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TO THE

PRIME MINISTER
ON THE DEPLORABLE CONDITION

OF THE
HELPLESS POOR IN IRELAND,

WITH A PLAN OF RELIEF, AS AT PRESENT PARTLY IN OPERATION

IN SEVERAL DISTRICTS OF THE PROVINCE OF ULSTER.

BY

A MEMBER OF A PAROCHIAL POOR RELIEF COMMITTEE.

“ The state of moral degradation of the Irish is increasing daily—Is it not ?" -" It is undoubtedly.

“ Does the condition of the people depend at all on the government under which they live?"-“ Very much on the government on the strict and equal administration of justice-on the PERFECT SECURITY of property-On CIVIL, RELIGIOUS, and POLITICAL LIBERTY.”-Malthus' Evidence, Emigration Report, 1827.

LONDON:-1828.

“ Any thing calculated to relieve the helpless poor in Ireland, is deserving of consideration from all persons interested in the welfare of that part of his Majesty's dominions."-LORD GODERICH.

“ Not zealous for needless opinions; not zealous for idolatry and superstitions ; not zealous for parties and factions in the state ; but zealous of good works. They are the proper objects of our zeal, as having an immediate respect to the glory of God, the ultimate end of all our actions."-Bishop BEVERIDGE.

The unexampled state of the most depressed class of paupers in Ireland, does not appear to have been considered with that attention which it deserves ; because, perhaps, the catalogue of their privations has invariably exhibited the want of an advocate to represent their sufferings, and to plead successfully in their behalf. As I have taken an active interest in the concerns of the poor, with a view to their relief, permit me to implore your consideration of their claims—a subject on which I will venture to address you, with unfeigned hopes that, under your auspices, something may soon be done to rescue from the misery of their condition the most forlorn and destitute of mankind-the helpless poor of Ireland !

Having been much in foreign parts, the manners and customs of various nations have fallen under my observation; but I have

VOL. XXIX. . Рат. NO. LVIII. 2 G

seldom or never witnessed, in any country, such calamitous examples of human wretchedness, as are of frequent occurrence among the houseless and friendless poor of that part of his Majesty's dominions, where the corruptions of Christianity, the failure, in a great measure, of the staple manufacture, the stagnation of trade, and the debasing influence of penal laws,' depress the population, increase pauperism, and are plainly the causes which, in their practical operation, prove most prejudicial to the interests of Ireland, and to the general welfare of Great Britain.

Justice being a constant and perpetual will to give to every one their due, and mankind being enjoined by the law of God and nature to relieve and support, in life, the accidental inheritors of unbefriended impotency, or, in other terms, the helpless poor-is it consistent with this principle, with Christian precepts, that paupers, in the following enumeration, should be neglected, as they are in Ireland, and literally cast out ?

The lunatic and idiots—the paralytic--the blind-the maimed,

1 It is self-evident that the grand object of the framers of those laws was to check the growth of the Roman Catholic religion in Ireland, and to extend the principles of the reformed churches to the bulk of the population-but it is equally ubvious that, in their mistaken zeal for the truth, they adhered not to the genuine doctrines of the gospel. They endeavored to accomplish good by unjust means. They were willing to do evil that good might ultimately coine. And what has been the result? a conclusion

diametrically opposite to their designs. Behold the prodigious increase of · the Roman Catholic population--very deficient in knowlege, arts, and

sciences in a great measure semi-barbarous, prone to indolence and superstition, and to multiply rapidly through improvident marriages, and by means of the facility with which a mere vegetable subsistence can be procured; all which may be traced to errors in legislation more subversive of good order, than to any of the religious dogmas which persecution was intended to eradicate.

It was erroneously conceived, that by the imposition of civil disabilities, divine truth would have illuminated the understanding, purified the religion, and subverted the ancient faith of the people. The fact is, the culture of the mind was neglected and overlooked legal authority did not interfere to prevent the light of revelation being obscured; the knowlege of the truth was not permitted to make the people free (in one sense), and continue they will in bondage until that knowlege be diffused.

Every man of common sense must own, that the emancipation most to be desired for the Irish people is that of the mind; when this takes place, the corruptions of Christianity will vanish, and truth will prevail-but how is such a desirable object to be attained? Certainly not by penal statutes and the rigor of persecution, but by the advancement of learniog, by the improvement and education of the rising generation, and by the unqualified removal of every obstacle to the acquisition of knowlege. Let every statute which is offensive to true and loyal subjects, and moral mer, because of their religious opinions, be repealed; and if oppressive measures be essential to the safety of the Established Church, let them be directed against all who are really the enemies of Christianity.

who are unable to work for their bread—the aged and infirm, who really from age and infirmity are incapable of labor, in any way, for their own maintenance. Is it right that such unhappy beings should be suffered to become the victims of unavoidable misfortune, more especially those, whom, through bitter calamity and extreme poverty, the worst of maladies frequently overtakes? Is it right that objects so pitiable should be abandoned to shift for themselves, without places of refuge, or the means of cure and subsistence; being actually allowed to wander as mendicants, or to be borne about in wooden-boxes through the land,' half starved and half clad, to the disgrace of civilised society; and in a Christian community too, where the law has established the reformed religion ?

