LORD JOHN RUSSELL'S SPEECH ON IRELAND.
HOUSE Or COMMONS-MONDAY, JANUARY 25.
Lord JOHN RUSSELL, introducing the new measures of Government on the state of Ireland, spoke nearly to the following effect.
"Sir, I feel that I never had so much need of the indulgence of the House as I have upon the present occasion; yet I feel, at the same time, that I never had so little need to ask that indulgence. I am sure that the House, from the temper it has already displayed—from the sense which prevails of the magnitude of the calamity that has already occurred, and of the further calamity which is still im- -from the conviction of the danger that would arise from interposing any party eelings or considerations—and from the forbearance I have already expe- nenced—I say, I feel sure that I need not, on the present occasion, ask the in- dulgence of the House, for I know that it will be voluntarily bestowed. (Cheers from all sides.) "In treating the question of the state of Ireland, I will first lay down the order in which I intend to consider the subject. I propose, first, to state what is the condition of that part of the United Kingdom visited by the calamity; secondly, to give a general account of what has occurred during the recess of Parliament,— that is to say, what has been done in pursuance of acts of the Legislature, and how far I think those measures have been efficient; I shall then mention what we propose to do, with reference to the present emergency and at the present time; and having made that statement, I shall ask the attention of the House while I proceed to invite it to some consideration of other measures, which are calculated, in the opinion of her Majesty's Government, to improve the general condition of Ireland, and to lay the foundation of permanent prosperity. I shall also take the liberty of adverting to some other subjects which, although they have been under consideration, have not yet been so fully considered that mea- sures upon them have been matured. Having informed the House generally of the view I take, I shall in conclusion request the assent of the House to the in- troduction of two bills,—one, for the purpose of rendering valid certain acts done under the authority of the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, as communicated in the letter of my right honourable friend near me, the Chief Secretary to the Lord- Lieutenant; the other, for the improvement of private estates, in the spirit of the Treasury minute of the 1st of December. "In proceeding to consider the state of the country in which this calamity has occurred, I think it the safest course to use the guarded language of the report on the inquiry into the provision by poor-laws in Ireland, and to ask the House to judge from that report how great was likely to be the misfortune of the almost total failure oflthe potato crop. The Commission which prepared the First Report was formed of many persons of considerable authority, some of them Irishmen, and well acquainted with their country; and as the reason for not having made their report so soon as was expected, they say—' The great proportion of the po- pulation about and among whom the inquiry was to be made is constantly fluc- tuating between mendicancy and independent labour. In whole districts scarcely one of that class of substantial capitalist farmers so universal in England can be found. The small resident gentry are but few; and the substantial tradesman is not to be met with at intervals of two or three miles, as in England, for there are but few towns of sufficient trade to create such a class. The clergy of the various persuasions, and the proprietors, when resident, are in many cases so much at variance with each other, or with the working population, upon political questions, that great caution was requisite in regard to the manner and degree in which we could avail ourselves of their assistance. Similar difficulties existed with regard to the constabulary, from the frequent collisions in which they are placed with the people; and parochial authorities can scarcely be said to exist.' " In their Third Report, which was the foundation of the measure that was then adopted, the Commissioners state—' It appears that in Great Britain the agricul- tural families constitute little more than a fourth, while in Ireland they constitute about two-thirds of the whole population; that there were in Great Britain, in 1831, 1,055,982 agricultural labourers, in Ireland 1,131,715, although the culti- vated land of Great Britain amounts to about 34,250,000 acres and that of Ire- land only to about 14,600,000. We thus find that there are in Ireland about five agricultural labourers for every two that there are for the same quantity of land in Great Britain. It further appears that the agricultural produce of Great Bri- tain is more than four times that of Ireland; that agricultural wages vary from
6d. to ls. a day; that the average of the country in general is about 80.; and that the earnings of the labourers come, on an average of the whole class, to from 2s. to 2s. 6d a week, or thereabouts, for the year round. Thus circumstanced, it is impossible for the able-bodied, in general, to provide against sickness or the temporary absence of employment, or against old age, or the destitution of their widows and children, in the contingent event of their own premature decease. A great portion of them are insufficiently provided at any time with the commonest necessaries of life. Their habitations are wretched hovels: several of a family sleep together upon straw or upon the bare ground, sometimes with a blanket, sometimes even without so much to cover them. Their food commonly consists of dry potatoes; and with these they are at times so scantily supplied as to be obliged to stint themselves to one spare meal in the day. There are instances of persons being driven by hunger to seek sustenance in wild herbs. They some- times get a herring, or a little milk; but they never get meat, except at Christ- mas, Easter, or Shrovetide. Some go in search of employment to Great Britain during the harvest, others wander through Ireland with the same view. The wives and children of many are occasionally obliged to beg: they do so reluctantly and with shame, and in general go to a distance from home, that they may not be known. Mendicancy, too, is the sole resource of the aged and impotent of the poorer classes in general, when children or relatives are unable to support them. To it, therefore, crowds are driven for the means of existence; and the knowledge that such is the fact leads to an indiscriminate giving of alms, which encourages idleness, imposture, and general crime.' " Such," continued Lord John, " was the description, given upon the most =- doubted authority, of the state of the labouring classes in Ireland, even amidst times of comparative plenty. It may be imagined that when, from an insufficient produce those who are best off earn scarcely sufficient, these who had been on the brink of famine in the most prosperous years most have been unable to resist the flood of destitution and wretchedness. A famine unknown in modern times is acting on a population of nearly eight millions—a famine of the thirteenth century upon a population of the nineteenth."
