'Unholy is the voice Of loud thanksgiving over slaughtered men.'
It becomes us not to rejoice, but to be humbled, that a chastisement so terrible should have fallen upon any of our race; but we may be thankful for this—that this chastisement was at least not sent in vain. The great triumph in the field was not all; there came after it another great triumph—a triumph over passion, and there came up before the world the spectacle, not of armies and military commanders, but of the magnanimity and mercy of a powerful and victorious nation. The vanquished were treated as the vanquished, in the history of the world, have never before been treated. There was a universal feeling in the North that every care should be taken of those who had so recently and marvellously been enfranchised. Immediately we found that the privileges of independent labour were open to them, schools were established in which their sons might obtain an education that would raise them to an intellectual position never reached by their fathers; and at length full political rights were conferred upon those who a few short years, or rather months before, had been called chattels, and things, to be bought and sold in any market. And we may feel assured, that those persons in the Northern States who befriended the negro in his bondage will not now fail to assist his struggles for a higher position. May we not say, reviewing what has taken place—and I have only glanced in the briefest possible way at the chief aspects of this great question—that probably history has no sadder, and yet, if we take a different view, I may say also probably no brighter page? To Mr. Garrison more than to any other man this is due; his is the creation of that opinion which has made slavery hateful, and which has made freedom possible in America. His name is venerated in his own country—venerated where not long ago it was a name of obloquy and reproach. His name is venerated in this country and in Europe wheresoever Christianity softens the hearts and lessens the sorrows of men; and I venture to say that in time to come, near or remote I know not, his name will become the herald and the synonym of good to millions of men who will dwell on the now almost unknown continent of Africa.
But we must not allow our own land to be forgotten or depreciated, even whilst we are saying what our feelings bid us say of our friend beside me and of our other friends across the water. We, too, can share in the triumph I have described, and in the honours which the world is willing to shower upon our guest, and upon those who, like him, are unwearied in doing good. We have had slaves in the colonial territories that owned the sway of this country. Our position was different from that in which the Americans stood towards theirs; the negroes were far from being so numerous, and they were not in our midst, but 4,000 miles away. We had no prejudices of colour to overcome, we had a Parliament that was omnipotent in those colonies, and public opinion acting upon that Parliament was too powerful for the Englishmen who were interested in the continuance of slavery. We liberated our slaves; for the English soil did not reject the bondsman, but the moment he touched it made him free. We have now in our memory Clarkson, and Wilberforce, and Buxton, and Sturge; and even now we have within this hall the most eloquent living English champion of the freedom of the slave in my friend, and our friend, George Thompson. Well, then, I may presume to say that we are sharers in that good work which has raised our guest to eminence; and we may divide it with the country from which he comes. Our country is still his; for did not his fathers bear allegiance to our ancient monarchy, and were they not at one time citizens of this commonwealth? and may we not add that the freedom which now overspreads his noble nation first sprang into life amongst our own ancestors? To Mr. Garrison, as is stated in one of the letters which has just been read, to William Lloyd Garrison it has been given, in a manner not often permitted to those who do great things of this kind, to see the ripe fruit of his vast labours. Over a territory large enough to make many realms, he has seen hopeless toil supplanted by compensated industry; and where the bondman dragged his chain, there freedom is established for ever. We now welcome him amongst us as a friend whom some of us have known long; for I have watched his career with no common interest, even when I was too young to take much part in public affairs; and I have kept within my heart his name, and the names of those who have been associated with him in every step which he has taken; and in public debates in the halls of peace, and even on the blood-soiled fields of war, my heart has always been with those who were the friends of freedom. We welcome him, then, with a cordiality which knows no stint and no limit for him and for his noble associates, both men and women; and we venture to speak a verdict which, I believe, will be sanctioned by all mankind, not only by those who live now, but by those who shall come after, to whom their perseverance and their success shall be a lesson and a help in the future struggles which remain for men to make. One of our oldest and greatest poets has furnished me with a line that well expresses that verdict. Are not William Lloyd Garrison and his fellow-labourers in that world's work—are they not
'On Fame's eternal bead-roll worthy to be filed?'
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MAYNOOTH GRANT. HOUSE OF COMMONS, APRIL 16, 1845. [On April 3rd Sir Robert Peel proposed a Resolution for the improvement of Maynooth College, the grant to consist of 26,000l. per annum. It was suggested by some speakers, that the act would justify the endowment of the Roman Catholic priesthood, and Lord John Russell asserted that such a plan would be a larger, more liberal, and more statesmanlike measure. Others objected to the grant on theological grounds, others for the reason that it was a step towards endowing another Church Establishment in Ireland. The Resolution was carried by 216 to 114. The debate on the Bill was resumed on April 10th, and was continued on April 14th and 16th. The second reading was carried on the last day by 323 votes to 176; on May 2nd the Bill passed through Committee. It was opposed again on bringing up the Report, on May 5th, and was finally passed on May 21st, by 317 to 184. The Bill, after opposition, passed in the Lords on June 10th.]
I am anxious to make a few observations on the principle on which I shall give my vote; because I shall be obliged to pass into the lobby along with a number of Members of the House from whose principles I entirely dissent; and after the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Bandon, I think that any one who votes with him has need to explain why he votes on his side, for anything more unlike the principles of the present day, more intolerant, or more insane with respect to the policy to be pursued towards Ireland, I have never heard; and I could not have believed that any man coming from that country could have used such language in addressing this House. I do not think that this question is to be looked at in a favourable or unfavourable light because of the party from which it comes. Some hon. Members have charged the right hon. Baronet with inconsistency, and have in some degree thrown the blame of his conduct on the measure which he has introduced. The right hon. Baronet has, from unfortunate circumstances, been connected in Opposition with a party of such a nature, that he could never promote any good measure whilst in power without being charged, and justly, with inconsistent conduct. But I will look at the measure as a measure by itself, and if it be a good measure I will vote for it as willingly, coming from the present Government, as if it came from the Government which preceded it. But I object to this measure on the ground that it is proposed to vote some of the public taxes for the purpose of maintaining an institution purely ecclesiastical, and for the rearing and educating of the priests of a particular sect. I am the more strongly against the Bill, because, from all that has been said on both sides of the House, and from all that I can learn from the public papers, and even from the organs of the Government, I am convinced that there is no argument which has been used in defence of this measure, which would not be just as valid for the defence of further measures, not for the payment of Catholic priests of the College of Maynooth only, but for the payment of all the priests in Ireland or in England. I admit that the principles and the arguments which have justified the original vote are good to some extent to justify this vote. The right hon. Baronet in his opening speech has stated that the principle was conceded, that it is but a matter of a few thousand pounds. But if the principle were conceded now, ten or twenty years hence some Prime Minister might stand up and state that in 1795 the principle was conceded, and in 1845 that concession—or rather, that principle—was again sanctioned; and then, arguing from the two cases, it would be easy to demonstrate that it was no violation of principle whatever to establish a new Church in Ireland, and add thereby to the monstrous evils which exist there now from the establishment of one in connection with the State. The right hon. Baronet has paid no great compliment to the Irish Catholics in the possession of means and property, when he has said that the 9,000l. now voted is just sufficient to damp the generosity of the people of that country. If 9,000l. were enough in some degree to check their generosity, I should think that a sum of 26,000l. is sufficient to destroy it altogether. When I consider that the Catholic gentry of Ireland pay no Income Tax and no Property Tax, and no Assessed Taxes, I do not think it would be a thing altogether impossible, or to be unlocked for, that they should have supported an establishment for the rearing of priests to teach that religion to which they profess to be so much devoted.
But the object of this measure was just as objectionable to me when I learned that it was intended by this vote to soothe the discontent which exists in Ireland. I will look at the causes whence this discontent arises. Does it arise because the priests of Maynooth are now insufficiently clad or fed? I have always thought that it arose from the fact that one-third of the people are paupers—that almost all of them are not in regular employment at the very lowest rate of wages—and that the state of things amongst the bulk of the population is most disastrous, and to be deplored; but I cannot for the life of me conceive how the grant of additional money to Maynooth is to give additional employment, or food, or clothing to the people of Ireland, or make them more satisfied with their condition. I can easily see how, by the granting of this sum, the Legislature may hear far less in future times of the sufferings and wrongs of the people of Ireland than they have heard heretofore; for they may discover that one large means of influence, possessed by those who had agitated for the redress of Irish wrongs, is to be found in the support which the Irish Catholic clergy has given to the various associations for carrying on political agitation; and the object of this Bill is to tame down those agitators— it is a sop given to the priests. It is hush-money given, that they may not proclaim to the whole country, to Europe, and to the world, the sufferings of the population to whom they administer the rites and the consolations of religion. I assert that the Protestant Church of Ireland is at the root of the evils of that country. The Irish Catholics would thank you infinitely more if you were to wipe out that foul blot, than they would even if Parliament were to establish the Roman Catholic Church alongside of it. They have had everything Protestant—a Protestant clique which has been dominant in the country; a Protestant Viceroy to distribute places and emoluments amongst that Protestant clique; Protestant judges who have polluted the seats of justice; Protestant magistrates, before whom the Catholic peasant could not hope for justice. They have not only Protestant, but exterminating landlords, and more than that, a Protestant soldiery, who, at the beck and command of a Protestant priest, have butchered and killed a Catholic peasant, even in the presence of his widowed mother. All these things are notorious; I merely state them. I do not bring the proof of them: they are patent to all the world, and that man must have been unobservant indeed who is not perfectly convinced of their truth. The consequence of all this is, the extreme discontent of the Irish people; and because this House is not prepared yet to take those measures which would be really doing justice to Ireland, and to wipe away that Protestant Establishment which is the most disgraceful institution in Christendom; the next thing is, that they should drive off the watch-dogs, if it be possible, and take from Mr. O'Connell and the Repeal Association that formidable organization which has been established throughout the whole country, through the sympathies of the Catholic priests being bound up with the interests of the people. Their object is to take away the sympathy of the Catholic priests from the people, and to give them more Latin and Greek. The object is to make the priests in Ireland as tame as those of Suffolk and Dorsetshire. The object is, that when the horizon is brightened every night with incendiary fires, no priest of the paid Establishment shall ever tell of the wrongs of the people amongst whom he is living; and when the population is starving, and pauperised by thousands, as in the southern parts of England, the priests shall not unite themselves with any association for the purpose of wresting from an oppressive Government those rights to which the people have a claim.
