§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ The EARL of CARLISLE
rose to move the Second Reading of this Bill, and said that if, when he had the honour of addressing their Lordships on a previous occasion, he expressed a degree of apprehension, because he was under the necessity of opposing the feelings and opinions which many of their Lordships entertained, he ought to be impressed by a still greater feeling of discouragement in addressing them now, because the Bill which he had now to urge on their Lordships' acceptance had been prejudged and precondemned by the resolution of a Committee of their Lordships' House. He had, however, to state that Her Majesty's Ministers were not more insensible than the Members of either House of Parliament, or the witnesses which had appeared before their respective Committees, to the objections—many of them really valid, and all, perhaps, plausible—which could be urged against the principle of a rate in aid—objections which, if urged against the permanent application of such a measure, or the establishment of a general law of such a character, would probably be found insuperable. The responsibility which Her Majesty's Government had taken on themselves by introducing this Bill, to which, in spite of all the objections which had been urged, and all the opposition which had been excited, they still adhered, rested on the means which, in their judgment, were still open to them to meet an emergency of the most serious nature, but which they still hoped, partly from the experience of the past, but chiefly from their trust in the superintendence of Omnipotent mercy, was capable of being converted into per- 259 manent good. He would now state shortly the circumstances under which the present proposal was urged for their Lordships' acceptance. He need not trouble their Lordships with any formal history of what was already sufficiently well known. For the last three years the failure in Ireland of the usual crops had produced famine and misery in every quarter. This was attempted to be met by two successive Governments, but principally by the present Government, by a system of relief works; a system which every one admitted to have been conceived in the best intentions, but which proved in operation to be costly, cumbrous, and incapable of control, till it finally broke down under its own weight. The next system that was tried was the attempt to relieve destitution by means of food alone. This system was carried on upon a gigantic scale, and at one time no fewer than 3,000,000 persons were receiving relief in that form. This was evidently a system which was not calculated for permanent adoption, and when a temporary lull took place in October, 1848, it was brought to a close; and since that time relief had been administered, where it was absolutely requisite, through the agency of the poor-law unions. This relief was given in the greatest part of Ireland through the unions themselves; but in other parts of Ireland, and particularly in twenty-one distressed unions, the assistance which was necessary had been partly derived from the British Association, and partly from funds supplied by the British Treasury. It was stated in a Treasury Minute, of the 19th January, 1849, that from the 1st of October, 1847, to the 8th of July, 1848, a sum of 235,500l. had been derived from the funds of the British Relief Association, and a further sum of 132,000l. had been granted by Parliament, making in all a sum of 367,500l. It appeared also, that in the province of Con-naught 182,759l. had been collected from the poor-rate, while the total expenditure amounted to 399,208s.; the excess of expenditure, therefore, over the amount collected being 216,449l. After referring to these details, it was gratifying to find that, whatever might have been the sufferings and difficulties of the period, the Poor Law Commissioners had reported that, without this timely aid, no less than 200,000 persons would probably have perished in the distressed districts for want of food. Now, he was aware that the conduct of the Government had been exposed to criticism and 260 to censure. Of course it was not for him to say how far that censure was well deserved or not; but he knew that throughout this cycle of misfortune which had befallen Ireland during three successive years, one leading principle had pervaded their thoughts and their policy, and that was that, as far as they could help it, not one single individual should die of starvation. Their Lordships were necessarily aware, that when for three successive years the usual crops that formed the sustenance of the people of Ireland had almost wholly failed, it was quite impossible for any Government to save great numbers of persons from appalling suffering. They were aware, also, that in ordinary times it was not the province of a Government to provide for the subsistence of a people; but, under the extraordinary and exceptional circumstances which had occurred in Ireland, Her Majesty's Ministers were of opinion that certain districts were so situated, without the slightest prospect of relief being given from any other quarter, and when a great destruction of human life was likely to ensue, that it was necessary that assistance should be brought, food should be given, and life should be saved, by the Imperial Exchequer. It was stated in the Treasury Minute which he had cited, that as the produce of the potato crop was less in 1848 than it was in 1847, it must be expected that the charge for the relief of the poor in the distressed districts would again seriously affect the amount of the rates which were to be levied; and that as the funds of the unions were at present almost exhausted, it would be impossible to collect the amount. With this view, and under a sense of the same responsibility of providing, as far as they could, that the people should not perish by famine,. Her Majesty's Government, at the commencement of the present Session, proposed to Parliament an addition of 50,000l. to the sums which had been previously defrayed from the public funds, in order to meet the necessary outlay which the Poor Law Commissioners were called on to administer. Well, that proposition was submitted to Parliament; but how was it received by the other House? Several Members who were connected with Ireland, persons of property and station there, were reported to have stated as their opinion, that the property of Ireland ought to contribute to the relief of the poverty of that country. He found it reported that a Gentleman, who tad always been distinguished 261 as an economical authority, had said that in many parts of England the rates were much higher than in parts of Ireland; that in the county of Norfolk the rates were 16s. 6d. in the pound; and that there were many parishes, he might say counties, in which the rates were as high, or higher, than in any part of Ireland. It was reported also to have been said by another Member of the House, who, though not representing an Irish constituency, possessed considerable influence as a landed proprietor in Ireland, that every fresh grant only added to the misery and poverty of Ireland. Further, a Gentleman who held a most distinguished position in the late Government was represented to have stated that he did not hesitate to say that this vote of 50,000l. must be the last vote of the kind. He said that Ireland had no property-tax, no assessed taxes, no excise taxes, and that even the tax on spirits was less than what was paid in Scotland, and that he must say that if any rates in aid were wanted, they must be raised in Ireland. This seemed to be the general feeling among all parties in the House of Commons. Now, he had stated that the Government was prepared, in order to meet an emergency which they considered as exceptional in its character as it was certainly appalling in its extent, to propose to Parliament to persevere in the course which had been hitherto pursued, by applying for aid to the Imperial Exchequer, under the strictest guarantees for its economical administration, until better times should arrive, and more permanent and substantial modes of relief should be devised. The Government, however, was unable to gain the acquiescence of Parliament in that course. It might be said that another alternative was open to them, and that they might have declared, as they had stated on a recent occasion, that they were prepared to abide by the consequences of defeat. But when they remembered that within the last two years there had been advanced by Parliament for the relief of Irish distress or for the employment of Irish industry, and that during a time of great pressure in this country, no less a sum than 10,095,000l. from the Imperial Exchequer, from which, however, he ought in justice to Ireland to say that 318,000l. had been already repaid—when it was borne in mind also that the private benevolence of this country had come forward in a way which would always be remembered with gratitude in all well-constituted minds, 262 and that the contributions from this source, including 300,000l. from Ireland itself, amounted to 1,500,000l., to say nothing of the heavy burdens imposed upon many towns in Great Britain by the influx of Irish paupers—taking all these circumstances into consideration, it appeared to the Government that there was a good deal in the suggestion which had been so very forcibly conveyed, that as soon as this grant had been afforded, no future application should be made to the Imperial Exchequer, unless, at least, for the purpose of meeting a special and exceptional case, until it had been seen whether a contribution for the relief of Irish distress, for a limited amount, and for a limited time, could not be raised from Ireland itself. It was accordingly determined to submit a proposal to Parliament to that effect. The question then was, in what form this proposal for the relief of Irish distress was to be made. Now they had been told that the proposal of a rate in aid was actually an insult to Ireland. At all events, however, it was not a novel one in Ireland; for he found, in the last of the propositions which were submitted to the Poor Law Commissioners from the delegates of the boards of guardians, at a meeting held in Dublin, in December, 1848, that this very proposition was made, coupled, however, with a proposition for what was termed the individualising of responsibility, or contracting the area of taxation, so as far as possible to make it conterminous with property. He had no disposition to put on the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley), whose talents and connection with Ireland, in more ways than one, gave so much weight to what fell from him on such a subject, the obligation of supporting this measure; but the noble Lord certainly did, on the first night of the Session, suggest that a rate in aid should be one of the means adopted for relieving local distress in Ireland. He did not mean to lay any undue stress on the analogy of the law which existed in England and Scotland, because he admitted that there was no analogy between the circumstances of these countries and Ireland, and he wished to rest the case on the special and exceptional grounds which existed, and the temporary nature of the measure. But still, so far from a rate in aid being a thing in itself unheard of, it was provided by the statute 43 Eliz., that when a parish was unable to raise funds within itself for the support of its own poor, the justices in quarter-ses- 263 sions might strike a rate in aid upon the hundred. And in Scotland, also, there was a statute, the 53rd George III., by which a sum of 14,000l. was ordered to he raised and levied upon the heritors and landowners for the support of the poor in certain places which could not support themselves by reason of the failure of the crop of corn in the year preceding. The actual provisions of the Bill which he had now the honour to introduce, were very concise. They authorised the Poor Law Commissioners to levy a rate in aid from all unions and electoral districts in Ireland, for the relief of such unions or electoral divisions which they conceived might stand in need of it. That rate was limited to the amount of 6d. in the pound on the poor-law valuation for the present year and year the immediately preceding. The treasurer of the county was authorised to impound half the amount of the rate till that amount had been collected from the union or electoral division. The amount which it was calculated this 6d. rate would produce, would be 323,000l. This, coupled with the 50,000l. already voted for the relief of Irish distress in the present year, would rather exceed the amount of contributions which it had been found necessary to apply from extrinsic sources in aid of the distress in Ireland for the past year. Of course it was manifest that in some unions no contributions could be levied. They were all, however, made liable by the Bill, as it was not possible beforehand to know the quota that would be required, or the range to which the insolvency of those unions might extend. If the entire sum raised under this Bill were not sufficient, the Government would still be permitted to supply the necessary funds for the actual preservation of life, upon the credit of the rate in aid which might be raised in the two successsive years. The power to levy the proposed rate in aid was limited to two years, and he hoped that beyond that period the necessity for extrinsic aid would not exist; but the Government disclaimed all intention of prolonging beyond that time an impost to which, in their judgment, such strong objection attached, when considered as a permanent and settled system, and not as a temporary and exceptional expedient. Now, what was the exact case with which they had to deal? There were in Ireland at this moment, in the whole of the district to the west of the Shannon at least—call them what they would, distressed, destitute, bankrupt, or 264 insolvent—unions which were unable to support the amount of pauperism which existed in them. Her Majesty's Government thought that support must be afforded; but they also thought that this amount of distress could not he supported from imperial resources, and, therefore, for the relief of those portions of Irish distress they had to look to Irish funds and to Irish resources. The unions from which it was impossible to expect any contribution amounted to twenty-one; there were ten or a dozen others which were trembling upon the very verge of the like destitution; and there were above a hundred in a state of greater or less incapacity to assist the others. If their Lordships would consult the returns laid before the House, they would find that the average amount per pound of the expenses during the last year upon the poor-law valuation for the whole province of Ulster was 1s. 9¼d.; for Munster, 3s. 7½d.; and for Leinster, no more than Is. 11½d. That their Lordships, however, might not think that the financial concerns of the English unions in every portion of this country were much more prosperous than those in Ireland, he would state that he found, by a return presented to the House of Commons in the present Session, that in twenty unions, in different parts of England, the average poor-rates was 4s. 1d.; that in twenty other parishes it was as high as 8s. 11¼d.; and that in four or five parishes the poor-rates stood as high as 12s. 11d. It was said that the dislike of the present measure did not apply so exclusively to the drain which it would make upon the better circumstanced districts of Ireland—not to the sum of 6d. in the pound—but to the whole principle of the impost. It was asked, and he would admit with some force, why the county of Antrim and the town of Belfast were more called upon to contribute to the relief of the county of Mayo and the town of Galway, than the county of Warwick and the town of Birmingham? They must not, in considering that argument, leave out of consideration the circumstance of the difference of taxation of the two countries. The people of Great Britain paid a property tax, assessed taxes, and land taxes, duties on hops, bricks, and other articles, amounting to upwards of 12,000,000l. sterling annually, from which the people of Ireland were totally exempt. He would ask, then, whether there was any thing so unfair, so unjust, or so monstrous, in calling upon 265 the people of the more favoured portions of Ireland, who were not exposed to the same severity of distresses as their more suffering Irish fellow-subjects—who were not liable to the same amount of taxes as their English and Scotch fellow-subjects—to contribute a limited sum, for a limited time, in aid of distress so acute, so unparalleled, and so near their own doors? It was not among the least painful parts of the duty which Her Majesty's Government had to undergo in bringing forward this measure, and which they thought it both their duty and necessity to do—it was not the least unpleasant portion of their duties, that in doing so they should have arrayed against them the opposition of such a province as Ulster, and of its loyal, orderly, industrious, moral, and religious population. And certainly it did seem upon the surface something perverse that the same fine and admirable qualities which had excited their respect, should also be the self-same qualities which exposed them to an impost which they feel so onerous and unjust. It was quite plain, however, that if they were compelled to resort to the better-circumstanced districts of Ireland, Ulster could not be excepted. He felt that the chief objection to the measure which he had to propose was, that it mixed up with the ordinary operation of the poor-law this very distasteful impost; and he thought it was to be regretted, that when any unions should have succeeded in managing their affairs economically and carefully—and still more, perhaps, when, by dint of great exertions and prudence, they had managed to keep their heads above water—that it should be found necessary to mix up their ordinary and legitimate operations with this unwelcome and intrusive impost. He felt those to be great objections to the measure—such as could not be disregarded, if it were not for the alternative which they saw before them, of being unable otherwise to prevent a large number of the people from dying of starvation and destitution. Some of their Lordships might, perhaps, think that an income tax for Ireland would be a more preferable mode of taxation. He would not upon this occasion discuss the propriety of applying an income tax to Ireland; the time might possibly arrive when—at some future day—when that might form a subject of discussion with their Lordships, and when, like this rate in aid, it might become necessary to impose it upon Ireland. If, however, Her Majesty's 266 Government had found such a course would have been preferred by representatives of the people of Ireland, whose wishes upon such a subject he thought it not unbecoming to ascertain and consult, they would not have been averse to entertain that proposition. All he would say at present upon the subject was, that opportunities were given to those persons, both within and without the walls of Parliament, of notifying that preference, but that opportunity was not embraced by them. The original reasons which weighed with Her Majesty's Government for proposing the rate in aid instead of the income tax were, that it appeared to them that the reason which prevented Sir R. Peel from extending the income tax to Ireland, when he originally proposed it for England, on account of the difficulty and expensiveness of providing any adequate machinery, and the reason which induced Lord John Russell to refrain from extending the income tax to Ireland when he proposed to continue it to England, on account of the suffering and afflicted state of the country at that time—that these two combined reasons had not so far disappeared as to induce the Government to think that the present was a favourable period for introducing for the first time an income tax in Ireland. The rate in aid, whatever just objections might be made to it, did not require any additional machinery, or involve the necessity of any increased staff, or additional expense in collecting—the whole paraphernalia for the collection of the rate was at hand, and ready to be employed. It appeared, therefore, to the Government that that was the readiest, easiest, and most effectual method which they could command for meeting a demand which could not be resisted, and which could not be postponed; and they could not, however much they regret the necessity for proposing the rate, feel any compunction for the course which they had thought it their duty to pursue. One of the suggestions made before the Committee by some of the able and talented witnesses who had been examined before their Lordships, was that of appropriating, for the purpose of this relief, the remains of the debt still due upon account of advances for building workhouses. Such a plan would, however, have a very capricious operation in Ireland. He thought, moreover, that, if the Government had made such a proposal for the purpose of contributing to the relief of Irish distress, such a proposition 267 would have met with a very scant courtesy from the