Front Page Titles (by Subject) 340.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 11 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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340.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 11 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 article carries out the promise at the end of No. 339 by citing the testimony of Sismondi, thus concluding the series of citations begun in No. 330. For the context of the series, see No. 306. This unheaded first leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A thirtieth leading article on Irish affairs, in the Morning Chronicle of 11th December 1846 (peasant proprietors)”
(MacMinn, p. 65).
in a late article we quoted, from one of the writings of Mr. Inglis, a traveller’s impression of the careful agriculture of Switzerland, and the exemplary industry of the Swiss peasant proprietors. We shall now cite the testimony of an inhabitant of the country, and owner of landed property in it, who was also one of the most instructed and accomplished political writers of the Continent, and of all political economists the one who had most studied the economical history of nations, and had the greatest practical acquaintance with agriculture. We need hardly say that we mean M. de Sismondi. In his Studies in Political Economy, the production of his mature years, a book which merits and would well reward the labour of a translator, this eminent writer thus expresses himself:
It is especially Switzerland that ought to be surveyed and studied, in order to judge of the happiness of peasant proprietors. It is Switzerland that we should learn to know, in order to be convinced that agriculture, practised by the same persons who receive its fruits, can create great ease and comfort to a very numerous population; great independence of character, the result of independence of condition; a great commerce of consumption, arising from the real affluence of all the inhabitants, even in a country of which the climate is rude, the soil of only middling fertility, and where late frosts and inconstancy of seasons often disappoint the hopes of the agriculturist. It is impossible to see without admiration those wooden mansions of the humblest peasant, so large, so perfectly closed in, so well constructed, so loaded with carvings. In the interior large corridors separate the numerous chambers of the family; each chamber has but one bed, abundantly provided with curtains, coverlets, and the whitest linen, and surrounded by well-kept articles of furniture; the armoires are filled with linen, the dairy is large, airy, and of exquisite cleanness; under the same roof is found a great provision of corn, salted meat, cheese, and wood: in the cow-houses may be seen the most carefully tended and finest cattle in Europe; the garden is planted with flowers; both men and women are warmly and cleanly dressed, the latter preserving with pride their ancient costume, and all wearing in their faces the impress of health and vigour. Let other nations vaunt their opulence, Switzerland can always, with pride, oppose to them her peasantry.1
And in another work of the same writer, the New Principles of Political Economy, he observes:
When traversing nearly all Switzerland, and several provinces of France, Italy, and Germany, we have no need to ask, in passing each piece of land, if it belongs to a proprietor-cultivator or to a farmer. The intelligent care, the enjoyments prepared for the labourer, the adornment which the country has received from his hands, very soon point out the former. It is true that an oppressive government may destroy the comfort and brutalise the intelligence which ought to be the consequences of property; taxation may carry off the best part of the produce of the fields, the insolence of the agents of Government may disturb the security of the peasants, the impossibility of obtaining justice against a powerful neighbour may paralyse their minds by discouragement, and in the fine country lately restored to the administration of the King of Sardinia, the proprietor, no less than the day labourer, wears the uniform of indigence.2
He is here speaking of Savoy, which is a country of peasant proprietors, and one of the few countries possessing that advantage in which the peasantry are very poor and live wretchedly. “It is in vain,” says M. de Sismondi, “to observe only one of the rules of a sound political economy, it cannot suffice by itself to produce good; but at least it diminishes the evil.”3
M. de Sismondi’s evidence in favour of peasant properties is the more valuable, because he is not one of those superficial and sentimental people who think it fine, or peradventure pious, to deny or explain away the penalties which nature has annexed to the unrestrained exercise of the power of increase inherent in the human species. There is not a firmer adherent of the doctrines of Malthus, or rather of common sense, than M. de Sismondi; as, within our experience at least, those who are really in earnest about the improvement and dignity of the labouring classes usually are. And when people are besotted enough to taunt a doctrine which simply declares the actual course of nature, with being the offspring of inhumanity and of an exclusive regard for wealth, it is a sufficient answer to oppose to them the man known to Europe as the proclaimed antagonist of all systems which treat