House Of Commons
Thursday, June 3, 1830.
MINUTES.] James Hewett Massy Dawson, Esq. took the Oaths and his Seat as Member for the County of Limerick.
Returns ordered. On the Motion of Mr. HUME, the Salaries and Allowances received by each of the Judges of the Courts of King's Bench, Common Picas, and Exchequer, in the year 1792 and in the year 1829, stating the sources from which the same were paid:—The Salaries and Allowances received by the Commissioners of the General Assembly of Scotland, staling the sources from which the same were paid:—And the Sums paid to the Clergy of Scotland in the year 1829, stating for what purposes and from what sources the same were paid, with the amount to be paid in the present year.
The Fees Abolition Bill was passed. A Bill was brought in to regulate the Salaries and Emoluments of the Masters in Ordinary of the High Court of Chancery; and a Bill to regulate the Office of Registrar and Keeper of the same Court.
Petitions presented. Against the Stamp Duties (Ireland), by Sir H. PARNELL, from the Freeholders of Queen's County. In favour of Poor-Laws for Ireland, by Mr. BENETT, from Mr. B. Wells. Against the Vestry Act (Ireland), by Mr. O'CONNELL, thirteen Petitions. For the more speedy recovery of Small Debts, by Colonel DAVIES, from the Inhabitants of Worcester. For the Repeal of the Hop Duties, by Mr. CURTEIS, from Seddlescombe, Sussex. Against the Parish Vestries Bill, by Sir G. COCKBURN, from the Overseers of Plymouth. Against the Scotch and Irish Pauper Removal Bill, by Mr. Alderman WOOD, from the Overseers of St. Giles's, Cripplegate:—By Mr. SYKES, from the Overseers of Kingston-upon-Hull:—By Mr. HUSKISSON, from the Overseers of Liverpool:—By Mr. WM. SMITH, from the Overseers of Norwich. Against the Assessed Taxes, by Mr. HUME, from J. L. Schroder, of Isleworth. For a Reduction of the Duties on Sugar, by Mr. HUSKISSON, from the Merchants of Liverpool. Against the Northern Road Bill, by Lord LOWTHER, from certain Innkeepers and Coach Proprietors:—By Lord T. CECIL, from the Mortgagees of the Tolls of Wansford Bridge and Stamford Turnpike Road:—By Colonel SIBTHORPE, from the Inhabitants of Grantham:—By Mr. T. CHAPLIN, from Proprietors of Estates near Stamford:—By Mr. HEATH-COTE, from the Mortgagees of certain Turnpike Tolls. For Parliamentary Reform, by Mr. O'CONNELL, from Oldham, Lancashire. For the Abolition of Slavery, by Mr. SYKES, from the Unitarians of Kingston-upon-Hull. In favour of the Jews, by the same hon. Member, from the Unitarians of Kingston-upon-Hull. For the Abolition of Slavery, by the same hon. Member, from the Unitarians of Hull.
Imprisonment For Debt
presented a Petition from an individual of the name of Joseph Henry George, complaining of the hardship of Imprisonment for Small Debts. The petitioner stated, that he was confined under sentence of the Borough Court of Requests, for a trifling demand, to the great injury of himself and his large family, and instanced cases of individuals being imprisoned one hundred days for debts of 64s., and forty days for demands of 4s. The hon. Member observed, that Imprisonment for Small Debts was one of the greatest evils to which the lower classes were liable, and pressed upon the right hon. Secretary (Sir R. Peel), the propriety of abolishing imprisonment for sums under 5l. A keeper of one of the London prisons had informed him that the City was put to greater expense in supporting persons imprisoned for small debts, than would suffice to pay the entire amount of these demands.
said, there could not be more respectable men than the commissioners of that court. He agreed that the present system of Imprisonment for Small Debts was extremely mischievous.
said, that if the worthy Alderman could find any city fund out of which such debts could be paid, his constituents would be very thankful for the discovery.
Irish Vestry Act
, in presenting Petitions from Parishes in the County of Cork, against the Vestry Act, said, that the petitioners all complained of the oppressive operation of this Act, the imperfection of which was admitted by Ministers, yet they refused to amend it.
said, the hon. and learned Member was quite mistaken—Ministers did not refuse to amend the Act. They refused to pledge themselves to adopt a particular remedy, on the offer made for the withdrawal of the hon. and learned Member's motion on the subject; but they expressed themselves willing to take the whole question into consideration, with a view to the amendment of the Act.
, in moving that the petitions do lie on the Table, begged to say, that he was right in both his positions: first, that Ministers admitted that the measure required a remedy; and, secondly, that they—he would not say refused, but they did that which looked very like a refusal—they strongly declined to take measures to amend it.
would assert, that Government neither refused nor declined to amend the Act. They admitted that it required consideration, and that they were disposed to consider it; but they refused to pledge themselves to a particular course, which was suggested by the hon. member for Limerick, as a condition on which the hon. and learned Member's motion on the subject was to be withdrawn.
The Petitions were ordered to lie on the Table.
, in presenting a similar Petition from Ballybay, said, that the Go- vernment had postponed the amendment of the Act indefinitely, and if that did not look like declining to amend it, he did not understand the English language as well as he did the Irish.
Law Of Divorce
said, that the subject which he had to bring forward was one of great importance, for the Law of Divorce in this country was different from that of any other country in Europe. By the Roman Catholic Church, marriage was elevated into a sacrament; and, by a canon, rendered indissoluble even in the case of adultery. But in Protestant Europe the pronouncing of a divorce at once gave the parties concerned the right of marrying again. In England the case was very different. The Ecclesiastical Court could only pronounce a divorce a mensa et thoro, and the party seeking relief entered into a bond that he would not marry again during the life of the other party. Of late years indeed a practice had been growing up of applying to Parliament in each particular case to grant a Bill of Divorce. This was, strictly speaking, a new law for every case; it was a bill of pains and penalties against the offending party, and though it was a remedy, it was not even open to the middle classes of society, who could not afford the vast expense that was incurred in procuring such an act. The first case in which any parliamentary Divorce was applied for was that of the Marquis of Northampton, in the year 1547; he had obtained a Divorce in the Ecclesiastical Court; but the question arose, whether the Reformation having taken place since the last case, the Divorce was a vinculo matrimonii as well as a mensa et thoro. The question was looked upon as so important, that a commission was appointed, consisting of Archbishop Cranmer and nine other divines, to inquire whether the Lady of the Marquis of Northampton was still his wife. The Marquis, without waiting for the decision of the commissioners, married again, alleging, that the Ecclesiastical Divorce was good, and that marriage, which was dissoluble before, had been made a sacrament by the Church of Rome. The decision to which the commission came was, that it was not safe to consider the Divorce as perfect without an act of Parliament. Application was accordingly made to Parliament, and an Act obtained, but Queen Mary succeeding to the Crown in the following year, it was set aside on the ground that it had been obtained from private views. In the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign it was generally held that Ecclesiastical Divorces were valid, and such continued to be the law of the country till the end of her reign. It was then totally changed, and it was held that Ecclesiastical Courts could not errant Divorces à vinculo matrimonii. He would borrow the language of the learned re-porter, Mr. Sergeant Salkeld, upon whose authority he mentioned the fact—to express it, Sergeant Salkeld said, "A Divorce for Adultery was anciently à vinculo matrimonii, and therefore in the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the opinion of the Church of England was, that after a Divorce the parties might marry again, but in Foljambe's case, Anno 44, Eliz. in the Star Chamber, that opinion was changed, and Archbishop Bancroft upon the advice of Divines, held that Adultery was only a cause of Divorce a mensa et thoro, 3rd Salkeld, p. 137." By a law passed in the 44th year of Elizabeth's reign, and the law had not since been altered, the authority of the Ecclesiastical Law was fully restored. The 107th Canon of the Church, which was passed a few years afterwards, declared that—"In all sentences pronounced only for divorce and separation a thoro et mensa, there shall be a caution and restraint inserted in the act of the said sentence, that the parties so separated shall live chastely and continently, neither shall they, during each other's life, contract matrimony with any other person. And for the better observation of the last clause, the said sentence of Divorce shall not be pronounced until the party or parties requiring the same have given good and sufficient caution and security into the Court that they would not any way break or transgress the restraint of prohibition."—This Canon was then fully established as the law, and it was thus fully decided, both by the law and the decision in Foljambe's case, that Divorce could not be obtained in this country except only from bed and board, a mensa et thoro, and not a vinculo matrimonii. This made the law of England similar to the law on the subject of Divorce in most parts of the Continent, and it continued in this state till Charles the 2nd's time, when the celebrated case of Lord de Roos Occurred, in 1669, and then, by a special Act of Parliament, a Divorce was procured for that nobleman. The Duke of Norfolk's case, which was the next remarkable one, occurred in 1692, and occasioned great discussion, he being an individual of great importance. It was in 1692 that the Duke of Norfolk brought forward his Bill of Divorce; but the Bill was thown out; and it was the year 1700 before he ventured to repeat his efforts, having previously brought an action for damages at Common Law; and then, after protracted debates, the bill was carried. He only referred to that measure to show what was the state of the law and the state of feeling in the country on the subject of divorce, up to that period. He found that for one century and a half, from the Reformation as established by Elizabeth to the accession of George 1st there were not more than five Divorce bills carried through Parliament. He believed that would be found an accurate account. Divorce was never then granted, except to persons of high rank; and in the Duke of Norfolk's case it was expressly stated, in the preamble to the bill, that one reason for granting the Divorce was, that the Duchess was barren, and it was not fitting that such a noble family should be extinct. The privilege of divorce was then exclusively confined to the very highest classes, and granted to them only as a great favour, and under special considerations. After the accession of the House of Hanover, a greater laxity was introduced, and a greater number of Divorce bills was passed. From the year 1715 to the year 1775, a period of sixty years, sixty Divorce bills were passed; and from 1775 to 1800, during a period of twenty-five years, there were seventy-four such bills passed. From 1800 up to the present time, he found that there had been between eighty and ninety passed. This showed that there had been a great increase of Divorce bills, owing principally, he believed, to the great increase of wealth, and to the facility with which Parliament had gradually come to grant such bills. The great expense of such measures, and the facility with which Parliament granted Divorce bills to parties capable of paying the expenses, made it impossible that the Legislature should not feel that some alteration of the law was necessary; and several attempts, all of which had begun in the House of Lords, had been made to alter the law. In 1771, a bill was brought into that House by the Duke of Athol, the preamble of which stated that it was a remedial bill, made necessary by the scandalous frequency of Divorce bills. In 1779 the Bishop of Llandaff, Dr. Barrington, who was afterwards Bishop of London, brought in a bill, and the preamble to his bill stated that the great frequency of applications for divorce made some remedy necessary. Both these bills were passed through the House of Lords, and sent down to the House of Commons, where they were read a second time, but they were lost in a committee. In 1800 Lord Auckland brought in the bill which bore his name, and which occasioned a great deal of discussion. That noble Lord had, for the object of his bill, to make adultery a misdemeanour at common law, and he urged, as a reason for this, the same grounds as had been given by the other Lords for their bills—namely, the frequency of adultery and application for divorce. The discussion on that bill might safely be referred to—since the eminent persons who took part in it were now so far removed from the scene that their opinions were of great weight, and of great importance. Many of the persons who delived their sentiments in the debates on Lord Auckland's bill, were men whose opinions would be of value at any time; and, having been delivered at a considerable distance from the present time, partook of none of the passions of the moment, and might serve as guides to their decision. Lord Grenville, whose opinions on all subjects deserved attention, stated, on an early stage of that debate, that, "his learned friend on the Woolsack, and the other two learned Lords who presided in the courts of law, had declared that the greatest abuses were committed, and that at present there was no remedy for these abuses; that in many cases there was collusion between the parties, and that in no instance was there a possibility of adequately punishing the guilty. They found their proceedings on the Bench, in such cases, a farce and a mockery." This Lord Grenville represented to be the opinion of the great law Lords of that day, and he added, "The Ecclesiastical Courts were equally deficient, there was no way in which the injured party could obtain redress, or vice could receive its punishment. He had long been sensible of these truths, nor had he ever been present when a Divorce bill was passed, that he did not think the House disgraced and degraded." At another stage of the bill Lord Eldon deprecated its rejection, "because he was certain that nine out of every ten cases of adultery that came into the Courts below, or to that bar, were founded on the most infamous collusion, and that, as the law stood, it was a farce and a mockery; most of the cases being previously settled in some room in the City; and that Juries were called to give exemplary damages, which damages were never paid, nor expected to be paid by the injured husband." It was impossible to know that these were the opinions of the Law Authorities of that day, and not be convinced thst some alteration of the law was necessary. A year afterwards, on the occasion of discussing a Divorce bill, Lord Rosslyn observed, that "application for Divorce bills had, of late years, been so frequently introduced, that they had been considered almost as mere matters of course. It was highly necessary, therefore, to check their progress, and, if possible, to resist the torrent that threatened to bear down all morality and virtue." These were the opinions of three very competent persons, two of them great law-officers, and one a distinguished senator; and the House would be well aware that, since that time the evil had not diminished, and now, more than ever, required a remedy. He referred hon. Members to their own experience to be satisfied that the same defects still existed which Lord Eldon, and the other high authorities he had quoted, bore their testimony to the necessity of amending. Did not the House feel itself degraded by every Divorce bill? It was either a mere mockery of Legislation, to which nobody attended, or else the House was made the instrument for covering the guilty connivance of two parties. That things were still in the same state he might prove by the recent case of Lord Ellenborough's divorce. He did not wish to revive the unpleasant discussions on that bill, but he would remind the House of them to show how incompetent it was to discharge judicial functions. It was said, on one hand, that Lord Ellenborough was the kindest of husbands; and on the other, that he had neglected his lady. Some Members spoke of collusion, and said that Lord and Lady Ellenborough came together to seek a divorce; all these assertions were made by respectable persons, and showed how necessary it was that some other tribunal should be had recourse to. Testimony, too, was given on that and other cases, which, without sifting, would never have been received in an Ecclesiastical Court or Courts of Common Law. This case was an illustration of the unfitness of the House to examine witnesses on such an important question. But if the House could not examine witnesses effectually, and sift their testimony to the bottom, what better was it than an idle mockery to bring a Divorce bill before it for its decision? That House was, therefore, not a proper place for deciding questions of divorce; and that opinion would be confirmed if he stated the great precautions used by the House of Lords, which were not used by the House of Commons, in introducing Divorce bills. By one of the Standing Orders of the House of Lords it was imperatively commanded that no bill should be introduced which did not contain a clause that neither the adulterer nor the adulteress should marry again. This Standing Order was adhered to. No bill could be introduced without this clause, though in the progress of the bill it was regularly struck out. Another Standing Order of the House of Lords of a graver character showed how incompetent the House of Commons was to exercise judicial functions, for that House could carry no such regulation into execution. By a Standing Order, dated 25th March, 1798, the Lords ordered, that before the second reading or the bill, the party praying for the divorce should attend at the bar of the House to be examined, if their Lordships should think fit, in order to ascertain if then were any collusion, direct or indirect, or if the act of adultery were known to the husband, or if there were any collusion between the wife and him to procure a sentence of divorce before an Ecclesiastical Court, or procure a verdict a Common Law; and that the parties might be examined as to how they were living at the time of the act of adultery—if they were previously separated, or if the husband performed all his conjugal duties affording his wife his confidence and protection. This was a Standing Order c the House of Lords, and every petitioner for a bill of Divorce received a copy c this Order, and a notice to attend. Compliance with this Order was, in truth, dispensed with, but it showed how necessary it was to have proof that there was no collusion, and how strict the House was in providing that there should be no collusion betwixt husband and wife. There were other circumstances connected with the popular form of the House of Commons which made it unfit for such investigations. Divorce bills, for example, were sometimes made the vehicle for expressing popular sentiments. Let the House recollect, that the Divorce bill of Lord de Robs was discussed three or four Sessions, and was made the watchword of a party, it being considered, as test of the question, whether Charles 2nd was to be divorced from his Queen or not. The Duke of York's party opposed the Divorce bill, and it was supported by his enemies, as it might give rise to a means of excluding him from the succession. The same sort of thing occurred at the time when the Duke of Norfolk's Divorce bill was brought in. The Duchess was a Jacobite, and the Duke a friend of the Revolution. She was a Roman Catholic, and he was a Protestant, so that this question was made the banner under which party feelings were enlisted. There was always, even yet, a canvassing for opinions, and a soliciting of support for such bills, as would be disgraceful even in a turnpike act, but was most discreditable to the House, when it was acting as a solemn court of judicature. The next point he would mention was the inequality of the law. Nothing was better established as a principle of our law, than that it should be equal for all parties, for high and low, for poor and rich, and that was the case throughout the law, except in the Law for Divorce. He had asked a few days ago the expense of a common Divorce bill, which had nothing peculiar in it, and he was told, that the expense was between 600l. and 700l. That was an expense which no person in the middle and lower ranks of life could possibly submit to. What made it more galling here was, that if a man went across the borders into Scotland, or if his wife committed adultery there, he could obtain a Divorce for 10l. or 15l. He had received this information on good authority, and he knew that 15l. was the extreme expense for a Divorce in Scotland in ordinary cases. It was clear, then, that some remedy for our law of Divorce was required; and in speaking of remedies, he did not mean to go into the question whether wives should be allowed to divorce their husbands, which, in cases of incestuous adultery, the House of Lords had permitted; neither would he enter into the question whether or not an adulterer should be allowed to marry again. It would not be right in him, a humble individual, to bring forward any specific remedy; but he knew that the proposition he should make, had the approbation of others. The impression on his mind was, that the question of Divorce ought to be referred altogether to the ecclesiastical courts; and that they who decided the separation a mensa et thoro, should also decide that a vinculo matrimonii. That was his own impression, and he had the satisfaction of knowing, that Lord Thurlow held a similar opinion. He had stated so in the debate on Lord Auckland's bill, in 1800; or a particular tribunal might be appointed to decide the question of Divorce after a decision of the ecclesiastical courts. Some persons proposed to refer the question immediately to the House of Lords, and allow its decision to be final. There were two points he was, however, anxious to guard against: he wished to have it distinctly understood, that it ought to be, in his opinion, the principle of the law—that marriage was indissoluble. The interests of families, of the whole community composed of families, demanded that marriage should be declared indissoluble. The next point to which he wished to advert was this—that, in his opinion, no other cause but adultery should be allowed to be a sufficient ground for a Divorce. The hon. and learned Member again referred to the hardship to which people were now exposed, by the impossibility of getting rid of an unfaithful wife, and instanced in particular clergymen, and landed gentlemen of small fortune, living in retirement and out of the bustle and vice of a town, who might have the misfortune of an unfaithful partner; he noticed the great misery which was caused by adverse tempers, and which the indissolubility of marriage made parties endeavour to bear; he quoted the several attempts which had been made to improve the law in 1771, in 1779, and in 1800, and concluded by the following observations:—He had thus endeavoured to put the House in possession of his views on, perhaps, the most important subject that legislation had to deal with. He had directed the attention of the House to the present state of the law and the evils it Occasioned; he bad traced Divorce bills from their origin and small beginnings, from a few solitary instances scattered through centuries to their present frequency, Quœ ab exiguis profecta initiis ex creverint ut jam magnitudine laborent sua; and he called upon the House, in reason and justice, and even decency, to go along with him in finding a remedy for this evil. From an exclusive privilege for rank and station Divorce bills had become the remedy for the evils attendant on matrimony, adopted by the middle classes, by all who could command the pecuniary means, and had any reason for calling on the House to interpose its authority. He apologised for having so long detained the House, and then moved "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, praying that his Majesty would be pleased to direct the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of the Ecclesiastical Courts in England and Wales, to take into their consideration the state of the Law of Divorce, to consider the expediency of enabling persons to obtain Divorce from the bonds of matrimony, in cases of adultery, by legal process in Courts of competent jurisdiction."