House of Commons. He owned that when successful endeavours were made to recover any portion of these advances, he would rather wish to see it reissued and re-lent to supply additional workhouses in Ireland, the want of which was so urgently admitted on all hands. The state of Ireland at present presented many suggestions to their minds—many matters which were charged with deep interest for future generations—many matters justly requisite as supplements even to the present measure. A Bill was now before the other House of Parliament for remedying certain of the operations of the poor-law. That measure would, probably, come before their Lordships shortly; and he would, therefore, say no more upon its provisions than simply that it would bring before them the subject of a maximum rating in Ireland—a subject intimately connected with the present measure. There was, also, another Bill upon the all-important subject of the mode of dealing with encumbered estates in Ireland. If he were asked why the present measure was brought forward alone and unattended, when there were two other important measures affecting Ireland before the other House, his answer would be, that Her Majesty's Government dare not wait: they were now every day advancing public money in Ireland without any authority whatever from Parliament, and they would be ashamed of themselves if they did not take upon themselves this responsibility.' Their Lordships must, however, feel how precarious and how hazardous this furtive charity was. They had already proposed that 100,000l. should be issued upon the credit of this rate in aid, and this sum was most imperatively called for by the distress that existed in that country. Before concluding the observations with which he had thought it right to trouble their Lordships, he would beg their attention to a few extracts from some of the most recent statements which had been made to the Government on the subject of the distress in Ireland, in order to show that further delay was what they dare not run the risk of incurring. [His Lordship then read several extracts addressed to the Poor Law Commissioners of Ireland, showing the fearful state of distress which existed in several of the unions, and stating that in several of them the contractors for milk and breadstuff's, not having received any payment for a considerable time, had threatened, 268 unless some payments were made, to discontinue altogether the supply of provisions.] His Lordship then proceeded to say, that he did not deceive himself, and trusted that he formed a sufficiently low estimate of any weight or authority with which he could address their Lordships; but through his feeble and imperfect utterance he must declare that a mighty woe was in the presence of them all—such an one as, in intensity and duration, had perhaps hardly ever been known in the experience of their own or any other nation. It was true that from the many and varied vials of wrath which now seemed to be poured out over the nations of the earth, this country in mercy had been hitherto exempted. It was true that they had no cannon gathering in their streets, nor had they been afflicted by the glare of burning villages or towns throughout their land; but he questioned whether the last three years of famine, and its attendant consequences, in Ireland, had not presented forms of calamity as prolonged, as acute, and as crushing as had ever been exhibited in the annals of human suffering; and now, in their present stage, they had perhaps reached even their most cruel aggravation, because their sufferings had almost ceased to inspire either interest or pity among the mass of the community; and some matters connected with the mode in which the benevolence of this country had occasionally been treated, but into which he would not then enter, had gone far, in many instances, to deaden the feelings of the public. Their Lordships, however, would not be wanting to the sacred claims of charity and benevolence now put forward in behalf of the people of Ireland. It might be that the measure which Her Majesty's Government now proposed, and which they did not deny to be imperfect, might, without some supplementary measure, of some more deep-searching and far-reaching character, prove to be illusory. But what they had now to hear in mind was, that if the meal contractors and the milk contractors were not paid in hard money next week, the inmates of the workhouses would die by hundreds. It might be said that their measure was faulty and objectionable in its principle; but if their Lordships now only looked to the principle of the measure, without considering what might be its results, although it was calculated that outdoor relief, as now administered, was only at the rate of a penny per day for each pauper, yet if the single pound of meal 269 was withheld, which now barely kept body and soul together, then there would be desponding, despairing, and dying thousands. In short, blame the Government if they would, condemn them if they, must; but let their Lordships not, for themselves, by rejecting this Bill, encounter a risk of which the responsibilities and memory would not be easily shaken off. His Lordship concluded by moving that the Bill be now read 2a.
The EARL of RODEN
said, that he felt, as an individual constantly residing in Ireland, and accustomed to mix in that country with all classes and denominations of the people, that there was perhaps none of their Lordships who were better acquainted with the real state of the people of Ireland, and he trusted, upon that account, that he should be excused from rising thus early to state the reasons why he intended to move as an Amendment on the Motion of the noble Earl who had just sat down, that the Bill be read a second time this day six months. He was perfectly willing to give Her Majesty's Government credit for a desire to meet the difficulties of Ireland, attendant upon the distress that unfortunately existed in that country, and which could not be exaggerated; but when he heard the noble Earl propose this rate in aid as a remedy for this distress, and as a means of meeting the difficulty; and when he heard the arguments brought forward in support of that measure by the noble Earl, and the answers which he gave to his own arguments, he really thought that the noble Earl would with very little inducement have been prevailed upon, believing as he did in the honesty of character which had always marked him, to support his Amendment, and that he would have felt that such was the force of his own arguments against his own measure, that he would have advised his noble Colleague to pause, even at this late period, and endeavour to find some other source from whence this peculiar relief might be derived, which would at all events have been just in character, and adequate for the purpose required. Prom the concluding portion of his speech, he feared, however, that the noble Earl was determined to persevere in what he must call a most unjust course. He regretted that the noble Earl did not go a little farther back in his address, to the cause which had produced the distressing state of things which now existed. In the year 1836, a Royal Commission was issued to inquire into the 270 circumstances of the poverty which then existed in Ireland to a very great degree. The commissioners nominated on that occasion proceeded without delay in the prosecution of their labours, and the report of that commission brought to light such an immense amount of wretchedness and misery that the Government thought it right to propose a measure for the enactment of a legal provision of the poor in Ireland—a measure which was not recommended in the report of that commission, but, on the contrary, the Bill was founded on the report of Mr. Nicholls, the Poor Law Com-missioner, who, after a sis weeks' tour in Ireland, came back and proposed this measure. His suggestion was acted upon, the Poor Law Bill was passed. He (the Earl of Roden) thought it his duty to take part in carrying out the measure which the Government then introduced. In the House he took exception to several parts of the Bill; but he returned home to endeavour, in the best manner he could, to assist in carrying out its provisions; and in the union with which he was connected, every exertion was made, and successfully, by the board of guardians in carrying them out. He must entreat their Lordships to remember that the landlord was placed in a different position with respect to the poor-law in Ireland, from that in which he was placed in England. In England the tenant and occupier paid the whole of the poor-rate, while in Ireland it was divided between the tenant and the landlord, one-half being paid by each; and in the case of tenants of 4l holdings, no rate whatever was paid. Besides that, the position of landlords in England and Ireland materially differed. He would give an instance to show the effect of that law; he knew the case of an Irish landlord, the nominal owner of two estates, one worth 10,000l. a year, the other worth 2,000l a year; he had two residences on those estates, and out of his income of 12,000l. a year, he possessed, after paying the interest of mortgages and other charges, a clear revenue of 3,500l a year; out of that sum he was forced to pay 800l for poor-rates last year. In the year 1845, the people of Ireland had been visited with the calamity which had been so feelingly depicted by the noble Lord opposite. In that year the potato, the only food of the people, had been entirely swept away, and it therefore was thought necessary to alter the poor-law of 1837 for the purpose of giving power to the guardians to administer out- 271 door relief. The effect of such a change was nothing less than confiscation in some parts of the country. It was well known that in the year 1847 the difficulties of Ireland had reached to the highest pitch—public and private funds were exhausted in the attempts made to relieve the sufferings of the people. The noble Earl had referred to that circumstance, and he (the Earl of Roden) was most happy to refer to it also; and he hoped the obligations which the people of Ireland were under to their brethren in England and Scotland for the relief then afforded them, would never be forgotten. He trusted they would never forget the exertions and sacrifices that were made to assist them in their hour of necessity. It was not true that the Irish people were not grateful for such acts. ["Hear, hear!"] No doubt there were persons who, for worldly purposes, had made use of language highly discreditable to themselves; but as an individual acquainted with the people of Ireland of all classes and denominations, he ventured to assert in their Lordships' House, that there was no individual acquainted with Ireland who could for a moment doubt that from the peasant to the highest person in the land, no other sentiment than gratitude prevailed with reference to the aid afforded by this country during the prevalence of famine in Ireland. To come, however, to the subject more immediately before the House. The object of the Bill which the noble Lord had moved to be read a second time was, so far as he could understand, not only to enable Her Majesty's Ministers by Act of Parliament to carry on the poor-law, and to authorise general rates to be levied in all the unions for the relief of the poor, but it gave a power also to pay the debts of the unions, as well as to give relief to the paupers. Against such a proposition, he (the Earl of Roden) would most strongly protest.
The EARL of RODEN
thought it would be found, by reference to one of the clauses, that such a power was given. With respect to this measure for levying a rate in aid, he begged to call the attention of their Lordships to a pamphlet, recently published by Mr. Butt, and from which he begged to read an extract:—It is proposed that this rate should be imposed for two years, and should be limited to 6d. in the pound upon the rated value of property; but it must be felt that if it be once conceded 272 that the property of Ireland at large is the proper fund from which the deficiencies of any particular localities are to be made up, the proposed tax is indefinite, both in its duration and in its amount. Every reflecting man must see that the progress of legislation for this country affords no hope whatever that the pressure of poor-law taxation will diminish with the progress of time. On the contrary, we must expect that its pressure must increase in a rapidly accelerating ratio, as class after class is dragged down to pauperism. At the end of two years the aid demanded will be greater than it is now. The question, therefore, is a permanent one, and it involves the whole extent of the property of every man in Ireland, because to that full extent it is not only perfectly conceivable, but almost certain, that the demands of pauperism may proceed, if the present system be persevered in. If Parliamentary documents can be relied on, this is a matter of numerical demonstration. We must treat the Ministerial proposition as a proposal to provide for the poor, by a tax to be levied up to a certain amount on the district in which they happen to be relieved; beyond this amount, by a tax upon the entire property of the country—those funds to be applied according to the provisions of the poor-law of 1837 and 1846. Could we regard the proposition as, in truth, a temporary expedient to supply funds for a transitory purpose, it would resolve itself into a mere question of injustice to the districts of Ireland, whether in Ulster or Munster, on which it is proposed to levy the tax. Even in that case, I believe the tax ought to be resisted to the utmost, on the simple ground that it is unjust—perhaps more palpably and manifestly unjust if it be but an extortion of money from a particular class to meet a temporary exigency of the State. But let us ask of the proposers of this measure, upon what argument can they now justify their demand for the rate in aid, which will not justify a repetition of that demand at the end of two years if the same necessity exists? There is not a man in Ireland, not looking for a place, who is fool enough to believe that if the policy hitherto pursued be persevered in, the same necessity will not two years hence exist in a more aggravated form. Why, then, will not the rate in aid be levied again? What excuse can now be suggested that will not be available then? What difficulty exists now that will not he equally formidable then? What other fund will then be open to appeal to that does not exist now? Will the starvation of the people in the distressed unions be then less imminent than it is now? Will precedent weaken the force of the demand? No, my Lord; of all the pretences by which the insult of treating us as fools could be added to the injury of such a law, the most palpably absurd is the pretence that tells us that this is but an expedient to meet a temporary difficulty of finance.He agreed most fully with Mr. Butt in his observations, but, at the same time, he was particularly anxious to guard himself from being misunderstood. He did not want to avoid taxation. He and those circumstanced as he was, were willing to submit to any taxation that was fair and right which the Government chose to put upon them. To any individual who sup- 273 posed it was the desire of the noble Lords who sat around him, or persons resident in Ireland, to avoid fair taxation, because they were opposed to what they conceived to be an unjust tax, he would only say it was an unworthy suspicion to enter into the mind of any man; and he believed that the man into whose mind it could enter, was only just expressing what would be his own conduct if he were concerned himself. It was not for them to say in what way they should be taxed, or what tax they would choose. The noble Earl had spoken of an income and of other taxes, but it appeared to him (the Earl of Roden) that it was for the Minister of the Crown, and not for individuals unconnected with the Government, to propose to that Government what tax they should put on them. He (the Earl of Roden) could not but think that the act of inviting a particular section of the House of Commons to consider this tax, was not a very constitutional mode of proceeding under such circumstances. He knew he was dealing with high authority when referring to the question of constitutionality in connexion with the conduct of the noble individual to whom he alluded; but still he felt it was the duty of the Government to propose their tax, and it was equally the duty of those who deemed it to be unjust, and who felt that it would not bear equally on the people, to enter their opposition to it. He objected also to this measure, because he conceived it would destroy the working of the poor-law. He (the Earl of Roden) was anxious for the honest working of the poor-law; and he believed whoever might be Members of the Government, they would ultimately be obliged to go back to the poor-law of 1837 to save the country from ruin. He objected also to this measure, because he thought it was the strongest argument they could give to those persevering men in Ireland who had for their object the destruction of the empire by the division of the two countries; it was the strongest argument they could give them for the repeal of the legislative Union. He begged again to read a passage from Mr. Butt's pamphlet:—The imposition of this tax is, in truth, to declare the Union a nullity. The moment you declare that you must make up the deficiency of the bankrupt unions from some source external to themselves, that moment you admit the purpose to be one to be supplied from the revenues of the State or the nation. What State?—what nation? If the imposition of your tax answers—Ireland! then you have no answer to the demand that the 274 Irish State and nation should have her separate legislature and her own exchequer. My Lord, one can scarcely help thinking that there is in the Castle some repealer in disguise, who wants, in the most malicious manner, to punish the Ulster men for the excessive readiness of their unionism last spring. Think with what inward glee such a personage would remember the loyal addresses in which the gentry and yeomanry of Ulster declared themselves ready to support the Union at all hazards, and vow in his heart that he will have revenge by making you pay the sixpenny rate in aid. It is quite evident that he means to teach you that if the Union means community of burdens, that does not mean that England shall share yours; and no doubt, my Lord, his malicious revenge would be complete if he could only get some of his clever suppprters to sneer at the loyalty of Ulster as a sixpenny loyalty. Whether there be such a repealer I know not; if there be, I am sure he could not take, in a small way, more complete or biting revenge.It was unfortunate that this measure should bear particularly hard upon the people of Ulster, the very class to whom they should look, and in whom they should confide, to support the continuance of that Union which was the great mainstay of British independence and of British strength. He would not hold out idle threats as to what they would do—he had no doubt they would prove themselves loyal—but he feared that the measure might raise in the minds of some of them a feeling which would cause them to consider whether, with a nationality of their own, they would not obtain more justice than the British Parliament had given them in the passing of such a Bill. He had no doubt that they were placed in Ireland under such difficulties that it was their duty not to reject the consideration of any remedy that was suggested. He found that a plan had been proposed by a right hon. Gentleman which seemed to him to be impossible; but he felt that great evils required strong remedies, and he felt also that they were bound to reject nothing without consideration in the present day. He had much conversation with many individuals on the subject, and he had found it often favourably received; and surely the country should be grateful to the author for occupying his attention on their behalf. He had found that the greatest miseries attaching to their country had arisen from the constant change in the legislation of the country. There was scarcely a Session without some new measure being brought in to overturn old laws. It was often done by persons totally unacquainted with the circumstances of the country, who did considerable damage by such legislation. He 275 could not but think that it was much better to persevere in that which had proved to be useful. He (the Earl of Roden) felt the dangers which existed, and the difficulties with which Ireland was surrounded; but it was a consolation to think that there was One in whose hands the destinies of nations, as well as of individuals, was placed. He (the Earl of Roden) was sure that out of the miseries in which the country was involved, He would bring them to results the most wise and beneficent; and he did not fear that those who trusted in Him, would, acting justly and honestly to the best of their power, confidently leave the consequences to His guidance. In conclusion, he begged to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill should be read a second time that day six months.
