Front Page Titles (by Subject) 335.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 2 DEC., 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:
335.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 2 DEC., 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 No. 306. This unheaded first leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A twenty fifth leading article on Irish affairs, in the Morning Chronicle of 2nd Dec. 1846 (peasant properties)”
(MacMinn, p. 64).
our paper of monday contained a set of resolutions by the guardians of Kilrush Union, in which the Government is urged to devise and carry into effect some plan of extensive emigration, as a remedy for Irish evils.1 Kilrush is in the county of Clare, in which one-third of the adult male population is receiving pauper allowance, under the name of government employment. No wonder that the guardians should be anxious to rid themselves of this terrible incubus, which, if it continues a single year, bids fair to imbue the whole labouring population with the feelings of sturdy beggars for the remainder of the present generation at the least. But it is a wonder that people should persist for ever in looking five thousand miles off for what they have at their doors. The Kilrush guardians would not send their sheep or their oxen across the Atlantic to graze, when there is ample pasture on the other side of the brook. Why is there a different rule for human beings? Why so anxious to send fellow-creatures out of sight, where their success can be a benefit to nobody but themselves—where no one can be either taught or inspired by their example? A large body of the peasantry are to be drafted off and made comfortable, or put in the way of making themselves so, by giving them land, we suppose, and tools to cultivate it. Is there any peculiar propriety in selecting the Antipodes as the scene of this very simple work of justice and beneficence? Is the light that is to be kindled one that should be hid under a bushel? Ought it not rather to be made to shine before men?2
We are as favourable as any one to measures for facilitating emigration. We think that all persons who desire to remove to the colonies should have every kind of information given them for their guidance, and every needless difficulty removed from their path. We would have the system of landed property and the distribution of population in the colonies so regulated as to afford the greatest possible field of employment for emigrant labour. We would give every facility to the formation of a colonial fund for importing labour from the mother country; and we would even advance for the purpose, from the national treasury, any sum which the colonies desired, and could be expected to repay. We would do everything in aid and support of voluntary emigration: but that which is now urged upon the Government is compulsory—for what compulsion is stronger than that in which the alternative is starvation? If nature and necessity created the alternative we should have nothing to say. Nature has hard laws. If there was actually no room for these people in their own country; if at home they must either starve or be supported by alms, under the frivolous pretence of work; if Canada or Australia was the nearest place where it was possible for them to earn a sufficient subsistence by their own labour on land of their own, we should despise the sentimentality which would bid them remain, and be paupers and beggars at home, instead of freemen, citizens, and independent landed proprietors abroad. But they may be all this at home much better than in Australia or Canada—less expensively to the State, and more suitably and advantageously to themselves. We have said it already, and we repeat it—the Celtic Irish are not the best material to colonize with.3 The English and Scotch are the proper stuff for the pioneers of the wilderness. The life of a backwoodsman does not require the social qualities which constitute the superiority of the Irish; it does require the individual hardihood, resource, and self-reliance which are precisely what the Irish have not. The first requisite of a backwoodsman is to be able to stand alone, in all senses, physical, intellectual, and moral. He must propose for himself, contrive for himself, execute for himself. He must never need a leader, nor desire a follower. He must be able to turn his hand to everything, and adapt himself summarily to all novelties of situation and circumstance. The Irishman is the opposite of all this. Sympathy and fellowship are indispensable to him. Instead of insisting, John-Bull-like, upon owing everything to himself, the demand of his nature is to be led and governed. He prefers to have some one to lean upon. He has energy and self-will in abundance, because he has strong desires, but it must be in the line of his previous habits and inclinations. He will never emerge from old habits by his own innate force; but he may be guided and persuaded out of them, as many a priest and many a landlord know; for nature and circumstances have so formed the Irish character, that while Irish landlords collectively have been among the worst in Europe, many individual Irish landlords have succeeded in doing with and for their peasantry such things as no English landlord ever did or could do. Such a people are only fit for an old country, and an old country is alone fit for them. Not to add that it is a questionable thing to take a people whom five centuries of misrule have made lawless and disorderly, and plant them down where there cannot possibly be any law or order to restrain them. Even in the United States the Irish are the most riotous and unmanageable part of the population. An Irish peasantry have already graduated but too well in Lynch law.
The fittest place for the Irish peasant is Ireland. It is there that the greatest number of improving influences can be concentrated upon him. Landed property there would precisely supply what is wanting to the formation of his character. What is good for him is that all the influences of civilization should be preserved and increased, but that he himself should be gently lifted up and placed within the pale, insted of being left outside of it. The possession of property would do this. It would make him an orderly citizen. It would make him a supporter of the law, instead of a rebel against all law but that of his confederacy. It would make him industrious and active, self-helping and self-relying, like his Celtic brother of France. And it would (if anything would) make him, like the same Celtic kinsman, frugal, self-restraining, and provident, both in other things, and in the main article of all, population. These are the natural effects of property, especially landed property, on those who have it, and on those also, almost in an equal degree, who hope to obtain it by exertion and frugality. On our plan every peasant would be either in the one case or in the other. We cannot make them all proprietors; perhaps we would not if we could. But all might have the hope, and, if they chose, the power, of one day becoming so. To remove the surplus labourers is well, but it is well also to do something permanently useful to those who cannot be removed. Their wages, it may be said, would rise. Perhaps they would: undoubtedly so, if the opportunity were taken to get rid of cottier tenure. But very little will have been done for them if they merely look upon these higher wages as convertable into potatoes for a larger number of mouths. The desideratum is, that along with higher wages they should have placed before them an object highly desirable to them, and attainable by saving from their wages. The possession of land would be that object. Of what use is it to create landed properties in New Zealand for Irish peasants, if Ireland is to be given up to cottiers, or even to labourers for hire? Is it so noble a thing, is it an exploit worthy of statesmen and philanthropists, to nurse and cocker up the Irish peasantry with the elevated and enviable condition of Dorsetshire labourers? And this glorious result is the favourite utopianism, the extreme and impracticable ultimatum, of all plans but those which provide a superior class of peasantry, maintained by land and not by wages, in Ireland itself. There is a rather numerous class of regenerators of Ireland who certainly are no visionaries. The ideal of social perfection to which they aspire for her is not pitched high.
We have said nothing on this occasion of the expense of the emigration plan, because enough has been said of it before, and because the thing really speaks for itself. We formerly estimated the cost of transporting the people to Canada, and settling them there, at ten times the expense of locating them on the waste lands.4 Others have since estimated it at thirty times.5 We know not, nor is it material, which guess is nearest the truth. Neither have we spoken of the benefit of employing our own labour in the improvement of our own country, instead of the improvement of countries which will not always be ours. These considerations are too obvious to be missed, and too important to be undervalued. But let the plan once come to maturity; let its promoters commit themselves to figures and details, and they will present us with something either on a scale of palpable insufficiency (however useful in a distant future), or bearing on the face of it so lavish a waste of public resources, squandered irrecoverably (for settlers in the wilderness never repay), that no imaginable degree of profusion on the part of Parliament, profuse as Parliament has of late years become, could come up to the mark of seriously entertaining so monstrous a scheme.
[1 ]“Ireland. Project for Public Emigration,” Morning Chronicle, 30 Nov., 1846, p. 6.
[2 ]Cf. Matthew, 5:15-16.
[3 ]See No. 317.
[4 ]For Mill’s estimate, see No. 317.
[5 ]This estimate is found in Blacker’s Prize Essay, p. 36, quoted in No. 321. Mill implies that the estimate postdates his of 26 Oct., 1846, but Blacker published his essay in 1834; perhaps Mill had just become aware of it.