25 SEPTEMBER 1847, Page 12


THE Anti-Rent movement in Ireland is neither a new occasion for alarm, nor new in its cause, or even in its substance. It is only a new shape in which the evil of Ireland displays itself—the re- dundancy of the population. That evil is like the last article to be packed into the traveller's carpet-bag—the thing too much, that will not be squeezed into the space : readjust the " traps" how you will, you cannot con- trive to get that one in; whether it is your dressing-case, your clothes-brush, your shooting-shoes, your sandwich-box, your port- able bootjack, or whatever else you may in turn leave out in the vain hope of poking it in at the last, there it stands, identical in the one material attribute of being the thing de trop—the realized excess.

So it is in Ireland : her population is redundant as compared with her land and capital, and the redundancy makes itself appa- rent in various shapes,—the two-and-a-half millions of beggars, the feverish emigration, the potato-diet, the famine, the public works, the excessive poor-rates, the anti-poor-rate agitation, the Ribandist hold of pauperism on the land, the landlord clearances, the anti-rent agitation. These are only so many different forms in which the one redundancy of people exhibits itself and its morbid working. Some of these manifestations are immediately caused by the effort of the redundant people to make the most of the deficient land—such as the potato-diet ; some by the effort of the miser- able wretches who are extruded to retain a grasp upon the na- tural source of food, the land—such as the Ribandism, the beg- gary, and the anti-rent; some by the effort of the landowners to counteract that convulsive pauperism by shaking off the grasp— such as the clearances. But whatever the immediate shape of the tumultuary movement, it is only one symptom of the common disease.

The remedy is obviously to restore the balance in the three ele- ments of national prosperity—introduce more capital, or extend the productiveness of the land, or diminish the people. Easier said than done. Capital will not venture into the region while it is so turbulent. Agricultural systems cannot be altered while the redundant population covers the land, any more than you can take up the carpet in your parlour while the whole family is at breakfast. It only remains to diminish the redundancy of the population by depletion. Get rid of that oppressive burden, and you may then so alter the state of matters as to extend the pro- ductiveness of the soil, and admit capital to a peaceful reign over universal prosperity. But until you remove the people who are starving because they are de trop, and are savage because they are starving, you will have neither quiet nor room for the effec- tual amelioration of the country. Ten to one if you carry in food, the people will attack your messengers, as they have done the relief-officers ; or if you were to bring capital, they would pro- bably make a foray upon it, as the new pirates of the West coast did upon the corn-ships. A country with two millions and a half of souls whose redundancy is fatally marked out by their periodical destitution, cannot be still while you cure it and re- arrange it. You must get rid of the immediate and exciting cause of irritation before you can apply constitutional remedies.