believe it was no overstrained description which was given by my noble Friend who moved the Address. I do not concur with those who censure Her Majesty's Government, when they had discovered the insufficiency of their measures, for not calling Parliament together for the purpose of amending them. My Lords, I think the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, under the circumstances in which he found himself placed, exercised a wise discretion in taking it upon himself to remedy the defects of the Act, even although in doing so he went beyond the letter of the law; and certain I am that neither in this or the other House will there be a moment's hesitation in giving the Lord Lieutenant and the Government the indemnity for which I presume they will apply. Nor do I think that the meeting of Parliament would have been well advised, or could have produced any good result. In the first place, the presence of the Irish landlords was imperatively required on the spot to apply remedies to the existing distress. The result of the meeting of Parliament, under such circumstances, would have been to cause great delay and procrastination; many schemes would have been proposed, and many plausible objections raised; and while Parliament was deliberating the people would have starved. I have, therefore, no fault to find with the discretion exercised by the Government in not calling Parliament together, but acting on their own responsibility. My noble Friend went on to comment on the letter of Mr. Labouchere, and stated that such were the clogs and impediments thrown in the way, that it, in fact, became practically almost a dead letter. Another Act was passed for the encouragement of the fisheries, the construction of 28 piers, and other works of that description; but, by some unhappy fatality, says my noble Friend who moved the Address, the Act was so framed that no person could avail himself of it. If there be a point, however, in which I should be disposed to think that Her Majesty's Government did not act up to their duty under the circumstances—under the mighty responsibility which had fallen on them, I think they were led into that error by too great, too rigid attention to the principles of competition in trade, and the doctrines, the abstract doctrines of political economy. The doctrines of political eeonomy are framed, no doubt, to meet general and permanent circumstances; but it is impossible for any man to say that circumstances shall not arise so grave, so serious and awful, as to compel a Government, unless they would incur a much heavier responsibility, to discard the principles of political economy, and act on that which, though practically at variance with those doctrines, may be calculated to meet and remedy the exigency of the moment. Now, my Lords, I do not say that the Government should take upon themselves a proposition so monstrous as to attempt to give food to the whole population of Ireland; nay more, I do not say that the Government ought to have sold food to the people of Ireland at less than a fair mercantile price, because I concur in the opinion that if they had done so they would have done more harm than good, by interfering with the legitimate operations of commerce, and have prevented the free supply of the market. But this I do say—and I have yet to learn that efficient remedial steps have been taken in the matter by Her Majesty's Government, although I see, indeed, in the Speech just delivered from the Throne, a declaration to the effect that "means have been taken to lesson the pressure of want in districts which are most remote from the ordinary sources of supply," and what these means have been I presume we shall be informed hereafter—this I say, that, so far as we have yet been informed, there have been large districts, and populous districts, although not comprising any great towns, remote from the sea-coast, and from any considerable markets, in which Her Majesty's Government might, and I do think ought, to have established suitable provision depôts, for the purpose of assuring food to the people at a rate which would have guaranteed the public from any loss, and which at the same time 29 would not have interfered with fair mercantile speculation; and they might by that means, I have no doubt, have opened, as a similar plan had opened on a former occasion, large stores in the hands of petty local speculators, who held back supplies for the purpose of afterwards insisting on exorbitant and famine prices, but who would, with the prospect of other supplies coming into the market, have offered their stores on just terms. I do regret—I will not use a stronger term—I do regret that Her Majesty's Government, under the circumstances in which Ireland has been placed, have not to a greater extent than they have done availed themselves of this simple, practicable, and tried remedy—namely, interfering not with fair competition, but interfering with the markets in those districts where the supply was necessarily in a few hands, and where there was the appearance on the part of those few hands of a determination to withhold that supply for the purpose of enabling them to obtain exorbitant prices.
continued: My noble and gallant Friend reminds the House that that step had been taken by the late Government, and taken, be it observed, under much less trying circumstances. It was taken by Her Majesty's Government in the year 1845; and you have in the papers which have been submitted to Parliament, not one, five, ten, or twenty, but repeated and almost innumerable testimonies to the effect, that without any loss to the public that wise and prudent measure had led to the opening of stores and the bringing forward of supplies, which, until that interference, had been kept back by parties who wished to avail themselves unfairly of the public distress. I say there is no effort which Her Majesty's Government can call on the people of this country to make, which will not be cheerfully responded to for the purpose of relieving that great and overwhelming calamity by which the people of Ireland have unfortunately been overtaken. But there remains behind permanent measures to be adopted with regard to Ireland; and there are two or three measures rather referred to than distinctly stated in Her Majesty's Speech, to which I wish particularly to allude. One of these is expressly stated to be a temporary measure for meeting a temporary evil—I allude to that proposition which relates to the "increasing 30 for a limited period the facilities for importing corn from foreign countries." The gloss and interpretation put upon that passage by my noble Friend who moved the Address was, that it might be advisable to reduce the small duty of 4s. a quarter which is now charged on the introduction of foreign corn. My noble Friend afterwards hinted at another measure, which he said he did not understand to be in the contemplation of Her Majesty's Government, but which, as a temporary measure, I confess I agree with him in thinking is even less open to objection than that to which the Speech appears to refer—I mean a temporary measure for the purpose of affording a greater amount of tonnage for the importation of corn into the ports of the United Kingdom. I believe that whatever doubts there may be as to the amount of corn actually in this country—and upon that subject there are very conflicting opinions—for my part, I believe that the amount of corn in this country is very much underrated; but this there can be no doubt about—the amount of corn in America: I do not now speak of other countries, in which, as it appears on authority to which free-traders must be disposed to give credence, there are large supplies of corn waiting for importation into this country—for that is the effect of a statement of Mr. Cobden with regard to the ports of the Mediterranean—but there can be no doubt that in America there are large supplies which have been and are prevented from reaching this country by the want of sufficient tonnage for its introduction under the existing navigation laws. The result is, that there has been an enormous disproportion between the price of foreign corn in the countries where it has been produced, and its price in our markets, and large profits have been realized by traders and importers. As a temporary measure—and I speak of it only as a temporary measure for the relief of a temporary emergency—I do not think that under these circumstances any opposition would be offered to a proposition for increasing the tonnage available for the introduction of corn into this country by a temporary relaxation of the navigation laws. With regard to a proposal for reducing the existing duty on the importation of foreign corn, I hope that none of your Lordships will think that those who are specially connected with the agricultural interest are in the slightest degree biassed upon that point by a consideration of the modicum of protection 31 which still remains. I do not wish to express any positive opinion at the present moment as to the prudence and the wisdom of adopting the remedy in question. But my noble Friend has said, in recommending that measure to your Lordships, that it might, no doubt, be alleged that the whole or the greater part of the difference of duty might, under existing circumstances, go into the pockets of the foreign grower. My noble Friend went even further, for he said, I think, that it was very likely it would be so. Now, my Lords, that candid admission on the part of my noble Friend must be a just ground for a consideration on the part of the Government and of the House, whether the humane object which the Government have in view will be, in point of fact, effected or obtained by a temporary abolition of the 4s. duty; and whether, in point of fact, our supply of corn will thereby be in the slightest degree increased, or the price in the slightest degree diminished; but, pro tanto, there is the strong fact, indisputable and undisputed, that we shall lose the whole amount of the revenue which is now derived from the introduction of foreign corn, and which, according to my noble Friend, will go into the pocket of the foreign producer. There is another subject on which I am not sure whether Her Majesty's Government propose a temporary or a permanent measure. I allude to a measure permitting the introduction of sugar into breweries and distilleries. I believe that the expression "for a limited period," is applied to the allusion to increased facilities for the importation of corn from foreign countries; but it does not appear to me to be applied to the admission of sugar into breweries and distilleries. And yet both these measures are put forward in the paragraph in which we are desired to consider what further measures are required to alleviate the existing distress. Again, I express no opinion as to the expediency or propriety of this further relaxation. As a temporary measure, in the present state of the price of barley, it would, probably, inflict little or no injury on the home grower. But, at the same time, you must not forget that a large admission of sugar for the purpose of being used in breweries and distilleries immediately, and without previous notice, cannot but have the effect of raising the price of sugar in this country, the cheapening of which your Lordships affirmed in the last Session to be an object of prime necessity. But if you introduce sugar into breweries 32 and distilleries, that will also add to the arguments and the reasons for which a large body of agriculturists in this country are earnestly desiring a repeal of the malt tax—a measure which I presume that Her Majesty's Government would hardly be prepared to assent to in the present state of things. I think, however, that if they are not so prepared, it would be wise in them to consider well whether they should inflict a further injury on the agriculture of this country, which would strengthen the grounds of just complaint with regard to the pressure of the malt tax; and whether the advantages to be gained by the introduction of sugar into distilleries would be commensurate with the inconvenience which would be caused by such a measure. There are other measures referred to in the Speech from the Throne in such vague terms that it is impossible for me to offer any observations upon them. My Lords, it may be true that at the present moment there is an absence of political excitement in Ireland; but I am bound to say that looking to the state of Ireland, and the state of feeling there, this does not appear to me to be a favourable, even though it may be a necessary occasion for considering calmly and dispassionately the social evils of that country. My Lords, that occasion may be forced upon us; but we shall not come to the discussion with advantage in a state of a pauperized landed gentry and of a starving peasantry—we shall not come to the discussion of the question in the way best fitted for taking the most