Lord John narrated the steps which had already been taken by Govern- ment— The potatoes having been much injured in Ireland, a very great scarcity was apprehended last year; but the apprehension was not fully borne out: the quantity of food in Ireland last year was not very deficient. However, very early in the session, Parliament took means to supply the destitution by providing employment on roads and public works. An act was passed giving the 'Treasury power to ad- vance money for such purposes upon security by way of loan. Under this law, up to the 31st of August, engagements were entered into to the extent of 1,372,0001. Of that sum the Board of Worksadvanced 476,0001., and there had been aclues expended to that time 290,0001. Before the end of the session, Government passed a further act, authorizing presentments for public works, with provisions to check extravagant expenditure; the whole money to be regarded as an advance to be repaid.
Very soon after the session closed, there was a great demand for the completion of the public works already begun; and although the Treasury objected to inter- fere with the demand for labour then accruing from the harvest, it yielded under an appeal to its good faith. Then came complaints that the works were useless. "I own I do not myself attach any great value to that objection. I think, the object being relief—the object being to combine relief with a certain amount of work which should show that industry was not entirely abandoned—that the productive nature of the works was a question of secondary importance; and that the use for which they were intended was, preserving the people, in the first place, from loss of life, and in the next place, from the indiscriminate asking of alms." However, as it was desir- able to obtain the cooperation of the landed gentry, and also desirable that, if pos- sible, the works should be productive, the Lord-Lieutenant sanctioned a plan by which Sessions were allowed to present for productive works in electoral districts. Next was a demand that the works should be presented separately for town- lands. Now many of these townlands are exceedingly small; the average of all Ireland not being above 350 acres each. Some are grass lands or cleared lands; and it is obvious that this division would destroy any general interest in providing for the destitution. Even advocates of the plan were ultimately made to see that it could not be beneficially adopted. Next came aproposal for the compulsory employment of destitute persons by proprietors annccupiers of townlands. Mr. Smith O'Brien, in a letter to the pro- prietors of Ireland, has shown that one effect of the system would be, that, to avoid the additional taxation, persons who already employ labourers independently would dismiss those labourers and receive them again as workmen under the plan. Thus one half of the present absorption of labour would be neutralized, and the workmen would cease to be independent labourers chosen and paid by the em- ployer. " A system not very dissimilar to this," says Mr. O'Brien, " was acted upon in several parts of England previous to the Poor-law Amendment Act of 1834, and was found to pruce effects the most demoralizing to the labouring population; paralyzing all the energy of independent labour and individual enter- prise, and in many respects operating most unjustly upon particular classes of property." It is true, however, that the refusals of individual proprietors in electoral districts have prevented the instructions of the Lord-Lieutenant from being so extensive in their effect as they might have been.
