Front Page Titles (by Subject) 319.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 29 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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319.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 29 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 first leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A twelfth leading article on Irish affairs in the Morning Chronicle of 29th Oct. 1846”
(MacMinn, p. 62).
we regard it as certain that the immense capabilities of the six million acres of waste lands will be, in some shape, put in requisition to relieve the immediate destitution of the Irish peasantry in such a way as to augment the permanent wealth and the permanent stock of food in the country, and that some plan with this for its object, and from the necessity of the case probably an extensive one, will be introduced to the Legislature by Ministers in the coming session, which may be near at hand.1 Our fears are not on this point, but they are lest this should be all; lest the relief of the temporary exigency should be deemed enough; lest there should be no heart or hope for undertaking the nobler enterprise of curing a radically diseased economical system; lest the unrivalled facilities which this emergency has brought within our reach, for doing a century’s work of Irish civilization in a single year, should be allowed to slip away from us, not from indifference to the object, but from that easy, contented resignation and despair of doing good, which has the same practical effect.
It is not to be denied, that the obstacles in the way of Ministers are formidable. They will actually have to disregard the whole of their usual advisers. They will really be in the hard case of having to go before the public with a plan, on the sole strength of reason and their own conviction of right. We are not ignorant how arduous a task we are requiring of them, and how little ground experience gives for expecting such an amount of self-reliance in any Cabinet of mortal men. Nevertheless we have sufficient faith in the change of times, and in the evidence which the present Prime Minister2 has given of participating in that change, to have some hope that he will dare decide that two and two are four, although it may have been laid down that they are five in all the traditions of Irish government. Ministers will be besieged on all sides with applications to improve the lands for the benefit of the landlords. From all people in Ireland itself to whom they are in the habit of listening, they will meet with no other advice. There are but two influential interests in Ireland—a landlord interest, and a lawyer interest. The landed interest, Orange,3 Liberal, and Repeal—for they are all alike where landlordism is concerned—will gape wide-mouthed for the gift of fertile lands, which they hope will be offered them in lieu of the worthless waste. The lawyer interest, which together with the landlord interest comprises all the advisers of the Castle,4 will sound the alarm in defence of an imaginary idol called Rights of Property, which stands in no relation to the real, legitimate principle of property, except a relation of contrariety. They will represent as blasphemy against this idol the suggestion of making the six millions of acres useful, for the benefit of any persons other than those who have so fully exercised the right of not using them since the days of Strafford or Strongbow.5 There is a class of minds in the world, in whose opinion parchments were not made for man, but man for parchments. As there were in Judea pedants in the matter of the sabbath who were rebuked in the manner we know,6 so there are pedants everywhere in the matter of property, and we are too well aware of the inherent necessities of human infirmity not to have as much indulgence as we in conscience may towards the amiable weakness. We will therefore concede that the eleven millions of acres, by courtesy called cultivated, now extant between Donegal and Cork, were evoked from the “azure main,”7 in order that some gentlemen in superfine coats who inhabit large houses in Ireland, and others who live in lodgings at Cheltenham, Paris, and Rome, together with their amiable ladies and smiling children, may be supported in elegant leisure on the fruits thereof; but we demur to admitting as much concerning the six millions, which have never yet produced any fruits susceptible of the same honourable destination. On the subject of those, we should say to the landlords—Gentlemen, you have had five centuries to try what use you could make of these lands. In that time you have not contrived to make them yield any produce or profit even to your distinguished selves. If in any one year—if six months ago—you had done one overt act, had moved one sod towards rendering these lands useful, either to yourselves or others, whatever you had even touched with that object in view, you should have had our free leave to keep as your own. But you have not done it; and the time is now come when a public necessity requires that what you have omitted to do should be done for the general good by the representative and organ of the general good—the State. We are going to take the land from you; to enter it, and do as we please with it, for the purpose of rendering it productive, whether with your leave or without. Now, therefore, your modest proposition is, that after we have drained, fenced, built upon, and manured this land, and made it worth as many hundreds of pounds as it is now worth shillings, we shall, reserving only a mortgage to the amount of our expenses, give it back to you. And this you demand in the name of property. But, by your leave, your right of property stands good only for the shillings. Those, nobody thinks of refusing you: but the pounds which will be added to those shillings by our capital, and by the labour of Irish peasants, are either theirs or ours, not yours; and to make them yours would not be restoring your own property, but presenting you with a large and gratuitous estate in addition. Now, this is a thing which you must absolutely reconcile yourselves to doing without. It will not, cannot, shall not be done. We are not so charmed with the use you have made of what is already yours, as to be desirous of adding more to it; and besides, there are really other people who must be thought of before you. Your necessities, we own, are great, but those of seven millions of poverty-stricken peasantry are greater. We must take care of those first. We must give them justice before we give you charity. Console yourselves with the reflection, that by doing for these people what you have failed to do, we shall at the same time relieve your estates from what you perpetually complain of as their greatest burthen; a burthen which must indeed be insupportable, for otherwise, men with the charitable feelings you lay claim to would not surely be driven to ridding themselves of it by turning out a whole tenantry on the high roads, to perish of hunger, or find in beggars like themselves the mercy they had not experienced from the rich man who had lived on their labour. What you can only effect for yourselves by means like these, we are going to do for you, freely and effectually. Let that suffice you.