dispassionate survey of the best remedy for existing evils. But if the measures to be laid before us should be calculated to produce that effect which Her Majesty's Government appear confidently to anticipate—if they should be calculated to elevate the condition of the great mass of the people—if they should be likely to promote agriculture, and lessen that competition for land which has been the fruitful source of so large a portion of the misery of Ireland: I say that in that case there are no men in this country who would more cordially rejoice than I and those with whom I co-operate should do, at seeing such measures introduced; and although we might look with some doubt and hesitation on the expediency of portions, at least, of the Ministerial policy; yet if Her Majesty's Government should on the whole realize the great ends which they have in view, they will, I am sure, meet with nothing but gratitude on the part of the country, and cordial co- 33 operation on the part of Parliament. I do not say that they should yield to extravagant or exorbitant demands—I do not say that they should throw the pauperism of Ireland as a permanent burden on this country; but I say that they ought to proceed on two maxims: first, that the people of Ireland must not be permitted to starve; and next, that the pauperism of Ireland must be provided for out of the property of Ireland. But, subject to these two conditions, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will take counsel of those best acquainted and most conversant with the state of Ireland. It has been of late the fashion grievously and indiscriminately to abuse the landed proprietors of Ireland. I am not in all cases their defender; I am not their eulogist; but this I must say, that it appears to me that the measure of abuse has fallen on them just in the inverse proportion of their deserts. I believe it may now be said of them, that "delicta majorum immeriti luunt." I believe there never was a period when the landlords of Ireland were more bent than at present on discharging to the utmost, and beyond the utmost, of their power the duties imposed upon them; I believe there never was a time when the landlords of Ireland were less inclined to dispute the abstract truth of the maxim that "property has its duties as well as its rights." But looking, my Lords, to the present state of Ireland, you must not—as was well observed by my noble Friend opposite—judge the position of the Irish by the position of the English landed proprietor. The Irish landlord is placed in a position exceedingly different from the landlord of this country. The greater the control over a property of which a landlord is the nominal possessor, the weightier is the responsibility which attaches to the rights of property; and the responsibility of that duty increases in proportion as the position in which a proprietor stands enables him to exercise a full and entire control over the property which he holds. And, my Lords, if you were to find in this country a state of things in which property, not by your act, had been indefinitely burdened—if you had to deal with a pauperized tenantry, incapable of effecting any improvements themselves, and yet strenuously refusing, although tenants at will, to give you the slightest interest for any capital which you might be disposed to expend in improvements—if you were to find that the custom and the feeling of the country went to this, that however much 34 one of the owners of those small holdings is impoverishing and ruining your property, so long as he can contrive to eke out his miserable amount of rent, however inadequate it may be to the real value of the land—so long as the tenant at will has the absolute right to remain on your property, impeding every improvement, and refusing any interest for the money you may be ready to advance for the purpose—and I have known in my own experience of tenants refusing to pay one shilling for the erection of a comfortable house, and maintaining their hold of the property by the force of public opinion—if such were the case, would not any man say that it would be impossible to expect that a landlord under such circumstances should improve his property? And yet I must say, after some experience of the condition of many parts of Ireland, and some personal knowledge on the subject, there are landlords in that country who hold their property under those conditions. Now, it would be impossible to say, that under such a state of things property has devolved upon it the same duties, inasmuch as it has not the same rights which are properly on the one hand claimed, and on the other hand exercised, in this more fortunately situated country. Therefore, my Lords, I trust that in the measures which you may have to adopt, in the sacrifices even which you may have to call for, you will not venture on any rash or hasty step as regards the landlords of Ireland, without taking into consideration the real circumstances in which they are placed; and that you will not expect them to exert themselves beyond the possibility of their means, and beyond the possibility even of persons who might have a full and unlimited command of capital. One more word, my Lords, and I have done. I hold that one of the great objects with regard to Ireland is to facilitate and encourage the introduction of capital; for I believe that the want of steady employment, the want of any class dependent on wages for their daily existence, is that which leads to that pertinacious clinging to land, as the sole means of subsistence, which is the parent of the degradation of the Irish peasant, of the low state of Irish agriculture, of the wretched state of Irish society, and is the absolute bar to any improvement, agricultural or social. My Lords, I hope you will consider well, and that Her Majesty's Government will consider well, not the means of compelling a 35 temporary outlay on unproductive works—not, as my noble Friend must forgive me for saying, venturing on any measures which may be calculated according to him to brush away the antiquated notions of old lawyers with regard to the law of entail; but that you will consider the rights of property, both of the individuals, the present occupiers, and those of the reversionists. My noble Friend has referred, in language which rather alarmed me, to that (I believe) most innocent and useful measure recommended by the Committee of your Lordships which sat last year for the purpose of facilitating the transfer of property by diminishing its enormous legal expenses. I hope that what my noble Friend said with respect to facilitating the transfer of property, has no relation or connexion with those antiquated notions of old lawyers, of which he spoke. I only trust and hope that in the measures adopted for the future and permanent good of Ireland, you will in the first place consult the landlords of Ireland, and derive what benefit you may from the opinions of those who ought to be the best qualified to form them on that subject. But I think there are also other resources which may be usefully and profitably called into action. I believe there are public companies quite willing to devote a large amount of capital to reproductive works in Ireland; to works which, extended over the face of the country, would not only give much employment at present, but would ultimately lead to a considerable improvement in the condition of the people of Ireland generally, and with advantage to the parties embarking in such a speculation. I believe that if by the co-operation of such bodies, your Lordships were to decide on encouraging the introduction of capital into Ireland, making yourselves responsible only for the safe investment of that capital, as far as personal and political security goes—I believe that you would confer an inestimable boon on Ireland—that you would supply, in a great measure, the present deficiency of capital, and introduce an amount of foreign capital which would create a desire for permanent employment by wages; and that desire for permanent employment by wages I am convinced you must in some measure excite, foster, and promote if you wish to do anything for the permanent good of Ireland. My Lords, I do not presume to occupy your attention with any details at this moment. I throw out these sugges- 36 tions for the consideration of your Lordships, and that of Her Majesty's Government; but allow me, in conclusion, to say, as I stated at the commencement of these observations, that I am quite satisfied that in legislating; for the welfare of Ireland, provided you exclude those religious and political differences and considerations which have ever distracted that country, and made her the battle-field of factions; and provided you honestly labour for the social improvement of Ireland, I am quite satisfied that all differences of religious opinion, all distinctions of party will be merged—that all dissensions will be forgotten—that all questions as to who should carry those great measures will be sunk; and that Her Majesty's Government may rely on the cordial co-operation and support of those whom they have been accustomed to look upon as their political opponents.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, he did not feel himself called upon to add anything to the statements of his noble Friends the Mover and Seconder of the Address, although he felt it necessary to offer a few observations after the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down, of parts of which he had to complain —in parts of which he entirely concurred—but in other parts of which the noble Lord had been undoubtedly led to depart from the sort of contract which he had seemed to have made with himself at the outset; and whilst he had declared the inexpediency of debating questions upon which their Lordships had as yet no information, but upon which they would soon have an opportunity of delivering their opinions considerately, he had been led, without that information, and, what was still worse, with imperfect information, to intimate at least something like an opinion, and, indeed, something like a censure, upon some portions of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would therefore beg to inform their Lordships, that, in pursuance of the intimation which Her Majesty had that day given from the Throne, he would have the honour of submitting to them, and that in a very few days, the most complete and perfect information upon the two great events and subjects of inquiry which had been referred to by the noble Lord; upon the circumstances which had occurred—circumstances which had not injured the interests of the country, but which had affected the foreign relations of England; and upon those which 37 related to the state of Ireland; upon both of which their Lordships would shortly be put in possession of the fullest information that was possible to obtain. He would beg to offer a few words to the House upon the most interesting, and, he must add, the most appalling, of those topics—the state of Ireland. He should address himself to their Lordships, not in justification of the past acts of Her Majesty's Ministers—not in explanation of their future acts — because both of those cases would be best understood when he should come to speak with papers in his hand—but in reference to some of the observations which the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had made upon the subject; but if he did not then enter at much length into those topics, he could assure their Lordships that it was not from not feeling a proper sense of the vast importance of the subject, nor from any desire to withhold from that assembly any information which might tend to assist its deliberations, but merely because he did not wish to add to the gloom which the consideration of such matters might be reasonably supposed to impart to a discussion on the presentation of an Answer to the Speech of the Crown. The noble Lord opposite had passed some observations of undeserved censure on the conduct of the present Government with regard to the measures it had adopted for the purpose of meeting the prevailing distress. Those measures had been adopted under the pressure of circumstances which called for the immediate employment of large numbers of the suffering population of Ireland, and at the time there had existed no reasons to suppose that anything like that demand for public works in Ireland would have taken place, for the purpose of meeting the increased distress. On the one side there had been an extraordinary degree of precipitancy in acting on these measures, and this had led to a demand for public works from the Government, on the other side, to a far greater extent than could have been expected. This naturally brought about the undertaking and execution of works which were said to have been manifestly useless. But when he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had introduced those measures to their Lordships, he had distinctly stated the grounds upon which he asked for their consent, and had distinctly repudiated the doctrine, that the people were to be employed upon useless works. But he was not prepared to call road-making in all cases useless; and he 38 was sure that it would be admitted to be, in many instances, as useful a work as the public could have done for them; and also, to a certain extent, a productive one, not only in giving employment to the people, but in stimulating the landlords to such undertakings as would eventually tend to lessen the pressure of expense on themselves. However, with the growth of famine, it had become imperatively necessary to give extension to these Parliamentary measures. Lord Besborough had undertaken to do this; and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was glad the noble Lord opposite was not displeased with the course the Government had adopted in some respects, as well as that it had not thought proper to call Parliament together, in order to give its sanction and effect to that extension of the measure alluded to. The Government had felt, at that time, that the calling together of Parliament would be the means of much injury to Ireland, by summoning from that country a large number of her landed gentry, whose residence in the place at that period was indispensable to the repose, the good order, and welfare of the country at large; and the presence of those gentlemen had been freely given, and usefully employed, and had they not been on the spot, that great alleviation of the existing calamity which had resulted from it would not have taken place. The noble Lord opposite did not disapprove, it appeared, of that portion of Her Majesty's Speech in which it was recommended that an addition should be made to the supply of the food of the people of this empire by affording increased facilities to the importation of food from other countries. