Front Page Titles (by Subject) 322.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 3 NOV., 1846, P. 4 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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322.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 3 NOV., 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 
In this article Mill continues the defence of Senior’s Edinburgh Review article against Poulett Scrope and The Times (see No. 320). For the context of the series, see No. 306. This unheaded first leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A fourteenth leading article on Irish affairs in the Morning Chronicle of 3d Nov. 1846”
(MacMinn, p. 62).
it has been thought extremely ridiculous by the Times, that an article on Irish poor-laws, written in August last, should be published in October, without any allusion whatever to the intervening exigency occasioned by the potato famine. The reproach falls but lightly upon the Edinburgh reviewer. A poor-law is not a thing for a temporary exigency, and one does not see how any temporary exigency can affect the discussion of it; it must stand or fall by its merits as a permanent institution. A failure of the potato crop cannot make that a good law which would otherwise be a bad one. But the sarcasm of the Times falls back, with crushing effect, upon itself. It is the Times which, writing in the very centre and heart of the exigency, takes no account of it, proposes nothing for it, has evidently nothing to propose. Assume the Times to be right on the subject of a poor-law for Ireland;1 assume that a legal compulsion upon the parish, that is to say upon the landlords, to find food and work for all the necessitous able-bodied, would be a good and wholesome settlement of Irish economics; still, that will not feed the people for the next six months. It is impossible to get the machinery of an extended poor-law into play in less than that time. And no reasonable person can suppose that the resources of the Irish landlords are sufficient, tax them ever so heavily, to effect all that is necessary for shielding the Irish population from hunger until next year’s crops come in. On all suppositions, therefore, something must be done for Ireland, which the most lavish system of poor-law administration cannot do. What shall this be? We look in vain to the Times for a reply. We know its permanent plan, but we are yet to learn its temporary expedient. This is very inconvenient, because the questions connected with the temporary expedient are of much greater importance just now than the permanent plan; so much so, that we might be content to leave all permanent questions for the present in abeyance, except the question how much permanent good it may be practicable to accomplish by a proper choice of remedies for the temporary necessity. There is urgent need of a large immediate expenditure, which can be drawn in the first instance from no other source than the Imperial treasury. This expenditure may take place in many ways, in some of which it would do no permanent good, in others a great deal. Is it of no consequence which? This great Government expenditure is a great power. It is the power of prescribing, for the time being, a great part of the industry of the country. Into what channel shall we turn that industry? More remotely, it gives the power of altering, to a very important extent, the industrial relation of the different classes of Irish people. That relation is thought by most persons to be at a considerable distance at present from abstract perfection. No one is exactly satisfied with the present laws of distribution of Irish wealth between the cottier tenants and their landlords. Can any use be made of the present opportunity for improving these things, and in what manner? We have a right to expect answers to these questions from a professed general adviser of the public.
And they are questions on which it is not impossible that reasonable persons might agree, who may be altogether at issue in their opinions with regard to ulterior measures. Let the poor-law of Elizabeth be suited to the circumstances of Ireland or not, that is no reason why Irish labour should not be guided to the improvement and extension of Irish agriculture. Let it be proper or not that the landlords should find work for all who are without it, that is no reason against placing as many as possible of the peasantry in a condition not to need any work but what they can provide for themselves. If Ireland is to have out-door paupers, that is no reason why she should not also have peasant proprietors; nor is it easy to see why a prodigal poor-law, if it be desirable, should either be less likely to be obtained, or less likely, when obtained, to prove satisfactory, in case we first put a large section of the peasantry beyond the necessity of depending on it, and set up an object of honest ambition in full view of all the rest, which may balance the corrupting influence of such a poor-law upon their minds. It should seem, on the contrary, that the more profuse the administration of relief, the greater the necessity for these countervailing influences. And these are all topics for the day, questions which must be resolved at once, or the opportunity of action will be lost. The poor-law question, on the contrary, is just as fit to be discussed a twelvemonth hence, when the potatoes are again abundant or altogether abolished.
Let the Times keep its opinion on poor-laws, both for Ireland and England. But we implore it to believe that something besides a poor-law is necessary to put the labourers of either country in the condition in which they ought to be. Anybody may have a fixed idea, on which he is inaccessible to reason, but it does not follow that he is never to add a second idea to it. When our contemporary happens to be in the right—when he chances to seize that view of a question which is at once true and available for practice, he usually does it with so much effect, that it is real injustice to himself wilfully to narrow his range of eyesight, and resolve to shut out every part of a great subject but that on which he has predetermined to be thoroughly unreasonable.
[1 ]For The Times’ attitude to the Poor Law controversy, see No. 308.