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many subsisting in a state of actual beggary. Our "common people," says Dobbs, a friend of Archbishop Boulter, and certainly the best versed in the general condition, of Ireland, of any man of his day, our common people are very poorly clothed, go barelegged half the year, and very rarely taste of that flesh meat, with which we so much abound; but are pinched in every article of life'." I refer to Archbishop Boulter's letters for a full account of the distresses of the Irish people at this period; and will content myself with a general description of them in the words of one more competent witness, Swift. "Whatever stranger took a journey amongst us," says he, "would be apt to think himself travelling in Lapland or Iceland, rather than a country so favoured by nature as ours, both in fruitfulness of soil and temperature of climate. The miserable dress, and diet, and dwelling of the people; the general desolation in most parts of the kingdom; the old seats of the nobility and gentry in ruins, and no new ones in their stead; the families of the farmers, who pay great rents, living in filth and nastiness, upon butter-milk and potatoes, without a shoe or stocking to their feet, or a house so convenient as an English hog-stie to receive them";" these, he says, are the comfortable sights which await an absentee, who may be induced to travel for once amongst them, to learn their language;" or, as at present, to make a book, and talk patriotically, on his return.
The description may be brought down to a later
1 List of Absentees, p. 32.
2 Swift, Short View of the State of Ireland; Works, vol. vi. pp. 157, 158.
period by-and-bye; in the mean time, I would ask whether this state of things was then owing to redundant and excessive numbers, in relation to the means of subsistence which nature had provided?
(2.) Secondly: as to the numbers at present out of employment. This seems a main argument now-a-days, in proof of a redundant population in Ireland, and, indeed, throughout the whole empire, if not every where else, as far as I understand our anti-populationists. But a more absurd one, when urged distinctly from all other considerations, as it usually is, cannot well be imagined, or one which would, if true, be more destructive of the whole social system. How can it be imagined that, if the labours of five millions of human beings are necessary to each other, the labours of ten millions should be otherwise? I have elsewhere shown, from the very nature of things and the experience of mankind, they would become, in the latter case, in a higher degree mutually essential. To appeal to the difficulty of subsisting the larger number, vacates the foundation of the present argument,-only, however, to place it on grounds quite as untenable, as has been already seen, and will be still further proved..
But, to take no exceptions against the argument, as it is put, let us examine how it will prove the present evils of Ireland, in this respect, to proceed from redundant numbers.
In the former of the periods previously adverted to, Sir William Petty assures us that the people of Ireland are not one-fifth employed'! Elsewhere, he
'Petty, Polit. Anat. of Ireland; Tracts, p. 366.
says, those who were employed were very partially So. Bad as the state of Ireland now confessedly is in this respect, still it may be asked, do only about thirteen hundred thousand persons depend upon labour, and near five millions and a half eat the bread of total idleness? The late census is a sufficient answer to this question. Just in proportion as this ratio is altered for the better, just so much has the increase of the population of Ireland encouraged the better demand for labour amongst its inhabitants.
Nor are we to run away with the idea that a paucity of people is favourable to the manufacturing interests of a country. Dobbs, a century ago, said, "Our weavers are starving for want of employment':" they could not then have been too thick upon the ground, for the population of Ulster was not a fourth of what it is at present. Half a century afterwards, the inhabitants not being estimated at half their present number, though corn was then abundant, the manufacturers were so totally unemployed, as not to be able to purchase it, and thousands of them were supported by the liberality of the public. The farmers, in equal distress, were in many places unable to pay their rents, and were every where involved in difficulties2.
Perhaps the inadequate remuneration of labour ought in fairness to have been added to the argument I am opposing. That this evil existed in the former periods alluded to, in a still greater degree, even than
1 Prior, List of Absentees, p. 68.
* Wakefield's Account, &c., vol. ii. p. 10.
it does at present, I will not insult the reader's intelligence by further proving. The preceding statements render this conclusion inevitable, and the fact is recorded in every authentic account of Ireland which I have ever opened.
I cannot, however, dismiss this part of the inquiry without noticing the unfairness with which Ireland, in all possible respects, has been treated by our modern economists. It is the misfortune of the Irish not to be able to afford themselves any thing more palatable than potatoes; this is charged upon them as an evidence of their voluntary barbarism: they cannot obtain labour, (for reasons which will be presently pointed out,)-this is to brand them with the crime of idleness. It is false! In our harvest fields, or before our furnaces; in the bowels of the earth, or on the loftiest buildings, wherever labour can be obtained, no matter how dangerous or severe,there are the Irish. The same is precisely the fact across the Atlantic; and yet their misery, according to many, is attributable to their indolence. "Ye are idle, ye are idle,' answered Pharaoh to the Israelites, when they complained to his majesty that they were forced to make bricks without straw1." The writers, however, to whom I have alluded, made no charges so absurdly false. Sir William Petty attributed their "lazing, to want of employment and encouragement to work" and we still find them, on the authority of official reports, when idle, idle
' Swift, Short View of Ireland; Works, vol. vi. p. 160. See also vol. iii. p. 414.
Petty, Polit. Anat. of Ireland; Tracts, p. 366.
only from necessity; being "extremely anxious for employment, and as grateful for it."
(3.) Next, as to the scarcities in Ireland being a proof of superfluous numbers. We must deal with this precisely as with the former arguments. We know it as a fact, that these not only returned far more frequently in former times, when the population was extremely scanty, but that they continued much longer than they do at present. To commence as before, with the first period mentioned in the table : we learn, on the authority of Sir William Temple, that," notwithstanding the great fertility of that island, years of scarcity amounting to famine frequently occurred." According to Mr. Newenham, between the years 1641 and 1652, flour had risen above four hundred per cent3. Indeed the general parsimony and want in which the Irish then subsisted, we should take to be a perpetual dearth; their condition, it is true, fluctuated like that of all other people, whatever be the size of their territory, whatever the number of the inhabitants. But, just to convince the reader that these recurring periods of scarcity are not peculiar to the present times, but that they were much severer in Ireland, as I have already shown to have been the case in all other countries*, when the population was the scantiest, I will quote one author only, from the many that dwell upon this
Report on the State of Ireland, part iv. p. 619. Evidence before the Lords, p. 428-" They are the most anxious people in the world to get labour."
* Sir William Temple, Works, vol. iii. p. 7.
Newenham, Statistical Inquiry, &c. p. 8.
Vide Treatise on the Law of Population, about to be published, book ii. ch. 5.