Front Page Titles (by Subject) 310.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 13 OCT., 1846, P. 4 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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310.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 13 OCT., 1846, P. 4 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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THE CONDITION OF IRELAND 
For the first part of Mill’s discussion of cottier tenancy, see No. 309. For the context of the Irish series, see No. 306. This unheaded leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A fourth leading article on Irish affairs, in the Morning Chronicle of 13th October 1846”
(MacMinn, p. 60).
as no improvement in ireland, worthy of the name, is compatible with the cottier system—as all schemes of Irish regeneration, which are not the merest mockery of Irish evils, must propose some means of superseding and extirpating that form of tenancy—so neither have we been without suggestions, more or less systematic and matured, which have had this extirpation for their direct object. Two of these have excited much attention, and may be said to have deserved it, since, whatever other objections they are liable to, they would be, or might be, efficacious for their particular design. One of them has been more particularly an English scheme, the other an Irish. The one proposes to alter the agricultural economy of Ireland by means of the introduction of English capital; the other by establishing what has been called fixity of tenure. To begin with the first.
The cottier system, say some, has its origin in want of capital.1 The labourer must work out his subsistence for himself from the land, because there is no farmer with capital to pay him wages. For the same reason the land goes unimproved, the culture is slovenly, and the tools are of the rudest description. Ireland has no capital; and the disturbed state of Ireland prevents English capital from flowing in. England has superfluous wealth, which pours itself forth to every other part of the known and habitable earth. Ireland alone receives no share of this abounding overflow. Make Ireland tranquil, make life and property secure, and the spirit of enterprise, for which the world is not sufficiently wide, will no longer avoid one-third part, and that third the most fertile part, of the United Kingdom. But with capital comes employment for labour; with English farming, the social system of the English rural districts would come in; the cottier system would give way before another more enlightened, and more conducive to the interests of all; and in time Ireland, like prosperous England, would have her landlords, her farmers, and her labourers maintained by wages, instead of having only landlords, and labourers maintaining themselves by potato cultivation on little plots of earth.
There is nothing palpably absurd or impossible in this train of supposed consequences, and this plan was for many years the favourite dream of amateur English philanthropists who interested themselves for Ireland. It had the happy recommendation of holding up England and things English as the standard of excellence for all the world. In institutions and social arrangements comparatively little had then occurred to disturb on this point our habitual national self-complacency. The “English cottager” was in those days looked upon as that type of rustic felicity which he is even now held to be by those lady-travellers, and gentlemen-travellers also, who favour the world with printed narratives of their first continental tour. At that time there were not many people to whom the reflection occurred, that a population might be fed on wages and still be wretchedly ill off; nor was it doubted but that the self-indulgent, sans-souci Irish potato-digger would rush eagerly to change places with the anxious, care-worn, and not much better fed Dorsetshire labourer, the very instant that the blessed opportunity was afforded to him. Time and better knowledge have considerably modified the general opinion of England on this among many points.
But there is another reason which has contributed still more to bring into discredit the theory which looked for the cure of Irish economical evils from what was called the improvement of Irish agriculture. Improvement in the English sense, improvement by the more powerful instruments and processes of capitalist-farmers, though it raises a far greater net produce than the Irish system, yet from its very nature employs fewer hands. For a time, therefore, its sole tendency is to aggravate the evil which it is expected to cure. Its ultimate effects need not here be entered upon. We may grant that its increased efficiency and economy, the far greater ratio which its produce bears to the smaller quantity of labour employed, the large profits it yields, and the means and motives which it consequently holds out to accumulation, may in time enable the country to raise a larger gross produce, and to maintain, therefore, a larger population than could ever exist on the system of small holdings and peasant-farmers. This is one of the long disputed questions which political economists and practical agriculturists have not yet settled among themselves. Their opinions on the subject diverge, widely and with bigotry. But about the immediate effects there is not and cannot be any difference. The introduction of English farming is another word for the clearing system. It must begin by ejecting the peasantry of a tract of country from the land they occupy, and handing it over en bloc to a capitalist-farmer. The number of those whom he would require to retain as labourers would be far short of the number he displaced. What becomes of the remainder? The increased net produce of the land, when “improved,” may create a demand for more labour; but what is to be done in the meantime? And when the demand came, it would be in great part for manufacturing, not agricultural labour, to supply, not the necessities, but the comforts and luxuries of the affluent farmers. But Ireland has little besides agricultural labour, and the displaced cottiers are capable of no other. Compared with what we should then see, all we have yet seen of the clearing system and its horrors is a bagatelle. No one has seen the systematic unpeopling of estates on the scale necessary for introducing a system of farming by hired labour. What we have seen, and on a small number of estates only, has been intended not to abolish cottier tenancies, but merely to correct in some degree that extreme subdivision under which, after feeding the cottier and his family, there was hardly anything remaining for rent.
We shall here state at once our opinion, in plain terms, respecting this clearing system, by which a population, which has for generations lived and multiplied on the land, is, on the plea of legal rights, suddenly turned adrift without a provision, to find a living—where there is no living to be found. It is a thing which no pretence of private right or public utility ought to induce society to tolerate for a moment. No legitimate construction of any right of ownership in land, which it is for the interest of society to permit, will warrant it. We hold at the same time, that to prevent the growth of a redundant population on an estate is not only not blameable, but is one of the chief duties of a landowner having the power over his tenants which the Irish system gives. As it is his duty, so it is, on any extended computation, his pecuniary interest. He is to be commended for preventing overpopulation, but to be detested for tolerating first, and then exterminating it. Society may suffer the thing to be done by one landlord, or by two or three, without interfering otherwise than by a moral stigma; because the sufferers, having a larger surface to spread over, may obtain relief by employment, or charity: and for another reason—there are many powers useful to society in the main, but susceptible of such perversion as would render them unendurable evils. One of these is the free disposal of land by the landowner. These powers society permits to exist, but reserves to itself a liberty of interference in extreme cases. Any extension of the system of clearing such that the destitution produced would rise to the magnitude of a social evil, constitutes such an extreme case; and if society failed in the imperative duty of interference, it is a satisfaction to reflect, lawless and anti-social as the alternative is, that there is a force of resistance in human beings, in the last resort, which does not always suffer the extreme of injustice to be consummated with safety to the perpetrators. “Captain Rock” and his family have solved the question of Irish clearances. They have made it, and will continue to make it, impracticable to abolish the cottier system by the simple plan of abolishing the lives of the cottiers themselves.
[1 ]See, e.g., Malthus, “Newenham and Others on the State of Ireland,” Edinburgh Review, XII (July 1808), 340; and Scrope, Principles of Political Economy, Deduced from the Natural Laws of Social Welfare, and Applied to the Present State of Britain (London: Longman, et al., 1833), pp. 129-35.