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different places of worship. To that there would be one obstacle at present, in most of the towns, and indeed also in the country, namely, That our chapels are now kept in repair, and in some places our clergy principally supported, by the collections made at the chapels ; but if these wants were supplied from some other fund, then the collections at the Protestant and Catholic places of worship, I think, would be sufficient to supply the wants of the poor generally; always supposing that the improvement which I mentioned (Catholic emancipation) will take place; for without that our poor will increase and our funds diminish*.”
I have given the plan for the management of the funds, whether voluntary or compulsory, for the relief of the poor in Ireland, in the words of the projector of it. And I do so, to prove that one intimately acquainted with the condition of Ireland, as respects the poor and those who are most nearly connected with them, proposes a system, which, first practised in Scotland under the Presbyterian system of the Kirk Session, was transferred to England by the Select Vestry Actt; and wherever adopted in this country, as far as respects my general knowledge, and the particular cases which I am acquainted with, it has been eminently beneficial, in satisfying the just wants of the poor, as well as economizing the funds from whence those wants are relieved. It proves also the tendency of persons who think honestly and justly on this subject, to think alike; for, previous to the Select Vestry Act, many parishes had formed Committees for the direction and management of their funds, which, although not legalized, were courted by those overseers who were inclined to do their duty to the parish, and not to make their office a means of peculation. It proves, moreover, that in the whole of the United Empire it will be easy to enforce a similar system of administration, from what is actually practised in Scotland and England, and, from what appears to those whose opinions are of weight, to be practicable in Ireland, and is agreeable also to the theory so much insisted on in the present observations. But that it is not only practicable to have the legal local assessment, but also the administration of the sums raised by it under a committee similar to that suggested by Dr. Doyle,--we have an example of many years existence in the most civilized town in Ireland, Belfast. The Charitable Society there acts under the powers of the 11 and 12 Geo. III. cap. 23, (Irish); but it has not, like those in the other capital towns or cities in Ireland, called on the county for presentments. The principal
* Lords' Evidence, 1825 : p. 316. † 59 Geo. III. c. 12.
support arises, it is true, from private subscriptions; but nearly one-third of it, from 750l. per annum applotted (assessed) on the inhabitants of the town as a water-tax, in consideration of a large capital expended by the Charitable Society on the water-works for supplying the town *. It is true that the Committee consists only of Protestants; but the Church-of-England-man and Dissenter are mixed together; and in the administration of the Fever Hospital and Dispensary the name of the Roman Catholic bishop is also found among the Committee; and I saw with pleasure the cordial intimacy which I found subsisting between him and the Protestant ministers. It is from the power thus exercised of taxing themselves, and not calling on the county, that the inhabitants are enabled to exclude the country beggars, noticed in page 26, where I have improperly included this establishment under the head of the Mendicity Societies. This establishment in 1828 also agreed to provide for another state of indigence, of which there is now much reason to complain in other parts of Ireland, and to relieve the parish from the charge of deserted children.
That the ultimate assimilation of the laws respecting the poor in the United Empire is a measure of the first necessity, is inferred from the
* Belfast Almanack, 1830.
following opinion of the Committee on Emigration : “ Your Committee cannot too strongly impress it upon the House, that between two countries so intimately connected as Great Britain and Ireland, two different rates of wages, and two different conditions of the population, cannot permanently co-exist *.” And although there may be an alternative, by abolishing the Poor Laws in Scotland and England, yet that seems not to have been the view of the Committee at large, and certainly not of the Chairman, as his own letter to Mr. Malthus, wherein he positively argues their necessity, decidedly showst.
If we then suppose the system of Poor Laws once adopted, with such modifications as shall appear desirable,- for that on a revision of the whole English system, modifications applicable to that country as well as Ireland may perhaps be eligible,—the next inquiry will be, what are the proper measures to be adopted to reduce the population to a healthy state, so as to bring the Poor Laws to act upon it with the best effect.
In the progress from the dissolution of the inonasteries, and the relief then given to the poor, to the establishment of the 43rd of Elizabeth, the loss of human life by famine and disease, consequent on the removal of those asylums,and what is worse, by actual violence and mur. der,-is said to have taken place to an enormous extent *.
* Third Report, p. 7.
+ Causes and Remedies of Pauperism in the United Kingdom, by Mr. R. W. Hortan : p. 90.'
Great misery, too, followed upon the change of the agricultural system in Scotland, which transferred the Highland cottiers to the workshops of the Lowlands.
A gentleman of distinguished character and rank, who does not entertain an opinion favourable to the introduction of Poor Laws into Ireland, gives as a reason against it, “ that it would create a new relation of society, a totally new position of property; and that if the principle were once established,—that an estate should be bound to support all the persons on it,—the landlord would be disposed to overwhelm an existing, and produce a new population.” But he finds the circumstance which he states as the probable result of the Poor Laws, actually in existence without them; and sees no remedy for it, but an exertion of inhumanity from which his good sense and feeling revoltt.
Evidence, indeed crowds of evidence, confirm the fact, that the expulsion of the lower order of tenantry is actually producing great misery, and is still the operating cause of those scenes of * See Sir F. Eden's History of the Poor, vol. i. p. 111-112. + T. F. Lewis, Esq. Lords' Evidence, 1825 : pp. 41, 42, 43.