Poor Law as an Incentive to Eviction

"It is not surprising that Ireland, left for three centuries without any provision for its poor, should have presented occasionally a mass of human misery unparalleled in any country in Europe".

The desire of the landlords to clear their estates was encouraged by the disfranchisement of the forty shillings freeholders. According to the Devon Commission "the act of 1829 destroyed the political value of the forty shillings freeholder, and to relieve his property from the burden which circumstances had brought upon it the landlord in too many cases adopted what has been called the clearance system".

The effect of the poor law as an incentive to eviction was the aim intended by its authors to aid the process, and in fact the number of evictions increased greatly after its enactment. After public opinion being much divided in respect to the propriety of extending poor laws to Ireland at all, the Poor Law Act, 1838, came into operation in 1839, but the workhouses were not open for the admission of paupers until 1840.


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