Front Page Titles (by Subject) 339.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 9 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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339.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 9 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 
This continuation of the evidence in favour of peasant proprietors draws on Switzerland, the South of France, and the Pyrenees, in 1830, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Constable, 1831), by Henry David Inglis (1795-1835), a writer of books on travel, whose pseudonym was “Derwent Conway.” For the context, see Nos. 306 and 330. This unheaded first leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A twenty ninth leading article on Irish affairs, in the Morning Chronicle of 9th Decemb. 1846 (peasant proprietors.)”
(MacMinn, p. 64.)
the classic ground of peasant proprietors, next to Norway, is Switzerland. Of all countries in Europe, Norway excepted, it is probably in Switzerland that peasant properties, as a general feature of the country, are of longest standing, and have most fully produced their natural effects. The reduction of Switzerland to the condition of a “pauper-warren”1 ought, therefore, if there was truth in the current maxims of English political economy a generation ago, to have reached a most advanced stage, or rather to be entirely consummated.
“Throughout the cantons of Basle and Argovie,” says Mr. Inglis,
farming out land is unknown, with the exception of gardens near the large towns. The properties of those who are considered respectable Swiss peasants run from 10 up to 40, or at most 50 acres; many of the peasants have amassed considerable fortunes; but accession of fortune is never made apparent in their mode of living.
[Vol. I, pp. 25-6.]
This we believe to be the general rule throughout the Continent. Nowhere in continental countries will there be found an entire people, from nearly the lowest up to nearly the highest, absorbed in the mean ambition of pushing themselves, by dint of expense, from the class in which they were born into a richer or finer class, or of maintaining, by apparent expense, the false semblance of a larger income than they really have. “From £100 to £300 per annum is the usual range of expenditure for persons living, as we should say, in easy circumstances; and I learned, from authority that admits of no doubt, that not a single individual in all Switzerland spends £1,000 per annum.” [Ibid., p. 26.]
Let us see how this traveller, who stands so high in the reputed correctness of his observations and precision of his information, was impressed by the signs of industry among the Swiss people:
In walking anywhere in the neighbourhood of Zurich, in looking to the right or to the left, one is struck with the extraordinary industry of the inhabitants; and if we learn that a proprietor here has a return of ten per cent., we are inclined to say, “He deserves it.” I speak at present of country labour, though I believe that, in every kind of trade also, the people of Zurich are remarkable for their assiduity; but in the industry they show in the cultivation of their land I may safely say they are unrivalled.
[Ibid., p. 32.]
Exactly what Mr. Howitt said of the peasant proprietors of Germany, and almost exactly what Arthur Young said of such peasant proprietors as even at the time of his travels were already found in France.2
When I used to open my casement between four and five in the morning to look out upon the lake and the distant Alps, I saw the labourer in the fields; and when I returned from an evening walk, long after sunset, as late, perhaps, as half-past eight, there was the labourer, mowing his grass, or tying up his vines. But there are other and better evidences of the industry of the Zurichers than merely seeing them late and early at work. It is impossible to look at a field, a garden, a hedging, scarcely even a tree, a flower, or a vegetable, without perceiving proofs of the extreme care and industry that are bestowed upon the cultivation of the soil. If, for example, a path leads through, or by the side of a field of grain, the corn is not, as in England, permitted to hang over the path, exposed to be pulled or trodden down by every passer by; it is everywhere bounded by a fence, stakes are placed at intervals of about a yard, and, about two and four feet from the ground, boughs of trees are passed longitudinally along. If you look into a field towards evening, where there are large beds of cauliflower or cabbage, you will find that every single plant has been watered. In the gardens, which around Zurich are extremely large, the most punctilious care is evinced in every production that grows. The vegetables are planted with seemingly mathematical accuracy; not a single weed is to be seen, nor a single stone. Plants are not earthed up as with us, but are planted in a small hollow, into each of which a little manure is put, and each plant is watered daily. Where seeds are sown, the earth directly above is broken into the finest powder; every shrub, every flower is tied to a stake, and where there is wall-fruit a trellice is erected against the wall, to which the boughs are fastened, and there is not a single twig that has not its appropriate resting place.
[Inglis, Vol. I, pp. 32-3.]
We make no apology for these minute details. It is the details that make up the picture. Such traits of unwearied assiduity, and what may almost be called affectionate interest in the land, form the staple of all descriptions of the agriculture of peasant proprietors, wherever the properties are not too small to give full occupation to a family, and for the most part even where they are so.
Of another more remote and Alpine district of Switzerland Mr. Inglis thus speaks:
In no country in Europe will be found so few poor as the Engadine. In the village of Suss, which contains about 600 inhabitants, there is not a single individual who has not wherewithal to live comfortably, not a single individual who is indebted to others for one morsel that he eats. . . . In the whole of the Engadine the land belongs to the peasantry, who, like the inhabitants of every other place where this state of things exists, vary greatly in the extent of their possessions. If a peasant owns from eight to fifteen cows, and land sufficient for their support, as well as for growing what is consumed in his own family, he is esteemed in good circumstances. . . . Generally speaking, an Engadine peasant lives entirely upon the produce of his land, with the exception of the few articles of foreign growth required in his family, such as coffee, sugar, and wine. . . . Flax is grown, prepared, spun, and woven without ever leaving his house. He has also his own wool, which is converted into a blue coat without passing through the hands of either the dyer or the tailor. The country is incapable of greater cultivation than it has received. All has been done for it that industry and an extreme love of gain can devise. Wherever an ear of rye will ripen, there it is to be found. There is not a foot of waste land in the Engadine, the lowest part of which is not much lower than the top of Snowdon. Wherever grass will grow, there it is; wherever a rock will bear a blade, verdure is seen upon it; wherever rye will succeed, there it is cultivated. Barley and oats have also their appropriate spots; and wherever it is possible to ripen a little patch of wheat, the cultivation of it is attempted.