Under existing circumstances in Ireland, it cannot be denied, that lunatics are permitted to roam at large ! Idiots unprotected and almost naked, present themselves to the gaze of the public ! The paralytic, desolate and dejected, traverse the country-divested of every hope-in despair of any consolation under their afflictions—they exhibit, in their woe-worn aspect and disabled persons, the affecting spectacle of the awful visitation of God, and the unpardonable neglect of their fellow-men! The blind beg their scanty morsel, led from house to house by an associate dog, or kindly individual, who commiserates their dark and comfortless situation-how dreary even with fortune's most auspicious recompense for loss of sight! The maimed are carried through streets and by-ways-frequenting markets and fairs to obtain alms from the multitude-they also beg through the country, and lodge themselves amongst the peasantry by night; and though, like Lazarus, covered with sores, they seldom lay themselves at the rich man's gate, when the clouds of evening are gathering, as they are sternly refused a nightly lodging even in the out-houses of the affluent.

The aged and infirm are borne about on hand-barrows, sometimes protected from the inclemency of the weather, sometimes not. They are entirely dependent on the sympathy of their abler fellow poor for locomotion, who anticipate, in their turn, similar acts of charity, when the incapacities of old age and the privations of poverty overwhelm them; and they become heirs of

1 The manner in which unfortunate cripples are conveyed from house to house for alms.-Collections are inade in the churches, every Sunday, by sending round what are termed poor-boxes, under scriptural admonition ; but the contents of these are inadequate to the weekly maintenance of such helpless beings, exclusively of many other claimants justly entitled to parochial relief; and, in fact, there is too often "a begyarly account of empty boxes."

inevitable adversity-driven out on the wide world, and ejected from their humble habitations, which barely afforded shelter from the wintry blast in periods of their greatest prosperity. To these unhappy beings, the repose which cattle obtain on beds of clean straw would be a comfort ; for it often happens, they cannot procure even that article to lie on, nor a blanket to cover them, having no permanent settlement, and no legal parochial claim to any relief. The stable would be to them as a palace to others horse-corn bread a luxury; in fact, they are worse provided for than beasts that perish!

All this, however, is but a faint description of the forlorn state of this suffering class of poor. They manage matters better in France, with reference to provision for the helpless ;' but there, indeed, the mass of the population is not only better clad and provided, but incomparably more orderly and civilised-where there are religious differences without animosity, and where the great bulk of the inhabitants are comfortable and happy. And that this state of things is conducive to good morals, may be taken for granted by a reference to the comparative view of crime in France and Great Britain, during the same period.

The population of the former is upwards of 30 millions ; of England alone, not 15 millions.-Number of criminals condemned to various punishments in 1826, by official returns, in France 4848-In England 11,095. More than twice the amount of crime in Protestant England, than to twice the population of Catholic France. Hence it may be inferred, that the moral influence of Roman Catholic Christianity in one country is of more practical use in restraining evil, than that of the Protestant church in another. Whether it is so in Ireland, I know not.

A writer in the Morning Chronicle, under the signature of « A Practical Observer," says—« I know that it is a prevailing habit with some noble lords and honorable members' to represent

I PROVISION FOR TIE HELPLESS IN FRANCE.--" Not only are the most untoward defects of nature made to give way before the wisdom of national provisions, for turning otherwise helpless objects into useful members of society; but by the fruits of their industry, they are soon enabled to reimburse their instructors for the trouble and cost of their education and maintenance. The lame, the deformed, the dumb, the blind, are all taught trades, in which they frequently arrive at a greater pitch of perfection than many of those who have no natural defects to struggle with. This conversion of the proceeds of industry towards defraying the cost of education I found to be a very prevailing principle in their public schools, the surplus of which is always appropriated to public charities. England,' says a modern observer, is certainly famous for charities to the helpless; but sadly neglects the means of preparing people to help themselves." Rambling Notes by Sir A. B. Faulkner.

that there is a great disparity in moral and peaceable conduct, and general obedience to the laws, between Protestant and Catholic districts in Ireland, and to insist that the contrast is triumphantly favorable to the Protestant. Any person attending to the debates in Parliament must have observed that this contrast is uniformly set up as an argument to prove the immoral, and indeed seditious, doctrines inculcated by the Catholic clergy into their flocks.

Fortunately we are enabled, by official papers, to set this matter at rest. I propose to do so in the most simple manner, by selecting ten Irish counties where Protestantism is more extended, and ten Catholic counties, and contrasting the state and proportion of criminal offences in each class, according to the Parliamentary Returns of the present year.

Ten Principal Protestant Counties in the different Provinces.

Population in 1821. Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Monaghan, Sligo, Westmeath - Number of commitments in 1826 . . . . . Proportion of commitments to the population

. 1,558,132 . . . . . 1357 Average 1 of 357

Ten Principal Catholic Counties.

- t Population in 1821. Carlow, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Mayo,

Tipperary, Waterford Wexford . . . .2,868,249 Number of commitments in 1826 . . . . . . . . . . . 4546 Proportion of commitments to the population . . Average 1 of 628

We find, then, that the Catholic districts are not the greatest offenders; nay, on the contrary, the proportion of commitments in the Catholic counties is but little more than one-half of the proportion in the Protestant counties. I have taken the trouble of ascertaining, on similar official authority, the number of convictions in those counties, for the same period; and I find them, in the Protestant counties, to amount to 2185; and in the Catholic counties to 2178. Thus, then, the ten Catholic counties, containing 2,868,249 persons, present a smaller number of convictions than the ten Protestant counties, containing only 1,558, 182 persons, or little more than half the amount of the Catholic population; making in the Protestant counties, a proportion of one convict out of every 713 persons; and in the Catholic counties, only one out of 1317.

Among innumerable evils, the system of licensed mendicity in Ireland appears to be the worst. It is subversive of good order, and the fruitful parent of crime. Under the mask of penury and

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