Front Page Titles (by Subject) WHAT IS TO BE DONE WITH IRELAND? 1848? - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume VI - Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire
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WHAT IS TO BE DONE WITH IRELAND? 1848? - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume VI - Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume VI - Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by Joseph Hamburger (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982).
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WHAT IS TO BE DONE WITH IRELAND?
Holograph MS, Walpole Collection, King’s School, Canterbury. Not signed, but in Mill’s hand. Not published, and therefore not listed in Mill’s bibliography of his published writings. Dated on internal evidence. For a description of the MS, and comment on it, see lx-lxi and lxiii above.
Harriet Taylor’s suggested revisions are indicated in pencil on the MS; these are given in footnotes, keyed by superscript letters, and identified as hers by the initials “HTM” (though, if the dating is correct, she was not yet married to Mill; this use conforms to that in other volumes of the Collected Works, and distinguishes her from her daughter, Helen Taylor). Where Mill’s cancellations (made currently, before HTM’s revisions were indicated) relate to her suggestions, these are indicated and identified as his by “JSM.”
What Is to Be Done with Ireland?
there are advisers who have a ready answer. aYou havea conquered; they say bto the Governmentb . There is nothing to resist cyou. Yourc power has been tried, and found adequate. dYoud are strong enough to tyrannize: etherefore tyrannizee . Make no pretence of a free press, or public meetings, or jury trial, or regular courts of justice. Govern by the sword. Trample out the last spark of freedom in the country. Place Ireland permanently in a “state of siege”.[*] Agitation, demagoguism, is the real evil of Ireland. Put an end to it. Moral force is as bad as physical. Let neither of them any longer be tolerated. Stop the mouth of Ireland as well as tie her hands.
These fsuggestionsf are worth glistening to,g as an instance hhow far the force of impudence can goh . It would be unjust either to the present ministers or to any who iarei likely to succeed them, to suppose them capable of acting on advice of this complexion. Yet this is at least a plan, though a detestable one. It is true, there is no great expenditure of ingenuity in it. Simple, straightforward military despotism is the vulgarest and least recondite of political conceptions. Still, those who recoil from this expedient ought to jhavej some other. The condition of Ireland is not a thing which can be dealt with by people who do not know what ends they are aiming at.
Open, armed resistance to government has been suppressed. It would k be more correct to say, that none has been attempted. There has been abundance of talking about an insurrection, but none of the reality. The military operations of Mr. Smith O’Brien have been about as much a rebellion as the Boulogne expedition of Louis Napoleon was an invasion. There has been all possible inclination to rise, but no rising. And most of the individuals who attempted a rising, or who called on the people to rise, having fallen into the hands of the authorities, there will be no great difficulty in preventing any such attempts or instigations for some time to come. If that be the sole end of government, it is for the present attained. A people, in the utmost state of exasperation against the government short of that which would make them rush upon fixed bayonets, will be prevented, by those bayonets, for an indefinite period, from forcibly expelling or overthrowing the rulers whom they detest.
But this is not what will satisfy anybody as a permanent state. To get rid of the exasperation, by some means, must be the intention of everybody. Will it be enough, for this purpose, to repress by violence the outward signs of the feeling? or is it desired to get rid of the cause?
The cause of Irish disaffection is not demagogism. It is no creation of Mr. O’Connell or of Mr. Mitchell. These, and such as these, are the more or less able and active, and skilful organs of dissatisfaction, who by giving energetic expression to the general feeling, stimulate it into activity, and make it outwardly powerful, but do not create it where it is not. The causes of Irish disaffection are many and various; the greatest of them being, that several millions of the Irish people having nothing to support them but potatoes and for two or three months of every year not enough of those, even when the crop has not failed; all the remainder of what the land produces, be that remainder great or small, being taken, under the name of rent, by about eight thousand persons. If these several millions of Irish are dissatisfied under this kind of arrangement, it must be acknowledged that they have something to be dissatisfied with.
