Front Page Titles (by Subject) 330.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 19 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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330.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 19 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, the first of several articles quoting others’ testimony to the value of peasant land-owning, Mill draws on Arthur Young, Travels during the Years 1787, 1788, and 1789 (1792), 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London and Bury St. Edmunds: Richardson, 1794). See also Nos. 334, 336, 339, and 340. For the context of the series, see No. 306. This unheaded first leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A twentieth leading article on Irish affairs in the Morning Chronicle of 19th November 1846 (peasant properties)”
(MacMinn, p. 63).
we have maintained throughout, that the means by which any permanent alleviation can be effected of the economical evils of Ireland must not be economical solely; they must belong to that class of economical means which have a moral efficacy. The main superiority of the remedial measures which we advocate consists in this—that they would surround the peasant with a new moral atmosphere; they would bring a set of motives to operate upon him which he has never before experienced, tending in the strongest manner to correct everything in his national character which needs correction. Without a change in the people, the most beneficent change in their mere outward circumstances would not last a generation. You will never change the people unless you make themselves the instruments, by opening to them an opportunity to work out for themselves all the other changes. You will never change the people but by changing the external motives which act on them, and shape their way of life from the cradle to the grave. Much has been said of popular education: but education does not mean schools and school books; these are most valuable, but only as preparations and as auxiliaries. The real effective education of a people is given them by the circumstances by which they are surrounded. The laws are the great schoolmaster, as the ancient statesmen and philosophers well knew, and it is time we should again learn the lesson. What shapes the character is not what is purposely taught, so much as the unintentional teaching of institutions and social relations. It is of little use inculcating industry, prudence, and obedience to law, if every thing which the peasant, throughout life, sees and hears, tells him, in much more intelligible language than yours, that he has nothing to gain by industry or prudence, and everything to lose by submitting to the law. Nothing that you can say will alter the state of his mind, only something that you can do. Make it his interest to be industrious and prudent, and engage his interest on the side of the law. And if you have inveterate habits of the contrary description to overcome, there is the more need of presenting the motives which tend to correct those habits in the shape in which they will be most intense and palpable.
The grand fundamental defects in the character and habits of the Irish peasant are want of industry and want of providence. We do not add the common reproach of lawlessness, for the meaning of that is now perfectly well understood. Rockism and Whiteboyism are not qualities of his nature, but hard consequences of his desperate situation.1 The world now knows that the Irish are among the most easily governed of all people, provided you do not attempt to take away their daily potatoes.
Our position is, that for an agricultural people, whose deficiencies are want of industry and want of providence, the remedy of remedies is to give them a property in the soil: that for creating the intensest spirit of persevering industry it is altogether unrivalled; that in this part of its office it never fails, and seldom in the other part, the generation of prudence and forethought. We propose to corroborate this opinion, by adducing from time to time the results of experience and the testimony of skilful observers specifically on these points.
We shall begin with the subject of industry, because so much has of late been said of the deficiency of the Irish in this quality; because it is the part of the subject best understood in this country, where it is a much more familiar idea that industry, than that prudence, is an indispensable quality in working people; and, finally, because industry really is the more fundamental of the two. Many working people are eminently industrious without being prudent; but you will seldom find one who is prudent without being industrious; since the same recklessness of the future, and habit of self-indulgence, which make him dislike work, make him à fortiori insensible to those distant consequences, in a proper estimate of which, as compared with present inclinations, the virtue of prudence consists.
Now, on the efficacy of peasant properties as an incentive to industry, there is but one unanimous voice among observers of all opinions, provided they had the means of seeing with their own eyes. We shall take our first evidence from the very heart of the enemy’s camp. We summon Arthur Young to bear witness for us. This high authority was not, on the whole, a favourer of small landed properties. He was an earnest promoter of large farms, and of what is called scientific agriculture—that is to say, of the modes of culture which aim only at augmenting the net produce without regard to the gross. His experience of the petite culture was mostly gathered in Ireland, and in France before the Revolution, the two places in all Europe where, from accidental circumstances, its effects exhibited themselves in the most disadvantageous light. Yet on the one point, of the effect of small properties on industry, he speaks a language undistinguishable from that of an enthusiastic partisan. Wherever, in travelling through France, he finds careful and laborious cultivation, he sets it down, sometimes even without inquiry, as the effect of peasant proprietorship. Describing a walk to Rossendal, near Dunkirk, he says:
Between the town and that place is a great number of neat little houses, built each with its garden, and one or two fields enclosed of most wretched blowing dune sand, naturally as white as snow, but improved by industry. The magic of property turns sand to gold.
[Vol. I, p.88.]
