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House resumed. Bill reported, and ordered to be reprinted.
Poor-law (ireland).] The Order of the Day for resuming the adjourned debate on the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill, was read.
Viscount Melbourne moved, that the bill do now pass, when
The Marquess of Londonderry said, it was not his intention to take up their Lordships' time by entering into any discussion either of the principle or of the details of the bill in its present advanced stage; but he thought it was highly desirable that those noble Lords who, like himself, were opposed to the measure, should have an opportunity of recording, by a final vote, their opinions in regard to that most important measure. He considered the bill, after the full consideration which their Lordships had given it, and notwithstanding all the amendments which had been made in its various clauses, to be still highly objectionable; and, indeed, he thought, that the amended bill was worse than the bill which had been sent up to them from the other House of Parliament. Entertaining such sentiments, and persuaded that the bill, instead of being productive of good, would be productive of the greatest evils, he felt bound to give it every opposition in his power; but, at the same time, he felt that it would be in extremely bad taste, after the discussion which the measure had already undergone, and the attention which their Lordships had given to its details, to take up their time on the present occasion. Ireland was almost unanimous in its opposition to this measure, and every class of persons looked to the passing of the bill with the greatest alarm. Both landlords and tenants, as well as the poor themselves, were opposed to the bill; and he deeply regretted, that his noble Friend (the Duke of Wellington) bad not adopted a different course, and given his decided opposition to the measure. Feeling that the measure was pregnant with evil, and not calculated to yield any advantage to Ireland, he begged leave to move that the bill be rejected.
The Earl of Limerick aiso opposed the bill. No person had petitioned the Legislature to pass such a measure, and Ireland was almost unanimous in opposing the bill. Almost all the grand juries had petitioned against it, and every person of
influence was opposed to it. He could tell their Lordships, that Ireland was at present in a state of ferment on the subject of this bill, and if it were passed, he feared, the greatest evils would result in consequence. He called upon the Irish landlords in that House, to oppose this highly objectionable measure, and he entreated them not to allow themselves to be swayed by party feelings, or to give their sanction to a measure which could not be attended with any beneficial effects. In the other House of Parliament, a large majority of the Irish representatives had given their votes against the bill, and as the people of Ireland, were almost unanimous in their opposition to the measure, he trusted, that time would be afforded for its further consideration, and that it would not be pressed through the House at that period of the night, and at that advanced period of the Session.
The Marquess of Clanricarde wished also to record his disappointment that the measure had come out of the Committee as bad as before it went in. The bill was a complete poor-law; all the benefits, if they would, of a poor-law, and all the evils, if evils there were, were to be found in it; it was a complete and perfect poor-law, settlement and all; and he objected to it, because it was a bad law to introduce into a country where it did not already exist, for it was held by the best authorities, and by the most practical men, that a poor-law—he did not allude to medical or other charities— was detrimental to the moral, the social, and the physical, condition of the people among whom it was introduced. He objected to it also because if it were introduced at all, the taxation ought not to be limited exclusively to one class of property; and, moreover, he objected to it because it conferred powers on the commissioners with which the servants of the Crown in this country, even in good times, were never invested, and which it was unwise now to give to any persons in Ireland; and those powers were more especially objectionable there, because the people of Ireland, with very few exceptions, were against the system altogether. They had been told, that the bill would work, and noble Lords had spoken with confidence of the machinery for working it; but it was not to be worked, like a watch or a steam engine by certain fixed machinery, it was lo be worked by the people, and it would never work well, or effectually, unless it were taken up cordially by them. Their Lordships could not expect to see it succeed when the people of all classes— both the common people who were to receive, as well as those who were to pay, the rates, and who had' a direct interest in the well-being of the labourers—were united in reprobating this bill. Against it, therefore, he would vote, though he did not trust or believe, that in that the last stage, they would be able to stop a measure which was bad, not only for what it did, but also for what it would prevent being done. It would put an end to all public improvements on a great scale. It would be considered as a full measure of relief to the poor, and for the next four or five years no more assistance would be furnished than was provided by this bill.
