Front Page Titles (by Subject) 328.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 16 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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328.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 16 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 nineteenth leading article on Irish affairs in the Morning Chronicle of 16th November 1846”
(MacMinn, p. 63).
convinced as we are of the sincere desire of all English politicians of any standing or importance to do something, anything, that promises a remedy, or even an alleviation, for the inveterate economical evils of Ireland; and believing, as we rejoice to do, not only that there is a remedy, but that it is the most obvious remedy conceivable—one which the Legislature could carry into effective operation almost by merely willing it, one which might actually make us believe in the existence of some mischievous spell, when we think that it is still untried; reflecting too that there are no powerful interests which this remedy would even seem to jeopardize, no classes, scarcely even any individuals whose pockets it could be suspected of injuring—very few whom it would not considerably benefit; we ought, if reason and justice had no enemy in this world but selfish interest, to feel the strongest confidence of seeing it promptly adopted. Unhappily there is an obstacle to good, almost as strong and far more universal than selfishness—the spirit of routine. It takes much effort and a dreary length of time for men’s understandings to admit the conviction that the thing they most want is the very thing which they have never yet thought of seeking. Men are not easily induced to submit to be cured, and still less to cure others, by remedies which are not upon their list. It is thus with the remedy for Ireland. A peasant proprietary, as a cure for popular indigence, has not the honour of being in the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis.1 To be sure, it stands at the very head of the political Pharmacopoeia of every other country with any claim to civilization; and if it had been the fortune of Ireland to be yoked to any country in Europe besides England (or Russia), she would not have remained till this time without having a full trial made of its efficacy. But that does not make the matter much more easy. The whole work has yet to be done. The public mind is quite ready to receive an impression, but the impression remains to be made. The principle of a peasant proprietary has no party. A party must be formed for it. The principle has many approvers, but few zealots. Their zeal must be kindled.
To do this there is but one way—to place before the two countries, in a detailed manner and with a sufficient degree of iteration, the abundant evidence, both of reason and of fact, which demonstrates the admirable effects of this system of territorial economy, considered generally, and its peculiar adaptation to the circumstances of a country like Ireland. The public, and even those who assume the character of teachers of the public, are little aware of the weight of argument, fact, and authority which may be adduced without difficulty on the point. They are still less aware how perfectly obsolete have now become the facts, or supposed facts, which one section of English economists—we are happy to say a dwindling and declining section—were once enabled, by the universal ignorance of the subject, to urge with a certain air of triumph in proof of the destructive tendency of a minute division of landed property. They know not how time and the irresistible tendency of things have made sport of the dismal forewarnings which used to be heard from croakers on this side of the Channel, respecting the destination of France to become a “pauper-warren.”2 Within the twenty years or thereabouts which have elapsed since these croakings were most rife, France has entered into the most brilliant career of prosperity yet known in her industrial history. Every authentic statistical account of the condition of her industry and of her people has shown, and continues to show, that within that period the state of her rural population, who are four-fifths of the whole, has improved in every particular; that they are better housed, better clothed, better and more abundantly fed; that their agriculture has improved in quality; that all the productions of the soil have multiplied beyond precedent; that the wealth of the country has advanced, and advances with increasing rapidity, and the population with increasing slowness. We challenge investigation of these facts, and throw down the gauntlet to all gainsayers. Not that, if the result in France had been quite contrary, any fair argument could have been grounded upon it against the salutary influence of peasant proprietorship. France has not only small properties; she has a system of legislation purposely directed to prevent the existence of large ones. She has an artificial law of inheritance, restraining the power of bequest within narrow limits, and compelling the equal division of the bulk of the property among all the children.3 This is not the thing we are advocating for Ireland. It is true, the effects of it are not approved or condemned by each, according as he is affected towards that system of democratic institutions of which it forms a part. But the warmest supporters of peasant properties among the continental political economists—such, for example, as the enlightened and philanthropic Sismondi—have held no less strongly that it is desirable that large properties, in a certain number, should co-exist with small ones.4 They are quite aware that peasant properties, admirable for maintaining a good system of agriculture when once introduced, are not adapted for originating scientific improvements, and that for this purpose it is desirable that there should be in every neighbourhood some cultivators of a wealthier class, who will take the risk of experiments, and whose example, if successful, the peasant proprietors may imitate.
But there is no danger that in Ireland large properties will be exterminated by creating small properties on the waste land. The effect will be the contrary. At present no Irish property has any of the characteristic advantages of a large property, nor can have until cleared of its cottier tenantry in the only way in which eternal justice can tolerate its clearance—the only way, we may now be pardoned for affirming, in which it is any longer possible that this clearance should be effected. There are countries that have been very prosperous with large properties, when attended by their characteristic and natural accompaniment of large farms, and others which have thriven excellently with small farms, when those farms have been small properties in the hands of their peasant occupiers. Ireland alone has had the evil side of both these states of social economy, without a particle of the good of either; nothing but large properties cut up indefinitely into nothing but small farms. But to give the name of farms at all to bits of potato ground, let by a virtual auction, is such an understatement of the pernicious barbarism of the vile thing as amounts almost to an apology for it. This thing cannot be rooted out but by locating the superfluous tenantry under a healthier system of tenure elsewhere. Do that, and the great properties for the first time become great properties, for any of the ends, public or private, for which large landed possessions are adapted. You can then have efficient tools and economical culture, few labourers, and a large net produce for profit and rent; and this without injury to any one, because those who are now on your lands will be raising a gross produce sufficient for their own comfort and independence on land from which you now obtain nothing, and instead of envying, will be themselves objects of envy and emulation to your labourers for hire.
If it were reasonable to expect that men’s conduct would be determined by their most direct and obvious interest, we should reckon upon an unanimous clamour from every Irish landlord for thus disposing of the superfluous numbers which they find so insupportable a millstone about their necks. But it is a grievous fact that men will not easily see a sober, steady, well-calculated affair of business in a thing which savours of philanthropy. Their selfishness overreaches itself, and a pecuniary advantage, which would be grasped at with avidity if it were to be gained at some other person’s expense, is slighted and distrusted, because the same thing which would put them in possession of it would raise millions of beings of the same flesh and blood with themselves from the depth of poverty to independence and happiness.
[1 ]The Pharmacopaea Londinensis (1618 and many subsequent editions), containing directions for the preparation of medicines, was issued by the College of Physicians to ensure accurate dispensing; hence, a guide to all cures.
[2 ]John Ramsay McCulloch, “Disposal of Property by Will—Entails—French Law of Succession,” Edinburgh Review, XL (July 1824), 369.
[3 ]Code Napoléon, Livre III, Titre I, Chap. iii, Art. 745.
[4 ]Jean Charles Leonardo Simonde de Sismondi (1773-1842), political economist and historian; see his Etudes sur l’économie politique, 2 vols. (Paris: Treuttel and Würtz, 1837-38), Vol. I, pp. 173-6.