Front Page Titles (by Subject) 323.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 5 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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323.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 5 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 
For the context, see No. 306. This unheaded first leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A fifteenth leading article on Irish affairs in the Morning Chronicle of 5th Novemb. 1846”
(MacMinn, p. 62).
the resolution of ministers not to call Parliament together before the accustomed period, taken in conjunction with the provisional measures already adopted in Ireland, either under the acts of the last session, or under the discretionary authority assumed by Lord Besborough, constitutes a new complication, of rather a serious kind, in the already formidable entanglement of Irish affairs.1
It is now certain that before the Legislature can interfere, before any comprehensive plan of dealing with Irish difficulties can be even proposed to Parliament, a large amount of public money will have been already expended. The best which will have been done with any part of this money is to drain and otherwise improve land for the benefit of the landlords: the worst, to squander it in jobs, or in useless or superfluous “public works.” The immediate purpose, of giving wages, and what is called employment, to a proportion of the distressed population, will have been answered in either case; and, in the first case, the foundation will have been laid for an increase of the produce of the soil in future years. There will be next year a rather larger surface of potato ground (or corn ground, if the potato becomes unavailable), and an additional number of cottier tenants upon it. Some who have heretofore contented themselves with conacre, will next year be cottiers; and some who had come annually to England for harvest work, will discontinue, as they have done even this summer, their periodical migration, and settle down as cottiers on the new soil. Thus will it be if there is an increased area of cultivated surface; but it appears more probable that drainage by public money will be confined to lands already under culture, and will not increase the quantity, but only the productiveness, of the available soil; so that the competition for land remaining in unabated intensity, no one will gain but the landlord. He alone will reap, in the form of increased rent, the undivided benefit of what is added to the produce of the country by this great national expenditure; except indeed such interest on the outlay as the State thinks fit to reserve.
Money thus laid out is wasted, in respect of any good to the people, except the indispensable first object of keeping them from starving. But we are not going to repeat the arguments by which we have striven to impress, upon all whom it may concern, the folly and culpability of wasting invaluable opportunity, and effecting the relief of an immediate necessity by the most useless and worthless, when it might as easily be effected by the most transcendently beneficial means. We need not now recur to these considerations. The progress of events has given us more pressing arguments, and a case still stronger than we looked for. We knew that to feed the peasantry even temporarily by Government wages, with no ultimate object before us—with nothing in progress or in prospect for rendering their condition more hopeful, for increasing the motives to industry, peace, and providence, and the restraints on the opposite vices—would be doing nothing for them beyond the moment; that it would leave them in as bad a state as it found them. Events already show that it will leave them much worse. What little industry, what little self-reliance, what little respect for law and the rights of others did exist in Ireland, notwithstanding all that the institutions of society had done for ages to render them impossible, are breaking down before even the limited and uncertain expectation of “relief to the able-bodied,” which the present arrangements hold out. Because Government employs some, it is expected to employ all. Nobody will offer, and nobody will take any work but Government work. The entire maintenance of the population is attempted to be thrown upon the Government. To have done anything for them is only a title to the more virulent abuse for not doing everything which they choose to think possible, or to demand without considering if it be possible or not.
It is certain, in short, that unless this temporary crisis and its relief are made means of permanent improvement in the habits and feelings, as well as in the economical condition of the people, they will be a cause of permanent deterioration. England will have managed to do what seemed hardly possible—to make the “difficulties” of Ireland greater than they were before. She will have to deal with a more ungovernable people than ever—as full as before of reasonable discontent, but now full also of unreasonable hopes and demands—as little inclined as ever to put their own shoulders to the wheel, but now persuaded that they ought to be, and that they can be, pensioners of the English treasury, and that nothing but the wickedness, the tyranny, the selfishness of their English rulers prevents it. Not with impunity will the English Government have indulged the Irish multitude with the first full, plentiful taste of public pay. The peasants have found out soon enough that public wages are better than private wages, and the work always less; and they will not forget the lesson.
