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be beneficial to them, and conducive to the prosperity and good order of the community.
“It is, therefore, much to be wished that such a system should no longer continue. For the preservation of propertyfor the interests of the public peace—for the progress of civilisation and improvement—and for the permanent good of the rural population, it is desirable that a speedy alteration should take place. The evil cannot remain stationary; it must either be met with effective opposition, or it will, by its own accumulative force, proceed to the last point at which the process of subdivision is practicable; and what may be the consequences of suffering it to go so far, it is painful to contemplate. How rapidly it is in some places approaching to that point, may be gathered from the Population Returns of the Board of Trade, which represent an increase to have taken place between the years 1821 and 1831, amounting, in certain western counties, to one in five, and in others nearly to one in four, of the whole number of inhabitants viz., In Donegal, increase
20 per cent.
24 “Among the effects of this rapid increase of population, without a corresponding increase of remunerative employment, the most alarming, though perhaps the most obviously to be expected, is a deterioration of the food of the peasantry. It could scarcely be thought, indeed, that their customary diet would admit of any reduction, save in quantity alone; yet it has been reduced as to quality also, in such a way as sensibly to diminish their comfort, if not to impair their health. Bread was never an article of common use amongst the labouring poor; but it is now less known by them than it was at the time when a sum exceeding L.50,000 per annum was paid in bounties,' to induce the landholders to grow a sufficiency of grain for the supply of the city of Dublin.* Milk is become
* “By a table published in Mr Newenham's · View of Ireland,' it appears that in a period of thirty-seven years, up to 1798, a sum of L.1,917,770 was paid in bounties for grain and flour, brought by
almost a luxury to many of them; and the quality of their potato diet is generally much inferior to what it was at the commencement of the present century. A species of potato called the lumper' has been brought into general cultivation, on account of its great productiveness, and the facility with which it can be raised from an inferior soil and with a comparatively small portion of manure. This root, at its first introduction, was scarcely considered food good enough for swine; it neither possesses the farinaceous qualities of the better varieties of the plant, nor is it as palatable as any other, being wet and tasteless, and, in point of substantial nutriment, little better, as an article of human food, than a Swedish turnip. In many counties of Leinster, and throughout the provinces of Munster and Connaught, the lumper now constitutes the principal food of the labouring peasantry-a fact which is the more striking when we consider the great increase of produce, together with its manifest improvement in quality, which is annually raised in Ireland, for exportation, and for consumption by the superior classes.
"For years the proprietors of land have endeavoured to counteract the evils arising from the increase of a pauper and unemployed population, and to prevent its extension. Their eyes have long been opened to the mischief partly created, and, in a great measure, countenanced by themselves; and they are quite willing to retrace their steps, and reduce their estates, if possible, to a condition more favourable to a judicious mode of cultivation, and to the regular and profitable occupation of the poor. The habit of letting their grounds in small allotments has altogether ceased in the agricultural districts, though it still prevails in parts of the manufacturing counties of Armagh and Down, where the skill of the artisan is rendered in some degree subsidiary to the toil of the labourer. Generally, however, as often as opportunities occur, they are gladly embraced, to enlarge the divisions of land to farms of dimensions better land carriage, canal, and coastways, to Dublin. The amount lavished in bounties during the last century would have sufficed to place Ireland on a par with any part of the United Kingdom in the advantages of internal communication.”
adapted to the development of agricultural science, and the beneficial employment of capital and labour. In some cases these changes have been conducted with judicious humanity; in many, it is to be feared, without much regard either to humanity or justice; but where they can be effected without injury to individual happiness or equitable rights, without doubt they must, in all cases, tend to the ultimate advantage of society, as a means of checking a great and growing evil, of increasing the wealth of the country, and, consequently, laying a firm and sure foundation of prosperity for the Irish people.
Already considerable progress has been made towards the establishment of a better system of agriculture, and the altered and much improved appearance of the country in many places is owing to the success which has attended those endeavours. But although the land has thus been rendered more valuable, and its produce more abundant, the condition of the labouring poor has not advanced, even in those improved localities.
