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compared with the number of poor. Appendix P. gives, with other statistical information, the proportion of the annual value of the property liable to be taxed for poor-rate, averaged for every 100 inhabitants, and for every 100 acres of area, in each of the counties in Ireland ; and appendix Q, gives similar information as respects England and Wales. Some particulars may be stated here, viz.
Average of England and Wales £171 p 100 acres, £393 p. 100 inhabitants
This shows a very great difference between the two countries, as to their present capability of supporting the poor. The annual value of property liable to be rated for this purpose in England, is about two and a half times as great as in Ireland, when compared with the number of inhabitants; while all will admit, that there is a much larger proportion of the people of Ireland who are destitute, and require relief. The proportion to be relieved is at least twice as large, and the means applicable to their relief little more than one third.
* This and the two following statements are arranged according to the proportion which the annual value of property bears to the population. Hereford being a thinly peopled county, the valuation is low when compared with the area of land. If arranged in proportion to area, Lancashire would be the highest, except Middlesex, the valuation being £471 for every 100 acres. The proportion for Middlesex amounts to 4.4061.
But it must not be inferred that no part of Ireland can support its poor. Unquestionably, there is sufficient property to do so in the greater part of the country. If we compare the different provinces, we find the proportion of property liable to poor-rates in each of the four provinces to be as
or, if we compare some of the best circumstanced counties of Leinster and Ulster with the worst of Munster and Connaught, we find:
Certainly almost the whole of Leinster and Ulster, and a large part of Munster, ought to be able to support the poor, without any assistance temporary or otherwise. It only requires judicious and economical management of the funds, and firmness in collecting the rates.
But when we look to the unions along the western coast, including nearly all Connaught, the case is widely different. There the poverty is much greater, and the property assigned to its support much less. The proprietors, with great territorial extent of property, are yet in many cases so heavily encumbered, that they are, in fact, very poor. The land is subdivided into very small holdings, and very many of the tenants are paupers themselves. As a general rule, neither landlord nor tenant will pay as long as he can avoid it, though there are many honourable exceptions. The property of the tenant consisting chiefly of cattle, a seizure is in many cases easily avoided. There seems great reason to fear, that it will be found quite impracticable to collect a rate at all equivalent to the present necessity; and that unless assistance be given from some other quarter, the people must die.
If we look more closely into the mode of operation prescribed by the act, we find, first, a board of guardians, consisting partly of members elected by the rate-payers, and partly of ex-officio members—that is to say, magistrates having property in the district. Neither party are desirous of burdening themselves with heavy taxation; and there is no sufficient public opinion in the neighbourhood, exterior to themselves, which might compel
them to respect the claims of the destitute : therefore they hesitate to strike a rate ; and even when struck, they use no diligence in collecting it. The rates due by the guardians themselves are often the worst paid, and the collectors feel that it is not their interest to attempt to enforce them. The poor-law commissioners have a remedy, in case the guardians refuse to strike a rate. They may displace them, and appoint paid guardians to manage the affairs of the union; but it does not appear that they possess any sufficient remedy for an inefficient collection.* But let us suppose the guardians really willing to do their duty, or that they have been displaced, and efficient paid guardians nominated in their stead, the difficulty is only removed one degree farther off. Proper collectors are appointed, and an attempt is made to collect. The small farmers refuse to pay, pleading poverty. The collector attempts to distrain; but there are various ways of defeating his intention. Perhaps one man in the district pays, and whenever the collector is out, all the cattle are driven on to his ground, and thus are safe from seizure. It becomes a contest between the ingenuity of the collector and that of the rate-payers. If he succeed in effecting a seizure, it is by superior management. Even when the seizure is made, there is still danger of forcible rescue and the refusal to purchase. Unless the tenant have paid up his rent in full, he cannot stop the rate from his landlord, which in many cases practically debars him from stopping it at all. The landlord can only be reached through the tenant, and has therefore no interest in compelling him to pay. Nevertheless, many of these difficulties will vanish before an energetic determination to enforce the law.” Another most important portion of the rates is that on the holdings valued at £4 and under. Of these, there are in Connaught upwards of 120,000, embracing more than 800,000 acres, being about one-fifth of the whole province. Any attempt to collect from these tenants is evidently useless. The law makes the immediate lessor liable for the
* There are no officers in Ireland exactly corresponding to the overseers in an English parish. Under the Irish poor-law, the board of guardians applots the rate, appoints collectors, and gives all instructions respecting its enforcement: in England, the guardians call on the overseers, who are bound to collect the rates, and who therefore stand between the guardians and the rate-payers.
* The remarks in the text are only intended to refer to a few of the unions in the west of Ireland. They do not apply to those parts of the country in which the greater value of fixed property facilitates the collection of taxes. It is understood that, generally speaking, the rates have been well collected in Ireland; and even this year, the amount received is much beyond what might have been anticipated. The collector's powers are greater than in England, and ample for the greater part of the country.