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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2010

Peter Gray*


This paper investigates the way in which the ‘problem of poverty’ in Ireland was encountered, constructed and debated by members of the Irish intellectual and political elite in the decades between the Great Famine and the outbreak of the land war in the late 1870s. This period witnessed acute social upheavals in Ireland, from the catastrophic nadir of the Famine, through the much-vaunted economic recovery of the 1850s–1860s, to the near-famine panic of the late 1870s (itself prefigured by a lesser agricultural crisis in 1859–63). The paper focuses on how a particular elite group – the ‘Dublin School’ of political economists and their circle, and most prominently William Neilson Hancock and John Kells Ingram – sought to define and investigate the changing ‘problem’, shape public attitudes towards the legitimacy of welfare interventions and lobby state officials in the making of poor law policy in this period. It suggests that the crisis of 1859–63 played a disproportionate role in the reevaluation of Irish poor relief and in promoting a campaign for an ‘anglicisation’ of poor law measures and practice in Ireland.

Research Article
Copyright © Royal Historical Society 2010

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1 Thomas A. Boylan and Timothy P. Foley, Political Economy and Colonial Ireland (1992), 1–5.

2 Boylan, T. and Foley, T., ‘From Hedge Schools to Hegemony: Intellectuals, Ideology and Ireland in the Nineteenth Century’, in On Intellectuals and Intellectual Life in Ireland, ed. O'Dowd, L. (Belfast, 1996), 98Google Scholar.

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7 Hancock, W. Neilson, Three Lectures on the Questions, Should the Principles of Political Economy Be Disregarded at the Present Crisis? And if Not, How Can They Be Applied towards the Discovery of Measures of Relief? (Dublin, 1847), 41–6Google Scholar.

8 Hancock, W. Neilson, On the Causes of Distress at Skull and Skibbereen during the Famine in Ireland (Dublin, 1850)Google Scholar.

9 Tenth Report on Poor Laws (Ireland), 48–75.

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13 Hancock, W. Neilson, ‘On the Importance of Substituting the Family System of Rearing Orphan Children for the System now Pursued in our Workhouses’, JDSS, 1 (1859), 317–33Google Scholar; ‘The Mortality of Children in Workhouses in Ireland’, ibid., 3 (1862), 193–8.

14 O'Hagan, John, ‘Observations on Dr Hancock's Plan for Rearing Poor Orphans in Families, instead of Placing them in the Workhouses’, JDSS, 2 (1859), 331–3Google Scholar. Hancock had been at pains to cite instances of Catholic employment of the ‘family system’ alongside his model of the Protestant Orphan Society.

15 Boylan and Foley, ‘From Hedge Schools to Hegemony’, 98–9, 108–9.

16 Gray, ‘Making of Mid-Victorian Ireland?’.

17 National Library of Ireland, Larcom Papers (hereafter Larcom Papers), Hancock to Larcom, 17 Aug. 1863, MS 7606/4.

18 Gray, ‘Making of mid-Victorian Ireland?’.

19 Hancock, W. Neilson, ‘The Difference between the English and Irish Poor Law, as to the Treatment of Women and Unemployed Workmen’, JSSISI, 3 (1862), 217–35Google Scholar.

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21 Haughton, James, ‘Observations on a Paper on Poor Relief, by Dr Dowling, of Tipperary’, JSSISI, 3 (1862), 158–62Google Scholar. His position had not changed by 1864, ‘Discussion’, JSSISI, IV (1864), 60.

22 Larcom Papers, Edward Senior to Carlisle, 1 July 1862, MS 7784/59.

23 Ingram, John Kells, ‘Considerations on the State of Ireland, an Address Delivered at the Opening of the Seventeenth Session’, JSSISI, 4 (1864), 22Google Scholar.

24 For Lewis, see Remarks on the Third Report of the Irish Poor Inquiry Commissioners . . . by George Cornewall Lewis, HC 1837 [90], li, 241.

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26 Express, 19 Nov. 1863; Larcom Papers, Pim to Larcom, 19 June 1863, MS 7785/21.