began his remarks by objecting generally to commissions to inquire into the law, contending that the appointment of them involved an admission of something requiring to be remedied. He had never approved of commissions to reform any abstract point of law. His hon. and learned friend, with all his talents, had failed to suggest a remedy, and so had other learned men of great talents. The evil arose out of our Constitution, which did not permit any court to exercise legislative power, which granting a Divorce implied. The hon. and learned Member entered into a brief history of the marriage law in England, and its difference from the marriage law of other countries, remarking that marriage was indissoluble in Roman Catholic countries. In Rome there was a tribunal called the Holy-office, which did grant Divorces for certain cases, in which the parties were held incapacitated to contract marriage, but never granted it for adultery. The Pope had sometimes granted Divorces on political grounds, but up to the time he was speaking, the Pope had never, he believed, granted a Divorce on account of adultery. The Pope did, however, grant a Divorce to our Henry 8th in former times, and he had more recently granted a Divorce on political grounds to Napoleon Bonaparte. Independent of these cases, however, it was not the custom of the Church of Rome to grant Divorces on any account. In this Protestant State no Divorce was ever allowed, unless by the way of a legislative provision, and he could not, therefore, avoid thinking, that if they adopted the plan of his hon. friend, they would be letting in a wild, latitudinarian, and mischievous principle, not recognised hitherto by any country in the world. Divorces a vinculo matrimonii had never been allowed in this country, unless after a solemn investigation in Parliament; but if they were once, by the institution of a cheap kind of Pie Poudre court, to allow all, who had a small sum to spend, the privilege of being separated a vinculo matrimonii, it would follow as a necessary consequence, that the lower classes, whose morals were more corrupt, and whose principles on these subjects were more lax than those of the higher classes, would be continually applying for Divorces, while the facility of obtaining them at a small expense would increase the immorality of adultery, and, indeed, give encouragement to the commission of that offence. It was said, however, that almost all the cases which came before Parliament at present, were cases in which the parties colluded to procure a Divorce. Now if the higher classes did collude in this manner—a fact of which he saw no evidence—if they colluded to procure a Divorce, when the cost of that proceeding was great, would they collude less when the expense would become comparatively small? The great question for their consideration was, whether the law should or should not remain as it was. And if it was a truth that the noble Lord (Eldon) had declared the proportion of collusive cases to be nine out of every ten which came before Parliament, he confessed it was necessary the House should interfere. He denied, however, the justice of the assertion, that the proportion of collusive cases was so great, and he equally denied the propriety of the assumption, that the Houses of Lords and Commons were unable, by the exercise of their judgment, to detect the collusion if it existed, or that their powers would be delegated with greater propriety to any inferior court, constituted in any manner whatever. He was not disposed to allow that the House of Commons did not possess ability, acute- ness, and intelligence sufficient to detect any species of collusion. If Parliament were unable to institute the accurate and critical examination into the circumstances of a Divorce necessary to guard against its being a matter of collusion, how, he should like to know, would his hon. and learned friend's commission remedy the defect? What additional machinery of efficiency was there contained in his hon. and learned friend's plan to supply the deficiency of the present legislative mode of proceeding? He was sure there was none, and therefore could not agree to transfer to a subordinate court a power which should more properly be exercised by Parliament. While he stated this, he was free to admit that the House of Commons ought to have used Standing Orders of its own to regulate the method of proceeding as to Divorce bills, and that a preliminary inquiry by a committee might be advantageous. But he should not, he repeated, consent to take from the present tribunal the sole power of granting Divorces, till it was indisputably proved to him that the Divorce Statutes which had been enacted by Parliament, were all inefficient in cases of collusion, and that the power had been abused for political purposes—that, in a word, Parliament was incompetent to the due and impartial exercise of all the powers which his hon. and learned friend would transfer to an inferior court of inquiry. That the present legislative mode of Divorce had been abused in former times he did not mean to gainsay; but he would deny that it had been so abused in later times, particularly since the accession of his late Majesty. Neither did it appear to him that the present legislative mode of Divorce tended to promote adulteries, that is, occasions for Divorce bills. Upon this point there existed a great diversity of opinion among the wisest and most experienced judges. He need not go further than quote the names of two of the highest authorities upon this and analogous subjects, Lords Stowell and Eldon, who were, it was well known, notwithstanding the strength of their fraternal regard for each other, at daggers drawn, so to speak, as to what tended to promote occasions for Divorce. If men of such unrivalled eminence in learning, in morals, in intellect, in taste, in feeling, and in judgment, maintained discrepant opinions as to what should or should not constitute a just ground of Divorce, how, he should like to know, with due respect for the talents and attainments of those learned Gentlemen to whom his learned friend would refer the inquiry, could the deficiency felt to be irremovable by the ablest Members of both Houses of Parliament, be done away with by his hon. and learned friend's proposed commission? In objecting to it, he begged leave to say, that he did not altogether deny the existence of cases of collusion in matters of this kind, and therefore he should support any plan for making the inquiry more strict than at present into the grounds of Divorce bills. He thought this end would be obtained by the preliminary committee of inquiry, of which he had before spoken. As he could not approve of his learned friend's Motion, he hoped he would not push it to a division, as he should be sorry to vote against him.
said, he agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, in opposing the Motion, though he differed from him in the grounds of his opposition. He wished with the hon. Mover that the poor should be placed upon the same footing with the rich in regard to divorce, but he would accomplish that, not by giving it to the poor, but by refusing it to the rich. He thought the better way would be to make the marriage tie perfectly indissoluble. It was so by the common law; for up to the time of the Reformation no marriage could be dissolved. It was so by the rule of the Catholic Church, and by that of the Protestant Church also. It was true that divorces had been ganted in the Catholic Church, but not a vinculo matrimonii. They were only granted in such cases, for example insanity, as rendered the marriage invalid ab initio. The Pope had no authority to divorce a marriage upon any other ground, for his authority did not exceed that of other Bishops. But the hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that the Pope had granted a divorce to Henry 8th. In that the hon. and learned Gentleman was mistaken; the Pope had, on the contrary, refused the divorce. If he had not refused it the hon. and learned Gentleman might have gone to mass last Sunday, as he had done; for the refusal had contributed much to hasten the Reformation. Again, his hon. and learned friend had said, that the Pope had dissolved the marriage of Bonaparte; but the principle on which that divorce rested was this, that the first mar- riage with Josephine was a mere republican marriage, having nothing sacramental or religious in its nature. It was another instance of marriage invalidated ab initio; so that there was no divorce in the case of Napoleon, who was himself a sort of honorary member of all religions. But if they regarded the subject merely as statesmen, he would ask, were the upper classes of society, who could obtain divorces, more virtuous than the lower who could not? No man would say that they were. And was not divorce a temptation to adultery? Did it not give another argument to the seducer, when it enabled him to say, that he would restore the object of his passion to her rank again, or, perhaps, raise her to a higher rank than before? The Christian-law, the Canon-law, the Common-law, and the law both of the Catholic and the Protestant Churches were all upon his side, and he therefore hoped that other Members, more influential than himself, would assist in opposing the present Motion.
rose to support the Motion of his learned friend, Dr. Phillimore. If he considered the question as one of law only, it would be, indeed, presumptuous on his part to interfere in the discussion; but he felt that the proposition involved many other considerations, some of which went beyond, and others were infinitely above, any questions purely of a legal character. There were two objections taken to the Motion by the learned Gentleman who had preceded him. If the objections were admissible, he was bound to confess they were conclusive. But he differed in essentials from the doctrines lately advanced. If, indeed, there were persons who believed, with the learned member for Clare, that the marriage contract should be indissoluble under all circumstances, this class were not only bound to oppose the present Motion, but to oppose every proposition for a single divorce. He did not anticipate, however, that this doctrine would find many supporters in the House or in the country. Again, if with the learned member for Plympton, persons were really contented with the legislative tribunal which at present decided their cases, they were undoubtedly warranted and justified in resisting any change. But when he considered the events of the present Session—when he recollected, that during the progress of every Divorce bill there had been on all sides one universal exclamation against the mode of procedure—when every Gentleman had protested against examinations at the bar, as most imperfect modes of doing justice, of discovering the truth, or detecting collusion—when, above all, he referred to the high authorities quoted by his learned friend the Mover, all concurring in one opinion, in affirming the necessity of reform, he could not bring himself to believe that the House would refuse to apply itself to a practical remedy correcting this great practical evil. It was time to free the House from the disgrace of these proceedings. In doing so, in fact, it would be only an application of a principle already recognized. The House, in the Grenville Act, had acted on the impossibility of doing justice by examinations at the bar. In that case undoubtedly a Select Committee was substituted for the House; but a Select Committee of a judicial character, sworn to decide impartially, and having the power of examining witnesses on oath. The selection of a committee, rather than the appointment of a fixed Court of Justice, was necessary in election cases, because the privileges of the House were concerned, and these could not lightly be intrusted to any extra-parliamentary authority. But such an objection did not apply to the creation of a tribunal for divorce cases. His learned friend, the member for Plympton, was entirely in error, in considering that the course now recommended was without example. The fact was, that it was the English practice that was without precedent. All Protestant Europe, except South Britain and Ireland, had adopted a different practice, and had laid down a precedent strictly in accordance with his hon. friend's Motion. He entreated the House to consider that one conclusive argument against the present system had not been answered. It was not denied that the present system gave a remedy to the rich only, and that the middle orders of society, and the poorer classes, whose cases might be equally deserving of commiseration, were left wholly without relief. Could this be justified or tolerated by those who claimed to be Representatives of the people? It was suggested that the imperfections of the system might be corrected by the adoption of some stricter Standing Orders. The total inadequacy of such a remedy was abundantly proved by the proceedings of the House of Lords. The Standing Orders of that House had been framed in the spirit of justice and precaution; but how were they effectual? If any thing were wanting to add to the disgrace of the present system, it would be the adoption of such Standing Orders, to be afterwards suspended or evaded to facilitate the passing of every Divorce bill. This was adding insult to injury. The member for Plympton had spoken of the immorality which facilities of divorce would occasion; how could such a statement be made with the example of Scotland before our eyes? Were the people of Scotland less moral than their southern neighbours? Was the marriage tie less respected in Scotland than in England? He doubted the fact. The member for Plympton had spoken of what he considered the immoral habits of the middle and lower classes, as compared with their superiors. This again he begged expressly to deny. He believed that the virtues of domestic life were by no means to be found in the highest degree of development among the classes of fashionable society—those privileged persons for whom the facilities of parliamentary divorces were now reserved. On all those grounds, with a view to strict and impartial justice—with a view to relieve Parliament from the disgrace of undertaking duties which it could not satisfactorily perform—he supported the present Motion, the object of which was not to decide absolutely upon any question, but to obtain the information on which the House might legislate safely hereafter. It was not necessary to suggest that collusion frequently existed to recommend this course; it was enough to show that the law was unjust because it was unequal; it was enough to show that the public interest was not secured, and that the character and dignity of the House were lowered in the opinion of all reflecting and rational men.
said, that it was his intention to trespass on the attention of the House with only a few observations. He would first remind his hon. and learned friend who brought forward this question, that the commission to which he proposed to refer the consideration of this most important subject was appointed simply to inquire into the state of the Ecclesiastical Courts. Such being the case, the House ought not to assume that that commission could conveniently enter into the consideration of another subject. It would not be right for the House to induce that commis- sion to enter upon the consideration of a subject to which it had not previously addressed itself, and which did not come within the scope of its original appointment. Admitting the commissioners to be highly competent to consider the subject, it would not be fair to throw upon the members of that commission, without first consulting them, the consideration of a question of this magnitude. He wished that his hon. and learned friend, who possessed great knowledge and many opportunities, had taken another mode of bringing forward this question; that he had considered in detail the laws relating to marriage and divorce, and had prepared a bill to meet the evils of the present system. If his views on this question were right, he might be sure that the best way to try them would be to embody them in a bill. He hoped that his hon. friend would do that on some future occasion, and give the House an opportunity of discussing his views in detail. With respect to the law which existed on this subject in Scotland, he had no fault to find. It had been long in operation, it had certainly not produced any evils, and it would be most dangerous to touch it as it related to Scotland; but it would be another thing if it were proposed to extend that law to England. He could not agree with the hon. and learned member for Clare, that there should be no law to enable a party to obtain a divorce, but every one must agree that the object of the law, in the first instance, was to secure the descent of property in high and mighty families. It was not, then, the question, whether that object were good or bad, but that was the ground, and the sole ground, upon which relief by a divorce was given in the first instance. He, for one, should be sorry to see a Court established for trying the mere question of Divorce between parties, being persuaded if such a Court were established, that questions of Divorce would be as frequently brought for decision, as questions of property in other Courts. But as it was desirable to throw impediments in the way of divorces, rather than to render it easy for persons of every rank to obtain that relief, he should certainly always set his face against appointing a separate Court to give cheap divorce to the people. It had been said that, under the present system, there was one law for the rich and another for the poor, and this consideration was so revolting to him, that he could not uphold such a system, if he did not conscientiously believe that, by extending the remedy, the Legislature would only increase the mischief. Under such a system as had been suggested, what would prevent collusive divorces? The existing law in Scotland had been referred to, in answer to that question. He did not know enough of the state of society in that country to speak positively on the subject; but it might be such, that the law permitting divorce might be of no injury to public morality. It was said, that the law operates well in Scotland, but he could not thence conclude that the same law would operate advantageously in England. The question was, whether the present state of society in this country would allow of a law, affording a facility of obtaining divorces to all classes. In his opinion, such a law would be attended with more injury than benefit. But, independently of the merits of this question, there was another difficulty. Ought the House to burthen the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the present state of the ecclesiastical courts with a different duty—a duty that, perhaps, they were not prepared to accept, and might even think themselves not competent to execute. He would rather that his hon. and learned friend would turn his attention to this subject again; and introduce it to the House in the shape of a bill. That it was a difficult task he was aware; but because it was difficult, he invited his hon. and learned friend to undertake it, being sure that there was no better test of the correctness of opinions, than putting them on paper, and bringing them before the House for its consideration; and being also sure that if there were any evils arising from the present system, for which a practical remedy could be found, no person would be more competent to devise that remedy and recommend it to the House than his hon. and learned friend.
did not think that it was consistent with his duty to remain silent altogether on this most important subject. It was not his intention, however, to enter into a discussion on many of the important subjects which had been referred to as connected with this question, but rather to direct the attention of the House to the proposition of his hon. and learned friend, which went to refer the whole subject of the law relating to divorces, to the Ecclesiastical Commission. Only a few months had elapsed since that Commission commenced its sittings; and he must observe, being confident that he should be borne out by every other Member of the Commission who held a seat in the House, that the task already committed to it was so complicated and difficult, as to require all the time and attention which the other avocations of the Commissioners would admit of their bestowing on it; so that there was scarcely a hope that they could complete it within a reasonable time, with satisfaction to themselves, or benefit to the country. In order to enable the House to understand this, he must observe that the establishment of the ecclesiastical system, as asted upon at this day by our Ecclesiastical Courts, had undergone no alteration, nor indeed any important revision, since the time of the Reformation. There was still the same system, and the same machinery for carrying that system into operation, which existed after the first days of the Reformation. The views of the Common-law courts, however, had within that period fluctuated on various points connected with the proceedings in the Ecclesiastical Courts; so that there was a complication of facts and proceedings which must become the subject of close examination and much consideration, before any remedial measure could be proposed, admitting that there were defects in this system. Upon this ground alone, as a member of the Ecclesiastical Commission, he should hope that the House would not add to the labours which already devolved on it, and obstruct the progress of those labours which it had already begun. There were other, and various considerations, which would make him unwilling that this subject should be referred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, even if they had greater leisure and ability to devote to it. It would not be expedient to throw on the Ecclesiastical Commissioners the burthen of considering so many doubtful points as were connected with the important subject of divorce. Among other things, they would have to consider this great and important question, whether a complete divorce from the bond of marriage, could be granted by any human tribunal consistently with the doctrines of our religion. Without venturing to offer any opinion of his own on so grave and serious a question, he might observe that it had often been discussed, but never satisfactorily decided. Subsequent to the Reformation, for thirty or forty years, the ecclesiastical tribunals considered that they were justified in granting divorces, but it was afterwards concluded that there was no such power in any tribunal. The question, to which he had adverted was however a subject of consideration, rather for those, who had made the religious doctrines which prevailed in this country their particular study, than for the professional gentlemen who composed the commission. For his own part, he gave no opinion on it; but there was nothing he should deprecate more than having such a question referred to an Ecclesiastical Commission. If it were to come before the House he should endeavour to discharge his duty as a Member of Parliament; but he should deprecate from the bottom of his heart, being called upon to decide a moral point on which the most learned persons had not been able to agree. As to the expediency of altering the law, he did not deny that very great evils arose from its present state, but he had many doubts as to the fitting remedy; with respect to collusion, he did not believe that there had occurred many instances of it. During the last fifteen years he had been cognizant of the particulars of every case that had been brought before the House, with the exception, perhaps, of about half a dozen; and, according to his view of collusion, he was not acquainted with more than three, or at the utmost four cases, which would justify suspecting it, and he could not of his own knowledge say that there had been one case in which there really was collusion. This was his opinion, founded on experience; but perhaps he ought to say what collusion was in his opinion, for it appeared to him that some gentlemen entertained a very mistaken notion of it. That a Divorce was sometimes obtained in the Ecclesiastical Courts, or that a bill for a Divorce now and then passed that House, with the consent and at the desire of the adulterer, or the adulteress and her friends, was not, in his humble judgment, collusion. By "collusion," he understood a case where one of the parties to a criminal suit in the Ecclesiastical Court was guilty of criminal acquiescence or negligence, with respect to the act of adultery. And here he would observe, that connivance or collusion—call it which you will—was a bar to Divorce in the Ecclesiastical Courts; and whenever that appeared, in the slightest degree, he was among the first to acknowledge that it ought to put an end to the proceeding by which a remedy was sought to be obtained. No man ought to enter the Ecclesiastical Court, or that House as an applicant for a divorce, if he were, in the slightest degree, a party to his own dishonour, or had been in any way the cause of his disgrace and his partner's guilt. If such a case should ever come before the House, whether the party applying for relief were high or low; whether he belong to one side of the House or the other, he should regard himself as guilty of a dereliction of a most sacred duty, if he did not oppose the bill. The case of Lord Ellenborough had been alluded to. In that case he supported the bill; and he did not hesitate to say, that he should do so again if called upon. There was not the slightest reason to impute criminal neglect, much less that most disgraceful of all crimes, criminal connivance, to the husband in that case. But it had been said, that because Lady Ellenborough's friends wished the bill to pass, that it ought not to have been passed, How that proposition could be sustained, he was at a loss to conceive. It was consistent with human nature, and with the absence of all crime on the part of the husband, that Lady Ellenborough, or any other lady so situated, as well as her friends should wish a bill of that description to pass, in order that she might be restored, in some measure to society, by her union with the party with whom the crime had been committed. And he did not hesitate to say, that in future, if a case should arise where an avowal of such a motive was made openly, and in the most distinct terms, it would not operate in his mind in the slightest degree, against a bill for a Divorce. The most important consideration, in such cases was the conduct of the husband previous to the commission of the adultery; whether he had evinced a due regard for his own honour; and bestowed a proper attention on the conduct of his wife, according to the customs of that rank in society in which the parties moved. If the husband were no more to blame for negligence, than persons in ordinary circumstances, and in the same rank, he for one would not say that relief should not be given. A great deal had been said of the law and custom of Scotland with respect to Divorces, which was described to be well suited to its institutions and to the habits and feeling of the people. He was not sufficiently acquainted with the operation of the Scottish law to deny that, but there was probably no Gentleman in this House, with sufficient talent and eloquence to persuade him that England ought to adopt either the law of marriage, or the law of divorce, which prevailed in that country. The law of marriage in Scotland gave a facility to unions, which the parties entering into afterwards, greatly lamented, and the law of divorce had the effect of affording to those repenting parties the easy means of dissolving the unions thus entered into. Without discussing the propriety of granting those facilities in Scotland, he might at all events assert, that the Jaw of Scotland was not suited to this country. As to the argument of the hon. and learned member for Clare, that Divorces were contrary to the doctrines of the Catholic Church, he believed that England was the only Protestant country where Divorces were not granted à vinculo by individual judges. The hon. and learned member for Clare, said, that the law of the Catholic Church was opposed to Divorces altogether; but he maintained that the members of no religious persuasion, and that no religion had ever played fast and loose with marriage, as the Catholic Church had done. The doctrines professed by persons belonging to that Church on this subject had done more to weaken the sacred tie of marriage than all the Divorce bills that ever had passed, or ever would pass through that House. There was one point on which he agreed with his hon. and learned friend. He admitted that it was the great misfortune of the present law, that it opened the door to the rich and not to the poor. This certainly was a striking objection; and a still greater objection perhaps was, that whilst the injured husband was allowed the power of resorting to Parliament for relief, the same facilities were refused to the unoffending and equally injured wife, unless indeed in those horrible cases where an incestuous connexion was proved to have taken place. Ever since he had an opportunity of considering this question, this anomaly had struck him, and he never could reconcile the principle to justice or common sense by which the Legislature refused that relief to the wife, which was granted to the husband. If there ought to be any distinction, or any greater favour shewn to one party than to the other, it should be to the wife, as the weaker party. He wished that this subject should be brought forward in another shape, and he agreed with his hon. and learned friend the Solicitor General, that it would be more desirable that his hon. and learned friend near him, would bring forward something like a practical measure, in the form of a bill. The House would then see at once the difficulties which arose from the existing state of the law, the mischief and its extent, and the operation of the proposed remedy. Such a measure would be most advantageous; but as long as the House confined itself to desultory disquisitions of that kind, it was impossible to arrive at any satisfactory result. If the subject were referred to the Ecclesiastical Commission, he was apprehensive the time of the commissioners was so fully occupied, that they could not give this subject sufficient consideration; and even if they had abundance of leisure, so much difference of opinion and feeling would be likely to exist on this subject, and so great a repugnance would there be to deciding on it, that the commissioners would never, he believed, propose any definite measure. They would probably content themselves with pointing out a number of remedial measures, leaving it for the House to judge for itself which it would be best to adopt. He would not then trespass at greater length on the attention of the House; but he would suggest to his hon. and learned friend to withdraw his present Motion, for he was satisfied that no really beneficial result could arise from pressing it to a division.
