Page images
PDF
EPUB

civilization; and I find that the example of Belfast in that respect has been followed by many other parishes in that neighbourhood, amongst which are enumerated, Holywood, Bangor, Moneyreagh, Ballyholly, Newton Limayaddy, and Ballymony,

There is indeed a great cause at this moment in action, which renders this exclusion on the part of the towns an act of self-defence, and which presses the consideration of some measure, for the relief of the poor, more immediately on the

attention of the Legislature ;—the Acts passed - since the peace giving increased facilities to the

landlords to eject their tenants, and particularly the Sub-letting Act*. The landed proprietors having taken up an opinion, that the cause of their distress is, overstocking the land with human beings, they get rid of the surplus population by turning them off their lands. Those ejected are forced to seek shelter in some neighbouring town, in hope of subsistence as day-labourers; and many such tenants have been turned off within the last eight or ten years t; and since the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders, this cause has. been in violent operation.

But this pressure upon the cities, unequal as respects the land, is unequally borne even in the cities themselves; and the actual state of the Mendicity Society in the city of Dublin may be explained in a few words, authenticated by their own latest reports *.

* Evidence, 1825 : p. 147.

+ Ibid. p. 59.

“ That the greatest part of the funds of 80001. per annum expended on the Mendicity Establishment, was contributed by about one-seventh part of the solvent householders ; that the funds of the Association are diminishing; and unless the public subscribe quickly, liberally, and continually, the asylum must be shut, and the immediate consequence will be the imposition of a tax for the poor.And although for that year the funds were obtained, yet it was not done without presenting to the inhabitants of the city a spectacle described by those who felt it their duty to advise it “as heart-rending to humanity ;-the exhibition in the public streets to the gaze of thoughtless curiosity, perhaps to the offensive expressions of disgust, the miseries of many poor persons whose industry and contentedness, and unobtrusive decency of behaviour, might have obtained for them a better fate than so severe a struggle between an honest pride and the horrors of actually impending starvation." All the mendicants who were able to go through this disgusting ceremony were paraded through the streets of the city. Yet, after announcing the strong stimulant required to excite general charity, which

* Report of Mendicity Society, Dublin, for 1827.

offers as the alternative for it, “a melancholy combination of want and disease, and of justifiable mendicity, the exhibitions of actual and pretended wretchedness, of filth and disease, of shameless importunity and terrific imprecation;" this same Report abounds with declamations against the legal assessment and the degradation and demoralization of the English Poor Laws!!!

I give however due credit to the active humanity and zeal of those, who superintended the institution and framed that Report ; but I must appeal from their opinions to other authorities.

I find that men whose charity has not been less active, and whose zeal is more mixed with knowledge, express different sentiments. They are of opinion

That each townland should maintain its own poor *.

That the principle of the English Poor Laws should be adopted; but their operation limited or introduced under certain modifications, so that the people should have some tie upon the landt.

These are the sentiments of a Roman Catholic bishop, Dr. Doyle. Let us hear again a dignitary of the Church of England, Archdeacon Trench, who under modification suggests the Poor Laws, -to leave the option to vestries properly constituted, to assess themselves ;—to confine relief to the blind, the maimed, and such like.Some parishes would adopt the measure ; and thus the lead might be heaved, as it were, and the system might be tried and gradually improved*.

* Ibid. Evidence, 1825 : pp. 23, 98.

+ Ibid. p. 245.

A resident landowner considers one of the great evils of Ireland, the state of mendicancy and vagrancy, the communication by means of it of disease and insubordination; that the county in which he resides having no poor-house is in a wretched state for want of such an institution ; that if there was a modified system of Poor Laws that would go only to the extent of preserving the worn-out and aged, it would be highly beneficial; that it is greatly called for and greatly wanted; for that in point of fact, for want of a compulsory provision for the maintenance of the aged and infirm and the sick, many individuals in Ireland actually perish from want t.

Another gentleman, not contented with the relief administered by Dispensaries, looks forward to domiciliary relief *,--that which I consider the perfection of the legalized charity.

There is another evidence who goes further, and his opinion deserves some weight; for his early prejudices were adverse to Poor Laws: but the establishment of them in England, the tendency of Scotland to adopt them, and the absence of them in Ireland, presented to his mind a similar gradation in the civilization of the three countries to that which I have introduced in the sixty-sixth page of the Essay, to which these observations form a sequel*. One objection indeed was stated to me personally, both in the north and south of Ireland, and is found in the printed Evidence, “that were the poors’-rate established, proper persons could not be found to distribute it f." But I trust that this observation is unjustly founded; and I cannot but entertain a better opinion of Irishmen than Irishmen themselves seem to do: for after I have seen and have experienced with what zeal, prudence and discrimination, the affairs of the Houses of Industry, the Associations against Mendicity, and the Hospitals of all descriptions are administered in cities and towns; when I refer to the accounts of the physicians, and find the strongly attested instances of the sacrifice of time, of money, and even of life itself, in the relief of suffering humanity; when I find such well regulated systems of prevention existing against the spread or recurrence of disease, -I cannot entertain a doubt but that equal cooperation and equal exertion and disinterestedness will be found, in providing against the ordinary wants of human nature, which shone so pro

* Lords' Evidence, 1825. + Ibid. p. 447.

# Ibid. p. 109.

• A. Nimmo, Esq.
+ Lords' Evidence, 1825 : p. 42.

« PreviousContinue »