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was not then going to discuss the details of that extensive subject, for the consideration of which a more fitting opportunity would be soon afforded. Neither did he wish to enter upon the question as to whether the profits of that importation would go to the foreigner or not. But the question for their Lordships then to consider was, what would add to the amount of human food in this empire under the most fearful visitation which had ever visited it before; and for his own part he was prepared to say, that such an increase of food ought to take place, even if every shilling which the addition might make was to go into the pockets of the foreign grower. He would ask whether his noble Friend opposite was aware, or not, of the state of trade in this respect? or how corn was now conveying from Ame- 39 rica, or Odessa, or New Orleans? Other countries were offering all the encouragement which they could at the present moment, by the relaxation of their navigation laws, to invite those places to supply them with corn. For his own part he was prepared to set aside for the present the legislation and the Corn Act of last Session, if by doing so he could bring 10,000 or 100,000 quarters of corn more into this country. Great masses of the people in Ireland who had formerly subsisted almost exclusively on the potato, were now living on foreign corn; and could any one for a moment doubt that any means by which the supply for this additional demand, made by 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 of people, would be increased, was a measure which ought to be passed without delay, to meet the exigencies of the country, up to the period of the next harvest? In proposing these measures, the Government did not wish to interfere with the settlement made last year with respect to the question of the corn laws; it did not wish to introduce any proposition calculated to interfere with that long-discussed and most difficultly-arranged subject. But most calamitous circumstances had since arisen which put an end at once to all considerations but that single one of getting into this country at once such a proper and abundant supply of food as her inhabitants required. The consideration of this question naturally led to another, namely, that of the consumption and admission of sugar into our breweries and distilleries. This, he admitted, was intended to be a permanent measure, though it had been introduced then in connexion with one which was confessedly only of a temporary nature, and calculated to meet the present emergency. With respect also to the relaxation of the navigation laws, which was contemplated, it was to be a temporary measure, as well as the suspension of the corn laws: it was intended by it to admit every vessel to bring foreign corn into this country for the consumption of its people, no matter from what place soever she might come. If the noble Lord opposite would look into the reports relative to the shipping interest of France, he would find that, with a similar system of navigation laws to our own, vessels were at this moment bringing corn into France, in consequence of the relaxation of those laws, which would otherwise come into this country. With respect to the immediate effect of those proposed measures, he trusted it would not be inconsiderable; and, therefore, he trusted 40 that noble Lords opposite would agree to the proposition to suspend, until some day to be hereafter named, all restrictions whatsoever on the importation of foreign corn into this country. But he would not then go into the discussion of the details of these various measures, for more regularly entering upon which he would give notice for an early day. But when the noble Lord opposite blamed the Government for having adhered too strictly to what were called the rigid principles of political economy, all he had to say, in reply, was, that if ever there was a case in which an adherence to alleged principles of political economy would have been attended with the most fatal and disastrous results, it would have been an interference on the part of Government to prevent a supply of food being imported from every part of the world where it was most abundant, when its own people were starving for the want of it. Had the Government interfered with the supply of food by the private exertion of merchants, the effects would have been most disastrous. Private enterprise was the natural safeguard of the nation, and he confidently asserted, that if the mercantile interest had not received the fullest assurances from the Government that they would not compete with them in the market, they would not have acted as they had done. Many applications had been made before a ship had been despatched, to know whether it was or not the intention of Government to set up as sellers themselves, and thus enter into competition with the merchants; and the assurances which had then been wisely given, had been as wisely adhered to. It was then stated that in a season of great distress the Government might become purchasers, and that it would endeavour to equalise the price of provisions, and in places where no traders existed, to set up depôts for the supply of food to the people; and it was to this course that their Lordships and the country were indebted for the fact that the prices of provisions were no higher than they were at present. He would not refer more particularly at that moment to what the noble Lord had said in allusion to the conduct of the resident Irish gentry; but he should remark that their conduct in meeting a most trying emergency, under circumstances of the greatest difficulty, was beyond all praise. Too much allowance could not be made for the position in which they had been placed: they were surrounded by and had had to contend 41 with distress, with difficulty and danger, and they had conducted themselves in a manner which reflected the highest honour upon them. On the subject of the Spanish marriage, it would be unnecessary for him to dwell, as the correspondence relative to it would be soon before the Legislature. It would then be found that the policy of the present Government on the subject of that marriage was identical with that of the late Government, although the noble Lord opposite seemed to intimate otherwise. The documents would be produced, and he wished to make no other use of them than for the purpose of defending their policy. There had been no departure in it from a wish to maintain that cordial understanding between the French Government and that of Great Britain, which he admitted to be so much for the benefit of Europe and the rest of the world, and which he for one would never relinquish without great regret. With regard to that understanding, he would say no more on the present occasion than suggest to noble Lords that the less there was of angry debate on the subject, the more likely and the more speedily would the good understanding between the two countries be resumed; for his own part, he must say that he should be glad to see the means of replacing that understanding on anything like a satisfactory and permanent footing. Even in the present state of relations between the two countries, and even after the correspondence that had taken place, and to which their Lordships could not shut their eyes when the correspondence that arose out of these circumstances was placed before them, he was not prepared to say that out of that correspondence there was any impediment to the renewal of a good understanding with the Government of France. With the feelings of respect and admiration which he entertained for the people of that country, he did hope that some opportunity would speedily arise to lay the foundation of an understanding with it, in which a greater degree of confidence might exist between the two countries. He felt bound to say so much in consequence of what had fallen from the noble Lord. He did not suppose that the noble Lord meant to cast censure on what had hitherto been done on this subject; and above all, when he deprecated carrying on the discussion on the matter in anything like a hostile spirit, which might have painful results. He was not aware that anything else was necessary for him then to observe, for when the occa- 42 sion arose he should go more fully and minutely into the subject of Ireland than he then did, so that their Lordships and the public might be more fully informed as to what had already been done with respect to that portion of the empire, and also as to what was intended to be done. With the assurance of the noble Lord, that when these measures came to be submitted to Parliament, they should meet with no vexatious opposition, he was perfectly satisfied; and he felt assured that such proceeding must be attended with beneficial results. With regard to the progress of those measures which would be submitted to the Legislature, they would require the greatest co-operation and assistance of the whole of their Lordships, so as to enable the Government and the Parliament to effect those changes in society which the peculiar circumstances of the country demanded. Important as those interests were, and delicate as they were, do not let the noble Lord or the House suppose that it was proposed to deal lightly with that which was the great foundation on which all improvements must rest—the foundation of the rights of property, which he was sure all their Lordships must respect. It was not by the compromise of the rights of property that any salutary improvement could be effected in the country—it would be the first step to disimprovement: it would tend to aggravate the evils now existing, and to increase the extent of starvation now unhappily prevailing. The improvements called for nothing that could lead to any disregard of the rights of property. He therefore wished every measure that might be introduced on this subject to be tried by this test, which was the foundation of all social advantages. If any opposite measure should be brought forward, he trusted that it would be rejected. But this was a very different thing from taking steps for combining the interests of property with changes in the social system which are essential for the interests of the country. Their Lordships might give greater means to every Irish landed proprietor, so as to enable him to materially improve the condition of the tenantry, and thus great social changes might be effected without any injury to property, and the House would feel that by the adoption of the proper measures that they could not exalt the interests of one class without benefiting the other. In conclusion, he would take that opportunity of stating that on Monday next he should move for certain papers on this 43 subject, and he would then state at greater length than he had done that night the proceedings of the Government, and their hopes and apprehensions for the future, not forgetting to provide for the present emergency by temporary measures, while they were taking steps for permanent improvements.