Meanwhile, the destitution increased, and the immense number of servants re- quired by public works rendered it impossible in all cases to find efficient or trust- worthy persons: including officers, chief clerks, check-clerks, and pay-clerks, the total number of the persons employed amounts to 11,587. ("Hear, hear! ") In 360 baronies the amount of the presentments which have been sanctioned up to this date is 2,410,2161. The number of labourers has increased from 30,135 in the month of September, to 440,687 in the month of December. According to last week's account, it was more than 480,000, and there is no doubt entertained at the present time that they amount to 500,000 persons. It is not to be sup- posed that there is not very great utility in having employed these persons. It is reckoned that five persons gain their subsistence from every person who is em- ployed. Lord John doubted the accuracy of the estimate; but, taking it at four, there are two millions of persons who subsist on the public works. The expense at the same time has been enormous: the total amount was 585,0001. in the whole of December, and 485,0001. in three weeks of January. It is estimated that the whole expense this month will be between 700,0001. and 800,0001. It was found, in the next place, that the labourers very often refused to undertake the task allotted to them; and more than one of the persons who endeavoured to induce the parties employed to labour well for the wages given to them was maltreated, more than one was in danger of his life in consequence of his efforts to discharge his duty. Task-work was introduced. So far a good example was set. But a new evil sprang up; which was, that those men who became accustomed to task-work earned wages considerably more than any money wages which could otherwise be got. They earned ls. 4d, and ls. 6d., and Is. 10d. a day, in some cases; • and there was a very great run upon the public works, a general competition to be placed upon the public works; and the farmers did not obtain the labourers they wished to employ. On the 19th of January, Colonel Jones, head of the Public Works, writes to Mr. Trevelyan—" I am of opinion that it would be better in many cases to give food than to be paying money away as we are now obliged to do, at the same time the people are discontented at the small sums they are en- titled to The fact is, that the system of task-work is no longer beneficial em- ployment to many: their bodily strength is gone, and their spirits depressed; they have not power to exert themselves sufficiently to earn the ordinary day's wages. This necessary outlay will be stigmatized as a wasteful expenditure, and the works will be left incomplete. Mr. Barry, our Fishery Inspector, has just re- turned from Glandore, near Clonakilty. The accompanying is a short statement of affairs in that district. You will perceive the great benefits derived from the soup establishments, and so very cheap in the preparation; the small amount of nourishment has a very great effect upon the famished individuals whose stamina is thus partially revived. So far as we are concerned, I believe our powers have attained the utmost. We have, I trust, made a good stand; but the numbers which are now forcing themselves upon us will incapacitate our officers from affording employment, and all our efforts, hitherto so successful, will be para- lyzed."
Lord John now described the new temporary measures by which, with so vast an expenditure, more effectual relief might be afforded-
" It has appeared to us that it will be desirable to form in districts—say electoral districts—Relief Committees, which Relief Committees shall be empower- ed to receive subscriptions, evy rates, and receive donations from the Government; that by means of these they should purchase food and establish soup-kitchens in the different districts; that they should, so far as they are able distribute rations with this purchased food to the famishing inhabitants; and that furnishing that food they should not require as indispensable the test of work, but that labouring men should be allowed to work on their own plots of ground or for the farmers,
and thus tend to produce food for the next harvest, and procure perhaps some small wages to enable them to support their families. After we considered this scheme, I communicated it to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. We have consulted the various officers of the Board of Works and at the head of the Commissariat. They are prepared to consider it favourably; and we shall endeavour, first by a preparatory measure, and next by a bill to be proposed to Parliament, to carry into effect this arrangement. A person in this country conversant with Ireland and its public works has consented to undertake the duty: it is Sir John Burgoyne, of Government Fortifications in England. He will be in communication Inspectorwi the Lord-Lieutenant, and will have the cooperation of Colonel Jones and the Board of Works, of the Commissariat, the head of the Poor-law Commission, and of other persons who are competent and ready to give him assistance. Care will be taken that the substitution of this system for public works shall be made as easy in the transition as possible. There will be no rade dismissal of the peo- ple at once, who otherwise might find great difficulty in obtaining subsistence; but when the arrangements are made for carrying the scheme I have described into effect, it will be provided that no further assessment shall be made and no new public works undertaken." Some roads already commenced would cause great inconvenience if left incomplete. "With regard to the money which has been already expended and which is now being expended upon these public works, a claim has been made that the whole of it should not be a burden upon Ireland. The calamity is so severe and extensive, that, passing by the remote causes of it, and looking how heavily it has pressed upon the present possessors of property in Ireland, upon the whole I think it right that the whole burden should not remain upon Irish property. We should therefore propose, that an arrangement should be made by Parliament, by which in each succeeding year, when an instalment becomes due, upon half that instalment being paid the other half should be remitted; that the whole debt should be kept up till one half of it is paid, and that when the half of it is paid the remainder should be remitted; and thus it would be provided that one half of the whole charge should be upon the public. "I should state, on the financial part of this question, as regards the sums now betted, that they are issued out of the balance in the Exchequer—they are issued out of the Consolidated Fund; and that neither is there nor has there been any intention of making any new issue of Exchequer Bills to meet that demand. But it must at the same time be considered, that when