I am altogether against this system for any purpose, under any circumstances, at any time whatever. Nothing can be more disastrous to the best interests of the community, nor more dangerous to religion itself. If the Government wants to make the priests of Ireland as useless for all practical purposes as the paid priests of their own Establishment, they should not give them 26,000l. merely, but as much as they can persuade the House to agree to. Ireland is suffering, not from the want of another Church, but rather because she already has one Church too many; for with the present Church, having a small community, overpaid ministers, a costly Establishment, and little work, it is quite impossible to have peace and content in that country. If you give the Catholic priests a portion of the public funds, as the Government has given the Regium Donum to the Presbyterians of the North, they will unite with the Church as the Presbyterians did against any attempt to overturn the old system of Church and State alliance in that country.
The experience of State Churches is not of a character to warrant the House in going further in that direction. In this country there is a State Church, and I do not deny that there are many excellent ministers in it; but from time immemorial it has been characterized by a most deplorable and disastrous spirit of persecution, which even at this hour still exists; for that Church is now persecuting a poor shoemaker at Cambridge for non-payment of Church rates, and pursuing him from court to court. That Church has been upheld as a bulwark against Catholicism, and yet all the errors of Catholicism find a home and a hearty welcome there. In Lancashire and Yorkshire, and in other counties, that Church is found to be too unwieldy a machine, and altogether unfitted to a population growing in numbers and intelligence like that of those parts of the kingdom. Even in Scotland, where there is a model of the most perfect Establishment which perhaps could be raised, there are the Secession Church, the Belief Church, and the Free Church; that which the State upholds being called by the complimentary name of the Residuary Church. After the experience of such State Churches, which have done so little good and so much evil, is this a time for establishing another Church? If I approved of Church endowments by the State I would vote for this Bill with all my heart, because it is calculated to create a kinder feeling towards this country amongst the people of Ireland.
Two parties opposed to the Bill are represented by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. They state that the Roman Catholic religion should not be established or helped by the State. But when their Church is absorbing millions of the public money, while millions of their countrymen refuse to enter its doors, how can they for a moment object to the passing of a measure which will give some sort of show of assistance to that Church to which millions of the Irish people belong? The Nonconformist or Dissenting party in this country are opposed to the measure; but by some of them a spirit is mixed up with their agitation of this question which shows that they do not understand, or do not value, the great principles of Nonconformity, for which their forefathers struggled and suffered. I allude more especially to a portion of the Wesleyan body, which, I believe, does not altogether repudiate the principle of endowment.
But, with regard to the rest, I am persuaded that their agitation against this measure is honest. If the Dissenters look back to all that their forefathers have suffered, aye, even within a late period, they will be recreant to their own principles, and merit the contempt of the House and of the world, if they do not come forward manfully to uphold their own principles, and dissent from and oppose the measure under the consideration of the House. For myself, I shall oppose the Bill in every stage, simply on one ground, that I believe the principle of endowment to be most unjust and injurious to the country, and whatever may be the effect on any Government, whether that of the right hon. Baronet or any that has preceded or will succeed him, no strength of attachment to party or Government will induce me to tamper with what I hold to be the greatest and dearest principle which any man or any body of men can assert. When I look back to the history of this country, and consider its present condition, I must say, that all that the people possess of liberty has come, not through the portals of the cathedrals and the parish churches, but from the conventicles, which are despised by hon. Gentlemen opposite. When I know that if a good measure is to be carried in this House, it must be by men who are sent hither by the Nonconformists of Great Britain; when I read and see that the past and present State alliance with religion is hostile to religious liberty, preventing all growth and nearly destroying all vitality in religion itself, then I shall hold myself to have read, thought, and lived in vain, if I vote for a measure which in the smallest degree shall give any further power or life to the principle of State endowment; and, in conclusion, I will only exhort the Dissenters of England to act in the same way, and to stand upon their own great, pure, and unassailable principle; for, if they stand by it manfully, and work for it vigorously, the time may come, nay, it will come, when that principle will be adopted by the Legislature of the country.
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CRIME AND OUTRAGE BILL. HOUSE OF COMMONS, DECEMBER 13, 1847.
[Towards the conclusion of this year (1847) numerous crimes and outrages of a serious character were committed in Ireland. They were chiefly agrarian. In order to increase the powers of the Irish Executive, Parliament was invited in the Queen's Speech (Nov. 23) to take further precautions against the perpetration of crime in certain counties in Ireland. The Bill was moved by Sir George Grey on Nov. 29, and leave was given, by 224 votes to 18, was read a second time (296 to 19) on Dec. 9, and passed (174 to 14) on Dec. 13. It was passed in the House of Lords on Dec. 19. On July 31, 1848, the Irish Government proclaimed certain districts in which rebellion had broken out. Smith O'Brien and the other leaders of the insurgents were speedily arrested, tried, and convicted.]
I feel very much in the position of the hon. Member who has just addressed the House, for I am in some degree compelled to speak before this Bill is read a third time. I have presented a petition against the Bill, signed by more than 20,000 persons, inhabitants of the borough of Manchester, and I am unwilling to vote without briefly giving the reasons which make it impossible for me to oppose this Bill. When I recollect the circumstances attending the rejection of the Bill of 1846, for the protection of life in Ireland, I am convinced that the Government would not have brought forward the present measure if it had not appeared to them absolutely necessary, and that, but for this supposed necessity, it would never have been heard of.
The case of the Government, so far as the necessity for this Bill is concerned, seems to me to be as clear and as perfect as it can be. From the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Home Department, from the unanimous statements of all the newspapers, and from the evidence of all parties connected with Ireland, it is placed beyond a doubt that in the disturbed districts of Ireland the ordinary law is utterly powerless. The reason why the law is carried into effect in England is, because the feeling of the people is in favour of it, and every man is willing to become and is in reality a peace officer, in order to further the ends of justice.
But in Ireland this state of things does not exist. The public sentiment in certain districts is depraved and thoroughly vitiated. [Mr. J. O'Connell, 'No! No!'] The hon. Member cries 'No, No;' but I maintain that in the disturbed districts the public or popular feeling is as I have described it. I do not mean to assert that all which the newspapers contain is true, or that they contain all the truth; but I ask the hon. Gentleman if he has not read accounts which are not contradicted, from which we learn that on the occurrence of some recent cases of assassination, whole districts have been in a state of rejoicing and exultation? These assassinations are not looked upon as murders, but rather as executions. Take the case of Mr. Lloyd, a clergyman, who was recently assassinated. There was no show of vindictive feeling on the part of his murderers; there was little of the character of ordinary murders in it. The servant was allowed to depart unharmed; a boy who was in the carriage was removed that he might not be injured; and the unhappy gentleman was shot with all the deliberation and the calmness with which a man would be made to suffer the extreme penalty of the law. It is clear, then, that the ordinary law fails, and that the Government have a case for the demand they make for an extension of the present powers of the law.
I do not say the present Bill will certainly be effective, but it is the less to be opposed because it does not greatly exceed or infringe the ordinary law; and it is the duty of the Legislature, when called upon to strengthen the Executive, to do so by the smallest possible infringement of the law and the constitution. But, to leave the particular measure now before us, I am bound to say that the case of the Government with respect to their Irish policy in general is not as good as could be wished. The Government has not shown the courage which is necessary to deal effectually with the difficulties of Ireland. They should remember what passed when the Poor-law was proposed for that country. They were told it would be a failure—that it could not be worked; but disregarding these statements, they passed the Bill; and I believe, since the Act of 1829, no measure has passed this House of equal benefit to Ireland. The noble Lord at the head of the Government has said that all parties are to be blamed for the misgovernment of Ireland; but he should remember the responsibility which is upon him, for he is now in the position of dictator on Irish questions, and whatever he proposes for that country, I verily believe, will find no successful opposition in this House.