was sorry to say that, after a Parliamentary experience of thirty-seven years, he did not recollect the Legislature to have met, and the Crown to have addressed it, and the Government to have come forward, in circumstances of more grave embarrassment than at present; and it was only necessary to name Ireland in order to bid all personal altercations cease, and all party animosity to be hushed, and every voice to join in supporting measures of real benefit to that country. He should not make any professions of addressing their Lordships upon this occasion dispassionately and calmly, and with a view of avoiding all topics of an irritating kind, as perhaps those who had gone before him, notwithstanding similar professions, had not entirely steered clear of topics of this description. Wise, therefore, by the experience of the last three hours, he should abstain from such professions, and should throw himself upon the candour and justice of their Lordships, who would decide whether he had violated what he thought ought to be the rule. A person unconnected with party as he was, and only anxious for the welfare of the empire—and it would be much better for not being connected with party—might say certain things which it would be wholesome for the people to hear; and it was singly and simply with that view that he had presented himself to the House on that occasion. He wished to lay aside, in the first place, all the ordinary and usual topics which would impede his way to the main object at which he would arrive; namely, the deplorable—not to say disastrous—condition of the sister island. He was not quite satisfied that Parliament had not met earlier—not, God forbid! to bring the Irish Members over, they were better where they were—for, alas! at whatever time Parliament met, the absence of the Irish landlords would be just as necessary. The evil, he repeated, was just as great at one period as another; and in either case the evil of their absence must stand in the balance against the effects that might result from their wisdom in the Legislature. Let them remember what had occurred. The Labour-rate Act of 44 last Session had failed. Where this was found to be the case, his noble Friend, Lord Besborough, had most properly and wisely exercised his discretion, on his responsibility, in making an order for changes in the mode of carrying out that Act. Then followed the letter of Mr. Labouchere to meet other difficulties, which, as well as that of Mr. Trevelyan, was not found sufficient to meet the difficulties of the case. Again, the Bill of last year, which involved the expenditure of a million on the encouragement of fisheries on the coast of Ireland, was inoperative; he, therefore, felt that there was some ground for saying that it was to be regretted that they did not meet at an earlier period. He would not say more on this subject at present, as he wished to get to the topics involved in the Speech. He wished that the ports had been opened; and in this he differed from his noble Friend near him as to the value of the scale. Under the old law, if prices went up to 70s. the duty would be only 1s. per quarter; but under the new Corn Law the duty was 4s. He wished that there should be no hesitation on the ground of the price of corn to see this last law suspended, if not altogether repealed. He agreed with an observation made last year by the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies (Earl Grey), that this was the inconsistent and bad part of the Bill; and that it would be better for the farmer, as well as the consumer, that the whole of the duties should have been taken off at once, rather than that the repeal should have been postponed until 1849. He totally agreed with the noble Marquess that, putting the case as strong as possible, and taking the strongest possible argument against the repeal, supposing all the 4s. duty went into the pockets of the importers of corn, and no part went to benefit the consumer—nay, that money was taken out of the public purse, and was offered as bounty for foreign corn—he was prepared to say that, in the present condition of Ireland, it would be money well bestowed; and he had no hesitation in expressing his hope that the restriction would be done away and the ports be opened. If Parliament had met, it might have saved that country from being exposed to ten weeks of the evil. He then came to another topic. Foreign affairs interested that House more than they did the other House; and they interested the other House much more than they did the country. He believed, as had been stated in a letter of a noble 45 Friend of his, that the people of this country were perfectly indifferent on the subject of Royal Marriages, with the exception of those immediately connected with our own Sovereign. He believed that other Royal Marriages were as perfectly and entirely a matter of indifference to the good people of England, Ireland, and Scotland, as they were to the inhabitants of the new planet discovered by M. Leverrier; except to those who read romances, or who had nothing else to do, or whose affairs were in such a prosperous state that they had time to attend to matters of mere indifference. He would make an allusion to a royal marriage which at the time led to most important consequences, and which would illustrate what he alluded to. When the Duke of Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV., was placed on the throne of Spain under the title of Philip V., our great deliverer, King William, with that profound knowledge of foreign affairs which he possessed, and knowing the important consequences which might result from such a proceeding, wished to unite the people he was called upon to govern in a war against such succession. He at once took up the question of war, which was carried on by himself and successor, and led to the most illustrious campaigns which had ever been fought by this country, with the exception of those of his noble Friend, the illustrious Duke near him. Notwithstanding all the victories of Marlborough, the counsels of Godolphin, and the wisdom of Somers, the people of this country never could be induced to be satisfied with the war of the Spanish Succession. Although the interests of the country were most certainly involved in the Spanish Succession, yet the war became most unpopular, and the great victor was unable to stem the storm of the popular feeling of the country; and he was ultimately driven—to the infinite shame and disgrace of the people—from that country whose interests and glory he had so much advanced, if he had not absolutely saved. He asked, therefore, how was it possible for any Minister to fix public attention in the present day on what was called the Montpensier marriage? He deeply regretted the altered tone of the correspondence between the two countries. He did not agree with his noble Friend opposite, that his noble Friend near him differed from the foreign policy of the present Government, for the policy was the same of this as of the previous Government, as it must 46 be of all Governments in this country, namely, to maintain by all possible means—that was, by all honourable means—to secure the maintenance of peaceful relations between our most illustrious and gracious Sovereign and the Sovereigns of other States, and, above all, with the neighbouring kingdom of France. He regretted that there should be even a momentary suspension of those most friendly feelings which existed between the Sovereigns of the two nations. He did not wish to say anything respecting the entente cordiale personally existing between the two Sovereigns, yet how pleasant it was to observe such conduct. But as far as the substantial interests of the two countries were concerned, they would be maintained by other means than royal conferences and royal visits; and, above all, when there were popular Governments in the two countries, peace was to be secured on grounds on which the interests of countries depended, and not by alliances, by marriages, or by visits of sovereigns, or by embassies from sovereigns. Those who understood these things were far from deeming the entente cordiale unimportant. On the contrary, it was of great importance to the people of the two countries; it ought to be ever cherished and encouraged, and when broken was deeply to be lamented, because it formed the precious oil which regulated the friction of the machine. When two nations had interests coming in contact on a thousand points all over the globe, and when any point of contact might, peradventure, become a point of friction and collision, then the entente cordiale was of great value as the precious means for alleviating the friction, and preventing a collision from taking place. Therefore it was that he regretted the occurrence of anything which should have tended to interrupt the good understanding between this country and France; and he heartily hoped that any such interruption would be but short, being thoroughly convinced that the deep, and consistent, and habitual desire, and strongly formed wish, on either side of the water, was that such interruption should cease. Being thoroughly persuaded, of his own personal knowledge, of the great desire, the earnest wish, that the best possible understanding should once more be established in form as well as in substance; (for, indeed, it never had been broken in substance at all; it was only the tone—certain expressions in the correspondence which had taken place—that was to be 47 complained of;) being thoroughly persuaded of this, his hope and trust was, that nothing would be done to prevent a happy consummation taking place. And what did he think would most tend to prevent this happy conclusion being arrived at? Why, debates either in that House or in the House of Commons. He hoped and trusted, therefore, that of debates they would have none at present. Hoping that they should hear no more on this question—that temperate and courteous language alone would be employed where language was necessary—he seriously trusted that the papers which they were promised would not have the effect of leading them into further debate; and with these remarks to would leave this question, and proceed to say a word or two on the subject of Cracow. He regretted that, on this question, his noble Friend the Mover of the Address should have made use of the language he had employed. He expressed his abhorrence of what had taken place, and spoke of it as an atrocious crime. Now, he (Lord Brougham) thought this dangerous language, unless they meant to go further. [Lord HATHERTON: The expression was used by M. Duchâtel, the French Minister.] Then he said very wrong. This happened to be the subject, of all others, on which the public mind was most excited and exasperated, in consequence of its bearings upon the fate of Poland; and he thought it was not right to use such strong expressions when they were not prepared to go further. To say to a foreign State, "You have committed a crime which we abhor; your conduct is an infraction of a treaty which you were bound to keep sacred,"—was language that ought not to be employed unless they were prepared to follow it up with important consequences. A Government, however, was not only at liberty, but, on certain occasions, was bound to enter a protest against the conduct of other States; and he thought that on the present occasion the Speech from the Throne did enter a protest, strongly indeed expressed, but not indecently strong — not dangerously strong — not a protest which either Russia, or Austria, or Prussia, had a right to complain of. He felt strongly on the conduct of those parties, and considered that their conduct was not by any means justified by the defence they had set up for it. He considered that the attempt at a defence amounted to no more than this—that the conduct of Cracow, and the danger of its 48 vicinity, gave the three Powers, and especially Austria, a perfectly undeniable right to call upon the guarantees of the Treaty of 1814–15 to release them from their obligations. Now, he did not grant them this right. He objected to their taking