The ARCHBISHOP of DUBLIN
said, that he would not trespass on their Lordships for a long time, but that he wished to say a few words on the subject before the House, having been one of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of Ireland in the year 1835. If he were ever so much disposed to adhere pertinaciously to the opinions expressed in the report of that commission—if he were ever so much disposed to find fault with any Government who did not follow the tracks they had marked out—if he were the most factious person within the walls of the House, instead of being, as their Lordships knew, attached to no party—he could not but wish, and he thought there could be no one so factious as not to wish, if possible, to support the Government, when they came forward with a proposal, which must be well meant, for the relief of such appalling distress as the noble Earl had described to them. But when he came to consider what were the chances and prospects of real and adequate relief, and of escaping an increase of evils, he was not altogether satisfied with what had been said in defence of this measure. He had bestowed more attention on this subject than many others. He had laboured assiduously, not only by personal contributions out of his own funds for the relief of distress, but for 17 or 18 years that he had been in Ireland he had bestowed more care and attention on the subject than ninety-nine out of a hundred of those who paid attention to and addressed their Lordships and the other House on the subject, and the result was, that he was disappointed, 276 for he found that there was no prospect of the hopes being realised that were held out. Before the establishment of the poor-law in Ireland, he had taken an active part both in person and in purse to ameliorate the condition of Ireland, but he had seen objections to every plan proposed, and had predicted the results which would take place. He foresaw on the first proposal for a poor-law to give relief to the able-bodied poor, that in the first period of distress—that was, in the first period of universal scarcity—there would be a general clamour for outdoor relief. His objectionn, when expressed, was met by the suggestion that in every case the workhouse test would be applied. Mr. Nicholls himself had said that it would be ruinous to establish the system of outdoor relief, and it was on the report of that very gentleman the workhouses were built. He (the right rev. Prelate) was convinced that the system of outdoor relief would prove most lamentable to the working of the law, and he had opposed it. It was a painful task to have done so, and to have exposed himself to the charge of being hardhearted or indifferent to the sufferings of the poor. This was the general argument resorted to when any opposition was made to such a scheme. It was always said, upon such occasions, that people were either hardhearted and cruel, or indifferent to the sufferings of their fellow-creatures. He did not, however care for any such imputations being made against him, for he was certain his motives were pure and singleminded. When it was proposed two years ago to extend outdoor relief, the proposition was at the time condemned, as tending to increase rather than to mitigate distress. He had set before their Lordships the results which would follow. He would have been rejoiced if his anticipation had not been realised; but, unfortunately, his predictions had been fulfilled. He should like to know whether, if he supported the present Bill, there would be any security that in the end the distress would not be aggravated rather than decreased. He was the last person who could with justice be charged with being insensible to the sufferings of the people of Ireland, or with entertaining any feeling of indifference for their position, because, owing to the circumstances in which he was placed, he had opportunities of witnessing more than others the sufferings of those above the very poorest in the community, and who had once been in easy circumstances. Many of the per- 277 sons to whom he had alluded were to be found among the ranks of the clergy. He had relieved many of those cases himself. He had known cases in which clergymen, who had once been in easy circumstances, were unable to obtain a sufficiency of the coarsest food for the maintenance of themselves and their families; cases of clergymen whose sons were withdrawn from their studies at college, and enlisted as common soldiers; cases of clergymen, whose sons were glad to be allowed to break stones on the road, in order to contribute some share towards the maintenance of the family; and cases of clergymen who were grateful for donations of old clothes to protect them from the severity of the weather. All these misfortunes had been brought on by the operation of the poor-law, and to the payment of rates in relief off distress was to be attributed the broken-down fortunes of those persons. The effect of the law was to reduce the middling and struggling classes to abject poverty. Their cattle and stock were distrained for rates to support pauperism, and then they became paupers themselves. He knew, himself, the case of a gentleman who had a large estate lying waste and profitless. The tenants all emigrated to America with the rent, and everything they could scrape together, and the owner of the land could not even let the land as pasture for cattle, lest the stock should be seized for payment of poor-rates. Such was the position of this gentleman, who was now dependent upon private charity for support. He believed that the working of the present law, as far as respected the mode of administering relief, and the circumstances under which it was given, operated as a penalty upon industry, and an impediment to the cultivation of the land. If they resorted to this rate-in-aid system to bolster up the poor-law, it would only tend to perpetuate and increase the distress. What they ought to consider was, whether they could introduce any measure which would relieve present distress without increasing it ultimately. They had been told, two years ago, that if relief were given to the ablebodied, the distress would be greatly aggravated, and he now inclined to the opinion that distress in Ireland would not be so general and alarming but for the adoption of the system of giving relief to the ablebodied. The practice destroyed the spirit of self-reliance, and broke down the means of employment. They were told that the rate in aid would only amount 278 to sixpence in the pound, and that its duration was to be for only two years, Now, although he knew nothing personally of the people of Ulster, or of the feeling in that province, he thought that they would not object to the infliction of a sixpenny rate, if the same argument could not be adduced in favour of a shilling rate, a five shilling rate, or a ten-shilling rate. The great Hampden went to prison rather than pay a few shillings ship money; but it was most probable that Hampden would not have objected to pay the few shillings if he were certain that the necessities of the King would not have ultimately required a further impost. The tax, however, was taken in a way by which no man could tell what was his own; because no man could tell when the necessities of the King might stop. It was ascertained that a great portion of land in Ireland was thrown out of cultivation; and where famine now existed in its most frightful shape, the distress would now be no greater than in former years, if it were not for that most unfortunate measure, to give relief to the able-bodied. The system preyed like an eating canker upon Ireland; and unless some better security could be given that the evil would be stopped and remedied, instead of aggravated and perpetuated, he could not reconcile it with his conscience to support this measure, however confident he felt of the good intentions of Her Majesty's Government, and however sensible he was of the great extent of the distress" and the necessity for strong measures to meet it.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
felt anxious to ex, plain to the House the view he took of the question, and the motives which induced him to record the vote he was about to give. He must own that the subject was surrounded with difficulties on all sides, and that, in the present distressed condition of Ireland, they had at best but a choice of evils. He did not think that the blame of such a position ought altogether to be laid to the Government, as the noble Earl who had moved the Amendment appeared to think it should, but that some blame ought, in justice, to be borne by the Irish Members of the other House of Parliament. They had an opportunity of suggesting their own plans, and they refused to avail themselves of it; they were asked advice, and they declined to give it; they were offered a choice, and they would not make it. After such conduct on the part of the Irish representatives, he could scarcely 279 find fault with Ministers for persisting in their original design. Neither did he blame the Government for the course they had pursued with reference to the Irish Members. Looking at the present condition of Ireland, bearing in mind the report which their Lordships' Committee had made, and remembering the strong opinion entertained on this subject out of doors, he thought it was only a fair and open course for the Government to call together the Irish Members, and to consult them as to the views they entertained upon a question affecting the taxpayers of Ireland alone. First of all, it was admitted on all hands that a grant of money must be made to Ireland, to prevent the people from starving. The position in which the Government was placed was such, that they must do something, and it was only the choice of that something which was to be decided upon. The Committee of their Lordships' House had pronounced against the proposal for a rate in aid, and the question what was to be the substitute then remained. As their Lordships' Committee had suggested a substitute, he did not see any reason why the Irish Members should not have been asked whether they preferred the proposition of the Government, or the substitute recommended by their Lordships, The Ministry acted right in calling the Irish Members together, and the Irish Members ought to have suggested something by which, in their opinion, the distress might have been alleviated. The Irish Members had not acted friendly or candidly in not suggesting to the Government when called upon to do so some means by which the emergency might be met, after having condemned the measures proposed by the Administration for the purpose: they, however, would suggest nothing of themselves, and opposed every proposition that was made connected with it. The obstinate silence of the Irish, in his (Lord Beaumont's) opinion, left the Government full liberty to act as they liked. There was no reason why they should not adopt the recommendation of the Lords' Committee, nor would there have been anything inconsistent in their abandoning the rate in aid. He thought, after what had passed in the House, and after the evidence which the Government themselves must have got from their agents in Ireland, that they must have been convinced of the superiority of the substitute recommended; and if they were so convinced, as he had no doubt they were, he thought it was their duty, happen 280 what would, to have come forward and proposed it. If the Government had done this, they would not have been in their present position, neither would they have had this House against them, or wanted proper support in the other. He blamed the Irish Members for not being candid, and the Government for their want of resolution. It was not too late to adopt the suggestion of the Committee, should an adverse vote be passed on the measure before them. He would, however, defer all consideration of the proposed substitute until they had fairly examined the plan proposed by the Government. But looking simply at the merits of the present proposition, he asked whether, in the first place, it would or would not meet the single object for which it was proposed, namely, the relief of those who were totally incapable of finding any support by their own means? This was the sole and simple object of all poor-laws, and ought not to be mixed up with the question of inducements to employ labour. The only desirable and wholesome stimulus that could be given to labour, was the interest of the party who employed it; and it could not be advantageous to seek to promote the employment of labour, unless that labour would afford an adequate return. But would this measure effect the simple object he had pointed out? He confessed he believed it would totally fail in accomplishing even that. He believed that a rate of 6d. in the pound as a national rate, instead of relieving all those persons who were unable to support themselves, and who could receive no relief from the exhausted treasuries of their own districts, would become an additional cause of Irish distress: first, by increasing the number of persons in that unfortunate situation; and, next, by decreasing the value of property, and diminishing the resources of those who would be called upon to contribute. It would thus act in a doubly disastrous way; it would increase the number of paupers, and decrease the means of those called upon to support them. He might point out several was in which this would be effected. In the first place, a national rate involved the destruction of local interest; for by it we should lose that cognisance of the expenditure, and that degree of interest which induced ratepayers to watch minutely and carefully the working of the poor-law; and we should lose also the chance of detecting imposition which resulted from local cognisance. Again, we should lose the great principle, 281 that those who paid the rate should in some degree be represented by those who had the disposal of it. Now, they had re-presentation with taxation; but the 6d. in the pound would be carried to a distance, and administered by a board at a distance, and that principle—most necessary if we wished to secure economy in the expenditure, or willingness to pay the tax—would be lost. This would be the result in districts where they paid the tax; but in those where they received, the effect would be to increase pauperism, since, in proportion as the paupers increased in numbers, in that proportion would the money raised in the better-conditioned districts flow into the district aided. A rate in aid gave an actual and positive money inducement to increase pauperism, in order to obtain and attract this relief; and the necessary consequence would be, that the rate in aid would speedily increase the number of insolvent and diminish the number of solvent unions. There was nothing in the world to prevent unions from running up their rates to 5s. in the pound; and, indeed, if they approach that sum fairly, it is worth the while so running up the rate, because they then cease to be contributors, and become recipients; and this might be done, too, while the real amount collected need not exceed 3s. Because they must recollect that it was not necessary 5s. in the pound should be collected, but that the sum calculated for the maintenance of the poor for one year should exceed 5s., in order to entitle an electoral division to assistance; and all the commissioners had to require was, that due exertion had been made to collect the rate. How could they discover whether the utmost exertions had been made to get the money? They could only do it by distraining in every case; and if they tried that expedient, they would depopulate the whole district as far as occupation went, while it would at the same time be filled with paupers. To do this would, therefore, be a practical impossibility; and they would have in consequence, besides the twenty or twenty-one unions now insolvent, another twenty-one, or more than that, in the same predicament, and the whole would become recipients. It was, therefore, quite clear that the sum thus raised would never be sufficient for the purpose for which it was intended, namely, the support of persons really destitute. Then, he had heard the mode in which this rate in aid was to be levied, along with the ordinary poor-rate 282 of the district, compared with the mode of collecting the poor-rate in England, together with the county rate in England; but there was no analogy whatever between the two cases, because both the county rate and the poor-rate in this country were spent exclusively for the benefit of the locality who paid both; whereas the rate in aid would have to be paid by districts who derived no benefit from, and possessed no control over, its expenditure. But who were to pay this sixpence in the pound? In the first instance it fell upon the small occupiers above 4l., who would be most reluctant to pay, since they would feel that it was going to the support of those districts the pauperism in which was chiefly caused by the neglect of those whom they were about to assist to bear its burden. It would, moreover, be an injury to the existing poor-rate, if they were collected together as it was proposed. They would run the risk of losing what they now did get, and of increasing the danger and difficulty of collecting the present existing poor-rate. The ratepayers would confound the ordinary rate with the rate in aid, and condemn both. The injustice of the one would blind them to the justice of the other. Its operation, therefore, as far as the occupiers were concerned, would be to multiply the present evils attending the collection of rates, and promote hostility to any poor-law at all. A portion of the rate in aid would fall on the immediate lessors, who were persons in a higher position. It had been said that it was desirable to give this class separate and individual responsibility as much as possible; but every tendency of this measure was directly against that principle. Individual responsibility was an admirable principle; but why talk of that, and at the same time adopt a measure which would be its utter destruction? All parties were looking forward to a reduced area of taxation; but the only use of a reduced area of taxation was to increase individual responsibility; yet this benefit, which all agreed would be the greatest improvement in the poor-law, was to be neutralised in anticipation by the imposition of a national rate. The right rev. Prelate had ably shown that the result of this measure would be to throw the land out of cultivation, and to destroy the wealth of the landlords, and he would not, therefore, touch that point; but there was another of equal importance, to which he must allude. When they adopted a national rate, what 283 did they do with the capitalist "who invested his money in land in Ireland? Suppose he (Lord Beaumont) were a capitalist—and he was sorry to say he was not—and he inquired the price of an estate. He might he told that it was such a price; a very fair price if there were only the people to take care of who were then upon it. On the doctrine of individual responsibility, he might take it and cultivate it, and lay out large sums, and it might he a good and fair investment; but it would be a very different thing if, besides keeping the pauperism existing upon the land, the capitalist were to be taxed for the relief of the pauperism of other districts, over the causes of which he could have no control. What was worse than even that, was, that he was called upon to pay in exact proportion to the