The Earl of Mountcashel protested against this dangerous and destructive measure, which he believed would bring rebellion and revolution upon the country, and he called upon the House to pause before it passed a bill fraught with such serious consequences. The bill was disapproved of by all classes in Ireland, and with the enormous amount of pauper population existing there, it would be impossible to carry it out in the spirit of its enactments. The farmers in that country were so poor, that they had only the value of the labour of their own haods; they could not, therefore, pay rates, and the effect would be, that the rates would fall on the landlords; but how could the landlords pay them? Many of them now had barely sufficient to maintain themselves. The landlords then objected to the bill, and not only the landlords, but all classes in Ireland, objected to it; the lower orders were as much opposed to it as the higher. It was, in fact, an English bill, and forced by the English upon the Irish landlords. They could not thank noble Lords for it, neither would Ireland thank them for it; and when the Irish thought upon the measure, their feelings would be less kind towards England than they now were. The poor-law commissioners, indeed, stated, that the population, unable to obtain subsistence by work for thirty-two weeks in the year, amounted to 2,385,000; and their relief, at 3/. a head, would take more than the
'whole rental of Ireland. Besides this, there were to be the expenses of building the workhouses, of furnishing them, the salaries of the officers and of the chaplains, the expenses of witnesses, and a rating for the purposes of emigration and of surveys. The building of workhouses alone would amount to upwards of a million ; and, the commissioners, he believed, admitted, that the whole amount of expense incurred, would not be less than four millions. He would conclude by repeating, that if ever there were a question brought forward by Parliament likely to produce rebellion, this was that measure. The radicals and the Conservatives, the rich and the poor, in Ireland, were all opposed to it; and his only consolation was, that as the people and the priests united—although opposed by the landlords, yet assisted by Mr. O'Conuell, had been successful in their opposition to tithes—they would equally succeed now, when not only the priests and the people, but also O'Connell, the Conservatives, and the Protestants of Ireland, were united under such circumstances, he might defy her Majesty's Ministers to bring the bill into successful operation in Ireland. There was no country where they better knew the use of passive resistance; there was no country in which agitation was so well understood; both these means would be brought into full play, and if their Lordships passed the bill, he was convinced that it would have no effect. Meetings would be held, the people would not elect guardians, passive resistance would be resorted to, they would show England that she could not impose such a bill on Ireland, and even if the army were doubled it would not be able to keep the peace.
Lord Brougham had so often had an opportunity of discussing this question, and he had now so little of the hope which cheered the noble Marquess (Londonderry), and had so little assurance of doing anything effectual in that stage, that he had hesitated, whether it were worth while to give his Lordship the discomfort, or himself the labour, to touch upon the various heads, however shortly, upon the present occasion; nor would he at all have ultimately made up his mind to say a few words on that stage, unless he thought that he might seem, by his silence, to have altered his opinion, or to have abated one jot of his objection to the bill, or that the alterations or amendments which had been introduced in the committee on bringing up the report, or even on the third reading of the bill, had at all mitigated his aversion. In order to avoid such a construction, he would shortly state, that he still entertained the same rooted objections to the bill which he felt when it was first broached, which all subsequent consideration, and the arguments which had been used in its favour, had only tended to confirm, not only his individual objections, but the objections entertained all over Ireland; where the repugnance and dislike, were not at all abated. He greatly differed, however, from a remark which his noble Friend had thrown out in one of the interlocutory conversations in which, during the passing of the bill, as well as in the regular debate, the measure had been discussed, and in which his noble Friend seemed to undervalue the merits of the poor-law commissioners in England. Their selection of functionaries under the English bill, founded an additional claim on the part of the board in England, to the gratitude of the public; for the selection of fit and proper persons to fill the offices in the State, was of the utmost importance. But as it was said of a great princess, " it was never found"— in answer to some one who had said, that by great good luck she had been served by able Ministers—" it was never found, that a weak prince was served always, although by chance he might be once served, by able statesmen." The choice of a proper public servant conduced more than one-half towards good government, and in the choice of Mr. Gulson, and indeed all the assistant commissioners, were, more or less, well chosen—all had, more or less, well discharged the duties of the important office—had done credit to the English commissioners, and had added to their claims upon the people. The whole country acknowledged, that no men had a more difficult task to perform, considering the nature of the case, and considering the multitudes with whom they had to deal— multitudes enraged by misrepresentations, with their minds so perverted by slander and by inflammatory topics urged at public meetings, as to leave the judgment no scope—than this difficult and mostdelicate of all the tasks intrusted to ihe hands of the commissioners, and of all the powers conferred upon them. But by the judgment they had displayed, tempered as it