the law into their own hands. The guarantees, England and France, were parties as well as the three Northern Powers; and he should like to know what Russia, Austria, and Prussia, would answer if the French were to say there was now an end of the Treaty of Vienna: for, observe, the Treaty of Vienna was made to control France; and that country might say, since they had done away with a part of the treaty—since they were loose, France had a right to be loose too. He agreed, therefore, with the words used in the Speech and the Address; but he would avoid using harsh recrimination, and language that was not absolutely necessary. Our intercourse with Austria—our ancient alliance with that Power, was of the greatest importance to this country; and, whether we were on the best possible terms with France, or whether anything should occur to interrupt the good understanding with that country, next to it it was of the greatest importance to be on a good understanding with Austria; and this had ever been the policy of the wisest and greatest statesmen which this country had seen. Prussia was of much less importance to us than Austria was. With the exception of the course taken by Pitt, in 1787, when he formed an alliance with Prussia to drive the French out of Holland, and that former occasion when our policy knit us closely with Frederick II., who was regarded by the people of England as the greatest Protestant hero of his times—but who might as reasonably be called so as Payne—with these two exceptions there had been no great national interests existing between this country and Prussia. With reference to this question of Cracow, he blamed Prussia more than he did Austria. She had nothing to complain of; but because Austria chose to put down Cracow as a republican institution, she chose to join in the act. If Prussia had stood out, as she ought on this occasion, she would have come forth covered with glory, and obtained respect and alliance all over the world. It was, indeed, a great mistake which Prussia had committed; and, having the greatest respect for the Monarch of that country, and for his Ministers—having the greatest respect for the learning of the 49 one, and the liberal principles and good faith of the other, who, he believed, was about to give liberal institutions to his people, it was with the deepest regret he found that they had not opposed, as was their true policy, the aggressions of Austria and the infraction of the treaty. To turn a little to the other topics of the Speech from the Throne, he trusted that any measure which Her Majesty's Ministers intended to introduce for the relief of Ireland, would be timeously and fully submitted to their Lordships, and that they would not be called upon to go through the farce of giving their assent to a Money Bill, which it was sure to be, and which they would not be permitted to touch. It might be said that they could throw out any Bill of which they did not approve, and get the House of Commons to pass another; but this they could not do at a crisis like the present. The Bill must pass. It meant money, and nothing else; it must be a Money Bill, and therefore they could not touch it. Let them now only observe what they would be called upon to do. It would be said to them, "You can send it back, and let them bring in another Bill, if you do not like this." But he (Lord Brougham) would ask them, could they do that? Could they do it, above all things, at this time? Could they do it at the crisis in which they were now called upon to act? Could they debate and say whether they would or would not agree upon this measure? Could they have the nerve to face the country, and reject this measure which the Commons had passed? If it were a Bill that they were all against except those noble Lords who were Members of the Government that brought it in—if they all objected to it, yet none of them dared, in the present circumstances of the country, to object to that Bill, because it was a measure for the relief of starving thousands. They were not now, he might say, to debate at all upon what the course of legislation was to be in respect to Ireland; that was, perhaps, the last time they would have an opportunity of speaking on the subject, for although his noble Friend opposite (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had said that on Monday night he would lay certain papers before the House that would raise some question, let it be recollected, that it would raise no question for decision. He (Lord Brougham) would recommend the Government, in reference to the circumstances now stated, in fairness towards the House and 50 the country, and in fairness to themselves, that they might profit by the suggestions of that House; that the measure might be modified according to the wisdom of that House, as well as of the other; he would, he repeated, strongly recommend the Government to proceed by way of Resolution. It was difficult to speak of what was to happen—much more what would happen in certain cases if the course which now seemed resolved to be taken were pursued; but if by Resolution, instead of by Bill, they were called upon to give their assistance on this great national question, he ventured to say that this Resolution would not be debated there without a considerable alteration being suggested. It must then come on as a Money Bill in the other House; and he (Lord Brougham) conceived, that except the other House of Parliament had gone privilege-mad, and would not allow them to debate on the subject, except they thought they were not only the collective wisdom of the nation, but desired to exclude all others, and professed to have not alone a collection of wisdom, but a monopoly of it, they themselves should be the first to thank them for throwing on the subject the light of their deliberation, that House being eminently a deliberative body, because they had so much the less to do with other things and other measures. The next suggestion he would throw out was, that a line should be drawn and carefully adhered to during the present Session between temporary measures of momentary expediency to meet the obvious evils now felt, and that those be kept entirely apart from any permanent measures introducing organic, or radical, or permanent changes into the policy of the country in regard to Ireland. He held it to be impossible that when the cry of hunger prevailed over the land—when there was the melancholy substance as well as the cry—when the country was distracted from day to day by accounts of the most heartrending spectacles he had ever seen, heard, or read of—that at a time when there was deep misery and distress prevailing and pervading in Ireland, rendered only the more heartrending because the more touching, by the patience, the admirable and almost inimitable patience, with which it seemed to be borne—that at a time when this grievous calamity existed — when there were scenes enacting all over those unfortunate districts which they could find nothing exceeding in the page of disease, and death, and pestilence, ever following in the train of famine 51 —to which nothing exceeding was to be found on the page of Josephus, or on the canvas of Poussin, or in the dismal chant of Dante — that at this very time, and under the pressure arising from these sights, from which, with an instinctive horror, they averted their eye, but which they were compelled by a more reasonable humanity to make an effort to relieve—while they were labouring under such feelings, and those feelings partaken of by millions in both countries—while there was all over Ireland and England an agitation deeply rooted in men's minds, and pervading all ranks of the people on this subject—that they should be in circumstances like these, and yet be able calmly and deliberately to take up questions of a permanent policy, he held to be absolutely and necessarily impossible. Then, if they drew a line of distinction between the two classes of measures, they must be careful that none of the temporary measures to be adopted should, with the name of being only temporary, with the aspect of only being to provide for the passing mischief, be such as would affect the constitution, or change the institutions of the country. They should take special care not to do anything that it would not be easy to undo again. They might purchase even temporary measures too dearly. In 1797, Pitt brought in his celebrated measure with reference to cash payments. It was only to last six months, as it was said to be for a temporary exigency; but it lasted twenty-three years, and then the repeal was as mischievous as the measure itself — so much so, that at the distance of half a century we were suffering from the mischievous effects of that temporary measure. Therefore let them see that when they supplied persons with money and with powers respecting their property, and when they formed depôts, and interfered with trade, let them take care that they did not make it far more difficult with those persons to come back to the natural state of things in another year. He wished they could flatter themselves that they should only for six or eight months have a continuance of the frightful scenes that were now going on, and the misery that was now endured by their fellow-countrymen; but he was much afraid that the next year's crop was not secured yet in the ground, or anything like it. He had heard something about the sowing of oats in the beginning of February, but it must be clear that the coun- 52 try in which this could be done was very different from any part of the world he was acquainted with. This labour rate had taken away labourers from the cultivation of the land; and why were they taken away? Because, when they employed a labourer, they took care that he worked for his wages; but when he went to work upon the roads, he was sorry to say, from what he had heard, that he did not work. He understood that a great number of those labourers had come over to this country. He could name a seaport town to which 13,000 and some odd hundreds had come over in a few days. A correspondent, who had communicated with him on this subject, could not say what had become of 9,000 of them. He supposed some went to this town and some to that town, but (said his correspondent) "to our town came 4,000 on the last board-day in addition to our ordinary poor." It appeared that on those persons being searched, from 1s. to 5s. were found with them; and he (Lord Brougham) knew that labourers in this country were not accustomed to have 5s. in their pockets—not paupers, but daily labourers. That was the way in which everything was dislocated in this unnatural state of things. And did not all this prove an additional consideration in favour of not rashly legislating, except so far as was absolutely and indispensably necessary for the purpose of meeting the pressure of the existing state of things? With respect to absenteeism, he (Lord Brougham) differed widely from his noble Friend the Mover of the Address. He (Lord Brougham) knew of no properties that he had heard of in Ireland which were better administered than those of absentees. Generally speaking, an absentee landlord took especial care to have very able and trustworthy and good agents; those agents reside on the spot, and act as if they were the owners; they fulfil in a great degree the duty of the absent owners, and which the absent owner would fulfil if he were present. He (Lord Brougham) would certainly wish that the owners themselves resided on their estates in Ireland, though it would prevent him from seeing a number of noble Friends of his that he now saw in that place; but they could not alter the habits of men, and if they had property in Ireland, but greater property in England, they were not to make themselves absentees from England; they were not to expose themselves to the charge of being absentees from England, and they 53 could not live in two places at the same time. They must live in one place or in the other, and he (Lord Brougham) was not disposed to blame them for not living in Ireland merely because they had property in Ireland.
