Изображения страниц

renewed exertion and honest emula. tion. In another respect, too, the small proprietor confers inestimable benefits upon the locality in which he resides. A natural prejudice always exists in the minds of the people against adopting the improvements suggested by a wealthy proprietor. Such persons have generally their “hobbies;” and perhaps the most innocuous, or even the most useful hobby ever cherished, is a praiseworthy desire to advance the state of agriculture in their district. But the people know very well that such hobbies are adopted less as a source of profit than of amusement. They know that the percentage produced by the money sunk in the undertaking is only a secondary consideration, and that the actual amount expended is seldom accurately known : they are, therefore, unwilling to risk their hardearned savings upon such a venture. The case, however, is very different when the improvements are made by a farmer in the neighbourhood. They then know that every shilling expended is an object of attention to him. They know that the profits he makes are his only means of support; and, judging from the experience of his former success, they feel the highest degree of confidence in his ability and i. sense. In such a case, too, they

ave a greater power of becoming acquainted with, and testing the merits of any innovations upon the established

usages of the district, by examination
and conversations with the small pro-
prietor, which their deference for a
more wealthy n, however affable
and kind, might, perhaps, make less
agreeable to them. Their knowledge
also of the character of a person placed
more nearly on a level with themselves
must be much greater, as well as the
opportunities of conversing with him,
and of consulting him in their private
affairs and difficulties.
These things are sufficiently evi-
dent; but the real facts of the case,
and their practical tendencies, are
much stronger. An embarrassed
proprietor possessed of an extensive
estate, surrounded by debts and
difficulties—hopeless and despondent—
unable to manage his own crippled
affairs, and, of course, less able to
advise or assist others, is deprived by
the operation of the Incumbered Es-
tates Act of a portion of his unwieldy
roperty. The part he retains, should
e be so fortunate as to retain any
portion, engrosses all his care and at-
tention ; and, freed from debt, he is
able for the first time to undertake its
management with that amount of ca-
pital, without which land can never
be worked with profit. So that in a
few years' time it will probably bear a
very different aspect from the estate
which had been handed down in his
family from heir to heir, in the same
unimproved condition.* The residue
passes to perhaps fifteen or twenty

* It must not be presumed from the above that we approve of the very low rate at which estates have been lately sold by the Commissioners. The following is an extract from their Report lately presented to the Lord Lieutenant :“The total amount of incumbrances on estates sold to March, 31, 1851, as taken from the schedule lodged with the petitions, is £4,086, 192 13s. 4d., but several of these incumbrances are returned in duplicate. “The total amount of purchase-money for estates sold to March 31, 1851, is 421,350,616 0s. 4d. Of this amount £94,404 13s. 4d., or about one-fifteenth part, has been allowed in payment of incumbrancers, who became purchasers. “The Commissioners have paid out to creditors and claimants up to this date, 3rd day of May inclusive, the sum of £838,356 0s. 1d. “The 253 estates sold to March 31, 1851, have been disposed of to 587 purchasers, nearly one-half of whom are purchasers of lots that sold respectively for sums not exceeding £1,000." From this it would appear that on the estates already sold the creditors suffered a total loss of £2,735,576 13s., leaving, of course, no residue for the owners. And after making every allowance for the “duplicate incumbrances,” the loss to the creditors will still appear almost incredible. This loss falls upon the middle classes in this country. The wealthy capitalist rejects all but the best security, and is contented to receive even a moderate rate of interest paid with the greatest punctuality. Such creditors, generally English capitalists, have almost invariably the first charges, and must of course be paid. It is upon the puisne incumbrancer that the heavy blow falls; men who, availing themselves of the fatal facilities af.

[ocr errors]

new purchasers. Some of these pro-
bably the persons who once tilled the
lands they now call their own. In-
stead of one unimproving landlord, in
most cases an absentee, the district
will possess fifteen or twenty enterpri-
sing and energetic proprietors; the
friends of industry, the supporters of
the laws, the advocates of order, the
instructors of the poor.
The wilful misgovernment for party
purposes, to which we have already
alluded, has enveloped Ireland, and
everything connected with her affairs
and condition, in a kind of cloud of
mystery which it is no easy task to pene-
trate. Peculiar properties and quali-
ties have been attributed to the Celtic
atmosphere, which have been consider-
ed amply sufficient to account for every
anomalous phase in her social con-
dition. . This was long adopted as an
axiom by every English statesman.
The broad principle that mankind,
placed under the influence of the same
causes, will always act in the same man-
ner, though forming the leading propo-
sition of every work upon political
economy, was never supposed to ex-
tend to Ireland. It was found easier
to mystify facts than to justify bad
government ; and instead of compar-
ing England and Ireland together with
a view to assimilate the existing state

