Front Page Titles (by Subject) 311.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 14 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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311.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 14 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 context of this discussion on fixity of tenure, see Nos. 309-10. For the context of the Irish series, see No. 306. This unheaded leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A fifth leading article on Irish affairs in the Morning Chronicle of 14th October 1846”
(MacMinn, p. 61).
at that one brief period in its long existence in which the Repeal Association condescended to give to the real evils of Ireland a place, though but a secondary one, in its list of complaints and grievances1 —at that rare and long-waited-for moment in its history when its discussions and its agitation held out for the first time some promise of being useful, and therefore in the eyes of a certain sort of people some threat of being dangerous, and which Sir Robert Peel accordingly selected for his well-judged attempt to put down the Association by the hands of law,2 thereby stopping the good, though not the evil, which it had begun to set in motion—the English people, and especially the landed and propertied classes, were startled from their propriety by the new and ominous sound of Fixity of Tenure.
These words express a mode of abolishing cottier tenancy, the reverse, in all respects, of the clearing system; the reverse in practice, and still more decidedly contrary in theory. For while the one recognises no rights in anybody connected with the land save him whom the law denominates its owner, and treats those whose hands till it as if they were created for it, and it for the landlord; the other proceeds upon a view of the relative moral rights of these classes—strange, we must allow, and paradoxical to minds bred in the traditions of English social economy. It actually maintains, that when a hundred families and their ancestors for many generations have cultivated certain lands, and received therefrom the smallest share of the produce on which they could live, and one family and its ancestors have during the same period done nothing to the land, except consume in idleness all the rest of what has been produced by the hundred—if things at any time come to such a pass between the hundred families and the one family as that either one or the other must quit, this theory, which calls itself Fixity of Tenure, dares actually assert that it is the one and not the hundred who ought to depart; that let the law say what it will, when we come to the root of the matter, the hundred have the best claim to be there in foro conscientiae, and on the substantial principles of right and wrong; and that it is the duty of the Legislature to make its laws accord with those supreme principles.
The scheme, in short, is to protect the tenantry against being ever turned out for the mere pecuniary interest of the landlord, and against ever having their rent raised beyond what is paid at present, or what would be fixed by an impartial arbitrator as the present value of the land. The owner is considered entitled to his rent, but to his rent alone; not to any power over the tenant—power extending to taking away his livelihood; and not even to any increase of rent. The present rent would be fixed for ever as a quit-rent. Subject to that fixed annual payment, the property in the land would in truth be transferred to the tenant; the present landlords no longer owning the land itself, but a rent-charge payable from its produce.
The objections to this scheme are so obvious, that justice has never been done, on this side of the Irish Channel, to its merits. It is a real and a thorough remedy. It goes to the very root of Irish evils. In place of the worst economical system that afflicts any country not cursed with actual slavery, it would substitute the very best of which a country like Ireland is susceptible. It would give to Ireland the inestimable blessing of a peasant proprietary. Give them fixity of tenure, and they would thenceforth work and save for themselves alone. Their industry would be their own profit; their idleness would be their own loss. If they multiplied imprudently, it would be at their own expense, no longer at the expense of the landlords. Here is the secret for converting an indolent and reckless into a laborious, provident, and careful people. It is a secret which never fails. All over Europe, the untiring labourer, the peasant whose industry and vigilance never sleep, is he who owns the land he tills. Labours are executed by peasant proprietors such as are seen no where else, as it would be irrational to expect anywhere else. It would never answer to a farmer or a landlord to pay wages to any one for doing what a peasant proprietor will do on his own ground, and call it not labour but pleasure. All over Europe too, wherever the increase of population is slow, not from legal restraints but from individual prudence, as in France, Switzerland, Norway, it is in countries of peasant proprietors.
The mischiefs which are to be set against these advantages are not on the side of the people, but of the landlords. The plan of fixity of tenure would be unjust to them, unless compensation were made to them for the present value of the future increase of rent which they might expect from the ordinary progress of society. The power which they would be deprived of is not a proper subject of compensation. Power in one human being over others must be presumed to exist for other purposes than the pleasure or benefit of the person possessing it, and any complaint of personal injury in being deprived of it should be hooted out of court with ignominy. Still, however, the change would be a violent disturbance of legal rights, amounting almost to a social revolution, though not greater than that which has been effected in Prussia, amidst the applauses of Europe, by the edicts of an absolute Sovereign.3 To enlightened foreigners, to Von Raumer or Gustave de Beaumont, the thing appears so natural and obvious, that they are hardly able to account for its not having yet been done.4 But to those who understand the fixed habits of thought, and artificial feelings stronger than nature itself, which must be broken through before an English legislature could sanction so drastic a process; and who appreciate the danger of tampering, in times of political and moral change, with the salutary prepossessions by which property is protected against spoliation; a measure like this must be looked upon as an extreme remedy, justifiable only as remedies even more revolutionary would be justifiable if there existed no other means of overcoming evils like those of Ireland.
Our conviction, however, is, that those evils are not to be remedied by anything less than the creation of a numerous peasant proprietary. Property in the soil has a sort of magic power of engendering industry, perseverance, forethought in an agricultural people. Any other charm for producing those qualities we know not of, and should be thankful to any one who could point one out. All other schemes for the improvement of Ireland are schemes for getting rid of the people. The very best is a gigantic plan of emigration, impracticably costly, yet, if executed, having no guarantee in the altered relations of society that those left behind would not soon be as miserable as ever. No such guarantee is possible but by making an effectual change in the motives of conduct operating upon the people themselves. There is no known means of working that change but by creating peasant proprietors. Happily, however, it is not necessary for the end in view that the whole peasantry should be owners of land. It is enough if there be a large class, objects of emulation to all the rest, and among whom no one who exerts himself need despair of being numbered. The one measure of practicable improvement for Ireland is to form such a class, and the obvious resource for this purpose is the waste lands.
[1 ]Founded in 1840 under the leadership of Daniel O’Connell, the Repeal Association (soon renamed the Loyal National Repeal Association), whose goal was to break the union of Ireland with England, advanced in 1843 a list of complaints and grievances relating to economic rather than political causes.
[2 ]In October 1843, O’Connell moved again to political agitation through “monster meetings.” That planned for 8 Oct. at Clontarf was proclaimed illegal by de Grey, the Lord-Lieutenant, and a week later O’Connell and others were arrested for seditious conspiracy.
[3 ]Frederick William III of Prussia (1770-1840) during his reign (1797-1840) abolished serfdom and worked to establish peasant proprietorship through the reforms of his great ministers Stein and Hardenberg (see No. 256).
[4 ]Friedrich Ludwig Georg von Raumer (1781-1873), German historian and political scientist, author of England im Jahre 1835 (1836), translated by Mill’s friend Sarah Austin, 3 vols. (London: Murray, 1836), which treats of English social and political institutions. Gustave Auguste de Beaumont de la Bonninière (1802-66), politician, friend and collaborator of Alexis de Tocqueville, known to Mill, author of L’Irlande, sociale, politique et religieuse, 2 vols. (Paris: Gosselin, 1839).