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other hand, let the poor labour to provide things honest in the sight of all men; and so, with diligence in their several employments, live soberly, righteously, and godlily, in this present world, that they may obtain that glorious reward promised in the gospel to the poor, I mean the kingdom of heaven.
Now to God the Father, &c.
ON THE CAUSES OF THE
WRETCHED CONDITION OF IRELAND.*
PSALM CXliv. 13, 14
That there be no complaining in our streets. Happy is the people that is in such a case.
Ir is a very melancholy reflection, that such a country as ours, which is capable of producing all things necessary, and most things convenient for life, sufficient for the support of four times the number of its inhabitants, should yet lie under the heaviest load of misery and want; our streets crowded with beggars, so many of our lower sort of tradesmen, labourers, and artificers, not able to find clothes and food for their families.
I think it may therefore be of some use to lay
*This is not very properly styled a sermon; but, considered as a political dissertation, it has great merit, and it is highly worthy of the subject, and the author. Most of the circumstances here founded upon, as the causes of national distress, are the subject of separate disquisitions in those political writings connected with Ireland. But they are here summed up, and brought into one view, and the opinions expressed form a sort of index to the Dean's tenets upon the state of that country.
before you the chief causes of this wretched condition we are in, and then it will be easier to assign what remedies are in our power, toward removing at least some part of these evils.
For, it is ever to be lamented, that we lie under many disadvantages, not by our own faults, which are peculiar to ourselves, and of which no other nation under heaven hath any reason to complain.
I shall, therefore, first mention some causes of our miseries, which I doubt are not to be remedied, until God shall put it in the hearts of those who are the stronger, to allow us the common rights and privileges of brethren, fellow-subjects, and even of mankind.
The first cause of our misery is, the intolerable hardships we lie under in every branch of trade, by which we are become as hewers of wood and drawers of water, to our rigorous neighbours.
The second cause of our miserable state is, the folly, the vanity, and ingratitude, of those vast numbers, who think themselves too good to live in the country which gave them birth, and still gives them bread; and rather choose to pass their days, and consume their wealth, and draw out the very vitals of their mother kingdom, among those who heartily despise them.
These I have but lightly touched on, because I fear they are not to be redressed, and besides, I am very sensible how ready some people are to take offence at the honest truth; and for that reason, I shall omit several other grievances, under which we are long likely to groan.
I shall therefore go on to relate some other causes of this nation's poverty, by which, if they
continue much longer, it must infallibly sink to utter ruin.
The first is, that monstrous pride and vanity in both sexes, especially the weaker sex, who, in the midst of poverty, are suffered to run into all kind of expense, and extravagance in dress, and particularly priding themselves to wear nothing but what cometh from abroad, disdaining the growth or manufacture of their own country, in those articles with which they can be better served at home at half the expense; and this is grown to such a height, that they will carry the whole yearly rent of a good estate at once on their body. And as there is in that sex a spirit of envy, by which they cannot endure to see others in a better habit than themselves, so those, whose fortunes can hardly support their families in the necessaries of life, will needs vie with the richest and greatest among us, to the ruin of themselves and their posterity.
Neither are the men less guilty of this pernicious folly, who, in imitation of a gaudiness and foppery of dress, introduced of late years into our neighbouring kingdom, (as fools are apt to imitate only the defects of their betters) cannot find materials in their own country worthy to adorn their bodies of clay, while their minds are naked of every valuable quality.
Thus our tradesmen and shopkeepers, who deal in home goods, are left in a starving condition, and only those encouraged who ruin the kingdom by importing among us foreign vanities.
Another cause of our low condition is, our great luxury; the chief support of which is, the materials of it brought to the nation in exchange for the few valuable things left us, whereby so
many thousand families want the very necessaries of life.
Thirdly, In most parts of this kingdom the natives are, from their infancy, so given up to idleness and sloth, that they often choose to beg or steal, rather than support themselves with their own labour; they marry without the least view or thought of being able to make any provision for their families: and whereas, in all industrious nations, children are looked on as a help to their parents; with us, for want of being early trained to work, they are an intolerable burden at home, and a grievous charge upon the public: as appeareth from the vast number of ragged and naked children in town and country, led about by strolling women, trained up in ignorance, and all manner of vice.
Lastly, A great cause of this nation's misery is, that Egyptian bondage of cruel, oppressing, covetous landlords; expecting that all who live under them should make bricks without straw; who grieve and envy when they see a tenant of their own in a whole coat, or able to afford one comfortable meal in a month; by which the spirits of the people are broken, and made fit for slavery: the farmers and cottagers, almost through the whole kingdom, being, to all intents and purposes, as real beggars, as any of those to whom we give our charity in the streets. And these cruel landlords are every day unpeopling the kingdom, by forbidding their miserable tenants to till the earth, against common reason and justice, and contrary to the practice and prudence of all other nations; by which, numberless families have been forced either to leave the kingdom, or stroll about, and increase the number of our thieves and beggars.