There is another fact to which I would call attention. The Irish Members complain, and very justly, of the past legislation of this House; but when we call to mind that there are 105 of them here, of whom 60 or 70 are of Liberal politics or opinions, and that about 30 of them are Repealers, and hold very strong views with regard to the mismanagement of Irish affairs in the Imperial Parliament, I think we have a right to complain that they have not laid on the table of the House any one measure which they believe to be necessary to the prosperity of their country.
I have been in this House more than four years, and I have never yet seen the Irish Members bringing forward any proposition of a practical character—nor am I aware that they have supported any measure they deemed necessary for Ireland, with unanimity and earnestness, or with anything like perseverance and resolution. I am sure that 105, or even 30 English Members, sitting in a Parliament in Dublin, and believing their country had suffered from the effects of bad legislation, would, by their knowledge of the case, their business habits, activity, union, and perseverance, have showed a powerful front, and by uniting together, and working manfully in favour of any proposition they might think necessary to remedy the evils of which they complained, they would have forced it on the attention of the House. But the Irish Members have not done this. So far then, they are and have been as much to blame as any other Member of this House for the absence of good government in Ireland.
I will not, like them, complain of bad legislation, and propose no remedy. What is the condition of Ireland? Last year we voted millions to keep its population from starvation; and this year we have been asked for a further sum, but have not granted it. We maintain a large army in Ireland, and an armed police, which is an army in everything but in name, and yet we have in that country a condition of things which is not to be matched in any other civilised country on the face of the earth, and which is alike disgraceful to Ireland and to us. The great cause of Ireland's calamities is, that Ireland is idle. I believe it would be found, on inquiry, that the population of Ireland, as compared with that of England, do not work more than two days per week. Wherever a people are not industrious and are not employed, there is the greatest danger of crime and outrage. Ireland is idle, and therefore she starves; Ireland starves, and therefore she rebels. We must choose between industry and anarchy: we must have one or the other in Ireland. This proposition I believe to be incontrovertible, and I defy the House to give peace and prosperity to that country until they set in motion her industry, create and diffuse capital, and thus establish those gradations of rank and condition by which the whole social fabric can alone be held together.
But the idleness of the people of Ireland is not wholly their fault. It is for the most part a forced idleness, for it is notorious that when the Irish come to England, or remove to the United States or the Colonies, they are about the hardest working people in the world. We employ them down in Lancashire, and with the prospect of good pay they work about as well, and are as trustworthy, and quiet, and well-disposed to the law as the people of this country. The great secret of their idleness at home is, that there is little or no trade in Ireland; there are few flourishing towns to which the increasing population can resort for employment, so that there is a vast mass of people living on the land; and the land itself is not half so useful for their employment and sustentation as it might be. A great proportion of her skill, her strength, her sinews, and her labour, is useless to Ireland for the support of her population. Every year they have a large emigration, because there are a great number of persons with just enough means to transport themselves to other countries, who, finding it impossible to live at home in comfort, carry themselves and their capital out of Ireland; so that, year after year, she loses a large portion of those between the very poorest and the more wealthy classes of society, and with them many of the opportunities for the employment of labour.
I do not believe that the Bill for regulating the relations of landlord and tenant, as recommended by the hon. Member for the County of Limerick, will restore prosperity to Ireland. Such a measure may be passed with great advantage; but if it be intended by a Bill with this title to vest the ownership of the land in the present occupiers, I believe this House will never pass it, and if it did, that it would prove most fatal to the best interests of the country. I think we have a right to blame the Government that as yet we have not seen the Bill for the sale of encumbered estates in Ireland. I wish to ask why such a Bill is not ready before this? [Lord John Russell: 'The Bill has been ready a long time'] The noble Lord says the Bill has been ready long ago; but that statement only makes the Government open to greater blame, for if the Bill is ready, why has it not been brought forward before this? Last Session the Bill was withdrawn, and the reason given was that landlords and mortgagees did not like it. If the Government wait till the landlords and mortgagees like it, it will never be brought forward at all. Had they waited till the Irish landlords asked for the Poor-law, there would have been no Poor-law in Ireland now.
The Government should disregard the opposition of these parties, and should take their stand above all class interests. They must refuse to listen to the interested suggestions of one class or the other, and they must remember that they are the Executive Government of the country, and bound to act for the public good. There is an unanimous admission now that the misfortunes of Ireland are connected with the question of the management of the land. I have a theory that, in England as well as in Ireland, the proprietors of the soil are chiefly responsible for whatever bad legislation has been inflicted upon us. The ownership of land confers more political power than the possession of any other description of property. The Irish landowners have been willing parties to the past legislation for Ireland, and they have also had the administration and execution of the laws in that country. The encumbered condition of landed property in Ireland is at this moment the most pressing question. I am informed by a gentleman in Dublin, of the best means of information and of undoubted veracity, that in the province of Connaught there is not five per cent, of the land free from settlements of one kind or other, and that probably not one per cent, is free from mortgages. I have asked Irish Members of all parties if this be true, and not one of them is disposed to deny it; and if it be true, I say it is idle to seek elsewhere for the source of the evils of Ireland; and every day, nay, every hour we allow to go by without taking instant measures to remedy this crying mischief, only adds to the criminality which rests on us for our past legislation.
Patchwork legislation will not now succeed; speeches from the Lord Lieutenant—articles in the newspapers—lending to the landowners at 3 1/2 per cent. money raised by taxation from the traders of England, who have recently been paying 8 per cent.—all will fail to revive the industry of Ireland. I will now state what, in my opinion, is the remedy, and I beg to ask the attention of the Government to it, because, though they may now think it an extreme one, I am convinced that the time will come when they will be compelled to adopt it.
In the first place, it is their duty to bring in a Sale of Estates Bill, and make it easy for landowners who wish to dispose of their estates to do so. They should bring in a Bill to simplify the titles to land in Ireland. I understand that it is almost impossible to transfer an estate now, the difficulties in the way of a clear title being almost insurmountable. In the next place, they should diminish temporarily, if not permanently, all stamp duties which hinder the transfer of landed property, and they should pass a law by which the system of entailing estates should for the future be prevented. [Laughter.] I can assure hon. Gentlemen who laugh at this, that at some not distant day this must be done, and not in Ireland only, but in England also. It is an absurd and monstrous system, for it binds, as it were, the living under the power of the dead.
The principle on which the law should proceed is this, that the owner of property should be permitted to leave it to whomsoever he will, provided the individual is living when the will is made; but he should not be suffered, after he is dead, and buried, and forgotten, to speak and still to direct the channel through which the estate should pass. I shall be told that the law of entail in Ireland is the same as in England, and that in Scotland it is even more strict. I admit it; but the evil is great in England, and in Scotland it has become intolerable, and must soon be relaxed if not abolished. Perhaps I shall be told that the laws of entail and primogeniture are necessary for the maintenance of our aristocratic institutions; but if the evils of Ireland spring from this source, I say, perish your aristocratic institutions rather than that a whole nation should be in this terrible condition. If your aristocratic families would rear up their children in habits of business, and with some notions of duty and prudence, these mischievous arrangements would not be required, and they would retain in their possession estates at least as large as is compatible with the interests of the rest of the community. If the laws of entail and primogeniture are sound and just, why not apply them to personal property as well as to freehold? Imagine them in force in the middle classes of the community, and it will be seen at once that the unnatural system, if universal, would produce confusion; and confusion would necessitate its total abolition.
I am thoroughly convinced that everything the Government or Parliament can do for Ireland will be unavailing, unless the foundation of the work be laid well and deep, by clearing away the fetters under which land is now held, so that it may become the possession of real owners, and be made instrumental to the employment and sustentation of the people. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may fancy themselves interested in maintaining the present system; but there is surely no interest they can have in it which they will weigh against the safety and prosperity of Ireland? I speak as a representative from a county which suffers extremely from the condition of Ireland. Lancashire is periodically overrun by the pauperism of Ireland; for a year past it has suffered most seriously from the pestilence imported from Ireland; and many of the evils which in times past have been attributed to the extension of manufactures in that county have arisen from the enormous immigration of a suffering and pauperized people driven for sustenance from their own country.
As a Lancashire representative, I protest most solemnly against a system which drives the Irish population to seek work and wages in this country and in other countries, when both might be afforded them at home. Parliament is bound to remedy this state of things. The present Parliament contains a larger number of men of business and of members representing the middle classes than any former Parliament. The present Government is essentially of the middle class—[a laugh]—and its Members have on many occasions shown their sympathy with it. Let the hon. Gentleman laugh; but he will not deny that no Government can long have a majority in this House which does not sympathise with the great middle class of this country. If the Government will manfully and courageously grapple with the question of the condition of land in Ireland, they will, I am convinced, be supported by a majority of the Members of this House, they will enable the strength and skill of Irishmen to be expended on their own soil, and lay the foundation of her certain prosperity by giving that stimulus and reward to industry which it cannot have in the present circumstances of that country. Sir, I feel it impossible to refuse my vote in favour of the Bill now before us; but I am compelled to say, that unless the Government will zealously promote measures in the direction I have indicated, they cannot hope long to retain the confidence of this House or of the country.
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EMPLOYMENT OF THE POOR.