I make such a proposition as that which has now been laid before the House, it is one which places a very considerable burden upon the finances of this country; and that, placing that bur- den upon the finances of this country, I do feel myself disabledfrom making some psopos�tions I should otherwise have made, but which, considering the very heavy burdens arising from the destitution this present year, I should think it hardly fair to the -.pie of this country to bring forward. It may be said, ' Let the burden be .me by the Consolidated Fund; let it be borne by the Imperial Trea- sury and Exchequer.' I trust always that those sums are not to be granted by Government or Parliament without most serious consideration. These are sums derived from payments by the people of this country. It is what they pay on their soap, their sugar, their tea, their coffee. It is that which forms the surplus by which we are able to come to the assistance of Ireland; and while I believe there is every disposition to do all that is liberal, I do think that we must, in justice to the people of this country, consider their difficulties and theirpriva- tions, and how by hard labour they are earning their daily bread. (Cheers.) "As to the other part of this subject which I mentioned, namely, the advances made under authority of the Lord-Lieutenant's order, and of the letter of my right honourable friend [Mr. Labouchere]—the advances having been made to persons who really wished to assist in carrying this measure into effect, and to effect improvements, making their own estates liable,—we do think it necessary that the terms of the Treasury minute of the 1st of December should be applied to those who have accepted advances under Mr. Labouchere's letter, and that in- stead of requiring repayment in ten years a period of twenty-two years shall be taken; that the provisions for carrying this proposal into effect should be in terms of the Drainage Act of last year; and that in regard to its beneficial employment the whole of that money will be expected to be paid as under that act. " Sir, I have stated what I think we can do for present alleviation. There is, however, another question on which I have to make a somewhat, I must confess, doubtful proposal; but upon the whole we think we are right in recommending it to Parliament. It is that we should be empowered to advance a sum, not exceed- ing 50,0001. in the whole, to be repaid before the end of this year, the 31st of December 1847, to enable the proprietors to furnish seed for the land. I do not think it a safe course that the Government should make advances to small tenants. It is very dangerous that the Government should be introduced as the lender to a great number of cottier tenants and other occupants of small holdings; but if the money be advanced to the landlords, it may be given for their tenantry to purchase seed, and so may be most beneficially applied." Lord John disclaimed the notion that these or any efforts of man could altogether meet the calamity. Touching upon the erroneous notions prevalent in Ireland as to the duties and capacities of Government with respect to interference, he cited an address signed by the Marquis of Sligo and Mr. Moore, summoning a meeting at Castlebar to demand that Parliament should take such steps as may secure an immediate, constant, and cheap, supply of food; and he expressed surprise that any one should impose upon Government so presumptuous an attempt-
" Why, Sir, this is a task which is impossible for us—a task which they ought to tell their countrymen the destitution under which they are suffering has made impossible for man—a task which is beyond all human power; and that all that we can possibly do is in some mode to alleviate their distress—somewhat to lighten the dreadful calamity which afflicts them; and it is their duty to say to these people, You are not to imagine that the Government can turn scarcity and even famine into plenty.' (Cheers.) But what surprises me more in this announce- ment is, that it so happens that at Castlebar, where the people of the surrounding country are requested to meet, there is a union workhouse, which union work- house ought to contain 600 inmates, but which at present contains not more than 130, the doors being closed against other persons by the Guardians saying that it is impossible for them to levy the rates in order to enable those other persona who are in want of food to come into the workhouse. Amongst those who have not paid their rates—who have not furnished the money by which the famine might m some degree be averted—are some of those whom we cannot but suppose are fully able to pay what is due from them. (Loud cries of "Hear!") Sir, I can- not but see in this proposal an unhappy tendency--an unhappy tendency which I have more than once remarked—to recommend to others to do some vague and impossible duty—to call upon the Government or Parliament to do some- thing the practicability of which has not been considered—to confer some benefit, it may be of a visionary and impossible kind; while the plain and practical duty of paying the rates for the assistance of the starving men, women, and children in their neighbourhood, is left neglected and forgotten. (" Hews hear!") Sir, I am obliged to say, therefore, that while we attempt all that we think practicable, we must, in the first place, refuse to make promises of that which is out of our power; and in the next place, we must call upon and expect those who have local duties to perform in Ireland, to perform those duties, and to assist the Govern- ment and Parliament in their arduous duty: and when I say that I expect this, I am quite sure that many will perform it, because I know that in many, very many instances, the resident proprietors in Ireland have been most ready with their money, with their time, and with their attendance, in endeavouring to provide for the relief of their destitute countrymen."
Lord John described the other measures which, as he and his colleagues thought, might be beneficial in Ireland, not only now but permanently. " Although, unhappily, we have been diverted from the observance of general principles with respect to these matters, I do think that we ought to observe general principles as far as possible, and that these general principles prescribe thus mach with respect to the interference of the Government. That interference may be given in three ways, and these three ways ought as far as possible to be kept separate and distinct. First, the Government, with the support of Parlia- ment, may grant assistance to individual proprietors for the purpose of enabling them to improve their private properties; secondly, it may assist them in public works, by making roads, or partly by grants in aid of public works, which are evidently, of public utility; and thirdly, it may enact that relief should be given by law to the destitute.