The Nation, in a spirited article on Saturday last (which we have pleasure in noticing, as the complete adhesion of the powerful representative of “Young Ireland” both to the plan we have proposed, and to the principles, more comprehensive than any plan, on which we defend it), thus emphatically warns the “landed interest” of Ireland:
See the blindness of Irish landlords—see how they are suffering the ground to slip from under their feet—how the problem to be solved comes more formidably before them every time it reappears. Eleven years ago, if they had unanimously urged on Government to adopt the plan of the select committee,8 they might have had the lands reclaimed, and inhabited by their own tenants. Now, all men seem disposed to deny them all claim to this; and the world cries out—“At least on this new land let us see no more cottiers or con-acre—on this virgin soil let a race grow up who may call their hearths and their souls their own.”
And even now, if the Irish proprietors would cordially accept the terms, they might save their territorial privileges over the present arable and pasture, with all their woods and waters, timber and minerals, and all the rest of it. But let a year or two more go round—let public works’ commissioners and engineering tourists, and the gentlemanlike officialities of Dublin Castle, devour the heart of Ireland but a little longer—and when the Sybilline books are offered once more to these landed Tarquins,9 they will, from the bottom of their hearts, wish they had bethought them sooner of the requirements of the time.
In all sincerity we say to them, we earnestly pray that the Irish people may be enabled to keep body and soul together without devouring them.10
[1 ]Parliament, having been prorogued on 28 Aug., 1846, began its next session on 19 Jan., 1847.
[2 ]Lord John Russell had become Prime Minister in July 1846, after Peel, having lost Tory support over repeal of the Corn Laws, was defeated on the Irish Coercion Bill.
[3 ]The Orange Order (mentioned at No. 42), had been outlawed in 1836, and lost support, but the term continued to connote the interests of the Protestant landed class.
[4 ]Dublin Castle, signifying the government, had from the reign of Henry II been the seat of English administration in Ireland, serving as executive residence and offices, and sometime location of the pre-Union Irish parliament.
[5 ]Sir Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, was Lord-Deputy of Ireland 1632, and Captain-General in Ireland 1640; Richard de Clare (d. 1176), 2nd Earl of Pembroke and Strigul, commonly known as Richard Strongbow, was the virtual master of Ireland under Henry II.
[6 ]“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark, 2:27).
[7 ]James Thomson (1700-48) and David Mallet (1705?-65), “An Ode” [“Rule Britannia”], in Alfred: A Masque (London: Millar, 1740), p. 42.
[8 ]“Second Report from the Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into the Amount of Advances Made by the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland,” PP, 1835, XX, 191-6.
[9 ]The Sibyl of Cumae (or Erithrae) offered to sell the nine books that revealed the observances needed to avert calamities to Tarquin, the legendary fifth King of Rome. He refused her price, and she burned three of the books, offering the remaining six at the original price. Again he refused, and she burnt three more. When she offered the last three, again at the original price, he accepted.
[10 ]Anon., “Every Man His Own Landlord,” Nation, 24 Oct., 1846, p. 40. The Nation, founded in 1842 by Charles Gavan Duffy (1816-1903) with the aid of Thomas Davis (1814-45) and John Blake Dillon (1816-66), became the organ of the idealistic “Young Ireland” party established in 1846 to agitate for Irish agrarian reform and repeal of the legislative union with Great Britain.