HOUSE OF COMMONS, AUGUST 25, 1848. From the speeches that have been delivered in this debate, and from what we know of Ireland, it is clear that Ireland is so entirely disorganised, that it is extremely difficult to suggest any means by which relief can be extensively given without causing two evils: first, the waste of a great portion of the money which is granted; and next, the demoralization of a large number of those to whom the relief is given. It is on account of these difficulties that I am disposed to make great allowance for the measures which the Government have undertaken, as well as for any propositions which may be made by the hon. Member for Stroud, even when they appear somewhat inconsistent with correct economical principles.
As this is probably the last opportunity during this Session when the question of the condition of Ireland can be discussed, I am anxious to avail myself of it to offer a few observations to the House, and to explain briefly what I conceive to be the course which ought to be taken with regard to that country, to enable its population to place themselves in a position of comfort and independence. The past of Ireland is known to us all; it is a tale of idleness, and poverty, and periodical insurrection; the present of Ireland is like the past, except that at this moment all its ordinary evils are exhibited in an aggravated form. But there are one or two points with regard to this subject to which I wish especially to ask the attention of the House. Have you ever fully considered the effect which this state of things in Ireland has upon the condition of certain districts in England? We have had some threatenings of disturbances in England, and of disaffection—I hope it is not wide-spread—here and there in various parts of the country. Take the county of Lancaster as an example, and you will see something of the consequences of a large influx of the Irish population into that district. In Liverpool and Manchester, and in all the belt of towns which surround Manchester, there is a large Irish population—in fact, there is an Irish quarter in each of these towns. It is true that a great number of these persons are steady, respectable, and industrious, but it is notorious that a portion of them are, in some degree, the opposite of all this. They bring to this country all the vices which have prevailed so long in Ireland; their influence on the people of Lancashire is often of an unfavourable character, and the effect of their example on the native population must necessarily be injurious. We find that crimes attended with violence prevail too generally in Lancashire and Yorkshire. These crimes to a large extent are committed by persons who are not natives of those counties, but who come from Ireland, because it is impossible for them to find subsistence in that country.
There is another point which seems to me important. Driven forth by poverty, Irishmen emigrate in great numbers, and in whatever quarter of the world an Irishman sets his foot, there stands a bitter, an implacable enemy of England. That is one of the results of the wide- spread disaffection that exists in Ireland. There are hundreds of thousands—I suppose there are millions—of the population of the United States of America who are Irish by birth, or by immediate descent; and be it remembered, Irishmen settled in the United States have a large influence in public affairs. They sometimes sway the election of Members of the Legislature, and may even affect the election of the President of the Republic. There may come a time when questions of a critical nature will be agitated between the Governments of Great Britain and the United States; and it is certain that at such a time the Irish in that country will throw their whole weight into the scale against this country, and against peace with this country. These are points which it is necessary to consider, and which arise out of the lamentable condition in which Ireland is placed.
When we reflect for a moment upon the destitution which millions of our countrymen suffer in that unfortunate island, the conclusion is inevitable that either the Government or the people of Ireland are in fault. I think both are in fault. I think the Government has been negligent of Ireland. I do not mean the present Government in particular; for they are fully as anxious for the welfare of Ireland as any former Administration has been—but I think the Government generally has been negligent of Ireland. It is a common thing to hear it said, and especially by Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury bench, that the remedy for Irish evils is difficult, and that the difficulty seems insurmountable; but the House may rest assured that no difficulty can be so great as that which must be met if no remedy is applied. To do anything that can be effectual, must be infinitely less dangerous than to do nothing.
Now I believe the real difficulties which beset this question do not arise from anything in Ireland, so much as from the constitution of the Government. This House, and the other House of Parliament, are almost exclusively aristocratic in their character. The Administration is therefore necessarily the same, and on the Treasury benches aristocracy reigns supreme. No fewer than seven Members of the Cabinet are Members of the House of Lords; and every other Member of it is either a Lord by title, or on the very threshold of the peerage by birth or marriage. I am not blaming them for this; it may even be that from neither House of Parliament can fourteen better men be chosen to fill their places. But I maintain that in the present position of Ireland, and looking at human nature as it is, it is not possible that fourteen Gentlemen, circumstanced as they are, can meet round the Council table, and with unbiassed minds fairly discuss the question of Ireland, as it now presents itself to this House, to the country, and to the world.
The condition of Ireland requires two kinds of remedies—one political, the other social; and it is hard to tell where the one ends and the other begins. I will speak first of the political remedies. At present, there prevails throughout three-fourths of the Irish people a total unbelief in the honesty and integrity of the Government of this country. There may or may not be good grounds for all this ill feeling; but that it exists, no man acquainted with Ireland will deny. The first step to be taken is to remove this feeling; and, to do this, some great measure or measures should be offered to the people of Ireland, which will act as a complete demonstration to them that bygones are to be bygones, with regard to the administration of Irish affairs, and that henceforth new, generous, and equal principles of government are to be adopted.
I have on a former occasion stated my opinions on one or two subjects, and I will venture again briefly to explain them to the House. Ireland has long been a country of jars and turmoil, and its jars have arisen chiefly from religious dissensions. In respect of matters of religion she has been governed in a manner totally unknown in England and Scotland. If Ireland has been rightly governed—if it has been wise and just to maintain the Protestant Church established there, you ought, in order to carry out your system, to establish Prelacy in Scotland, and Catholicism in England; though, if you were to attempt to do either the one or the other, it would not be a sham but a real insurrection that you would provoke. There must be equality between the great religious sects in Ireland—between Catholic and Protestant. It is impossible that this equality can be much longer denied.
It is suspected that it is the intention of the Government to bring forward at no distant day, if they can catch the people of England napping, a proposition for paying the Roman Catholic priests of Ireland. On more than one ground I should object to any such scheme. In the first place, I believe the Government cannot, from any funds they possess, or from any they can obtain, place the Catholic priests on an equality with the ministers of the Protestant Church; and if they cannot do that in every respect, the thing is not worth attempting. They will, I think, find it infinitely more easy, and it will certainly be much more in accordance with political justice, and with the true interests of religion, to withdraw from Ireland the Church Establishment which now exists there, and to bring about the perfect equality which may be secured by taking away so much of the funds as are proved to be totally unnecessary for the wants of the population. I do not mean that you should withdraw from the Protestant Church every sixpence now in its possession; what I mean is, that you should separate it from the State, and appropriate all the funds of which it might justly be deprived to some grand national object, such as the support and extension of the system of education now established in Ireland; an appropriation of money which would, I am sure, produce in the minds of the people of Ireland an entire change of feeling with regard to the legislation of Parliament in relation to their country.
With regard to the Parliamentary representation of Ireland, having recently spent seventy-three days in an examination of the subject, whilst serving as a Member of the Dublin Election Committee, I assert most distinctly that the representation which exists at this moment is a fraud; and I believe it would be far better if there were no representation at all, because the people would not then be deluded by the idea that they had a representative Government to protect their interests. The number of taxes which the people have to pay, in order to secure either the municipal or Parliamentary franchise, is so great that it is utterly impossible for the constituencies to be maintained, and for public opinion—the honest, real opinion of intelligent classes in Ireland—to obtain any common or decent degree of representation in the Imperial Legislature. I feel quite confident that in the next Session of Parliament, the questions of religious equality in Ireland and of Irish representation must receive a much more serious attention than they have obtained in any past Session.
I come now to those social questions which must also receive the attention of Parliament; for if they do not, the political remedies will, after all, be of very little permanent use. I advocate these political changes on the ground, not that they will feed the hungry or employ the idle, but that they will be as oil thrown upon the waters, and will induce the people no longer to feel themselves treated as a conquered race. It is agreed on all sides that the social remedies which are immediately possible to us, are those having reference to the mode in which the land of Ireland is owned, or held and cultivated—perhaps 'not cultivated' would be a more correct expression. The noble Lord at the head of the Government has alluded to parts of Ireland in which it is impossible that the land as at present held, or the rates which can be collected, can find relief or sustentation for the people. It is a notorious fact, that there are vast tracts of land in Ireland, which, if left in the hands of nominal and bankrupt owners, will never to the end of time support the population which ought to live upon them. And it is on this ground that I must question the policy of measures for expending public money with a view to the cultivation and reclamation of these lands.
The true solution of this matter is to get the lands out of the hands of men who are the nominal, and not the real, possessors. But Parliament maintains laws which act most injuriously in this particular. The law and practice of entails tends to keep the soil in large properties, and in the hands of those who cannot perform their duty to it. It will be said that entails exist in Scotland and in England. Yes; but this Session a law has passed, or is passing, to modify the system as it has heretofore existed in Scotland; and in England many of its evils have been partially overcome by the extraordinary, and, to some degree, the accidental extension of manufacturing industry among the people. In Ireland there are no such mitigations; a code of laws exists, under which it is impossible for the land and the people to be brought, as it were, together, and for industry to live in independence and comfort, instead of crawling to this House, as it does almost annually, to ask alms of the hardworking people of England.