§ LORD HATHERTON
explained that a great number of the absentees to whom he had referred were small owners, who lived in various countries abroad.
continued: Another proposition had been put forward, to which he could not assent, namely, that because there was a scarcity and misery in their country, the Irish people had a right to come upon the imperial revenue to support them. He held that doctrine to be most dangerous—he held it to be infinitely more dangerous than the worst abuses to which the worst part of their own poor laws ever were exposed—it would be perfectly ruinous to everything like prudent forethought and economy—he held it to be an encouragement to improvidence, thoughtlessness, recklessness, extravagance; but above all, it would be particularly mischievous with a people like the Irish, who, though they had numberless virtues, were too sanguine in their hopes when encouraged, and too confident in their own delusions when once deluded; and if it were once held out to them that they were to be supplied with an indefinite amount of eleemosynary support, he did not hesitate to say that they would easily lapse into habits of indolence. Their Lordships were not to judge of the Irish labourers by what they saw of them in this country. The Irish labourer worked here as hard as any man; they could not get in their harvest without him; he lived on little or nothing; he was a quiet inoffensive person. In the districts to which they gave the benefit of their assistance, no outrages took place; there was no robbery; there were no thefts on the farmhouse; not a chicken from the farmhouse was stolen—a better class of persons never did he see than those Irish labourers who came over to "shear," as it was called, in England. They worked very hard at that sort of work for which their strength qualified them; but he (Lord Brougham) was afraid that was not the character of the Irish labourer in his own country. He knew the Irish labourer was very apt to live upon little; in fact, he was satisfied with that which would be sufficient to sustain himself and his family; but he did as little work as he possibly could; therefore, he (Lord Brougham) was most anxious to 54 have it understood that they should not, in the temporary relief which they afforded to the Irish peasant, hold out the prospect that his wants were to be supplied in future by the treasury of the empire. They might make advances if they would, by way of loan, under due regulations, to see it was properly bestowed and usefully employed, insisting, however, the interest should be paid, and the principal be repaid by the parties locally interested in the expenditure of the money, by those whose lands were to profit by that loan. But to advance money without the prospect of repayment, would shake the strongest Government that England had seen for very many years. No Government that pursued such a policy could stand against the force of public opinion—not that the people of England were cold or indifferent to the sufferings of their fellow-subjects in Ireland—the large subscriptions entered into in this country negatived any such hypothesis; but they would not allow sums to be paid over to the Irish which were to be reckoned by hundreds of thousands, nay, by millions, unless there were to be a repayment of the whole amount—principal and interest. Let the idea once get abroad that there was to be any grant of the sort—let it once be advertised that two or three millions of money were to be spent in Ireland, and given away to the Irish, and immediately there would be an amount of abuse, and jobbing, and fraud, of which history could afford no parallel. Nothing could be worse for Ireland herself than that, as nothing could be worse for the whole empire, than that the whole empire should contribute to the removal of a temporary misfortune which no human agency had brought upon Ireland. His noble Friend who moved the Address had requested the people of England to make the case their own, and asked if the people of Lancashire would not call upon the empire to support them if their cotton happened to be destroyed by a grub; but then, if the Irish were thus called upon to support their English fellow-subjects, there would, indeed, be a strenuous cry for repeal. Even now Archbishop M'Hale said, that the people of this country owed the Irish millions of money. The archbishop told his confiding countrymen, that since the Union, the English people carried away from them vast quantities of beef, pork, and grain. Now, his late right hon. Friend. Sir John Newport, sought for and obtained, as a favour, the right for the Irish of free ex- 55 port to England; and Dr. M'Hale described this free export as a taking away of all their provisions; but the most rev. Doctor seemed to forget that all those provisions had been paid for. Every sack of wheat, every sack of flour, every sack of oats, every stone of pork and beef, were all paid for by English money; but that was totally forgotten, and it was said they owed the Irish all this. One great authority there said they were bound to pay forty millions for Ireland; another said, not merely forty millions, but sixty millions, for that sixty millions was what the English had got from them all this while. Really it was vain to talk of reasoning with persons who spoke in this kind of way. It was their duty not to subscribe to the delusion. It should be not merely their opinion, but their fixed and determined resolution, that the money which was advanced, should, generally speaking (that was, except in same few cases), be paid back principal and interest. That was the only security for justice being done to the people of England, and the only security of good being done by the advance to the people of Ireland themselves. Let it not be supposed that he joined in one word that had been said against the Irish landlords. The improvement which had come upon that most respectable and improving race of their fellow-subjects during the last twenty or thirty years baffled any description he could give of it; and their present exertions (with very few exceptions), and their charity and kindness, exceeded all praise that he could give them. If he (Lord Brougham) were asked whether any great good could accrue from the subscriptions which had been made either in Dublin, or in Cork, or elsewhere, he freely confessed there was hardly one. They would be chiefly valuable as an indication of good feeling between the people of the two countries; in that point of view, they were valuable, and therefore it was that he had read with incredulity a report in one of the Irish journals, in which it was stated that the English were subscribing money for the purpose of seducing the starving Catholics from their faith, and getting them to become Protestants. Never was there anything so false or foul as that aspersion, and it was so incredible and monstrous that he (Lord Brougham) must say he could not believe it was ever said. He had seen attempts at saying it—he had seen insinuations—but anything so monstrous as that false assertion in its naked 56 atrocity he had never seen, and therefore he did not believe it was said. That, no doubt, would put a stop to the contributions, and let them do substantial good or not, they indicated good feeling on the part of the people; it was calculated to keep up a good feeling between the people of the two countries, which he regretted to say was thus attempted to be poisoned at its source. He had applied in more instances than one to persons to co-operate with him in promoting the relief of the suffering Irish; but then he was told that as long as these facts existed, and they were facts, he could not expect the co-operation of his friends. He was told that the repeal rent continued to be paid, and that the sums deposited in savings' banks were greater, and the sums drawn out of them less, than in former years; and that, under such circumstances, he could not expect that his friends would assist his views and co-operate with him. Who were the parties that paid the rent and made deposits in the savings' bank? Not those, surely, who were starving. The state of the savings' banks, and of the repeal fund, merely showed it was the wealthy classes who so applied their money; and that the really poor had nothing to do with them. That there happened to be a few people in Ireland who had money to spare, formed no reason why kind and Christian feelings should cease to influence men's minds. He did not see that in every case it would be right to refuse the Irish pecuniary aid, though he believed that nothing could be mere dangerous than that an extensive system of relief should be gratuitously supplied; a large plan would be a most dangerous experiment; there would be no harm in a suspension of the corn laws, or of the navigation laws; but he protested against any large plan of eleemosynary relief. He wished to say one word about the money market. Within a short time, no less than 6,000,000l. had been paid here, and the merchants of this country had recently been obliged to send gold and silver into foreign countries in payment for foreign goods. This greatly embarrassed the English money market; but it was the necessary consequence of the present unwholesome state of trade in foreign countries. The fact was that, at the present moment, we wanted to get corn from foreign countries, and neither we nor the French had manufactures to send out wherewith to pay for the corn, and we were, therefore, obliged to import it at a great loss. In making our payments to foreign coun- 57 tries, we were obliged to pay large sums in gold and silver—an evil which was mainly attributable to an unwholesome state of trade, and to an infatuated commercial policy on our parts. It was, in fact, the natural and inevitable consequence of that exclusive system by which we were heretofore led astray, and which, preventing the free intercourse of commodities between this and other countries, of course prevented the manufacturers at home from shaping their supply to a foreign demand. It was in the highest degree essential that the commercial interests of a great country should be regulated with a due regard to the principles of sound political economy; but he would venture to assure their Lordships now, as he had done when introducing the first great free-trade measure, that any policy of trade founded on an exclusive or monopolising system was not only a sin against the principles of political economy, but also a gross outrage on common sense and common justice. These general remarks on the state of Ireland, and the description of legislation which she required, he had felt himself called upon to submit to their Lordships; but he trusted it would not be considered that in the course of his remarks he had manifested any disposition either to undervalue the exertions made for the relief of Ireland, or to underrate the amount of misery which actually existed in that afflicted land. He admitted both these facts most unreservedly, and participated in those feelings of compassion and sympathy which could not but be experienced by every man who had a heart within his bosom. He had touched on a few of what appeared to him to be those particular errors of the day, which it was necessary, if possible, to put down by wholesome legislation. Amongst the objects which were desirable at the present moment, might be mentioned a judicious and well-devised reform in some of the laws respecting property. He was of opinion that increased facilities ought to be given for the easy and expeditious conveyance of land; but this was a question which ought to be handled with delicacy and caution, so that the rights of property might not be in any degree impaired. He could not agree with the noble Lord who had moved the Address, in the opinion that any alteration in the laws affecting property ought to be at all sanctioned which would have the effect of throwing aside the learning 58 of the old lawyers by putting an end to appeals.