was with firmness and discretion, and above all, characterised by uniform moderation, by their long suffering under the attacks to which they had been exposed, not recoiling from those attacks, and yet not running forward; for it was as bad in such matters as in the field, to rush forward before the time for operations began; they had never been shaken in their intentions, they had never stirred before the time when it would have been criminal to have longer remained inactive; they had lived down, and acted down slander; and they had obtained, what they were from the beginning entitled to, the uniform, the general, the almost universal approbation of their fellowcitizens. Having thus referred to the commissioners, he would advert to the subject of the bill itself. And first, he objected altogether to the analogy drawn from England to Ireland; and if he wanted a proof that this analogy did not hold, he would appeal to the noble Lord opposite, who had stated, what indeed other noble Lords, and in his own communications had confirmed, that the highest and lowest ranks of society in Ireland, that all persons without distinction of politics, without variation of sect, Catholic and Protestant, layman and Priest, Radical and moderate —if, indeed, in Ireland there could be, which he humbly begged leave to doubt, such a thing as a moderate party—Radical and Whig, orange and green, and not only those who depended upon labour, but the poor themselves, objected to this pretended boon; one class, because of the burthen, which they considered a curse, and the other class because they considered it a sham and a pretence, and anything rather than a remedy for the evils of their situation. What, on the contrary, was the case in England? The new poor-law here was unpopular with one class—with the jobbers in the vestries and the jobbers in the workhouses, who naturally objected to suffer loss. It was disliked by the idle, the lazy, and the dissolute, who could work, and who could obtain work, but who would rather live on the charity of others than support themselves. It was passed, indeed, against the wishes, the apprehensions, the squeamish opinions, and the perverted tastes of these classes, for labour was not unnatural to man, it was the result of the original curse; but, in man's fallen state, it carried its sweets along with it, and it was a per« verted taste rather to live on the labour of others than lo work for bread. With the exception of these classes, limited in numbers, and with influence almost nothing, and with the exception of some few organs of the public press, who pandered to the feelings to which he had adverted —with these exceptions, the English bill was approved by the judgment, it was sanctioned by the experience, it was adopted as the result of deliberate inquiry, and it was pleasing as well to the honest, the virtuous, and the laborious, as it was to the upper and middle classes in the State. Above all, that bill found an uniform, a steady, and a cordial support from all classes to whose hands the practical execution of the measure was necessarily intrusted. Was that the case in Ireland? Nothing of the kind. The majority of the men to whom the execution must be intrusted were banded together against it: they abjured, they abhorred, they detested it. They said, "Give us any thing but this bill, if you mean to do good to Ireland." For the purpose of his argument, these persons might be wrong; this might be all a delusion, a fallacy—nay, it might be a string of fallacies and a succession of dreams; but unless they showed him that the nature of the Irish character was such that one month or six months of firm reflection would alter their strongest feelings, or warp their preconceived notions—except they showed him something in the Irish mind, and not only in the Irish heart, as well as in the understanding, some proneness to a difference from the more steady men in the north (although he did not believe that there was such a material difference between them), that the mere passing of the law, that the mere utterance of the words La reine le vent," would all at once convert these opposers, he would not say into active co-operators, but into calm and indifferent spectators, and that it would prevent resistance unless they showed him all that, though he anticipated no such miracle,the bill could never successfully operate. They talked of mechanism and of machinery, of springs and of checks, of similies (as was well observed by a noble Lord) drawn from mechanics; they talked as though, by the royal assent, they would get the steam-engine, but they forgot that they had not got the wheels and the piston and the regulator, unless, indeed, the commissioners were to act as the governor or regulator, and that the motive power
would nevertheless be the feelings of men, men actuated by the prejudices and the feelings of human nature, and these men Irishmen, who, he would say, following the noble Lord and his own sources of information, were like one man bandied together against the execution of the measure. The structure of the machine, however, seemed to have been doubted by the engineer, for he found in the bill the celebrated 26th sectiou, in which, after the previous regulations for the election of guardians, power was given to the commissioners to be used without any control; and here an observation or two might be made, only that they were so many that they would not be able to see the wood for the branches of the tree, that he was indisposed to enter upon them. The commissioners were trusted with the unrestrained power of appointing at their discretion as many paid officers as they pleased, provided that they were only to be in office for one year. If they wanted guardians, the commissioners might order a new election; and if that order were