said, that if he thought, with his hon. and learned friend who last addressed the House, that no beneficial result would arise from referring this subject to a Commission, which should report to the King and Parliament, the considerations that might occur to the commissioners on the present, state of the law; and the various remedial measures which might suggest themselves; leaving it to Parliament to pronounce which of those remedial measures it should consider best-calculated to meet the existing evils; if he thought no benefit would result from that, he should advise his hon. and learned friend to withdraw his Motion. If the commission were to do nothing more than inquire, in his opinion great and most important advantages would be derived from it. He could not agree with his hon. and learned friend, the Solicitor General, that there would be any irregularity in throwing this subject upon the consideration of those persons of whom the Ecclesiastical Commission was composed. No persons could be chosen better calculated to discuss the subject and to throw light on it. Nor did he see any incongruity in referring the question to them, if they were possessed of knowledge and experience which fitted them, better than other individuals, to consider this question. They had to report on the state of the Ecclesiastical Courts, and the subject of Divorce was somewhat allied to the subject of their present inquiries. However, it seemed to him to be only a question of form, whether the subject should be referred to a new commission, or to the commission on the Ecclesiastical Courts. It was not important, in his opinion, to which it was referred, as there could be no doubt that the inquiry would be equally well managed in either case. Another difficulty, started by his hon. and learned friend the member for Tregony (Dr. Lushington) was, that if we referred this subject to a commission, we should refer a great and important religious question, namely, whether, consistently with the doctrines of religion, the remedy of a Divorce â vinculo could be granted by any tribunal? He was not aware that such a question need be referred to any commission, nor did it appear to him that such a question would be likely to arise. The question had been indeed already decided by the undisputed practice of Parliament for a series of years. Since 1775, no less than 150 Divorce bills had passed through Parliament. All the members of that profession to which his hon. and learned friend belonged who practised in the Ecclesiastical Courts, or in the other House; all the Members of that House, the Bishops, the Judges, and all the Members of either House of Parliament, had been assenting parties to the practice of granting relief in the way alluded to, though his hon. and learned friend insinuated that doing so was contrary to religion. He did not wish to mix up any particular case with this discussion; but his hon. and learned friend, as well as other Members, had alluded to a case which came before the House during the present Session; and his hon. and learned friend said, he sup- ported that measure. In doing that, however, he supported the principle that marriage might be dissolved. That his hon. and learned friend entertained any doubt, whether or not it was contrary to religion to pass those bills, he could not suppose, for, if his hon. and learned friend thought it contrary to religion, he would not have supported the bill in question. He could not believe, therefore, that the commissioners would have any thing to do with the question to which his hon. and learned friend had referred. He could not see, that any doubtful question arose in cases where no blame was attributable to the party seeking relief; and the only question for the commissioners would be, whether the relief granted by Parliament, might not be granted, under certain restrictions, by a Court of Justice. The power of granting relief existed, and was acted on; and the only question was, whether it should remain in Parliament, or be delegated to another tribunal better fitted for the discharge of it. Something had been said of the difference between society in Scotland, and in England, of that difference he was not aware; but if it existed, it was principally as regarded the higher orders. Where was the difference between the middle orders in Scotland and in England? Was there any greater immorality in that country, because it had tribunals which did not deny to poverty what, in this country, was granted, as of course, to the rich? Was not the clergyman, the professional man, or the shopkeeper, as well entitled to the remedy as the great landed proprietor? He had been induced to turn his attention particularly to this question, by observing, from what took place in our criminal courts, that there was a great increase in the number of prosecutions for bigamy. In a majority of cases he observed, that the persons prosecuted were those whose wives had quitted them or eloped; and if those persons had been placed in a higher station of life, they would have procured the relief which that House had the power of granting; but not being able to procure that relief, they became liable to a criminal prosecution, and were perhaps punished, because they wished to enjoy the comfort and satisfaction of domestic society. The present state of the law was undoubtedly open to that objection which had been stated by his hon. and learned friend who introduced this subject, and it imperatively called for some revision. His hon. and learned friend, the member for Tregony, did not believe in the existence of collusion to the extent which had been stated. If the husband put his wife in the way of a seducer, in order that she might commit adultery, or that he might obtain damages in a court of law, it was a criminal collusion; and though he would not take upon him to assert that there was a large number of such cases, yet, with great deference to his hon. and learned friend, he must say, that there was a large description of cases in which, if they had been scrutinized to the bottom, Parliament would not have granted a Divorce. He alluded to cases where there had been culpable neglect on the part of the husband, where he had committed similar excesses himself, or had exposed his wife to the arts of a seducer. In such cases, when the wife behaved ill, the husband brought his action against the seducer, and might have no chance of obtaining damages if the facts were thoroughly sifted. But suppose that the defendant in the action was not desirous to set up his defence. It might be the wish of the seducer to make amends to the lady he had seduced, and he might agree not to offer any opposition. Several instances had been communicated to him, from authorities on which he could rely, of a distinct arrangement entered into between the husband and the seducer, that the damages should not be levied. The defendant in such cases allowed judgment to go by default. A sheriff's jury was empanelled generally in some alehouse to assess the damages: the facts were admitted; there was perhaps a palliative speech on the part of the defendant, setting forth his youth, or the seduction to which he had been exposed, or something of that kind; and whatever might be the amount of the damages, the effect was precisely the same on the parties. He could state on this point the opinion of a person, who it would be admitted was a high authority on this subject,—perhaps the highest that could be named,—certainly the highest with which he was acquainted—he meant Lord Stowell. He asked Lord Stowell whether it were true, as he had been informed by others, that in nine out of ten of these cases the party who complained was the party most to be blamed; that in that large proportion of cases the husband was the party chiefly in fault, then the wife, and, last of all, the seducer. Lord Stowell's reply was, "you are wrong; that is not the case in nine instances out of ten, but in ninety-nine out of a hundred." He did not mean to say that Lord Stowell's opinion was exactly, that this occurred in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, but it certainly was his opinion, that it occurred in a large proportion of cases. Was it not likely that such cases would be hotter investigated by judges holding official stations, and discharging their duly before the public, and whose characters would suffer if, from any private motive, they should scrutinize one case less than another; was it not likely that such cases would be better investigated by professional men, than they could ever be in that House? Let every Gentleman ask himself whether he had ever, upon any question of this description, acted as if the eye of the public were upon him, and he, and he alone, was bound to inquire into all the facts of the case. He believed no Member so acted, and if no one did, the whole did not, and cases which came before that Mouse were consequently not investigated. It was well known how business of that kind was hurried over in the House when any question of importance or public consequence was about to be brought forward. The question of war or peace, or some question involving the very existence of the country, might be brought forward on the same night with a divorce bill; and was it likely that the House would allow any Member to go into a lengthened investigation on an ordinary bill of this description at such a time, when a great political question was in agitation. Would it be likely, on such a divorce bill being brought in with the ordinary proof, if any one were to get up to examine further into the case, that the House would allow him? It had been suggested that, to meet this evil, there should be additional checks and impediments thrown in the way of divorce bills. That principle had been tried in the other House, by the passing of certain Standing Orders, but the result was, that they had not been adhered to in practice. It had been said, that it would not be for the good of the parties to adhere to them too nicely. There was that order, for instance, for the examination of the husband himself, which would seem to afford great protection against collusion, as under it the whole of the circumstances relating to the cohabitation of the parties might be entered into. That order had been dispensed with, because it would be a painful thing to those who had friends, and were well known, to submit to a public examination on such a subject. The Standing Orders, then, were perfectly nugatory as a protection against collusion. Upon all these grounds he felt a strong wish to support the Motion then before the House. He thought that the Ecclesiastical Commission would be able to investigate such a question: but if it should not be, it was the duty of the House to consider whether there were no other course likely to answer the purpose proposed by his hon. and learned friend. It was said, that he ought to bring in a bill; but there was a principle to be discussed before coming to the House with a bill. If a general principle were agreed upon, then the details might be advantageously introduced in the shape of a bill; but to call upon an individual to enter into the details without first ascertaining whether the House were prepared to adopt the principle, was to impose trouble without any purpose. It would be necessary afterwards to decide whether such a court as his hon. and learned friend proposed, ought to be established; and whether the House would be prepared to give up to any tribunal the power it had so long exercised. When the bill should come before the House, the object with which it had been introduced might be disapproved of, and his hon. and learned friend would find that his labour and attention had been bestowed in vain. He thought, therefore, that his hon. friend had acted wisely in adopting the present course; and he should give the Motion his most cordial support.
said, the House had some reason to complain of the imperfect notice which the hon. and learned Gentleman had given of this measure—all-important as that was. He was, therefore, rather taken by surprise in being called upon to give an opinion upon it at that moment. He was sorry to be compelled to give a vote on so extensive a subject without the fullest consideration. The question, as it appeared to him, was this:—Was a case of necessity made out for a change in the existing law? and, secondly, was the proposed the best mode of legislating upon the subject? As to the first part of the question, he would not at that moment undertake to decide it, but he was prepared to say that he could not admit all the hon. and learned Member's statements. It had been said that that House was not a competent tribunal in cases of Divorce, and that in nine cases out of ten collusion took place. He thought, however, that that statement was much exaggerated, for he could not give the name of collusion to a case where a wife, who had been guilty of adultery, and wronged an affectionate husband, offered no opposition to his procuring a Divorce. If it were the case that collusion was frequent and inevitable, it would be their duty to take some means of preventing such an evil in future. But the testimony of the hon. and learned member for Tregony was directly opposed to such a supposition. If by collusion were meant a criminal collusion to obtain a Divorce, he (Sir Robert Peel) was by no means of opinion that such a collusion was frequent. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the expense of the remedy operating to give the rich an advantage over the poor. Let them adopt what regulations they pleased on the subject, he feared that that inequality could not be obviated. How could any court determine on the justice or expediency of granting a Divorce without an extensive review of the lives of the parties by whom it was claimed, and without hearing satisfactory evidence upon the subject? The expense attendant on such proceedings must always operate as a bar to the poor. It had been said that there were courts in which a subject of that kind could be investigated at an expense not exceeding 15l. With a reference to public morality, however, it appeared to him that it would be much better to retain all the existing inconveniences than to make Divorce so easily attainable. To do that, would be to hold out a temptation to adultery. He was far from thinking that our present system was a good one; but he was by no means prepared to say, with the hon. and learned member for Clare, that the husband should have no remedy for the infidelity of his wife.
said, he was not opposed to Divorces a mensa et thoro.
said, his argument applied to both species of Divorce. It was well to make it the general rule that there should be no Divorce; but there must be exceptions; yet those exceptions ought to be strictly inquired into, and ought to be the subjects of distinct acts of legislation. As to referring the subject to the Ecclesiastical Commission, it must be remembered that that commission was appointed for a very different purpose. And, besides, there were in the discussion of the question many moral and political considerations, which the Legislature ought to retain in its own hands, and not devolve them upon any commission. It must also be recollected, that the commissioners were acting gratuitously. Having undertaken what it would require three or four years of application to accomplish, was it fair to impose upon them an additional labour. For all these reasons he was not prepared to acquiesce in the hon. and learned Gentleman's Motion; and hoped that he would follow the advice of the hon. and learned member for Tregony, and not press his Motion to a division.
, when he saw one of the members of the commission in question placing himself in an attitude of supplication, to entreat the House not to throw the burthen of this subject upon that commission, felt himself compelled, however reluctantly, to oppose the Motion. He must distinctly, however, object to the principle of the hon. and learned member for Clare, that there should be no Divorce.
