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reference to the nature of the general food of the country at present, about which so much is said, I mean the potatoe, let this suffice-the food of the native Irish was principally, if not exclusively, vegetable, long before the potatoe was known in Europe. Nay, in almost the first glimpses we have of them, they are represented to us as herbaceous, monpäɣoi, for such is the expression of Solinus. So they continue to be described by Spenser', and Hollingshed', and Camden: the latter says, "as for their meats, they feed willingly upon herbs and watercresses, especially upon mushrooms, shamroots, and roots"." The exchange, therefore, of the potatoe, which is all but bread in nutritiousness, greatly exceeding it in palatableness, and affording a vaster and far more certain supply for the plants on which they before principally subsisted, is one of the many changes brought about by an enlarging population, which none, I think, can deny is of a most gratifying character.
(2.) But not to annoy, unnecessarily, the opposers of population, by any further allusions to this root, let us confine our further inquiries to better fare. And, first, has the production of corn kept pace with the increase of the population? In answering this query, let the number of inhabitants, at each of the periods referred to, be still kept in recollection, and I think the selfish and cruel system will receive its death-blow, in the very scene where it meditates its triumph.
State of Ireland, Works, vol. vi. p.
• Hollingshed, vol. v. p. 185; vol. vi. p. 67.
3 Camden, Ireland, p. 147, folio, 1637.
In the seventeenth century, Ireland imported grain'. But not to dwell on generalities, and to present the reader with definite views of this important fact. Referring, first, to a period, when the condition of Ireland, which has been already described, was at least as deplorable as it can have been at any subsequent period of tranquillity, namely, a century ago, we shall find that grain, as well as other of the necessaries of life, were imported in large quantities. The average amounts of what Dobbs classes under the heads of imports for meat and drink, and materials for drinking, (including medicine) was £344,550, annually. Some exports of grain of different kinds, he notices, there then were, but not such as by any means to balance the imports. This sum was on the average of eight years, ending 1726, and consequently exclusive of the years of scarcity previously alluded to, when we are informed there were to the amount of from £100,000 to £200,000, in grain only, brought in. But to present the amount of these imports in ordinary years, and to contrast them with the exports of Ireland, at the period of the last census, 1821, and accompanying the statement with the number of inhabitants at each period, the following are the important facts:
Newenham, Statistical Inquiry, p. 7.
* Dobbs, Essay on the Trade, &c. of Ireland, p. 25.
On an average of 6 years, ending 1725.
Population, 2,300,000; or, 71 on a Population, 6,801,827; or, 211 on a
Total value of imports at prices of 1821. Š
Here, then, we see demonstrated the important political problem, whether population has a natural tendency to increase faster than food, or otherwise. When Ireland, in 1725, only numbered seventy-one inhabitants on a square mile, she imported grain, in ordinary times, to the amount of twenty or thirty thousand quarters annually2; but, when her population, on the same space, became trebled, she not only (of necessity) subsisted that number, and certainly not worse than at the former period, but actually exported a surplus of much above a million quarters3!
(3.) Should it be said that Ireland was, in the former period, a grazing country, in consequence of the impediments which landlords threw in the way of tillage, on whose impolicy and cruelty Archbishop Boulter dwells very feelingly in many of his letters*,
'Dobbs, Essay on the Trade, &c. of Ireland, p. 25.
2 Public Accounts.
Boulter, Letters, vol. i. pp. 223, 241, &c.
till the evil was at length partly remedied by a legislative interference, the consequence of which was a vast increase of the products in question; I shall not argue this point, but betake myself to the produce of the pasturage of the country, (which, of course, must have been proportionably checked,) in order to discover whether there is a tendency in population to exceed even these means of human subsistence, which confessedly take the largest proportion of surface, and the best soils to produce them. This second inquiry I shall determine in precisely the same manner as before. Ireland certainly exported cattle, and very largely, at the former period; they constituted the bulk of her returns: has, then, the vast augmentation in the population, since that time, diminished, or rather annihilated, that export, and "absorbed" (to use the favourite word of the day) the surplus produce of the country, as it regards this species of human food? The following facts will best answer that
Value of the Produce of Cattle and Sheep exported on the average of Eight Years, ending
Population, 2,300,000, or 71 on each Square Mile.
Total average value, £623,177.,
Value of the Produce of Cattle and Sheep exported in 1821.
Population, 6,801,827, or 211 on each Square Mile.
Total value, £3,705,993.2
Dobbs, Essay on the Trade and Improvement of Ireland, p. 17. Public Accounts.
The argument might be minutely pursued through the intervening period, but it is unnecessary: it is singular enough, however, to observe, that midway between these two dates (1777), the population having considerably advanced, there was nearly a balance between the imports and exports of grain, or, in other words, Ireland about grew its own bread'. Since, then, the population has rather more than doubled, how has the constant tendency, which our theorists perpetually assert, been manifested? By sextupling the agricultural produce 2.
With such facts as the preceding tables exhibit, recorded in the statistical annals of the empire, and which are, and long have been, published to the world, certainly the fatuity, not to say mendacity, of these constant appeals to Ireland in proof that population naturally multiplies more rapidly than the means of subsistence, is without parallel. I challenge any one to add anything in the way of illustration to the broad and glaring absurdity which such a principle exhibits, as applied to Ireland. Let our political economists concede to a plain man of ordinary capacity that sound judgment in human affairs, which Archbishop Tillotson claims for such an one, even on the more mysterious truths of religion -a judgment which, whether they concede to him or not, he most certainly possesses; and let him be told the foregoing facts regarding Ireland :-that, a century ago, the population, then being but a little more than two millions, could not supply itself with grain; but
'Young, Tour in Ireland, pp. 2, 86.
⚫ Colquhoun; Wealth, Power, and Resources of the Empire, p. 14, note.