Again, in the south of France:
Leaving Sauve, I was much struck with a large tract of land, seemingly nothing but huge rocks, yet most of it enclosed and planted with the most industrious attention. Every man has an olive, a mulberry, an almond, or a peach tree, and vines scattered among them, so that the whole ground is covered with the oddest mixture of these plants and bulging rocks that can be conceived. The inhabitants of this village deserve encouragement for their industry; and if I were a French minister they should have it: they would soon turn all the deserts around them into gardens. Such a knot of active husbandmen, who turn their rocks into scenes of fertility, because I suppose their own, would do the same by the wastes, if animated by the same omnipotent principle.
[Ibid., p. 50.]
In another place:
Going out of Gange, I was surprised to find by far the greatest exertion in irrigation which I had yet seen in France; and then pass by some steep mountains highly cultivated in terraces. From Gange, to the mountain of rough ground which I crossed, the ride has been the most interesting which I have taken in France, the efforts of industry the most vigorous, the animation the most lively. An activity has been here that has swept away all difficulties before it, and has cloathed the very rocks with verdure. It would be a disgrace to common sense to ask the cause: the enjoyment of property must have done it. Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden; give him a nine years’ lease of a garden, and he will convert it into a desert.
[Ibid., p. 51.]
Again, at the foot of the Western Pyrenees—
Came to a scene which was so new to me in France, that I could hardly believe my own eyes. A succession of many well-built, tight, and comfortable farming cottages, built of stone and covered with tiles, each having its little garden, inclosed by clipt thorn hedges, with plenty of peach and other fruit trees, some fine oaks scattered in the hedges, and young trees nursed up with so much care that nothing but the fostering attention of the owner could effect anything like it. To every house belongs a farm, perfectly well inclosed, with grass borders, mown and neatly kept around the corn-fields, with gates to pass from one inclosure to another. There are some parts of England (where small yeomen still remain) that resemble this country of Béarn; but we have very little that is equal to what I have seen in this ride of twelve miles from Pau to Moneng. It is all in the hands of little proprietors, without the farms being so small as to occasion a vicious and miserable population. An air of neatness, warmth, and comfort breathes over the whole. It is visible in their new-built houses and stables, in their little gardens, in their hedges, in the courts before their doors; even in the coops for their poultry, and the sties for their hogs. A peasant does not think of rendering his pig comfortable, if his own happiness hangs by the thread of a nine years’ lease. We are now in Béarn, within a few miles of the cradle of Henry IV. Do they inherit these blessings from that good prince? The benignant genius of that good monarch seems to reign still over the country. Each peasant has the fowl in the pot.
[Ibid., p. 56.]2
In summing up, afterwards, the final result of his observations, which was not favourable to the general quality of the agriculture on small farms, even when the occupier was the proprietor, Arthur Young remarks that, except in a few instances, he—
Saw nothing respectable in small properties, except a most unremitting industry. Indeed, it is necessary to impress on the reader’s mind that, though the husbandry I met with, in a great variety of instances, on little properties, was as bad as can well be conceived, yet the industry of the possessors was so conspicuous and so meritorious that no commendations would be too great for it. It was sufficient to prove that property in land is, of all others, the most active instigator to severe and incessant labour. And this truth is of such force and extent, that I know no way so sure of carrying tillage to a mountain top as by permitting the adjoining villagers to acquire it in property; in fact, we see that, in the mountains of Languedoc, &c., they have conveyed earth in baskets, on their backs, to form a soil where nature had denied it.
[Ibid., p. 412.]
What he says of the bad agriculture on small properties needs not at present concern us; we shall touch on that part of the subject hereafter. The evidence is that of an opponent, and we give it in proof that even an opponent who knows anything of the subject cannot withhold a testimony, which may well satisfy the most ardent partisan, to the efficacy of small properties as a counteractive against the indolence and insouciance which are the most prominent recognized defects of the Irish peasant. And what wonder? Of all tillers of the soil, the cottier is the one who has least to gain by any voluntary exertion; the small proprietor has most. That the one should be the idlest and the other the most diligent of all peasants, actual or possible, is but the natural result of their circumstances. Put each in the situation of the other, and their characters will be reversed. Give the Irishman “the secure possession of a bleak rock” or a turf bog, and he too “will turn it into a garden.” He will be as easily induced as his kindred Celts across the Channel, to “convey earth in baskets” to form a soil on the terraced side of a hill, if the hill-side when terraced and the soil when laid down are to be his own.
[1 ]For “Rockism,” see No. 309, n3. The “Whiteboys” emerged first in 1759 as an organized body of recusant agitators in Munster, who wore white smocks, but the term came to be used generally to designate those instigating agrarian violence against landlords. There had been a clash between Whiteboys and police at Scort on 4 Nov.
[2 ]For the attribution of the slogan to Henri IV of France (1553-1610), see Charles Jean Dominique de Lacretelle’s biographical account of Henri IV in Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne, ed. Louis Gabriel Michaud, 52 vols. (Paris: Michaud frères, 1811-28), Vol. XX, p. 111.