observed, that although at the commencement of the discussion he had trespassed on the attention of the House at some length, yet he hoped he might be allowed, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, to offer a few observations in reply. He begged to assure those hon. Gentlemen who were so impatient, that he would trespass on their attention as briefly as possible. If the right hon. Baronet had been present at the examination, and during the discussion which took place on the case already referred to, which he was not, he would suggest that this Motion should be given up. He had brought the subject forward with great reluctance, at the suggestion of many hon. Gentlemen who felt, as he felt, how very difficult it would be to originate any legislative measure. He was asked, why not bring in a bill? Unfortunately he had some experience of that course. He had brought in a bill on another subject; and after four or five years toil and trouble, he had the satisfaction of seeing the principle of that bill adopted: but he had sufficient experi- ence to be convinced that an individual introducing such a measure as an alteration in the law of divorce, and unaided by Government, had no chance whatever of bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion. The right hon. Secretary wished that a more distinct notice of the proposition had been given; but, in fact, he was doubtful what course it would be most expedient to adopt: whether he should move a resolution, or propose that the subject should be referred to a commission; and till he had made up his mind, he could give no other notice than he had given. He had adopted the latter course in conformity with the advice of those whom he consulted, and at whose instance he took up the subject. The right hon. Gentleman asked, what ground or grievance had been made out to justify the Motion. But every hon. Member conversant with Divorce bills, must be aware that the time had arrived when some steps should be taken to revise and reconsider the law upon this subject? That was all he asked for. He only sought a deliberate consideration of the subject by those best qualified to investigate it. Matters had at length arrived at such a pass, that something must be done. The right hon. Gentleman said, that collusion did not exist to the extent stated; but upon that point he differed from the right hon. Gentleman, and he contended that collusion prevailed to an alarming degree. If the right hon. Gentleman would but refer to the Debates to which he had referred, in bringing this matter before the House, he would find very deliberate opinions given by high authorities in the House of Lords on the subject. In 1779, in 1800, and 1801, Lord Thurlow, Lord Eldon, and Lord Kenyon,* expressed very decided opinions against the law as it at present stood, and stated the great extent to which collusion existed in all cases of divorce. He would find that those high authorities repeatedly declared that the law of Divorce could not stand as it was and is, but that something must be done to revise and amend it. That law, at present, was opposed to the general principles of the laws of England, which respected not persons—they were made both for the rich and the poor, and were equally open to both; but the law of Divorce was a law for the rich alone, and the relief which it afforded was placed out of the reach of the poor man. The right
hon. Gentleman seemed to hint that it would be a relief to a poor man could he escape the expenses attendant upon passing a Divorce bill through the House; but he ought to recollect that cases of separation from bed and board, where the parties could not afford the expense of proceeding further, and could not afford the unavoidable expense of witnesses, &c.—were not unfrequent; and in such cases, how could the relief mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman be a benefit? However anxious he felt for an alteration of the law, he had not taken it upon himself, on the present occasion, to suggest the remedy. He was only desirous that the House should put the matter in a proper train for investigation, so that some remedy might be devised. He had already said that a divorce bill could not be passed through the House under an expense of from 600l. to 700l., so that a complete divorce, which was permitted to the rich, was forbidden to the middle and poorer classes, who could not afford the expense of such a proceeding. It was extremely hard that the poor man should have no relief from an unfaithful wife, because he had not money enough to defray the costs which the Legislature had made the price of obtaining that relief. The principle was a wrong one, and the law founded on it could not be otherwise than injurious. The law ought not to couple separation from bed and board, which was an expense and breaking-up of comfort, with a subsequent expense, which prevented an injured party from obtaining a complete dissolution of the marriage tie. This was an unequal and unjust operation of the law. It would certainly be something if it could be shown that the law had worked well. But, to prove that it had not, it was only necessary to refer to the proceedings which took place upon every bill of Divorce in the House; it was only necessary to refer to the Standing Orders of the other House of Parliament, and to the arrangements which had been made there, with a view to prevent collusion between the parties, and the adulteress from marrying again. The precautions adopted there afforded a tolerable exemplification of the operation of the law of Divorce. But it was only necessary to appeal to the experience of the House, to see how the law operated. A Divorce bill was before the House this very evening, and the hon. Members who were then present might have heard the hon. member for Ashburton state as strong and as decided an opinion, with respect to collusion, as was ever delivered by Lord Eldon or by Lord Thurlow. Some remedy must be brought forward to meet this state of things. He acknowledged that he was not prepared with one, but even if he were, the advanced period of the Session would not allow him to carry a measure of that kind through Parliament, even assuming that the House was disposed to adopt it. But all this did not appear to him any argument against the investigation which he proposed. Because he was unable to bring forward a measure—because the House could not then pass a measure—was no reason why all consideration of the very important subject should be abandoned; on the contrary, it seemed to him a powerful reason why it should be investigated. A commission had been appointed by the King to examine into ecclesiastical affairs. The right hon. Gentleman said, that commission had been appointed for specific purposes, and that the law of Divorce did not come within the scope of their inquiries. But if the right hon. Gentleman had read the commission by which these commissioners were appointed, he would have found that it fully authorised them to inquire into matters of this nature. By the latter part of the commission it is directed that inquiry should be made into the jurisdiction of Ecclesiastical Courts, and whether, in any cases, that jurisdiction might be beneficially altered, or taken away from them. One of the objects, then, of the commission was, to inquire into the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts. The commissioners, in pursuing their inquiries on the subject, might find out that it would be proper to give to those Ecclesiastical Courts the power of pronouncing the final decision in divorce cases, and of dissolving â vinculo matrimonii. His object was, that the commissioners might consider the subject, so as to be enabled to lay some plan before Parliament with regard to it. Looking at the constitution of the commission, he must say, that no individuals could be found better qualified to consider the subject than the persons appointed upon that commission. Of whom was it composed? Of learned Judges from the Courts of Common-law, and from the Ecclesiastical Courts, with whom were associated four or five of the most eminent members of the Episcopal Bench. A commission so constituted appeared to him peculiarly well fitted to investigate this subject, and to suggest some effectual remedy for an evil, the existence of which could not be denied. Before he sat down, he begged leave to notice one or two observations which fell from the hon. member for Clare, and which seemed to be in some degree corroborated by what was said by his hon. and learned friend the member for Tregony. He understood the hon. and learned member for Clare to say, that the rupture of the marriage tie, even in cases of adultery, was illegal, both according to the canons of the Protestant and Catholic Churches. By the doctrine of the Catholic Church, and by the canons derived from the Catholic Church, he admitted that the indissolubility of marriage was maintained; but he denied that by the doctrine of the Protestant Church of England a divorce from the marriage tie was not allowed in cases of adultery. Undoubtedly, Archbishop Bancroft did make an objection to any such privilege being granted by the Church of England; but before his time, Archbishop Cranmer held and acted upon a different opinion. The fact was, that for a long period after the Reformation, the law on the subject remained undecided; but ever since the Revolution, the point had been perfectly determined. Ever since the determination in the case of the Duke of Norfolk, the great dignitaries of the Church of England have held the opinion, that adultery constituted a sufficient cause for the dissolution of marriage, and no other opinion had since prevailed. Every bill of Divorce, in fact, which came down from the other House, brought with it the express sanction and concurrence of the bench of Bishops. Under all these circumstances, he submitted to the consideration of the House, that some remedy was called for by the existing state of the law. He thought that there was no hon. Member present who would not agree with him in the opinion, that the House of Commons was an extremely improper tribunal for the consideration and decision of divorce cases. Should the House not therefore see whether some more fitting tribunal might not be selected for that purpose? Was it to allow the Session to pass over without taking any steps for applying some remedy to acknowledged evils? His proposition simply was—"That his Ma- jesty will be graciously pleased to give directions to the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of the Ecclesiastical Courts in England and Wales—to examine and inquire into the Law of Divorce, and to consider the expediency of enabling persons to obtain Divorces from the bond of matrimony, in cases of Adultery, by legal process in courts of competent jurisdiction." His proposition did not go to delegate any of the jurisdiction or authority of the House of Commons to the commission. He merely proposed, that a body of gentlemen, peculiarly well calculated for the purpose, should examine into the subject, and report to the House whether it might not be expedient to refer to the decision of courts of competent jurisdiction instead of Parliament, cases where divorces were sought on the ground of adultery. That was the nature of his proposition, and he repeated it, because many hon. Members who were not present when he first addressed the House might labour under a misapprehension upon the subject. He was of course in the hands of the House; but having brought this subject under its consideration, he was of opinion that the House ought not to separate without taking some steps to remedy the existing state of the law. To the majority of the members of the commission to which he proposed to refer the subject, all the topics connected with it were quite familiar. Many of them were distinguished for that learning which was necessary for the due consideration of the question; and it was doubtful if the House might again meet with a body so admirably qualified to examine the question, and to offer some suggestions that might lead to the adoption of some practical measure. With that view he meant to persevere in his Motion.* Hansards Parl. Hist. Vol. xx. p. 595—xxxv. p. 234, 250.
The House divided:—For the Motion, 45; Against it 102—Majority 57.
List of the Minority.
|Browne, J.||Grant, Right hon. C.|
|Baring, Sir T.||Grant, Robert|
|Crompton, S.||Graham, Sir J.|
|Carter, J. B.||Harvey, D. W.|
|Cave, O.||Hume, J.|
|Clive, E. B.||Honywood, W. P.|
|Calthorpe, Hon. F.||Huskisson, Rt. Hn. W.|
|Colborne, R.||Kennedy, T. F.|
|Ewart, T.||Lambert, J. S.|
|Eastern, Lord||Lumley, S.|
|Ebrington, Lord||Lennard, T. B.|
|Guest, J. J.||Martin, J.|
|Gordon, R.||Morpeth, Lord|
|Grattan, H.||Macaulay, T. B.|
|Nugent, Lord||Wood, Alderman|
|Norton, G. C.||Waithman, Alderman|
|Ord, W.||Warburton, H.|
|Russell, Lord W.||Wilbraham, G.|
|Sandon, Lord||Wynne, Sir W. W.|
|Smith, W.||Wynn, Rt. Hon. C.|
|Sykes, D.||Ward, J.|
|Tufton, Hon. H.||TELLERS.|
|Talbot, R. W.||Rice, T. S.|
|Tennyson, C.||Phillimore, Dr.|
Poor-Laws For Ireland
rose and said, that in addressing the House on a subject which he had at length obtained an opportunity of bringing under its consideration, he felt that it was little probable that he should be able to do anything like justice to its acknowledged importance;—a subject involving at once the highest principles and best feelings of humanity; one, not merely of a theoretical and abstract nature, but necessary, practical, and operative; not affecting a particular order or small part of the community merely, but bearing first on a numerous though unfortunate class of our fellow-beings, and through them upon the rest, however affluent and elevated; and lastly, Sir, a subject on which opinions the most various, and indeed opposite, are entertained, and each dictating a policy as essentially different—demands for its due and full consideration those qualifications in which (continued the hon. Member) I am as sensible as any one that hears me of my deficiency. Then, Sir, the circumstance of this House having so often entertained questions of the nature I have now the honour to submit to its attention, and to very little purpose; having passed, I think, hundreds of laws in reference to it, many of which, it is now confessed on all hands, were little reconcilable in their operation with their professed object—that of amending the condition of the poor, or the laws made in their behalf,—will render the House, I fear, little disposed to continued projects of a similar nature; while the fact of two or three committees now sitting, I believe, on matters bearing on the question to which I am about to address myself, may render my present course apparently the less necessary to be pursued. Sir, in approaching this subject, I feel forcibly these great discouragements; but I am still more deeply impressed with the duty I have ventured to undertake—that of attempting a general measure, the object of which will be, to better the condition of the labouring poor; to which ultimate and main design, the Resolution which I shall have the honour of submitting to the House on this occasion, important as I conceive it is in itself, is merely a preparatory step, but one which, I think, is essential to the success of the whole; and indeed to every proposition, of whatever kind, the object of which is of a similar nature. But to bespeak, as far as I am able, the favourable consideration of the House, I will venture to state, that neither the proposition which I shall have to submit this evening, nor the measure to which I wish it to be the precursor, are the consequence of recent convictions, or new lights upon the subject; or the result of some sudden and momentary impulse; much less are they suggested by personal motives or considerations—a course from which I should shrink with disgust: on the contrary, whether worthy of attention or otherwise, they are the result of attentive consideration, fortified by all the facts I have been able to accumulate, and by that experience which has been gained by personally engaging in the duties I wish to impose. The subject has long occupied my best attention, and is one to which I have rendered my recent pursuits subservient, and, however much I may fail in my attempt, I shall not incur the odium of having obtruded upon the House what I have not fully considered, and do not believe to be eminently beneficial and entirely practicable. Upon the general measure, however, which I hope to submit to this House, I will not now enter, though prepared so to do when the opportunity shall arrive, being thoroughly convinced that no proposition in behalf of the industrious classes of society, especially in England, can be of the least avail, till a legal provision for the poor of Ireland be first determined upon, and carried into effect. Till then we may appoint committees annually—may enlarge the scope of their inquiries—render their sittings perpetual—we may listen to and put into operation as many projects as we please; or, to exonerate from their duty private individuals, dip as deeply as we have already done into the public purse; but till this step, which justice, mercy, and policy itself equally demand, namely, the establishment of a Poor's-law for Ireland be taken, all these attempts will be in vain; the unrelieved misery will not merely afflict the country thus deserted and neglected, but it will reach England. The condition of the English peasant and artisan, already so much deteriorated, will be still further debased; and their condition will speedily be reduced to that of Irish labourers; and this once industrious, independent, and prosperous community will be degraded into a populace of paupers. Then, Sir, I fear it will be somewhat too late to deal with a question which ought to have been settled centuries ago, and which, if you mean to deal with it at all, admits of no further delay. The interests of the industrious classes of both islands demand that a legal provision should be enacted in behalf of the poor of Ireland, and that is the proposition which I intend submitting to the House on this occasion. Sir, the first argument which I shall advance in favour of that proposition is founded on the absolute necessity of such a provision, as it respects the labouring classes of England. Much has been said of late concerning the necessity of assimilating the institutions of the two islands as closely as possible; in this respect the necessity of so doing is abundantly apparent. The measure of the Union has not only identified the legislatures of the two islands, but has given far greater facilities to their mutual intercourse; and far more closely even than that great measure, has the invention and extensive adoption of steam navigation united them, and placed them, indeed, in point of practical effect, in closer contact than, for instance, are the great and populous northern counties, with this the metropolitan one—and has rendered the communication between them, as it respects the mass of the community, more easy, cheap, and rapid. The consequences are abundantly plain, and in the present state of things irremediable. The institution of the Poor-law of England encourages and increases the value of labour, as well as relieves distress; in Ireland, in consequence of the want of such a law, labour is discouraged and distress deserted. The result is inevitable—the influx of numbers from the latter country into the former, which nothing but a better system will ever prevent or abate. Other circumstances also combine to make this defect a still greater evil. If we consider the necessary consequences of absenteeism, and the great extent to which in that unhappy country it is carried; the exorbitant rents, and the ruinous and oppressive system of underletting, to which it gives rise; if to these evils are added their inevitable results, the clearing of farms, and driving forth the inhabitants at the pleasure of those who are thus invested virtually, though not ostensibly, with the power of life and death, and who are the means too frequently of occasioning the latter—a mass of misery presents itself in constant existence, which it is difficult to over-rate. Numerous little cultivators, who, notwithstanding the parsimony of living to which they submit, are barely enabled to sustain life, are deprived of their last shilling, and are sent forth at once, without the slightest provision, upon a country which yields them no employment, and affords them no relief. Where can they proceed? Many who can proceed so far, "beyond the western main" do so—many who cannot, move to this country, where they overstock the market of labour, and occasion, in no inconsiderable degree, that distress under which our industrious population now suffers. Such are the consequences, and they are undeniable. They would be the same were there in one half of this country a provision for the poor, and were the other half destitute of such a system. The indigent of the latter part would most certainly take refuge in the former, not perhaps for direct relief, but to share in the beneficial consequences which ensue wherever it is generally administered. The Irish do so—in increasing multitudes—nor do I blame them. I contemn those who refuse them in their own country that relief in their distresses which justice and humanity equally dictate, and which is rendered in every other civilized country upon earth. Thus it is, that the want of a national provision for the poor of Ireland operates as a grievous injury on those of England. The proprietors of the former island, being under no obligation to sustain the unemployed, the destitute, and distressed, send and drive them forth, when multitudes necessarily take refuge here. They come for employment and for bread. The market of labour is consequently overstocked, and its value greatly depressed, by the unnatural rivalry of those who are annually making this country their asylum. Thus is it, that in the field and in the factory, at the forge or at the loom—in every sphere of industry, the Englishman finds himself interfered with, his wages greatly reduced, and himself in many cases thrown out of employment. The poor creatures who take refuge here I do not blame. Absenteeism has deprived them of bread, and in its consequences driven them forth from their country: on the contrary, I would receive and relieve them, till a better system is established in their own country. In the mean time, however, I cannot refrain from reprobating in the strongest terms the conduct of those who cause these constant deportations. The interests of our own poor imperiously demand that those of Ireland should be sustained; and so great and growing is this evil become, that I think it will be found ere long that the rights of property, as well as those of poverty, will require the same remedy. I come, therefore, to the proposition which I shall this evening submit to the House, as preliminary to others of a more general character, which I hope to have the honour of proposing to it, namely, that there should be established in Ireland a legal provision for the destitute poor. In attempting to recommend to the attention of the House this proposition, it will be unnecessary to found my future argument on the claims that the industrious classes of this country have, that such a measure should be adopted; as it is in its nature one which, as applied to any country whatsoever, is recommended, and even demanded, by the plainest principles of justice, and by the soundest views of policy; and one which the peculiar condition of Ireland renders still more imperatively necessary. Sir, I approach the argument in favour of a Poor-law for Ireland, important as it is, with the greater confidence of success, from having observed that the ground of all those several propositions which have been successively submitted to this House, and some of them adopted, has been simply that of justice, alterations of the most momentous nature, with some of which I had the misfortune not to concur; others of a like kind which are still, it appears, contemplated; changes affecting, I may say revolutionizing, many institutions which had long been held sacred, whether meditated or made, have been all supported by the simple argument of justice. No matter how ancient was the principle to be attacked, no matter how deeply rooted the prejudices which were to be encountered, no matter how close so ever individual interests might appear to be concerned; all these, it was, and still is agreed, ought certainly to give way to the principles of human rights—to the un- doubted claims of justice. I hail these appeals, however I may differ sometimes as to their application: I hail them more especially as regards my present Motion, which is one, the justice of which is perhaps more apparent and demonstrable, however regarded, than any abstract legislative proposition ever entertained. And if to justice be added another plea, hardly less sacred, certainly not less touching, that of mercy, I cannot but think that it must be successful; that, it will prevail on this occasion. I entertain the strongest hopes; that it will be finally triumphant I am fully certain. A measure which is equally dictated by the principles of reason, and the feelings of humanity; by the institutions of civilization, and the rights and interests of society at large; which has been sanctioned by the highest authorities that have ever existed, and adopted by every civilised country upon earth, save this one island, which has therefore, though forming an integral part of the richest empire in the world, stood forth as one of the most striking examples of misery which the state of Europe presents, must assuredly be successful. Before touching, however, upon this right of poverty, it may be proper to define what is meant by it. It is not put forth as a right on the part of the poor, to share individually and personally in any part, however small, of the real property of the country; on the contrary, it is one urged in perfect consistency with the claims of wealth, however great, and however rigidly maintained; it simply implies, as I expound it, and shall urge it on this occasion, a real and indisputable right that, after the institutions of the country have sanctioned the monopoly of property, the poor shall have some reserved claims to the necessaries of life, and that these claims shall be legalised only in behalf of those of the labouring classes, who are smitten with sickness, and consequently incapable of labour, disabled by age or incurable disease, and can therefore labour no more; of that infancy which, left destitute and parentless, makes so touching a demand upon our care; that these should be relieved in some humble degree, so confined if you please, and limited, that the right thus recognised shall make little apparent inroad on the amount of that wealth which shall be called upon to administer