Front Page Titles (by Subject) 336.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 3 DEC., 1846, P. 4 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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336.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 3 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).
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THE CONDITION OF IRELAND 
Here Mill fulfills his promise to discuss Professor Rau’s Ueber die Landwirthschaft der Rheinpfalz (see No. 334). For the context of the series, see Nos. 306 and 330. This unheaded first leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A twenty sixth leading article on Irish affairs, in the Morning Chronicle of 3 Decemb. 1846 (peasant properties)”
(MacMinn, p. 64).
professor rau begins his observations on the agriculture of the Palatinate by saying that it is
unmistakeably carried on with a high degree of industry and dexterity. The indefatigableness of the country people, who may be seen in activity all the day and all the year, and are never idle because they make a good distribution of their labours, and find for every interval of time a suitable occupation, is as well known as their zeal is praiseworthy in turning to use every circumstance which presents itself, in seizing upon every useful novelty which offers, and even in searching out new and advantageous methods. One easily perceives that the peasant of this district has reflected much on his occupation: he can give reasons for his modes of proceeding, even if those reasons are not always tenable; he is as exact an observer of proportions as it is possible to be from memory, without the aid of figures; he attends to such general signs of the times as appear to him to augur benefit or harm.1
The intelligence and, what is still rarer than intelligence, the active-mindedness to which this passage bears testimony, it is impossible to assign to any other cause than the possession of a property in the soil. A day-labourer who earns his wages by mere obedience to orders, may become a good artificer in his particular manual operation, but his mind stagnates. He is not paid for thinking and contriving, but for executing. He may be a better peg in some vast machine, though even that is not true in an unqualified sense. But in sagacity, in thoughtfulness, in power to judge of consequences and connect means with ends, in all which constitutes the practical talent of a human being, in every intellectual faculty which it ought to be the object of popular education to cherish and improve, which of these men is likely to bear off the palm—the one who drudges through a stated task for daily wages, or the one whose task is the agreeable one of finding every way of improving and making valuable a small farm, of which the whole produce is his own, and which is the permanent inheritance of his children?
The agriculture of this interesting country is not only good, but steadily progressive. The introduction of liquid manure is ascribed to David Mollinger, of Monsheim, near Worms, who died in 1787;2 its employment is now elaborate and systematic. As in Belgium, Switzerland, and Tuscany, so here, an excellent rotation of crops has been long known and practised; but this also is continually undergoing improvement. Stephen Gugenmus, of Handschuhsheim, near Heidelberg, who died in 1778, in his thirty-eighth year, is considered the chief author of the clover and madder cultivation.3 The improvements in the culture of tobacco, a staple product of the district, took place mostly between 1770 and 1780. When Rau published his book (in 1830) old men were living who remembered a time when there was little lucerne and no beetroot, when the cattle were not stall-fed, and when the manure, now so carefully preserved, was mostly wasted. Green manure was first brought into frequent use in the present century; and the vine cultivation, long neglected in this district, commenced a course of improvement in the ten years previous to 1830.4
As agriculture improved, so also did the condition of the people. Of this there can be no better criterion than the daily wages of that part of the agricultural population who have no land, or not enough to occupy their whole time. During the last years of the war, wages, according to Professor Rau, had been unusually high; they continued so until 1817.5 From that time they settled down to a lower rate; but the prices of many commodities having fallen in a still greater proportion, the condition of the labouring people was unequivocally improved. The improvement in their diet is not a matter of surmise, but of ascertained fact. In this district it is still the custom for hired labourers to be fed by their employers; and, according to Rau, there is a most decided improvement in the food afforded to them. “Forty years ago the farm servants had no cheese with their bread, and a smaller quantity of flesh-meat and puddings” (Mehlspeisen).6 We may here remark, that there is no one point more unanimously testified to by accurate describers of the condition of the country people in the parts of Europe which possess a peasant proprietary, than the occurrence, since the last generation, of a great improvement in the quality of their habitual food. We insist on this point, because it is so much the practice of English observers to judge of the condition of the people by this single test. How many are the travellers who, in rapidly running across the Continent, have pronounced the labouring population to be ill paid and miserable, in comparison with the English, on no better or other evidence than the colour of their bread! For our part, we make little account of such a criterion. The prejudice of English workpeople in favour of white bread is a kind of local superstition, grounded, like most of their preferences in diet, chiefly upon superior costliness. Nor in any case is expensive food the favourite luxury of the continental peasantry. The thing which most strikes the observer on this subject is, how much they can do with small means and inexpensive materials. The peasant of the Continent, when he has anything to spare, usually prefers to lay it by for the purpose of buying more land, rather than expend it in what an Englishman would consider (though he probably does not) an improvement in his mode of living. But though we ought to be cautious of inferring poverty from what an English labourer looks upon as inferiority of diet, yet for that very reason the substitution of more costly food is a most decisive evidence of general improvement; and there is ample proof that over a large portion of the Continent this substitution is now actually taking place.
“Such an increase of wages,” says Professor Rau, “which must be estimated not in money, but in the quantity of necessaries and conveniences which the labourer is enabled to procure, is by universal admission a proof that the mass of capital must have increased.”7 It is so; but it also proves something more. It proves, not only that capital has increased, but that the increase of the labouring population has been in a less rapid ratio. It proves that the possibility, opened to every labourer who can save money, of becoming a landed proprietor is more than an incentive to industry; that it is also a check to over-population, by affording a motive which pervades the whole people for the restriction of expenditure, as well as for the increase of production; a motive to practice, along with other kinds of economy, that which is of all kinds the most important—economy of mouths. It warrants a hope that this blessing, if extended to Ireland, would be not merely a sovereign remedy for Irish listlessness and indolence, but would do much to correct the still deeper seated and more intractable malady of Irish improvidence.
[1 ]Translated from Rau, pp. 15-16. Mill quotes most of this passage in his Principles of Political Economy, CW, Vol. II, p. 265.
[2 ]David Mollinger was administrator of a large estate in Monsheim.
[3 ]Stefan Gugenmus (1740-78), was administrator of four estates and a writer on agriculture.
[4 ]Rau, pp. 17-18.
[5 ]Ibid., p. 18.
[6 ]Translated from ibid., p. 20.
[7 ]Translated from ibid., p. 18.