Obrazy na stronie

point, and one of such a character as, I trust, will fully satisfy him upon it. Referring to the population of Ireland a century ago, and to the entire letters of the Lord Primate and Justice, Archbishop Boulter, for a full description of its actual condition at that period, I shall make but one or two extracts from him at present. "If our crop fails," says the Archbishop, "or yields indifferently, our poor have not money to buy bread. This was the case in 1725, and last year; and, without a prodigious crop, will be more so this year. When I went my visitation last year, barley, in some inland places, sold at six shillings the bushel, to make bread of; and oatmeal, the bread of the north, sold for twice or thrice its usual price. We met all the roads full of whole families that had left their homes to beg abroad, since their neighbours had nothing to relieve them with. And as the winter subsistence of the poor is chiefly potatoes, this scarcity drove the poor to begin with their potatoes before they were full grown, so that they have lost half the benefit of them, and have spent their stock two months sooner than usual; and oatmeal is, at this distance from harvest, in many parts of the kingdom, three times the customary price so that this summer will be more fatal to us than the last, when, I fear, MANY HUNDREDS PERISHED OF FAMINE1!" We find, by a subsequent letter of the same writer, that the calamity still continued, so he states, under date May, 1728. Nay, after another harvest, namely, in the November fol

Archbishop Boulter's Letters, vol. i. p. 222.
Ibid. vol. i. p. 241.

lowing, he thus writes to the Duke of Newcastle: "I am sorry I am obliged to give your Grace so melancholy an account of the state of this kingdom as I shall in this letter, but I thought it my duty to let his Majesty know our condition." He then describes the dearness of provisions, and the universal distress which prevailed, and adds further information, to which I shall hereafter advert. In one word, such was the state of Ireland, that he represents the people as "suffering little less than a famine every other year1." It is almost unnecessary for me to remark, that, under these emergencies, general subscriptions were resorted to, and issues of the public money made from time to time, as on a late occasion.

In dwelling on the condition of Ireland a century ago, I have not selected that period as the only one suitable to my argument: the whole of its past history is illustrative of it. As to dearths and famines being proof of an over-population, the supposition is equally absurd when applied to Ireland, as it would be in reference to all other countries. The calamities just mentioned were, as already remarked, no strange events in the past history of the island, nor did they cease with those memorable years. As soon afterwards as the years 1740 and 1741, the horrors of scarcity again returned, and thousands of the poor people are said to have perished through absolute want. There were then, however, at least fifty acres of land to each family throughout the whole island, supposing every soul had been an agriculturist.

2 Ibid.


Archbishop Boulter's Letters, vol. i. p. 241.

' Commercial Restraints, p. 47. Smith's Kerry, p. 77.

Again, in 1757, a period of great misery must have ensued; the lord-lieutenant obtaining the king's letter, dated March 31, 1757, for £20,000, to be expended in such manner as was most likely to relieve the suffering people'. Again, in 1765, the crop of potatoes failed throughout the whole country; so also had that of the spring corn, and the price of grain became so high that the most alarming consequences followed, the people being every where reduced to a state of the utmost distress. The following year the suffering so increased, that money was issued from the treasury to purchase grain'. In 1770 and 1771, scarcity and high prices again returned, and produced most distressing consequences3. At this period there were more than forty acres of land to every family in the country.

Having thus brought the argument down to within about half a century of the present time, and exa-' mined the previous period of about an equal duration, I shall now challenge those who resolve the scarcities of Ireland into a redundant population, to take it v from thence, and continue it to the present time: I will give them all the advantage of the calamities which the general rebellion occasioned, and even those which the spread and increase of absenteeism inflicts, and still abide by the result. We have seen, in less than half a century in the former period, eleven years of what such would, if it suited their argument, denominate famine; the highest population little exceeding two millions and an half: let them show us, from thence Commercial Restraints, p. 60.

2 Ibid. p. 76, 77. Wakefield, vol. ii. p. 10.
3 Ibid.

to this time, when the inhabitants have accumulated to nearly seven millions, anything approaching to this state of things, and I will concede that they understand the principle of population and its effects better than Providence. But, with the " oracular solemnity of the raven of the tribe," they still portentously repeat, "Population! population!" As to the modern specific, deportation, now the grand scheme of our modern theorists, to that the people resorted themselves, and in numbers which awakened the strongest regrets for his country in the patriotic prelate already quoted, and many others in those days. In this reference, however, I am forestalling a future branch of my argument. But it is a fact that may be repeated, while the cry of emigration is ringing in our ears, that a still greater number of that unhappy people in proportion to the entire population, had then to abandon their ancient homes, and seek an uncertain subsistence in distant climes and countries, than it is proposed to send on that errand at present. So redundant have they always been in every period of their history!

(4.) And lastly, as to the frequent recurrence of epidemics. "The probability and fatality of these," it is declared, "are rendered considerably greater, as a population increases, nearly to the utmost limits of food':" limits, however, which no nation upon earth ever approached, and no man upon earth ever calculated to attempt it even, is much more likely to expose the limits of a man's understanding than those of the Divine Benevolence. It has been shown that, ' Malthus, p. 18, 4to.

as it respects the world at large, epidemics have diminished greatly in frequency and fatality as numbers have increased; nor is Ireland, notwithstanding the present appeal, an exception. Unhappily circumstanced as that country is, still none of its sufferings can be dragged up as unwilling witnesses against its population, and this least of any. Again commencing with the first period of the table, the following brief account, in which much is necessarily omitted, will show whether the epidemics of Ireland can be attributed to its large population.

Sir William Temple, who lived in that period, informs us, that "hundreds of thousands of the population of Ireland were periodically swept off by the plague1;" meaning, as it is believed, that epidemical fever, which we learn, from the best medical authority, was common to the country during the seventeenth century. But to particularise some of these, which we are enabled to do, notwithstanding the information on such subjects is, as it respects Ireland, especially at these periods, confessedly scanty. In 1684, a very severe epidemic occurred3. Four years afterwards it again made its appearance*. About the year 1708 a similar calamity was again general; and it returned after a much shorter interval than before, and raged in the years 1718, 1719, 1720, and 1721; for it is a lamentable fact, that the fevers of Ireland, especially those of the earlier periods alluded to, seldom sub

1 Temple, Works, vol. iii. p. 7.

Dr. Boate, Nat. Hist. of Ireland; quoted in Drs. Baker and Cheyne, vol. i. p. 2.

3 Webster on Epidemics, vol. i. p. 353.

Dr. Short, Hist. of Air and Seasons, vol. i. p. 268.

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