"Now, I think that these three modes should be kept as far as possible distinct —that is to say, that when money is advanced to private individuals for the pur- pose of improving their propeity,. you should take security so far that it is used for that purpose, and not spent in extravagancies in Paris or Naples; but that beyond this there should be as little interference as possible with the outlay of the money,—that there should be as little interference as possible, for instance, to compel the proprietors to employ a certain class of labourers, or to conduct their works in a certain particular manner which the Government may lay down as the best, or in any other way which would prevent the proprietors having the free use of the money advanced. Such is the principle of the first measure of which I am about to speak. It is a measure founded upon various acts which have been passed by this House at different times up to the Drainage Act of last session, and
upon the terms given to the public in the Treasury minute of the 1st December last. According to those acts and to that minute, it is proposed, that where the
improvement of estates by drainage, or by any other improvement, such as the re- clamation of waste lands, will produce certain improvements in its value, so that the legal heirs might not be prejudiced,—in that case certain advances shall be made from the public funds of this country. The usual rate for advances from the Treasury is 5 per cent; in the Drainage Act of last year it was 34 per cent, with repayment in twenty-two years, making 6i per cent each year till the expiry of the twenty-two years, when the whole sum borrowed was to be repaid. Now we propose to take the terms proposed in the Drainage Act, and extend them to the various im rovements mentioned. We propose to do away with certain tech- nicalities whi . according to that act—but for which, I may remark, the noble Lord opposite Lord Lincoln] was not responsible, for they were introduced after the bill had left his hands—made it difficult for tenants for life to borrow money.
According to this plan, a great many men will find profitable employment who otherwise might be excluded from the field of labour, or who would be destitute; and it will also be of great advantage to the proprietors. "We propose, also, with respect to more general works, to consolidate and amend the Drainage Acts now on the statute-book. According to those acts, in certain cases proprietors of a district may meet and agree to ask a loan for the improvement of their estates by drainage; and if the majority so agree the minor- ity are bound to join there. Now, in those cases, the drainage will be under- taken by the Board of Works, or carried on under their superintendence. But this alludes to drainage of a more general nature. It will not take place on the private estates of proprietors; it is applicable only to streams and rivers, and other operations of that kind, by which the country will be much improved. We pro- pose, therefore, to consolidate and amend those acts. "It is on the same principle that we propose to undertake the regulation of a portion of the waste lands of Ireland. It has long been stated, in venous reports of Commissioners, in reports of Committees of this House, and by eminent wri- ters, that in many cases the reclamation of the waste lands of Ireland would pro- duce profitable employment to the people, and make the lands of great value, Sir
Robert Kane, in his work On the Industrial Resources of Ireland, says, that
the estimate that there are 4,600,000 acres of waste land in Ireland which might be reclaimed and formed into cultivated lands was perfectly convect, and that it was no exaggerated estimate. Wepropose to devote 1,000,000L to this purpose: and we pose that the land should, if the proprietor be willing to part with it, be purchased; but that if he does not improve it by accepting a loan under this measure, or out of his own resources, and if he refuses to sell, there shall be a compulsory power to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to take and im- prove waste lands which are below a certain value. The value which we propose to estimate is land which does not give below 2s. 6d. per acre. [Mr. GOULBURN -" Is that the annual value ?"] That is the annual value. We propose that such lands shall only be improved and reclaimed so far as general operations are concerned; that roads shall be made; that general drainage shall be effected, and the necessary buildings erected; but that none of the cultivation of the land shall take place until the erection of a public department; that having been so re- claimed, they shall be divided into lots, which shall not be below a certain amount nor above a certain amount. I am not at present prepared to fix this amount ab- solutely, but say that they shall not be less than 25nor more than 50 acres, or some proposal of that kind; and that when these lots have been reclaimed, they may be either sold or let to tenants for a certain number of years, with a deter- mination that they shall be sold at the end of that time. It is intended that we shall not confine ourselves either to letting or sale, but to act as may be found ex-
pedient in each advantages sticalar, case. I expect that great advantag will gradually
arise from this I expect that a great number of persons who have hitherto been driven to espair, and many of those into crime, by the great demand for land, will many of them be placed in those holdings, and be able to earn a com- fortable living by the produce of their labour. I think likewise, with respect to those who purchase them, that we shall be able to raise a class of small proprie- tors, who by their industry and independence will form a valuable class in the future society of Ireland? Lord John does not think the smallness of farms, apart from the tenures, a great evil in Ireland; and he cited the flourishing state of Armagh, one of the counties where land is most divided and best cultivated, to prove that it is not. He now came to the third class of measures, those simply to give relief to the destitute. At first it was thought most safe in Ireland' to confine relief to the workhouses. " It is not only the experience of the present state of