wealth and production, and not human happiness and human improvement, as the ends of political economy. But (not to digress further) when small landed properties have been condemned by some English political economists, it has been chiefly on the ground that they promote over-population, and, by a too minute subdivision of the soil, convert the country into a “pauper-warren.”4 Now, that over-population may coexist with peasant properties we by no means deny; they are not, nor is anything, an absolute safeguard against that evil. But if their general tendency had been to promote it, the tendency could not, with his very varied opportunities, have escaped an observer so keenly alive to the mischiefs of over-population as Sismondi; and would have been utterly incompatible with his strenuous advocacy of the system. Let us hear what he says on the very point:
In countries occupied in the patriarchal manner by small proprietors, population increases regularly and rapidly, until it has reached its natural limits; that is to say, inheritances continue to be divided and subdivided among several children, as long as by an additional application of labour each family can obtain an undiminished income from a smaller portion of land. The father who possessed a large extent of pasturage, divides it among his sons, who convert it into fields and meadows; these sons further subdivide it, to get rid of the system of fallows; every advance in agricultural knowledge permits a further division; but we need not fear that the proprietor will bring up children to make beggars of them. He knows exactly the inheritance which he is able to leave them; he knows that the law will divide it equally among them; he sees the limit at which this division would make them descend from the rank which he has himself occupied, and a legitimate family pride, no less real in the peasant than in the nobleman, makes him pause before calling into existence children whom he will be unable to provide for. If, notwithstanding, they are born, at least they do not marry, or they themselves select, among several brothers, the one who shall perpetuate the family. In the Swiss cantons we never find the patrimonies of the peasants subdivided to such a degree as to sink them below a state of honourable comfort, although the habit of foreign service, by opening to the young a career of undefined possibilities, gives some encouragement to a superabundant population.5
We will not close our article without a further extract, to complete the exhibition of the author’s judgment on peasant properties:
The peasant proprietor is, of all cultivators, the one who turns the soil to greatest account, because he is the one who thinks most of the future, and who is, besides, the most enlightened by experience. He is also the one who makes the most advantageous use of human labour, because, in distributing occupations among all the members of his family, he reserves employment for every day in the year, so that no one needs ever be idle. . . . He turns to the benefit of his children, and of the ages to come, every instant not required of him by the occupations of the seasons. A few moments are enough for planting the seed which, in a hundred years, will be a noble tree; for digging the trench which will permanently drain his field; for forming the conduit which will guide to it a rivulet of fresh water; for improving by cares often repeated, but in moments which would otherwise be wasted, all the different animals and vegetables by which he is surrounded. His little patrimony is a real bank for savings, ever ready to receive his small gains, to make profitable all his moments of leisure. The peasant has a lively feeling of the advantages enjoyed by a proprietor, and is always eager to buy land at any price. He pays more for it than it is worth, more than it will perhaps return to him; but how great reason has he to esteem highly the benefit of having always at hand an advantageous investment for his labour, without offering it by competition, and being always sure of bread when he wants it, without having to bid for it in the market! . . . Of all cultivators he is the most happy; and, in addition to this, never does the earth maintain in comfort, without exhausting its power, and provide with employment so many inhabitants on a given space, as when they are proprietors; and of all cultivators, the peasant proprietor gives most encouragement to commerce and manufactures, because of all cultivators he is the richest.6
Such is the deliberate opinion of one of the highest modern authorities in agricultural economy on the industrial, moral, and social effects of peasant properties.
[1 ]Translated from Sismondi, Etudes sur l’économie politique, Vol. I, pp. 171-3. Quoted also in Principles, CW, Vol. II, p. 254 (II, vi, 2).
[2 ]Translated from Nouveaux principes d’économie politique (1819), 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Paris: Delaunay, 1827), Vol. I, pp. 168-9. Quoted (from this ed.) in Principles, CW, Vol. II, p. 256n. The King of Sardinia (and Duke of Savoy) was Charles Felix (1765-1831).
[3 ]Translated from Nouveaux principes, Vol. I, p. 169; quoted in Principles, CW, Vol. II, p. 256n.
[4 ]For the term, see No. 328, n2.
[5 ]Translated from Nouveaux principes, Vol. I, pp. 170-1.
[6 ]Translated from Etudes sur l’économie politique, Vol. I, pp. 171, 173; quoted in Principles, CW, Vol. II, pp. 255-6.