[Ibid., pp. 109-11, 113, 146.]
Mr. Inglis, however, does not find that a similar spirit of intense industry pervades all Switzerland. Like other travellers, he finds a considerable difference between the Protestant and Catholic cantons, to the disadvantage of the last. Even Fribourg, though rich, “might be richer; the people are comfortable, but they might be affluent;” [ibid., p. 257] and the inferiority of the Forest cantons is yet more decided, although peasant properties are as much the general rule in Catholic as in Protestant Switzerland. Mr. Inglis, however, assigns a cause adequate to account for the difference, in the great amount of time subtracted from industry by ceremonial observances. Not only are holidays numerous, but in many of the Catholic districts several hours of every day are devoted to religious purposes:
The strict Catholic, who happens to reside within a jurisdiction where great encouragement is given to the frequency and prolongation of prayers and ceremonials, spends in church those morning hours which an English labourer spends in the fields. The daily custom in many of the Catholic jurisdictions is to spend the morning from six to eight in church. Nor is it only the morning hours that are lost to labour. At two in the afternoon the strict Catholic of Uri and elsewhere must again throw off his labourer’s apparel, put on his best clothes, and repair to church. . . . If we allow, as an average, twelve hours for labour, and say that four hours are occupied in the manner I have mentioned—and this is the very least that can be allowed—one-third more labour is bestowed upon the land belonging to the Protestants than that belonging to Catholics; and if to these hours we add twenty-two holidays,
it is easy to understand why in a Lucerne village, divided between the two religions, Mr. Inglis “remarked the most luxuriant crops, and the most neglected land, side by side.” [Ibid., pp. 161, 160, 161, 191, 190.]
The Irish peasant, like him of Uri, is a strict Catholic; but the Catholic religion manifests itself to him in no such forms. It is well known that the holidays of obligation prescribed for these islands by the Church of Rome are unusually few, and that any such daily waste of time as that commemorated by Mr. Inglis is unknown.
We would on no account, in the smallest atom, overstate our case, and we willingly admit that Mr. Inglis also speaks in high terms of the great industry of the Bernese peasantry, and of the easy and comfortable condition in which they live; although in Berne the peasant is not generally the owner of the soil, great part of it belonging to large proprietors, and being cultivated by hired servants. [Ibid., p. 212.] But, in the first place, we never pretended that a country could not enjoy in an eminent degree the moral and economical benefits of peasant properties unless every peasant, without exception, was a proprietor. All the more opulent cantons of German Switzerland are virtually one country; in some parts nearly half the labouring population are citizens of other cantons; and the hired labourer of Berne must, in a great degree, mould his habits and regulate his requirements on the standard set by the peasant properties in the surrounding cantons.
But, in the second place, notwithstanding what is said of the industry and comfortable condition of the Bernese labourer, there is a difference between that canton and the rest of Switzerland of the most disastrous kind, namely, that it contains more paupers than are probably to be found in all the other cantons put together. In 1828 nearly 20,000 persons were receiving public relief, while the population of the canton (exclusive of the Jura district, to which the poor law does not extend) amounted, in 1831, to only 313,000, so that more than one person in every sixteen was an actual pauper. [Ibid., p. 223.] The same canton which comprises the greatest landowners in Switzerland contains nearly all its pauperism. We have no intention of laying any stress on this coincidence, or arguing from it that great landed properties have a necessary tendency to impoverish the labouring class. The pauperism in Berne was not owing to the state of its landed property, but to a system of poor-law administration the worst in Europe, with the single exception of England previous to the new poor law. Of this system a full account, communicated by the Bernese Government, is in the Appendix to the Report of the Poor-law Inquiry Commission.3 In no country but England was relief so lavishly given, and in no other country therefore had so much progress been made in pauperizing the population. But while it would be unfair to ascribe to any other cause the natural and necessary effects of so bad a poor law, we need not restrain ourselves from the surmise, that if peasant properties had been as largely diffused in Berne as they were in Zurich or Aargau, the people would have been, as they were in those cantons, too manifestly prosperous to have given occasion or temptation to a profuse system of public relief; and thus perhaps even the evils of which no other immediate cause needs be assigned than the poor law, are among the effects for which Berne may ultimately thank her large properties and her cultivation by hired labour.
We have quoted thus largely from Mr. Inglis, because he is an established authority, and because we well know the superior effect, on English readers, of English testimony. But we have ample evidence to the same and to many kindred points from foreign sources, more intrinsically valuable than the passing observations of even the most intelligent traveller; and some portion of this we may impart to our readers in a future article.
[1 ]For the origin of the term, see No. 328, n2.
[2 ]See No. 334 for Mill’s account of Howitt’s Rural and Domestic Life of Germany, and No. 330 for his account of Young’s Travels.
[3 ]See “Canton de Berne, Letter from Consul Morier, . . . Relating to the . . . Maintenance of the Poor in the Canton de Berne,” PP, 1834, XXXIX, 190-228.