to these necessities; but on the contrary, when duly understood, shall actually increase its advantages. Finally, that all relief should be administered in the form of remunerated labour, wherever the applicants are capable of it, to such who are willing and anxious to earn their humble pittance by the sweat of their brow. Such then are the narrow limitations of the right we assert in behalf of human indigence, that the frugal means of subsistence should be awarded to those in actual destitution and distress—the right, in short, of existence. It forms a distressing feature in some of the systems now put forth, that this right, which for a succession of centuries has never been denied, now begins to be disputed. It lies at the foundation, however, of my proposition, and as such I shall attempt to uphold it; not indeed by any abstract arguments of my own, but by the unanimous reasonings and declarations of the highest authorities that ever existed in the world, and expressed in their own language. In doing this I shall not allude to the institutions of the legislators of the free states of antiquity, those of Greece and Rome, all of which, it is well known, recognized the right of their citizens to legal relief, and in a way so highly eulogized by many of their philosophers, especially by Aristotle, as regarding the former: nor shall I draw an argument at present from the still more liberal and far more imperative and direct institutions of Moses in this respect. I shall not appeal to the authority of the primitive Church before it was established, nor to its laws when it became dominant, in favour of this right, stated and enforced as it was by all these, by every argument, drawn from every source, human or divine. I will rather show, from those who have studied in later times the rights of mankind, and to whose exposition of them we continue to defer; selecting, however, but a very few of these, but of such an order as numbers could add nothing to the weight and importance of their authority. First, Sir, I shall quote the celebrated Grotius, who has expressed himself as to this natural right in his great work most explicitly. "Let us see," says he, "whether men may not have a right to enjoy in common those things that are already become the property of other persons." This is putting the query in a strong point of view indeed; hence he adds that "the question will at first seem strange, since property seems to have swallowed up that right which one man may lay claim to in common with the rest." "But this," he says, "is a mistake; for we must examine into the designs and intentions of those who first introduced those particular properties, which we may imagine to be such as deviated the least from natural justice. For if even written laws are always to be explained in that sense which comes nearest to common equity, much more customs then, which are unconfined, and not at all chained down to the letter of the law. From whence it follows that in cases of absolute necessity, that former right of using things, as if they still remained in common, must revive and be in full force." He says, moreover, that "such a right is for the preservation of natural equity, against the rigour and severity of property and dominion." He adds, indeed, that some precautions are to be regarded, "lest this liberty should go too far," and points out the very provisions which our own Poor-laws prescribe. This profound authority goes on to say, that "this is a received opinion amongst all divines," and remarks that in the original form of government there are these exceptions and provisions. And he finally adds, what I am sure none will controvert, "if they who were first concerned in that division of things we now see, could be asked concerning this matter, they would answer the same as we assert." Puffendorf gives a somewhat different view of the subject, but expresses himself in still stronger terms, and more at large upon it. These are the opinions of Montesquieu, in his great, work, who thus expresses himself:—"The state owes to every citizen a certain subsistence." And whenever it happens that among the numerous persons engaged in different branches of trade some suffer—and he remarks upon the impossibility of a contrary supposition—he says, "that then the State ought to afford instant relief." I might quote many other writers, and indeed all the foreign jurists to the like purpose; but I shall waive any further appeal to them in favour of our own unrivalled authorities. And to whom shall we first refer on this important point? Who is it that, occupying the very foremost rank to-this hour amongst the profoundest reasoners, and the most unsullied patriots of this or any other nation, is the best entitled to be heard? The understanding of every one who hears me will instantly respond, Locke. This great master of human reason thus expresses himself:—"Reason tells us that all men have a right to their subsistence." "We know," he elsewhere says, "that God has not left one man so to the mercy of another that he may starve him if he please. God, the Lord and Father of all, has given no one of his children such a property in his peculiar portion, but that he has given his brother a right to the surplus age of his goods, so that it cannot justly be denied him when his pressing wants call for it." This great man puts a case which the enemies of a legal provision for the poor urge will happen, but which I deny ever has, and I contend never will, namely when this right of poverty and distress presses hard upon, if not exhausts the property which has to support it—a circumstance which, I repeat, is wholly imaginary—"what," says Locke, "is to be clone in this case? I answer, the fundamental law of nature being that all, as much as may be, should be preserved, it follows, that he that hath, and to spare, must remit something of his full satisfaction, and give way to the pressing and preferable right of those who are in danger to perish without it." Such is the deliberate doctrine of this great authority, the literary father of the English liberty, who to an understanding unmatched in its capacity thus united a benevolence as warm and unbounded. Blackstone, in his province of commentator, which he filled so admirably, adverting to this right of the poor, and to the compulsory provision which it dictates, declares the principle of the Poor-law to be a provision dictated by the very principles of society. Lastly, let Paley speak as to this point; Paley one of the greatest ornaments of the last age, who was the subject the other night of the deserved eulogy of one of the most powerful minds of the present day—Paley says, the poor have a right to this provision, "a claim founded upon the law of nature;" this he dwells upon at much length, concluding thus—"When, therefore, the partition of property is rigidly maintained against the claims of impotence or distress, it is maintained against and in opposition to the intention of those who made it, and to His, who is the supreme proprietor of everything, and who has filled the world with plenteousness for the sustentation and comfort of all he sends into it." Such are the opinions of Paley, and I might add to his those of the divines of this country; such as Tillotson, Sherlock, Butler, and multitudes of others, who took no superficial or fanatical views of the great doctrines of their religion, but saw them in the lights of philosophy and truth. I should, indeed, weary the attention of this House, while those of the lights of the law, such as Bacon, Sir Matthew Hale, and multitudes of others, are equally explicit as to the absolute right of the poor to legal and legislative relief. So much then for the right of the poor. Now if the right of the poor to relief in their distresses be thus fully recognized, to urge the fitness and expediency of its establishment would be to betray the argument instead of supporting it. I may, however, just remark, that the main question as to the policy of Poor-laws rests upon their effect upon population, and, singular enough to say, the two opposite notions on this important subject concur in this, the expediency of a provision for the poor. Those who imagine that such provision has a tendency to preserve and increase the numbers of the people, and who also believe, what the history of every country upon earth has hitherto proved, namely, that with every such increase the necessary comforts, and even superfluities of life, are more than proportionately augmented, and hence that growing numbers under judicious and good management, are only other terms for augmenting prosperity,—I say such are of course advocates for the preservation of the poor. On the other hand, those who have imbibed the unhappy and erroneous notion that there is that in the principle of human increase which has a constant tendency to excess, and consequent misery, have now, I believe, come to the almost unanimous opinion, that Poor-laws have in their operation a tendency to check, instead of unduly encouraging that increase. Whichever view of the subject therefore is taken, the expediency of a national provision for the poor is equally acknowledged. But it may be, and is contended by those who object to a legal provision, that an optional one would in all cases be preferable. But I totally deny this, and, amongst many others which I shall omit to enumerate, for these important reasons:—First, it would impose the duty of sustaining the poor upon the benevolent, not always the most numerous, and very rarely the most wealthy part of the community; imposing upon them, if the poor should be adequately relieved, an intolerable burthen, from which too many of those equally able to sustain their share of it would be wholly excused: then it would substitute, instead of a regular and certain, a casual and variable supply, and in many cases where relief is the most indispensable, and its administration required with the greatest promptitude, it might be deferred too late, or might be totally and fatally withheld. It would change a system which ought to be regularly operative and permanently organized, into one of chance and accident; or otherwise demand a complication of machinery which could never be generally obtained or be rendered permanent. Finally, it would change that provision which is now rendered so as to be least degrading to those who receive it—who, notwithstanding all the cruel assertions to the contrary, are not unfrequently some of the most deserving as well as the most distressed part of the community—for a system of degrading mendicancy, with all its appendages of fraud, imposture, servility, and falsehood, with which it is always accompanied. But, Sir, we have no authority for substituting in lieu of a perfect right an imperfect and uncertain obligation, however promising it may be;—the very attempt negatives that right, which, if it exists at all, is of the most sacred and indisputable character. And let me ask such as are for thus defrauding the poor of legal relief, at the same time that they acknowledge their right to it, how such an attempt is reconcileable with the simplest ideas of justice?—how they would act regarding their own claims, not more sacred, not more essential, than those of the poor, were similar propositions made to them? Let me ask, for instance, that sacred profession, some few of the members of which (and thank God they are but few), are adverse to the demands of the poor, whether they regard their vested rights and legal endowments in the same light: they are learned enough to know that the rights they are so anxious to surrender, as it regards the poor, were anciently and from the first identified with their own; and it is little in the proper spirit of their sacred calling, that knowing the immense spoliations to which the poor have been exposed, that the legal relief which it was then found necessary to enact in their behalf, they should recommend that also to be abrogated; and opinional, variable, and uncertain relief to be substituted. Let them ask themselves whether, as ministers or professors, they would prefer to depend on weekly and eleemosynary collections, or on those certain funds which the law has assured to them. If this question needs an answer, Burke has given it, but he has given it in behalf of the pauper as well as the priest—that it is not fitting that they should be left to the unsteady and precarious contribution of individuals; hence, he has answered for this country that it will never seek its resource from the confiscation of the rights of the church, or of the poor. In a word, if the poor have a right to relief, the attempt to substitute, instead of the perfect obligation it implies, an imperfect one, is a direct insult upon the plainest principles of justice. But there is a further view than is at first apparent in this proposed substitution of an optional for a legal relief of the poor, and it is this: the hope of getting rid of most of the charge this duty implies by degrees, and at length, perhaps, altogether. It is imagined, and indeed has been often said, that some attentions, cheap and simple presents of courtesy, kind words and affectionate language, would soothe the sorrows and sufferings of poverty, and at length charm it out of existence; if not, education would entirely cure the grievance, and be the annihilation of that condition. But this idea is as absurd as it is selfish: that the poor will never cease out of the land—the assertion of the most ancient and sacred of the legislators of antiquity, whose institutions, nevertheless, were more favourable to the relief of that condition than any ever established in the world—is true of every state of society, and will ever remain so. It is not possible to rid any country of what too many consider as its nuisance and disgrace, nor is it perhaps desirable, were it even possible. Not only does the condition in which poverty stands in relation to wealth call into existence the best feelings and noblest virtues of the human heart, whether of compassion on the one hand or of gratitude on the other; but, in a political point of view, poverty, or rather the fear of poverty, which could only be inspired by its actual existence, calls forth all that activity, and animates all those exertions by which, not only the independence of the individual is secured, but the public prosperity enlarged and perpetuated. Meantime the victims of misfortune, who lay claim to that humble pittance which the law awards, and which nature stands ready to bestow, have enough of sorrow and suffering in their cup of life to prevent them voluntarily sinking into that condition which some so falsely represent to be one, not only of idleness, but even of indulgence. Yes, Sir, the poverty we seek to relieve will never cease; poverty of too deep and distressing a character to be tickled into mirth and ecstasy by the ready but empty hand of wealth and affluence; it would neither satisfy our feelings nor the wants of those we wish to relieve, thus to carry about an "alms-basket of words" to serve our own selfish purposes, while we made pretence of assisting the poor who are not to be so deceived—the "be thou warmed and be thou clothed" scheme of recent economists. "The poor ye have always with you," says the author of our religion, and the duty of solacing and supporting them he has constituted one of the most important and onerous of all the duties his religion imposes. But the most numerous and honest of the objectors against a legal provision for the poor, disencumber themselves of these flimsy substitutes for that right, and unhesitatingly assert it as their opinion, that the poor ought to sustain themselves in their destitution and distress by saving sufficient for that purpose. But nothing can exceed the absurdity of such a proposal. It is not only absurd, it is impossible. Let us turn our attention for a moment on those who are the objects of relief. The desolate orphan, for instance—how is this forlorn being to provide itself with this necessary fund?—or even the man in the prime of life, just entered upon his active labours, who may be stricken suddenly by lingering disease, or deprived of his limbs by some of those accidents to which his employment too often exposes him?—how is he to amass this fund. Other cases, numerous as they are afflicting, might be presented; but I go at once to the more general ones; as it respects these, I totally deny the possibility of this funding system, even amongst those whose health and strength have been the least interrupted. Let those who have the face to propose this plan to save their own property, expound to us how the great bulk of the agricultural labourers or manufacturing operatives are to save. The question is, how they shall exist? and that, I fear, is becoming rather problematical to hundreds of thousands at this moment. But to what amount must they save to obviate the necessity of the poor's-rate? The actuary can soon answer this. One hundred and fifty millions in the savings banks would not suffice to meet the average individual demand. But this is not all, nor yet the principal part of the proposal. As none of the working classes can foresee on which of them those calamities which may need relief will fall, so each must save in order to meet this average demand; nor would even this suffice; each must save, so as to provide against not merely the average but the extreme cases of distress, in which many fold the ordinary relief is required; at least if this assistance, which would pauperise those who receive it, is it to be dispensed with. Why, Sir, a second national debt would not suffice for this notable scheme of destroying pauperism, by making the poor universal savers. All the circulating medium, about which so much has been said, paper or metallic, transferred at once to the pockets of the poor, would go but a little way to realize this absurd proposal. But supposing all these impossibilities fully surmounted; out of what part of their expenditure must the poor save at all? They must consume less food; especially of animal food, perhaps none; they must deny themselves the beverage which sustains and rewards their labour; they must go henceforth in rags; they must surrender those comforts and decencies which, in the times of their prosperity, render their cottages so unrivalled. Now, should they do this, is it not one of the plainest maxims in political economy, that the remuneration of labour bears a pretty exact proportion to the habitual wants and expenditure of those who render it: would not then their wages fall in the same rates, that their comforts had been sacrificed? The fact is, as Sir Wm. Petty observed long ago, nothing but necessity makes man labour at all, and the bulk of mankind will never labour beyond what is adequate to supply their habitual necessities. Besides, who does not see that if this saving were possible and universal, it would, in point of fact, be no saving at all; or at, least produce, the effect of none;—but our political economists argue from exceptions. But supposing, I repeat, that this universal saving were possible, and that there were no obstacles in the way of such a scheme, do those who propose it recollect that the mass of the community are at once not only the sole producers, but the principal consumers? What would then be the effect of this universal parsimony amongst the poor? You would get rid of some of your expense, but you would have nearly annihilated your income: you would have desolated your pastures, closed your manufactories, and what is worthy of consideration, emptied your Exchequer—in a word, you would become national bankrupts and you would have the consolation of richly deserving it by carrying into execution a proposition of such infinite folly and cruelty. But the truth is, that those who argue this question upon selfish, and therefore impolitic and unwise grounds, too often care but little what methods are adopted regarding the poor, so that they involve no expenses; in fine, they are well content to leave poverty to find its own level, to adopt the phraseology of the day, as applied to many other topics. We have only to see the consequences of this system. In Ireland it is so left; hence the potatoe system prevails, as it is significantly termed, because none other can; hence rags constitute the clothing of the bulk of the people; hence their cabins justify the appellation which Spenser so long ago applied to them 'sties,' destitute of all the decencies and comforts, and what would here be deemed the necessaries, of life. Hence, also, in Scotland, where the poor are only partially relieved, in conformity with this wretched and degrading system—there also similar distress prevails. As a most intelligent witness from that country deposed before a committee of the other House, "Where the poor-law is not introduced, there are a great many of the miseries which are found in Ireland." And as this system, if it can be called one, is recommended so strongly, and embraced so eagerly, by those who deem all that is expended on poverty a national loss, I shall just observe, as it regards Scotland, that the evils I have alluded to as being found where no legal provision for the poor prevails, are most conspicuous. An authority to whom the British Empire owes so much (Sir John Sinclair), describes the wretchedness to which the Scottish poor are doomed, affirming that the greater proportion of the labouring classes of the community hardly ever taste animal food. As to the wretchedness of their clothing, the discomfort and filth of their cottages (that filth which is always the concomitant of abject poverty, and that disgusting mendicancy which, as it is justly observed in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, "is the pest that has long annoyed and oppressed her," none who can have traversed that country, where the Poor-law is not administered, needs to be reminded. And this is the condition to which the Legislature of the United Kingdom is often most gravely and piously implored to reduce the labouring poor of England. But I must observe, in passing, that there is a Poor-law in Scotland, and of a nature very similar to that of this country. In the sixth Parliament of James 6th, Act 71, it was ordained that "the hale inhabitants within the parishes should be taxed and stinted for the needful sustentation of the poor and impotent, so that they may live unbeggared." I need not recite other unrepealed Acts; it is well known, and has been recently solemnly tried and adjudged in the courts of Scotland, that, as here, any individual in absolute want has a legal claim to relief; and that the refusal to yield it generally is the result of a combination, conspiracy it ought to be called, among the rich, to intercept the relief which God and the laws award to any object of distress among them. But, Sir, waiving further remarks on these culpable evasions of the existing laws, I shall return to the main argument—the right of the poor to relief. This right, so undeniably clear and obvious, reinforced by the best feelings of humanity, and sanctioned also by the soundest policy, has ever been recognized. The heathen legislators universally recognized it;—all the free states of antiquity provided for the constant support of their indigent citizens; those of Greece especially, and in a manner which Aristotle, in his Politics, eulogises most highly. The historian of Greece, our learned countryman, observes, that there was a Poor-law in Greece. In Rome we are well aware of the constant largesses bestowed on the poorer citizens. In her unfortunate rival a similar provision prevailed. Beyond all these, the more ancient institutions of the Jews, as established by the greatest legislator and philosopher of antiquity, to designate him by no sublimer appellation—I mean Moses—fully recognized the right of indigence to relief, and legally provided for it. His laws, which, as Montesquieu observes, we often regard now as merely moral precepts, though they had the utmost legal force, framed originally so as to protect and favour poverty more than any ever promulgated in the world, still prescribed a provision for that casual poverty which, notwithstanding all his benevolent provisions, he saw and declared would never cease out of the land, which, applied to this country at the present moment, would more than double the burthens imposed for the relief of the poor, grievously as we complain of them. Those who have the slightest doubt upon the subject will do well to consult the work of the learned Selden, or his ancient authority Ben Maimon, whose exposition of the laws of Moses in relation to the poor is still extant. I will just remark, that to this ample legal provision for the distressed, Moses enjoined also the exercise of voluntary charity, in terms the most express, and enforced by considerations the most touching and solemn. So much for the dogmas of those who unhesitatingly declare that a provision for the poor is inconsistent with the exercise of real and voluntary charity; an assertion which, as made in this country, at once the most heavily taxed on account of poverty, and still the most celebrated for its voluntary works of charily and mercy of any nation upon earth, is not a little surprising. Can there be a doubt whether Christianity weakened the obligation to make certain provision—that religion of which a writer, so eloquently alluded to the other evening, Bolingbroke, said, "that charity was its very brand!" Wherever that religion has spread, there have legal institutions in behalf of poverty prevailed. In some forms of that religion it nay even be doubted whether the provision has not been carried to a culpable excess, increasing, by actual and permanent temptations, that poverty it was intended only to relieve. We know how early a Poor-law was introduced amongst ourselves, and by the father of the Monarch, and the founder of our liberties. He ordained that the poor should be sustained by the parsons and inhabitants of the parishes, so that none die for want of sustenance. In all the Catholic countries of Europe we know the extent and splendor of the establishments for the poor. In the Protestant ones another system prevails, namely, a direct Poor-law. This is the case, for instance, in Switzerland, in Sweden, in Denmark, in Norway; even Iceland, poor as she is, is not too poor to have a law for the relief of the indigent. Holland, it needs not be said, has long had the same institution, and has long been a pattern to the world for the exemplary manner in which the poor are there sustained. In the Netherlands there is a similar law in full operation. In France, where the spoliation of the Revolution ruined so many of the rich, and reached the funds for poverty and distress, the public revenue is beginning to be disbursed for the relief of indigence, and a regular system is gaining ground throughout the country. While, in the New World, where we had been