amount of money he laid out upon his purchase; so that if by the outlay of thousands of pounds the capitalist put his estate into a rich, productive, and flourishing condition, he would have to pay precisely in proportion to his success for the support of the poor in other parts of the country, to which he, at the same time, by that forced payment, was giving a motive to increase and perpetuate pauperism. Without going into the question of the rate in aid tending to bring about a separation between the two countries, which had also been ably stated by the right rev. Prelate, he must remind their Lordships that, if the connexion between taxation and representation were destroyed in Ireland, there was no reason why the whole empire should not be placed upon the same footing: this pauperism would then no longer be a local question, but would belong as much to England as to Ireland. The only reason for asserting that each country must take care of its own poor is, because each is supposed to have control over the causes of its own pauperism; but once adopt the principle of a rate in aid, and it became an imperial misfortune which the empire must bear. There was also the consideration that in proportion as persons objected to the rate, the more costly would be its collection; the less local control the more lavish the expenditure; and the whole management and matter being new, there must be new machinery—all productive of expenses over and above those of the present poor-law. There were many other reasons, most of which had been noticed by the right rev. Prelate; but those he had enumerated were alone sufficient to induce him to vote 284 against this measure. They were about to adopt a principle which would be used as a precedent in future legislation, although they were asked to provide only a temporary expedient. He did not imagine that the present state of Ireland could possibly be a permanent state; but he believed that a rate in aid would tend to prolong its present miseries. The present state of Ireland was one of transition. He saw every day signs of its progression towards another state. The ordeal it might have to undergo would be terrible; but the present evils were the necessary preliminary to a better state. They had heard of persons quitting their lands—of men not being-able to take their lands into their own hands—of an unwillingness to till and to sow the soil. All that was true, and must be felt heavily enough, but all that was necessary to put Ireland into a healthier state. Healthier she never could become until she got rid of her present occupants. The men who took small farms knew nothing of farming: they did not use, but abuse, the land—instead of making it productive, rendering it sterile: they knew nothing of the relations between landlord and tenant; if they had a lease, they broke the covenants. As long as the land was held by such occupiers, there could be no hope for improvement. It was necessary that the land should revert into the hands of its present owners. That was absolutely necessary to render the country fit for a healthier state of society. If the present proprietors had not the means—much as he should regret, and much as they would be pitied—they must bow to the circumstances of the times, withdraw from a position they were not able to fill, and resign the post of landlord—the duties of which they failed to perform—and make way for a new race of proprietors, more able to fulfil the duties and to bear the burdens to which property was subject. All other proposals seemed to him the most absurd and ridiculous that could possibly be. It was ridiculous and absurd in a purely agricultural district, with one man for every quarter of an acre, to talk of the land employing such a population. When he heard witnesses say, "Send us capital, and we will employ the whole of these people," he was certain they must be mad, or that they knew nothing of agriculture. If he had all the money in the world, and were to treat his estate in that manner, he should bring it to the same condition as that in 285 which these Irish estates were placed. If estates were to be cultivated profitably to the proprietor, and beneficially to the country, they must be cultivated economically. To do this they could only employ a certain number of men to a certain number of acres. Some of the richest farms he knew in England only employed five labourers to 100 acres. That was dependent, no doubt, upon the nature of the farm; but there were some where not more than three labourers to 100 acres were employed. It must be remembered, too, that in Ireland the very climate was against a large population. There was a great deal of moisture and very little sun, which made admirable grass farms; but grass farms naturally employed fewer persons than arable' farms. Of course, to some districts where mines were worked, or where were manufactures or fisheries, these observations could not apply; but in purely agricultural districts nothing like the present population could be maintained. A healthy state could not be restored where the land was so over-populated. These masses of population were like a flight of locusts, which destroyed the fruits of the soil; instead of increasing its richness and fruitfulness, they spread desolation on every side. The real cure for the ills of Ireland was emigration on a large scale. Without this all their grants were but a throwing of good money after bad. To allow the people to remain in that country in such disproportionate quantities, was only to feed pauperism. By emigration we should gain in two ways. We should get rid of the surplus population, and at the same time prevent their future increase in that country. The noble Earl who moved the Amendment had talked of an estate worth 12,000l. a year, from which the proprietor derived only 3,000l.; and he said there was an instance of how hardly the poor-law bore upon the proprietor. He (Lord Beaumont) could not admit any argument based upon mortgages. The poor-law guardian and parochial collector could know nothing of such burdens. In England nothing was known of them. An estate might be mortgaged to its full value, and the collector would never hear of it. He also denied that absenteeism had anything to do with the argument. There was as much absenteeism in England as in Ireland, but it never did any harm. These considerations ought not to be taken into account—they did not tell upon the argument in any way. As far as he could 286 see, the only argument for the rate in aid which had the slightest value was, that it was a mode of obtaining a security for the money advanced: that was to say, the necessities of Ireland demanded an immediate advance of money, and they were to consider what would be the best security for the repayment of the money, rather than the effect which the suggested security would have on the operation of the poor-law. That was not his (Lord Beaumont's) view of their duty as legislators for the whole empire. Being of opinion, however, that the proposal of the Government did not provide so good a security as the substitute suggested by their Lordships' Committee, and being opposed to the principle of a rate in aid, he felt bound to vote against the second reading of the Bill.
The EARL of ROSSE
concurred with the noble Lord who had just spoken in the objections which he made against the Bill. But the most important one of them all, was the objection upon principle, and he thought it would be better to pay four times the amount likely to be raised in some other form of taxation, rather than adopt this objectionable principle. He did not believe that any precedent existed for this rate in aid, and he thought that the mischievous consequences of it would be to diminish employment, and prevent the introduction of capital into the country. It was much to be regretted that timely efforts had not been made to avert the evil which had befallen Ireland. When, in 1847, a declaration had been got up by a distinguished prelate (the Archbishop of Dublin) recommending the imposition of an income tax, with a view of promoting emigration from Ireland, he (the Earl of Rosse) had attached his signature to it, and he regretted very much that the recommendations in that document had not been carried out. He was convinced that if a vigorous effort had been made to assist emigration at that time, they would have had a great proportion of ablebodied paupers now in America or some of the colonies, who would have taken out their families and relieved the country of much of the existing distress. For his part, he saw no reason why the taxation should not be equalised in every part of the kingdom; and he believed if that was done, much of the difficulty with regard to Ireland would cease to exist. The noble Earl who had introduced the present measure, appeared to labour under extreme misconception as to the 287 amount of the contribution of Ireland to the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, and the amount of its contributions for the support of its own poor. The noble Earl said that Ireland contributed but a small portion to the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, and an equally small portion to the support of the poor, in relation to the amount of its rental and capital. Now it appeared, according to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the entire income of Great Britain was 250,000,000l.; and the gross income of Ireland, estimated by Mr. John Steward in the statement made in his examination before their Lordships' Committee, was 20,000,000l., being in the proportion of 12½ to 1. The average gross revenue of Great Britain and Ireland was 52,000,000l. and dividing that in the proportion of 12½ to 1, it would give 47,840,000l. to Great Britain, and 4,160,000l. to Ireland. But the real amount which Ireland contributed to the revenue was 4,164,264l. which was actually 4,264l. over its fair proportion, besides duties to a very large amount paid in England and Scotland, for articles consumed in England, such as tea, tobacco, &c. The local taxation of England upon a rateable property of 105,000,00l was 12,000,00l per annum. It was so stated in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The rateable property in Ireland, according to the Poor Law Commissioners' valuation, was 13,187,221l., but according to the evidence of Mr. Griffiths it had depreciated, so that it was at present only 9,898,556l. The amount of the poor-rates collected in 1848 was 1,855,841l.; the county cess on an average of three years was (deducting the charge for the police) 1,142,302l., and adding the sums in repayment of advances for the relief of distress, the total amount of local taxation was 4,224,315l., being an average of 8s. 4d. in the pound, supposing the depreciation of Mr. Griffiths was correct, or of 6s. 2d. in the pound upon the Poor Law Commissioners' valuation. So that Ireland paid in one instance nearly four, and in the other nearly three, times the local taxation of England. Now, it had been charged against the Connaught landlords that they had brought all the distress upon themselves by the mismanagement of their estates. The fact was, that although political economists might blame them, and although persons acquainted with the improved mode of managing property in Eng- 288 land might blame them, yet they managed their estates in the way they were usually managed by those to whom the masses in Ireland looked up, and in the way that the late Mr. O'Connell himself recommended they should be managed. He believed that one cause of the peaceable state of the province of Connaught was, that the landlords did not interfere with the people, and allowed them to increase and pauperise their estates. But there was adjoining the province of Connaught a splendid example of the mode in which property was managed. This was the property of Colonel Wyndham, in the county of Clare: he had brought his estate into a most satisfactory condition; yet he was denounced by Mr. O'Connell, and he (the Earl of Rosse) was convinced that if Colonel Wyndham had not resided in England—if he had resided upon his estate in Clare, unless he had taken the most extraordinary precautions, he was convinced that his life would not have been safe. One word more as to the Connaught landlords. He perfectly agreed with the noble Lord who had spoken last, that it was a great mistake to suppose that the condition of Connaught was owing to the encumbered state of the property. No doubt there was a great evil in encumbered property, but he knew an instance in the county of Mayo of a property that was not encumbered—the property of Sir Roger Palmer. Now, Sir R. Palmer let his land at a third of the real value; yet upon his estate there was as much poverty, perhaps, as upon any other property in Mayo. He regretted that he must admit, to the fullest extent, the reasons assigned by the noble Lord who introduced the measure—reasons arising out of the unfortunate condition of the south and west of Ireland. He admitted, not only that there was great and increasing destitution in the west, but also in the south of Ireland, and he had no doubt that their Lordships must feel to some extent overpowered by the weight of the responsibility that weighed upon them. Their Lordships had heard, over and over again, that the population of Ireland was numerically redundant in proportion to the means of employment. He believed there was no well-informed person who doubted that fact. Others had gone farther, and maintained that the population of Ireland was redundant in proportion to the area of cultivation. Now, when it was known that the population engaged in agriculture was nearly three times as dense in England—when it was known 289 that in England, while the agricultural population averaged but ten to the hundred acres, in Mayo it averaged sixty-two to the hundred acres—it would be difficult to convince any one that the population was not redundant with regard to the area of cultivation. But he only wished to assume that the population was redundant with regard to the means of employment. It followed from that, that there were but two ways in which the evil could be remedied: one, by diminishing the population; and the other, by increasing the means of employment. Now, had the Government assisted emigration in any way? So far from that, anything that was done was in a contrary direction. There were regulations and restrictions which were perhaps necessary, but they impeded emigration to some extent. Then, as regards the means of employment, save and except some trifling loan, they have done nothing to increase the means of employment. He thought the first step that ought to be taken to remedy that state of things, was to make some improvements in the administration of the poor-law. He thought it exceedingly defective at present, and that the Poor Law Commissioners had failed in the discharge of their duty in not giving early instructions and advice to the boards of guardians as to the necessity of providing increased indoor accommodation. The boards of guardians were left in a state of total ignorance on that point; and on the first application they generally gave an order for outdoor relief, and they then found it exceedingly difficult to revert to indoor relief. The result had been that pauperism had been considerably increased. He thought they ought to get rid of the system of outdoor relief as speedily as possible, and to provide employment for those who obtained indoor relief. Nothing would tend more to give confidence to the boards of guardians than to separate the Poor Law Commission from the Irish Executive. Of course, it could not be otherwise than advantageous if the distinguished individual at the head of the Irish Government would take part in the administration of the law; but he believed that, in point of fact, the Chief and Under Secretary took no share whatever in it, as they could not afford the time; and it was, therefore, left to subordinates. If that had not been so, we should never have had that unfortunate circular respecting the quarter-acre clause. He would recommend a complete equalisation 290 of taxation throughout the whole country; and having done that, he would have Ireland treated like an English county; and he could not say that she had been hitherto so treated. He would also encourage emigration; and so strong were the ties of relationship that he believed that when some members of a family had emigrated, others would be sure to follow. He had no faith—however high the authority by which the scheme was propounded—in the plan that had been recommended for the plantation of Connaught; but he thought that emigration would be found one of the most efficient remedies for the evils of Ireland.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