things, but it is an opinion formed upon general views of the state of Ireland, that the Poor- law ought to be more extensive than it now is. I should therefore propose to bring in a bill for the more effectual relief of the destitute poor of Ireland, which should enact that the Guardians of the Poor be required to give relief, either in or out of the workhouse, to all those who are permanently disabled by bodily in I am convinced that this ought to be done; and it will be the means, in the first place, of enabling the Guardians to make use of the workhouse for its proper function as a test of destitution; and in the second place, it will enable them to afford relief to that unfortunate class of persons in their own houses,—a coarse which will be both more satisfactory to the general feelings of the people of that country, and more useful in the future working of the system. When the workhouse is fall, the Poor-law Commissioners shall have power to direct that in such cases the Guardians may give relief out of the workhouse to the able-bodied poor. I am of opinion, however, that this is a power which should be cautiously used. I am of opinion that the workhouse should always be kept as a test for the able-bodied poor. But at the same time, as we have seen, there are cases where the workhouses are insufficient to afford accommodation to all the unfortunate persons who are crowding round their doors, and we think the Poor- law Commissioners should have power in these cases to make an exception. With respect to able-bodied paupers, I may remark that relief is to be given in food only. We likewise propose that there should be Relieving-officers appointed, and that it should be the duty of such Relieving-officers, in cases of urgent distress, where there is a danger of starving on the part of persons applying, to give relief, either in or out of the workhouse, until the next meeting of the Board of Guar- dians, who shall make provision for such cases according to the general rule which they have sanctioned." Lord John then stated the measures which are under consideration, but not matured; and he hinted yet further at others; for he declared that in stating now the measures which Ministers propose immediately, or almost immediately, to bring into Parliament, he was not stating all the measures which they have in contemplation, and which they may hereafter bring forward.
"Connected with the first class of measures to which I have alluded, namely, those which are to enable proprietors to make a better use of their property, to increase their capital, and to improve their estates, we have under consideration a measure for facilitating the sale of encumbered estates. There are two modes by which this may be done. One is by adopting the general principle of the Copyhold Enfranchisement Act. Every one knows that bills are passed in every session to allow certain individuals to sell portions of their estates, in order to enable them to pay off encumbrances. As one way of carrying into effect the principle to which I have just alluded, I would propose that there should be a general law giving Commissioners power to examine into each case brought be- fore them; instead of passing a private bill in each case, that a general bill should be passed in which should be included all cases. Another mode of obtaining the same object has been under consideration, and that was solely by the authority of the Court of Chancery, upon application made to it for that purpose. I cannot, at this moment, say which mode will be finally preferred; all I can state is, that the subject is under consideration.
" We shall likewise propose a bill by which those long leasehold tenures in Ire- land which are renewable for ever may be converted into freeholds. I must say that there is nothing with respect to the general state of Ireland—nothing with respect to its present unfortunate condition, more injurious than the mode in which property is held by various tenures and under various conditions in that country. It very often happens that the proprietor in chief, as he appears to be, of a large estate, obtains only a small part of the rent; another head landlord of a great property leases it under him, and the leaseholder has again a middleman under him; so that it is almost impossible to say on whom the duties of property rest. This is a subject worthy of the attention of Parliament; and I hope it will consider how tenures in Ireland may be simplified, and whether it be not pos- sible to establish the same connexion between the proprietor and tenant and la- bourer in Ireland as exists in England and Scotland. It is to the want of that connexion I attribute the fact that, with respect to many frightful cases of desti- tution in Ireland which have reached the ears of the public, when inquiry has been made as to the persons who were immediately responsible for the destitution, or ought to be called upon to subscribe for the relief of the sufferers, it has been found almost impossible to ascertain upon whom the obligation rested. That is not the ease in England and Scotland. In the latter country, where great desti- tution unfortunately prevails at the present moment, though some of the pro- prietors' estates are heavily encumbered and charged with debt, yet such is their connexion and sympathy with their tenantry and labourers, that they have made themselves responsible for large advances of money, by means of which alone it was possible to avert some of the dreadful consequences of the impendingcalamity.
"Under the second head of public works come fisheries, which have attracted the attention of the Government; but with respect to which I am not, at present, pre- pared to make any definite statement to the House. In the course of 4st autumn, three establishments, of the nature of depots, were made for facilitating the curing of fish; it having been found that, although vast quantities of fish were taken, and still greater quantities might have been caught, the people utterly neglected the adoption of any means for preserving the fish, but threw them on the ground. Although not now prepared with any definite statement on the subject, I trust I shall soon be able to bring under its notice a measure relative to the fisheries."