The law and practice of primogeniture is another evil of the same character. It is a law unnatural and unjust at all times; but in the present condition of Ireland it cannot much longer be endured. Were I called upon—and it is a bold figure of speech to mention such a thing— but were I called upon to treat this Irish question, I would establish, for a limited period at least, a special court in Ireland to adjudicate on all questions connected with the titles and transfers of landed property. This court should finally decide questions of title; it should prepare and enforce a simple and short form of conveyance, as short almost as that by which railway stock is transferred; and, without regard to the public revenue, I would abolish every farthing of expense which is now incurred in the duties on stamps, for the purpose of facilitating the distribution of land in Ireland, and of allowing the capital and industry of the people to work out its salvation. All this is possible; and, more than this, it is all necessary. Well, now, what is the real obstacle in our path? You have toiled at this Irish difficulty Session after Session, and some of you have grown almost from boyhood to grey-headed old men since it first met you in your legislative career, and yet there is not in ancient or modern history a picture so humiliating as that which Ireland presents to the world at this moment; and there is not an English gentleman who, if he crossed the Channel in the present autumn, and travelled in any foreign country, would not wish to escape from any conversation among foreigners in which the question of the condition of Ireland was mooted for a single moment.
Let the House, if it can, regard Ireland as an English country. Let us think of the eight millions of people, and of the millions of them doomed to this intolerable suffering. Let us think of the half-million who, within two years past, have perished miserably in the workhouses, and on the highways, and in their hovels—more, far more than ever fell by the sword in any war this country ever waged; let us think of the crop of nameless horrors which is even now growing up in Ireland, and whose disastrous fruit may be gathered in years and generations to come. Let us examine what are the laws and the principles under which alone God and nature have permitted that nations should become industrious and provident.
I hope the House will pardon me if I have said a word that can offend any one. But I feel conscious of a personal humiliation when I consider the state of Ireland. I do not wish to puff nostrums of my own, though it may be thought I am opposed to much that exists in the present order of things; but whether it tended to advance democracy, or to uphold aristocracy, or any other system, I would wish to fling to the winds any prejudice I have entertained, and any principle that may be questioned, if I can thereby do one single thing to hasten by a single day the time when Ireland shall be equal to England in that comfort and that independence which an industrious people may enjoy, if the Government under which they live is equal and just.
* * * * *
RATE IN AID. HOUSE OF COMMONS, APRIL 2, 1849. [On February 7, 1849, a proposal was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a sum of 50,000l. should be granted to certain Irish Unions, in which distress was more than usually prevalent. The resolution was passed on March 3. On March 27 the second reading of the Bill founded on this resolution was moved, and the debate continued till April 3, when the second reading was affirmed by 193 votes to 138. The third reading was carried by 129 to 55, on April 30. The Bill passed the House of Lords on May 18.]
I ventured to move the adjournment of the debate on Friday night, because I was anxious to have the opportunity of expressing the opinions which I entertain on this most important subject. I am one of the Committee appointed by this House to inquire into the working of the Irish poor-law, and on that Committee I was one of the majority—the large majority—by which the resolution for a rate in aid was affirmed. In the division which took place on the same proposition in the House, I also voted in the majority. But I am not by any means disposed to say that there are no reasons against the course which I take, or against the proposition which has been submitted to the House by the Government. On the whole, however, I am prepared to-night to justify that proposition, and the vote which I have given for it.
As to the project of raising money for the purpose of these distressed Unions, I think there can be no doubt in the mind of any Member of the House, that money must come from some quarter. It appears to be a question of life or money. All the witnesses who were examined before the Committee; the concurrent testimony of all parties in Ireland, of all the public papers, of all the speeches which have been delivered in the course of this debate, go to prove, that unless additional funds be provided, tens of thousands of our unfortunate fellow-countrymen in Ireland must perish of famine in the course of the present year. If this be true, it is evident that a great necessity is upon us; a grave emergency, which we must meet. I am not prepared to justify the proposition of a rate in aid merely on the ground of this necessity, because it will be said, and justly, that the same amount of funds might be raised by some other mode; but I am prepared to justify the proposition which restricts this rate in aid to Ireland, on the ground that the rest of the United Kingdom has, during the past three years, paid its own rate in aid for Ireland; and this to a far larger amount than any call which the Government now proposes to make on the rateable property in Ireland.
We have taken from the general taxation of this country, in the last two or three years, for the purposes of Ireland, several millions, I may say not fewer than from eight to ten millions sterling. We have paid also very large subscriptions from private resources, to the same purpose; the sums expended by the British Association were not less, in the aggregate, than 600,000l., in addition to other large amounts contributed. The Irish, certainly, gave something to these funds; but by far the larger amount was paid by the tax-paying classes of Great Britain. In addition to this special outlay for this purpose, very heavy local taxation has been incurred by several of the great communities of this island, for the purpose of supporting the pauperism which has escaped from Ireland to Great Britain. In this metropolis, in Glasgow, in Liverpool, and in the great manufacturing town which I have the honour to represent, the overflow of Irish pauperism has, within the last two or three years more especially, occasioned a vast additional burden of taxation. I believe the hon. Member for South Lancashire made some statement in this House on a former occasion with respect to the burden which was inflicted upon Liverpool by the Irish paupers, who constantly flow into that town. As to Glasgow, the poor-rate levied last year in the city parish alone, amounted to 70,000l.; and this year, owing to the visitation of cholera and the poverty thereby engendered, there will be an additional assessment of 20,000l. The city parish contains only about 120,000 or 130,000 of the 280,000 residents in the mass of buildings known by the general name of Glasgow. Of the sum levied as poor-rate in the city parish, it is estimated that, on an average, two-thirds are spent upon Irish paupers. The ranks of these Irish paupers are recruited to a comparatively small extent from the Irish workmen, who have been, with their families, attracted by, and who have found employment in, the numerous manufactories of Glasgow. The Irish paupers, upon whom two-thirds of the Glasgow poor-rates are spent, are principally squalid and destitute creatures who are brought over as deck passengers, clustering like bees to the bulwarks and rigging, by almost every steamer that sails from a northern Irish port. With respect to the town of Manchester, I am able to give some more definite particulars as to the burthen imposed upon the inhabitants for the support of the Irish casual poor. In the year 1848, the sum expended in the relief of the settled poor, which term includes the resident Irish who are not distinguished by name from the English, amounted to 37,847l. The sum expended for the relief of the non-settled English paupers in the town of Manchester, in the year 1848, was 18,699l. The amount expended for the relief of casual Irish poor alone was 28,007l. The total assessment of Manchester is 647,568l., which, if divided by the amount required to relieve the casual Irish poor, would amount to a rate of 10 1/2 d. in the pound upon every pound of rateable property in the town of Manchester; but if estimated according to the property really rated (as there are great numbers of persons who, from poverty, do not pay the poor-rates on the property they occupy), the amount of assessment for the relief of the casual Irish poor alone will be from 15d. to 18d. in the pound, and the charge upon the ratepayers of Manchester for the relief of the Irish casual poor during the last year is not less than 2s. 1d. per head upon the whole population of that town.
Now, during the last year, Manchester had to struggle with very severe difficulties, and the manufacturers there suffered most acutely from various causes. The failure of the cotton crop of 1846, the panic in the financial and commercial world in 1847, the convulsions in the European States in 1848—all these contributed to bring upon Manchester enormous evil; and in addition to this we had to bear an additional burden of 28,000l. for the maintenance of the casual Irish poor. I have here an analysis of the poor-rates collected in Manchester during the last four years, and I will briefly state the results to the House. In the year 1845 the amount of rates collected expressly for the relief of the casual Irish poor was 3,500l. In 1846 the cost of the casual Irish poor imposed a burden upon Manchester of 3,300l.; in 1847 of 6,558l.; and in 1848 this item of expenditure reached the extraordinary sum of 28,007l. The people of Manchester have uttered no loud or clamorous complaints respecting the excessive burden borne by them for the support of the Irish. They have sent no urgent deputations to the Government on the subject of this heavy expense. But, seeing that they have paid this money for the relief of Irish paupers, and seeing also that the smaller manufacturing and other towns in England have also paid no small sums for Irish paupers, they do think, and I here express my conviction, that it will be seen and admitted that we have paid our rate in aid for the relief of Ireland, and that it does become the landowners and persons of property in that country to make an effort during a temporary period to supply that small sum which is by this Bill demanded of them.
I will now pay a few words regarding the province of Ulster. An hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Londonderry, who made a not very civil speech, so far as it regarded persons who entertain the same opinions generally which I profess, seemed to allege that there was no party so tyrannical as those who wished to carry this rate in aid, and that no body of men on earth were so oppressed as the unfortunate proprietors of Ulster. [Mr. Bateson: 'The farmers of Ulster'] I have made a calculation, the result of which is, that, with the population of Ulster, a 6d. rate would be 82,000l. a-year, or 164,000l. for the two years during which they will be required to pay towards the support of their fellow-countrymen in the south and west. If I were an Ulster proprietor, I would not have raised my voice against such a proposition, because it is not a state of things of an ordinary character, nor are these proprietors called on to do that which nobody else has done before them. Neither were they called upon before other sources had been applied to. Had I been an Ulster proprietor, I would rather have left this House than have taken the course they have pursued in denouncing this measure. As to the farmers of Ulster, they would not have raised this opposition had they not been instigated to do so by hon. Members in this House, and by the proprietors in that province, whom they represented. It appears by the reports of the inspectors under the poor- law, that where there has been a difficulty in collecting rates, and the people have refused to pay, they have followed the example of the higher and landlord class; and the conduct of that class in many cases has been such as to render the collection extremely difficult. [Mr. Bateson: 'Not in Ulster'] I do not speak of Ulster particularly in this instance, but the case has occurred in other places; but happily for Ulster the burden has not proved so serious in that province.