“ The fair inference to be drawn from this fact is, that the labourer is not allowed a just proportion of the product of his own toil and industry; but the cause of that inadequate remuneration will be found in the increased number of persons forced into the market-place in quest of daily employment, in consequence of their being deprived of the resource of the potato garden and the mud hovel, in order to make room for the improvement of the land. The number of hands absolutely unemployed being thus increased, the price of labour will, of course, be kept down. Nor should it be omitted or disguised, that in proportion as these improvements shall become more general, the multitude of applicants for employment will still farther exceed the demand for their labour; and, consequently, their condition, if left entirely dependent upon the aid of the mere agriculturist, will be still more depressed, while the country is advancing in wealth and abundance.
Such appear to be the inseparable concomitants of that transition which a considerable portion of the Irish peasantry are actually undergoing at present, and through which it is necessary, for the general good, that they shall all passma
transition from the state of pauper tenants to that of independent labourers, maintained, as the same class are in England, by their daily labour. This change cannot much longer be delayed with safety. It is not possible to avoid it by any other alternative than that of permitting a state of society, pregnant with all the elements of disorder and confusion, to go on unchecked, until it forces the whole population down to the lowest depths of misery and degradation.
“The proprietors of estates claim public support, in their endeavours to bring the country to a sound and secure condition, by opposing and counteracting the further progress of so ruinous a system; and if they would proceed in all cases with discretion, and a just consideration of those whose interests are as nearly concerned as their own, they are entitled to it. Of course, we do not palliate the injustice and cruelty of turning families adrift helpless and unprotected upon the world. There is a compact, implied at least, between the landlord and the peasantry who have been brought up on his estate, by which the latter have as good a right to protection as the lord of the soil has to make arbitrary dispositions for the future management of his property. Nor do we think that it makes much difference as to the force of this obligation, whether the injurious subdivision of lands was made by the direct sanction and for the immediate benefit of the tenant in fee, or by others to whom the power of a landlord over the property had been delegated by lease. It is not denied that those subdivisions were lawful at the time they were made. They were a part of the system then recognised and in operation for the management of property; for their effects, therefore, upon the general welfare and security, the property itself is justly to be held accountable. Nor is this responsibility to be shuffled aside, or laid at the door of persons who, having ceased to possess an interest in the lands, are no longer in a state to repair the error that has been committed; but the country will look to those who now hold the property, having received it charged with all its moral as well as its legal engagements.*
* This paragraph, as I formerly remarked, is an “argumentative” statement of the proposition, “Property has its duties as
Still, however, as the landholders and owners of estates are really unable to sustain the whole of this liability, and to proceed, at the same time, with that work of improvement which is so essential for the interests of all classes of the community, and, eventually, of none more than of the labouring poor, it is much to be desired, as an object of public importance, that means may be speedily taken to distribute a part of the burden through other channels. If there were no other public ground for doing so, it would be motive sufficient, that the suffering and privation which seem inevitable, during the transition of so vast a number of people from one state of living to another, would be thereby alleviated, and its period considerably abridged.
“Among the measures proposed for this purpose, that which appears to have obtained the most favourable share of the popular attention is the reclaiming of waste lands, such as bogs and mountains, of which there are millions of acres in Ireland very capable of improvement. No doubt a great deal of most useful improvement might be effected in this way; and, what is more to our present purpose, a wide door might be thereby opened for the profitable employment of numbers of the peasantry; but much will depend on the regulating principle, and the object of such undertakings, whether the people shall be set to work as daily labourers, to divide and cultivate large tracts for the agricultural capitalist, or as colonists, to reclaim and make rude settlements for themselves. If the latter be contemplated, it would, in effect, but spread and magnify the evil which it is proposed to remedy, only removing its pressure partially, and for a short period. As a measure of immediate relief, the change would be scarcely attended with any increase of comfort to the peasantry, while their position would be rendered far more hopeless than it is even now, and the ultimate consequences to society, in its moral as well as in its political results, would be most disastrous. well as its rights.” The portion of the Report cited in the text was prepared before the circumstances arose which called forth the celebrated Tipperary letter, the authorship of which has been a subject of some controversy.