LORD DUITERIN ON IRELAND.
LORD DUFFERIN writes with the clear, calm, impartial manner of a true statesman. Nothing can be clearer and abler than his statement of the argument in favour of Irish emigration as one true economical remedy for Irish distress. We have no doubt that he is equally right in saying that evictions under the present laid laws have really had nothing of any moment to do with the tide of emigration. He is obviously quite right in supposing that such emigration has been in one way beneficial, inasmuch as a far smaller number .of persons are now dependent on the productive powers of a not very rich and, in relation at least to the present system of agriculture, over-populated soil. But there is one view of Lord Dufferin's argument which seems to us of great im- portance, and which he has kept entirely out of sight. Ad- mitting to the full all he says of the rise of agricultural wages in Ireland from between 2s. 6d. and 5s. a week in 1851 to between 10s. and 14s. in 1866, the consequent advance in general prosperity, and the diminished competition of the tenant-farmers for land, which has lowered rents even while -wages were rising, the question which he is bound to ask him- self as a politician still remains,—Where is the political result of all this economical relief ? Surely, if we had struck the right track which is to lead Ireland into a condition of con- tent and loyalty, we should be beginning to see the result when we have diminished the population by at least 30 per cent. Lord Dufferin tells us that in 1846 five Irishmen were employed in agriculture upon an area of soil which only required two persons in Great Britain, and that now, in 1866, eight persons are employed in Ireland for work which on the best Scotch and English farms only employs five. Very well, then, here we have a great improvement. In 1846 the amount of labour expended on the soil was superfluous to the amount of 150 per cent. Now the amount of labour so ex- pended is superfluous only to the amount of 60 per cent. May we not, then, argue that as 150 is to 60, so should be the disloyalty and popular discontent of the period of 1846 to the disloyalty and popular discontent of the period of 1866? But is this the case ? If we have got rid of nearly two-thirds of the secret burdens which oppressed the nation, though it did not itself know what those burdens were, we ought to see some tan- gible result in disinclination to join in popular plots for redeem- ing Ireland out of the hand of the enemy. The man who has 12s. a week should be far less disposed to secret drill than the man who had only five. The tenant-farmer, who can, as Lord Dufferin says, almost dictate terms to his landlord, instead of having to offer everything in the fever of competition, ought to be far more loyal to the State than the man who had just secured his tenancy by the promise of a ruinous rack-rent. And so it doubtless would be, if the economical causes at work in Ireland were (as that clear-headed school of politicians who delight in economical explanations, because they are so intelligible and so certain, contend that they are), the only ones of any moment affecting the happiness and energy of the people. But as a matter of fact there is probably more wide- spread disloyalty and disaffection in Ireland now than there was even in 1848. 'Unless the fears of the propertied classes in Ireland be grossly exaggerated and the anxiety of the Govern- ment be excessive, it is certain that since the agitation for Catholic Emancipation there has not been so much serious mischief brewing there as there is now. We are told—with so much energy and consistency that we have at length come to believe—that the peasantry of three-fourths of Ireland are dis- affected almost to a man, and that the larger part by far of the smaller tenant-farmers harbour no good feeling towards the Government. If this is the only result of diminishing the superfluous labour by nearly two-thirds, how can we hope that by sending away the remaining third we shall extirpate the discontent which has not as yet been visibly diminished ? If you work an economical remedy earnestly and successfully for twenty years,—successfully, that is, so far as getting out of it all that economically you can hope to get out of it,—and yet produce a moral or political result that is simply nil, can any inference be surer than that though, in applying this remedy or letting it work you may be doing quite right, you are not radically touching the malady you want to cure ? Suppose a physician had ascribed in his own mind a certain brain disease to want of proper nourishment, and had applied the appro-
priate remedy with such effect that the patient was growing fatter every week, and was visibly approaching the time when he would have as much flesh on his bones as he could con- veniently, and with full regard to health, carry about him,— and that in spite of this success the cerebral irritation not only did not diminish, but even seemed, if anything, to increase,—would a really able physician hold to his theory, and say that he was right in ascribing the cerebral excitement to insufficient nourishment? Would he not rather admit that the disease was deeper-seated than he had supposed, and that though it might be perfectly right to go on with the treatment until the patient was as stout as health required, yet that this was clearly insufficient for the main root of the malady, and that any hope of a cure, if there was one, must lie in some other direction ?