of laws in both countries, the very dif. ferences that existed (to the prejudice of Ireland) were made still greater and more injurious by blind legislation. For instance, it was well known that, in consequence of the frequent confiscations, and grants of forfeited property to English adventurers, absenteeism existed in this country to a deplorable extent; and that, in consequence of the obscurity of Irish titles (partly from these causes), and of the difficulty of selling, Irish estates were irretrievably embarrassed. The remedy for these evils was sufficiently plain—to facilitate the transfer of property. Such would have been the remedy adopted in England; but in the case of Ireland Pigot's Judgment Act was passed, facilitating the embarrassment, but practically restricting the transfer of land. The result that might have been predicted soon followed. The landlord became inextricably embarrassed, the tenant oppressed and discontented, the district disturbed, the capitalist alarmed and driven to a more peaceful land. The evidence taken upon this subject by the Devon Commission is declared to be “at once conclusive, painfully interesting, and most portentous in its character.” A measure giving to the Irish Courts of Equity a fifth part of the powers since

forded by the Judgment Acts, advanced all the savings of their lives, amounting to sums of £50, and upwards, to the neighbouring proprietors. The average rate of purchase for estates is from thirteen to fourteen years for all Ireland, head rents, &c.; and (exclusive of fee-farm or head-rents and rentcharges) from eight to ten years for properties in Munster and Connaught, in many cases, according to the valuation taken under the direction of the Commissioners. Since the Report of the Commissioners, however, a manifest improvement has taken place in the selling price of land. The severity of compelling every landlord to discharge all his liabilities at a period of unexampled depression, under the constraint of a most arbitrary law, is sufficiently evident, and its policy very questionable. Suppose the same policy had been adopted during the commercial panic of 1847, what would have been the result If every merchant had been compelled to discharge all his liabilities, and if the credit system had been totally abolished, it is probable that the commercial and manufacturing interests of England would have received an amount of damage which, perhaps, scores of years would have been unable to repair. But a contrary course was adopted, and the operation of an Act of Parliament was suspended on the responsibility of a minister, so great was the urgency of the case, and so evident the necessity of supporting commercial credit at a period of unwonted depression. And again, in the commercial panic of 1811, the committee of the House of Commons made their report (May 7th), stating “it to be their decided opinion that the commercial distress was of such a nature as to render Parliamentary relief highly expedient and necessary,” and recommending “ that Exchequer bills to the amount of sir millions should be issued for that purpose,” which was accordingly done. The landlords assert that they, too, should have been given time to put their houses in order. All these things, however, operate as so many additional inducements to the future purchaser; for, in proportion as the present proprietor suffers, he will benefit.

[ocr errors]

given to the Incumbered Estates Commissioners, would have gradually effected what has now called for such violent remedies; and by removing the cause of agrarian outrages, have taken away the only obstacle that has hitherto prevented the investment of capital in the improvement of a country that offers so many and such great inducements. It has often been said of the Irish, that as long as they remain in their own country it is idle to expect reformation in their habits; but when released from the fetters that bind them in their native land, they seem to breathe a free air, and to develope physical and moral virtues that they scarce seemed before to possess. This is partly true and partly false. It is true so far as it admits that under different circumstances the Irishman will develope more moral virtues; but it is false so far as it appears to insinuate that the same change will not take place at home under similar circumstances. Seventy years ago Arthur Young said of the Irish, “they were grateful to me for speaking civilly to them.” And it requires but a very superficial acquaintance with the country to know that there are no eople in the world more easily won y kindness, or more willing to place the fullest confidence in him who relies

[ocr errors]

And is the Irish labourer abroad be industrious, faithful, and honest, we may rest assured that, if treated at home with equal kindness and justice, he will be found equally assiduous in his offices, and equally attached to his employer. This trait in the national character is fully proved by the evidence of Mr. Charles Bianconi, himself a foreigner, but at the same time one of our most deservedly popular men. . At a meeting of the British Association he said, “I never yet attempted to do an act of generosity, publicly or privately, that I was not met by manifold reciprocity.” And this statement will be corroiorated by the numbers of foreign and English merchants and traders, who, having overcome the absurd prejudices that exist against Ireland, are now receiving the meet reward of their enterprise. At present the greater pro

