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that plea, £30,882 only of which was expended for articles of subsistence, and £9,374 more in potatoes for seed; the remainder being distributed in money," (much of which doubtless found its way into the pockets of the absentee landlords,) "Ireland exported articles of subsistence, alone, to no less an amount (at the very reduced value of that year) than £4,518,832; and, in the three years, 1821, 1822, and 1823, to the enormous amount of upwards of sixteen millions; whilst nearly the whole of the remaining exports, to the amount of upwards of ten millions more, in those three years, were composed of the products of the Irish soil1." Whether the immense quantity of cured provisions which Ireland supplies, in her own ports, to the royal navy, as well as the merchant shipping of this vast maritime empire, has to be added to these enormous amounts, I have not ascertained, nor is it necessary; the argument is abundantly triumphant either way.
In the face, then, of such facts as these, the hardihood of attributing the misery of Ireland to a population redundant and excessive, in reference to the means of subsistence there produced, and of the appeal constantly made to that country in proof of the principle of population, as now explained, is certainly without parallel.
No further proofs seem necessary upon a point absolutely incontrovertible; I therefore conclude, that if Ireland, at the present moment, only partially and imperfectly cultivated, far more than sustains its inhabitants, the appeal to that country in proof of the evil Statistical Illustrations, p. 60.
principle of population, which multiplies mankind faster than, and beyond, the means of their subsistence, is at once disposed of, especially with those who regard human institutions so light in the scale by which the individual shares are apportioned and distributed.
But, on so important a topic, practically speaking, as the population of Ireland, on which a fallacious principle, dictating a policy equally cruel and absurd, affects the welfare of millions of human beings, and even the existence of multitudes, a little prolixity stands in need of no excuse. I shall therefore attempt to demolish the very remains of an argument, which, I think, has been already completely shaken. And this I shall do by shortly considering the proofs by which it pretends to be supported; each of which a very little attention will disengage from the cause they are advanced to support, converting them, like all faithless auxiliaries, into its most formidable enemies.
§ III. (1.) As far as I have been able to gather the opinions of those who speak the most confidently as to an excessive population in Ireland, and are the loudest in demanding repressive measures in reference to it, they advance, in favour of their supposition, the following reasons:
1. The wretchedness and degradation of the people. 2. Their want of employment.
3. The frequent return of scarcities.
4. The prevalence of epidemics.
These symptoms, indeed, we are instructed to believe, constitute every where the leading ones in the
diagnosis of the inveterate, hereditary disease of the human family, a plethory of numbers; and clearly indicate the treatment required'.
But what will become of these proofs, or rather of the argument, they are meant to support, when it is seen that they existed to at least an equal degree, when, according to every possible view of the subject, Ireland suffered from a contrary extreme, namely, from a paucity of people? In showing that such was the case, a vast body of evidence is at hand, sufficient, indeed, to swell this inquiry into ten times its present size. I shall, however, limit myself to one or two authorities on each point, and refer those who may be dissatisfied with them, to the entire history of that country, which is, unhappily, almost exclusively made up of them.
Commencing with the first period of the preceding table, viz. 1672, when the population was calculated at little above a million, or, as since corrected, amounting to about 1,320,000; none, I think, will care to assert that Ireland was then, at any rate, overpeopled, either in reference to its fertility or the population of surrounding nations. With a soil of surpassing fertility, and only about forty individuals on a square mile, the idea of excessive numbers would have been a farce; it was a farce, however, which never entered into any one's head in those days. But the wretchedness of the inhabitants was more conspicuous then, when there was not a fifth of their present number, than it is even at present. In proof of this, I appeal to the authority of one who had, probably, better Malthus, Essay on Population, book i. c. 2.
means of forming an accurate judgment on the subject, and greater abilities in availing himself of them, than most of those numerous writers who have since adverted to it, I mean Sir William Petty. For a description of the abject condition of the country at that period, I refer to his entire works, especially his "Anatomy of Ireland," where its situation is minutely described; and in giving a few quotations from him, I cannot but remark that the condition of the bulk of the inhabitants, to have made so strong an impression upon him, when that of the same class in all countries was so wretchedly inferior to what it is at present, must have been miserable in the extreme. The houses of the commonalty of a country are always amongst the most obvious criteria of their condition, and these he thus describes: "lamentable sties1;" "wretched cabins," "such as themselves could make in three or four days3;" not worth five shillings the building, the filth and stenches of which he fully explains, and which may be imagined without quoting him. So that their habitations had not much improved since the time of Edmund Spenser, who calls them "sties rather than houses, which were the chiefest cause of the farmer's so beastly manner of life and savage condition, lying and living together with his beast, in one house, in one room, in one bed, that is clean straw, or rather a foul dunghill "." But to return to Sir William: the proportion of such houses as these, if they may be so called, he thus gives: "160,000," says he, "out of the 200,000 houses of
Petty, Polit. Anat. of Ireland; Tracts, P. 10. • Ibid. p. 327. 3 Ibid. p. 351. Ibid. p. 351. Spenser, View of Ireland; Works, vol. vi. p. 134.
Ireland, are wretched cabins, without chimney, window, or door shut, even worse than those of the savages of America'." As to their houses, therefore, at that period, they were certainly no better than they are now, that "driving," or "clearing" landlords think they can only be purified by fire and destruction. As to building them fresh ones, that they never dream of; contrary to the practice of almost all other countries under the sun, the Irish cultivator has almost universally to provide house and buildings'; the proprietor can, therefore, destroy them at pleasure, and without detriment to himself.
Their food at this period, it is hardly necessary to state, corresponded in wretchedness with their dwellings. We have it on the same authority, that it consisted of "cakes, whereof a penny serves a week for each; potatoes from August till May: mussels, cockles, and oysters, near the sea: eggs and butter, made very rancid by keeping in bogs. As for flesh, they seldom eat it." In a word, the "vice du pays," to use an expression of Mr. Malthus's old Swiss friend, then existed in full vigour; "they can content themselves," says Petty, "with potatoes *.”
Half a century afterwards, when the population of Ireland, though increased, was still very thin, being, at the most, little above seventy on the square mile, we learn that the wretchedness of the people was but little abated, its cause not having been removed. We still find them living miserably, in their cabins 5, and
Petty, Polit. Anat. of Ireland; Tracts, p. 379. "Wakefield's Ireland. Rt. Hon. C. Grant's Speech, 22 April, 1822. Petty, Anat. of Ireland; Tracts, p.355. ▲ Ibid. p. 366.
5 Prior's List of the Absentees, p. 91.