§ LORD HATHERTON
explained that he had never intended to advocate anything of the kind. He had done nothing more than express an opinion that parties on whose properties Government had charges, ought to be at liberty to sell their properties in order to pay off those incumbrances.
was happy that this opportunity of explanation had been afforded to his noble Friend; but even the reform to which he now expressed himself favourable was one which ought to be handled with extreme caution and delicacy, lest the interests of those having contingent rights in property should suffer any injury; for it should be borne in mind that the right of the remainder in tail was quite as valid, and to himself quite as important, as that of the actual occupier. Any alterations, therefore, in the law of conveyance should be introduced with a view to relieving the estate for the permanent benefit not only of the actual possessor, but also of the heir. In conclusion, he had only to apologize for trespassing at such length on their Lordships' attention, and to express a hope that it would not be considered that, in the course of the observations he had felt himself called upon to offer, he had entered upon any offensive or invidious topics. Most assuredly he had not intended to have done so, and if he had, he regretted it most unaffectedly.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
felt great satisfaction at what had passed in their Lordships' House that evening, and hoped that the tone of what was passing in the other House would be found to correspond with that of their Lordships' proceedings. Having had frequent opportunity of personal observation, he discovered that there was in England a vast deal of incredulity about the distress in Ireland, which he trusted would be removed by the remarks which had fallen from several noble Lords in the course of the present debate, but more particularly in the course of the moving and touching speech of his noble Friend who had seconded the Address. Notwithstanding the low tone in which that speech had been delivered, he hoped that every word of it would find its way out of doors, and sink deeply into the minds and hearts of the people of England, for if they had not felt as much alive on this subject as he (Lord Fitzwilliam) felt, it was not because they had less sympathy 59 for the distress in Ireland, but because there was unfortunately on this side of the water a disposition to incredulity as regarded everything that happened upon the other side. He agreed with the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Brougham) in the opinion that there had not begun a Session of Parliament in the remembrance of those who sat in it now, under circumstances more awful than those which now presented themselves to their consideration. Parliament had now indeed to deal with matters worth thinking about—matters well worth deliberating about—matters which were well deserving of the attention of every man who, possessing powers of thought, was anxious to devote his energies to the task of considering what might be best for his country. It was no common question they had to solve. Depend upon it it was not by any small or half measures that they must think of grappling with this great question. With respect to the measures which were proposed to be introduced by Her Majesty's Government, as far as he could judge of them from the allusions in the Queen's Speech, and from the observations which had been made by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne), he need only to say that he approved of them as far as they went; but whether they went to the full extent and were up to the full measure of the great calamity they were designed to mitigate, and whether they would solve the great problem that was to be solved, were questions on which he ventured to entertain some doubt. Whoever wished to arrive at a sound decision on the subject must consider what was the great phenomenon which Ireland presented to their consideration. That phenomenon was its dense rural population. The aggregate population was eight millions, and it was perhaps no exaggeration to say that seven-eighths of them were a rural population. It was clear to every man who had devoted any attention to the subject, that one half this population would cultivate the land better than it was now cultivated. Even at the risk of giving offence to the noble Marquess who sat below him (the Marquess of Westmeath), he could not refrain expressing it as his opinion that except in the case of some few instances agriculture could scarcely be said to exist in Ireland. In England agriculture was carried on as a trade, but this was not the case in Ireland. In Ireland, generally (though certainly not universally) speaking, the farmer 60 and cottier tenant did not sit down to their holding for the purpose of carrying on a trade there, but simply to obtain the means of existence for themselves and their families; and when this object was accomplished, the remainder of their earnings, if any remainder there were, might go as rent to the landlord, or for the discharge of any other demand. The great task, therefore, which devolved upon the Legislature was to entirely change the condition of rural Ireland. For rural Ireland, as long as it continued cultivated and peopled as at present, they could never legislate as they would legislate for rural England. They might be deceived by words; but to legislate alike for both countries, because the same words might be used in reference to both, and because the same denominations might be employed in respect of things which were not alike, was to be guilty of the grossest inconsistency; and yet this error was one into which, from identity of terms, they occasionally fell. It was sometimes consistent to legislate for both countries differently, and sometimes the extreme of inconsistency to legislate alike. They had heard of the introduction of a poor law into Ireland; but with great respect for those whose feelings might lead them to think that a poor law ought to be brought in for Ireland, such as existed in England, he would venture to express his decided opinion that as long as rural Ireland continued such as it now was, an extension of the present English poor law to that country would be fraught with the most mischievous consequences. This had been the opinion of the most experienced men who had been sent to Ireland for the purpose of examining and reporting on its condition. He thought they had come to a sound conclusion; and if Parliament were ever to be driven by English feeling and English opinion into the introduction into Ireland of a poor law similar to that which now existed in England, he was sure that they would be inflicting on Ireland one of the greatest possible calamities. He respected the people of England, of whom he was one; but he must say fairly that he never yet met with a pure Englishman who had any conception of the true state of society in Ireland, and he therefore ventured very much to doubt whether they were very well qualified to form an opinion on the description of legislation that was adapted for that country. Entirely agreeing with his noble Friend that it was necessary that the maxims of political economy should be 61 attended to, he, nevertheless, also fully concurred in the opinion that there might have been cases where it might have been well for Government to have established depôts. He thought they ought to be most rare, and that they could only be justified in special circumstances. And he likewise agreed with his noble Friend in the opinion, that it would not be at all wise in the Government to make in these countries the necessary purchases for stocking the depôts. But he did not see the same objection to purchasing abroad, and storing the depôts with foreign corn. The project, however, was one which should be taken up with great caution, and on the whole the Government had, perhaps, acted wisely in not undertaking it. It would be very difficult to deal properly with the case of Ireland until they drained largely from the rural population. This could only be done by Government, and he was inclined to think that the sooner they set about it the better. It was a strange fact, and one that did not redound to the honour of England, that while the rural population of Ireland had grown to seven millions, the town population had been diminishing in the same period. This fact should be borne in mind in all their legislation, for their object should be to increase and favour the town population, and to draw the inhabitants of the country as much as possible into towns and villages. The rural population of Ireland was not collected together in villages and hamlets as in this country; but every encouragement to concentrate the population as much as possible in that manner should be held out. It had been observed by the noble Lord opposite, that an Archbishop at the other side of the water had made some absurdly erroneous statements as to the debt due by England to Ireland—
begged to explain. The debt with which the Archbishop contended that this country was chargeable was not one of money, but simply of ingratitude. He complained that for a long series of years Ireland had been feeding the people of England with pork, pickled beef, and other matters of that kind. It was just such a debt as the noble Lord very possibly owed to his butcher, and if he had not yet paid, he would owe him more.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
was not quite certain, after all, that even in a pecuniary point of view England did not owe many debts to Ireland. It was not a century ago that it was looked upon as a very great 62 boon on the part of England that she permitted pork and such other provisions to be brought into her ports from Ireland, and then only in a temporary manner. This circumstance should not be lost sight of; nor should the fact be overlooked that it was not until the time of his lamented Friend, Sir J. Newport, that full and free trade was established between the two countries. In the time of Charles, Irish black cattle were generally kept away from the shores of England, and their occasional presence here was complained of as a nuisance. Again, he had to express his conviction that even in a pecuniary point of view there were debts due by this country to Ireland. With respect to the measures which it was in the contemplation of Her Majesty's Government to propose, he had only to express an anxious hope that they would be of a large and comprehensive nature, capable of meeting the great difficulties which the Legislature had to struggle with.