I have heard a good deal said respecting the resignation of Mr. Twisleton, who preferred giving up his situation to supporting the rate in aid. But the reasons assigned by Mr. Twisleton destroy the importance of his own act. He did not insist upon the question whether Ulster was able to bear the rate in aid; but his objection was that Ulster was Ulster, and more Ulster than it was Ireland. He said Ulster preferred being united with England, rather than with Leinster, Connaught, and Munster; in short, that Ulster was unwilling to be made a part of Ireland. Now, if this Bill can succeed in making Ulster a part of Ireland in interests and sympathies, I think it will be attended with a very happy result, and one that will compensate for some portion of the present misfortunes of Ireland.
But the hon. Member also, in another part of his speech, charged the Government with having caused the calamities of Ireland. Now, if I were the hon. Member, I would not have opened up that question. My opinion is, that the course which Parliament has taken with respect to Ireland for upwards of a century, and especially since the Union, has been in accordance with the wishes of the proprietors of the land of that country. If, therefore, there has been misgovernment in Ireland during that period, it is the land which has influenced Parliament, and the landowners are responsible. I do not mean to say that the House of Commons is not responsible for taking the evil advice which the landowners of Ireland have proffered; but what I mean to assert is, that this advice has been almost invariably acted upon by the Government. This it is which has proved fatal to the interests of Ireland; the Ulster men have stood in the way of improvements in the Franchise, in the Church, and in the Land question; they have purchased Protestant ascendancy, and the price paid for it is the ruin and degradation of their country. So much for the vote which I am about to give in support of the rate in aid.
In the next place, I must observe that if an income tax were to be substituted for a rate in aid, I think I could show substantial reasons why it would not be satisfactory. In the first place, I take an objection to the imposition of an income tax for the express purpose of supporting paupers. This, I apprehend, is a fatal objection at the outset. I understand that there has been a document issued by a Committee in another place, which has reported favourably for the substitution of an income tax in lieu of the rate in aid. I always find that if a proposition is brought forward by the Government to impose a new tax, it is always for a tax which is disliked, and I conclude, that if an income tax for Ireland had been proposed instead of the rate in aid, that would have been repudiated with quite as much vigour as the proposition now before the House.
And now I will address a few words to the general question of Ireland, which I think may be fairly entered upon in this debate after the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. What have we been doing all the Session? With the exception of the Jewish Oaths Bill, and the Navigation Laws, our attention has been solely taken up with Irish matters. From the incessant recurrence of the Irish debate, it would seem, either that the wrongs and evils endured by the Irish people are incurable, or else that we lack statesmen. I always find that, whoever happens to sit on the other side of the table, he always has some scheme to propose for the regeneration of Ireland. The noble Lord on the Treasury bench had his schemes for that purpose when he was seated opposite. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth now has his scheme to propose, and if he can succeed in it, he will not only have the universal wish of the nation in his favour, but the noble Lord also who is at the head of the Government will not, I am sure, object to give way to any man who will settle the Irish question. But the treatment of this Irish malady remains ever the same. We have nothing for it still but force and alms. You have an armed force there of 50,000 men to keep the people quiet, large votes are annually required to keep the people quiet, and large votes are annually required to keep the people alive. I presume the government by troops is easy, and that the
'Civil power may snore at ease, While soldiers fire—to keep the peace.'
But the noble Lord at the head of the Government has no policy to propose for Ireland. If he had, he would have told us what it is before now. The poor-law as a means of regenerating Ireland is a delusion. So is the rate in aid. I do not believe in the regenerating power either of the poor-law or of the rate in aid. There may occur cases where farmers will continue to employ labourers for the mere purpose of preventing them from coming on the poor-rates, but these are exceptions. If the desire of gain will not cause the employment of capital, assuredly poor- rates wall not. A poor-law adds to pauperism, by inviting to idleness. It drags down the man who pays, and demoralises him who receives. It may expose, it may temporarily relieve, it will increase, but it can never put an end to pauperism. The poor-law and the rate in aid are, therefore, utterly unavailing for such a purpose.
It is the absence of all demand for labour that constitutes the real evil of Ireland. In the distressed Unions a man's labour is absolutely worth nothing. It is not that the Irish people will not work. I spoke to an Irish navigator the other day respecting his work, and I asked him why his countrymen did not work in their own country. 'Give them 2s. 8d. a-day,' said he, 'and you will find plenty who will work.' There exists in Ireland a lamentable want of employment. The land there enjoys a perpetual sabbath. If the people of Ireland were set to work, they would gain their subsistence; but if this course is not adopted, they must either continue to be supported out of the taxes, or else be left to starve. In order to show how great is the general poverty in Ireland, I will read a statement of the comparative amount of legacy duty paid in the two countries. In England, in the year 1844, the amount of capital on which legacy duty was paid was 44,393,887l.; in Ireland, in 1845, the amount of capital on which legacy duty was paid was 2,140,021l.—the population of the latter being nearly one- half of the former, whilst the proportion between the capital paying legacy duty is only one-twentieth. In 1844, the legacy duty paid in England was 1,124,435l., with a population of 16,000,000; in Scotland it was 74,116l., with a population of 3,000,000; whilst Ireland paid only 53,618l., with a population of 8,000,000. These facts offer the strongest possible proof of the poverty of Ireland.
On looking over the reports of the Poor-law Inspectors, I find them teeming with statements of the wretchedness which prevails in the distressed districts of Ireland. The general character of the reports is, that starvation is, literally speaking, gradually driving the population into their graves. The people cannot quit their hovels for want of clothing, whilst others cannot be discharged from the workhouses owing to the same cause. Men are seen wearing women's apparel, not being able to procure proper clothing; whilst, in other instances, men, women, and children are all huddled together under bundles of rags, unable to rise for lack of covering; workhouses and prisons are crowded beyond their capacity to contain, the mortality being very great in them. Persons of honest character commit thefts in order to be sent to prison, and some ask, as a favour, to be transported.
I know of nothing like this in the history of modern times. The only parallel I can find to it is in the work of the great German author (Mosheim), who, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, speaking of the inroads of the barbarians into the Roman empire in the fifth century, says that in Gaul, the calamities of the times drove many to such madness, that they wholly excluded God from the government of the world, and denied His providence over human affairs. It would almost appear that this state of things is now to be seen in Ireland. The prisons are crowded, the chapels deserted, society is disorganised and ruined; labour is useless, for capital is not to be had for its employment. The reports of the Inspectors say that this catastrophe has only been hastened, and not originated, by the failure of the potato crop during the last four years, and that all men possessed of any intelligence must have foreseen what would ultimately happen.
This being the case, in what manner are the Irish people to subsist in future? There is the land, and there is labour enough to bring it into cultivation. But such is the state in which the land is placed, that capital cannot be employed upon it. You have tied up the raw material in such a manner—you have created such a monopoly of land by your laws and your mode of dealing with it, as to render it alike a curse to the people and to the owners of it. Why, let me ask, should land be tied up any more than any other raw material? If the supply of cotton wool were limited to the hands of the Browns and the Barings, what would be the condition of the Lancashire manufactories? What the manufactories would be under such a monopoly, the land in the county of Mayo actually is under the system which prevails with respect to it in Ireland. But land carries with it territorial influence, which the Legislature will not interfere with lest it should be disturbed. Land is sacred, and must not be touched.
