Debates On Relief Of Distress In Ireland.

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Document ID 9511060
Date 07-02-1849
Document Type Official Documents
Archive Queen's University, Belfast
Citation Debates On Relief Of Distress In Ireland.;Hansard Parliamentary Debates Series 3, Vol CII, 1849.; CMSIED 9511060

    On the Motion of the CHANCELLOR
OF THE EXCHEQUER the House resolved
itself into Committee on the above subject,
Mr. Bernal in the Chair.
said, he rose, in pursuance of the
notice he had given, to move that the
Committee agree to a vote for the purpose
of affording relief to certain unions in the
west of Ireland. Gentlemen would probably
recollect that a similar vote was
proposed at the end of last Session. When
the failure of the potato crop was apprehended,
questions were put to his noble
Friend and himself as to the course the
Government intended to pursue; and they
were urged at that time to bring forward
some measure for the purpose of affording
relief to the destitution prevalent in some
parts of Ireland. The answer they gave
was, that they did not think it expedient
at that time to bring forward any large
measure whatever; and that if circumstances
should be such as to render it
necessary, it would be their duty to call
Parliament together before any step of that
kind was taken; but they did ask the
House to entrust them with some small
discretionary power, in order to enable
them to take measures, if they should turn
out to be necessary, for the preservation of
human life. That course seemed to meet
the acquiescence of the House; and he recollected
that the hon. Member for Montrose
(Mr. Hume) whom he did not now
see in his place, afterwards stated that he
entirely concurred in it. His first duty
would be, to give an account of what had
been done since the close of the last Session
in pursuance of this plan. Hon. Gentlemen
had probably seen the report published
by the British Association of Relief
extended to certain unions in Ireland in
the course of the years 1847 and 1848.
A state of things very similar to that of
the former years existed in the course of
last autumn, for although a larger quantity
of potatoes was planted in many parts of
Ireland than in the year 1847, the failure
had been nearly as general as in the year
1846, and the quantity available for food
was not greater than in 1847. It had become,
therefore, absolutely necessary in
some few instances to afford relief. It turned
out, however, that there were available
funds remaining from those collected by
voluntary subscription by the British Association.
These had, to the extent of
12,000l.[pounds?],  been issued to some of the
unions; but when they were exhausted,
the Government were called upon to make
some further advance. They had made an
advance to the amount of 3,000l.[pounds?];  that
was the extent to which they had exercised
the discretion entrusted to them by
Parliament after the funds collected by
the British Association were exhausted.
At the earliest possible moment of the
new Session, they were desirous of stating
what had been done; and he should next
proceed to inform the House what they
proposed to do, under the present circumstances
of Ireland, and particularly of the
western portions of that country. The
papers which had been delivered yesterday
morning, were by no means all they might
have laid on the table of the House:
but they thought it far better to lay on
the table a few papers which Gentlemen
probably would have time to read, than to
call on them to wade through the interminable
pages of a large blue book. It was
certainly very satisfactory to have to state
that, with the exception of a very small
portion of Ireland, he did not believe that
any assistance whatever was either wished
for or necessary; the greater portion of the
east and north of Ireland was not more
distressed at this moment than parts of the
south of England. The rates were collected
as easily as in many parts of the
south of England. In other parts of Ireland
there was not the least need of assistance
if proper exertions were made.
He might refer to the case of the union of
Listowel, in which the collection of the
rates had fallen into some disorder. An
active officer was sent down, and within
six weeks the demands over due were not
only paid, but a balance of 700l. [pounds?] remained
in the treasurer's hands. It was,
notwithstanding, imperatively necessary,
unless they wished to see hundreds perishing
from starvation in certain districts of
Ireland, that some assistance should be
given by this country. He thought it
indispensable that the distribution of that
assistance should be administered under
the most stringent and rigorous regulations,
in order to prevent fraud. Hon. Gentlemen
complained of the poor-law, and attributed
to it all those evils which now afflicted
Ireland - evils which might more justly be
attributed to the dispensation of Providence
in the failure of that main article of food
on which so large a proportion of the
population of Ireland depended. He perfectly
agreed in the observation of the hon.
Gentleman behind him, that the present state
of things in Ireland was abnormal, and not
such as the poor-law was calculated to
relieve. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer)
was not surprised at the statements
he had heard of the extreme unpopularity
of the poor-law in all parts of Ireland, not
only amongst those who paid the rates,
but those who received relief. No doubt to
both parties it would be infinitely more
agreeable that relief should be afforded
from the treasury of the United Kingdom.
Those who paid rates would naturally prefer
not having to pay, and those who
received relief, now rigorously administered
as it was, in order to prevent abuses,
would infinitely prefer to receive it in the
shape in which it was administered in the
year 1847, when there was no machinery
adequate to the purpose of correcting the
abuses which prevailed from one end of
the country to the other. He thought,
judging from experience of the last
two years, that the machinery of the
poor-law was that best adapted to afford
the relief which he believed to be necessary.
He considered that the evils which prevailed
in Ireland were in no degree to be
ascribed to the poor-law, as the effect of that
law was to mitigate and palliate the evils
which arose from the failure of the food of
the people. A letter of Mr. Lang, relief
inspector, from the Bantry union, very
clearly explained the effects which had
recently occurred on the condition of the

    "That the Commissioners may have a clear
conception of the grounds on which I found my
opinion, it may be expedient to give a brief
sketch of the circumstances under which a large
proportion of the landed property of the union
had been placed for many years previous to the
failure of the potato crop. When this was a
potato-growing country, and the crop flourished, the
landlords and the middlemen found it very easy and
certain mode of increasing their incomes, to permit
every tenant or branch of his family to erect hovels
of any description on every patch of land
among the glens and rocks of the mountains or
along the sea-coast, and rather to countenance
than discourage the establishment of swarms of
cottier tenants on their lands. These contrived,
either by taking con-acres from the larger occupiers,
or by cultivating patches for their own holdings,
to grow sufficient potatoes to fatten a pig
or two to pay the rent. Hordes of this class of
cottier tenantry, when they had planted the patch
of potatoes in spring, shut up their cabins or left
them in charge of the aged and infirm, and led an
idle, vagrant, begging life throughout the summer
months. To some of these cottier holdings was
attached the privilege of grazing a cow, and a few
sheep or goats, upon the adjacent mountains -
and from each of these tenements the landlord
or the middleman contrived to squeeze out a rent
from 1l. to 5l. [pounds?] yearly; and these rents were better
paid than any stranger to the country and the
habits of the people could have believed it possible
to extract from such a class fo tenantry.
Hence, the  greater the amount of population a
proprietor could locate on his estate, the larger
became the rent-roll. The consequences of the
failure of the only crop upon which these masses
subsisted and depended for the payment of rent,
may easily be conceived; they became one and all
paupers, and were thrown on the rates for support:
large tracts of land became waste and unproductive,
from which there is now neither rate nor
rent to be obtained - the landlords had exacted
the last farthing. At no period could such a class
of tenantry accumulate any capital or means to
fall back upon for subsistence; and the whole
system induced and inculcated those idle and
vagrant habits, and that indisposition to fixed and
steady habits of industry, so generally complained
of, and now falsely attributed to the operation of
the poor-law, and its demoralising influence.
But the same apathy and want of energy and exertion
existed always and were the natural consequences
of the system. It was then only seen-
now it begins to be felt."

