1848 WILLIAM TORRENS McCULLAGH MP

 

 

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Illustrated London News, 5th August 1848.

 

PARLIAMENTARY PORTRAITS

 

WILLIAM TORRENS McCULLAGH, ESQ., M.P.

 

A review of the great deal that has been spoken, and the very little that has been done, during the present session, and the important measures that now, at the close of it, are of necessity to be hurried over or thrown aside, may well give rise to the idea that Parliament is fast becoming so crowded with talkers, that it will shortly be impossible, in the course of a session, even without holidays, to get through any business. Speeches there must be, but it would speak only upon subjects which are important and which they understand, and only at such length as is needful to explain their views. Mr. McCullagh is one of the few who has adopted this course; he has the rare merit of being a practised and accomplished speaker, who knows when not to speak, and who, when he does speak, says no more than the case requires. He has been a member of the House since March last, when he seated on petition for Dundalk; and although distinguished as a public speaker, amongst other questions upon that of Free-trade, he has only spoken thrice, and on each occasion briefly to the purpose.

 

The first speech, when our press of foreign matter made it impossible for us to find room for the Sketch, was on Friday the 30th ult., on the Sugar question. He showed that distress amongst the planters was no new thing; that they had complained just as loudly when they had the slave-trade, slavery, apprenticeship, and the complete monopoly of the British market; that the competitors who were now pressing most closely on the West Indies were not the slaves of Cuba and Brazil, but the free labourers of India and Ceylon; that the export of sugar machinery within the last two years had increased to the East, where sugar was the produce of Free labour, and had diminished tot eh slave-producing countries; that Burke, Fox, Wilberforce, Clarkson, and all great leaders and advocates of the abolition of the slave-trade, had dwelt upon the greater spirit, skill, effectiveness, and therefore, cheapness, of free labour; and the published observations of the late Joseph J. Gurney during the tour in the West Indies conformed their views. Speaking on the rights of the consumers, he said:- "It is easy for those who lived in affluence to look out through the plate-glass of their own luxurious condition upon the wintry day of laborious life, and marvel why the struggling multitude appeared so ill at ease. But it was the imperative duty of the Legislature to endeavour to keep steadily in view the wants and hardships of the many. It was the boast of commerce, that it rendered those things that were once luxurious so cheap as to lead men to regard them as necessities: but it was the reproach of the unjust or excessive taxation, that it turned what had become necessaries into luxuries again."

 

This is the very point that it most behoves the people of this country to keep a strict watch upon. After laborious years of agitation and difficulty, they have won freedom for trade, but the progressive increase in taxation is tending to make dear again what free industry has cheapened.

 

On Thursday week Mr. McCullagh moved an amendment on the Irish Encumbered Estates Bill. The Bill limits the right of petitioning for a sale to the owner of the estate, to the incumbrancer, and the mortgagee in possession of the title-deeds. These several parties, Mr. McCullagh pointed out, are not at all likely to seek the sale of the estate. The owner does not want to sell, because he clings to the honour of being still an owner of the family name and the family lands. They prop him up in a position that he has no wish to come down from. The first incumbrancer does not want to sell, because he, for the most part, holds a charge under a family settlement, or an old judgment on a bond; and has, in either case, about the best possible investment, and one which at any time he can transfer or sell. The mortgagees with the deeds were mostly parties who had taken such care that their investments were safe, and with such sufficient margins of rent for interest, that to wait for them to sell would be to wait for ever. The parties really interested in having the estate sold were those not then included in this Bill, though they were included on its first introduction last year the lower incumbrancers, who, year after year, as they saw the estate decay, had it forced upon them that the chances were becoming less and less either of interest or repayment. Mr. McCullagh proposed, therefore, that these minor incumbrancers should also have the right or requiring a sale given them, which would make the Bill effective and really would bring land in Ireland into the market. The amendment was negatived by a large majority, and there can be no doubt that without it the Bill will be practically a dead letter. The encumbered estates will remain as they are; there will be no sales; and the land will be left to keep a ruined landlord and half-starved tenantry, instead of passing into the hands of a solvent owner, who could spur the tenantry to improvement instead of grinding them down in beggary. By next year the uselessness of the present Bill, probably, have been learned, and Mr. McCullagh may carry then what has so absurdly been rejected now. At all events, this amendment and the conciseness of the speech with which it was introduced, give us hope that the honourable member will bring forward in the ensuing session what has so long been vainly looked for, some practical measures for the real benefit of Ireland. Mr. McCullagh again spoke upon the bill on Tuesday night.

 

Mr. McCullagh was born in October, 1813, took his degree in Dublin University in 1833, and was called to the bar in January, 1836. Two years afterwards he founded the still flourishing Dublin Mechanics Institute. He is known as the author of a work on the Use and Study of History, published in Dublin in 1841, and of the "Industrial History of Free Nations", a work of laborious research, tracing especially the growth of the commercial spirit amongst the Greeks and Dutch, published in London in 1846. At the general election of 1847 he stood as a candidate for Dundalk, and was defeated by a majority of three, but, on petition, was seated by a scrutiny of the votes.

 

 

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[In 1846 McCullagh was appointed as Private Secretary to the Rt. Hon. Henry Labouchere, then Chief Secretary for Ireland. In the General Election of 1847, held on August 6th in Dundalk, the number of electors registered was 488. William Torrens McCullagh, Liberal, 121 votes, stood against Charles Carroll McTavish, Repealer, an American-Scot, 124 votes. On petition MacTavish was unseated and McCullagh declared elected, 20 March 1848. McCullagh remained as MP for Dundalk until 1852. He was MP for Yarmouth 1857 and Finsbury 1865-85. - BH]

 

 

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