The MARQUESS of WESTMEATH
said, that although the system of agriculture in Ireland was good in theory, it was greatly deficient in practice. With respect to the works that were going on, he thought the landlords ought personally to superintend them, so that the soil should not be thrown out of cultivation; and he earnestly trusted that the Government would pause and consider well before they stated what remedial measures they should propose. For the sympathy shown by the people of this country for the distress in Ireland he felt most grateful, and hoped that proper supervision would be adopted to prevent any abuse in the application of the funds contributed for the relief of that country.
The EARL of RODEN
observed, that the notice which the noble Marquess opposite had given of his intention to bring the case of Ireland at an early day under their Lordships' consideration, would deter him from entering at any length on the discussion of the subject. He could not however, refrain from expressing his gratification at the interest which the unhappy position of that country had excited amongst their Lordships. He was glad that the matter had been taken up so warmly; for had there not been an earnest debate, it would have been said that they had exhibited a want of feeling on occasion of one of the greatest calamities that had ever afflicted any country. Having been an eye-witness to many of the dreadful scenes which had recently occurred in 63 Ireland, he was in a position to corroborate the representations which had been made by the noble Marquess opposite (Marquess of Lansdowne), and the noble Lord by whom the Address had been seconded. He could enter fully into their feelings of compassion and sympathy, for when in Ireland he had been compelled to look on a state of suffering such as had never existed in any country of which he had ever heard. In the course of a single week the whole food of the country had been destroyed, for the great masses of the people lived almost exclusively on the potato, and the consequent misery was indescribable. This the people of England felt most acutely; and he was sure the people of Ireland were most grateful for their sympathy. Ireland had experienced in this sad emergency the greatest benefit from having at the head of the Executive, as Lord Lieutenant, a nobleman who was himself an Irishman; and he should be ungrateful to that distinguished personage were he not to admit that he had left no means untried in order to meet the calamity which he evidently foresaw would be most disastrous. He conceived the proposal for a loan for the improvements of estates would be of the greatest benefit; but as that, together with many other subjects of great importance, must necessarily come under consideration, he would defer any observations he had to make, and he should be most happy to render to the Government any assistance which his experience in Irish affairs might enable him to offer. He bore his testimony to the excellent conduct of the Irish resident landlords in the present emergency. Foul calumnies and aspersions had been cast upon that body of men; but he for one should be always ready—as he was able from local knowledge and experience—to refute them. To that body of men he would say, "Persevere in the course you are now pursuing; for remember, that by well-doing you will be enabled to dissipate the prejudices and silence the clamours that have been raised against you."
§ The EARL of HARDWICKE
expressed his conviction that there would be a general concurrence of all sides of the House that anything which could be done for the relief of the people of Ireland should be done speedily, practically, and perfectly. It appeared to him that the great object to which the Government ought to turn their attention was the conveyance of food to Ireland. Her Majesty's ships were in ac- 64 tive operation for that purpose. It was proved that there was a quantity of food that might immediately be supplied if a conveyance could be found. It appeared that at Liverpool, only a few days ago, there were ready for shipping 62,403 quarters of wheat, 142,000 quarters of wheaten flour; making in all 204,403 quarters, or sufficient to feed 2,500,000 for one month. In London there were 36,372 quarters of oats, 11,683 quarters of peas, 47,003 quarters of wheat, and of wheat flour 80,000 quarters; making in all, 175,257 quarters — sufficient to feed 1,800,000 persons for one month; and at Glasgow there were, of wheat 150,738 quarters; of oats 13,439 quarters; and of peas 14,089 quarters; making 178,276 quarters of corn of various kinds: and of wheaten flour there were 67,500 quarters, or, in all, 245,276 quarters — sufficient to feed 2,500,000 persons for one month. So that, in those three ports, there were 624,936 quarters, or sufficient, to feed 6,300,000 persons one month, or 2,100,000 persons three months. There were, he believed, 11 ships of the line at home, and he should like to know from the noble Earl (the Earl of Auckland) whether they could not be employed in conveying corn from one port to another in this country?
§ The EARL of AUCKLAND
, in answer to the noble Earl's question, said, that the subject had occupied the earnest attention of the Government, with the view of bringing corn from foreign countries; but after the best inquiries, and the deepest consideration of the subject and the interests of commerce, they had found that the shipping employed by private enterprise would be amply sufficient to bring from America all the corn at New York and Boston before the setting in of the frost; and that the employment of the Government ships would so interfere with private trade as to be likely to displace a larger proportion of tonnage than the Government were able themselves to supply. With regard to what the Admiralty had done at home, they had omitted no exertion in supplying ships to carry corn from one port in the country to another at every requisition; there had been from 30 to 40 steamers so employed, and 14 or 15 sailing vessels, and there had not been a single requisition made to the Government with which they had not been able ultimately to comply. He believed that this support of Her Majesty's Ministers had been felt by the authorities in Ireland to have been most important, and the Go- 65 vernment were quite prepared to carry it through.
wished to ask a question concerning the course the Government intended to pursue on Monday. As he had understood, the noble Marquess proposed to move for and lay upon the Table certain papers connected with Ireland, and then to state the measures which were in contemplation by the Government. He (Lord Stanley) had not, however, collected from the noble Marquess whether he proposed on that or on another occasion to take in any way the sense or opinion of the House upon those measures. At all events, he would venture to suggest that nothing could be more inconvenient, or less likely to lead to a satisfactory result, than a discussion upon matters of great importance immediately on the announcement of those measures, and before there had been time for deliberation upon them. He wished therefore to understand whether the Government contemplated that any discussion should take place on Monday, or, which he should think the more convenient course, the noble Marquess should move for and lay his papers on the Table, and that on that occasion their Lordships should not attempt to enter upon a discussion which could lead to no satisfactory result. He wished to know if the Government desired to anticipate the Resolution of the House of Commons, or thought with him it would be better to adjourn the discussion from Monday to some day not very distant, but sufficiently so to give time for consideration, and that on Monday their Lordships should abstain from expressing any opinion whatsoever.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, it was very desirable that the course of proceeding should be clearly understood, but at the same time he could scarcely add anything to what he had already stated, that on Monday he should move for some ordinary papers for the purpose of stating what were the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. That was the only course he could take, because the Resolution must originate in the other House; but at the same time he had thought it convenient their Lordships should be put in possession of a general view of the measure contemplated by the Government, but without asking them to discuss the question, or pronounce any opinion whatever upon the plan. Any noble Lord would be of course at liberty, if he thought proper, to originate a substantive Motion upon the subject.
§ The Motion for an humble Address was then agreed to, nomine dissentiente; and a Committee was appointed to prepare the Address, and, after some time, Report was made of an Address drawn up by them, which, being read, was agreed to, and ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with white staves.
§ House adjourned.