28 JUNE 1845, Page 11



MR. O'CONNELL tells Ministers, that nothing can be done Ireland while the peasantry, remain in their present state of d e tution. All measures he declares nugatory that do not go remove this source of all other evils. From the Report of the Poor-law Commissioners, he shows that in 1834 the destitute poor in Ireland exceeded two millions; and from the Report of Lord Devon's Commission, that in 1845 there are four millions and a, half. " You are talking here of the mighty boon of education, while the people are starving. Feed them before you educate them." But how are they to be fed ? Must a monster subscription or loan be raised in England and sent to Ireland to provide rations for the starving peasantry ? And if even that would suffice for the current year, would it for the next, or the ten years after t The extreme poverty of Ireland is not the consequence of bad, legislation alone : it cannot be immediately or radically cured by any legislation. Statutes to regulate the relation of land- lord and tenant may remove obstacles from the way of Irish enterprise; but the Irish peasant himself will need to put his shoulders to the wheel. The patient must in part at least minister to himself. The Irish peasant is willing to work, but he seems unable to make estimates and regulate his toil be- forehand so as to produce results. He can only do the work that is set for him ; he overworks himself, and loses time while nature is recruiting itself. It is with him all hand and no head work. There are many steady, industrious, Irish workers in the factories, of Scotland ; but we can remember only one instance in which. an Irishman had raised himself to an overseer's post. Someyearst ago, a benevolent gentleman on the West coast of Ireland pro- cured nets and a boat, employed some of the neighbouring pea-, sentry in fishing, and when he thought them sufficiently adroit,, offered them boats and nets to set up on their own account. The offer was declined, unless " his Honour" would, pay them wages.. The men seemed incapable of being their own masters and turn-, ing a small capital to account. This character may have been impressed on the Irish peasant by external influences. In the rural districts of Ireland there; can scarcely be said to be any middle class : there are only a few. landlords amid hordes of labourers. This is a vestige of the laws; directed against the acquisition of property by Papists. Genera.. dons of poverty may have benumbed the spirit of invention andi. enterprise. Or it may be a matter of race. Something of the, same kind is observable in the kindred Highlands of the West oft Scotland. While the Frith of Forth is perseveringly fished by the industrious and skilful descendants of the Danes, the Frith, of Clyde, equally if not more rich in fish, is almost entirely neglected Various attempts that have been made to establish fisheries there, as on the East coast, have failed, because the natives would neither fish themselves nor allow fishermen brought from; the Portia to do it. The listlessness which leads men to suffer; the extreme of destitution, rather than adventure on new era-, ployments and a new course of life, may be a feature of the. Celtic character. But, whether natural or superinduced by cir- cumstances, until it be overcome legislation can do little to removal destitution.