Such seems to us, we confess, the legitimate inference from Lord Dufferin's admirably stated argument. You have done all you can for the economical prosperity of Ireland, at least according to our notions of economical prosperity, and still the millions remain sullen and morose. If they have 12s. a week where they had 5s., they devote a great portion of the difference to buying arms and organizing secret societies. Have we, then, got hold of the true mode of making the Irish into conservatives ? Can they be cured by a method which augments their savings only to increase their power—without diminishing their desire—to invest deeply in revolutionary plots ? The dog which saved half its dinner for a week in order to accumulate a capital out of which to pay other dogs for assistance in revenging itself upon its enemy, was clearly getting richer, and yet certainly not in- fluenced by the magic of property' to become a good citizen of the canine State. Yet that is precisely the sense in which we are making the Irish richer. They get richer under our treat- ment, but devote their surplus to hazardous and hopeless con- spiracies for civil war. Surely we could have no better evi- dence that we have not yet touched the true spring of Irish civilization ? Surely this is absolute proof that while we are making the Irish rich in our own way instead of theirs, we are only subscribing to the fund for overthrowing our own power, instead of making them loyal by the magic of pro- perty.' The argument, too, from the superfluity of agricul- tural population, is really only applicable to the system of the grande culture which alone Lord Dufferin had in his mind, and which of course could alone furnish a standard of comparison between Great Britain and Ireland. If Lord Dufferin had turned to Belgium instead of Ireland, he would have discovered a very different result. There you have a population only 20 per cent. less than that of Ireland living on an area of one-third of its extent. Indeed, if we deduct the popu- lation of the towns, we shall find that very nearly the same number of agricultural labourers now employed in Ireland are employed in Belgium in tilling an area of one-third the magni- tude, and though so employed are content and loyal. Belgium has by the latest returns a population of 4,782,000 to an area of only 11,267 square miles, while the area of Ireland in square miles is 32,000, and its population only 5,764,000. The popula- tion of the great towns of Belgium is not 800,000, and throwing in a large allowance for the small towns, we may take the rural population of Belgium as at least 3,000,000, which must mean a population of adult agricultural labourers of the male sex of at least 600,000, only 25 per cent. less than the number assigned by Lord Dufferin to Ireland, with an area of treble the extent.
But then, of course, in Belgium the system of petite culture prevails, as distinct from ours of grande culture. And if you tried, on the economical principles approved in England, to trans- fer Belgian agriculture from the former system to the latter,— which latter is doubtless the more profitable, though not so productive,—you would have a revolution in Belgium. In Ire- land, of course, the peasant proprietary system has never really been tried at all. That which was tried, the cottier system, is at the opposite political extreme,—the worst, as the peasant proprietary system is the best known, system for attaching to the land a large and not very enterprising or commercially disposed population. Lord Dufferin's assumption that you can only improve the condition of things by diminishing the population till, on the present system, it is just adequate to the cultivation of the land, assumes that there is no other sys- tem on which it would be possible to task all the exertions of even the present population, and yet get out of the land a fairly remunerative return. If the gross produce were increased, and the content of the peasantry ensured, what matter if the net produce were diminished? Surely we are not so narrowminded that we will insist on every people, whatever its genius, working on the rule of getting the largest net returns for their labour ? Surely we are not going to become missionaries of the principle that every man who gets only 3 per cent. for his capital where he could get 5 per cent, even though the gross produce of his investment is greater, is an ass, and. ought to be forced to adopt our system. The man who insisted that his vis-a-vis at the eating-house should eat mustard to his beef-steak, would be a child in bigotry to the nation that would not tolerate the stupidity of any race in working harder for a smaller net return. Though. Lord Dufferin's argument is complete in itself, it does not show us that his favourite remedy is a broad political remedy for Ireland, — nay, it rather helps to show the contrary. We sincerely believe that the one hopeful remedy which has as yet bean left untried in Ireland, but which has in other countries,—in Belgium, Bengal, and many others,— yielded magnificent political results,—is the system of the, 'magic of property,' which in Ireland would, no doubt,, lead, to an agricultural system very different from that most popular in England, and very likely to. one that would enrich. the people lase quickly and effectually, other things being equal, than our own plan. But that is not the point at issue. If the smaller profits when associated with full security of tenure give the population an absorbing tie to the coun+ey, when the plan of higher wages and large properties only puts the love and power of rebellion into the hearts and pockets of the labourers, what statesman would not prefer the former system to the latter We are so overridden 'by economical ideas that weeannot see that economy is but a department of polities, and that as different political systems suit different nations, though only one can be the absolute best,—the system- suited to the highest average of national character,—so different systems of economy suit different nations, though there, too, there may be one that is the absolute best,—the best suited to the longest foresight, and the most sagaciausr spirit of commercial enterprise.