COLONIZATION FOR IRELAND: STATE OF THE QUESTION.
THE subject of Colonization for Ireland acquires an immediate practical interest from Lord Lincoln's notice of motion in the House of Commons for the 13th instant.*
As we understand his purpose, the late Secretary for Ireland intends to propose inquiry only, not to suggest any particular measure. A large majority of the House of Commons, therefore, is probably disposed to agree with him : for both sections of the Outs must wish that real pains should be taken to ascertain whe- ther a beneficial instead of a confiscating and all-pauperizing efficacy may be given to the Irish poor-law ; whilst the respon- sible Ins are deeply concerned in the solution of the problem. Yet there is an obstacle in the way, which may prove insur- mountable. We allude to Earl Grey's determination, that, so far as he may be able to prevent both, there shall be neither coloniza- tion nor inquiry. We are credibly informed that a letter from him (marked " private," but which the writer desires may be shown to all whom it concerns) is in circulation, whereby he de- clares in very positive terms against such an investigation as Lord Lincoln proposes. The Colonial Minister had told us before that he objects to the colonization; he has now pledged himself to re- fuse the inquiry. The immediate result of Lord Lincoln's motion will therefore be determined by circumstances extrinsic from its subject : the question of colonization for Ireland, which was not broached till Easter, has already reached the stage of beine• fected by the state of parties, and giving occasion to interesting party considerations. Before entering upon these, we are desirous of noticing Lord Grey's objection to systematic colonization for Ireland. He has stated it in the despatch to Lord Elgin of the 29th of January, by which he utterly contradicts or repudiates his despatch to Lord Elgin of the 31st of December. In the first despatch, he lays down a plan of Irish colonization desires Lord Elgin to carry it into effect; and promises him funds for the purpose: in the se- cond, he insists on the propriety of trusting wholly to spon- taneous emigration, and pleads against any kind of system or plan. His argument (which is repeated in the above-mentioned letter) is, that spontaneous emigvation from Ireland is satis- factory; that we ought to let well alone ; that interference or aid by the Legislature would probably induce the emigrating classes to rely on the Government instead of themselves, and would do more harm than good by checking the spontaneous process which goes on at present. The objection is almost identical with that of the writer in the Times last week, who denounced a Celtic and Ecclesiastical colonization as if it were proposed in lieu of another infinitely better. One should imagine from Lord Grey's reasoning, that the actual spontaneous process is something quite admirable. Its assumed perfection, and the consequent inex- pediency of the least meddling with it, constitute at all events his grand objection to Lord Lincoln's proposal. Let us see, therefore, what this much-lauded spontaneous emigration from Ireland really is. In the first place, what is it as a mearta of improving the econo- mical state of Ireland! It is supposed that as many perhaps as 200,000 persons will emigrate from Ireland to North America during the present year. Is it to be expected that a diminution of numbers to this extent will facilitate the beneficial operation of the new poor-law ? Certainly not, unless it should produce a rise of wages; and nobody can imagine that the abstraction of 200,000 from 2,000,000 persons destitute of employment will have the slightest effect upon wages. Its only effect, probably, will be to relieve the Irish poor-rate from the burden of supporting • Earl of Lincoln—" That a humble address be presented to her Majesty, praying that she will take into her most gracious consideration the means by which Colonization may be made subsidiary to other measures for the improve- ment of Ireland, and by which, consistently with full regard to the interests of the Colonies themselves, the comfort and prosperity of those who emigrate may be promoted." [Thursday, lath May.]
these 200,000 people in idleness ; a result not unsatisfactory in itself, but one which has no sort of relation to the rate of wages in Ireland, or to the bewficial operation of the new Irish Poor-law. This point is well urged in the memorial to Lord John Russell, setting forth Mr. Godley's plan-
" There is a good deal of vague remark about the present emigration from Ire- land, and assistance afforded by Government to the emigrants, as a probable means of beneficially affecting the social state of Ireland: the two subjects are mentioned together, as if there were really an important connexion between them. We object to this view of the matter, as claiming for present arrangements by the State, with regard to emigration from Ireland, a degree of importance which in nowise belongs to them. The arrangements, so far as they go, are useful and praiseworthy: the present emigration is good for the emigrants; good for the new countries where they settle; good for the manufactures and commerce of the United Kingdom, whose held of employment for capital and labour is enlarged by it; often good for the particular localities relieved; but it has no closer relation to the care of Irish distress considered nationally than a spark has to fire as a means of giving warmth. A remedy may be of the right kind, but wholly in- effectual. It appears to us, that by failing to mark the difference between quality and quantity, and thus falling into that train of ideas which connects present emigration with the permanent improvement of Ireland as cause and effect, we should rather help to provide an excuse for doing nothing, than represent our own opinion that it is necessary to do a great deal in order to do anything effectual."
