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soil of western Europe. Dr. Doyle gave valuable evidence before the committee in support of the Christian, as opposed to the scientific and red-tape theory ; and to this Mr. Sadler alluded in an elaborate speech on the 29th August, which he concluded by moving a declaratory resolution “that it was expedient and necessary to constitute a legal provision for the poor of Ireland.”
Lord Althorp could not deny the prevalence of distress or the duty of Parliament to provide alleviating if not remedial measures; but he did not see how these were to be carried into operation; and as no detailed scheme had been expounded, he must move the previous question, and thus leave things as they were. Mr. Sheil followed. After pointing out the distinction between a rate in large towns where Mendicity Associations had been tried with but indifferent success, and in agricultural districts where for the most part no voluntary relief at all existed; he went on to discuss the question on more general grounds :
Even if spontaneous benevolence had partially succeeded, he should desire to put an end to a system by which charity was muleted, while parsimonious opulence escaped from contribution. The tax which pity levied on its slender resources enabled insensibility to hug itself in ignominious consciousness of its privilege, and gave a base immunity to men without a heart. He would
he owned, disturb the sordid luxuries of men who in the midst of public scorn turned their self-applauding contemplation to their chests of gold. But the society to which he had referred had failed, and it would be in vain to argue the question upon a hypothesis of its success. If private benevolence could support the weight it were well; but when it sunk beneath it, it was but reasonable (if he might borrow an allusion from a source so sacred) to give it an auxiliary, and enable it to bear the burthen which it had no longer strength sufficient to sustain. Should the legislature refuse to extend to the Dublin vestries the right of making an assessment in aid of the Mendicity Association, it must close its gates on four thousand paupers, and pour whole shoals of beggary, with all its worst accompaniments of loathsomeness both moral and physical, into the public streets. The institution of a rate in the Irish metropolis would prevent this serious evil — it would equalize contribution-would be a resource to indigence and benevolence—it would be guarded from abuse by the vigilance of good and kindly men, and would be a precedent for adoption by its success; or if it should unhappily fail, it would dispose by the evidence of experiment, of the entire question, by furnishing an example which would not only deter from imitation, but put to these speculations for the improvement of Ireland a salutary end. With respect to the general question, it was to be lamented that the committee on the state of the poor of Ireland did not report on what seemed to be the essence and marrow of the matter which was referred to their consideration. It must be confessed however, that they had done important service by publishing so large a body of valuable testimony. The two witnesses most conspicuous were Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Doyle, who dissenting in opinion coincided in humanity, vied with each other in lofty faculty and in pure emotion–differed in dogma, but agreed in benevolence, and exhibited such a union of truly Christian attributes, that they should reconcile the two religions of which they are the ornaments, and induce Rome to forgive Geneva, and Geneva to pardon Rome. When men so distinguished
took views so opposite, it was difficult to arrive at a conclusion free from doubt. He thought however, that Dr. Doyle must be allowed to have as a witness this signal advantage-he spoke of what he had seen; the other of what he had heard. Dr. Chalmers talked of human nature; Dr. Doyle of its peculiar modification in his own country. Dr. Chalmers was afraid of congealing the pure sources of gratuitous benevolence. He did not know that in the heights of society in Ireland the moral temperature was already below the freezing-point, and that there was a crust of ice upon the fountain of sympathy which charity could not melt, but which the law perhaps might break. He owned that he thought it a paradox in others to maintain misery in order to keep kindliness in practice, and to cultivate the retired sensibility at the cost of so much woe. Arthur Young fifty years ago, and Malthus five years ago, observed, that 'the gentry in Ireland have no mercy for the poor.' The law that made slaves of one caste, and tyrants of the other, demoralized both: it sent the people to roll and wallow in the depths of poverty, while it petrified the feelings of the aristocracy, and gave to power an ossification of the heart. It might be said, Time will cure all this.' Ay; but when would the moral Aurora arise? A generation must be laid in the grave, and the field of Irish prosperity must be sought in the churchyards of Ireland.” After noticing the aggravation of the evil of want of employment produced by absenteeism, and the meanness of those "who preferred being in. significant in London to being useful and respectable in Dublin; or those who in France or Italy vilified their country in all the artifices of accent with which they vainly endeavoured to disguise the original raciness of a genuine Irish intonation,”—he described the horrors of wholesale evictions of the peasantry,
“Some lay down in ditches to die, others raised hovels for the purposes of casual mendicity on the brow of some hill in the public way; sone retreated to excavations in bogs and hewed themselves out a habitation in a morass; but the greater part found their way into the obscure alleys and lanes of ruinous districts in large cities
—they swarmed in human clusters in garrets and in vaults: if you looked up, you saw famine glaring from a sashless window in attic of some ruined deserted house ; if you looked down, you beheld it in a cellar, seated upon its bed of short and pesti. lential straw. There was no exaggeration in this. The committee report that the ejected tenantry suffered affliction which it was not in the power of language to describe. But this was called a state of transition. Call it pestilence, famine, death, and men would tremble; but call it transition-envelop it in the technical vocabulary of fiscal science, and a directory of economists will speak of it with the tranquillity with which a French philosopher would have expatiated on the process of regeneration which his country was undergoing through the sanguinary celerity of the guillotine. But it was only justice to add that at last men's eyes and hearts were opening. It was admitted that something must be done to alleviate those dreadful sufferings; science had relented-political economy had been touched-algebra was giving way to pity—and theorists and speculators were no longer heard amidst the cries of a nation that stretched forth its hands for food.”*
Writing the following day to Mr. Curran he alludes to the success of this speech : “I last night made a decided hit in the House. I spoke in my old Association style, without fear; and it told exceedingly well.” In the same communication he mentions the receipt of a very kind letter from Lord Anglesea. "I lament that the Government of so excellent a man should be involved in such difficulty. It was a great mistake to call a body of men together at Lord
* Debate, 29th August, 1831.
Althorp's; no man felt it a compliment; O'Connell thought himself in duty bound to attack the measure. He sent an account of his speech to Dublin. Had he been taken apart he would have seen the thing in a different view, but the Whigs know nothing about government outside the House."* Under the same date he mentions that he was then engaged in writing a review of Moore's “Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald,” for the
“ Edinburgh." The article appeared in the number published in the September following.t
When Parliament re-assembled in February the struggle regarding Reform, it was understood, would be renewed. On the one all-absorbing question Ministers had a large majority in the Commons, but upon other questions they possessed a very doubtful ascendency over the minds of their followers. With all the respect paid to his personal character, and the equally sincere deference which is generally rendered in English politics to one who represents great families and great possessions, Lord Althorp often found it difficult to hold together the various sections who, upon Reform, acknowledged him to be their * Letter dated from Grosvenor-place, 30th August, 1831.
+ Vol. liv., p. 114.