taught by some to suppose that no poor, nor laws for their relief existed, we know, on the contrary, that the most liberal and efficient system of legal charity ever established is in full operation, involving, as far as our information hitherto extends, an expense to which even England is a stranger. Thus, for instance, the poor of the city of New York cost the public not far short of 200,000 dollars annually. Whichever way we turn, we see a system of national charity in full operation, excepting in one country, and that country is found, unhappily, in our own European empire; and, still more lamentable to say, in that part of it where such an institution is beyond every other the most necessary. But I shall not extend these observations. It is enough to have shown that in almost every country under the sun, where the rights of human beings are at all recognized, and where the institutions are professedly founded upon them, there is a legal provision made for poverty, which is the more efficient the farther advanced in knowledge and character such nations may be. So true is the observation of our great moralist—a decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization. Now, Sir, let us ask why is it that Ireland, an integral part of an empire which has long taken the lead in every thing charitable and excellent, and in legally providing for the indigent more especially; why is it that in Ireland this right, recognised by every other civilised nation, has been resisted to the present hour? Is it that there is no necessity for this provision, or that the Irish are a caste so degraded that they have lost their natural right to it; or that property is absolved from the duty it owes to poverty, by some undefined immunity which it enjoys in no other country, and which it would be its lasting disgrace to plead if it had? On the contrary, Sir, circumstances peculiar to Ireland render the introduction of this just measure the more necessary. I will repeat some of its grievances: the long bane of Ireland which has existed, and indeed gone on increasing for many centuries, absenteeship, abstracting the wealth, and lessening the demand for labour in the country; connected with its concomitants, exorbitant rents, and under letting; which render the constant condition of the peasantry wretched in the extreme; and which, on any fluctuation in the season and the crops, places multitudes of them on the very verge of famine, and indeed often pushes many of them into its gulf; and lastly, this constant poverty, and occasional extreme want, super inducing that disease, which never wholly leaves Ireland, and which is sometimes heightened to that frightful degree, that thousands are swept away in its dreadful ravages; a calamity which all the medical authorities I have seen attribute to an insufficiency of the necessaries of life; I say all these circumstances most loudly demand the establishment of a Poor-law in Ireland, as more necessary than probably in any other country in Christendom. Nor must I ever lose sight of the interests of the poor of this country, which I repeat imperiously demand such a regulation as should prevent those influxes of labourers of every kind which our superior system constantly attracts to us, to the infinite detriment of our industrious classes. But regarding the justice and necessity of a provision for the poor of Ireland, in reference merely to their own condition, I will beg leave to quote the authority of one of the first advocates for the measure, who has put the argument forth in such a manner as to render it irresistible, whether addressed to the understanding or the feelings—a writer, moreover, who published more than three score years ago, when the population of the country little exceeded two millions and a half. I mention this to anticipate the objections of those who may choose to attribute the misery of Ireland to excessive numbers, and who consequently confine their remedies to recissory measures only—an argument which is difficult to deal with, because it is quite as regardless of the facts as it is of those feelings which otherwise decide this question. The admirable author to whom I allude is Dr. Woodward, Bishop of Cloyne: it is difficult to make a selection from his publication, not a word of which is redundant; I will, however, attempt to do so. He entitles his work "An Argument in Support of the Right of the Poor of the Kingdom of Ireland to a National Provision;" and, as his work shows, he had to encounter the very objections so frequently, but erroneously urged at present; namely, the pretended "enormous expense," "the exorbitance of the Poor-rates, &c." of this country; or, in other words, "the absorption of rents," now so universally put forth as an overwhelming objection. I shall first quote this excellent Prelate's opening sentence: "That the lower class of our people are very ill-accommodated with lodging, raiment, and even food, is but too manifest to all who are acquainted with their manner of living. That their poverty is like to continue with but little mitigation will be evident to any intelligent man, who reflects on the following, among other causes of it: the exorbitant rent extorted from the poorer tenants, ever loth and afraid to leave their ancient habitations; by the general method of letting farms to the highest bidder, without any allowance of a tenant's right: the system of letting large tracts of lands to undertakers, inured to tyranny and extortion, as prejudicial to the landlord as to the under tenant: and the low rate of the wages of labour. These circumstances, combined with some others, reduce the Irish cottager below the peasant of almost every country in Europe. Such is his hard condition, in the most plentiful season, and in the prime of his health and strength: what then must be his state in time of dearth, under the pressure of years, infirmities, or even a very numerous family? He is a stranger to luxury, or even to decent accommodation, and yet his wages seldom afford any reserve. On the death of such a father of a family, dependant on his labours for their main or perhaps entire support, how forlorn must be the condition of his widow or orphan children; It would shock a tender mind, if imagination could paint the miseries to which the bulk of the inhabitants of this kingdom are constantly exposed by the slightest reverse of fortune; by a single bad season; by an accidental loss; by an occasional disease, or worn by the gradual decay of nature. Nor are these affecting scenes confined to seasons of scarcity; they must always exist in a great, though not equal number. They present themselves but too often to every country gentleman, and still more to the clergy, in the exercise of their parochial duties (to whose experience we appeal) to need a proof. They cannot be doubted or denied by any, but those who shut their eyes, or steel their hearts against them. So numerous, so urgent, and well known are the distresses of the poor. Let us now fairly estimate the sufficiency of the resources at present subsisting for their relief. Our eyes will naturally be turned first to the landed gentlemen, who derive their wealth and importance from the labour of these men." (Is not this a truth, and if so, is it no argument?) "Of these (continues this clergyman) many, perhaps a majority of the most considerable, constantly reside in, another kingdom; and though some of them may cast back a part of their superfluity on those to whose industry they owe their all, yet it is to be feared that such instances are very rare." "On the contrary," says he, "it is too frequently urged, as a recommendation of Irish property, that it is not encumbered with any tax for the maintenance of the poor!"—He wonders how such a phrase should be so familiarised to the ear of any wise or good man as to lose its genuine horror. "If the sentiment were developed," he adds, "few would entertain it, and still fewer avow it; no ingenious reader will therefore think it invidious or unnecessary in this interesting argument, to lay open its plain import, which is this: an estate in this country is represented as peculiarly advantageous to the landlord, because, though he may, and generally does, avail himself of the utmost profit that can be drawn from the labour of the tenant, (leaving him too scanty a present maintenance), he is nevertheless at liberty to abandon that labourer to perish, when he is unable to work any longer. Is this boasted privilege either honourable or desirable? A wise man would not glory in such an exemption, a good man would not claim it, and he who wishes to enjoy, does not deserve it." He thus combats the argument too often put forth in favour of depriving the poor of their rightful claim to relief, for the purpose of substituting it by an optional sort of charity, a very favourite notion with some for reasons sufficiently obvious. He says, "It cannot be denied but that far the greatest part of our lands do not enjoy the benefit of the proprietor's residence, and in general the poor of these estates partake not of his charity. Now," says he, "when we have weighed, on one side, the extraordi- nary indigence of the whole peasantry, and allowed, on the other, for the number of absentees from the kingdom, the remoteness of many estates from the mansions of the resident gentry (which together render it no uncommon case to find a tract of country containing some scores of square miles without one family of note), it will be intuitively clear that there can be no balance, nor indeed the least proportion, between the necessities of the poor tenants and the alms of their landlords." Then regarding that method of relief which some are so anxious should remain the principal source of support in that country, and indeed become so in this—that of obliging the poor to relieve each other—he expresses himself in terms of just indignation, both as to the cruel selfishness and utter inadequacy of any such mode. I will just quote further the words in which he sums up his unanswerable argument in favour of the right of the poor, agreeable to the plainest rules of reason and the fundamental principles of civilization. "It would be a waste of words," says he, "and a disgrace to reasoning, to labour to prove a point so clear as this, that the richer members of society, who are the minority, have no right to exclude the lower class, who are a majority, from any portion of the public patrimony, without securing to them the resource of a subsistence; when they must otherwise be reduced to the dreadful alternative of breaking through those regulations, or perishing by a dutiful obvervance of them." The Bishop goes on to particularize those to whom he would have administered the relief a national provision would ensure. They are: 1. The infant poor. 2. The sick poor. 3. The aged poor. Alluding to the latter, he has this remark.—"If at the close of life they become a burthen, and having only to plead their former services, they have not that plea allowed from reasons of policy, it would be a still higher degree of economy, and even mercy, to adopt the refined Indian policy of putting an immediate end to them." Even regarding the improvident poor, against whom, however, this admirable political philosopher would take a distinction, still he would not warrant their utter desertion. And who could, who understands his own imperfection or his duties? I will terminate my appeal to him with what he says on this subject:—"If we may without injury to the State (and must, if we expect mercy ourselves), relieve the distress, though we blame the cause, wherein consists the inexpediency of obliging those of the rich who are too distant or dissipated to know, or too callous to regard, the misery of the poor, to contribute to its relief, and not to throw the whole burthen, as at present, on the resident, the considerate, and the benevolent; for a legal provision has this double advantage over voluntary alms, that it is at once more equitable to those who pay, and most equal and effectual to those who receive. But, if no reasoning can justify such obduracy as would permit a wretch to languish without help in age and sickness, because he had not made a provident use of his health and strength, on what principle shall we conclude, from the imprudence of the parent against all compassion to the orphan children?—on what pretext shall we exclude from the public care the distresses of the laborious and frugal, which were owing neither to their own nor their parents' political sins, but took their rise from high rents and low wages; from the scarcity of food, or the check of a manufacture; from the sudden increase of family, or the death of cattle; from disease unassisted by medicine, and in consequence, perhaps, of that want of help, the untimely loss of an industrious father?" He goes on to state many other facts and reasons in behalf of the introduction of legal relief for the poor of his country, and has answered, by anticipation, most ably, all that has been urged against so excellent a measure. He has shown their peculiar necessity and fitness, and the other advantages with which it would be attended, even in reference to important objects other than merely that under his consideration. To the honour of his function and of his memory, he was one of the first, if not the very first, who pressed upon the public, at any considerable length, the necessity of the extension of national relief to Ireland. His proposition, which I now re-urge in this House, may, perhaps, be awhile resisted; but, backed as it is by the highest duties and best feelings of humanity, it will assuredly prevail. But it may be said that the distresses under which Ireland laboured when her population was so scanty, have much abated since it has so greatly enlarged, and that, therefore, this national institution of charity is the less necessary. Sir, in no state of society can poverty be wholly abated; in none is it reduced to such a state as not to demand constant and permanent relief: and in that of Ireland least of any. Sir, it is unnecessary for me, I think, to describe the state of destitution in which Ireland is still plunged, and from which it will never be extricated till you adopt a permanent system of relief. The condition of the peasantry is known to most Gentlemen who hear me, it is known to myself—and I speak on that knowledge, and on the authority of numerous documents I might adduce: with these, however, I shall not now fatigue the House: I will merely point to their miserable condition when one of those visitations befal the country, which a material deficiency of the crop there invariably occasions. This will give more distinctly the features of that misery which constantly prevails there, though with considerable fluctuations. The failure of a crop not only occasions that general distress to which the Prelate I have just quoted so touchingly alludes, but it superinduces that disease which is still more dreadful. So that, whatever has been the state of population, whether large as at present, or small as in former times, still that epidemic has constantly prevailed in the country, which on these lamentable occasions has rapidly spread, and produced consequences the distressing nature of which can hardly be exaggerated. Sir, the destitution which oppresses so large a part of the people is as constantly experienced; like a lingering disease, which perhaps is as deplorable in its partial remissions as in its exacerbations, and, perhaps, as regards Ireland more deplorable, as in the extreme cases the sympathies of the empire are excited, and relief is at last, though tardily and imperfectly, administered. Now, Sir, we learn from all the best authorities on the subject, that the fever which has so long returned upon Ireland as its deadly scourge, and which its medical writers pronounce to be never wholly extinct, arises, according to their deliberate opinions, from the suffering and distress, the wretchedness and penury, to which the people are constantly exposed, and of which they are so often the victims; and from the recurrence of which nothing but an organized system of national relief, and funds supplied by law, will ever secure Ireland. Look at the last of these painful visitations. Was it fitting that the country should have then been without its national charity? The death of thousands and the ruin of tens of thousands is plainly attributable to this infamous neglect. It originated, as Drs. Baker and Cheyne observe in their valuable history of that pest, in a great measure from destitution and distress, heightened by the melancholy and gloom which fell upon the people from a view of their utterly hopeless condition. Deprived of their labour and bread by the evils to which I have before so pointedly alluded, and driven forth, many of them found no relief but the casual gleanings of food unnatural and often disgusting to human beings; the relief from mendicancy was often denied to them, for, as the same writers observe, the moving mass of hopeless misery which was then afloat, was often repulsed or driven from the towns into which it sought entrance and relief—some died of direct famine, and many of the same dreadful evil in a more lingering form. Sir, the volumes I hold in my hand, though they never touch upon the subject I am addressing myself to, but merely comprise a record of facts, form indeed the strongest evidence in favour of a system of legal charity that could possibly be adduced. But how melancholy are their contents; they are, like the roll seen by the sacred seer of old, written within and without with mourning, lamentation, and woe. I had intended to read from these official reports a few pages, as a specimen of the whole, but I forbear out of regard to the fatigue of this House in this necessarily long discussion. Let it suffice to say that these reports, &c. verify the fact of the constant existence of fever in Ireland, and attribute it to the poor and scanty food, the insufficient clothing, and the wretched habitations of the people. They describe them in many parts of Ireland, as having then subsisted on the unwholesome and unnatural food gleaned from the fields, or from the putrid remains of fish gathered on the shores;—and that even these supplies were insufficient; but I shall not harrow up the feelings of this House by further adverting to the distressing details these volumes present; and, Sir, will any man assert that optional charity did its office in a scene, and at a season like this? Can any one dare to say, the poor were adequately relieved at this period? Let me not, however, Sir, be understood to say, that distress so overwhelming perpetually prevails there— I do not mean to say that it always rose to that height: but, Sir, a dark flood of suffering always covers that unhappy country, though ever and anon a swelling wave may sweep over its surface, and in-gulf it in deeper and more universal misery. But though, Sir, I am not meaning to argue that equal distress always prevails; yet I do maintain, that much prevails at all times which demands a very different system of relief, much that nothing but the introduction of national charity will ever adequately relieve or lessen. In proof of this general mass of inadequately relieved suffering and distress as constantly existing in Ireland, I will make a very short, and, I think, decisive appeal, not founded upon any mere observation, nor dictated by any authority, however respectable, but having in itself the force of conclusive and undeniable truth. Sir, in the last census of Ireland, for the apparent exactness and accuracy of which the country is so highly indebted to Mr. Mason Shaw, the population, as in this country, is divided into ages. And, Sir, making the children in each country, under five years old, to be the radix of the calculation, to every 10,000 of these there would be in England 15,704 persons at and above the age of forty; whereas in Ireland there would be 11,522 only: above the age of fifty the number in this country would be 9416, in Ireland 6483; the former exceeding the latter by one half; above sixty in England the proportion is 4980, in Ireland 2560—almost exactly one half only are found in existence; upwards of seventy, in England there are 1950, in Ireland 778; above eighty, here 440, there only 155. Such then is the effect of leaving the poor unprovided for, upon the health and lives of the wretched victims of poverty and disease thus deserted. There may be some, by possibility, who will regard this statement as highly satisfactory; some who have come to the complacent conclusion, that the rich alone ought to be the monopolists of existence as well as property, and that the poor have in no case "any claim as of right to the smallest portion of food"—I quote one of them—and but little to existence itself. But if truth did not put down such horrible notions, the feelings and rights of human nature speedily would, the moment they became practically adopted. But, Sir, supposing that we were to reduce the right of the poor to relief to a mere argumentum ad crumenam, even then I think, on referring to the expenses incurred in Ireland on account of the poor—first, directly in the form of Grand-Jury Presentments, matters which, it is as notorious as noon-day, are often direct jobs, and that they corrupt the rich instead of relieving the poor; and, secondly, if the indirect expenses the present pernicious system involves, namely, the charge of prosecuting and punishing, imprisoning and transporting, those whose offences originate in abject poverty and want of employment, which, as Sir Matthew Hale says, feed the gallows and the gibbet—if to these retrenchments were added, as I am persuaded there might then be, much of the expense the constabulatory establishment occasions, and no inconsiderable part of that of the standing army there, which are only present to put down those disorders which, as a late Secretary of Ireland has well observed, have constantly originated in local distress or oppression; you would gain millions by the change. You would gain more than those millions, in the peaceful and gratified demeanour of an affectionate peasantry; in their returning devotion to a country and a constitution which had considered them in their low estate, had relieved them in their distresses, and given them a heritage, however humble, in the land of their fathers. Nor would the advantages rest even here, great as these are; in giving employment to that idleness which is now sustained, and consumes, like a canker, the national resources—employment which would be rendered indispensable to any system of relief you would contemplate to introduce, and for which there is in Ireland a present sphere beyond any other country upon earth, you would develope the resources of the country, add to its free liberty, and multiply its wealth; and connect with all these mighty advantages a perpetuity of prosperity which nothing thenceforth could disturb or destroy. Under all these circumstances, and after mature deliberation, I have arrived at the conclusion that not only is a legal provision for the poor in Ireland the most necessary, but it would be the most beneficial of all measures that could be adopted. It would employ the idle, and raise the value of the labour of those employed, now so distressingly low; it would bestow quiet—it would ensure peace—nay, it would dimi- nish the expenditure, as well as the suffering and distress of the country; it would compel those to contribute to the relief of poverty who are the prime causes of its existence—the absentees; in one word, it would benefit equally every class of society, the benefactors and the benefitted; and, in the literal meaning of the term, it would be that mercy which is "twice blessed, which blesseth him who gives and him who takes." But the great, and indeed the only objection, worthy notice against the introduction of a Poor-law into Ireland, is this, that there is no machinery necessary to its due execution. But, Sir, I am fully persuaded that when this objection is duly considered, it will rise into an argument for the necessity of the measure. If it did not find that machinery, it would of necessity create it: it would either bring forth into active exertion those who are at present culpably negligent of their duties, or it would recal those who have deserted their country; and if their principles are ineffectual for that purpose, their own interests would be all powerful for its accomplishment, and the preservation and due administration of property would be the guarantee for the due discharge of those personal duties, when higher and worthier motives had been totally disregarded and ineffectual. But, Sir, let us hear no more of this want of machinery. When the work of exaction has to be perfected; when the demands of the landlord or the law have to be realized, then, indeed, the machinery is at hand, and it is omnipotent for its purpose; that when the work of mercy is to be accomplished, when the sufferings of humanity have to be assuaged, and the duties we owe to our fellow-beings discharged, there could be no machinery formed for this peaceful and merciful purpose is a perversion of language and an insult upon reason and common sense. Sir, the supposed absence of that machinery for this just and necessary purpose, which the enactment of Poor-laws for Ireland would either recal or create, is of itself no mean argument in favour of this just, merciful, and necessary measure. The moral police, which the system would inevitably establish, would of itself be worth all the expense it would involve. But, Sir, the assertion that there is no machinery for so great and beneficial a purpose as that now proposed, is an insult upon the entire country. That bravery which is the characteristic of Ireland assures us of its inseparable associate, compassion; and I hesitate not to say, that placed in the middle ranks of society in that country, the friends of mercy would be as religiously guarded, and as conscientiously appreciated, as they would be in any community upon earth. But to dismiss this, and many other objections, in order to attend to the only remaining one which I shall now notice, and which, however disguised, I believe to be the only substantial one which impedes the measure I wish to propose: it is the great and growing expense which it is believed this institution would demand, which constitutes the main objection to its introduction into Ireland. And, Sir, this paramount objection is grounded upon a gross misconception, as to the effect of the Poor-laws in a pecuniary point of view as it regards England. I had meant, Sir, to have entered into this part of the subject much at large, fully aware, as I am, of its importance to the argument. But I shall con-fine myself, in deference to the House and the fatigue I have already occasioned it, to a very few observations. And first, I utterly deny that the Poor-laws of England have occasioned a great and growing expense. I hold in my hand, Sir, ample and irrefragable evidence of that important fact; but I shall only glean a very few proofs. Soon after the establishment of our national charity, the expense of maintaining the poor equalled one-third of the public Revenue: it now amounts to one-ninth of it only. In 1680 the amount of the Poor-rates of England and Wales was still one-third of the Revenue, and bore the same proportion to the exports. In 1776 the same duty imposed upon us only an expense of one-fifth of the Revenue, and one-seventh of the exports; while now the same expense amounts to but one-eighth of the national revenue, and one-tenth of the exports, the same expense having, in the meantime, diminished, as calculated from 1818, above one million. It will be remarked that I have omitted the returns of pretended average amount in the years 1747, 1748, and 1749, though they have of late been constantly made the radix of the fallacious calculations that have been put forth, officially, or otherswise, on the subject; as it is a notorious and well-known fact, and one recorded in the histories and parliamentary proceedings of the time, that they were so grossly deficient, as to be utterly worthless.