"Help to provide an excuse for doing nothing"! The me- morialists may have had in view Lord Grey's second despatch to Lord Elgin, of which we said at the time of its publication, that its principal aim seems to be to make excuses for the neglect of colonization by the Government. But however this may be, it is plain that spontaneous emigration is insufficient in amount to affect wages. As a means of improving the economical state of Ireland, it is nothing. What is it, then, intrinsically! Mr. Charles Buller once called it "a shovelling out of our paupers " ; and it is fully described in Lord Durham's Report. Lord Grey supposes, that since Lord Durham painted the horrors of the "middle passage" from Ire- land to Canada, a great improvement has taken place in the ar- rangements which affect the emigrant previous to his landing in America. He seems to be quite unconscious that the emigrants' lazaretto near Quebec is still in constant use. "The necessity," says Lord Durham, "of a quarantine establishment for prevent- ing the importation of contagious disease from Britain to her colonies, as if the emigrants had departed from one of those East- ern countries which are the home of the plague, shows beyond a doubt either that our very system of emigration is most defective, or that it is most carelessly administered." In truth, there never was a system. Now, as in Lord Durham's time, it is a mere scramble of paupers—and Irish paupers—the least provident of mankind, unaccompanied, unaided, and uncounselled by any one of superior forethought or intelligence. The Passenger Act subjects shipowners to some little control by the Govern- ment with respect to space, food, and medical attendance for poor emigrants; and there are agents of the Government in the North American Colonies whose business it is to pre- vent destitute or otherwise helpless emigrants from accumu- lating in the towns where they disembark, by pushing them on to some destination, generally one of the bordering States : but further than this, there is no preparation for departure, no regulation of the passage, no sort of precaution for the well-doing of the emigrants in America. They take their chance. A good many die on the passage, some in the lazaretto, and some on their journey to the far 'West. Most of the survivors go to the United States, and are heard of no more. The bulk of these, and of those who remain in the British Provinces, obtain employ- ment as labourers and servants in the towns : not many settle upon land: and those who really improve their condition beyond getting plenty to eat and drink, are rare exceptions from the general rule. Many of them—nearly all, indeed, who tumble into positions where they never see a clergyman—become cu- riously barbarous. Such is the result of our spontaneous emigra- tion from Ireland in ordinary years. This year, it will be diffe- rent. The distress in Ireland is driving such numbers to emigrate, whilst no provision has been made, to secure them employment or even subsistence in America, that they will probably far over- stock the labour-market there, and suffer misery like that which prevails in Ireland. We have long paid attention to this subject; and we fully expect to hear frightful reports of the mortality of Irish emigrants both on the passage and in the colonies. Such 18 the colonization which Lord Grey would not disturb by even inquiry into the means of instituting a better. • Seeing that the mere swarming out of Irish paupers to Ame- rica is a miserable operation in itself, and totally without effect on the condition of those who remain behind,—considering that the economical state of Ireland is the great difficulty of the present Government, and its only conspicuous rock ahead,— bearing in mind that every politician, whether Whig, Peelite, Protectionist, Radical, or Neutral, who should assist in preventing an attempt to make the Irish Poor-law work well, will bear some responsibility for the break-down which awaits it if the unem- ployed continue to be counted by millions,—and recollecting that several members of the Cabinet are known to be very desirous of a systematic emigration from Ireland,—it may, we cannot help thinking, be presumed that Lord Grey stands almost alone in his resolute hostility to the object of Lord Lincoln's motion. If so, the motion can only be defeated by the agency of party- considerations. The Ministry may deem it expedient, for the sake of harmony, to let Lord Grey have his wilful way, so far as they are concerned. If they oppose the motion, there will be a great indisposition, even amongst those who
most approve of it, to carry it in spite of them ; for nobody at present desires to put the Whigs out of office; whilst those who love them least wish to fasten upon them the whole of that re- sponsibility for what may happen in Ireland next year, from a part of which they would escape if now deprived of power. It is possible, therefore, that Lord Lincoln's motion will have no immediate result. But possible only ; for it is easy to conceive that matters may take quite another turn. If both sections of the Outs, moved by a public-spirited desire to render a poor-law beneficial instead of mischievous to Ireland, or only actuated by a sense of their own party interest, having regard to the future, should exhibit a disposition to insist on this inquiry, the Govern- ment may prevail on Lord Grey to abandon his crotchet, rather than compel them, for the second time in a session, to proclaim their real party weakness by giving notice to the Opposition of their intention to resign if defeated in the House of Commons. Doubtless, the members of a Ministry which all parties wish to preserve, have a peculiar facility of indulging their individual fancies ; but still, in this instance that opportunity is counterbalanced by so formidable a concur- rence of circumstances that Lord Grey may perhaps be de- prived of it. At all events, we are sure of a thorough discussion of the subject in Parliament. The late advocates and present op- ponents of systematic colonization will not have every advantage.