not complied with, they might exercise an unlimited power of appointing an unknown number, and of apportioning an unstinted salary. He had heard it stated, that there had been upwards of 7,000 applicants for appointments under this bill in Ireland already. Heaven help ihe unhappy commissioner who had to proceed to Dublin to have the whole power of the board intrusted to his hands, and to make these appointments at his good will and pleasure! He could not figure to himself a more awful scene than the levee of that gentleman in Dublin, as soon as the 26th section should be about to be put into force. He could imagine nothing more awful than beholding that Gentleman surrounded by these 7,000 cormorants for office. To attend to the working of the bill? To receive and attend to the instructions from Somerset-house! To read the bill even! He could not conceive the commissioner to do anything of the kind, for he would not have anything else to do for a time, than to answer these applications. The first thing required of him would be to put the 26lh#section into force. He would most likely, however, put up a notice stating, that it was not his intention to put that section into force. Then would follow an universal Ud" through Ireland to call it into" the meanwhile persons would
make a choice of guardians. This would arise partly from a dislike of the bill, and partly from a liking of the patronage. The 7,000 applicants would very soon increase to 10,000, and the retreat of that 10,000, would no doubt soon have to be recorded. So that between the two causes operating, the consequence would ba, sooner or later, that the floodgate would be opened, the 26th section would be put in force, and the appointment of stipendiary and paid agents would take place almost all over Ireland. It had been uniformly stated, by all the friends and advocates of this measure, that its success entirely depended on its becoming agreeable to the people of Ireland, by the aid of whom alone it could be carried into execution. The subject had undergone many discussions in both Houses of Parliament: many able speeches, though not very convincing ones, had been delivered, and many spirit-stirring and effective appeals to the passions had been made in its favour; much had been written for it; and, above all, the authority of Parliament in many divisions had been interposed in support of it. There was a great difference between England and Ireland in this respect; namely, that in England, the effect of a large majority on a division in either House of Parliament, and more especially in the representative House, was at once to put down a very strong popular feeling, and to give currency to the opinion of those who composed that majority. That was the case in England; but it was not so in Ireland. The mute eloquence of numbers had no more weight in Ireland than the vocal eloquence of the tongue had had in swaying the feelings, or than the argumentative efforts of the supporters of the bill appeared to have had in persuading the reason and leading the judgment of that portion of the United Kingdom. He believed, from the latest information he had received, that there was a more strong, a more decided, and a more general opinion against that measure, and a greater repugnance to it now than years ago, before one speech, one debate, one argument, or one division had been made oOtaken upon it. He, therefore, looked upon it as hopeless of obtaining fit instruments for its proper and due working in that country; for the people of Ireland were much less likely to turn round and change their opinions upon the subject, seeing that those opinions were
right. As to the workhouse system, to which he had on a former occasion adverted, it was still his opinion that that system would be as strongly opposed by the people in Ireland as ever it had been in this country. It had been said, that there was to be no out-door relief. But he believed nothing of the kind. He did not see how it was possible, as long as men were men, for the commissioner—above all, the guardians, whom he did not expect to see working, or the paid officers, whom he did expect to see covering and blackening the land—to resist the feelings of natural kindness, by the almost necessary compunction of which they would be impelled, if not compelled, to break through the principle of the bill, and give out-door relief. He had said somewhat of the state of Ireland, and of the character of that people, and had alluded to the evidence which they had of the extreme hatred which was borne by them to this measure. God knew, he had but little knowledge beyond that of hearsay of their character, and he confessed he ought to speak with still more distrust of his information and of his opinion with respect to their feelings in reference to this bill, than even of their character as a people; for never did he know a more puzzling, a more bewildering case than almost everything, in point of fact, relating to the circumstances and situation of this system. Upon all other subjects, one day assertions the most positive, the most specific, and made with the most undoubted and unhesitating confidence, were brought forward as to the state of Ireland; another day, and from the same quarter, to make it the more puzzling, statements diametrically the reverse, were put forth. One in whom he was led to confide, with all their Lordships, had said, that there never had been a state of tranquillity so complete—never prosperity so unbroken—never so little crime—never so few outrages—never such undisturbed peacefulness, as reigned over the kingdom of Ireland during the administration of his noble Friend, the present Chief Governor of that country. How were his praises - and how justly—sung forth by eloquent tongues out of doors, and by yet more eloquent tongues within the walls of both Houses of Parliament. Grateful to him it was, to hear those praises; and he felt still higher gratification in joining his voice in chorus with