He believed this description applied to a
large portion of the western districts of
Ireland, and coming from an eye-witness
was well worthy of attention. The consequence
of this state of things was, that
a certain portion of the higher class of
rate-payers had no longer the means of paying
rates, and that others who formerly had paid
rates became themselves dependent for support
upon the rates. If any hon. Gentleman
attributed this state of things to the poor-law,
he would ask of him to consider what
the position of affairs would be it the poor-law
did not exist? It was obvious that if
there had been no poor-law in Ireland during
the late season of famine, hundreds of thousands
of persons must necessarily have
died of absolute destitution. Robbery and
plunder must have prevailed to a frigthful
extent; for it was not to be expected that
the rights of property would have been
respected by starving crowds, and probably
something like a servile war would
have broken out. The efforts that
would then, no doubt, be made to put
that down, would have been attended with
much greater expense to this country than
any that they were now called upon to bear.
After the destruction of the potato crop, it
became evident that for three consecutive
years the amount of the population and
the amount of food were no longer adequate
to each other, and that the former
must be diminished or the latter increased
before the country could be restored to a
state of safety. The diminution of the
population had gone on. It was impossible
to deny but that many persons had died,
if not from actual starvation, at least from
disease brought on by an insufficient supply
of food. But, in addition to this, emigration
had gone on to a considerable extent,
to nearly a million in two years, principally
to America. He had before him the
papers that had been just laid before Parliament
relating to the aid afforded to
the distressed unions in the west of Ireland,
and he had also some connected with
the Ballina union, which had arrived that
day, and were, he regretted to say, not in
time to be printed with the others. From
these documents it appeared that an
extra-ordinary dimunition of the population had
taken place in some unions. Captain
Kennedy, the temporary poor-law inspector,
wrote to the Commissioners on the 7th of
November last, respecting the Kilrush
    "I do not believe that there are a sufficient
number of labourers in this union to bring it to
the same degree of cultivation and productiveness
as some parts of the county of Down and Antrim:
and yet the whole labouring population are starving,
while hardly an ace is drained or improved.
At a very moderate computation I believe that
four times the quantity of food might be

Now if they did not get wages, how could
the people but food? It was right to add,
however, that Captain Kennedy stated in
his report that-
    "The rates are being well and cheerfully paid,
and the influential classes, however embarrassed
they may be, do not evade their payment, or
encourage others in opposition."

Captain Kennedy in the same letter  thus
described the utter apathy of the owners of
the soil in the Kilrush Union:-

    "The utter absence of employment of any kind
throughout the union is almost incredible, and
where such is given it is in exchange for food
alone, a very limited number of persons in the
union giving wages. I can see no solution of the
difficulties and distresses of this union save by a
well-directed effort on the part of proprietors and
occupiers to give reproductive employment; such,
however, under existing circumstances, will not
or cannot be given, though all practical men
agree in its necessity, and that a finer or more
profitable field for labour cannot be found. The
Land Improvement Act has conferred no benefit
on this union, a very trifling sum having been
applied for or taken under it. A universal distrust
and want of confidence exists between all classes,
which prevents the useful efforts of individuals
having their desired effects. The extensive
dispossession of the small landholders, and
consolidation of farms, will require time to produce their
anticipated good effects, while the suffering and
embarrassments are immediate and undoubted."

Every exertion was being made, in order
to secure the due and proper administration
of the poor-law; but from the people
having been turne3d out of their holdings
in large numbers, a very large proportion
of the population, indeed, had become
dependent on the rates. He alluded to this
matter in order to show that the complaints
which were so constantly made of
the existence of a great superabundant
population in Ireland were by no means
universally true. As to the Ballina union,
which was also one of the most distressed
unions in the country, the opinion not only
of the poor-law inspector, but of two or
three other gentlemen who had been
examined, and whose evidence was before
him, was that the population was not too
large, net merely for the cultivation of
waste lands actually under
culture. Colonel Knox Gore, a large
proprietor in the county of Slogo, stated that

    "There is quite enough of land in this district
to employ all the ablebodied population, without
taking into account the bog and mountain land
that might be reclaimed; the improvement of
which, with very few exceptions, I believe to be
a ruinous speculation."

It is notorious that emigration had been
carried on to a most remarkable extent,
and it so happened that this emigration
had proceeded most extensively in

those unions in which the greatest distress
prevailed. The consequence was, that
estates had, in the more impoverished districts,
been relieved from the great number
of cottier tenants with which they had
been crowded, and who had been always
spoken of as the great and insuperable obstacle
to the improvement of the land. Alluding
to this subject, Colonel Knox Gore

    "I have lost nearly one-third of my smaller
tenants since 1846. Most of them have emigrated
to America, or have become labourers, occupying
cottages and gardens."

Major Gardener stated that he had lost
seven-eights of his tenants principally by
emigration. Now, when the reduction of the
population had taken place to so great an
extent, he had very much doubted whether it
would be for the advantage of the country
to encourage any farther removal of the
people, who were absolutely necessary for
the proper cultivation of the soil. The great
decrease in the number of small tenements,
and the increase in those of larger size,
were, in some instances, most satisfactory.
In the union of Ballina the number of
tenements valued under 4l. in 1846 was
17,216, while in 1849 the number was
10,354, showing a diminution in this class
of tenantry of 6,862; and in the case of
tenements valued under 8l., there had been
a decrease, in the same union, of 7,676,
within the same period. In the two poorest
electoral divisions of the union, there was,
at the same time, an increase in the number
of large tenements; the increase in
one of these districts - that of Belmullet-
being from 77 to 98, for the year 1849, as
compared with 1846. The result of this
state of things was, that in those unions
where the greatest distress prevailed, they
were approaching a state when there was
every ground to hope that improvement
would take place. The extra population
was removed from them, and what was now
wanting was a supply of capital in the
hands of active proprietors or tenants,
able and determined properly to cultivate
the land. He had already quoted the
evidence of Colonel Gore before the poor-law
inspectors, and further on he found the
following remarks on this part of the
subject. Colonel Gore stated that -

    "I look entirely to the improvement on the
waste lands to give me enough to feed and clothe
my family: for as to carriages, wine, and other
luxeries, I have long since given them up, and
my establishment is now like a mere rent-paying
farmer, struggling to pay by exertion of skill and
industry a high rent, which the rates and county
cess are on waste lands."

