Front Page Titles (by Subject) 317.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 26 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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317.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 26 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, see No. 306. This unheaded leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “An eleventh leading article on Irish affairs in the Morning Chronicle of 26th October 1846”
(MacMinn, p. 61).
among those who acknowledge the immediate source of the poverty of the Irish people to be local over-population—estates crowded with a greater number of people than are needful or useful for their cultivation—among such persons, from Archbishop Whately and the Commissioners of Irish Poor-law Inquiry, down to the Marquess of Westmeath, the favourite remedy for Irish maladies has been an extensive emigration.1
Of emigration, in principle, and as a general question, it is far from our intention to speak with disparagement. It ought to form a regular department of the general policy of the country. To facilitate the transfer of human muscular power from those parts of the British dominions where it is superabundant and cheap to those where it is scarce and dear, from those where its productive powers are small to those where they are great, is a highly appropriate function of the Sovereign authority. The State ought to keep a bridge open (metaphorically speaking) between the country and its colonies, and to see that the passage over this bridge be as cheap and as convenient as possible. The way, too, has been pointed out in which any given amount of emigration may gift the colonies with the greatest amount of productive power, may afford the greatest relief to the labour market at home, and, finally, may defray its own expenses, the sole outlay required being an advance which would be repaid with interest. We refer, of course, to the plans and suggestions of Mr. Wakefield.2 Colonization on his scheme, or even on a scheme far inferior to his, we desire to see extensively practised, not only as a provision for that portion of the labouring people who may choose to emigrate, but as the sole means of securing the perpetual growth of new and opulent customers, proportionally to the probable increase of the manufacturing population at home.
But, while we look with much favour upon systematic emigration as a branch of the general arrangements for maintaining a good economical condition, we do not think it equally well adapted for reforming a bad one, at least when the evil is excessive, and we think it peculiarly unsuited to the present condition of Ireland.
In the first place, how are the people to be induced to go? No one, we presume, contemplates the use of compulsion; unless, perhaps, the compulsion implied in telling them that if they will not emigrate they may starve. But this is not a very safe thing to be told to several millions of persons; who, probably, would not feel bound to submit to the alternative of death or banishment, in order that their masters, having got rid of the people, might make more money of the land. The attachment of Irish peasants to their native country is proverbial; and were it less so, they would hardly see any good reason for sending them across the sea to colonize Australia or Canada, when a portion of Ireland, sufficient to contain their whole number, is still to colonize. And can there be any comparison between the advantage of these two modes of locating the surplus population? In the one, they are placed in a new field, where the experience of their previous lives can neither be a guide nor an assurance to them; in a strange climate, exposed to strange diseases, with necessities which they never before felt, their work, a great part of it, new, and all of it to be done with new tools, and in a new set of circumstances; while they might have food, employment, and independence at home, by work to which they are thoroughly competent, and differing from their present occupations no otherwise than in being done for themselves, and on their own possessions. Why offer them landed property at the other side of the globe, when there is landed property vacant at their very door, capable of being made fit for their use with half the labour, and at a mere fraction of the expense?
For the expense of emigration would be enormous; and we could scarcely expect that, like the expense of locating the people on the waste lands, it would ever be repaid. The self-supporting system is not adapted to carry off great numbers at once. It can only be brought into operation very gradually: its principle is, that the first who emigrate create by their labour both the means of transporting, and the fund for employing, those who follow. But a gradual process, to a people in the condition of the Irish, is a useless process. We do not mean this solely with reference to the potato famine. We should say it of the Irish as they were three years ago, no less than of the Irish as they are. Any relief of the labour market has a chance of being permanent only when it is great and sudden. If it drains off in a year no greater number than the yearly increase it does nothing. Unless it subtracts a sufficient number at once, and diminishes sufficiently the competition for employment to make the remainder feel themselves decidedly raised in the scale of physical comfort, it will make no change in the habits of the people, and the vacuum created will speedily be again filled up. In Ireland nothing permanent would be accomplished unless the number removed were sufficient to extinguish the cottier system; that is, unless the residuary population were reduced to the number who could find regular employment as labourers on the English or Scotch system. To do this is far beyond the powers of the self-supporting plan. The whole of this great number must be conveyed to the colonies, and probably far into their interior, at the expense of Government; and, when there, all must be provided with shelter, expensive tools, and more than a year’s subsistence, since the first year would be required for the laborious operation of clearing the primeval forest. It is probably within the mark to say that this expense would be tenfold that of locating the same number of families on Irish land; and experience has shown that such advances, made to settlers in the wilderness, are never repaid.
There are other considerations, pertinent to the subject, which we can only glance at. It is a serious question whether, in laying the foundation of new nations beyond the sea, it be right that the Irish branch of the human family should be the predominant ingredient. That it should enter into the admixture is desirable, and perhaps largely, especially when the other element is composed of the Saxon race, which needs to be tempered by amalgamation with the more excitable and imaginative constitution and the more generous impulses of its Celtic kinsfolk. But Ireland must be an altered country at home before we can wish to create an Ireland in every quarter of the globe, and it is not well to select as missionaries of civilization a people who, in so great a degree, yet remain to be civilized.
Waiving this, however, and supposing the whole surplus population removed by their own consent, and with the happiest success, to Upper Canada or New Zealand, how much will have been effected for those who remain at home? The cottier system, perhaps, might be extirpated; and this is much. The peasantry would be in regular employment as hired labourers, on good-sized and well-stocked farms, under capitalist farmers, mostly Scotch or English, cultivating on their national model. This would be good for the landlords, good for these Scotch and English farmers, good for the State, which would gain a quiet life and a larger revenue, and good even for the peasantry, in comparison with their present condition; but, we venture to say, not good when compared with what they might and should be. What is there in this change of condition to regenerate their character? What is there to make their slack labour vigorous, to convert their listlessness into activity, their careless self-indulgence into forethought and prudence? Property in land has this power. It acts like magic, both on those who have it, and on those who, by exertion and frugality, can hope to obtain it. Nowhere has such a virtue been found to reside in labour for hire, without hope of better—labour for hire from infancy to old age—as the permanent condition of the whole labouring class. There is no country, that we know of, but Great Britain, where that constitution of society prevails universally, and we doubt if there be any other where it would be compatible with vigorous industry, and great efficiency for labour. The dogged tenacity of work, which is the chief source of England’s industrial superiority, depends on peculiar circumstances of national character, whether inherent in the race, or, as is far more probable, produced by peculiarities of historical development. Other nations will work as hard, but it must be for a strong motive: in England the work itself might almost seem to be the motive. We are not sure that it would be doing the Irish a service to make them Englishmen; but we are sure that they are not Englishmen, and cannot, by any device of ours, be made so. To make them work, they must have what makes their Celtic brethren, the French peasantry, work, and those of Tuscany, of the self-indulgent and luxurious south. They must work, not for employers, but for themselves. Their labour must not be for wages only, it must be a labour of love—the love which the peasant feels for the spot of land from which no man’s pleasure can expel him, which makes him a free and independent citizen of the world, and in which every improvement which his labour can effect belongs to his family as their permanent inheritance.
[1 ]Whately’s opinion is given in “Third Report of the Commissioners for Inquiring into the Condition of the Poorer Classes in Ireland,” PP, 1836, XXX, 8; that of George Thomas John Nugent (1781-1871), 1st Marquess of Westmeath, from 1831 Lord-Lieutenant of Westmeath and a representative Irish peer, is in a letter to the editor, The Times, 8 Oct., 1846, p. 6.
[2 ]See Nos. 194 and 295.