We shall be told, of course, that this is no fault of the government or of the English nation, and no just ground of outcry against them. And those who say this, will mostly say it lin alll sincerity. Conscious that they themselves have no wish and that most people whom they know have no wish, that the Irish should be starved or tyrannized over for any English purposes, but would even give something in a time of famine to keep them from starving, and have done so, mverym largely and liberally less than two years ago, for which bounty they have nby no meansn received the thanks which their intentions deserved, they think it mere calumny to impute, in any degree, Ireland’s poverty and wretchedness to any fault of theirs. But what avails it that England now no longer grinds down the Irish from religious bigotry or manufacturing jealousy; that Ireland’s wretchedness and degradation are not the work, in the present generation at least, of England’s tyranny? They are the work of England’s ignorance, oof England’so prejudice, pof England’sp indifference; they are the effect of a vicious social system, upheld by England. They result from a radically wrong state of the most important social relation which exists in the country, that between the cultivators of the soil and the owners of it; that vicious state having been protected and perpetuated by a wrong and superstitious English notion of property in land.
It is qof no use saying,q that the fault is not in the laws of property or the customs relating to landed tenure, but in the people’s own laziness, their recklessness, their improvident multiplication, which would keep them in the same state of semistarvation, under any laws or customs whatever. This laziness, this recklessness, rthis improvident multiplication,r are themselves part and parcel of the evil of a bad social system;s are a principal portion of the case against it. A people may be lazy and improvident under any system, but they must be so under the customs as to occupation of land, which exist in Ireland. When land is let by competition, it may almost be said by auction to peasants cultivating for food and not for profit, then if those peasants are superabundant in numbers, their competition makes them engage for rents impossible to be paid; and the utmost that can be paid becomes the landlord’s by right, leaving the tenant still in debt to him. From that time no industry, temperance, or prudence can make the peasant better off; the landlord takes all. If here and there a peasant saves anything, he takes care that his farm shall shew no traces of it; he invests it in a distant savings bank, or hides it in the thatch of his cabin. On the other hand, no indolence, or improvident increase of numbers, makes him poorer: he and all his family are sure of potatoes while there are any on the farm, and if there is nothing left, it is the landlord’s loss, not his.
But what, it will be said, is the remedy? What, against such an evil, can the government do? Is the legislature to set aside the proprietary rights of the Irish landlords? By what means can those rights be respected, and yet a larger portion of the produce of the soil, and a more secure tenure, be bestowed on the cultivators?—The thing is not easy. Nobody pretends that it is. To extinguish a system by which, under the name of sanctions of property, the land with all that it produces exists for the sole benefit, it may fairly be said, of a handful of persons who neither by their labour, their skill, nor their accumulations contribute in any way to its productiveness, is difficult, consistently not merely with the claims of property, but without some infringement of its acknowledged rights. Two things however are certain: first, that the thing, although difficult, is not impossible: and secondly, that difficult or not, it tmusttbe done.uIf it cannot, government altogether, in Ireland,vis a failurev , and its foundations require to be broken up, and laid anew on some different plan. The social condition of Ireland, wonce for all, cannot be tolerated; it is an abomination in the sight of mankind.wu It must be further said, that the more difficult any one declares it to effect this indispensable transformation of the state of society in Ireland the further he goes towards excusing, at least as to intention, the Irish revolutionary party. The great and salutary change the accomplishment of which by regular legislation is found so arduous, the French Revolution actually accomplished. Before 1789 the peasantry of most of the provinces of France were even more destitute and miserable than Irish cottiers. By the revolution and its consequences, the property of a great part of the soil of France passed into the hands of the peasantry; and the result was the greatest change for the better in their condition, both physical and moral, of which, within a single generation, there is any record. The Irish leaders believed, thatx of such a change, or anything equivalent to it under English government, ythere was no chancey . They thought probably, that an Irish government might effect it, or at all events that an Irish revolution would: and that the value of the object was worth the risks of such a revolution. And who zwillz presume to say athat they were wrong in any of these anticipations? ora that they miscalculated anything except their chances of success?
[a-a]Government has [substituted by HTM]
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[d-d]it [incomplete revision by HTM]
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[[*] ]Cf. Louis Blanc, The History of Ten Years, 1830-1840, trans. Walter K. Kelly, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1848), Vol. II, p. 415.
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[h-h]how much of the worst spirit of Toryism is still extant [substituted by HTM]
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[x]there was no chance [added by HTM; JSM first wrote and then cancelled doubtless were convinced for believed in the previous clause]
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