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England, he comes under a particular provision, and a maintenance is made out for him : but in Ireland, one of the criminal parties is treated with the utmost severity, while the other is let go with impunity ; the wretched mother, even if she conceals the birth of this illegitimate progeny, commits a transportable felony. Enactments are wanting, empowering the magistrate to award to the mother of an illegitimate child wages as a servant. This is what is generally done by the magistrates in Ireland, although it is not warranted by law*. s
Systematic provisions and establishments diminish the aggregate evils of disease and poverty. “The Dispensaries,” say the Medical Reporters, “are not merely curative, but they also disclose the wants of the poor, and the actual state of the public healthf; where Fever Hospitals had been established, the accommodation for the relief of the sick poor had been most providently extended. Exclusion of promiscuous mendicancy wherever practised, prevented the extension of the disease, and where it could not be acted :: upon through want of legal power, it was much regretted 1."
“The principle of the Irish Government, when it administered pecuniary relief, was to encou
* Lords' Evidence, 1825, 6th May. † Fever Report, vol. i. p. 47.
Ibid. p. 96.
rage and promote associations for the relief of the sick in districts where no exertions would have been made but for such aid, and much benefit was derived from affording it through the means of existing institutions *.
Lunatic asylums not only alleviate, correct, and cure disease, but contribute to public morals, by seclusion of
the basest, and most poorest shape That ever penury in contempt of man
Brought near to beastt." And I regret that there should still remain any extensive districts in Ireland, where such objects as those described in the note below, should not have excited the attention of the gentry to the exertion of the legal power to alleviate their miseries* .
The facts, then, which I trust I have established with respect to Ireland, are, That its peasantry are in a most wretched state with respect to shelter, lodging, bedding, clothing and diet; and in many instances labouring under great misery for want of fuel :—That this permanently distressed state is heightened by occasional bad seasons, by mendicancy in its worst state, and disease always existing :-That, however, the common feelings of humanity prevent actual perishing by famine in the country, by the kindness of the poor to one another, with comparatively little assistance from the landowners :That in the towns the establishments of Poor Houses, which at first were intended to check mendicity, have failed to be supported by voluntary contributions, and are now maintained by assessments on the land : but that in many counties they are still wanting. That Dispensaries and Infirmaries alone seem to fulfill their original destination, their incomes arising partly from voluntary contributions, and partly from presentments*: That Fever Hospitals, first introduced and supported by voluntary contributions, are now principally thrown on the assessments; and that in the establishment of Lunatic Asylums, Government did not even contemplate voluntary contributions :—That Mendicity Associations are failing, and their subscribers almost demanding the legal assessments in towns; and that the peculiar circumstances of the times, by driving the peasantry from the country to the towns, where the exclusion prevails, force them back on the country ; and that therefore either they must perish by famine, or the assessment must take place on land.
* Fever Report, vol. i. p. 111.
Of Bedlam beggars, who with roaring voices
Enforce their charity."-Lear.
# Lords' Evidence, 1825, 6th May.
Combined with the legal assessment must be the correction of the abuses which now take place, under the presentments imposed by the authority of the grand juries. Those presentments are in almost all cases now of unequal and unjust operation*. The province of Munster (with the exception of the county of Cork) is said to suffer more under their operation than the other provinces, and Ulster the least. The evils attendant on them led to a Parliamentary Report in 1827, and measures (one of which is a regular survey of the kingdom,) have been adopted, which are likely to correct them. There are opinions given in that Report, which concur in the probability of a saving in the expenditure of the sums raised, of not less than 40 and 50 per cent f. And this saving judiciously expended, would go materially towards the relief of the poor: for of those sums, thus unequally assessed and improvidently expended, amounting to between 800,000 and 900,0001. annually, there appears only about 70,0001. applied to public charities.
That systematic relief in cases of ordinary distress is infinitely preferable to the violent exertions of private charity,—which, like those of unprovided mariners in ill-appointed vessels, waste in preparation the time which should be passed in exertion,-is evident from every observation and consequent practice.
* 6th May, 1825 : pp. 553-565.
Report, p. 47.
Owing to the preparations and arrangements in 1817, the loss of human life was proportionably very much less than that which took place in the previous fevers, which were designated by the name of plagues, as conveying a just idea of their extent and mortality. “From the inquiries into the causes of this great calamity, and the exertions employed to alleviate its consequences and obviate its recurrence, the people of this country have received other important benefits. The state of the poor has been developed, and the extent of those evils under which they labour more generally and completely understood; the different classes of society have been drawn more closely together by acts of charity on the one side and gratitude on the other ; the spirit of benevolence has been universally fostered. All this has happened under circumstances which will probably lay a foundation for such improvement, both in their moral and physical condition, as shall not only benefit the people of Ireland, but add to the resources and prosperity of the empire *.”
* Account of the Fover, vol. i. p. 146.