Front Page Titles (by Subject) 333.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 27 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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333.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 27 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 
This article comments on a scheme of peasant proprietorship advocated in “Waste Lands—Peasant Proprietors,” Nation, 14 Nov., 1846, p. 88, from which the quotations are taken. For the context of the series, see No. 306. This unheaded leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A twenty third leading article on Irish affairs, in the Morning Chronicle of 27th Nov. 1846 (the second leader)”
(MacMinn, p. 64).
while we have been exerting ourselves, by such means as belong to our vocation, to make the crisis in Ireland an occasion of procuring for that unfortunate country the inestimable benefit of a peasant proprietary, modestly limiting our plan to what we thought practicable, the waste lands, which we were the more willing to do because those lands are sufficient, if properly employed, to accomplish all the essentials of our purpose; our contemporary, the Nation, the organ of the junior Repealers, has engaged in a more ambitious, and a rather more arduous task, that of compassing the same object over the entire surface of Ireland—of obtaining proprietary rights for every improving tenant, by the consent and voluntary grant of the present landlords. We have much sympathy with the unworldly enthusiasm which prompts the attempt; it is quite in keeping with the chivalrous spirit in which repeal and Irish nationality are cherished by our contemporary; and though, for our own part, we should as soon think of turning missionaries to convert the Pope to Protestantism, or the Emperor Nicholas to representative government, it is interesting to see in any political character, and especially in any public journalist, so confiding a faith in human intellect and virtue.
The article which we have chiefly in view, in the Nation of November 14th, has a strong tincture of what, for want of a better name, we must take the liberty of calling landlordism. The writer, if not a landlord, is near of kin to one, for he entertains the opinion, peculiar, so far as we have observed, to that honourable class, that they are a very ill-used body. And by whom do our readers suppose that they are ill-used? In the name of all that is eccentric, by the English Legislature and Government!
In all speculations about Ireland, your English statesman, especially your Whig, regards landlords and tenants as natural enemies—cannot get rid of the impression that here are two classes, one of which may never thrive without ruining and oppressing the other. . . . So, when a scheme of public works had to be contrived for Ireland, your English statesman could not endure the thought that any benefit should arise therefrom to the landlords; for are not they the men who grind the poor, who devour the widow and the fatherless?1 Are not they the heartless Irish landlords—the rackrenting Irish landlords? Is it not better to pay public wages for hammering down the Gaultees into road-metal than to reclaim or drain a perch of land for them?
We do not expect the writers in the Nation to know anything of English feeling, though they certainly do abuse the privilege of being ignorant of it, when they ascribe to “English statesmen”—landlords themselves, put where they are by landlords, and until the spring of this year2 so landlord-ridden as to go on taxing the people’s bread to please the landlords—these remarkably anti-landed opinions concerning the influence of landlords in general upon the welfare of their tenantry. But let that pass. Irish writers, however, should know something of Irish history, and Irish patriots something of the real nature of their country’s wrongs. It is the characteristic, it seems, of English statesmen to think, say, and do everything that is uncomplimentary with respect to Irish landlords. We thought, for our part, that Irish landlords were their petted children, and that hitherto it had been merely ask and have. For whose sake, and by whose hands, did England misgovern Ireland from the beginning? For the sake and by the hands of the Irish landlords. England never had any interest in misgoverning the Irish; England never undertook their government. She turned them over to a native oligarchy, an oligarchy of Irish, though not of Celtic Irish; and upheld this oligarchy by the whole strength of her own military power. In doing this she hit unconsciously upon a recipe for the most atrocious government which could have been devised by the human faculties studiously directed to that purpose. Far better would it have been for Ireland, on a choice of evils, to have been treated directly and avowedly as an English province or dependency. She then would have been governed as Napoleon would have governed her, or as the English govern India: she would not have had what little she had of freedom, the forms of it; but she would have had equal laws between man and man, security for person and property, an efficient police, and an impartial administration of justice. Instead of this, we left her to her own landlords, and the tyranny, corruption, and lawlessness which have made Irish government a bye-word among nations were their work.
Those times, indeed, are gone; the English Parliament, we may flatter ourselves, has now fairly broken with the dominant section of Irish landlords, the old “Protestant ascendancy;”3 and we scarcely think they will ever be the ruling potentates of Ireland again. We wish we felt as sure that there was an end to the prescriptive right they have long claimed, of dipping their hands, as often as convenient, into the public purse. But it is not more than a few years since Parliament gave away to the Irish landlords, at one stroke, thirty per cent. of the tithes, besides paying three years tithes of the whole country, to the tune of a million sterling, of which it never demanded repayment, and which, like everything nominally given to the tenants in a cottier system, was simply a present to the landlords.4 That this kind of liberality is likely to be repeated, in the present instance, we would not advise them to reckon: but it is evident they think it is; nothing else can explain the reckless profusion of their presentments for public works, which would have been made with considerably less alacrity had they really thought that the threat of requiring repayment was meant seriously. We recommend to the Nation, since it is bent on rousing them from their apathy, to try the effect of assuring them that the threat is serious, and that the money must actually be paid. But we fear they would never credit it. Lending public money to Irish landlords, and getting any of it back, are two ideas that cannot be made to coalesce; and though we sincerely hope that the thing is destined to be tried, we are certain that it never will be believed until it is done.
What the Nation attempts to alarm them with is something of another kind. It tells them they may look for a red-tape, blue-book commission to take charge of their estates:
That a general system of reclaiming waste lands, accompanied by organic changes in tenure, will inevitably come, and speedily, is plain to all who do not obstinately keep their eyes shut; and that it will be done by a horde (or what they call a board) of ignorant and insolent government commissioners, and that in the most offensive, most wasteful, least equitable, and least effectual manner is just as evident, unless the landlords of Ireland, once for all, make common cause with their countrymen, and take this business into their own hands. And they can do so if they will. They can originate the plan themselves; they can demand and obtain such power over their estates as will enable them to make fee-farm grants to all improving and reclaiming tenants, submitting, at the same time, to obligatory clauses, which will compel the reluctant members of their order to make such grants. They can require that public expenditure in Ireland shall be applied in the meantime to promote these improvements, and can guarantee its repayment out of the proceeds. . . . All this the landlords of Ireland can do; and all this they must do, if they would meet the exigency of the case, and save themselves and their country from the horrible infliction of a worse commission than any we have yet laboured under.
The rest is fee-fo-fum, which the landlords must be of very simple composition indeed if they are at all frightened at:
A commission which will thrust itself into all men’s business, constitute itself receiver over their estates, trustee of their family settlements, regulator of their private contracts; a commission whose operation will much resemble that of a commission in bankruptcy—to realise what can be made out of an impoverished estate, apportion their dividends to all claimants upon the wasted fund, and leave all parties in worse plight than it found them.
[1 ]Cf. Isaiah, 3:15, and Matthew, 23:14.
[2 ]I.e., until the repeal of the Corn Laws in the spring of 1846 by 9 & 10 Victoria, c. 22.
[3 ]A term used for the minority Protestant Anglo-Irish who controlled Irish affairs.
[4 ]The reference is to 3 & 4 William IV, c. 100 (1833).