Not only then in order to change bad into good, but to prevent bad from growing into worse, it is the duty of all rulers and persons in authority to consider at this crisis, with all the vigour which they are masters of, what resources the nature of man, and the circumstances of Ireland afford for giving permanent employment to the people in such a way as shall make them rely on themselves, instead of relying on the Government, and work out their destiny by labour and prudence, instead of waiting idly or clamouring turbulently to be fed. There is but one sure way, but one remedy, whose efficacy is as sovereign as the present disease is extreme. Let their labour and prudence be for themselves. Let them work and save to better their own condition, not to enrich others. Let them have a permanent interest in the soil.
But time presses; the mischief now taking place in Ireland is progressive, and the funds requisite for the relief of present distress are all this while being squandered with no permanent fruit. Even under the “vigour beyond the law” exercised by Lord Besborough, the drainage of lands can only take place by arrangement with the landlords; and to undertake the compulsory purchase of waste lands, and commence arrangements for locating the peasantry on them, upon the responsibility of Government, in anticipation of the sanction of Parliament, exceeds the amount of discretionary power which the Executive would, or perhaps could, think itself warranted in assuming. Is the case then without possible remedy for months to come? Can nothing be done with existing means, and within the terms of the Lord-Lieutenant’s proclamation?2 Let us see.
The advances from the public, contemplated by the Lord-Lieutenant, are a gratuitous boon to the landlords. To this boon no one supposes that the landlords, as such, have any claim. They give no equivalent for it. They have in no way either earned or deserved it. The Government, accordingly, does not give it to them for their own sake. It intends them as the mere channels through which a benefit is to reach a portion of the community far other than themselves. That the permanent fruits of improvements made by public money accrue to them, and them alone, in the form of increased rent, is an incidental circumstance, arising from the unfortunate state of landed tenancies in Ireland, but in itself not a thing intended nor desired by the Government. Well then, to this unmerited and unintended gift let the Government annex a condition. Let it make a rule that no landlord shall receive its aid in improving his land, except on condition of giving to the tenants of the land so improved a permanent proprietary interest in the soil. The condition would not be onerous. The land would be given back to the landlord greatly increased in value. Let him rest content with that increase, and bind himself for ever that there at least his demands shall stop. Let him grant to every tenant a perpetual lease, on a fair valuation of the land after the Government has drained it. We should greatly prefer an arrangement much more liberal than this. We would require him to divide with the tenant the boon conferred on himself, and to grant a perpetual tenure at a rent much below the full value of the improved land. But we should hail with joy even the more niggardly arrangement; and so, we venture to say, would the tenantry. The immediate gain to the landlord would be a manifold equivalent for renouncing any further prospective increase. Besides, the arrangement would be voluntary. If he prefers the shadow to the substance, nobody seeks to interfere with him; let him shift for himself; only do not present him with the substance too.
We propose this plan as the supplement and completion of that which we have already advocated with respect to the waste lands. We propose it as a means, the readiest means, by which the admirable social and economical effects of a property in the soil may be extended directly to a wider circle of the population than those who may become settlers on the waste. We propose it also as susceptible of immediate application. The Lord-Lieutenant has only to will it. He is not pledged to improve the lands of everybody who asks for it; he has reserved to himself a full discretion. He has only to name his conditions. What they should be is to us very clear. If any one has anything better to propose, let him state it, and let the intelligence of the two countries be our judge.
[1 ]The Morning Chronicle reports in this issue, p. 3, that there would be no recall of Parliament until its scheduled sitting in January. The acts referred to include 9 & 10 Victoria, cc. 1, 4, 107-9. Under c. 107 (the Labour Rate Act), the Lord-Lieutenant had the power to require an Extraordinary Presentment Session in a barony to meet and order public works wherever he thought necessary; he had full discretion to approve or withhold approval from any proposal.
[2 ]For details, see No. 313.