He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer)
might mention a still more melancholy case;
that of a gentleman, Colonel V. Jackson,
who for some time exerted himself with
the greatest success as a guardian of the
Swineford union. The sacrifices which
that gentlemen incurred, and the ruin
which came upon him in consequence,
obliged him to apply to the Poor Law
Commissioners for employment; they were
too happy to serve him; he was appointed
to a district in the south of Ireland,
where he proved himself to be a most efficient
officer; but he was sorry to say that
he very shortly caught a fever in visiting the
Ennis workhouse, and the country had been
deprived of his services by death. While
so many attacks were made - perhaps in
some cases with much justice - on the
gentlemen of Ireland, for attempts to evade
the liabilities of their position, he felt very
happy to take that opportunity of doing
justice to a nubleman whose name had been
mentioned on a former occasion in that
House with some blame. He meant the
Earl of Lucan. That nobleman had,he
was very glad to be able to say, devoted himself
with great success to the cultivation and
reclamation of the land. He had employed
a large number of people on his estates,
and had removed a portion of the remaining
population to America. His improvements
had been carried on over a great
tract of country in the Castlebar union,
and with every possible success. He (the
Chancellor of the Exchequer) would now
read to the House the conclusion of the
report from the inspector as to the Ballina
union. It had not yet been printed; but
he could assure the House that it was
well deserving of their attentions:-

    "In conclusion, I may state that up to the
present the rates have been comparatively light in
this union, but they have been as heavy as could
have been borne. As I before said, I am surprised
that they have been paid so well, considering the
state of the union - a state which I do believe
requires to be seen to be believed. At all events, I
have seen nothing to equal it, although I have no
doubt there are some of the neighbouring unions
just as bad. I do not attribute the present
insolvent state of the ratepayers to the amount of
rates which they have been called upon to pay;
neither do I attribute the present deplorable
condition of the recipients of relief to the potato
failure of last year. The ratepayers will, no doubt,
be benefited; but I do not believe that an
improved condition of the majority of the recipients
of relief is at all contingent upon the success of
the potato or any other description of crop. What
the latter classes require is the circulating
medium, without which they cannot honestly profit
by an abundance of food at any price. If the
labourers were inclined to work hard, and employers
were inclined and able to encourage them by paying
fair wages, there is more than an abundance
of profitable labour for every labourer in the union,
and the rates might be considerably reduced. At
present the labourers are badly able to work;
they have suffered so many hardships in various
ways, that a robust healthy-looking man is rarely
to be met with. Most of the landlords cannot
afford to pay for work: those who can are in
dread of the undefined prospect of rates; and,
with two or three exceptions, are doing as little
as they possibly can. Whether the future success
of the potato crop would enable and induce the
landlords to pay for fair wages for fair work, is, I
think, very doubtful. It appears to me the tendency
would be rather to return to the old state
of affairs, nothwithstanding the bitter experience of
the last three years. I can therefore, see no other
remedy for the present and probable state of the
union, but a great change and importation of
proprietors; and I think that moderate rates on
the average for a time will effect this sooner than
rates which cannot be paid, and whicjh will effectually
prevent any person worth having from settling
or investing capital in this union."

The rates in that union amounted to
2s. 10d.; but that fact gave a very inadequate
view of the real state of pressure
from taxation, for the rate in the pound on
many electoral divisions was much higher,
and in many it was almost impossible to
make any collection. He might continue this
description by referring to many other
parts of Ireland; but he thought it was
better for him to confine his remarks
to one or two of the unions; and he had
taken Ballina union as being one of the
worst in the country. He thought that he
had entered sufficiently upon the question
to show that in the present state of these
unions employment to a large extent, in
proportion to the remaining population,
might be given; but during suspension
of that employment, and in the present
depressed state of the unions, he would
ask, how was this country to stand by and
see thousands of their fellow-subjects starving,
and left without the means of supporting
life - a state of distress which would not
possibly be prevented by any local efforts
for some months to come. In the Ballina
union the last rate struck was between
16,000l. and 17,000l., and to the collection
of this large amount, so far as it had
gone, no obstruction had been offered, or
no evasion attempted, on the part of those
who were at all able to pay. But if hon.
Gentleman would turn to pages 14 and 15
of the returns, they would find that there
was a large proportion of the land waste,
and in which it was utterly impossible to
collect the rates by any means whatever.
He would read a few of the returns of the
defaulters, in order to show how they were
circumstanced, and whose condition
was but too truly described:-

    "Denis Bingham, esq., Binghamstown, 194l.
17s. 6«d. - There is an execution against Mr.
Bingham's body for the former rate due by him.
    "The Daniel Madden, esq., Ballycastle, 69l. 17s. 8d
These properties are nearly all waste; there is not,
I believe, 20l. worth of stock on them.
    "Mrs. William Bingham, Belmullet, 41l. 8s. -
Mrs. Bingham has hardly the means of supporting
herself. I understand some tenants, who possess
stock, have lately taken farms from her. The
collector will distrain the land as soon as he can
legally do so.
    "Mr. Short is in distressed circumstances. The
collector will serve a fifteen days' notice. There
is hardly anything on the lands.
    "Mr. Fowler died lately. There is hardly
anything on the lands."

In another case-
    "The lands are a complete waste."

As to several other cases, the observation
is -

    "These lands are nearly all waste. It would
be useless to take proceedings against any of the
parties; they have scarcely the means of
supporting themselves."

If hon. Members would now turn to page
21, they would see a list containing the
names of the twelve highest ratepayers
in the electoral division of Kilcrohane, in
the Bantry union; and it appeared that
out of those twelve there were only
four from whom there was the slightest
chance of obtaining payment, the remarks
in the other eight cases being, "Lands
waste; tenants run away; no distress;
tenants paupers;" and so on. He would
now refer the Committee to one more union
- the Clifden union. At page 45:-
    The net value of union...          œ19,986
    Ditto, at and under 4l. ...          7, 434
    Ditto, given up to landlords, not
      occupied, and now waste...         9,449
    Ditto, of holdings, the occupiers of
     which are so poor that it is
     impossible to recover rates from... 1,673
    These two last sums make 11,122l., being nearly
    eleven-nineteenths of the whole valuation
    unproductive as to rates."