portion of wealthy merchants in Limerick are English or Scotch. In Galway, Cork, and most of the other towns in the south and west, they form no inconsiderable proportion of the monied interest; and we cannot call to mind a single case in which their foreign or English origin has prejudiced their claims to the highest positions, or municipal offices, which they would otherwise have been entitled to fill. It is impossible to §. too much attention to the great change that has been effected in the social condition of the Irish people by the occurrences of the last two or three years. As long as the potato continued to prosper, the possession of a small plot of ground was all the peasant required. It was his only means of support, and the only barrier that stood between him and inevitable starvation. Now land has become comparatively useless to the cottier. These circumstances have produced a great revolution in the character and feelings of the peasantry. Whilst all their hopes were centred in a few perches of ground, they looked with unmitigated aversion upon any one who appeared, even in the remotest degree, likely to disturb their possession. Hence arose their extreme jealousy of strangers, and all the crimes and outrages connected with land. But these circumstances have completely altered. The cottier now feels that land is no longer of any value to him, and looks to labour as his only chance of support. The arrival of any person possessed of the means of employing the population is hailed as a public benefit, and the peasantry contend with one another in their efforts to make the locality agreeable to the new-comer. The pauper landholder feels that he is in the position of a person who has obtained possession of a bale of raw cotton, but who has neither the machinery nor the capital requisite to bring it to a state fit for the market. He must either sell it to a manufacturer from whom he will probably obtain employment, or else starve. This is precisely the case of the cottiers in the south and west of Ireland, and they know it. They are now willing to give up those tenements for a few pounds of meal, or a few shillings, to which the would have clung five years ago o the tenacity of despair, and defended at the price of bloodshed and murder. In the foregoing observations, we


have endeavoured to review, in the spirit of candour, the great and manifold changes effected by the events of the last few years in the social state of this country. Ireland is awaking, as it were, from a long dream, and is now, for the first time, casting off the prejudices and follies under which it has lain oppressed for so many dreary centuries, and is putting on new strength, like a i. ready to run his course. All the

ormant materials of wealth, particularly land and labour, are in abundance. Titles to Irish property are now clear and satisfactory, and may be obtained at a trifling cost. Land is, therefore, placed within the reach of every monied man, however small his fortune. It is no longer circumvented by legal technicalities, nor undermined by mystery and doubt; and the sum paid a few years since for the “good-will” of a farm will now, in most cases, purchase the fee." Agrarian outrages have ceased, and the unemployed labourers receive with a hearty welcome, as their best friends and benefactors, those who may be tempted by the vast capabilities of Ireland to challenge the kindness and hospitality of its people, and avail themselves of its ample resources. In fact, there never was a period in our history when such inducements were offered for the investment of money in land, and when an intelligent person possessed of a moderate sum might turn it to better account. These opinions have received a great deal of confirmation from the perusal of a really excellent book just published, entitled “The Saxon in Ireland,"f and which we strongly recommend to the notice of our readers. The design of the work is to direct the attention of persons looking out for either investments or new settlements to the great advantages offered by Ireland, and to induce such parties to visit the country and judge for themselves; and we fully concur with the author in his opinion, that “were the unfortunate prejudices that exist against Ireland, founded as they are, for the most part, in ignorance,

once removed, men would surely pause. before they crossed the broad Atlantio in search of a new field for the employment of capital, or the profitable exercise of their intelligence and industry.” In one respect, Ireland appears to be the most unfortunate country in the world. Misrepresented, not understood, with our faults exaggerated, our defects magnified, and our national character a constant theme of ridicule abroad, we have failed to reap even the minimum of advantage that generally flows from that source. The dif. ficulties and dangers that exist in other lands appear only so many inducements to the adventurous traveller to endeavour to triumph over such obstacles. Encounters with brigands, savages, and wild beasts, have all their peculiar charms, but the idiosyncracies and extravagances of the Irish, whether real or imaginary, fail to awake even curiosity, and appear only to deter visiters. Such, however, was not the case with the “Saxon":—

“I became interested (upon the subject of Ireland) beyond my expectation. Its whole history was one sad romance; the impatient struggles of a turbulent but generous people with a series of ignorant and oppressive governments. Its statistics were suggestive of many deep thoughts and curious calculations. The descriptions of its fertility, its pastoral beauty and mountain grandeur, were most attractive; and I deeply lamented that such a country, so near our own shores, so connected with us by every tie, should be alien, if not hostile—a drag upon our prosperity, a perplexity to all governments, a help to none.”