—Then, Sir, the number of the poor has been conformable to the same scale of calculation. In the latter part of the 17th century, Gregory King, one of the most accurate satistical writers this country ever produced, calculated their number, including children, at 900,000. They were in 1608, when the children were also included, increased by one-tenth only—a great relative diminution therefore. Advert to the difference in the population, and not a single word by way of comment is necessary. In a word, the expense occasioned by the poor, and the number of those chargeable, has ever been the fruitful topic of declamation; but when seriously and fairly considered, we must come to the conclusion of one of the most intelligent and laborious writers that ever discussed this important topic, who, after making his historical collections regarding them, occupying as they did three quarto volumes, comes to this conclusion.—The rise in the Poor-rates has not kept pace with other branches of national expenditure, or even with our increased ability to pay them. This opinion will be yet more striking, when it is considered that in the sums now set down as the charges of the poor, one-fourth at least ought to be put down as wages, owing to the pernicious system which now so generally prevails. I had meant, also, to have contrasted the system of sustaining the poor now established, with that of which it is plainly the substitute; but this also I will waive on the present occasion. I will only remark, that a legal provision for the relief of the distressed is coeval with our Constitution—that it so greatly augmented that the lands of the church and of the poor at length amounted to one-third of the property of the kingdom; that when the last Henry, by an act of wilful spoliation, unexampled in any previous age or country of the world, confiscated to his parasites and mercenaries those rights, he promised at the same time a better provision for the poor out of those spoils, as did the French revolutionists, but he performed it not, neither did they. After that confiscation, Sir, the destitute poor were destroyed by multitudes, above 70,000 perished by the hands of the executioner in his reign; and an almost equal proportion in those of his successors, till at length the Poor-laws of England were established, drawn up by Bacon, and his proudest and noblest work. The effect of this law we have delivered to us by an eye-witness of both systems, Michael Dalton, who wrote the legal text-book of that period, and who delivers to us, from his own experience, the infinite advantage to society from the introduction of the Poor-laws. Happy would it have been had they been introduced into Ireland, as a contemporary deeply deplored they were not. Then would the population of Ireland, which still is what that of England was then, in idleness, degradation, and destitution, have risen with ours in an equal degree of comfort, contentment, and happiness;—a population which, notwithstanding all the vituperation which has been levelled at it, is unrivalled either in intelligence, industry, morality, or benevolence, by any people upon earth. And, Sir, I demand in behalf of this people, as a measure of defence, that a provision for their poor brethren of Ireland should be established, and without delay. ["Question" from two or three Members.] Question! I will tell those Gentlemen what is the question, The question is the comfort, the support, nay, the very existence of the poor and destitute in Ireland, and if honourable Members can find avocations more worthy of legislators than the serious discussion of this question, they are at liberty to pursue them elsewhere. Sir, I am aware that I have urged my arguments feebly; that I have omitted others which I ought preferably to have advanced; but I have occupied the House long; and I am myself incapable of proceeding: I am urging no new factious, unconstitutional claims: I am proposing no untried and novel systems: I am demanding, in behalf of the people of Ireland, their real and substantial rights—that people whose whole condition you were last Session exhorted to take into your consideration. You have seen good to take from most of them their political privileges; accord to them their natural rights in the name of justice. In demanding this I am sanctioned by the principles of civilization, the feelings of humanity, the doctrines of revelation. I am asking it in the name of the people of the United Empire, who demand it, and in unison with that voice which, whatever it may be in other cases, is assuredly in this the voice of God! Sir, I think the character of this House is at stake, and I call upon it to act, regarding all classes of society with justice and impartiality. The claims of those who have served the public in high, honourable, and lucrative situations, have never been here disregarded. Ministers, Judges, Chancellors, and other servants of the Crown; all public officers, civil, military, or naval: all ministers of the Church, of every order and degree, are either secure of their remunerations, or of those retired allowances which are awarded to their possession. They may, and most of them actually have, private fortunes, yet the munificence of the country either allows them to occupy their offices for life, or awards to them ample retired allowances. Are these reckoned improper, immoral, degrading, when received by the wealthier classes of society? No. Vast as is the expense so occasioned, compared with the fewness of the numbers benefitted, as compared with those of the poor, these expenses occasion no murmurs,—Da pretori, da deinde tribuno, as of old,—but that the wretched should receive any thing; that the poor worn-out labourer, who has had the misfortune to survive his strength, should have a morsel from the fields which he may have tilled for half a century; or that a cripple, who has been maimed in the boasted manufactures of the country, should be allowed a few daily pence at the public cost—that, with our political economists, sacred and profane, is the supposed grievance; it is one, however, against which this House will never inveigh; it is one, I hope, trust, and firmly believe it will, to its immortal honour, be anxious, from every consideration, whether of policy or justice, to extend to Ireland. No, Sir, the Parliament of this country, which has at all times, and in this Session, satisfied under such considerations the claims of the more elevated applicants, will not, cannot, refuse to helpless indigence, when it can labour no longer, the little pittance which justice and mercy equally demand in its behalf. But, Sir, I confidently anticipate a better course from this House. I trust, I believe, it will justify that character which it has on all great occasions hitherto exhibited; and in which it has through life been my pride to regard it. When did it happen that this branch of the Legislature, calumniated as it has been, failed to justify its title of the best friend to the real rights and interests of the people? when has it not preferably leaned to the weakest and supported the feeblest who bad justice on their side? Sir, a short time has elapsed since this House, which had long before swept from these shores the very sight and contamination of slavery, recognized, by a great and godlike act, unexampled by any previous legislative assembly in any age of the world, and in spite of national interests and remonstrances, the liberty of one quarter of the world, and became the armed champion of the un-happiest of mankind. Long before then, Sir, when public opinion was little known, and the popular voice was never heard; when no Press existed to watch its proceedings, and to control its course, Parliament provided for the poor; let the present one complete that great work, and in extending the provision of that act to Ireland, thereby secure to that country its future happiness and prosperity. Then will the glory of the country be complete, and this House will redeem itself from that imputed indifference to the rights and interests of the poor with which it is too often accused: then may every Briton adopt the exulting language of a hero of antiquity, as paraphrased by one of our own poets, and apply it to his own happy country to its utmost possible extent—
"Safe in the love of heaven an ocean flows
Around our realm, a barrier from the foes;
'Tis ours the sons of sorrow to relieve,
Cheer the sad heart, nor let affliction grieve,
By Jove the stranger and the poor are sent,
Sir, the poor of Ireland are this night at the bar of this Imperial Parliament. Many of the wealthy lean to these claims, and now are most anxious to concede them. The interests of the country demand a concession of those humble rights which have been already recognized in every civilized country upon earth. An act of mercy and justice can never be contrary to the dictates of true policy: it is one which our consciences dictate; which the public voice demands: and which, sooner or later, must be conceded, even if now refused. May we better consult what is due to our character, to our constituents, and to justice itself, and not record our verdict against justice and mercy, because it is found in the garb of poverty and distress. If I could, therefore, bring before this House those wretched objects who so loudly claim our consideration and relief, if I could bid them,And what to these we give to Jove is lent."
"Come like shadows, so depart,
then, Sir, I am sure their claims would be instantly conceded; and, more than this, if it were possible, by an act of prescience, to summon forth those miserable victims of suffering and poverty which the further withholding of so just and necessary a law will as surely occasion, as the want of one in previous times has already occasioned—the sorrow, destitution, and death that will be the inevitable result of our longer neglect, with the deeper anguish which the survivors will have to endure; then, Sir, can any one who bears the human form refuse his vote on this occasion? Should we do this, there is an eye to witness these sufferings, a Being who will record them; and who will not hold him guiltless, who, seeing his brother have need, and knowing that he will require assistance, shutteth up his bowels of compassion against him; and all from a deep and doubtful speculation, founded, as I contend, upon the grossest error and delusion, that the measure proposed may possibly diminish the revenue of the most affluent part of the community. Sir, I hope better things of this Parliament, whose date is almost run, on the most favourable principle of anticipation; but, on other grounds to which it is deeply painful to allude, though it is not unappropriate on this touching occasion to do so, we know too well, that, as a Parliament, our days are numbered. May we illustrate the remaining span by an act of mercy, which shall immortalize this Session, and render it, in one of its terminating acts, worthy the gratitude and admiration of posterity." The hon. Member concluded by stating, that he should, as a preliminary to a general measure for bettering the condition of the labouring classes of the kingdom, move that the following Resolution should be adopted by the House:—"That it is the opinion of this House, that the establishment of a system of Poor-laws, on the principle of that of the 43rd of Queen Elizabeth, with such alterations and improvements as the alterations in the times, and the difference in the circumstances of England and Ireland may demand, is expedient, and necessary to the interests and welfare of both countries."Show their eyes, and grieve their heart—"
On the question being put,
rose, to oppose the Motion, which he did not mean to do, he said, with any asperity of language or feeling, though he had much reason to complain of the hon. Member's course of proceeding. He had no other means of judg- ing what motions were to be submitted to the House, but the notices on the Order Book; and certainly, when he saw a notice of a motion for leave to bring in a bill to improve the condition of the Poor of the British Empire, he did not expect that it would fall to his lot to be obliged to oppose a resolution to extend the Poor-laws to Ireland. But after the hon. Member had devoted much time to the subject, and had gone much at length into it, in a diffusive speech, he had not grappled with the difficulty—he had not proposed a practical measure, showing all the machinery and instruments, and how they were to work, by which his scheme of Poor-laws could be carried into execution in Ireland. Instead of a practical detailed measure, he had come forward with a mere resolution, for which he could not expect to receive the support of the House. If there were no other objection to that resolution, he should find one in the fact, that a committee was already sitting to inquire into the state of the poor in Ireland; and if the hon. Member thought the inquiries of that committee worthless, as compared with his own lucubrations, he could have no objection to the hon. Member submitting his views to the House; but the House would only act in common justice and fairness to that committee, if it withheld its support from the resolution proposed by the hon. Member, till after the committee had made its report. He must beg, out of deference to that committee, to forbear entering into the hon. Member's speech. Such an attempt would impose upon him the task of discussing the very able but conflicting evidence adduced before the committee to which he had alluded. It was on this simple ground that he declined accepting the challenge of the hon. member for Newark. The hon. Member had appealed strongly to the feelings of the House, as to whether Gentlemen would not endeavour to relieve the distresses of their fellow-creatures; but the question was, whether there existed any chance of the Legislature being able, by the means which he proposed, to confer any practical benefit upon the community. He doubted the advantage of the hon. Member's plan. It did appear to him, that those who hesitated as to its efficacy in alleviating the misfortunes of the lower orders, were not unreasonable. If the hon. Member's system would remove the poverty of Ireland, and prevent the inconveniences arising from the fluctuations of the seasons, let it be adopted; but he very much doubted the efficiency of any scheme of Poor-laws in these respects. Instead of removing unpleasant feelings between two classes of society in Ireland, it was to be feared that the introduction of Poor-laws would have a contrary effect, and establish sentiments and feelings, such as at present existed between the pauper and overseer in this country,—feelings which it was well known were not of the most enviable description. Not being disposed, however, to controvert all the hon. Member's statements, and thinking it only due to the committee sitting to inquire into the propriety of introducing Poor-laws into Ireland, that the House should come to no such resolution as that proposed by the hon. Member, till that committee had made its report, he should move the previous question.
observed, that the constitution of that committee, from which the member for Wicklow had been excluded, who had first brought the subject of the Poor-laws for Ireland under the notice of the House was such, that it was plain that the consideration of the propriety of adopting Poor-laws for Ireland was excluded from its inquiries. He thanked his hon. friend, therefore, for having brought the question before the House with such great ability.
complained of having been kept in town by the hon. Member having given notice of a general bill for the relief of the poor, which had turned out to be nothing more than a Resolution relative to Poor-laws for Ireland. The hon. Member admitted the necessity of making the poor provident, and he proposed to do this by supplying their wants, whether they were provident or not. Nothing but inconvenience could be expected from adopting the Resolution, till the report of the committee was made, and, therefore, he should oppose the motion.
would not detain the House if it were not that, were he not to say one word, he would seem to acquiesce in what had been said against the committee, which he, as an humble individual, had procured to be appointed. He was bound to defend that committee from the observations of the hon. member for Dover. It was a very fair committee; and one of the names he had placed on it was that of the hon. member for Newark, and he had only withdrawn it at the request of the hon. Member himself. Knowing that the hon. Member had paid great attention to the subject of Ireland, he had afterwards asked him to come before that committee as a witness, which he would not attend as a Member, but the hon. Member also returned a negative to that proposal. The hon. Member would attend that committee neither as a witness nor a Member, but he gave notice this day of a bill, which at best was only calculated to raise exaggerated hopes, which he had neither intelligence nor means to carry into effect; but instead even of this bill, he came down to the House and proposed a Resolution, different from his notice. There was not a proposition made to improve any part of the English Poor-laws, that was not first of all discussed in a committee; but the hon. Member came at once, and asked the House to pledge itself to a Resolution, of which he had given no notice, or rather such a delusive notice that no man could be prepared to expect his Resolution. Were the House to pre-judge the question by voting for that Resolution, it would not act consistently towards the committee it had appointed to inquire into the subject, and therefore he should oppose the Resolution.
said, from the speech of the hon. member for Limerick, when he proposed the committee, as well as from the persons of whom it was composed, ten or eleven out of the twelve Members having expressed themselves hostile to the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland, he certainly thought that the committee was appointed to make out a case against adopting Poor-laws in Ireland. Being of that opinion, he thanked his hon. friend for the Motion; and should he persist in dividing the House on it, he would certainly vote with him, though he must say, that he did not expect from his hon. friend's notice, a motion of that nature. He was satisfied that Poor-laws must ultimately be adopted in Ireland, and therefore he would support the Motion.
thought the hon. member for Newark was perfectly justified in bringing forward his Resolution at that period of the Session, in order to allay the apprehensions which were entertained on the subject. In his opinion there must, sooner or later, be a provision, in the nature of Poor-laws, for the people of Ireland.
contended, that the noble Lord (Gower) had given no sufficient answer to the arguments of the hon. member for Newark. He was surprised to hear him say, that he was not aware of what was to be the nature of the Motion, for his honourable friend, the member for Newark, had distinctly stated, in answer to a question by that noble Lord, that his motion would be to recommend the introduction of a modified system of Poor-laws into Ireland.
said, that the application of Poor-laws to Ireland was an act of justice and right, and not of charity; and therefore he felt bound to support the Motion of the member for Newark.
thought the time was not distant, when they should be compelled to apply to Ireland a system of Poor-laws, but a system very different from that in force in England. The question, however, required the most mature deliberation; and as there was a committee sitting at present to inquire into the subject, he was disposed to await the result of its labours before he assented to any proposition such as that of the hon. member for Newark. He felt it necessary to say this, that his vote might not be mistaken.
said, he wished to offer a few observations in reply to what fell from the noble Lord opposite, in reference to his not having more distinctly specified the nature of his Motion when he gave notice of it. The fact was, that he (Mr. S.) was proceeding to explain the course which he meant to pursue, and that it was his intention to propose, in the first place, the introduction of a system of national charity into Ireland, when on that occasion he was interrupted by a call to order, otherwise he should have opened his intentions on that occasion most fully. He begged leave, however, to remind the noble Lord, that when so interrupted, and he was sure most properly, he immediately went and acquainted him, most distinctly, of his intention. He had again, as his hon. friend, the member for Yorkshire, had mentioned, explained his intention that day week. So much for his not having given due notice,—an answer which might apply equally to the remarks of the right hon. member for Newcastle, as well as to those of the noble Lord. Then as to the remark that the national charity of the Poor-law being not deserving of the name, because it was not voluntary, he begged leave to deny that position. As it respected the legislative acts of this House, whether in originating that law, or continuing it in operation, it had the merit of an optional act; and deserved, as such, all the eulogiums that had been pronounced upon it by a celebrated member of the legal profession, who described that charity as the means of drawing down the special favour of Heaven upon the nation which had adopted it. And would it not, said the hon. Member, be to all intents and purposes a voluntary boon, if extended at this moment to the poor of Ireland, and accepted by them as such. But as to the voluntary charity so much preferred, this optional relief so much eulogized, of what avail had that been on the last calamitous occasion he had been referring to. The Bishop of Limerick had informed a committee of the other House, that at that period, when the distresses of the Irish awakened the universal sympathies of the empire, and pressing applications were made to the proprietors of property of near 100,000l. per annum rental, 83l. only were obtained. So much, said the hon. Member, for optional relief as a safe substitute for a legal one. The hon. Member next adverted to what had fallen from the member for Limerick. It was true that he had been asked to be upon the committee; but after hearing what might be called the charge given to that committee by the right. hon. Secretary for the Home Department, and the speech of the chairman (Mr. Spring Rice) both, as he understood them, adverse to the only measure which could afford permanent and real relief to the distressed poor of Ireland, and especially that of the latter; when he looked to the construction of that committee, a majority of which were avowed opponents of the very principle of establishing Poor-laws in Ireland, he felt himself justified in refusing to be upon that committee, or giving evidence before it, certain as he felt as to the nature of the conclusion at which they would arrive; that, in fact, being settled a forehand. He did refuse to enlist under the banners of the hon. member for Limerick, conscious as he was, that he should have been a dissentient from his opinion and his report; and could only have served the purpose of making a sham fight upon the occasion, for the purpose of being dragged afterwards, as in triumph, at the hon. Member's chariot wheels. As to committees, he did not know that the circumstance of their appointment, especially for adverse purposes, ought to induce him to abandon the course which his duty and conscience clearly dictated. Many committees, it was true, had already sat upon the subject, and professed to take into consideration the state of Ireland; but hitherto those committees had given rise to nothing except expense, authorising individuals to dip their hands deep into the public purse, to exonerate wealth from the discharge of the duties it owed to the poor and to the public. He repeated that he had no confidence in the committee alluded to, and prognosticated most confidently, that it would decide against the claims which he had thought it his duty to advance.
denied the views ascribed to the Committee by the hon. Member.
disapproved of the proposition for adopting Poor-laws in Ireland, when they gave so little satisfaction in their method of working in this country. He recommended his hon. friend to withdraw his Motion.
withdrew his Motion.
Sale Of Beer Bill
The House went into a Committee on this Bill.
proposed a clause as an Amendment, requiring every householder who takes out a license to be assessed at 15l. within the districts of the chief officers of Excise, and at 20l. in the other parts of the country. The hon. Member explained, that his object in proposing this Amendment was, to prevent every labourer turning his cottage into a public-house.
said, he had considered a proposition of that kind before; but he found it would press so unequally in large towns, that he was compelled to abandon it. He had no objection to consent, that the seller of Beer should be a person rated to the Poor and Assessed taxes; but if he consented to fix a limit of amount, it would destroy the principle of the Bill. After a conversation of some length between the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Hume, Sir Thomas Freemantle, Mr. Heathcote, Mr. Benett, and others, respecting the propriety of postponing the discussion at that late hour of the morning,
Sir R. Vyvyan moved, that the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
On this question the Committee divided—For the Motion 59; Against it 101.—Majority 42,
The clause proposed by Mr. Monck was negatived without a division.