Hon. Gentleman would see from these
statements that in the greater portion of
this electoral division it was utterly and
altogether impossible that the rates could
be expected. The facts of last year with
regard to many of the unions were conclusive
as to the present, because it was not
to be supposed that the conditions of these
unions would be better for this present year
than they were in the last. More of the
lands would be left waste, and the capacity
of those who paid in the unions be
diminished both in number and in power.
But if hon. Members would refer to page
10, they would see the expenditure in some
of those unions for the last year, and the
sums that had been collected. Assistance
had been given to those unions by the
Government, principally from the produce
of the voluntary subscription of the British
Association. If anybody would compare
the expense incurred in those unions,
together with the amount collected, and
the amount that it had been necessary
to advance, they would be convinced
that it was utterly impossible to obtain
from those unions the sums that
were required. In the union of Ballina the
amount required was 52,282l., and the
amount advanced in aid by the British
Association was 36,260l. He saw no
prospect that the sum required for the
relief of the poor would be less this year
than it was last. He had already stated
that 10,177l. had been collected last autumn
in the union of Ballina, which left a
deficiency of about 6,000l. More might
possibly be collected in the course of this
summer. But it was not easy at that
period of the year to make any great
collections; and even if they were able to double
the sum, it would be utterly inadequate to
the maintenance of life among the paupers
in the union. So also with Ballinrobe,
Castlebar, and the others. This state of
things, however, did not apply to Ireland
generally. The collection of poor's-rate
throughout the country had been very large.
If hon. Gentlemen would turn to the last page
of these papers, they would see, that taking
Ireland throughout, a very large part of
the rates had been collected. They must
remember that this was a new measure in
Ireland; and though he was not disposed
to be lenient where rates could be
collected, yet he felt that where it was
utterly impossible to collect them, that
House must come forward to their relief.
The amount of poor-rate collected in
Ireland was -
    In the year ending Sept. 29, 1846... œ371,846
            "      "          "  1847...  638,403
            "      "          "  1848...1,627,700
He thought that it would not be denied,
therefore, that great exertions had been
used, that rates had been collected to a
considerable amount, though  they certainly
were not adequate to the wants of the
poor. In nine-tenths of Ireland, he
believed, the people were perfectly capable
to pay the rates, as much so as they were
in England. That being the state of the
case, her Majesty's Government, after
various statements had been made to them
of what he had read were samples,
had come to the conclusion that it was
necessary to give assistance from the
public funds to those unions. He quite agreed

with those who thought that assistance
ought to be given under the most stringent
and rigorous supervision, as he, believed
that nothing but such regulations would
prevent the grant from being abused. He
was willing and anxious that the sums so
applied should be only given to prevent
starvation, to prevent loss of life to a
degree that would be perfectly  frightful.
The means by which he proposed to do
this was, not as last year, by a vote of
supply, but to take the money out of the
Consolidated Fund; and the reason why
he proposed such a course were these:
they had, in the first place, received a
sum of 78,000l., in repayment of advances
made of relief committees, that was to say,
they had received this from those unions
which were in a better condition than
others in Ireland, and to that extent
repaid their advances. In the next place,
of the sum that had been issued to Sir
John Burgoyne's Relief Committee they
were enabled to reserve 106,000l.,
independent of the sum of 100,000l., which he
had saved out of the same fund last year.
he had, therefore, been able to carry the
sun of 106,000l. to the account of the
Consolidated Fund. More than that, he
was happy to say that the revenue of the
country had so improved in the course of
the autumn, that he had every reason to
hope that the sum which he had thought
it necessary to borrow to meet the current
expenditure had not been required;
the current revenue would be found equal to
the expenditure of the year, and therefore
that sum was still in the Exchequer, as it
was not wanted to defray the expenditure
of the year. [Mr. GOULBURNasked what
was the total amount of the sums alluded
to?] Hon. Gentlemen would remember
he had stated last year that he had
reduced the expenditure within 292,000l.
of the estimated income of the year. He
believed now that the estimated income
would equal the expenditure. The sum
which was voted to what was calle Sir
John Burgoyne's Relief Commission was
1,700,000l. Of that sum, 106,000l, yet
remained, which might not unfairly be
considered available to the relief of the
distressed unions. In addition to that,
there was the 78,000l. repaid by certain
of the unions, making together an available
fund of 184,000l. And this sum was, it
must be understood, entirely exclusive of
the repayments for relief works, amounting
to about 39,000l., which for a certain
time would be available for the execution
of further works of similar description.
He proposed now to take a sum not exceeding
50,000l. from the Consolidated
Fund: he did not mean to say that that
was all that might be required in the
course of the year, but he thought it
would be inexpedient to name a larger
sum, because he thought it would excite
hopes and expectations which would be
unfavourable to the moral condition of the
people. He wished to obtain the sanction
od Parliament for that sum, leaving it with
them to grant or to withhold any future
sum which might appear to be necessary;
and of course, he must have the sanction
of the Legislature, and an Act of Parliament,
for every grant that was made.
The sum which he now proposed would
enable Government to afford assistance for
a certain time; and before any further grant
could be made, it would be his duty again
to come down to Parliament and to ask for
their sanction. the vote which he now
proposed to put into the Chairman's hands
was -

    "That the Commissioners of HerMajesty's
Treasury of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Ireland be authorised to direct the issue out
of the Consolidated Fund of the said United Kingdom
of any sum, not exceeding 50,000l., for affording
relief to certain distressed Poor Law Unions
in Ireland."