Determined to investigate, for him. self, the causes of Irish misery, he came to Ireland; and after collecting a great deal of information relating to the condition of the people, and care. fully examining a great portion of the country, principally in the counties of Galway and Mayo, he finally made up his mind to become a settler, and to make Erin his adopted land. This work is the more valuable as it shows

. The Report of Lord Devon's Commission contains, many examples of twenty, thirty, and even forty years' purchase value having been paid o the tenant for e

merely the “ good-will,” or tenant-right of a farm, unsecured by a - Considerably less than this will now give the same parties an indefea

legal title.

ase, or by any

sible right and title to the fee-simple of the same lands for ever. + ... The saxon in Ireland; or the Rambles of an Englishman in Search of a Set

tlement in the West of Ireland."

London: John Murray.


the process through which, little by little, his national prejudices against us were gradually undermined, and gave way, at last, to the conviction, that both the people and the country possessed, in themselves, the germ of renovation. It appeared self-evident to him, that we could not remain stationary ; that a propinquity to the fervent activity of England could not fail to animate Ireland with her own leaven ; and that “that spirit of enterprise, which had already converted so many far distant deserts of the earth into smiling and prosperous colonies, could and would not suffer one of the loveliest and most fertile islands of the world, only a few hours' distance from her own shores, to remain a mere waste, inhabited as it was by a hardy, intelligent, but degraded popu. lation.” The peculiar circumstances, too, under which this resolution was formed will also add much weight to his statements. We can collect from passages scattered through the volume, that after passing the meridian of life he found that his career must be commenced again ; that the happy, joyous home of many years must be deserted. Enactments hastily carried into effect, and principles which, under Providence, had created England's power and prosperity, hastily abandoned without sufficient grounds, and merely on the chance of something better, had involved him in the difficulties that have overwhelmed the entire agricultural classes. After bravely contending against inevitable results, he felt it was madness to continue hoping against hope; but he did not despair. He de. termined to emigrate, and to endure, with fortitude, all the discomforts and privations of an emigrant's life. “Were stern realities,” he was reminded, "better known, many would pause and consider well ere they thus expatriated themselves. Once embarked, once arrived in the distant settlement, they have but one alternative, to make the best of it. It is not easy to retrace a course of a thousand miles." Fully impressed with the force of this reason. ing, he wisely determined not to make his selection till after the fullest consideration of the subject. New Zealand, Australia, icy Canada, and the burning Cape, all engrossed his attention ; each in iurn appeared to oppose insuperable obstacles. At last, in a fortunate hour, he was recommended to examine

Ireland, and the result is best told in his own words :

“I do not hesitate to confess, that Ireland, in the fertility of its soil, the kindness and hospitality of its people, and the beauty of its scenery, has far surpassed my expectations. I am decidedly of opinion, too, that fortune, respectability, and happiness, may be found even there...: Let a few English families cluster together, purchase, or take on lease estates in the same neigh. bourhood, hold together, mutually as. sisting each other, keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace,'as the Apostle advises, acting kindly and justly to the inhabitants, eschewing politics, not meddling with the religion of others, but quietly practising their own; I repeat, let emigrant families act thus, and

, for one, would prefer green Erin as a settlement to any country on the globe. And why not? Are sensible men to be scared with the interested exagge. rations of unpatriotic speakers and writers, who would gladly drive indus. try and civilization from their native shores in order to serve their own purposes ? Are the Irish worse than John Heki, and other native chiefs ? or, are they more relentless than the Caffres, or the Red Indians, or the Cannibals of North Australia? In nine cases out of ten, their crimes, deep and fearful as they are, have sprung from the sense of injury, and from the heartless system under which they live, or rather, under which they starve. These days of injustice and crime are passing, though slowly, away, and the time is approaching when Ireland must and will be in the strictest union with her sister island; when the same laws, the same usages, the same language, the same feelings will prevail in both.... As yet, the Englishman lingers, hesitates, hugs his oid prejudices; but the bolder few are already at work. They are silently, and most advantageously, purchasing lands and houses ; they see the horizon clearing away after the long storm ; and they and their descendants will, no doubt, reap a plenteous harvest. Gradually others will follow, till, I verily believe, Ireland will be the fashion, as Scotland has lately been, and everybody rushing that way will wonder why they delayed so long."

In connexion with this subject the last Report of the Incumbered Estates' Commissioners is somewhat gratifying. It appears by it that property to the amount of £160,000 has been already purchased in Henrietta-street by English and Scotch parties (about thirty

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »