Front Page Titles (by Subject) 334.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 30 NOV., 1846, P. 4 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
334.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 30 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE CONDITION OF IRELAND 
For the context, see Nos. 306 and 330. This unheaded leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A twenty fourth leading article on Irish affairs, in the Morning Chronicle of 30th November 1846 (the second leader) (peasant properties)”
(MacMinn, p. 64).
in pursuance of our purpose of illustrating the general benefits of peasant properties, and their peculiar adaptation to the exigencies of such a country as Ireland, we quoted from Arthur Young’s Travels in France some passages in which that accurate observer, and favourite authority of the modern English agricultural school, described, with his usual vivacity and emphasis, the unrivalled spirit of industry which, as his experience taught him, everywhere accompanied the possession of a property in the soil by the tiller of it.1 For the sake of so powerful a testimony from one who might be considered an opponent, and whose authority has not been much abated by time, we willingly went back half a century; but our future citations will be chiefly from writers of the present generation, which has afforded a greater amount of evidence in point than can now be gathered from all the generations which preceded it.
There is no part of Europe in which small landed properties are more numerous, or in which the country seems more entirely given up to the peasantry, than the Palatinate of the Rhine; and the thousands of English travellers who annually traverse it can bear testimony to what strikes even a casual passer-by—the garden-like cultivation of the district (as, indeed, of the whole Rhineland), and the marvellous celerity with which, as soon as one crop is off the ground, it is ploughed, manured, and another crop put in.2 Two books, published within the last few years, descriptive of the agriculture of that country, are now before us. One is Mr. Howitt’s Rural and Domestic Life in Germany.3 Mr. Howitt’s familiarity with, and interest in, rural objects and pursuits are well known, and he lived for several years at Heidelberg. The other is a little treatise On the Agriculture of the Palatinate, and particularly of the Heidelberg District, by Professor Rau, of Heidelberg, the author of the most elaborate and justly esteemed systematic treatise on political economy in the German language.4 We shall present our readers with a few passages from these writers, commencing with the Englishman.
In Germany, says Mr. Howitt:
The peasants are the great and ever-present objects of country life. They are the great population of the country, because they themselves are the possessors. This country is, in fact, for the most part in the hands of the people. It is parcelled out amongst the multitude. . . . The peasants are not, as with us, for the most part totally cut off from property in the soil they cultivate, totally dependent on the labour afforded by others; they are themselves the proprietors. It is perhaps from this cause they they are probably the most industrious peasantry in the world.
Whoever is acquainted with only one region in which there are peasant proprietors, invariably thinks the peasantry of that particular region the most industrious in the world:
They labour early and late, because they feel that they are labouring for themselves. The German peasants work hard, but they have no actual want. Every man has his house, his orchard, his road-side trees, commonly so hung with fruit that he is obliged to prop and secure them all ways, or they would be torn to pieces. He has his corn plot, his plot for mangel-wurzel, for hemp, and so on. He is his own master; and he and every member of his family have the strongest motives to labour. You see the effect of this in that unremitting diligence which is beyond that of the whole world besides, and his economy, which is still greater.
So it is not industry alone which springs up and flourishes under the beneficent influence of a permanent interest in the soil; that influence is no less auspicious to prudence and self-control; for a large measure and a wide range of those qualities are included in the idea of an “economy” superior even to that “diligence” which already surpasses that of “the whole world besides.”
The Germans, indeed, are not so active and lively as the English. You never seen them in a bustle, or as though they meant to knock-off a vast deal in a little time. You never witness that scene of stir and hurry that you often do in England; that shouting to one another and running, where the need of dispatch rouses all the life and energy of the English character. They are, on the contrary, slow but for ever doing. They plod on from day to day and year to year, the most patient, untirable, and persevering of animals. The English peasant is so cut off from the idea of property, that he comes habitually to look upon it as a thing from which he is warned by the laws of the large proprietors, and becomes, in consequence, spiritless, purposeless, and at once the terror and the victim of the capitalists. The German bauer, on the contrary, looks on the country as made for him and his fellow-men. He feels himself a man; he has a stake in the country, as good as that of the bulk of his neighbours; he is content with his black bread, because his labour has at once created it and sweetened it to his taste, and because no man can threaten him with ejection or the workhouse, as long as he is active and economical. He walks, therefore, with a bold step; he looks you in the face with the air of a free man, but of a respectful one.
This is surely like the traditional, or we should more properly say the poetical, idea of an English independent yeomanry. Where is this idea best realized? In Dorsetshire, or on the Rhine?
Of the daily labours of these people the same author thus proceeds:
There is not an hour of the year in which they do not find unceasing occupation. In the depth of winter, when the weather permits them by any means to get out of doors, they are always finding something to do. They carry out their manure to their lands while the frost is in them. If there is not frost, they are busy cleaning ditches and felling old fruit trees, or such as do not bear well. Such of them as are too poor to lay in a sufficient stock of wood, find plenty of work in ascending into the mountainous woods, and bringing thence fuel. It would astonish the English common people to see the intense labour with which the Germans earn their firewood. In the depth of frost and snow, go into any of their hills and woods, and there you find them hacking up stumps, cutting off branches, and gathering, by all means which the official wood police will allow, boughs, stakes, and pieces of wood, which they convey home with the most incredible toil and patience.
In England, with its great quantity of grass lands and its large farms, so soon as the grain is in, and the fields are shut up for hay grass, the country seems in a comparative state of rest and quiet. But here they are everywhere, and for ever, hoeing and mowing, planting and cutting, weeding and gathering. They have a succession of crops like a market gardener. They have their carrots, poppies, hemp, flax, saintfoin, lucerne, rape, colewort, cabbage, rotabaga, black turnips, Swedish and white turnips, teazles, Jerusalem artichokes, mangel-wurzel, parsnips, kidney beans, field beans and peas, vetches, Indian corn, buckwheat, madder for the manufacturer, potatoes, their great crop of tobacco, millet—all, or the greater part, under the family management, in their own family allotments. They have had these things first to sow, many of them to transplant; to hoe, to weed, to clear off insects, to top; many of them to mow and gather in successive crops. They have their water meadows, of which kind almost all their meadows are, to flood, to mow, and reflood; watercourses to reopen and to make anew; their early fruits to gather, to bring to market with their green crops of vegetables; their cattle, sheep, calves, foals, and poultry to look after; their vines, as they shoot rampantly in the summer heat, to prune, and thin out the leaves where they are too thick; and any one may imagine what a scene of incessant labour it is.
How much labour human beings can undergo and find it not a burden, but a pleasure, is only known where the fruits to be gathered are for themselves, and the patrimony to be improved their own and their children’s inheritance. Nor is the labour bestowed unprofitably. Their tools are imperfect, but industry makes up all deficiencies in the means and appliances.5 “The peasant harrows and clears his land till it is in the nicest order, and it is admirable to see the crops which he obtains.” [P. 27.]
These are not the statements of one who wishes to make out a case against England, or who is prepossessed in favour of foreign countries in general, or Germany in particular. It is well known to Mr. Howitt’s readers that he is as much of a John Bull as is at all reconcileable with a fair share of modern ideas: his feelings, associations, and prejudices are wholly English, and his mental character, in all its elements, of an exclusively English type. In proof whereof, he is as inveterate as Mr. Baines against the state education and the ecclesiastical system of the German monarchies, and does not yield to Mr. Laing in bitterness against the general scheme of German social institutions, and against many points in the German national character.6 But the admirable effects of peasant properties he could not fail to appreciate, because his heart is with the people; and because any one whose sympathies are with them, and not solely with great landlords, cannot but value and honour a state of society in which they also count for something; in which those who till and fertilize the earth are not disinherited of their fair proportion of its surface; in which a manual labourer is not necessarily a dependent, who “asks his brother of the earth to give him leave to toil,” but has obtained that leave once for all from society itself; where the poor, equally with the rich, “walk with a bold step,” and are free citizens of the world, by a tenure stronger than that of political institutions—the possession of an assured means of subsistence, which no man has given, and no man has power to take away.
In a future article we shall show how the observations and inferences of the English sojourner concur in their results with the more elaborate researches and more precise statements of the Heidelberg professor.
[1 ]See No. 330.
[2 ]Mill had himself made a walking tour of the Rhineland in 1835, but his journal (sold at auction in 1922) has not been located.
[3 ]Rural and Domestic Life of Germany: with Characteristic Sketches of Its Cities and Scenery, Collected in a General Tour, and During a Residence in the Country in the Years 1840, 41 and 42 (London: Longman, et al., 1842), by William Howitt (1792-1879), popular author, particularly of works of travel.
[4 ]Ueber die Landwirthschaft der Rheinpfalz, und insbesondere in der Heidelberger Gegend (Heidelberg: Winter, 1830), by Karl David Heinrich Rau (1792-1870), distinguished political economist and professor at Heidelberg. The reference is to his Lehrbuch der politischen Oekonomie, 4 vols. (Heidelberg: Winter, 1826-37), which appeared in many later revised editions and translations.
[5 ]Once more Mill uses this phrase from Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part II, III, i, 29; in The Riverside Shakespeare, p. 902.
[6 ]Howitt discusses education in Chap. xx (pp. 485-501); in fact he gives high praise to the universal provision of education in Germany, while denigrating its practical effects as compared to the English informal education through business and reading (see, e.g., p. 492). Chap. xxi (pp. 502-11), while it strongly criticizes aspects of German religious life, does not dwell, as Mill implies, on the ecclesiastical system. Howitt’s mixed views on German social life and character are mainly found in Chaps. xv-xvii (pp. 197-244). For the views of Edward Baines (1800-1890), advocate of public education independent of the State, see his “Letter VIII, The Continental Systems,” in Letters to the Right Hon. Lord John Russell (London: Simpkin, Marshall, ), pp. 76-86. Samuel Laing (1780-1868), radical author and traveller, devotes about half of his Notes of a Traveller, on the Social and Political State of France, Prussia, Switzerland, Italy, and Other Parts of Europe (London: Longman, et al., 1842) to Prussia, whose system of “Functionarism” he severely criticizes.