Page images

I 31.42 D7shle 1831


&c. &c.


THERE are many reasons why such remarks, as occur to me, on the subject of a provision for the most indigent portion of our countrymen, should be addressed to you. Among those reasons, are the unwearied attention with which you have investigated the state of Ireland; the extensive and accurate knowledge you have acquired of that state; your ability to improve her condition, and your anxious desire for that improvement; but above all, the patience, I should rather say the kindness with which you have, at all times, listened to my crude opinions, even when those opinions differed very widely from your own. It appears from the “

Report of the Select Committee on the State of the Poor in Ireland,” ordered by the House of Commons to be printed,

16th July, 1830, that the question of making a legal provision for the Irish poor remains as yet undecided. And as the committee, abstaining from any specific recommendation to the House of Commons on the subject, is satisfied to refer them to the evidence as reported, it may not be improper, perhaps it may be useful to lay before the public, under the sanction of your respected name, a summary of the arguments contained in that evidence. This is the task which I propose to myself. I will endeavour to execute it with brevity and candour, not by extracts from the evi. dence itself, for then brevity could scarcely be observed, but by reducing the arguments employed by the opponents of a poor-rate to the most simple form, and unfolding those used in reply to such extent only, as will enable the public to estimate their value.

We may premise as maxims, or postulates, those truths or facts about which all, or nearly all, the witnesses are agreed. These facts or truths are the following. 1st. That a great portion of the labouring population is without employment.

2nd. That the average price of labour is about ten-pence per day.

3rd. That the labouring classes subsist on a

species of food, capable only of supporting animal existence in the lowest state.

4th. That the supply of this food is precarious, and the failure of it is attended with extreme suffering, arising from want and contagious disa


5th. That the number of destitute poor in Ireland is exceedingly great ; and though few of them die of actual want, great numbers of them perish gradually of inanition, or are carried off by chronic or inflammatory diseases, produced by wet, cold, and hunger.

6th. That the expense of providing food for an Irish pauper,

varies from two to three-pence a day, but in no case is found to exceed the latter sum.

7th. That excepting fever hospitals, county infirmaries, dispensaries and lunatic assylums, there is no provision made by law for the Irish

poor. 8th. That the number of the unemployed, as well as of the destitute poor, has been exceedingly increased, and their sufferings proportionably ag. gravated by the system which has prevailed for some years, and still prevails, of .ejecting the smaller tenantry from their holdings, and consoli. dating farms.

9th. That the burthen of supporting the poor

[ocr errors]

and destitute, as they are now supported, is borne principally, and almost exclusively, by the industrious or middling classes of society.

10th. That it would be desirable so to equalise that burthen, as that it might be shared in just proportion by all the owners of property in Ireland. : - 11th. That the legislature is imperatively called on by the actual state of the labouring classes, and of the destitute poor in Ireland, to devise some means whereby relief may be afforded to them.

It is contended by those who are opposed to the introduction of a poor-rate in Ireland. First,

That the poor are so numerous, that if a provision be made for them by law, they will consume all the produce of the land ; in other words, eat up

the rental of the country.

Secondly, that whatever is given by the possessors of property for the maintenance of the poor, is deducted from a capital to be 'otherwise émployed in productive labour, and acts as a continual drain upon the resources of the country, or as a drawback from her ordinary and legitimate means of improvement.

Thirdly, That a legal provision for the poor invites to idleness, and renders the poor improvident,

« PreviousContinue »