Great expectations have been entertained in Ireland from emigration. But Lord John confessed that he did not think the extravagant expectations on that head could ever be fulfilled. " It is stated by Sir Robert Kane, and truly, that when persons are removed from a locality by emigration, the number removed is never so large as to produce a sensible effect on the population. I do not believe that any emigration which may take place as the result of either private or pub- lic exertion can ever, according to the ordinary amount of emigration, produce such an effect as to enable the remaining population to earn a greater amount of wages. Then, before we should make extraordinary efforts to increase emigration, it is necessary to consider an important point: if we attempt to go beyond that which is the ordinary annual emigration, and to convey a million of persons at once across the ocean, you must look not only to the advantage which you suppose would arise from not having those persons in Ireland competing with other la- bourers, but you must also inquire what funds—what means there are in the country to which they must be carried, to secure them subsistence. If by the public means you convey a hundred thousand persons to the United States, that country would have just cause to complain of our having cast our paupers on her shores, to be maintained by her when their maintenance was a primary obligation upon durselves. Then, again, if we should attempt to introduce a hundred thousand emigrants into Canada, the market would be glutted by the redundant supply; and the labourers there, instead of obtaining a fair amount of the means of subsistence, as they did now, would enter into a fierce competition with each other, and thus a state of things would be pro- duced in Nova Scotia and Canada in some respects similar to that from which the emigrants had fled at home. In considering the subject of emigration when I held the seals of the Colonial Department, I was, I confess, disposed to go farther than I did; and the obstacle was of a financial nature rather than any unwillingness on my part. It appeared to me, however, that the best mode by which emigration could be promoted was by taking charge of the emigrant, not at his present place of abode, not at the port of embarkation, but at the port where he disembarked, and then convey him to some field where he would dud a market for his labour. Accordingly, I proposed for that purpose a grant of money, which has since been continued, being in some years more and in some years less, b' means of which many emigrants have been conveyed to Montreal, to Kingston, ameba, Hamilton, and other places in West Canada, and placed in situations where they could earn a subsistence. I find that the emigration from Great Britain and Ireland, in 1845, amounted to 90,341; and of those emigrants 31,303 proceeded to our North Ame- rican Colonies, and 58,538 to the United States. In the first three quarters of 1846 the number of emigrants was 110,196; of whom 42,404 went to our North American Colonies, 67,792 to the United States." The emigration of 1846 did not differ very greatly from that of the two previous seasons. Mr. Hawke, the Government Emigration Agent at Toronto, said that there was a large number of Irish emigrants in a state of destitution as to clothes and bed- ding far beyond anything he had ever before witnessed; but Mr. Buchanan, the Chief Agent at Quebec, said that there was little if any distress among the emigrants of last year, unless it were the consequence of their own fatuity; and he anticipated an increasing demand for labour caused by railways and the infant mining enterprise of the colony. "Seeing, then, that there is so large an amount of emigration under the present systems, it would not be advisable, I think, at present to give a stimulus to that emigration; which might have one of two bad effects,—either that of sending thither great numbers of paupers who could not find employment, or what perhaps would be equally objectionable, occasioning a great waste of public money on those who by their own means find their way at present to Canada, but who instead of thus transferring themselves, or of getting the means, as some of them now do from their relations in Canada, of going thither, would be content to let the expense of their removal fall upon the state. I have some expectation that I may be able hereafter to propose a measure to facilitate emigration which would be altogether unobjectionable; but I can hold out no hope of proposing, on the part of the State, any extensive scheme of emi- gration. I know not whether Sir Robert Kane's estimate of the resources of Ire- land is to be taken altogether as an accurate one, but he maintains, that so great are her agricultural independent of her other resources- -o great are her mineral resources and means of manufacturing employment by water power—that no less than 17,000,000 of people can be maintained in that country. I will not enter into that calculation; but this I will say, that I do not think, if a good agri- cultural system were introduced into Ireland—if there were good security for the investment of money in land—if the proprietors themselves would undertake the task of improving the country, and if other classes would cooperate with them—I say I do not think the present population of Ireland is excessive."
