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labourers small landholders, the spare time not required for the cultivation of their land, and which, in other districts, is so often given up to idleness, intemperance, or crime, is here devoted to a profitable and useful employment, which rewards industry with a fair return, and promotes habits of peace and order. The variety of occupation afforded by this system of domestic manufacture, to the different members of the family, is its chief recommendation. While the men are engaged in weaving the yarn, the task of preparing it for the loom by breaking, hackling, and spinning, is performed by the females, who find such a mode of industry congenial to the habits of their sex, and compatible with their household duties."
There follows an elaborate view of the state of the linen, cotton, and woollen trades in Ireland.
“Besides these [trades), it can scarcely be said that there is any other manufacture in Ireland conducted on so great a scale as to be of much national importance. Under the now exploded system of bounties and protecting duties, several manufactories sprang up; but not being the natural growth of circumstances favourable to their establishment, most of them gradually disappeared as soon as the undue encouragement, which had created and stimulated them, was withdrawn. Still there are to be found, in every district, establishments of various kinds, conducted in the most creditable manner; but they do not exist to such an extent as to claim especial notice in a general view of the employment of the people. If it were necessary to show that there is no inaptitude among the population for manufactures, for such even as require the greatest ingenuity, neatness, and skill, we would select the damask of Lisburn and the tabinets of Dublin : the worked muslins produced in many parts of Ireland, and very often from the poorest cabins, rival those of France, and are sold at half the price; embroidery on silks and satins is also carried to great perfection, and schools have been established in many places for the instruction of the female peasantry in this beautiful art.
“ But while the manufactures which were formed under the system of bounties have been sinking into decay, the various
processes to which agricultural produce is subjected have been gradually extended and improved. Grinding, malting, brewing, and distilling have made great progress within these few years. Until lately, the mills of Bristol and Liverpool enjoyed almost the exclusive advantage of converting the Irish wheat into flour. That process is now performed in Ireland. The construction of water-wheels, and other machinery, has been much improved, and the use of them, under favourable circumstances, has greatly increased; but there are few large mills in which steam is not united with water power, in order that the supply may be constant and regular during the summer as well as the winter months—a proof of a better system of trading and of more enlarged means.
"From north to south indications of progressive improvement are everywhere visible, and most so in places which are accessible to the immediate influence of steam navigation ; but these signs of growing prosperity are, unhappily, not so discernible in the condition of the labouring people, as in the amount of the produce of their labour. The proportion of the latter reserved for their use is too small to be consistent with a healthy state of society. The pressure of a superabundant and excessive population (at least, with respect to the resources as yet developed for their maintenance and occupation), is perpetually and powerfully acting to depress them.
Circumstances peculiar to the Condition of the Population of Ireland.—The present social aspect and condition of Ireland is an anomaly in itself. Whilst the country is making a visible and steady progress in improvement, and signs of increasing wealth present themselves on all sides, the labouring population, constituting a large majority of the community, derive no proportionate benefit from the growing prosperity around them. In many places their condition is even worse than it has been. This apparent incongruity is, however, easily understood and explained, by a reference to the peculiar state of property, and to the complex relations which subsist between the proprietors and the several parties deriving interests under them, from the immediate tenant down to the actual occupier of the soil.
• The division of the land into small farms, and their sub
division into portions, continually decreasing in extent, with each succeeding generation of claimants, until, on some estates, literally every rood of ground maintained, or rather was charged with the maintenance of its man,' was the immediate cause of the rapid increase of the population, which, within a period of fifty years, has risen from four millions to upwards of eight.