began by observing, that any observations uttered by the noble Earl who had just sat down, must always he listened to on either side of that House with the utmost respect; and even more especially so when those observations related to the poor-law, a subject to which he had devoted so much time and attention. But his remarks this evening, deserving as they were of the highest respect, appeared to apply more directly to the general administration of the established poor-law, than to the rate in aid under present consideration. It was to have been hoped that the noble Earl would have ended by suggesting some practical mode of relieving that horrible and appalling distress, into the details of which he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) would not now enter, but which was known to their Lordships to exist, and to meet which the Government had introduced the present Bill. The same remark would apply to the speech of the noble Earl who had moved the Amendment, and to that of the right rev. Prelate who had supported him; because, in fact, their observations would have been more justly reserved for the measure now in the other House of Parliament, for the Amendment of the poor-law, rather than to the measure now before their Lordships—a measure which the Government did not justify upon any principle of political economy, but which they had been driven to by the condition in which a part of Ireland was so unfortunately involved. The main objection stated by the noble Earl against the measure was, that it would be inadequate. Without entering into considerations of the exact amount which would be immediately realised under the Bill, or how soon the whole amount would be exhausted which it was intended to col- 291 lect, he would say, that inasmuch as this measure did impose upon the property of Ireland a portion of the amount of money necessary to be raised, the question of the efficacy of the sum so raised was not the real and essential point. There were two points to be considered: first, the amount of horrible distress which prevailed in a certain portion of the empire, which it was incumbent upon them to relieve; and, secondly, that it was the desire of Parliament and the feeling of the country that some exertion must be made by Irish property and Irish proprietors towards the relief of that suffering. In considering the circumstances under which this demand was to be made upon landowners in that country, he was not at all prepared to concur in those complaints of its unfairness and injustice which he had heard with some surprise from noble Lords opposite. For, how stood the facts in relation to the two countries, as to the respective share which each had hitherto borne of the burdens of the empire? That Ireland had enjoyed a great exemption from them compared with England. In other words, there could be no doubt that land, in Ireland, for many years past, had been exempt from taxes to a very largo amount, with which land in Great Britain had been charged. Now, the very fact that Ireland had had for so many years the benefit of such exemption, was the strongest reason why she should no longer leave the charge for the relief of Irish destitution to be entirely defrayed by Great Britain. The noble Earl said that it was unjust to impose this tax upon Ulster. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) would not then contend for this taxation being particularly just; but he would say, that there was no more difficult question in all taxation than that of justice. There was hardly any tax that could be proposed that did not involve more or less of injustice. But the point was, whether Ireland, having been exempt from many taxes to which British subjects had been liable, could now turn round and deny her liability to separate taxation when the question was the relief of Irish poverty. He had a return of the rates paid in Ulster up to December, 1848, and found that the highest amount was 4s. 6½d., and the average rate upon the whole province was 1s. 11½d. He maintained that Ulster had no right to claim to be relieved from contributing to a rate of this kind on the ground that the distress was prevalent in other provinces; 292 nor could noble Lords connected with Ireland attribute the misery pervading any of the districts which had been alluded to, to the exhausting operation of the rate levied under the new poor-law. The noble Earl, indeed, in attempting to enforce this proposition, had asserted, that in some of the unions of Ireland the poor-rate had increased in a fourfold degree. No one who heard the noble Earl could doubt for a moment that noble Lord's conscientious conviction of the literal truth of the statement he was making. But he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) must confess that, to his mind, it was matter of the most extreme difficulty to connect the distress of certain districts to which allusion had been made, with the scale of the poor-rate levied upon them. He could not believe that in any case the ruin of landlord or farmer had been the consequence of the rates to which he was liable. He had moved for certain returns, and they had been recently laid upon their Lordships' table, which showed the highest, the lowest, and the average amounts of poor-rate levied on the various Irish unions. These returns came down to the month of September, 1848. The highest average rate charged on any union did not exceed 4s. 6½d.—the lowest did not exceed 1s. and a fraction in the pound, and the average was 1s. 11½d. in the pound. Was it possible that a district comprising from three to four hundred thousand souls could be converted into a region of starving paupers by any poor-rate of this description? The apprehension of the noble Earl seemed to be, that such a district had been brought down to this frightful condition by a poor-rate. But in order to come to a right conclusion on this point, it was necessary to look, not on what amount the farmer was liable to pay, according to the rating of the district in question, but what amount had actually been paid up under that rating. The returns would hardly show that there was no such sum levied as would account for anything like the misery experienced by the farmers of that section of Ireland. He would now proceed to mention the highest actual rating that had been made, as it appeared on the face of these returns; and it seemed that in March, 1848, it had reached so high a point as 11s. 6d. in the pound. [Cries of "Hear!" and "Oh!"] Noble Lords would be pleased to recollect that he had already stated these returns came down only to the month of September. 293 For the three last months of the year they were not made up. The figures he had given were those of the highest and of the lowest average rating. He must again protest against the notion of exorbitant rates having produced that condition of misery, of desolation and destitution, in the great province of Ireland that had been so much alluded to—of the intensity and extent of which few men could have had better opportunities of judging by careful personal inspection than himself, in consequence of his connexion with property in that part of Ireland. This fearful condition, this accumulated distress, afflicting so vast a proportion of that island, was caused—not by rates, but by causes of far more searching and terrible operation—by the repeated failure of the crops—the famine consequent on that failure, and the awful visitations of disease with which it had pleased Providence—in one of those dispensations of its wisdom that we were not permitted to fathom—to afflict the country. He defied noble Lords to show how by legislation the ruin and misery of the small farmers and all others connected with the occupation of the land and its cultivation could have been lessened when they had naturally anticipated that the crops of the disastrous years they had passed through in 1847 and 1848, would be of the same average yield as usual. But it was the duty of Parliament to endeavour to apply some remedial measure to this existing distress; and it was with a view to mitigate its present pressure that Her Majesty's Government had felt themselves compelled to bring forward the present temporary measure; and Government had brought forward this measure, not professing that it was grounded on sound or permanent principles, but to accomplish, by immediate means, an immediate but indispensable object. It was felt by Her Majesty's Government that, whilst this distress must be alleviated, it was only equitable and proper that Irish property should be called on to contribute its fair quota to the relief of those immediately connected with it, before any further demand for such objects could be made on the already heavily taxed and industrious people of this country for the especial relief of Irish distress. They had, therefore, endeavoured, by the measures now recommended to their Lordships' adoption, to make such property in Ireland as could pay, contribute its fair proportion to the mitigation of Irish desti- 294 tution. A noble Friend of his, on the benches behind him, had submitted to the House his views of the principles upon which a poor-law for Ireland should be founded, and of the machinery by which it should be carried into effect. No doubt there was much of truth—much of the soundest reasoning—in the remarks of his noble Friend; but he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) might be pardoned for remarking that the observations in question were not very applicable to the Bill now before their Lordships. That noble Lord remarked that long experience had convinced him that the only channel which could be opened, as one capable of giving to the misery of Ireland relief on a large scale, was extensive emigration. He really thought his noble Friend could hardly have possessed himself of the statistics of all that had been done of late years in this channel of emigration. He was, himself, a decided friend to emigration, as one of the measures best calculated for the relief of Ireland; and he had had practical experience in the business of conducting the emigration of Irish labourers—in administering property wherein he was personally interested. He knew no money so well expended upon Irish property—so well and profitably—as upon emigration. A steady well-conducted emigration was an excellent thing; but under the present circumstances of the country, to attempt any thing like a deportation of the people to another land would be an undertaking which no people would endure, or any Government under-take. To what land were they to be deported? Where were they to be placed? In what manner were they to be deported? Besides, what was the emigration going on at this moment? At no period had emigration been so great from Ireland, at that season of the year, as in the first four months of 1847, when the number of emigrants, from the different ports, was 90,740. That was quite unprecedented. [A Noble LORD: From Ireland?] No, from the different ports. In the first four months of 1848 the numbers were only 74,929. Their Lordships would observe that these were not the number of emigrants during the whole of these years, but only during the first four months of them; and they would probably be surprised to learn that emigration had been raised during the first four months of the present year—1849—to 104,701. Looking to those large numbers, it could not be doubted that emigration was going on 295 steadily, and that there had been no impediment, no obstacle, opposed to the course of emigration from Ireland. But to ask Parliament for a large sum in order to deport the people from this country, would be one of the most unprecedented and irrational courses ever attempted by any Government. The relief commissioners and emigration officers state, that at least four-fifths of the emigration he had named went from the south and west coast of Ireland. The noble Marquess then quoted an extract from the report of the commissioners appointed at New York to inquire into immigration. From that document it appeared that a great number of the English and Scotch emigrants brought out with them considerable sums of money, whereas the majority of the Irish brought out with them little beyond the ability to work, and frequently required to be supported after being located by the public money in order to sustain existence. The noble Earl said that this state of things could not last. Of course it could not, for the people were on the verge of starvation; and, therefore, it was he said, if they did not pass this Bill the people would be starved. He believed if they did not pass it, that 10,000 men would be starved next week. He knew of no other mode of relief; and let them not reject this Bill unless they would provide some other means. He had already stated that nothing was more objectionable than a rate in aid. He declared now that this, as a permanent measure, would be most objectionable, and that it was founded on a principle that it was utterly wrong to establish for a system of poor relief. But that argument applied to all extraordinary and provisional legislation. If this rate in aid were granted, no money would be given except to unions whore the poor-law was administered by paid guardians and officers under the control of the Government; and the closest supervision would be exercised over the disbursements. He had not touched much upon the question of the general poor-law, for the measure in hand was simply an exceptional one. He had now only to repeat, that it depended upon their Lordships whether the Government of the country should have the legal power to relieve thousands from starvation; and he confidently relied upon their Lordships' decision.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
said, that when the noble Earl who had moved the Amendment had sketched the deplorable condition 296 of Ireland, he (Earl Fitzwilliam) had hoped that nothing remained to be added to the horrors depicted in that statement. But the speech of the noble Marquess had unhappily succeeded in adding to its terrors by additional details that presented a most appalling spectacle indeed of wide-spread misery and accumulating distress. He could not help calling their Lordships' attention to the position in which they were placed. Here they were on the 11th of May, and his noble Friend who had just sat down threatened them—[Much cheering.] He might employ that term which had been so much animadverted upon the other night, and say that the independence of their Lordships' House had been in some degree "menaced" by the expression of his noble Friend, that their Lordships would have upon their heads the blood of thousands of their fellow-countrymen if they did not pass this Bill. He was himself in Ireland when the failure of the potato crop took place; and yet, although the Government were well aware of those scenes of destitution which had appalled Europe and the world, and knew what difficulties were before them, they had not suffered their Lordships to have the opportunity of debating this question till within one fortnight of the time when the lives of thousands would be in jeopardy. If this measure, now introduced as a temporary but indispensable measure of present relief, was really calculated to produce the effects anticipated from it, why had it not been brought in in October last? Her Majesty's Government not having given their Lordships an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon this measure till, as his noble Friend the Postmaster General informed them, within a fortnight of the period when the lives of thousands of the people of Ireland were placed in jeopardy, he was sorry to be obliged to come to the conclusion that they had not performed their duty to that House as they ought to have done. He would not, however, be deterred by any threat of that kind from doing what he believed to be his duty to the people of Ireland by voting for the Amendment of his noble Friend who moved the postponement of the measure. He entirely agreed with those who did not think the measure either just or adequate. The sum which it was estimated would be raised under the Bill was about 326,000l. But this estimate was made upon fallacious data, for it was formed upon the valuation which existed previous to the failure of 297 the last three years. But did any one really believe that the immense mass of persons who had to be relieved in Ireland could be relieved under 500,000l. at least? The funds proposed to be raised under the Bill, even if realised—which he did not think would be the case—would not be adequate to meet the emergency. But a greater objection than the inadequacy of the measure was its injustice, He had been anxious, he had been curious, to find any person in this country who approved of it. He could not find one. He doubted very much whether any of his noble Friends who proposed it would say that it was a just measure. His noble Friend who had just sat down had said everything with regard to it, except that it was just. Why was it unjust? There were about 2,500 electoral divisions in Ireland. These electoral divisions had done everything they could to maintain the paupers which they contained. Having performed this duty, on what principle of justice should the electoral division of Antrim or Wexford be taxed over again to supply the deficiency of Galway or Mayo? They might with as much justice call upon the parishes of Kent or Northumberland to supply the deficiency. It was equally just in the one case as the other. Ireland was no longer a financial community. She contributed her share to the imperial treasury. Persons supposed that Ireland was very lightly taxed because she did not pay assessed taxes or an income tax. That was a great mistake. Ireland was not lightly taxed; but supposing that the fact was so, why was she lightly taxed? Ireland was highly taxed, as every person who had the misfortune of being old enough must know, because the revenue of Ireland broke down some 30 years ago. Why did her revenue break down? Why, from that cause which broke down all revenues—that was to say, the taxation of Ireland was too high. It was the custom to say that Ireland did not contribute her share to the general exigencies of the State. The fact was, that during the war, Ireland contributed more than her share in every respect. She contributed more men in proportion to her population, and more taxation in proportion to her resources. Did noble Lords know how much was the taxation on an Irish jaunting car during the war? It was no less than 6l. 10s., though the original cost of such a vehicle might not be more than 3l. The taxation of Ireland was more than she could bear, and she 298 broke down under it as a natural consequence. They had no right, then, to plead the low taxation of Ireland in justification of this measure, and yet it was the only justification alleged. On what plea could they tax the electoral divisions of Antrim or Wexford, and not tax the parishes of England? Did they mean to repeal the Union? Did they mean to say that Ireland was a nation? Did they mean that the edict of the Hungarian Diet should be copied, by which they separated themselves from Austria? Did they intend that the proclamation of M. Kossuth should be copied and repeated in Dublin, and that Ireland should exist as a nation, separated from the British empire? He could not believe that such was the intention of the Government; but he begged to tell them that such was the legitimate consequence of the mode in which they were proceeding. Her Majesty's Government told them—it threatened them, it menaced them—that if they did not pass the measure they would have the lives of thousands to answer for. He did not believe that the noble colleagues of his noble friends in the other House of Parliament were such craven Ministers as not to issue 100,00l for the safety of men's lives in the province of Connaught, under the paltry pretence that they would be impeached. If they were such cowards, he would defend them against their own accusation. Surely they would not talk such constitutional twaddle as to say that they could not do so. He had more confidence in their courage than they had themselves. Sometimes people affected to have courage which they had not; but his noble friends affected to have fears which they had not. He had, however, no faith in their fears upon this subject, and their Lordships might depend upon it that even if this Bill were thrown out, the 100,000l. would still find its way to the people of Connaught, in some way or other. He, for one, would not entertain a worse opinion of his noble friends on that account, nor would he pay so bad a compliment to the House of Commons, as to believe that it contained any one man who would propose to attack them for their conduct in that respect. He believed that if the House of Commons had the whole case put before them fairly and openly in the first instance, they would have voted a much larger sum than the 50,000l which the Government had asked of them, as easily as they had voted the smaller sum. He had said that this mea- 299 sure was inadequate and unjust; but the greatest objection that he bad against it was, that it had nothing about it of what he should call an executory principle. One of the great arts of the science of legislation, was to make laws execute themselves—that is to say, that they should be framed in such a manner that the different parts should ensure the execution one of another. Now this Bill contained no executory principle, because it did not invest any party with either an interest or with the power to see that it was properly executed. The unions of Ulster which were to be taxed for the deficiency of Connaught had no control whatever over the administration of the funds—the unions of Antrim or Wexford would have no means whatever of checking the extravagance or diminishing the pauperism of Clare or Roscommon. For this reason he would prefer to see the income tax imposed in Ireland. He believed that Ireland bore her fair share of taxation; but as that was not the opinion in England, he should so far defer to that opinion as to consent to the imposition of the income tax in Ireland, because he considered that the man who possessed 150l. or 1,000l. a year in Ireland was as fit a