The other clauses of the Bill were then proceeded with.
objected to any license being required at all, and complained that the Bill transferred the authority of the county magistrates to the Commissioners of Excise.
proposed, that all persons applying for a license should be required to produce testimonials as to character, from persons resident on the spot where the license was to be used.
said, that plan had been already tried, and found unavailing. The securities provided by the Bill would, he believed, be more efficacious than certificates of good behaviour.
declined to press his Motion.
objected to the clause requiring publicans to close their houses at ten o'clock. The Bill was called a Bill for the Free Sale of Beer; and every clause was a restriction on those who might desire to engage in the trade.
said, the object was only to give the greatest possible freedom to the sale of Beer that was consistent with good order. The restrictions of which the hon. Member complained were only necessary precautions.
said, that the present mode of taking off the taxes was the most ungracious that could have been devised. The Bill gave universal dissatisfaction, except to a few great brewers.
would regret if his efforts to give relief were as unpopular as the hon. Member represented them. He knew, however, that in many parts of the country the Bill gave great satisfaction.
said, that the hon. member for Cricklade had given a very incorrect representation of the feelings of the people. It was a great boon to them to reduce the price of Beer by 1½d. per pot, and so they would regard it.
said, that the Bill was objectionable, both as injuring the morals and the comfort of the people. The trifling advantage of lowering the price of Beer would be compensated by a host of evils, and if it were not too late, he would join his voice to that of other hon. Members, and request the Chancellor of the Exchequer to repeal the Malt instead of the Beer duties. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the feelings of almost all the magistrates, clergymen, and respectable people of Yorkshire were against the Bill. There domestic brewing was so generally practised, that this Bill would be of no service whatever to the people. He implored the right hon. Gentleman to re-consider the subject and take off the Malt-duties.
said, he was extremely unfortunate, for he could not please Gentlemen when he laid on a tax, nor could he please them when he removed a tax.
said, that hitherto the poor man had paid 50s. for the beer, for which the rich man paid only 20s. It seemed to him, therefore, an absurdity to say that the poor would not be benefited by a law which placed them on the same footing as the rich.
said, that he too had received several communications from Yorkshire, condemning the Bill in strong terms.
Clause agreed to, and the House resumed.
Northern Roads Bill
Lord Morpeth moved that the debate on the second reading of the Northern Roads Bill be resumed.
objected to the Motion at that time of night.
said, the Bill was of very inferior importance compared to that which had just been disposed of.
said, that he was sorry it was not in his power to comply with the request for postponement, but to do so at that period of the Session would be equivalent to withdrawing the Bill, and as there was a full attendance of Members interested in it, he should move that the Bill be read a second time. In making this Motion, having had an opportunity of hearing the objections against this Bill, it would be respectful to the House to state very shortly, but distinctly his inducements for bringing it forward; first, with regard to the objection relating to the expenditure of money supposed to be involved by the Bill, he must state that it was his intention, if allowed, to go into a committee, that those parts of it which might induce such expenditure should be omitted, leaving them to be brought forward here- after in a separate bill by the hon. member for Queen's County. His only object was, to appoint a commission to inquire into the state of the Northern Roads, pursuant to the desire expressed in the various petitions and memorials which had been submitted to the Post-office for some years past. These memorials came from individuals of rank and station, both in England and Scotland, from public bodies, corporations, guilds, and others interested in the speedy communication between the different parts of the empire so requisite in a country like this. In consequence of these applications, various surveyors had been ordered, by the competent authorities, to examine into the subject, so that the greatest part of the expense which could possibly be occasioned by the Bill had been already incurred. The result of this examination had been, that at the lowest computation, a saving of thirty miles could be effected between London and Edinburgh, whilst the extent of the improvement in point of distance on the Holy head road, did not exceed six miles. He was aware that he deprived himself of a part of the advantage of his argument by taking the line through Stamford instead of the more direct one chalked out by Mr. Telford; but he trusted that his forbearance would not be turned against him. The Northern aspect of the committee had been commented on; but by the line he had chosen the route in the midland and southern counties was very little deviated from, so that it was of no consequence to have many Members from those parts; whilst the great deviation being in the northern and Scotch counties, it was necessary to have Members on the committee connected with the interests likely to be affected there. There being then so great a call for this great saving of distance between the two capitals, the object of the Bill was to ascertain, by appointing commissioners, in what way so desirable a result could be best obtained. Experience and common sense had taught that no general system of road-making could be carried into effect so uniformly and cheaply as by the appointment of a commission to examine the whole intended line. As this Bill named some of the Holyhead Commissioners, on the new commission, it secured all the advantages of their long experience, whilst it would not affect the powers of any trust on the new line, as the commissioners would only be enabled to inquire and enter into, to consult, to report upon, and to suggest improvements. It must be at the same time observed, that it did not enable them to spend one shilling, without again having recourse to Parliament; in short, a more innocent, inoffensive measure could not be conceived, and those who opposed the second reading must go the whole length of saying, not only that no improvement should be introduced, but that even the suggestion of one should never be received. He trusted, however, that the House would remember that rapid communication was of all things most demanded in a civilized community, and he hoped that it would allow the Bill to go into Committee for the purpose he had mentioned. The improvement he contemplated would be forced upon the Legislature in the long run; and the course he proposed for effecting so great a public object, was the easiest and most inoffensive that could be adopted. He therefore moved that the Bill be read a second time.
said, notwithstanding the noble Lord had taken some pains to explain his views, that the Bill still appeared to him very unsatisfactory. Had the noble Lord given the House information upon two points, it would have been much better able to go into the discussion. In the first place, he had not told the House how he meant to pay the commissioners; in the second place, he said that the Bill invested them with no new powers; but by the Bill they were to have all the powers of the Holyhead Road Commissioners transferred to them. Now, putting aside the fact that the House was thus thrown into a perplexity of Acts, which it was almost impossible to unravel, there were actually two Bills in the House to amend the Holyhead Road Acts. He never saw such liberties taken in legislation. The noble Lord said, that the line of deviation was not so great in England as in Scotland; and that, therefore, there were more Scotch than English Members on the Committee; but there was no concealing the fact that this was a downright Scotch job, to enable Scotchmen to mend their own roads with English tools, that they might walk up from Edinburgh to London by a shorter way than at present. There might, however, be another reason for this measure, there were some individuals in Northumberland who had obtained an Act for carrying a road from Newcastle to the North; and it seemed to him that the promoters of the present Bill wished to rival them at the public expense. The House, however, would never interfere to forward such views. The noble Lord had referred to numerous memorials, but they were all founded on interested motives. No evidence had been called to prove the assertions, nor was any wished for; if there had been, the most obvious course would have been to ask at the post-office, whether the mail could be got to Edinburgh two hours sooner than at present. The time employed, not long back, for that conveyance was fifty-eight hours, but now it only required forty-three and a half hours; at the same time great improvements were going forward, which would only be stopped by the appointment of this commission. Messrs. Giles and Robson, London engineers, were employed on the Northern Roads, and if they confined themselves to those of England, the funds they had at their disposal would enable them to make considerable improvements. He wished to caution the House against those Parliamentary Commissions, and not to place any faith in the prospects they held out. Let the House consider the estimates of various undertakings that had been brought forward, and compare them with the actual sums they had cost, before it approved of this Bill. The expense of the Caledonian canal was estimated at 474,000l., but the actual cost after the deduction of several sums to be placed to its credit, was 961,000l. The improvements in the Highland Roads were estimated at 96,000l., but the actual cost was 240,000l., besides entailing upon the country an annual charge of 5,000l. for their support. Mr. Telford's estimate for the Menai Bridge, with its approaches, &c. was 60,000l., but when we came to pay the Bills, the actual outlay in 1823 amounted to 247,000l. He did not regret the money, for it was certainly a most magnificent work, but it served to show how little estimates were to be depended upon. The road to Edinburgh was estimated to cost 400,000l., and perhaps, with the improvements to Port Patrick, for which, by-the-bye, there had been no petition, and which seemed a little fancywork put into the Bill by way of ornament, might reach a million and a half. What would be the excuse if we embarked in such an undertaking for the errors of the estimate? Why the old one, that the ar- chitect had found the timbers more rotten than he expected; that here an additional buttress was wanted, and there a new foundation,—in short there would be no want of reasons to account for the evil, when it could not be remedied, and the estimates of the expenses would in fact be doubled and trebled, as in the cases he had mentioned. If the Bill passed surveyors must be paid, and there was no fund from which to pay them. Let the noble Lord visit these places himself, and make a report to Parliament. And then let him come forward with an Act in some distinct and intelligible form, and not with half the clauses hidden as they were in this Bill, in which it was impossible to see what was clearly aimed at. He entreated Parliament to consider, that it was dealing with private rights, and that he had that day presented a Petition justly complaining of this Bill. The 'Edinburgh mail already travelled as fast as that to Holyhead, as far as Northumberland, so that there was no reason for calling upon Parliament to interfere in the manner the noble Lord proposed.
was quite certain that the least fault with which the Bill was chargeable, was that of concealment, for it stated all the objects in view in the plainest manner. With regard to the expense attendant upon the appointment of the commission, none of any consequence could arise, for all the surveys had been made, and the clause, giving power to make others, was only precautionary, in case they should be wanted. The business concerning the Northern Roads would be confined to holding meetings. It was his firm conviction, that if this Bill were passed on the principle of consolidation, the sum of money voted for the Holyhead establishment would be quite sufficient to pay the expenses of the new commission. The noble Lord said, that the Bill extended the powers of the Holyhead Commissioners to the Northern Roads; but his noble friend, on moving the second reading, stated, that the whole of the latter part of the Bill was to be omitted, so that no such power as the noble Lord supposed would be given. With respect to what the noble Lord had said relating to the estimates of the Holyhead road, he denied both the accuracy of his statement, and of his conclusions. The subject had been under the consideration of a committee, and its report would be shortly before the House. In the body of that report it would be found, that of 152 contracts made by that commission in fifteen years,—in only one was there an instance of the sum paid exceeding that stipulated for, and that only to the amount of 75l. With regard to the estimate for the Menai Bridge, if the noble Lord was to tell an architect to build a house for him, he could not be surprised, if he afterwards directed him to build two wings and an additional story, that the architect should charge him something more than the original estimate. Now the fact with regard to the Menai Bridge was this; after Mr. Telford had given in his estimate, Mr. Rennie advised an addition to the iron-work, and Dr. Wollaston, and the present president of the Royal Society, recommended higher pyramids, for the sake of additional strength. No objection was made to Mr. Telford's estimate, nor were the contract prices exceeded, so that the additional expense was for additional work. When it was considered that the chains were each one-third of a mile long, it must be admitted that the work was as cheaply executed as any work ever undertaken. The noble Lord said, that the total expense was 247,000l.; but it did not exceed 187,000l.; and he was equally in error in his other statements.
said, his statements were taken from the returns.
said, that the little evidence that was taken before the committee on this Bill, and the manner in which it was composed, gave him great doubts as to its propriety; but now that his noble friend himself proposed to strike out half his measure, he was convinced that there must be something very objectionable in it. The better way perhaps would be for his noble friend to withdraw the Bill altogether, and introduce a fresh one, in order that the House might know what it was discussing, for surely he could not think of calling upon the House to affirm a great number of positions which he himself proposed to abandon. His noble friend had stated, that Stamford and Grantham were to be continued in the road; but upon referring to the Bill, he found that the road running through them was only spoken of as one that might be altered. The Bill appointed commissioners, but when the House considered how difficult it was to get rid of commissioners when once named, it would probably pause before it sanctioned the Bill. The plain question was:—Is the House prepared to go into the expense to which this undertaking will inevitably lead? Every one knew estimates were always moderate; but when once a work was begun, it was difficult to stop, and the cost generally at the end was double or treble the estimates. After all what was the object in view? The facility of getting from Edinburgh to London was already extraordinary, and he saw no reason for devoting large sums of money to enable the citizens of Edinburgh to receive their letters a little sooner, and come up to London a little quicker. But if expeditious travelling were the object, why did not Gentlemen follow the short cuts they had at present. Every body knew that the mail to Edinburgh went through York, which was considerably out of the direct road. Why, then, should short cuts be made at a great expense, when those already made were not used? He should think it his duty to oppose the second reading of the Bill; but if it were sent to a committee, which he hoped it would not be, it had better be to a Select Committee up stairs; for, with the great pressure of business before the House, it would unavoidably (as it had hitherto been) be postponed until past three in the morning, an hour at which this measure, although of great importance to individuals, was not likely patiently to be discussed.
said, the hon. Member recommended a Select Committee, but he would advise that the Bill be cast out at once, as a measure utterly unworthy to he entertained by the House. He was well acquainted with the line of road in question, and knew that the travelling upon it was easy, and that every where comfortable accommodations were to be met with; and he could not help looking upon the proposed scheme as a fancy measure of Mr. Telford's, whom he took to be one of those visionary gentlemen who expected to feed upon the public. The most advisable course for the noble Lord to pursue would be to withdraw his Bill, print it if he thought proper, and bring it forward in some intelligible shape.
said, that it ought to be considered that this Bill contemplated an improvement of no less benefit than that of bringing the capital of Scotland thirty mites nearer to London. When the House recollected the great intercourse, not only between individuals, but between all the new Boards and Public Offices of the two capitals, it would acknowledge that there were few things more desirable than to facilitate the means of communication. It was true that one particular line would be of great service to the county of Northumberland; but if the Commission of Inquiry, which it was the object of the Bill to appoint, should decide that another route would be more advantageous to the public, those who might fancy themselves interested in a contrary decision would have no reason to complain. He could state, upon the authority of Mr. Telford, whom the hon. Member behind had discovered to be a person not at all known, that the middle line through Northumberland was the best; but the matter ought to be examined into. Another reason for his wishing to have the commission appointed was, that a part of the road went through a very thinly-inhabited country; and before proceeding further, it would be right to have the best line of communication ascertained, and whatever that might be, he had no doubt that it could be made available without the assistance of public money. There were some material points in the Bill which he was anxious to discuss; but at that hour he would say no more than that he should vole for the Motion.
could not allow that opportunity to pass without thanking the noble Lord opposite (Lord Lowther) for the very excellent sentiments he had uttered. He congratulated the Treasury benches upon having such a Member, and he hoped that the noble Lord would allow him to remind him of what he had just said when the noble Lord brought forward estimates himself. He had stated, that estimates were always exceeded, and that the House ought to be cautious how it commenced any public work, and he trusted that his hon. friend (Mr. Hume) would take an early opportunity of trying whether these sentiments extended to all estimates. But what was the object of the Bill? The noble Lord said, that it was to appoint Commissioners of Inquiry; but he had also said, that the plans and estimates were already prepared; what then could be the use of appointing a commission? Could not the Postmaster-general send down a surveyor to report which was the best line of road? That would be the cheapest and the best way, and certainly preferable to the appointment of a commission, which if once appointed would only be used as the instrument of getting more public money. The hon. Baronet must be aware that the great improvements in the road from London to the Land's End had been made at the expense of the different trusts and counties through which the road passed, and not at that of the public. Upon what principle were the people of the West of England, who had paid for their own roads out of their own funds, to be called upon to pay for those of the North Country? Did the noble Lord fancy that the people of the North were not quite so active, industrious, and enterprising as those of the South and West; and that, therefore, they ought to be assisted by public money? The hon. member for Northumberland, because his county would be benefitted, seemed to think that it ought not to be called a Scotch job; and he therefore would give it the more general denomination of a Northern job. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Lowther) seemed to think, that if the Bill had come from his side of the House, all the Opposition Members would have opposed it: and he must in conclusion say, that he was sorry that it came from the Opposition side of the House, and still more was he sorry that the hon. member for Queen's County, whose work was justly considered as a text-book of economy, should have supported it by his name.
said, it was objected to the Bill, that public money was called for by it, but he saw none whatever called for, nor did he believe that it was intended to call for any. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Lowther) said on a former occasion, that this was a bill to obtain English money for Scotch roads. That was not the case, for he could state on his own knowledge, that there were roads in progress in Scotland, along which the intended line was to run, to defray the expense of making which no public money would be called for, although it might be considered desirable to place them under the control of an impartial commission. With respect to the opposition from the neighbourhood of Grantham, he was surprised at that, for there was no system of road-making so bad as that which prevailed in that neighbourhood; and never was money more scandalously taken from the pockets of the people, than that expended upon the roads there. There was a hill in the neighbourhood of Grantham quite as bad to ascend as it was in the days of George 1st. In spite of all that had been said, he should not be deterred from supporting this Bill, and he did not apprehend that the character of his noble friend, or of the hon. Baronet who supported the measure, would want defending on that account. He gave the hon. member for Cricklade credit for his vigilance over the public purse, but he could assure him that it was not required in this instance. It had been insinuated that this measure was introduced to benefit Mr. Telford; but it would appear from the report of the committee that that gentleman had not received any undue remuneration, and that the smallness of his percentage was quite remarkable.
said, that had it not been for the explanation of his noble friend, he should have been inclined, with the noble Lord opposite, to have opposed the second reading of this Bill; but after the explanation which had been given, he thought that the House ought to allow it to pass that stage, that it might be put into the desired shape. He objected to the Bill, but as it was to be separated into two parts, one of which was to empower a commission to inquire into the state of the roads, and the other to carry into further execution the powers vested in the Commissioners of the Holy-head-road, he would not oppose the second reading. The mail, he might remark, arrived in Edinburgh at three o'clock in the day, and did not leave till eight the next morning.
said, that it was clear that the hon. Baronet agreed to the second reading of he knew not what, since he wished it to be put in such a shape in a committee as would enable him to understand it. If the hon. Baronet comprehended the Bill, he (Mr. Lamb) did not, for he did not know what was to be kept in, and what struck out. From reading it, he could not say whether the Liverpool road was or was not to be included in the Bill, whether the commissioners were to raise money or not, or what roads from Litchfield to South Mims, and from London to Edinburgh were to come under consideration. It skipt about in the most extraordinary manner; and, in short, was such an omnium gatherum measure as he never before met with. It had been called a Northern job, and with truth; for it was to bring Edinburgh nearer, according to the petitions, to London by thirty miles; but from whence did the petitions come? From Edinburgh, to be sure. But he wished to ask whether there were any petitions from London to be brought thirty miles nearer to Edinburgh? Certainly not. And the Bill, therefore, bore upon the face of it the character given of it. The noble Lord said, that his proposed line took in Stamford and Grantham; but the Bill only mentioned the road through those places, to say that it was to be altered. He did not wish to make any vexatious opposition to this Bill; and he thought that he made a very fair proposition when he asked his noble friend to consent to refer it to a committee up-stairs; for there was not a single turnpike-road bill which was not laid before a committee of Members of those counties through which it had to pass. If that proposition were objected to, he should divide the House on the Motion.
said, as there was only one specific point in the Bill, he could not see any occasion to refer it to a Select Committee.
The House divided. Ayes 35; Noes 27—Majority 8.