27 Letter, Dublin Evening Mail, 23 Nov. 1863.

28 Express, 19 Nov. 1863. The Irish Times (19 Nov. 1863) took a more hostile line towards Ingram.

29 Dublin Evening Mail, 19, 21, 23 Nov. 1863.

30 Nation, 21 Nov. 1863; Irishman, 28 Nov. 1863.

31 Dublin Evening Post, 24 Nov. 1863, 11 Feb. 1864; Times, 4 Dec. 1863.

32 Phelan letter in Freeman's Journal, 4 Mar. 1864. For his 1859 initiative, see Virginia Crossman's article in this volume.

33 Larcom Papers, T. H. Burke to Larcom, 7 Mar. 1864, MS 7607/1; University College London Archives, Chadwick Papers, Power to Chadwick, 3 Oct. 1863, 1605/40.

34 Larcom Papers, Power to Larcom, 7 Jan. 1865, MS 7781/6.

35 Hancock, W. Neilson, The Law of Poor Removals and Chargeability in England, Scotland and Ireland; with Suggestions for Assimilation and Amendment (Dublin, 1871)Google Scholar. A similar argument, focusing on the consequences of the harsh removal clauses in Scotland for the health of Irish migrants there, is made in Hancock, W. Neilson, ‘Some Statistics and Researches on the Poor Removal Question, with Special Reference to the Removal of Persons of Irish Birth from Scotland’, JSSISI, 6 (1878), 356–61Google Scholar.

36 Hancock, W. Neilson, On the Anomalous Differences in the Poor Laws of Ireland and England (Dublin, 1880)Google Scholar.

37 Hancock, W. Neilson, ‘On the Equal Importance of Education, Poor Law, Cheap Law for Small Holders, and Land Questions, at the Present Crisis’, JSSISI, 7 (1880), 5261Google Scholar.

38 Ingram, J. K., ‘Additional Facts and Arguments on the Boarding-Out of Pauper Children’, JSSISI, 6 (1876), 503–23Google Scholar. An 1869 bill had extended the maximum age of boarding-out to ten (Ingram pressed for sixteen), but a large number of unions were still failing to board-out even the younger children as permitted under the 1862 act, Freeman's Journal, 11 Jan. 1876.

39 Alan Kidd, State, Society and the Poor in Nineteenth-Century England (1999), 45–6.

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41 Ingram, J. K., ‘Address at the Opening of the Twenty-Ninth Session: The Organisation of Charity, and the Education of the Children of the State’, JSSISI, 6 (1875), 449–73Google Scholar.

42 ‘Reports of Charity Organisation Committee of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland’, JSSISI, 6 (1876), 538–40; ‘Reports of Charity Organisation Committee’, ibid., 7 (1876), 29–38; Jonathan Pim, ‘Report on Houseless Poor, Other than Destitute Wayfarers and Wanderers’, ibid., 39–41; W. Neilson Hancock, ‘Notes as to Proceedings of the State Charities’ Aid Association of New York’, ibid., 51–4.

43 Hancock, ‘Some Statistics and Researches on the Poor Removal Question’, 360.

44 Boylan and Foley, ‘From Hedge School to Hegemony’, 105, 110–11.

45 Gray, The Making of the Irish Poor Law, 336–8.

46 Alfred Power, A Paper on Out-Door Relief in Ireland: Prepared at Earl Spencer's Request (1875).

47 Crossman, Virginia, ‘Cribbed, Contained and Confined? The Care of Children under the Irish Poor Law, 1850–1920’, Éire-Ireland, 44 (2009), 3761CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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

49 See numerous memos by Hancock in British Library, London, Gladstone Papers, Add. Mss 44,610 and 44,613.

50 Gladstone Papers, Lambert to Gladstone, 5 Jan. 1869, Add. MS 44,235, fo. 33; Lambert memo, 8 Feb. 1869, ibid., Add. MS 44,609, fos 27–40, Lambert memo, 6 May 1869, ibid., Add. MS 44,610, fos 38–44.

51 Hancock memo, 16 July 1869, ibid., fos 190–5.

52 Hurren, Elizabeth T., Protesting about Pauperism: Poverty, Politics and Poor Relief in Late-Victorian England, 1870–1900 (Woodbridge, 2007), 2830Google Scholar.

53 Feingold, William L., Revolt of the Tenantry: The Transformation of Local Government in Ireland, 1872–86 (Boston, MA, 1984)Google Scholar; Crossman, Virginia, Power, Pauperism and Power in Late Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Manchester, 2006)Google Scholar.

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