    MR. P. SCROPE apologised for
presenting himself so early in the debate; but
as this was a vote for the disbursing of
funds from the Imperial Exchequer, he
thought that an English Gentleman was
entitled to express his opinions upon the
subject. He thanked God to find that the
Government had discovered at length the
futility of relying upon the voluntary
exertions of the Irish landowners, who as a
body either would not, or could not, or at
any rate did not employ the people, or
apply a remedy which was fitted to
rescue them out of their present horrible
condition. He had placed a Motion on the
Paper to-day which he should now press in
the form of an Amendment to the present
Vote. He by no means dissented from the
proposition that it was necessary for the
Government to step in and advance public
money for the relief of these distressed
unions. He agreed with the right hon.
Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) that it was
impossible they could support themselves,
and the multitudes would die of starvation
unless they were supported by extraneous
aid. The difference between him and the
right hon. Gentleman was not as to the
source from whence the funds were to be
derived, but as to the mode in which it was
to be given; whether it was to be made an
absolute present to the people of those
districts, or whether it was to be given on
conditions which would ensure, in the first
place, that the money would be spent in
productive labour on the land; and, in the
second place, and as a consequence of that
productive employment, that the money so
advanced should be repaid from the land.
He knew many persons would say, "What!
repayments from Ireland! - nhow is that
to be expected? We have already lent
them 6,000,000l. [pounds?] or 8,000,000l.
[pounds?], and in
the course of six months afterwards we
were obliged to excuse the half of them,
and the recovery of the money from the
other half of them is highly problematical."
Now, he believed that these advances
would not be repaid if they were spent as
the last had been, in feeding paupers in
idleness. But he believed they would be
repaid if they were spent in the cultivation
of those rich and fertile lands which they
had heard were now lying waste. The
evil was, that when money was advanced,
the Irish gentlemen spent it upon anything
and nothing, because they never
expected that the sums were to be repaid.
But it would be a very different thing, if
the money was spent in the draining of
bogs, and bringing land into a reproductive
state. The proposition which he was
about to make to the House consisted of
two parts: first, that the money should be
advanced only upon loan, and that a strict
lien should be taken for it upon the rateable
property in the union; and, in the
second place, that the money so advanced
should be productively expended, not in
feeding idle paupers, whether in or out of
the workhouse, while the lands were lying
waste. The proposition appeared to him
to be so undeniable, that he could hardly
conceive how any one could object to it,
if it were not for the fact, that up to this
time for the last three years the system
pursued by the Government had been the
very reverse. The money was indeed
nominally lent, but it was really given,
and it was spent in the most unproductive
manner. Ablebodied labourers were

employed on works that were of no use whatever,
and the consequence was that the infirm
poor, who could not work, died in vast
numbers. Then came the system of soup
kitchens, which of course was unproductive
- 3,000,000 of people were fed in
that way, while about 700,000 ablebodied
paupers were left useless in the workhouses.
In some of the unions - those in
which the whole number of applicants could
not be accommodated - the inspectors had
recommended the principle of giving the
preference in admission to ablebodied men,
with whom, in several instances, the workhouses
were filled. What a condition for
a district to be reduced to - the greater portion
of the ablebodied labourers cooped up
in a workhouse, useless to themselves and
to society! In some districts the inspectors
had introduced, but only to a very
small extent, the principle of the self-supporting
system, and in these instances that
system had worked admirably. In the
Kilrush union the ablebodied paupers had
been employed upon the workhouse farm;
but this was a breach of the general rule
laid down by the Commissioners; but owing
to the intervention of Captain Kennedy,
the experiment was allowed to be tied.
Let the Government follow that example,
or let them imitate the Quakers of Mayo,
who had taken up about 500 acres of land
that had been left waste, and had produced
admirable crops from it. He did not care
whether they operated upon what was commonly
called "waste land," or upon land
which had been left waste. In either case,
by so employing the paupers of Ireland,
they interfered less with private property
and private industry than by employing
them in any other way. This would be an
immense advantage in a moral point of
view, and the expenses incurred would be
no heavier, than they were at present. The
only species of labour which the Commissioners
were willing, however, to sanction,
was stone-breaking within the workhouse.
What was the result of this system in an
economic point of view? He (Mr. P.
Scrope) had been assured by a gentleman
who was a witness to the fact, that upwards
of 100l. had actually been paid to
the  peasantry for breaking a heap of
stones, which, in the ordinary payment for
labour, would have cost only 30s. Surely
digging and building in the open air formed
as good a task as breaking stones within a
workhouse. He put it to the hon. Members
whether they would not execute with
great repugnance a work which they knew
to be unprofitable? Would they not look
upon it as a peculiarly offensive and
unthankful task? Would they not, in the
present instance, be inclined to consider
that the test of unprofitable labour was
nothing but a sort of punishment for being poor.
It was scarcely  necessary for him, after what
had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to refer
to the enormous resources which existed in
many Irish unions for the employment of
the pauper population. He might mention,
however, that in a group of eight
unions the expenditure for the relief of
the poor, ending September 1848, had
been 222,311l., while the rates collected
in these eight unions for the same period
amounted only to 44,195l., leaving an
amount of upwards of 160,000l., or four
times the amount of rates which had been
collected, to be made up by Government
grants, and by the exertions of the British
Association. In fact, the assistance thus
afforded amounted to a rate of 8s. 6d. in
the pound. This statement showed the
amount of distress in the unions in question.
Now then, on the other hand, what
were the resources of the unions in question?
The area of these eight unions was
2,228,000 acres. In the year 1847 the
extent of land, out of that great superficies
which was under cultivation - including in
the estimate all the meadow, grass, and, and
clover land - amounted only to 221,000
acres, being less than 1-10th of the whole
area, the remaining two millions of acres
being left in a state of absolutely unprofitable
waste. Thus it would appear that in
many cases 9-10ths of the area of the
unions for which the House was called on
to grant money was absolutely unproductive.
Now surely this fact was sufficient
to prove that money ought to be advanced
as loans, not as gifts. Granting money
without hope or prospect of repayment in
such circumstances as those to which he
was alluding, was actually putting a bonus,
not only upon mismanagement of the [poor-laws],
but upon mismanagement of land.
What reasons had they for supposing that
if this system were to go on the state of
matters would ever improve? They had
heard of vast tracts of land left waste,
from which no rates would or could be
extracted. Why, then, it was quite clear
that if they extracted rates from land
productively employed, and excused land not
in cultivation, the evil of which they
complained would spread, until every union
would become one unproductive waste.
What was the remedy which he proposed
to employ? It was, that the House
should insist upon those waste lands being
cultivated, and that the ablebodied paupers
should be employed for that purpose. Why
should not a measure be passed compelling
boards of guardians to expend, in this useful
and profitable way, the labour which
was now wasted? Such a plan would be
productive of no interference with private
industry or enterprise, as the land to be
thus cultivated would otherwise lie waste.
Let it never be lost sight of that they were
obliged to maintain an immense mass of
labour, whether they used it or not. Was
it not then better to employ it profitably
than to maintain it in useless idleness?
Let them look to the abuses to which the
present system gave rise. There was the
case of the Westport union. The inhabitants
of that union laetly applied to
Government for assistance, and Mr. Redington,
in his reply, sent them a debtor and
creditor account of their monetary relations
with Government, from which it appeared
that within the last two years they had
received 93,000l. of the public money in
grants, and 40,000l. in loans, making
133,000l. spent in the union to make up
the rates; while the ratepayers had only
raised and expended about 4,000l., or,
according to the Marquess of Sligo's account,
8,000l. Upon this subject, however, the
Marquess of Sligo's answer was -
  "It is not we of the Westport union who have
expended this money, but it is the Government
who have insisted on spending it unproductively,
and in the establishment of soup kitchens, the
consequence of which is that we are not able to
repay you your money, not able to maintain our
poor, and are getting less able to maintain them
every day."
He (Mr. Scrope) thought that the noble
Marquess had perfectly cleared himself by
that statement. 26,000 of the population
of the Westport union were at this moment
wasting the food that they ate, and
were prevented employing themselves by
the system which the Government adopted.
Now it was said by many that the system
which he was advocating was a Louis-Blanc
system; but, far from his proposal
resembling the schemes of the French theorist,
the only true parallel which could be
afforded to the workshops in Paris was the
case of the workhouses in Ireland, where
they were cooping up ablebodied labourers,
who wasted their energy in unprofitable
toil, or lived in a state of sloth, idly toasting
their shins by the fire. The system
was demoralising the people. It was
teaching them systematic idleness, instead
of industry. He (Mr. P. Scrope) had the
highest opinion of the industry and energy
with which the Irish people worked at ordinary
labour. No people under the sun
worked better. But they were being physically
and morally lowered and incapacitated
for labour by the present workhouse
system. It had, besides, a most
grievous effect upon the health of the
inmates. There were some places in which
the mortality amounted to a fourth of the
entire number of inmates in the course of
each week, so that they would be completely
emptied by death twelve times in
the course of each year. [The CHANCELLOR
of the EXCHEQUER: These were all the
deaths.] At all events the proportion of
deaths was frightful and horrible. The
Chancellor of the Exchequer had alleged
that the present state of the Irish people
was an abnormal one. If so, it required an
abnormal remedy. The right hon. Gentleman
seemed to be looking for the time
when a total change of the proprietary of
Ireland would take place. But when would
it take place? How long were they to
wait for it? He thought that something
should be tried as soon as possible; and
with the view of making a distinct proposition,
he would move an Amendment - to
add the following words to the Resolution
of the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor
of the Exchequer:-