subject for taxation as the person in this country who possessed the same amount. But then he should propose that the distress in Ireland should be relieved, in the first instance, out of the proceeds of the income tax, and the surplus should be paid into the imperial exchequer, which would hold out a strong inducement to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see that the funds for the relief of the poor were economically administered. This was a point of importance not merely to Ireland, but to England also, because he was sure that the people of this country would soon understand what they now were beginning to feel, namely, that the calamity which befel Ireland was no passing summer shower, but a storm of a much more extensive and enduring character, affecting all parts of the empire. The number of Irish paupers driven over to this country by distress, interfered very materially with the prospects of the English labourer, whose cause he would then plead, and than whom no person had a stronger claim upon the sympathies of the Legislature. He had a proof of that in the union of which he was the chairman, where, in the course of three weeks, not fewer than seventy Irish vagrants passed through the workhouse. This was one of the reasons why he desired 300 to see this country adopt different measures than it had hitherto done to uproot pauperism in Ireland; for this reason, also, he felt that he was pleading the cause of the English labourer in recommending the Legislature to adopt a different line of policy towards Ireland. Their Lordships had a great task to perform towards that country—one which they had as yet scarcely begun to undertake, but certainly not performed, because, at the present moment, Ireland was more distressed than she ever had been; her condition was far more threatening to the finances, aye, and far more threatening to the political relations between the two countries, than it ever had been. This country supposed that because there was a good crop of potatoes in 1847, there was an end of the distress; but that was a great mistake. The failure of 1848 aggravated the difficulties of Ireland, and there was more real distress in that country at the present moment than in May, 1847, because the resources of the middle and higher classes were much more reduced now, after three years of distress, than in 1847. It was true they did not hear so much of that distress now as they did in 1847; a famine was then something new, but now its novelty had worn off. Neither the country nor the Parliament was then callous to the distress of Ireland. But he regretted to say that the feeling seemed altered now. He trusted for himself that he was not included in the category of those to whom that excellent officer (Mr. Twisleton) spoke in the following language—language which it was impossible to read without humiliation and pain, and which he would not venture to quote if he did not find it in a public document. Mr. Twisleton was asked the following question by Mr. Cornewall Lewis:—Have you heard this opinion expressed, that it is desirable to allow things to take their natural course; not to assist the people in their sufferings, but to permit disease and want to go to their natural termination; and is that an opinion in which you concur?Mr. Twisleton answered—No. I have heard that opinion stated either explicitly or implicitly; I think it is one of the greatest misfortunes that that opinion should gain ground or be maintained. It is particularly unfortunate that it should be so, because it has what you may call a philosophical colour, and many individuals, even of superior minds, who seemed to have steeled their hearts to the sufferings of the people of Ireland, justify it to themselves by thinking it would be going contrary to the provision of nature to render assistance to the destitute of that country.301 He would fain hope that there was no foundation for that opinion, but he could not believe that a man of Mr. Twisleton's high honour would give circulation to an opinion before a Committee of Parliament which he was not justified in forming from conversations and other modes of coming to such a conclusion. It was most unfortunate that such an opinion should be entertained. He thought it unfortunate that the question should have have been asked, and that it should have given occasion to such a reply. He would, however, defend the Government from their own admissions. He did not think they ran any such risks as they contemplated, and it was because he did not consider that one more human being in Ireland would be subjected to the risk of starvation or want in Ireland by the rejection of the present Bill, that he would vote for the Amendment of the noble Earl opposite.
§ The EARL of ST. GERMANS
said, that having attended the Committees on the Irish poor-law, and paid a great deal of attention to the subject, he was free to admit that the opinion he had formed of this particular measure did not differ widely from the opinion expressed in the report of the Committee of their Lordships' House; and he therefore regretted that he had not withdrawn this measure, and substituted for it one founded on that report. That, however, was not now the question before the House: the question was whether or not they should support the present measure. What were the circumstances under which they were called upon to pass this measure? It appeared that in some twenty or thirty unions of Ireland, the most appalling distress prevailed, and that disease and famine were making the most awful inroads upon the population; the resources of these districts were exhausted, and extraneous assistance was required; but the people of this country declared, through their representatives, that they could not make any further grants in aid of Irish distress. He knew that they had made great exertions for the relief of Irish distress, and he could not forget the large sums of money which they had expended for the relief of the suffering people of Ireland; but he could not admit that the sums which had from time to time been advanced fully acquitted this country of its responsibility to Ireland—he could not forget that for a long period of time Ireland had formed an integral part of the British empire. It was a wise policy in England, suffering 302 as she was herself at the present moment, to succour Ireland in her existing and greater need. It was absolutely necessary, if they would rescue Ireland from famine, and her people from starvation, to devise immediate means of relief; and, partial and inadequate as the present measure was, it would still do something. In about three months the 50,000l. voted by Parliament would be expended, and there was no reason to expect that a less amount would be required for the next three months. The amount required in all would be from 400,000l. to 500,000l. to preserve the people in the distressed unions from death by famine, and the produce of this rate in aid was estimated at from 300,000l. to 350,000l. He saw no alternative save in supporting the present measure, and he did so because Parliament, by adopting this Bill, did enter, in his view of the case, into a contract with the people of Ireland, and gave a pledge, that if the people of Ireland raised the amount estimated as the produce of the rate in aid, the Imperial Parliament would vote whatever sum might be deficient for the relief of the existing distress. Therefore, not approving of the present measure, he would yet not take upon himself the responsibility of giving a negative to the Bill before their Lordships.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
My Lords, before I proceed to consider the enactments of the present Bill, I must take the liberty of calling your attention to some characteristics which distinguish it from any measure of similar importance which, in my recollection,' has been introduced into Parliament. I ask your Lordships who have listened to the debate, and I ask you fearlessly, what authority has been cited in its justification, and what Peer has ventured to undertake its defence? The impressive, elaborate, and finished oration of my noble Friend, the mover (the Earl of Carlisle), was a practical condemnation of his own proposition. He stood self-refuted. He reminded me of a classical actor who when preparing for the stage, and proposing to equip himself in the Grecian robe or the Roman toga, should feel, to his dismay, that his graceful form was encumbered with the poisoned shirt of Nessus. Prom that garment my noble Friend will never be able to disengage himself; and if the present Ministers have any enemies, the most malignant among them could not desire a more severe punishment than to see them cursed with success on the 303 present occasion. No advocate has had courage enough to venture on their defence. Never was a Ministerial measure so utterly left without supporters. It should be remembered, too, that this question is not an immaterial one, or brought accidentally under discussion. Announced in the Queen's Speech, it has been submitted to the consideration of Committees of both Houses at the suggestion of the Government itself. The Members of those Committees have been selected by the Ministry. Evidence has been taken, and opinions formed. In both Houses a majority of the Committees are decidedly adverse to the measure, which nevertheless the House is now required, rather than invited, to pass. In an early stage of the discussion, the Secretary of State for the Colonies expressed his wish that the Peers by whose votes reports were carried in Committee, might be as publicly made known to the world in this as in the other House of Parliament. I join in that wish; and as far as our report is concerned, which so unequivocally condemns the principle of a rate in aid, I feel that there can be no impropriety in stating the exact truth respecting our division, and the names of the individuals who voted. Against the rate in aid, fourteen Peers voted, English as well as Irish. For the proposition, there were given the votes of six Peers only; and who, let me ask you, composed the six? The President of the Council (Lord Lansdowne), the Colonial Secretary (Lord Grey), the Privy Seal (Lord Minto), the Postmaster General (Lord Clanricarde), the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests (Lord Carlisle), and the Master of the Buck Hounds (Lord Besborough). Against the independent votes of fourteen Peers of every party, there appeared but five Cabinet Ministers, the framers of the measure, supported by one Member of the Household. The weight of evidence was still more preponderating. I will not fatigue your Lordships, at this hour of the night, with quoting or even referring to the blue books which are before me. However the witnesses might differ on other points, all condemned the proposal of a rate in aid. Inspectors, assistant commissioners, and guardians—every public officer called, united in this sentence. Their evidence was all one way; they were all opposed to this fatal measure. If the small official majority of Peers I have named, or any one among them, can refer us to a single sentence of 304 approval which had fallen from the lips of any one witness, I entreat them to refer your Lordships to what might be some excuse for the vote they have given; and some palliation for the vote they were about to repeat. But men's acts are even more convincing than their words. I therefore refer your Lordships, as the most conclusive confirmation of these facts, not to the evidence only, but to the conduct of Mr. Twisleton, the late Chief Poor Law Commissioner in Ireland. No sooner did that gentleman find that there was a probability of the passing of the present Bill, and that he should become responsible for the administration of a measure which, in his conscience, he condemned as dangerous and pernicious—than, with a spirit and an independence which did him the highest honour, he resigned his situation at once, in total disregard of all private interest. I can confidently speak for my countrymen, that by this one act Mr. Twisleton has secured for ever the esteem and gratitude of a people for whose benefit he had so long laboured. They will never forget the noble sacrifice he has made—they ought not.
I am also entitled to refer to the petitions which have been presented from Ireland, and which, with scarcely an exception, pray that this unfortunate measure should not be permitted to pass into a law. Counties, cities, and towns; sheriffs, magistrates, and boards of guardians, have addressed you with an unprecedented unanimity. I believe that on no one occasion, except perhaps where agitation has excited popular feeling, have so many Irish petitions been presented. Armagh, Antrim, Belfast, Cavan, Carlow, Donegal, the metropolitan county of Dublin, Fermanagh, Galway, Kildare, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Londonderry, Meath, Mayo, Queen's County, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Tyrone, have all petitioned—the probable receivers, who are many, as well as the payers of the rate, who may be but few. If the evidence of petitions is objected to, I can refer to what must constitutionally be admitted as decisive—I mean the votes of the Irish Members. I find that out of the 105 representatives of Ireland, 81 have marked their disapproval of this Bill—Whigs, Tories, Repealers, Roman Catholics and Protestants. Not more than 15 Irish Members of the House of Commons untrammelled by office have voted in its favour. Would the Irish 305 people believe—ought they indeed to believe—that justice is done them, if your Lordships pass this measure, condemned not only by your Committees and by every witness examined, but by so overwhelming a number of the Irish Members? Taxation without representation has been called tyranny; but taxation against representation is still more intolerable. On this subject England has been herself peculiarly sensitive. When, in a state of equal balance of parties, the scale has been occasionally turned by the votes of the Irish Members—how loud have been the complaints, how angry the denunciations!—and that, too, in cases where the question was a general one, and where the two islands were equally concerned. How then are we to justify, or even to account for, a decision on a purely Irish case, pronounced by a British despotic majority, against evidence, against the petitions of the Irish people, and against the votes of the Irish representatives? Let me ask you, my Lords, if, in the memorable debates which preceded the Union, Mr. Grattan on the one side of the House, and Mr. Foster on the other, had warned their countrymen not to resign their independence, lest their voices might hereafter be overpowered on questions in which their local interests were exclusively involved, by the unreasoning and imperfectly informed votes of British Members; would not Lord Castlereagh and his friends have treated this supposition with scorn, as a suggestion made contrary to all probability, and with a view to excite alarm and prejudice? Yet what would have been most reasonably considered as an impossibility in 1800, has become a formidable reality in 1849!
My Lords, no man, either in your Lordships' House or elsewhere, has been more attached to the Union than I have been. No one has been more ready at all risks and sacrifices to fight that battle out against all odds, and against all opponents. But I pray your Lordships to furnish me with an answer to the arguments which I well know will be, and must be, raised should this Bill pass into a law under the circumstances I have described. I know not where such argument is to be sought; I despair of finding it.
My noble Friend the Postmaster General (Lord Clanricarde) has stated that he considered the adequacy or inadequacy of the funds raised under this Bill to be a matter wholly immaterial. A more extraordinary 306 or unintelligible proposition I have never yet heard. Surely it might as justly be said that the adequacy or inadequacy of the food to be provided for hungry men was immaterial, as that the amount of the money that was to be levied for the purchase of that food was unimportant. It is the essential point: my noble Friend has seemed to hint that, if Ireland performs its part in bearing the burden of this Bill, Parliament may be expected to supply any deficiency: is this his meaning? If it is, why is it not clearly expressed and so explained, more especially in that place where money votes must originate? Are we to be asked for our support in the House of Lords on the suggestion that supplemental funds may be provided by Parliament; and is the House of Commons to be induced to pass the Bill on the ground that Parliamentary funds will be unnecessary, as this Act will extract from Ireland a sum sufficient to meet Irish distress? Is this conduct quite ingenuous? But, above all, does it afford us any real security? My Lords, we read in classical mythology of those sacred gardens where the trees bear fruits of gold, but where the entrance is watched by some ever-waking guardian. Does my noble Friend think that by casting this Bill like a honey cake before the economical dragon, the Government will be able to command a portion of the treasure hereafter? I doubt it. I feel, however, confident of the wise generosity of the House of Commons, if a case is only made out, and a measure proposed, to justify that generosity. The Government have defended this miserable Bill, by stating the unwillingness manifested in the House of Commons to grant 50,000l., and the declaration made in that House that no more would be granted. My Lords, I respectfully differ both from the statement of fact and the inference. God forbid that the House of Commons should ever be careless or indifferent to a grant of public money—whether of 50,000l., or of a lesser sum! But I believe that the objection lay rather to the appropriation, than to the amount. It may be unpardonable extravagance to waste 50,000l., without producing any permanent good; and it may be a wise economy to expend ten times that amount for a noble and definite purpose. I doubt whether there is any conceivable amount which Parliament might be asked to grant, which would not be cheerfully given, provided the responsible Ministers could but 307 prove that such expenditure would raise Ireland from her present misery, and render her a source of prosperity to the empire at large. But if the hopes held out by my noble Friend the Postmaster General really mean that further advances will be made, and that Ireland may be enabled to run in debt still further, and that we are to do this well knowing that such debt cannot be repaid, I must be forgiven if I decline to sanction by my vote a step ending in disappointment, and enabling new and unjust complaints to be raised against the good faith and honesty of my country. I see that by the Bill an advance of 100,000l. is sanctioned and authorised. My Lords, you will be greatly disappointed if you expect that sum to be repaid. As you propose to expend it on a false principle, so you are about to advance it on a false security. I give you this public notice of what you have to expect, and I at least will thus protect myself from any possible imputation of bad faith hereafter. I tell you not to trust to this miserable rate in aid, but to pass fitting measures, and to look the calamities of Ireland fairly in the face. Lift up your thoughts to the magnitude of the evil, and to the magnitude of the danger which lies before you, and be ready to meet it like men.
