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‘FACTS NOTORIOUS TO THE WHOLE COUNTRY’: THE POLITICAL BATTLE OVER IRISH POOR LAW REFORM IN THE 1860s*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2010

Virginia Crossman
Affiliation:
THE QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY BELFAST

Abstract

This paper focuses on the campaign to reform the Irish poor law in the 1860s. Debate on poor law reform highlighted fundamental divisions over the principles underlying the New Poor Law as well as widespread dissatisfaction with the poor law system in Ireland particularly within the Catholic community. Led by the leading Catholic cleric, Archbishop Paul Cullen, critics of the Irish poor law sought to lessen reliance on the institution of the workhouse and to expand outdoor relief thus bringing the system closer to its English model. The poor law authorities supported by the Irish landed elite fought successfully to maintain the limited and restrictive nature of the system fearful of the consequences of extending local discretion. The paper reveals the contested nature of poor relief both in principle and in practice, and the centrality of social issues to Irish political debate in decades after the Great Famine.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Royal Historical Society 2010

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References

1 This is best exemplified in S. Webb and B. Webb, English Poor Law History (1927–9). For a more recent example, see Lees, Lynn Hollen, The Solidarities of Strangers: The English Poor Laws and the People, 1700–1948 (Cambridge, 1998)Google Scholar.

2 The Irish Peasant: A Sociological Study by a Guardian of the Poor (1892), 69.

3 O'Brien, Gerard, ‘Workhouse Management in Pre-Famine Ireland’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 100, 86 (1986), 132–4Google Scholar. See also Burke, Helen, The People and the Poor Law in Nineteenth Century Ireland (Littlehampton, 1987), p. 284Google Scholar.

4 Snell, K. D. M., Parish and Belonging: Community, Identity and Welfare in England and Wales 1700–1950 (Cambridge, 2006), 334–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Norman, E. R., The Catholic Church and Irish Politics in the Eighteen Sixties (Dundalk, 1965), 3Google Scholar.

6 Cullen to McCloskey, 2 Jan. 1864, Archives of the Archdiocese of New York, McCloskey Papers, a22. (I am immensely grateful to Colin Barr for providing me with a copy of this and other letters from Cullen's correspondence.)

7 Cullen to Keane, 1 Mar. 1861, Cloyne Diocesan Archives (hereafter CDA), Keane Papers, 1796.04/21/1861.

8 For an overview of the history of the Irish poor law, see Crossman, Virginia, The Poor Law in Ireland 1838–1948 (Dundalk, 2006)Google Scholar.

9 10 Vict. c. 31.

10 Phelan, Denis, Reform of the Poor Law System in Ireland; or Facts and Observations on the Inadequacy of the Existing System of Poor Relief (Dublin, 1859), 35–6Google Scholar.

11 Phelan to Larcom, n.d. (1859), annotated copy of Phelan, Reform of the Poor Law System in Ireland, National Library of Ireland (hereafter NLI), Pamphlets, p475.

12 Dublin Evening Post, 13 Aug. 1859, 16 Aug. 1859, 20 Aug. 1859; Packet, 16 Aug. 1859; Daily Express, 26 Aug. 1859, 10 Sept. 1859; Freeman's Journal, 22 Nov. 1859, 21 Dec. 1859.

13 Annotated copy of Phelan, Reform of the Poor Law System in Ireland.

14 For Cork, see Arnott, John, The Investigation into the Condition of the Children in the Cork Workhouse with an Analysis of the Evidence (Cork, 1859)Google Scholar; Mahony, Colman O, Cork's Poor Law Palace: Workhouse Life 1838–90 (Cork, 2005), 184–90Google Scholar. For Dublin, see Clark, Anna, ‘Wild Workhouse Girls and the Liberal Imperial State in Mid-Nineteenth Century Ireland’, Journal of Social History, 39 (2005), 389410CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 Memorandum on articles in the Dublin Evening Post relative to the Poor Law Commission (1857–8), NLI, Mayo Papers, MS 11,030. See also Freeman's Journal, 16 Mar. 1861; Dublin Evening Post, 27 June 1861.

16 2nd Annual Report of the Commissioners of the Irish Poor Law on the Medical Charities Act (Dublin, 1854), 242; Banks to Larcom, 12 May 1857: National Archives of Ireland, Chief Secretary's Office Registered Papers (hereafter NAI, CSORP), 1860/11908; Banks to Larcom, 23 Jan. 1860: NAI, CSORP, 1860/11907.