    "But that no appropriation of Monies taken from
general Taxation be applied in aid of the Poor's-Rate
of Irish Unions, except on condition that its
repayment be secured by a lien on the ratable
property of the Union."
In conclusion, he should only say, that he
did not pretend to point out the exact
mode in which his proposition should be
carried out. He only asked that in some
way or another there should be a lien
given upon the land for the repayment of
loans, and that some means should be
taken by which productive employment
should be supplied to the Irish poor.
     The question having been put by the
    MR. CHRISTOPHER said, that the
House was again asked to vote relief to the
Irish poor out of English means. He stood
there as an English representative, and he
said he was not prepared to concur in such
a vote. When they considered that it was
only a very short time ago that this country
stept out of its usual course, and granted
no less than four millions of money to the
people of Ireland; when the House had
agreed to grant in the way of loan an
additional four millions to the people, a very
small portion of which had been repaid, and,
considering the state of the country, he
ventured to predict that a very small portion
would ever be restored to the Treasury;
when he considered the present state of
the labouring poor in this country; when
he considered that the workhouses were
rapidly filling with ablebodied paupers (he
could speak from a knowledge of his
own country); when the gaols were being
filled with mendicants, and when, in a gaol
in his own district, they were been obliged
to fit up the chapel to form dormitories
for the reception of those mendicants - how
was it possible for the people of England
to acquiesce in the present vote? It was
laid down as a rule, when the four millions
were granted, and when an additional four
millions were given as a loan for the relief
of the poor of Ireland, that in future Ireland
should maintain its own poor. Was
it not too much to ask the House now completely
to reverse that principle, and to
grant, out of the Consolidated Fund, a sum
of money for the relief of the poor of Ireland?
Although the grant was only
50,000l., apparently no very great grant,
yet the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor
of the Exchequer gave the House to understand
that he might possibly come forward
and ask for more. They must now stand
on this principle - was Ireland to maintain
her own poor, or were the people of England
to be called on annually to contribute
to the relief of their necessities? He (Mr.
Christopher) stood upon the original principle
laid down, and he would vote no
more money for relief to Ireland. He
preferred upon the present occasion the
Amendment proposed by the hon. Member
for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope), because it
opposed the grant, although it did not
express his opinions; but if any hon. Gentleman
would stand boldly upon the broad
principle of refusing any further grant to
Ireland, he should have his (Mr. Christopher's)
support. He ventured to predict,
also, that we should have the right hon.
Baronet detailing the same condition of
the people in many of the southern parts
of England. Anticipating such a state of
things, was it right to ask the House to
break through the principle which he
understood was established when they granted
a sum of money for the relief of Irish distress,
and tax the overtaxed people of
England? In reality the condition of the
people of England was beset with greater
difficulties than the Irish. The House
should recollect that the people of Ireland
paid no assessed taxes. They had no
income-tax; whilst in some districts in England
the poor-rates were heavier than they
were in the most distressed parts of Ireland.
He hoped the House would come to
the resolution that the people of Ireland
should in future be compelled to support
their own poor.
     MR. F. FRENCH said that, notwithstanding
the strong language of the hon.
Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Christopher),
the Imperial Parliament would always be
ready, if necessary, to make advances from
time to time for the relief of the people of
Ireland. He thanked the right hon. Baronet
(the Chancellor of the Exchequer) for his sympathy with the
western parts of
Ireland; but begged to tell him that it
was the Government's present specific, the
poor-law, which was destroying the farmer,
demoralising the peasantry, annihilating
the property of the landlords, and
which would not leave a vestige of the
capital expended by the Imperial Parliament
in that country in improvements.
He regretted the right hon. Baronet had
followed the bad example of attacking the
landlords of Ireland, and that he should
have quoted for that purpose the report of
Mr. Inspector Lang, a gentleman who had
only been stationed at the Bantry union a
month, and had, therefore, very naturally
mistaken the circumstances under which
the population was suffering. He considered
Mr. Lang's opinion as worthless;
and he thought the House would concur
with him, when they referred to page 21
of the report, and saw what was the opinion
of the vice-guardians of this very same
union, with which they had had a long and
intimate acquaintance. They stated that
the rate was willingly paid by those who
could pay; and that the landlords in some
cases allowed the entire rate, to enable the
tenants to pay. Was this, then, a fit district
to select for the reprobation of its
landlords? With regard to the credit
taken by the right hon. Baronet for the
beneficial operation of the poor-law during
times of distress, he denied its justice
altogether. He did not say the law aggravated
the present distress; but he denied
that it had ever alleviated it. Distress had
visited Ireland; but, after it had been
surmounted, it had never left the people in
the condition they now were. The law
had destroyed all the self-reliance of the
people. The poor-law had universally
failed in every portion of the kingdom
which required it; and it was only in districts
which did not require it that it stood
at all. In the north of Ireland - the most
prosperous part of the country - the poor-rate
was far above the average of England.
In the south of England the poor-rate was
1s. 10«d.; the average of all England was
only 1s. 6«d. [MR. CHRISTOPHER: I pay
5s. 8d. in the pound.] Yes, you may; but
I am right as to the average. But in Ireland
there is one very material consideration
always overlooked in these comparisons:
the value of the land has very much
decreased since those rates were laid, in
consequence of the failure of the potato
crop, and difficulty of getting rents at all.
If, then, he paid 5s. 8d. in the pound, it
was upon an imaginary pound. The 5s.8d.
was real, but the pound was altogether
imaginary. With regard to the mortality
in the workhouses, he would only, to place
the melancholy fact in as striking a light
as possible, state, that the deaths per
week in the workhouses of Ireland equalled
the mortality of London with its 2,000,000
of inhabitants. The following extract from
the abovementioned report relative to the
aid afforded to the distressed unions of the
west of Ireland, relative to the Bantry
union, and more particularly to the division
of Kilcrohane in that union, states, that
in the Kilcrohane division -