But we have been told, as some weeks back in the Committee I ventured to predict, that the people are starving, that we cannot amend this Bill, and that to reject it is to pronounce sentence of death on thousands. My Lords, I shall not weaken the force of the argument of a noble Friend (Lord Fitzwilliam) who has preceded me. If his statement be correct, who is truly responsible? Not we, who are now called on in the middle of May to discuss this question, but they who so long delayed proposing measures of relief. Why were we not called together in November, when we might have acted and deliberated more freely? But, again, even if the statement be true, it only proves that the Government are once more prepared to make another sacrifice, and that the worst of all sacrifices, the sacrifice of principle, on the altar of the most stern and implacable of all divinities—Necessity, real or imaginary. I believe the argument to be alike unfair and disingenuous. It is not out of funds provided under this Bill, that the Treasury pittances are now doled not. They are advanced from civil contingencies. The same system might be pursued if the pre- 308 sent Bill were either rejected or withdrawn so as to enable the Government to introduce a better. I stop not to ask what Bill. Any change must be an improvement. If I am asked, as I have been for my alternative—if I am pressed by the question quid melius? my answer is ready, and I ask in return quid pejus?
I am sorry that this argument of necessity should have swayed the mind and will influence the vote of my noble Friend (the Earl of St. Germans) who spoke last. He was at the same time too candid and too intelligent not to condemn the Bill. Let me point out to him the danger of admitting the false principle to which he is reluctantly disposed to yield. It amounts to an admission that he is bound, as a legislator, to adopt any measure submitted to him, however objectionable, if it is suggested that the alternative of rejecting it is the suffering of the people. This proves too much, and would deprive him of the use of his own clear understanding. Let me suppose that the Irish Parliament were now existing, and the Union repealed. Let me further assume the existence of a scarcity of food like the present. Suppose an Irish House of Commons, acting under democratic influence, to send up a Bill to the Irish House of Lords, proposing to meet this calamity by a confiscation of the estates of all absentees and of all English mortgagees. What would my noble Friend think of a Minister who should say in that House of Lords, "Pass this Bill, it is only seizing the estates of the Duke of A, or the Marquess of B, whom you never see, and whom you care nothing about; pass this Bill, or make yourself responsible for the deaths of millions." Or suppose, my Lords, that the Reform Act had produced the disastrous consequences some of its opponents predicted. Suppose a desolating famine or want of employment to afflict your mining or manufacturing districts. Assume that, as a mode of re-moving this calamity, a Bill was sent up to the Lords empowering the Government to seize and sell the 3,000,000l. rental of the Church; should you think it just to be called on to commit an act of undisguised spoliation, or as an alternative to be held up to odium as the murderers of your fellow-countrymen? You would resist the argument as an indignity; and would reject the measure as a wrong.
I must now take leave to call your Lordships' attention to the estimate on your table which the Government have produced 309 to justify their proposal, and to show the amount which, as they anticipate, may be collected under this Bill. My Lords, I may, without presumption, claim some practical knowledge of such documents. When I knew the estimate was printed, I opened the paper with curiosity. Your Lordships will remember the oriental fable which describes the cat who had been changed into a beautiful princess, but who in her metamorphosis still retained so much of her feline nature, that on her bridal night, and even at the moment of the most earnest tenderness, she escaped from her husband's arms to pursue a mouse that had come within her reach. It is in the same way that a transformed Chancellor of the Exchequer like myself may be supposed to be attracted by his love for a revenue estimate. But I must confess that an estimate like the present I have never seen, nor could I have ever anticipated. In the annals of Parliament, I venture to say, there is not one to be found so uncandid, so indefensible, and so delusive. It is formed to mislead. The principle on which it is framed has indeed the merit of being simple, though not very truthful. It merely sets forth the full valuation of the four provinces of Ireland, amounting to 13,076,299l.; it calculates a 2½ per cent poundage on that amount, and thus infers 326,907l. as the future produce of the rate in aid. Now this mode of proceeding involves two monstrous and patent fallacies, either of which would be sufficient to lead your Lordships to conclusions wholly deceptive. It has been given in evidence, that so far is this rental (made as it was before the potato failure) from being applicable to the present time, that in certain districts it exceeds the real value by one third or one fourth. Next, the Government estimate includes the whole of the bankrupt unions of the west and south, from which no rate in aid can by possibility be collected. It would be manifestly absurd that the same districts should receive a rate in aid, and should contribute towards it. Therefore to receive 326,000l. from the rate in aid is impossible, and in proportion as the tax is reduced in amount, it must cease to be a security for the Treasury advances.
I must also object to the unconstitutional power of raising as well as of appropriating the funds which it is proposed to levy. I fearlessly ask the Peers of the United Kingdom, well acquainted as they are with the spirit of independence, as 310 well as the strict obligations of responsibility, which govern the institutions of this country, whether England would for one moment tolerate a system which vested in public officers named by the Crown, or by Commissioners, themselves the nominees of the Crown, an unrestrained power of taxation? This Bill goes still further, and an additional tax of 2½ per cent on all rateable property being imposed, the unfettered and unrestrained expenditure of this sum is left to the Commissioners, who may refuse one application, and may grant another, without assigning any reason, other than their own will and pleasure. A new Commissioner appointed hereafter to fill up Mr. Twisleton's vacancy, and not being quite so conscientious as his predecessor, would thus have an unlimited power of granting or of refusing relief at his pleasure, and subject to no responsibility whatever to the ratepayers. Nor is this all. I presume that no one is desirous to compel the unpaid guardians of the poor to withdraw from their most laborious and painful duties, where those duties are well performed. Yet this Bill must have that operation. Wherever assistance from a rate in aid is required, it is made imperative to appoint vice-guardians, under whoso control the whole administration of relief will be brought. What will be the consequence of this in cases where the unions are still maintaining a manly struggle against pauperism? Take, as an example, the unions of Ballinasloe and of Parsons-town, where, under the advice and direction of two noble friends of mine, now present, the evils of outdoor relief to the ablebodied have been hitherto averted. Let them not rely too much on their fortunate exemption from evil. They cannot expect that their districts, like Gideon's fleece, shall continue unwatered by the rains of heaven. And when the moment of trial comes, for which this Bill proposes to make a provision, however delusive and inadequate, whenever assistance is sought for, we shall be required as a condition precedent to obtaining it, to substitute for the Earls of Rosse and Clancarty some inexperienced stripling, taken, rather than selected, in the lottery of patronage, where the blanks are more numerous than the prizes. But I shall now proceed to demonstrate to your Lordships, that even assuming the principle of the Bill to be sound—assuming too that it is sanctioned by English experience and authority, and that it comes recommended by the Parliamentary Commit- 311 tees —that it is supported by the testimony of impartial witnesses—that it is petitioned for by the people of Ireland, and recommended by the votes of the Irish Members—it is still our duty to reject this Bill as being illusory and deceptive, leading to disappointment, and therefore to danger, and unworthy of being passed into a law. We have had before us since the month of February, accounts showing the state of eight distressed unions in the west. The statistics of this exhausted and bankrupt district is as follows:—
|Expense of maintenance of poor for 12 months to 29th September, 1848||£219,000|
|Amount of rates collected in the same 12 months||£46,000|
|Amount contributed by the Government and British Associations||£157,000|
§ In addition to this, the support of thousands of children in the district has been defrayed out of charitable funds; and there was also the unexampled beneficence of the Society of Friends. Add these extra funds together, which no longer exist, and believing as I do that the pressure in the present year will be still greater than in the last, and the resources of the district less, my conviction is, that these eight unions will exhaust the whole amount that can possibly be collected under the rate in aid. If noble Lords controvert this reasoning, I ask them to accompany me one step further. I ask them to extend their views from 8 to 21 unions in the west and south—21 unions it should be remembered out of 130. The debt on these unions has augmented in a single year from 84,000l. to 123,000l, or 50 per cent; the rate collected was but 199,000l. to meet a current expenditure (without including debt), of 468,101l.; the aid granted by the Government and the British Association was 237,000l., and this without including, as I have already stated, either the maintenance of the children, or the paupers relieved by the charity of the Quakers, To meet this year's expenditure, and the debt, 592,086l. is required. Even assuming that the rates of last year's collection can he realised, there will be a palpable deficiency of more than 400,000l., a sum which will exceed, by more than the double, the whole proceeds of the rate in aid. It is, therefore, impossible to believe that the present measure can meet, indeed it can hardly be expected to mitigate, the present famine. If there exists 312 one danger greater than another, it will be found in exciting the hopes of the people of Ireland that Parliament had provided means for relieving their distress, when followed by the grievous disappointment which the subsequent inadequacy of those means cannot fail to produce. Here, the Bill may be justified as founded on mistake, or on an excusable delusion; in Ireland, it will be considered a downright fraud, and will be treated as such. It will be stated that under colour of giving relief, Parliament were making themselves responsible for protracted suffering, and a more cruel agony.
§ But in addition to the perils of disappointment, we shall also have to encounter the perils of discontent. Though I have hitherto designedly forborne referring to the blue books, I must yet be permitted on this part of the question, in order to protect myself from misrepresentation, to allude to the evidence of Mr. Gulson and of Mr. E. Senior, two public officers well acquainted with the condition, and the feelings, of the north of Ireland. Mr. Senior states that in the north-eastern districts the poor-law is now admirably administered, "the arrears of rate are considerably under five per cent, being considerably less than in England" (Q. 1606–1638), but that he fears that the imposition of a national rate "will lead at once to a passive resistance to the rate, in some districts, and that a passive resistance may, or may not, lead to an active resistance" (1642). He adds, "that it would be impossible to disentangle the ordinary rate from the national rate in aid, and that all the difficulties of the case would be increased." (See Q. 1643,1644.) Mr. Gulson's expression is still stronger—he says (Q. 1149), "if I know anything of the people of the North, they would rebel against contributing by any rate in aid towards the poverty of the South." Mr. Twisleton apprehends the resignation or supercession of the ordinary boards of guardians, and the necessary substitution of paid guardians throughout considerable parts of Ulster—these being the districts where the law is now satisfactorily and successfully carried into effect. This fatal Bill, therefore, disorganises the future poor-law administration, causing an irreparable injury to the inhabitants of the best and most industrious parts of Ireland. I entreat your Lordships to believe that this does not arise from a mere selfish desire to escape the mere pecuniary pressure 313 of the proposed tax. It arises from a repugnance to its principle—from a sense of its injustice—from the fear of its extension and perpetuation. But whilst it is more than doubtful what amount the rate in aid will produce, let us inquire what is the amount of Christian charity which it may suppress? In the last year the inhabitants of Belfast alone, nobly and generously, raised a subscription for the relief of their starving fellow-countrymen amounting to 21,000l.—this was cheerfully given. You now propose to impose in the same district a tax of 2½ per cent, which, if paid at all, will be paid grudgingly and in a spirit of discontent, and which is only estimated to produce 4,500l. A very intelligent witness, a merchant of Belfast, whom I examined before the Committee this morning, was asked, if a compulsory rate in aid had existed last year, how much of the voluntary 21,000l. would have been collected? Mr. Holden made the decisive and animated reply, "Not one farthing of it." In addition to this, it should be remembered that the exercise of this voluntary charity had tended to promote and encourage the Christian feelings of benevolence and good will; whereas I venture to predict, that with this compulsory tax we shall see revived in its most dangerous shape that sectarian rancour and animosity which it has been the desire of all friends of Ireland to banish and to extirpate. The inhabitants of the North, it should be remembered, are a determined as well as an intelligent race. They preserve many of the characteristics of the race from which they sprung. It was, therefore, foreseen by the Government that they might probably decline paying the rate in aid, if it were to be collected separately. What I suppose is considered to be a very ingenious and cunning device has been resorted to to meet this danger. I can hardly attribute this contrivance to statesmen, it seems more closely to resemble the art of a low attorney. It is proposed by the Bill to blend the two rates, and by thus mixing the bitter and the sweet to make the draught palatable. But this will fail. The effect will be to make the collection of the ordinary rate difficult, rather than to render the collection of the rate in aid possible.
§ I can further demonstrate the inherent injustice of this tax by referring to the existing state of the valuations. To make one uniform poundage just, the valuation should obviously be uniform through- 314 out. But the Irish unions vary their valuation to the extent of 10, 20, 30, and 40 per cent. This is proved on the high authority of Mr. Griffith. The tax will, therefore, vary in the same degree, and where it amounts to but 2½ per cent in some cases, it may exceed double that amount in others. The burden will fall with the heaviest pressure where the valuation is highest, that is, in Ulster and Leinster. Is this just? Will it he endurable?
§ But is the apprehension of the men of Ulster respecting the future increase of this tax unreasonable? Is it not equally felt by your Lordships and by the whole public? The Ulster men are too shrewd to be hoodwinked, or to believe that the tax will only last for two years, and will not exceed 6d. in the pound. What has been the history of the property tax in this country? Alas! no lover's promises are half so fragile as Ministerial and Parliamentary pledges, limiting the duration of taxes! My noble Friend the President of the Council (Lord Lansdowne) condemned outdoor relief in 1846. He described it as a "system of a vicious character, and as one which, if adopted, must lead to the complete confiscation of the property of Ireland." Yet, in 1847, my noble Friend himself introduced, and most unfortunately prevailed on your Lordships to pass, a perpetual Bill for the administration of outdoor relief. If this has been the case with one whose character is all honour and truthfulness, where is our trust to be placed? Accordingly, the people of Ulster feel no confidence in the pledge tendered, and, as I am informed, the property of the tenants there, well known to your Lordships under the name of tenant-right, is no longer saleable. It is now scarcely considered an existing title, as few will become purchasers of tenant-right.