To show that there is no cause to despair for the future of Ireland, Lord John quoted some remarkable passages describing a condition of things very similar to that now observed in Ireland formerly obtaining in other countries, which we now see flourishing in the possession of order, peace, and security-
" One writer, an old English author, says= The husbandmen be thrust out of their own, or else, either by covin or fraud, or violent oppression, they be rout beside it; or by wrongs and injuries they be so wearied that they be compelled to sell alL By one means, therefore, or by the other, either by hook or by crook, they must needs depart away, poor, wretched souls,—men, women, husbands, wives, fatherless children, widows, woful mothers with their young babes, and the whole household, small in substance and much in number; as husbandry requireth many hands; away they trudge, I say, out of their known and accustomed houses, finding no place to rest in. All their household stuff, which is very little. worth, though it might well abide the sale, yet, being suddenly thrust out, they be con- strained to sell it for a thing of nought; and, when they have wandered about till that be spent, what can they then do but steal, and then justly, pardy, be banged, or else go about a-begging 2' "Sir, is this vivid description unlike the story of an ejectment in Ireland ? of an ejectment, where the wretched families turned out are obliged to sell their little all, and forced in a few days either to steal or too about begging? And yet the description which I have read is a description of England, by Sir Thomas More—a description of England in his day. ("Hear, hear! ") And lest it should be considered highly coloured or fanciful, let it be recollected that there are other accounts written by magistrates, in which it is stated, that in every county there were 200 or 300 persons who lived by thieving, who went about, says the contemporary chroniclers, by sixty at a time, who carried away sheep and cattle, so that no husbandman was secure, and against whom no de- fence was sufficient—that no fewer than 70,000 of these marauders were hanged in one year. Sir, this is an account of what England once was—that England in which we now see so much security; 'and, in the absence of the outrages de- scribed as formerly existing, I think we have a proof that their existence was owing to the state of society at the time not the nature of the country. (Cheers.) " I will now read you a description of another country at a different iseriod, at the end of the seventeenth century—' There are at this day in Scotland, (besides a great number of families very meanly provided for by the church-boxes, with others who, with living upon bad food, fall into various diseases,) 200,000 people begging from door to door. These are not only no ways advantageous, but a very grievous burden to so poor a country; and though the number of them be perhaps double to what it was formerly, by reason of the present great distress, yet in all times there have been about 100,000 of these vagabonds, who have lived without any regard or submission either to the laws of the land or even those of God and Nature, fathers incestuously accompanying their own daughters, the son with the mother, and the brother with the sister. No magistrate could ever discover or be informed which way any of these wretches died, or that ever they were baptized. Many murders have been discovered among them; and they are not only a most unspeakable oppression to poor tenants, (who if they give not bread or some sort of provision to perhaps forty such villains in one day, are sure to be insulted by them,) but they rob many poor people who live in houses distant from any neigh- bourhood. In years of plenty, many thousands of them meet together in the mountains, where they feast and riot for many days; and at country weddings, markets, burials, and other the like public occasions, they are to be seen, both men and women, perpetually drunk, cursing, blaspheming, and fighting together.' " Such was the description of industrious, sober, civilized, religious Scotland- (" Hear, hear!")—such was the description of that country at th Ind of the seventeenth century. Shall we say that particular laws, that a per ar state of society, have no influence on the condition of a population, when we find England and Scotland represented as being in this state, and afterwards becoming orderly, civilized, and prosperous? I think we should not be acting as becomes the repro- sentatives_of this country if we despaired of Ireland.
" I am not one of those who think that, apart from political rights—apart from other questions connected with political institutions—a merely beneficent government can make a country flourish. It is my opinion that other tnea- mires will be required; and when the proper time comes for proposing such mea- sures, I shall be ready to undertake anything which I think will be for the ulti- mate benefit of Ireland. But this 1 feel with respect to these and all other measures, that there are some things which the Crown cannot grant, which Par- liament cannot enact,—these are the spirit of self-reliance and the spirit of co- operation. I must say plainly, that 1 should indeed despair of this task, were it not that I think I see symptoms in the Irish people, both of greater reliance on their own energies and own exertions, and greater willingness to cooperate with each other. I believe, if they will encourage this spirit among themselves— I believe, if they will look to what has been done in this country, and in its neighbour, Scotland, by industry, by perseverance, by never despairing of success, —if they will go on, not looking always to the Government proposing this and. Parliament enacting that, but will see what is the task immediately before them, and set themselves heartily and strenuously to perform that task—that there are means, there are resources in Ireland, which may bring these matters to a happy issue. There is no doubt of the fertility of the soil; that fertility has been the theme of admiration with writers and travellers of all nations. There is no doubt of the strength and industry of the inhabitants; for the same man who is loitering idly by the mountain-side in Tipperary or Kerry, whose potato crop has just furnished him with occupation for a few days, whose wages and whose pig have enabled him to pay his rent and eke outs miserable subsistence, has perhaps a brother in Liverpool, Glasgow, or London, who in the sweat of his brow is from morning to night competing with the stoutest labourers of England and Scotland, and earn- ing wages equal to any of them. I do not think, therefore, that either the fer-
ry of the land or the strength and industry of the inhabitants are at fault. But there have been faults—there Save been defects. Happy will it be for us if we lay the foundation of a perfect cure of those evils; happy indeed will it be if the Irish take for their maxim, Help yourselves, and Heaven will help you.' Then, Sir, they will at length feel that there have been uses' in adversity.
[Lord John Russell was frequently cheered throughout his speech; and at the close the applause was loud and long.]