    "Tenants running away, having sold their
effects, and many overholding possession, rents
unpaid, lands waste, the gentry and people equally
distressed, famine increasing, and the taxation of
the poor-rate crushing the few who endeavour to
adhere to the land - everything in such a state as
will render the country a desert.
    "Within this year two rates have been struck
in this division; one at 3s. 10d.; another (now in
progress of collection) of 4s. 7d.; making 8s. 5d.
in the pound, on a valuation based on a false
foundation. It is true, a portion cannot be paid;
for many have abandoned their lands in apprehension
of utter ruin from its collection. A poor-rate
was never calculated to meet a famine which
arises from a total failure of the crop. The poor-rate
falls upon the land, which, in such an event,
produces nothing, and, by pressing on the resources
of the ratepayers, whose sole support is
derived from the soil, reduces all to one general
state of pauperism. The land, waste and deteriorated,
is again taxed: the landlord or immediate
lessor, who receives no rent, is held responsible,
and he suffers the cruel hardship of a double loss
- the loss of rent, and being compelled to pay for
what produces nothing. General ruin is impending;
and, even supposing other proprietors to
come in, they will labour under the same dire
difficulties, as, by a rigid administration of a law to
a famishing and populous country, you will ruin
the inhabitants, extirpate the gentry, and
desolate the land.
    "From constant observation on the condition
of the parties seeking admission to the workhouse,
from our intercourse with those within the House,
and from our frequent attendance, with the
relieving officers, at each of the electoral divisions,
we are of opinion that the most extreme misery
exists, as well in Kilcrohane as throughout the
entire union, and that the condition of the whole
people is immeasurably below what the most
heartless would consider the lowest depths of