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will understand what I mean when I allude to the Land Improvement Company which the Legislature is ready to charter for Ireland, but which it fears to suffer to exist in England, lest the territorial influence which ever accompanies the possession of landed estates should be lost or diminished. But one of the difficulties to which a remedy must be applied is the defective titles, which cannot easily be got rid of under the present system of entails. This is one of the questions to which the House of Commons must very soon give its serious attention. Then there comes the question of settlements. Now, I do not say there ought not to be any settlements; but what I mean to say is, that they are so bound up and entangled with the system of entails as to present insuperable difficulties in the way of dealing with land as a marketable commodity. I have here an Opinion which I will read to the House, which I find recorded as having been given by an eminent counsel: it is quoted in Hayes' work on Conveyancing, and the Opinion was given on the occasion of a settlement on the marriage of a gentleman having a fee-simple estate:—
'The proposals extend to a strict settlement by the gentleman upon the first and other sons of the marriage. It will appear from the preceding observations, that where the relative circumstances are such as in the present case, a strict settlement of the gentleman's estate does not ordinarily enter into the arrangement, which begins and ends with his taking the lady's fortune, and imposing an equivalent pecuniary charge upon his estate (for her personal benefit). The proposals seldom go further, unless there is hereditary rank or title to be supported, or it is in contemplation to found a family. The former of those two circumstances do not exist in this case, and the latter would require the settlement of the bulk of the estates. The policy of such settlements is extremely questionable. It is difficult to refer them, in the absence of both the motives already indicated, to any rational principle. The present possessor has absolute dominion; his character is known, his right unquestionable. He is asked to reduce himself to a mere tenant for life in favour of an unborn son, of whose character nothing can be predicted, and who, if he can be said to have any right, cannot possibly have a preferable right. At no very distant period the absolute dominion must be confided to somebody—and why should confidence be reposed in the unborn child rather than the living parent? Such, a settlement has no tendency to protect or benefit the father, whose advantage and comfort ought first to be consulted. It does not shield him from the consequences of his own imprudence. On the contrary, if his expenditure should in any instance exceed his income, he—as a mere tenant for life—is in danger of being obliged to borrow on annuity, a process which, once begun, proceeds generally and almost necessarily to the exhaustion of the life income. The son may be an idiot or a spendthrift. He may be tempted to raise money by post obit. If to these not improbable results we add all the family feuds generated between the tenant for life and remainderman, in regard to the management and enjoyment by the former of that estate which was once his own, particularly with reference to cutting timber, the disadvantages of thus fettering the dominion will appear greatly to preponderate. At best, a settlement is a speculation; at worst, it is the occasion of distress, profligacy, and domestic discord, ending not unfrequently, as the Chancery Reports bear witness, in obstinate litigation, ruinous alike to the peace and to the property of the family. Sometimes the father effects an arrangement with his eldest son on his coming of age; the son stipulating for an immediate provision in the shape of an annuity, the father for a gross sum to satisfy his creditors, or to portion his younger children, and for a resettlement of the estate. This arrangement, perhaps, is brought about by means, or imposes terms, which, in the eye of equity, render it a fraud upon the son; and here we have another source of litigation.'
Now, what I have here read is exactly that which everybody's experience tells us is the fact, and we have recently had a notable case which exactly answers to that referred to in the last paragraph of this Opinion. The practice of making settlements of this description is mischievous—leads to endless litigation—and sooner or later the landed classes must sink under it.
The Irish proprietors have also another difficulty to contend with, and that is their extravagance. It is said—for I cannot vouch for the fact myself—that they keep too many horses and dogs. I do not mean to say that an Irish gentleman may not spend his rents as he pleases; but I can say that he cannot both spend his money and have it too. I think if they would cast their pride on one side, and go honestly to work—if, instead of their young men spending their time 'waiting for a commission' they were to go into business, they would be far better and more usefully employed, and they would find that the less humiliating condition of the two. Another bane of Ireland is the prevalence of life interests in landed property there. Under such a system the land can neither be improved nor sold. Now what has the noble Lord at the head of the Government done towards grappling with all these questions? Nothing— absolutely nothing. I think him very unwise in not propounding to himself the momentous question, 'What shall be done for Ireland?' The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth has a plan. He entered upon its outline on Friday last. But I doubt whether it has yet taken that distinct form which it must assume in order that the House may take cognisance of it. I admire some of the measures which the right hon. Baronet intimates he would carry into effect, but there are other parts of his proposals which are vague and impracticable. I think, if it is believed in Ireland that a Commission is to be appointed to take charge of the distressed Unions of the south and west—that the whole thing is to be managed through a new department of the Government, and all without the slightest trouble to the landlords—that there will be more than ever a clinging to this wretched property in bankrupt estates, and more than ever an indisposition to adopt those measures which are still open to them, in the direction in which the right hon. Baronet wishes to proceed.
The right hon. Baronet stated in his first speech on this topic, that he did not wish the transfer of property to be by individual barter; and on Friday he stated that he was very much averse to allowing matters to go on in their natural course, for by that means land would be unnaturally cheapened. Well, but upon what conditions would the right hon. Baronet buy land in Ireland? would it be under the same circumstances, and at the same price, that he would buy an estate in Yorkshire or Staffordshire? If any sane man goes to the west or south of Ireland to purchase an estate, he must go on account of the cheapness of the bargain—a cheapness which he hopes will compensate him for all the disadvantages to which he must necessarily be subjected in such a purchase. There can be no redemption for that part of Ireland—if it is to be through the transfer of land—except the land take its natural course, and come so cheap into the market that Englishmen and Scotchmen, and Irishmen too having capital, will be willing to purchase it, notwithstanding all its disadvantages. [Colonel Dunne: 'Hear, hear!'] The hon. Member for Portarlington cheers that, as if it were an extraordinary statement. If the hon. Member prefers purchasing what is dear to what is cheap, he is not a very sensible man to legislate for Ireland. If he thinks that a man will go into Galway and pay as much per acre for an estate as he would in England, he is greatly mistaken; but the fact is, I believe, that not only English and Scotch capital, but that much Irish capital also, would be expended in the purchase of estates in the south and west, if the ends which the right hon. Baronet has in view were facilitated by this House.
But we have a case in point which affords us some guidance upon this question, and it is a case with which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon, are very familiar. I allude to the case of Stockport in 1842. Owing to a variety of circumstances—I will not go into the question of the Corn-law, as that is settled—but owing to a variety of circumstances, from 1838 to 1842 there was a continued sinking in the condition of Stockport—its property depreciated to a lamentable extent. One man left property, as he thought, worth 80,000l. or 90,000l. Within two years it sold for little more than 30,000l. Since that time the son of one man, then supposed to be a person of large property, has had relief from the parochial funds. In 1842 the amount of the poor-rate averaged from 7s. to 8s. in the pound. From November 4, 1841, to May 30, 1842, the rates levied were 6s. in the pound, realising the amount of 19,144l. From January 28, 1843, to August 2 of the same year, the rates levied were 7s. in the pound, and the amount raised was 21,948l. And bear in mind that at that time Stockport was in process of depopulation—many thousands quitted the place—whole streets were left with scarcely a tenant in them—some public-houses, previously doing a large business, were let for little more than their rates; in fact, Stockport was as fair a representative of distress amongst a manufacturing community as Mayo, Galway, or any western county of Ireland can be at this moment of distress amongst an agricultural community.
Now what was done in Stockport? There was a Commission of Inquiry, which the then Home Secretary appointed. They made an admirable report, the last paragraph of which ought to be read by every one who wishes to know the character of the people of Stockport. Mr. Twisleton, speaking of them, said that they were a noble people; and truly the exertions which they made to avoid becoming chargeable upon the rates were heroic. Well now, all this suffering was going on—the workhouses were crowded, the people were emigrating, there was a general desolation, and if it had not been for the harvest of 1842, which was a good one, and the gradual recovery of trade which followed, nothing in Ireland can be worse than the condition of Stockport would have been. What was the result? Property was greatly depreciated, and much of it changed hands. Something like half the manufacturers failed, and, of course, gave up business altogether. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport purchased property in the borough at that period, and since then he has laid out not far short of a hundred thousand pounds, in a very large manufacturing establishment in that town. In fact, the persons who are now carrying on the manufacturing business in Stockport are of a more substantial character than those who were swept away by the calamities of 1842. This is a very sorrowful process. I can feel as much for those persons as any man; but we must all submit to circumstances such as these when they come.
There are vicissitudes in all classes of society, and in all occupations in which we may engage; and when we have, as now in Ireland, a state of things—a grievous calamity not equalled under the sun,—it is the duty of this House not to interfere with the ordinary and natural course of remedy, and not to flinch from what is necessary for the safety of the people by reason of any mistaken sympathy with the owners of cotton mills or with the proprietors of landed estates. Now, I want Parliament to remove every obstacle in the way of the free sale of land. I believe that in this policy lies the only security you have for the restoration of the distressed districts of Ireland. The question of a Parliamentary title is most important; but I understand that the difficulty of this arises from the system of entails beyond persons now living, and because you must go back through a long search of sixty years before you can make it quite clear that the title is absolutely secure. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth suggested that the Lord Chancellor should be ousted. I proposed last year that there should be a new court established in Ireland, for the adjudication of cases connected with land, and for no other purpose, and that it should thus relieve the present courts from much of the business with which they are now encumbered. But I do not say that even such a court would effect much good, unless it were very much more speedy in its operations than the existing courts. I believe that the present Lord Chancellor is admitted to be as good a Judge as ever sat in the Court of Chancery; but he is rather timid as a Minister, and inert as a statesman; and, if I am not mistaken, he was in a great measure responsible for the failure of the Bill for facilitating the sale of encumbered estates last Session. The Government must have known, as well as I do, that such a measure could not succeed, and that the clause which was introduced—on the third reading, I believe—made it impossible to work it.