§ I cannot hut consider this Bill to he founded on principles laid down by a distinguished Member of your Lordships' House in the middle ages, then Earl of Huntingdon, though better known under the romantic name of Robin Hood. That principle is one more conformable to the outlaw's costume of Lincoln-green, than to the pure ermine of the House of Lords. Robin Hood was doubtless a man of a most generous character. His practice was to rob the rich for the benefit of the poor. I doubt whether the men of Ulster will be reconciled in our less poetical times to this 315 system, whether introduced by the forester, or by his first aide-de-camp, whose name* will readily suggest itself to your Lordships on the present occasion.
§ But to he serious. I fear that when the people of Ireland see that Parliament is taking a course that is at once unjust and illusory, that they may believe themselves justified in evading and resisting the tax. This I should consider to be a fatal and unpardonable error. The tax is proposed for a period of two years, and it is to he levied only with the next rate. Suppose that, before the Bill receives the Royal Assent, any union or number of unions should strike a rate calculated for the whole period of two years. To that levy it is clear the rate in aid will not attach, and the powers of the Act will expire in two years. How then can it be levied at all? I only give this as an example, showing how possible it is that the rate in aid may be defeated.
§ With respect to emigration, I have heard with surprise and dismay the manner in which the existing system of non-interference, or voluntary emigration, as it is called, has been vindicated by my noble Friend the Postmaster General. When the fitting time comes, I shall be prepared to prove that the emigration now going on, that on which my noble Friend relies, is an emigration of capital, public spirit, industry, and enterprise. It is an emigration of the very class most required in Ireland, and which every well-wisher to his country would wish to retain.
If time permitted, I might undertake to show how rapidly the fertile lands of Ireland are going out of cultivation; how, as in Clifden, more than half the valued rental now consists of a waste, and how surely this desolation, exceeding, as Mr. Richard Bourke informs us, "the ruin committed by a devastating foreign enemy," must inevitably extend over the adjacent districts. I do not set much store upon the hopes of bringing under cultivation the bog and mountain lands; but I do feel certain that if Parliament perseveres in its present course, not only will those mountain tracts be condemned to perpetual unproductiveness, but arable lands will be thrown up, capable as they are of providing food for our teeming population, and on which, even a free-trader like myself, must greatly prefer to rely for food, rather than on the produce of the wide fields of Poland, or of the boundless prairies of the United States.
* Little John.
§ I earnestly desire that the rich and fertile lands of Ireland may he brought under improved husbandry. But if a state of law is allowed to exist, and a pressure of local burdens is created, which renders all cultivation unprofitable, how can any investment of now capital be expected to take place? If the present local burdens are such as to prevent the race of existing farmers from tilling their lands to a profit, we may pass Encumbered Estates Bills, we may call for British capitalists, "but will they come when we do call for them?"
§ I must remind your Lordships that I do not vote against this Bill without having marked and recorded my willingness to find and support a substitute for the rate in aid. I voted in Committee for the substitution of a property tax to meet the present exigency. I did so, although I felt that such a proposition could only originate successfully, or justly, from Her Majesty's Government. Still, when the recommendation was made by my noble Friend (Earl Fitzwilliam), I supported him; and it is to be further remembered that the only Cabinet Minister then present, who voted at all (the Earl of Carlisle), gave his vote against that recommendation.
§ My Lords, I conclude. It is because I believe this Bill will augment, extend, and perpetuate the miseries of Ireland, that I oppose it. If the Government, in place of an ineffectual attempt to perform the lower and more mechanical duty of sustaining pauperism, will come forward with a largo and statesmanlike measure striking at the roots and causes of pauperism, they will receive—for they will deserve—support. I am sure that Parliament will not hesitate to do that which is generous and beneficent, when assured that it is also wise and just.
§ LORD AUDLEY
was understood to say, that one reason why he should feel it to he his duty to support this measure was, that he perceived a disposition on the part of all classes in Ireland to throw off the burden which it would impose upon them from their own shoulders on to those of others. He could assure noble Lords that no mere question of expediency should induce him to vote for a Bill of this nature; but, considering all the circumstances which had been stated by many noble Lords that evening, and not having heard anything suggested of a more practical nature than 317 this measure by any of those who had addressed themselves to the subject, he must give his vote in favour of it; and, in doing so, he must, at the same time, say, that he saw no reason why, under the circumstances, the men of the north should not receive it in a generous spirit. As a landlord in the most miserable part of Ireland (the south-west) he had long experienced the greatest difficulties. It was desirable that the inhabitants of that densely populated district should be rendered less dependent on the soil; and any measure tending to make them so would be well worthy of the attention of the Legislature. This measure should not be regarded by itself, but in connexion with others, which were, he trusted, to follow.
The EARL of WICKLOW
regretted that the noble Lord who had last addressed the House had not previously given some attention to the subject. He was sorry to find that the noble Lord had charged the landlords of Ireland with a disposition to shift the burden from their own shoulders. He knew not upon what authority the noble Lord made that accusation; because, although he had listened to the whole of the debate, he was glad to say that not one of their Lordships, who had addressed the House, had shown the slightest disposition to bring such an accusation against the landlords of Ireland. He believed, that in every part of the country, they had shown the greatest readiness to submit to taxation for such a purpose. The ground of objection to the present measure, was, that it was based upon erroneous views and calculations, and they also objected to the mode in which it was proposed to raise the money under the provisions of the Bill. It was unnecessary to urge any objections against the rate in aid, as they had been furnished by the supporters of the measures themselves. Not a single Minister who had addressed the House, and not a single witness who had attended the Committee upstairs, who had not deprecated the measure. The noble Lord the Secretary of the Colonies supported it merely on the ground of expediency; and the noble Lord the President of the Council had declared that no considerations would have induced him to support so objectionable a measure if he did not believe it to be limited in point of time and in point of amount. But what security had they that the amount would be so limited? As the case now stood, they had Her Majesty's Ministers denouncing the measure in the strongest 318 language, and declaring that they could not support it if it had not been limited in amount. But if the measure was once passed into a law, it was clear that it could not be limited either in time or amount. It had been stated that this measure was proposed because an unanimity of opinion could not be procured from the representatives from Ireland on the subject of remedial measures for that country. But the case had not been fairly put by the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown to the deputation of Irish Members whom he had called to meet him. The Irish Members were asked whether they would have this rate in aid or an income tax, accompanied by other taxes. Now, the Government, to have acted fairly, should have stated what those measures were. Under all the circumstances, he should give his cordial support to the Amendment of his noble Friend, as he thought the Government had produced no satisfactory reasons for adopting so extreme a measure. It was urged that the measure was one of imperative necessity, as it was the only means of keeping hundreds of the Irish peasantry from starving; but there was nothing to prevent the Government continuing the aid in the form in which it had been previously given. The Session was not so far advanced as that a substitute might not be provided before any urgent necessity arose; and he was satisfied that it would pass the other House without the slightest opposition, and would come into operation, and would afford aid, as well as security, for the money now to be advanced, much more quickly than from the proposed rate in aid, which could not be collected without difficulty, such as would not attend the substitute proposed by their Lordships' Committee. It was a matter of astonishment to him, seeing the opposition that it had met with from 80 out of 105 of the representatives of Ireland, that the Government would still persevere in attempting to pass it, instead of adopting the more judicious alternative of proposing an equalisation of taxation with that existing in England.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, that he wished to say a few words, not in consequence of the appeals which had been made, on the ground that the Bill had not been sufficiently justified by those whose special duty it was to bring it forward, for he needed only to refer to the eloquent speech of his noble Friend who opened the discussion, and the just observations of his 319 noble Friend the Postmaster General, both in Her Majesty's Councils, but rather because circumstances had occurred while this proposition had been agitated in this and the other House of Parliament, which rendered it necessary that he should explain distinctly the grounds on which he was induced to give his vote for the Bill, and that he should state what it was that he did, and what he did not, expect. If he thought he was affirming the principle of a rate in aid as a permanent mode of providing for the wants of Ireland, or of any country, he should be far from saying that he would not be prepared to join in the reflections which might be made on such a measure, because he felt, if it were understood to be so introduced, it would be a measure most liable to be attended with danger, and most pregnant with mischief. But it was one thing to adopt under circumstances of an extraordinary character a measure as an immediate and temporary remedy, and another to admit that remedy permanently into the system and law of the country. Let them consider the circumstances under which this measure had been proposed. It had been said that this measure had been unnecessarily brought forward by Her Majesty's Government; but he held on the contrary, that there was every reason why it should have been brought forward. At the very commencement of the present Session, a proposition was made in the other House of Parliament to provide by grant from the imperial exchequer means to meet the extreme destitution then prevailing, and which had since assumed a more and more marked character in the west and south of Ireland. Did not the reception of that proposition justify the Government in coming to the conclusion that—for reasons, whether justified or not, whether adopted on account of that unfortunate disposition manifested in Ireland by persons who assumed, though he believed them not to be, organs of public opinion, contemptuously to depreciate the assistance derived from the people of the united kingdom, or on account of the pressure on the public finances of England itself—there did exist in the other House something like a determination not to add further to the grants hitherto made to Ireland? From that moment, then, it became the duty of the Government to consider how the necessary means to alleviate the distress in Ireland were to be obtained; knowing the opinion that prevailed that Ireland had no disposition to make some 320 exertion to help itself, and knowing that the resources of Ireland were not taxed, he thought wisely not taxed, to the same amount as the resources of Great Britain, the Government came to the conclusion that some effort ought to be made in Ireland to meet the distress. The most rev. Prelate, in whose general opinions on the subject of the poor-law and the abuses connected with it, he concurred, omitted in his speech any reference to that which was the immediate cause of the present Bill—the extraordinary infliction of the potato famine—and all those considerations adverted to by the most rev. Prelate ceased to operate with the entire cessation of all ordinary circumstances. The most rev. Prelate had said, "Why not teach these persons to depend on their own exertions and efforts?" But what could be the exertions and efforts of a population deprived of all food, and having neither capital, stock, nor means, nor even strength to make them? It had been argued by some of their Lordships, that this state of Ireland connected with the potato famine was a state of transition which must be submitted to; but he would remind the House that the period of transition was a transition from life to death with respect to a great part of the population in Ireland; and though he humbly submitted to the decrees of Providence, yet he could not admit that while that transition was going on, it was not their duty to legislate as far as possible to mitigate the evils bearing on that unfortunate country. Let them legislate as they would, or be as liberal as possible, they could not do away with all the effects of that transition. Those effects in uncivilised and barbarous countries were permitted to take their course, and the result was that whole populations were swept away—if not unpitied yet unassisted; but in a civilised and Christian country it was felt to be a duty to endeavour at least to mitigate the evil. It was because the Government had recognised this duty; because they had seen in the other House a disposition not to assist further by grants of money unless a disposition was perceived on the part of Ireland itself to make some effort, that the present measure was brought forward, with all its inconveniences and objections, for their Lordships' adoption. A noble Lord on the bench above him had indeed a very easy mode of dealing with the question; and, according to his argument it appeared, that the expression of hesitation on the part of any Minister to take on himself during 321 the sitting of Parliament, expending the public money was nothing but "constitutional twaddle;" although since the commencement of constitutional practice in this country no Ministers could act otherwise but at the peril of their heads. A noble Lord had asked why recourse had not been had to the income tax; and, though the noble Lord was justified in putting that question, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) conceived that the Ministers were justified in imposing that particular burden which would be the least objectionable to the parties bearing it. With respect to the income tax, though at one time there appeared a sort of unanimity of feeling among the Irish representatives in its favour, yet from the moment of the report of their Lordships' Committee recommending the imposition of that tax, and from the moment that the imposition of that tax thus acquired a more serious aspect of probability, somehow or other the supporters of the proposition fell off one by one, and became suddenly silent on the subject. Even the necessity of the case might not have justified him (the Marquess of Lansdowne) in proposing as a permanent system of relief that which he had admitted to be one pregnant with mischiefs; but there was security that it should be limited—the security of the Bill itself, and the declarations made in the other House; and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) felt himself authorised to state the opinion of Her Majesty's Government collectively, that beyond the period assigned for its operation in this Bill, under no circumstances was it their intention to propose a continuation of this measure; but that if, unhappily, circumstances, now assumed to be temporary, should acquire more than a temporary character, endeavours to meet the deficiency and to remedy the evil, must be founded upon a broader and more equitable principle. With regard to the other expedients suggested, that of calling in monies advanced on account of workhouses had been already explained to be a measure which would operate much more unjustly and partially, and distribute the burden more unequally over Ireland than the plan proposed. Emigration, if applied in the wholesale way that would be necessary, would require an amount of machinery and expense which would present quite as great a difficulty as the present measure, or even a greater; and it would have such effects in other countries as to produce absolute resistance to their being 322 surfeited with a mass of paupers; to say nothing of its effect upon the future progress of a sound system of emigration. The estimate which had been asked for and furnished, had not been dealt quite fairly with during the debate; it was stated by the Government, when the estimate was called for, that it might turn out fallacious, as it must be founded upon the existing valuation. It was hardly fair, after obtaining with that warning all the information that could be given, to complain that the information was fallacious, and did not allow for depreciations which the Government had no more the means of estimating than they had of penetrating beforehand the inscrutable designs of Providence. They were compelled by the circumstances of the case to act in the dark. They had to deal with a portentous, uncertain, and mysterious evil. To it they could apply no satisfactory, certain, positive remedy. But they were not therefore relieved in the eyes of God or man from the duty of endeavouring to mitigate its pressure, and adopting such means as were before them; those which offered the greatest facility for the immediate levying of the money required, guarding their proceeding by every declaration that could be made, that as a permanent principle it would be fatal to the country. But for the time he asked their Lordships to agree to this Bill.
§ On Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Motion,"
§ House divided:—Contents 48; Not-Contents 46: Majority 2.323
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Bessborough||Saye and Sele|
|List of the NON-CONTENTS|
|Harrowby||Monteagle of Brandon|
§ Proxies were not called.
§ House adjourned to Monday next.