This was a fair description, not only of
Kilcrohane, but of the entire of the west
of Ireland. The present poor-law had had
the effect of making the people rely on
eleemosynary aid. The hon. Member concluded
by objecting to the proposition, as
one of temporary relief, since the only
hope for Ireland was to stimulate her people
to rely solely on their own energies and
not on British alms.
    SIR JOHN WALSH could not remember
having been called upon to give a vote
on any question which involved so many
considerations of pain and difficulty as the
subject now engaging the attention of the
House. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor
of the Exchequer had strongly appealed
to the feelings of the House, and
had drawn an unexaggerated picture of
the appalling distress which was now prevailing
throughout the greater portion of
Ireland. It was important for the House
to recollect that they were not dealing with
small portions or obscure quarters of that
country, but to remember that, out of the
131 unions into which Ireland was divided,
twenty had been pronounced, by the Chancellor
of the Exchequer, to be in a state of
bankruptcy; that ten or eleven more of
those unions were in a state bordering upon
bankruptcy; and that there was reason to
believe that nearly one-fourth of the population
of the sister country were at this
moment involved in absolute ruin. The
question which the House was now dealing
with was not a light one; and the proposition
of the right hon. Baronet should receive
the most deliberate consideration.
The hon. Member for North Lincolnshire
(Mr. Christopher) had truly stated that
England herself was in no flourishing
state, that she could not boast of much
prosperity, that we had a deficient revenue,
and that many classes of our population
were themselves involved in deep distress
and suffering, and had to struggle against
great privations. He (Sir J. Walsh) fully
concurred in those remarks, and therefore
felt that it was the bounden duty of the
House, at this present moment, to exercise
the strictest vigilance over every sixpence
of the public money. In addition to the
natural difficulties which beset this question
of relief to the people of Ireland, it
should not be forgotten that political agitators
in this country practised the most
incendiary arts to prevent the rising of
money, even for the most legitimate purposes,
and for the most absolute and imperative
necessities of the Government,
and that therefore the course of Ministers
was made one of extreme difficulty. But
he believed that if that House wished to
preserve that moral force with the country
which should enable them to come to the
assistance of the Government, when assistance
was really required - to proffer that
support which might be thought absolutely
necessary for the support of the State - it
was imperative upon them to scrutinise a
proposition of the kind now before them,
and determine whether it was a just one.
In that spirit he would ask whether, with
the experience of past grants to Ireland,
fresh in the memory, there was a reasonable
ground for hope that the present
grant was either wise in itself, or would
prove beneficial to the people of that country?
The eight millions, so bountifully
voted by the House of Commons two years
ago, had excited little gratitude in the
people of Ireland; but that was because
the money had conferred no benefit.
He believed that Ireland was worse off,
in consequence of the application of
that money, and that it would be found
that by operation of that grant, society
had been disorganised, and the habits of
the population corrupted; that had
been scattered over the country, which,
because they were uncompleted, were rather
an injury than a benefit; and that the
countries had been saddled with a lasting
incumbrance of debt. Had the proposition
of the lamented Lord G. Bentinck been
carried into effect, event to a small extent
- had a portion of the money which the
noble Lord opposite raised been applied
to the purpose of emigration, and to the
removals of the pressure of a surplus population
- he (Sir J. Walsh) believed that Ireland
would have been in a much better
condition than that in which the House
now found it. What results did the Chancellor
of the Exchequer anticipate from
this measure? Did he expect that some
six months hence, after 50,000l., or four
times 50,000l., had been applied to the
alleviation of the Irish distress, that the
condition of Ireland would be substantially
improved? What was the probability of any
substantial amelioration? The right hon.
Baronet had described how, throughout
large districts, landlords were ruined, how
tenants had become bankrupt, how those who
had formerly possessed or occupied land were
now the recipients of relief. He had dwelt
upon the numbers who had emigrated,
and had referred to lands which were deprived
even of their ordinary cultivation.
Under these circumstances, and bearing
in mind what this country had already
done in the shape of relief to the people
of Ireland, how could the House anticipate
that the causes of Irish distress
would be permanently removed? He
begged earnestly to impress upon the
attention of the House the communication
to the Relief Commissioners from the guardians
of the Bantry union. The state of
things described in that communication
was not confined to that district, but might
be said to apply to the greater part of Ireland.
Would not the House, by granting
this sum, be making a fixed charge upon
the resources of the country? and was
there any hope that, by the means the
House was asked to adopt, we should
revive the industry of Ireland, and develop
those resources in that country which
were now either paralysed or lying dormant?
The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr.
P. Scrope) had failed to show the possibility,
under the pressure of this poor-law,
of developing the resources of the
country. The resources of Ireland, in
fact, were extinguished under this poor-law.
How did Ireland at present stand
with respect to that law? It was curious
to observe, that throughout that country
at this moment there were two poor-laws
in operation. There was the poor-law of
1838, and the poor-law of 1847. It was
a fault of the Legislature, that, adhering,
as it appeared to do, to the provisions of
the first law of 1838 as the groundwork
of its legislation, not venturing to repeal
or abrogate that law, it introduced by the
law of 1847 a power virtually to set that
of 1838 entirely aside, and that it vested
the initiative in the hands and the arbitrary
power of a body of commissioners who
were deputed to carry into effect the law
of applying the system of outdoor relief
to certain unions. What had been the
result of this system? The result had been
exhibited in the returns which formed part
of the appendix in the report - that in 23
unions of Ulster no outdoor relief was at
present required. Seven unions in
Munster were excepted from outdoor relief,
and three in Leinster. Outdoor relief
was established throughout Connaught.
In a great portion of many of the provinces
the system had obtained to a very
limited extent. It was very important, in
watching the working of this poor-law, to
ascertain what effects it had produced
where it had been in full operation. The
poor-law of 1847 had only been pushed to
its full extent - it had only bourne its legitimate
fruits in those provinces of Connaught
and parts of Munster in which
it was almost in universal operation. That
was the answer to those Gentlemen who
were so fond of drawing general averages,
and then saying that the poor-rates in
Ireland did not exceed those in force in
England. To understand the Irish Poor
Law properly, Ireland must be divided
into two parts, and we must watch the
separate effect of each of these two systems
of poor-law upon those parts of the
country respectively under their operation.
He (Sir J. Walsh) would repeat
what had fallen from the hon. Member for
Roscommon (Mr. F. French), that the
valuation was taken upon what was the
value of the property previous to the
imposition of this poor-rate - previous to the
failure of the potato crop - previous to the
immense destruction of the value of all
property which had followed since these
events - and that, in point of fact, the
valuation, which was in the first place a
moderate valuation, and amounted to the
rent of the farms, exceeded it now two-fold.
The great evil to be guarded against
in any system of poor-laws, was an undue
pressure upon industry and enterprise.
He felt compelled to designate the proposal
of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer
as a miserable attempt to palliate
a great evil; and if the right hon. Gentleman
thought he could meet the march of
this  destructive desease of pauperism by a
grant of 50,000l., he was much mistaken.
If the House once entered upon the path
proposed, they would be compelled to take
further steps in the same direction. If
once they went the length of saying that
they would support the destitution of Ireland,
the whole pauper population of that
country would be thrown upon the Imperial
Treasury. He should like to hear
from the Government whether, in the event
of this grant being sanctioned by the
House as a temporary expedient, they intended
to make it a permanent source of
relief? He should certainly like to know
their general intentions with respect to
these poor-laws. The right hon. Baronet
the Secretary for Ireland (Sir W.
Somerville) had the other night moved
for a Committee; and he (Sir J. Walsh)
must confess that he could not remember
any Motion of similar importance
to have introduced in so meagre
a shape, or with so little information bearing
upon it. The right hon. Gentleman
seemed merely to say, "You asked us
for a Committee last year, which we
refused; if we grant it this Session we will
keep it in our own hands." At all events,
the House well knew of what pliable materials
Committees upstairs were made, and
how ready they were to shelve any measure
which the Government might not like
to bring to light. The right hon. Baronet
the Secretary of State for the Home
Department had certainly been a little more
explicit, and had, in answer to the questions
of the hon. Gentleman the Member
for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford), afforded
some index to the views of the Government.
He (Sir J. Walsh) understood
the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) to
have said that the Government intended to
adhere to the main provisions of the law
as it at present existed, and to have intimated
that, although as absolute perfection
could not be expected in any system of
poor-laws, the ingenuity of the Committee
upstairs might possibly suggest some
improvements in the details of the law as
it at present stood, yet that in all its
leading provisions the present law was to
be adhered to, and maintained by the
Government. Now, he (Sir J. Walsh)
was convinced that unless great modifications
were introduced into the working
of the poor-law, and unless it was
subjected to a thorough revision, to be
approached by that House under the spirit
and deep persuasion that it had committed
great mistakes, and was called upon, in
the first place, to reconstruct the remedial
measure brought in two years ago, the  law
as it at present stood would pauperise the
whole of the country. He felt persuaded
that the pressure on the springs of industry,
and the confiscation and destruction of
property that now went on, were such that
no reasonable hope could be entertained of
any improvement in the state of Ireland
whilst the present state of the law was
allowed to continue. The right hon. Baronet
the Chancellor of the Exchequer
seemed to claim that some sort of progress
towards a better state of things had been
attained, because a considerable amount of
devastation had occurred at some of these
unions. He appeared to argue on the
principle that matters must first come to
their worst before they can grow any better.
Having established, as he (Sir J.
Walsh) thought, very clearly that matters
in many unions had got as nearly to their
worst as they could be, the right hon. Gentleman
seemed to draw the inference that
they must therefore be approaching to
something very like an improvement.
Now, he confessed he could not comprehend
the force of the right hon. Baronet's
reasoning; nor could he either understand
by what process of argument the hon.
Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope)
arrived at the conclusion that if they threw
an amount of rating on the waste lands,
and if that rating remained as a charge on
these lands, supposing any cultivator to be
enterprising enough to bring them ag