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“to them, to employ as few labourers as possible, “ and to get for the poor in their own neighbour“hood as large a portion of the public funds as “they can: while in small electoral divisions, the “exertions of every proprietor will sensibly dimi“nish the amount of his taxation ; and when the “only choice left to him is, whether he shall pay “for the support of the poor in his neighbourhood, “ or employ them productively, he will of course “do the latter.” It therefore appears advisable that the districts for taxation should be much smaller than most of the present electoral divisions; both as respects the efficient relief of the sick and infirm, and especially for the sake of stimulating the rate-payers to endeavour to provide profitable employment for the able-bodied, and thus avoid taxation, promote industry, and improve the cultivation of the land. The division into townlands has been suggested, as the area for taxation ; but it is evidently unsuitable, the townlands being very unequal in extent, and many of them very small. The whole number in Ireland is stated by Captain Larcom to be about 66,700; the average area is therefore about 300 acres. The adoption of so small an area would evidently be to fall into the opposite extreme : there is a wide range between this, and the enormous extent of some of the electoral divisions in Connaught, several of which exceed 50,000 acres. Two of them, viz. Belmullet in Mayo, and Roundstone in Galway, have an area of 145,598 and 101,503 acres respectively. The statement of a case of peculiar hardship, may serve to explain the difficulty in which many are placed, by the present unwieldy size of some electoral divisions. It refers to a large electoral division in Connaught peculiarly circumstanced, inasmuch as it is divided by a range of mountains into two parts, which have very little intercourse with each other. One part is in fair cultivation. The other is almost wholly desolate. If separated, the better portion would probably maintain its population without any assistance; but if forced to contribute to the support of the other half, the amount of taxation will be overwhelming. One of the proprietors of land in the better part, thus alludes to the hardship of his position. Referring to the uncultivated part of the division, he says, “Joined to a district in which not an acre of tillage “appears for miles, where the people, if supported “at all, must be thrown on the out-door relief for “the whole of next year; where collecting a rate “is obviously impossible, because no property “exists to produce it; thus our ruin is clear and “unavoidable. We must pay; and the landlords “who have fled, neglected their estates, and done “nothing to relieve the distress, will have their “ poverty borne by us, until our properties are “reduced to a similar scene of desolation and “ruin. An estate free from debt, and prosperous, “well cultivated, and with every thing to hope “from its appearance, is, with its proprietor, to “be suddenly pounced upon, and made to bear “the burden of the neglect of others; and thus at “once the frugality of a life is rendered vain and “useless.” This is an extreme case, no doubt, but it may illustrate the injurious effects which must exist in many places to a lesser extent. We can scarcely conceive circumstances more discouraging to industry. It seems to hold out a premium to idleness. The industrious tenantry of a resident landlord are thus ruined, by being burdened with the wretchedness existing on the neglected estates of absentee proprietors, several miles distant. The poor-law commissioners are empowered to vary the size of unions and electoral districts, and to divide and alter them as may appear needful from time to time; and it is to be hoped that they will exercise their powers in cases of this description. But if, in order to localize the management and taxation, in districts of a much smaller area than many of the present electoral divisions, it be considered advisable to make any general alteration, it will probably be necessary to effect this
by means of some special enactment, without which the Commissioners might not be willing to make such extensive use of their powers. The arrangements adopted by the relief committee of the parish of Castletown, in the Queen's County, have been already referred to.” It was a voluntary association, supported by voluntary subscriptions, and managed by a committee of the subscribers. Relief was administered by those who were well acquainted with the locality, and the wants of the distressed. The destitute were efficiently and economically relieved. It answered the original idea of parochial care of the poor. Is not the Castletown voluntary association a fair model for legal relief? could not the same plan be carried into effect throughout the country The writer ventures to suggest, as an arrangement for this purpose, that committees should be elected by the ratepayers, for the care of the poor in each electoral division ; the present large electoral divisions being divided, where necessary. It should be their duty to administer out-door relief to the sick and infirm of their respective districts, and to report other cases for admission to the workhouse. The board of guardians to applot and collect the rates, and supply funds to these committees as required. The committee of each electoral division should elect one representative to sit on the board of guardians, which plan would secure a much more respectable and efficient board, than the present mode of direct election by the rate-payers. The workhouse, and all the financial concerns and accounts of the union, should remain under the care of the board of guardians. The difficulty of obtaining suitable committees in many parts of Ireland may appear to present grave objections to this plan. The relief commissioners in their third report state, that “for a gene“ral arrangement, a trustworthy local management, “in most cases, cannot be ensured for smaller limits “ than those of a union;” but add, that “in a great “ number of districts the complaint is not appli“cable.” It is probable that this difficulty is more apparent than real, and that it would very much disappear in the working of local committees, not distributing food provided by government, but dispensing the money of the rate-payers by whom they had been elected, and by whom their actions would be closely observed. But so far as this difficulty does exist, other means should be taken to raise the character of the country in this respect; and it is surely safer in legislation, to anticipate an improved state of society, than to
* See note, page 103.