“The defective state of the law, which, for a long time, afforded the landlord no adequate security against the partition of his estates, and the long term of years or lives for which it was customary to grant leases, without any valid limitations being set upon the power of the tenant to underlet,-contributed without doubt to this result. But there were other causes in which the proprietors had a more direct and personal participation, and which justly imposed upon them a full share of responsibility for the consequences. Not only did they not discourage the multiplication of small tenures (which they might have done effectually by their influence, even in cases where, by former demises, the management of their estates had been placed in the power, and depended upon the will of others), but they were themselves active promoters of that system, and that from two obvious and intelligible motives—a desire to swell the amount of their rent-rolls, which were at first considerably increased by the operation of this principle, and a wish to possess themselves of political influence and power at the elections.* The local operation of the latter cause is manifest, and admits of distinct proofs in almost every populous district in Ireland; and its general effect may be inferred from the remarkable and accelerated increase of the population which took place from the year 1793, the date of the Act for conferring the Elective Franchise on that class of voters known as the Forty Shilling Freeholders. In 1791 the numbers were 4,206,612; in 1821 they were found to have increased to 6,801,827; in 1831, to 7,767,401 ; and now they amount to more than eight and a half millions. It is due to the proprietors and intermediate landlords who took no measures to repress this astonishing increase, while it might have been
Compare this with the statements in the answer to the Tipperary Magistrates, at pp. 321, 322.
beneficially checked without inconvenience or injury to any individual, to admit, that few persons, during its early stages, foresaw its rapid extension, or suspected the evils it would bring in its train. But this consideration, while it exonerates them from the imputation of culpable design or indifference, does not exempt them from the necessary consequences of their improvidence, or from the just obligations and duties inseparable from the possession of property.
“The misery and destitution which prevail so extensively, together with all the demoralisation incident to the peculiar condition of the Irish peasantry, may be traced to this source. The country, particularly in the west and south-western counties, is overspread with small but exceedingly crowded communities, sometimes located in villages, but more frequently in isolated tenements, exclusively composed of the poorest class of labourers, who, removed from the presence and social or moral influence of a better and more enlightened class, are left, generally, to the coercive power of the law alone to hold them within the bounds of peace and order. No system of constant or remunerative industry is established amongst them. The cultivation of their patches of land and the labour of providing fuel are their sole employment, which, occupying but a comparatively small portion of their time, leaves them exposed to all the temptations of an idle, reckless, and needy existence.
“In such a community there is no demand for hired labourers. Every occupier, with such assistance as his own family can furnish, manages to raise the scanty supply of food which he may need for their support, and as much grain, or other produce, as may be required to pay his rent; but beyond this, there is no solicitude about cultivating the land, nor the least taste for improving or making it more valuable. At the periods of active labour, when additional hands are absolutely necessary, every expedient is resorted to in order to avoid the employment of a single paid labourer. Children of tender years are then forced to do the work of men in the fields, to a degree far beyond their strength; and all the females who are capable of rendering assistance, are tasked in many ways utterly unsuited to their sex, and incompatible with the slightest attention to their proper cares and duties. At all times, indeed, of the year, whether the case be urgent or not, the share of labour, out of doors, imposed upon women and young girls, who might, in every respect, be so much better occupied, is as injurious to the moral condition, as it must be to the personal and domestic comfort of the peasantry.
“ There is a class of landholders superior to these, holding from eight to twelve or fifteen acres, who are equally slovenly and careless in the management of their land; but necessarily obliged, on account of its greater extent, to procure assistance out of their own families. Sometimes, but rarely, these persons hire daily labourers among the neighbouring poor; and in such cases they are usually guided in their choice, not by the character or capability of the man they employ, but by the lowest rate of wages at which they can possibly obtain his service. More commonly, however, they engage, as farm servants, young men between sixteen and twenty-five years of age, who reside in the family of their employer, and hire themselves out at remarkably low wages, seldom exceeding L1 per quarter, and, in numerous instances, scarcely more than half that sum.
“ The litigation which occupies a great portion of the time of the several Courts of Petty Sessions, arises out of the disputes of this class of servants with their employers; the former being usually impatient to break off their engagements at the busy and more profitable season of the year, and the latter anxious, of course, to reap the full benefit of the contract. Another common subject of angry contention, before the same tribunals, is furnished by ill-defined boundaries, neglected fences, and consequent trespass between the neighbouring tenants of the small divisions of land above described. More time and money are commonly wasted in such contests than would suffice to repair all the damage which forms the ground of quarrel ; and animosities are engendered which often lead to feuds of a lasting duration, and the most deadly consequences.
“It is plain that, under such a distribution of property, no rational hope can be entertained of the general introduction of an improved system of husbandry, or the employment of the labouring poor, to the extent and in the manner which would