17 Farrell to Cullen, 20 June 1860, Dublin Diocesan Archive (hereafter DDA), Cullen Papers, 333/4/1.

18 Farrell to Cullen, 22 June 1860, 11 July 1860, ibid., 333/4/2, 333/4/10.

19 A number of MPs objected to the principle of introducing substantive new clauses in a continuance bill: Hansard 3, clx, 149–50 (24 July 1860), clx, 1031–3 (10 Aug. 1860), clxi, 861 (22 Feb. 1861).

20 Cullen to Keane, 20 Mar. 1861, CDA, Keane Papers, 1796.04/22/1861. For the replies, see Secular clergy, 1861, DDA, Cullen Papers, 340/1/1; Workhouses: Reforms, Elphin Diocesan Archives (hereafter EDA), Bishops, Section iii c.

21 Cullen to Keane, 1 Mar. 1861, ibid., 1796.04/21/1861.

22 Cullen to Monsell, n.d., NLI, Monsell Papers, MS 8317(3); Cullen to Gillooly, 19? Mar. 1861, EDA, Gillooly Papers, NLI Microfilm, P.7622; Cullen to Keane, 20 March 1861, CDA, Keane Papers, 1796.04/22/1861.

23 Report from the Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into the Administration of the Relief of the Poor in Ireland, Parliamentary Papers, 1861 (408), x, q3997, q4098.

24 Ibid., q4093.

Ibid.

25 Ibid., q4047, q4039.

Ibid.

26 Farrell to Cullen, 11 June 1861, DDA, Cullen Papers, 340/1/1/80.

27 ‘Select Committee of the House of Commons upon the Irish Poor Law’, n.d. (1861), DDA, Cullen papers, Poor Law, 43/8.

28 Report [on] the Administration of the Relief of the Poor in Ireland, 3.

29 25 & 26 Vict. c. 83, s. 9.

30 Burke, The People and the Poor Law, 252–6; Geary, Laurence M., Medicine and Charity in Ireland 1718–1851 (Dublin, 2004), 206–16Google Scholar.

31 Nation, 2 Aug. 1862; Dublin Evening Mail, 19 Mar. 1862.

32 Nation, 6 July 1861.

33 Freeman's Journal, 26 Mar. 1862.

34 Report [on] the Administration of the Relief of the Poor in Ireland, q2007–9.

35 Ibid., q3993.

Ibid.

36 Ibid.q6172.

Ibid.

37 Daily Express, 14 June 1861.

38 Scott, J. A., ‘The Irish Poor Law Inquiry’, Dublin University Magazine, 58 (1861), 60–1Google Scholar.

39 Packet, 24 Jan. 1862.

40 Larcom to Sir Robert Peel, 15 July 1862: NLI, Larcom Papers, MS 7785. See also Lord Naas to the Roman Catholic clergy of the Deanery of Westport, 11 July 1867, NLI, Mayo Papers, MS 11,218 (17).

41 Day, William Ansell, The Famine in the West (Dublin, 1862), p. 40Google Scholar.

42 Ingram, John K., Considerations on the State of Ireland (Dublin, 1864), 1415Google Scholar.

43 W. Neilson Hancock, Reports on the leading indications of the state of Ireland in August 1867, 4 Oct. 1867, NLI, Mayo Papers, MS 11,221.

44 See above, pp. 141–56.

45 Note by Larcom, n.d., Poor Relief: Relief of Distress 1861–2, NLI, Larcom Papers, MS 7784.

46 Power to Larcom, 7 Jan. 1865, ibid., MS 7781.

47 A good example is Enniscorthy Union. See Virginia Crossman, ‘The poor law in Enniscorthy in the post-Famine period’, in History of Enniscorthy, ed. Colm Toibin (forthcoming 2010).

48 Farrell to Cullen, 11 Aug. 1860, DDA, Cullen Papers, 333/4/18.

49 For an account of this transformation and its impact on poor law administration, see Feingold, William F., The Revolt of the Tenantry: The Transformation of Local Government in Ireland 1872–1886 (Boston, MA, 1984)Google Scholar; Crossman, Virginia, Politics, Pauperism and Power in Late Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Manchester, 2006)Google Scholar.

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‘FACTS NOTORIOUS TO THE WHOLE COUNTRY’: THE POLITICAL BATTLE OVER IRISH POOR LAW REFORM IN THE 1860s*
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