16 OCTOBER 1847, Page 11


THE "normal" state of Ireland is an enormity: it is that of a fertile country, with abundant labour, which does not grow food enough to support the people, and which makes no real effort to supply the deficiency. Nor is the lack of effort for lack of know- ledge : every want of Ireland has been the subject of reiterated complaint and reechoed exposition, year after year. Almost every estate in the country is overburdened with peo- ple. The land has been subdivided until there is scarcely a plot left big enough to be called a farm. To that source of bad farm- ing has been added the most reckless and habitual improvidence, handed down from father to son : everybody tries to rake the last shred out of the land, and nobody thinks of returning any- thing to it—neither capital nor labour. All is carried off, and nothing is carried on. The results are these—insolvent landlords, the whole class mortgaged to the extent of ten thirteenths of their incomes ; pauper labourers all living on potatoes, with two millions and a half quite destitute for a third of each year ; and no class of tenant-farmers' the farms being as it were parcelled out among the paupers of the parish instead of real tenant-farmers. This state of things is bad enough, but it is worse when re- garded as a state of progressive deterioration ; which it is : for some .years it has, with exceptional cases of reaction, been visibly growing worse ; the landlords bec'oming more and more deeply involved, the mass of destitution becoming vaster.

improvement seems to be forbidden by the extremity to which the seitial state of the country is depraved. To introduce a de- cently intelligent and profitable style of agriculture, it is neces- sary to thin the redundant population on the estates : but that sort of q-clearance " has always excited a howl of execration, because, while Ireland was withottt a poor-law, it doomed the ejected tenant-labourers to destruction; and the labouring classes sought to protect themselves against the landlord and his agents by shooting them. If, to encourage intelligence and industry, land is transferred from a bad tenant to a good one, the " in- trader" or the landlord is shot—perhaps both are. If the land- lord, desirous of improving his land by investing more capital, makes the actual payment of rent a condition of holding the land, he or his rent-collector is shot—perhaps both are. If people are brought from England or Scotland to teach better modes of cul- ture, the " strangers" or " foreigners" receive threatening no- tices to quit ; and if they stay, they are shot. " Capital" is de- manded, especially of England : but if the English capitalist in- vests in Irish land, he is denounced as " absentee " if he stays away, or shot if he goes to Ireland ; and in either case he finds his money sunk in property made worthless by the want of that which imparts all stable value to property—social order.

Perhaps it is an effect as well as a cause of this desperate con- dition of the country, that the most extensive social corruption prevails. Many moral obligations needful to the social polity are set at nought : the landowner wastes the hereditary patri- mony; the tenant repudiates his rent ; nobody is safe but the murderer, who alone walks unharmed in broad daylight and finds an asylum in every- cabin; among the richer classes, fac- tion contends in a corrupt scramble for patronage ; the poor labourer abandons his work to spend his time in the national re- creation—bloodshed; and if, in default of private works of im- provement, any works of a public kind are introduced, public speakers and writers throw out hints how they may be destroyed : establish railways, and you shall see newspapers teaching how they may be pulled up to make pikes !

The progregsive deterioration came to a crisis in the famine of 1845-6 : the potato crop, long denounced as a precarious reliance, failed ; and all Ireland was destitute. The only measures of relief and counteraction emanated from England : ten millions sterling were devoted to Ireland, half given and half lent; and food was sent to the country by fleets of ships. During the intensity of the famine, the people were more tranquil, being utterly apathetic. To deprive the relief of its demoralizing character as alms,public works were devised: the employing classes in Ireland denounced the public works as useless, but devised none that were more useful ; the starving people made a sham of their work ; the relief wages were made the subject of corrupt jobbing, at which all classes seemed to con- nive; as the extreme dearth mitigated, the energy of the people revived, and was shown in reviving-abuse- of &land, accom- panied by repudiation of the loaitillealSrjeCerkes, and ever- insatiable demands for more help. The drain upon England seeming endless, a new poor-law was passed, to make the poverty of Ireland a charge upon its property, according to natural justice and common sense: the rateable classes refuse to pay rates.

Irish property will not pay for Irish pauperism—the land- owners say they can't afford it ; and so England is called upon to maintain the destitute of Ireland. The season of begging for Ireland reopens tomorrow, the 17th instant, with a collection in the churches under the Queen's letter. Indignation is felt by many humane persons in England, because they cannot forget the claims of our own hard-working poor, so long postponed in favour of the semi-voluntary destitution of the Irish poor, who won't work even when they may. But Sir John Burgoyne, backed by Mr. Trevelyan, says that if we don't pay this sort of poor-rate for Ireland, the Irish on the West coast will starve.

So let it be, says Mr. Campbell Foster, quondam Commissioner of the Times newspaper—leave the Irishman to the poor-law of his land. The English labourer submits to intense toil, because he labours under the dread of starvation : that which is to the English labourer a penalty in terra/Tie has been actually in- curred by the apathetic indolence of the Irish labourer, who is content to run the risk of starvation in order to avoid hard and incessant work ; and it is not just to exempt the Irishman from a penalty which the Englishman avoids by his own exertion. During the summer, the apathetic creatures, counting on future aid from England if extorted by " necessity," have neglected even to store peat for their winter fuel. True; yet England cannot deliberately suffer the people to starve unhelped, even from their own fault : besides, the poor cannot get effective employment sufficient to maintain them, because there is no employment ; there cannot be more employment without ink. provement ; there cannot be improvement, because each class denies the cooperation necessary for the other; there cannot be a better feeling while misconduct and despair continue to destroy mutual faith; and faith cannot be gained until the state of society is improved.

This hopeless circle of despairs is not essentially inherent in the Irishman : it does seem the innate doom of the Irish race in Ire- - land ; but when that race escapes to the Colonies, as it shows such an unfailing disposition to do, the case is altered : the Irishman then, whether as landowner, tenant, or labourer, become; settled, orderly, industrious, and thriving.

The parts of Ireland which are an exception to the rule of dee. pair are those in which the native Irish race has undergone a large commixture with races from Great Britain, as in Ulster.. There also the people exhibit some degree of mutual faith, order, self-reliance, industry, and prosperity. In those respects, Ulster and the Colonies are similarly circum- stanced—that is, in the commixture of races, the good order, and- the prosperity.