There is another point, with regard to intestate estates. I feel how tenderly one must speak, in this House, upon a question like this. Even the right hon. Member for Tamworth, with all his authority, appeared, when touching on this delicate question of the land, as if he were walking upon eggs which he was very much afraid of breaking. I certainly never heard the right hon. Gentleman steer through so many sinuosities in a case; and hardly, at last, dared he come to the question, because he was talking about land—this sacred land! I believe land to have nothing peculiar in its nature which does not belong to other property; and everything that we have done with the view of treating land differently from other property has been a blunder—a false course which we must retrace—an error which lies at the foundation of very much of the pauperism and want of employment which so generally prevail. Now, with regard to intestate estates, I am told that the House of Lords will never repeal the law of primogeniture; but I do not want them to repeal the law of primogeniture in the sense entertained by some people. I do not want them to enact the system of France, by which a division of property is compelled. I think that to force the division of property by law is just as contrary to sound principles and natural rights as to prevent its division, as is done by our law. If a man choose to act the unnatural and absurd part of leaving the whole of his property to one child, I should not, certainly, look with respect upon his memory; but I would not interfere to prevent the free exercise of his will. I think, however, if a man die by chance without a will, that it is the duty of the Government to set a high moral example, and to divide the property equally among the children of the former owner, or among those who may be said to be his heirs—among those, in fact, who would fairly participate in his personal estate. If that system of leaving all to the eldest were followed out in the case of personalty, it would lead to immediate confusion, and, by destroying the whole social system, to a perfect anarchy of property. Why, then, should that course be followed with regard to land? The repeal of the law would not of necessity destroy the custom; but this House would no longer give its sanction to a practice which is bad; and I believe that gradually there would be a more just appreciation of their duties in this respect by the great body of testators.
Then, with regard to life interests; I would make an alteration there. I think that life-owners should be allowed to grant leases—of course, only on such terms as should ensure the successor from fraud—and that estates should be permitted to be charged with the sums which were expended in their improvement. Next, with regard to the registry of land. In many European countries this is done; and high legal authorities affirm that it would not be difficult to accomplish it in this country. You have your Ordnance Survey. To make the Survey necessary for a perfect registry of deeds throughout the kingdom, would not cost more than 9d. an acre; and if you had your plans engraved, it would be no great addition to the expense. There can be no reason why the landowners should not have that advantage conferred upon them, because, in addition to the public benefit, it would increase the value of their lands by several years' purchase. Mr. Senior has stated, that if there were the same ready means for the transfer of land as at present exist for the transfer of personalty, the value of land would be increased, if I mistake not, by nine years' purchase. This is a subject which I would recommend to the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, now distinguished as the advocate of the landed interest.
Then with regard to stamps, I think that they might be reduced, at any rate for a number of years, to a nominal amount. In fact, I would make any sacrifice for the purpose of changing land from the hands of insolvent and embarrassed owners into those of solvent persons, who would employ it in a manner usefully and advantageously to the country and themselves. There is another proposition with, regard to the waste lands of Ireland. The Government made a proposal last year for obtaining those waste lands, and bringing them into cultivation. That I thought injudicious. But they might take those lands at a valuation, and, dividing them into farms and estates of moderate size, might tempt purchasers from different parts of the United Kingdom. By such means I believe that a large proportion of the best of the waste lands might be brought into cultivation. I believe that these are the only means by which capital can be attracted to that country.
The noble Lord at the head of the Government proposes to attract capital to Ireland by a maximum rate and a charge upon the Unions. If that maximum rate be all you have to propose, there will be no more probability of capital flowing into those parts of Ireland where it is so much required, than there was at the time when the poor-rate was unknown. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth spoke about emigration; and I think that he was rather unjust, or at least unwise, in his observations with regard to voluntary emigration. Things that are done voluntarily are not always done well; neither are things that are done by the Government; and I know many cases where Government undertakings have failed as eminently as any that have been attempted by private enterprise. But it does not appear to me that there is much wisdom in the project of emigration, although I know that some hon. Gentlemen from Ireland place great faith in it as a remedy. I have endeavoured to ascertain what is the relation of the population to the land in Ireland, and this is what I find. In speaking of the Clifden Union, the Inspectors state—
'In conclusion, we beg to offer our matured opinion that the resources of the Union would, if made available, be amply sufficient for the independent support of its population.'
Mr. Hamilton, who was examined before the Committee of which I am a member, said, speaking of the Unions of Donegal and Glenties—
'There is no over-population, if those Unions, according to their capabilities, were cultivated as the average of English counties, with the same skill and capital.'
And Mr. Twisleton said—
'I did not speak of a redundant population in reference to land, only to capital. The land of Ireland could maintain double its present population.'
Then, if that be the case, I am not quite certain that we should be wise in raising sums of money to enable the people to emigrate. The cost of transporting a family to Australia, or even to Canada, is considerable; and the question is, whether, with the means which it would require to convey them to a distant shore, they might not be more profitably employed at home.
I probably shall be told that I propose schemes which are a great interference with the rights of property. My opinion is that nothing can be a greater interference and infringement of the rights of property than the laws which regulate property now. I think that the landowners are under an impression that they have been maintaining great influence, political power, an hereditary aristocracy, and all those other arrangements which some think should never be named without reverence and awe; that they have been accustomed to look at these things, and to fancy that they are worth the price they pay for them. I am of opinion that the disadvantages under which those rights labour throughout the United Kingdom are extreme; but in Ireland the disadvantages are followed by results not known in this country.
You speak of interference with property; but I ask what becomes of the property of the poor man, which consists of his labour? Take those 4,000,000 persons who live in the distressed districts, as described by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. Their property in labour is almost totally destroyed. There they are—men whom God made and permitted to come into this world, endowed with faculties like ourselves, but who are unable to maintain themselves, and must either starve or live upon others. The interference with their property has been enormous—so great as absolutely to destroy it. Now, I ask the landlords of Ireland, whether living in the state in which they have lived for years is not infinitely worse than that which I have proposed for them? Threatening letters by the post at breakfast-time—now and then the aim of the assassin—poor-rates which are a grievous interference with the rights of property, and this rate in aid, which the gentlemen of Ulster declare to be directly opposed to all the rights of property—what can be worse?
I shall be told that I am injuring aristocratical and territorial influence. What is that in Ireland worth to you now? What is Ireland worth to you at all? Is she not the very symbol and token of your disgrace and humiliation to the whole world? Is she not an incessant trouble to your Legislature, and the source of increased expense to your people, already over-taxed? Is not your legislation all at fault in what it has hitherto done for that country? The people of Ulster say that we shall weaken the Union. It has been one of the misfortunes of the legislation of this House that there has been no honest attempt to make a union with the whole people of Ireland up to this time. We have had a union with Ulster, but there has been no union with the whole people of Ireland, and there never can be a union between the Government and the people whilst such a state of things exists as has for many years past prevailed in the south and west of Ireland.
The condition of Ireland at this moment is this—the rich are menaced with ruin, and ruin from which, in their present course, they cannot escape; whilst the poor are menaced with starvation and death. There are hon. Gentlemen in this House, and there are other landed proprietors in Ireland, who are as admirable in the performance of all their social duties as any men to be found in any part of the world. We have had brilliant examples mentioned in this House; but those men themselves are suffering their characters to be damaged by the present condition of Ireland, and are undergoing a process which must end in their own ruin; because this demoralisation and pauperisation will go on in an extending circle, and will engulf the whole property of Ireland in one common ruin, unless something more be done than passing poor-laws and proposing rates in aid.
Sir, if ever there were an opportunity for a statesman, it is this. This is the hour undoubtedly, and we want the man. The noble Lord at the head of the Government has done many things for his country, for which I thank him as heartily as any man—he has shown on some occasions as much moral courage as it is necessary, in the state of public opinion, upon any question, for a statesman to show; but I have been much disappointed that, upon this Irish question, he has seemed to shrink from a full consideration of the difficulty, and from a resolution to meet it fairly. The character of the present, the character of any Government under such circumstances, must be at stake. The noble Lord cannot, in his position, remain inactive. Let him be as innocent as he may, he can never justify himself to the country, or to the world, or to posterity, if he remains at the head of this Imperial Legislature and is still unable, or unwilling, to bring forward measures for the restoration of Ireland. I would address the same language also to the noble Lord at the head of the Irish Government, who has won, I must say, the admiration of the population of this country for the temper and manner in which he has administered the government of Ireland. But he must bear in mind that it is not the highest effort of statesmanship to preserve the peace in a country where there are very few men anxious to go to war, and to preserve the peace, too, with 50,000 armed men at his command, and the whole power of this empire to back him. All that may be necessary, and peace at all hazards must be secured; but if that distinguished Nobleman intends to be known hereafter as a statesman with regard to his rule in Ireland, he must be prepared to suggest measures to the Government of a more practical and directly operative character than any he has yet initiated.
Sir, I am ashamed, I must say, of the course which we have taken upon this question. Look at that great subscription that was raised three years ago for Ireland. There was scarcely a part of the globe from which subscriptions did not come. The Pope, as was very natural, subscribed— the head of the great Mahometan empire, the Grand Seignior, sent his thousand pounds—the uttermost parts of the earth sent in their donations. A tribe of Red Indians on the American continent sent their subscription; and I have it on good authority that even the slaves on a plantation in one of the Carolinas subscribed their sorrowful mite that the miseries of Ireland might be relieved. The whole world looked upon the condition of Ireland, and helped to mitigate her miseries. What can we say to all those contributors, who, now that they have paid, must he anxious to know if anything is done to prevent a recurrence of these calamities? We must tell them with blushes that nothing has been done, but that we are still going on with the poor-rates, and that, having exhausted the patience of the people of England in Parliamentary grants, we are coming now with rates in aid, restricted altogether to the property of Ireland. That is what we have to tell them; whilst we have to acknowledge that our Constitution, boasted of as it has been for generations past, utterly fails to grapple with this great question.