Front Page Titles (by Subject) 348.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 24 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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348.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 24 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 
The Globe and Traveller had replied to No. 346 in the evening of the same day, 22 Dec., 1846, p. 2, in a leader that Mill here quotes. For the context of the series, see No. 306. This unheaded leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A thirty eighth leading article on Irish affairs, in the Morning Chronicle of 24th December 1846 (the second leader)”
(MacMinn, p. 66).
now that the colonization of the Irish wastes is becoming a practical question, the attention of the Government and the public may appropriately be called to a variety of points connected with the mode of execution, which it would have been premature to discuss so long as the main idea floated as a mere project before people’s minds. Until its advantages were recognised there was little use in bringing under consideration its practical difficulties. The time, however, has now come when these must be estimated, and a choice made among the various means by which they may be met.
If the introduction of peasant properties failed to realise the benefits expected from it, the cause must either be want of industry in the proprietors, or want of providence, chiefly in respect to population. Of these dangers the latter is the more serious; of the former we cannot entertain any real apprehension. We believe there is no instance of a class of peasant proprietors who are not industrious. In general their industry is an example and a wonder, deserving almost the name given to it in a statistical account of the canton of Schaffhausen, published a few years ago, which says that until the last half century there was not much to praise in the agricultural condition of the canton, except the superhuman industry of the people.1 This is instar omnium.2 Even where there is nothing else to be said for peasant proprietors, their industry is “superhuman.” We mean, of course, in any country where there is protection to property, and where they are not subject to arbitrary taxation. It is because the Irish peasantry have their habits of industry yet to acquire that we have contended that peasant properties cannot but be a benefit to them, even should the experiment fail in every other respect. The Globe indeed, in its reply to our article of Tuesday, ridicules the idea of “catching up whole masses of destitute peasantry, with not one habit of methodical industry, or improvement, or forethought about them” . . . “masses whose utmost ambition hitherto has been to vegetate on potatoes,” and “planting” these, “at a single stroke, on lands reclaimed at the public expense,” in the hope of converting them, “with the touch of an adminstrative harlequin’s wand, into thriving proprietors.” The Globe does not surely imagine that it is proposed to make a progress through Clare or Tiperrary, seize hold of the first fifty thousand ragged people you meet, and drag them obtorto collo3 to be made proprietors of. There are even in Ireland abundance of industrious poor, and still greater abundance who want nothing but sufficient inducements and encouragements to be industrious. There are never wanting, even now, peasants who go through the whole toil of reclaiming several acres of bog or mountain land without any assistance, on the tenure of mere squatters, with no prospect but that of paying a rackrent as soon as the man whom the law calls the owner may think it worth while to make the demand. Surely the human faculties are not unequal to devising the means of reaching these very people, and making them, and not the idle and indifferent, the recipients of the intended boon.
The truth is, that the means of making this distinction are extremely obvious, nothing more being requisite than to leave everything that can be done by a peasant to be done by the proprietor. Let him have the land itself, not gratuitously (on that point the Globe is fighting shadows), but at cost price, or a rent equivalent to it, including in both the cost of the original purchase and the cost of the improvement. But the improvement should be limited to such drainage or other works as can only be accomplished through command of money, and on a large scale. There should be no building of houses, no inclosing, no preparation of the soil for culture; lime or other permanent manures may be supplied, but they should be paid for; and the fertilization of the land by coating it with the subsoil (when of suitable quality) is a thing which the proprietors should be instructed to do for themselves, rather than a thing which should be done for them. Any allotment not reclaimed within a given time should revert to Government, compensation being made for all useful work actually performed; and the land should at once be regranted to a worthier occupant.
There is a larger element of uncertainty affecting the realization of the hoped for benefits, so far as they depend not on the industry but on the prudence of the new proprietors. Property indeed, and the possibility of acquiring it, are to the peasant, as to all others who must work to live, the great school of prudence as of the other industrial virtues. But it is not always an effectual one. Peasant proprietors are invariably industrious; they are generally, but not invariably, provident. The incentives to industry are more direct and nearer at hand than the restraints on over-population; and the bad habits of the Irish peasantry are more inveterate on the last than on the former point. There is no danger that the new proprietors, if selected on any reasonably discriminating principle, would be deficient in industry. But they may increase too fast, and break up the land into minute sub-divisions. It is no reason against trying a remedy of known efficacy, that it is not infallible. But it is a reason for guarding it by all practicable auxiliary precautions.
With this object in view, it would probably be advisable that the State, in the cases at least in which any part of the repayment of its outlay is commuted for rent, should, notwithstanding the fixity of tenure, retain sufficient of the rights of a landlord to prevent the little estates from being subdivided without its consent. It should recognise only one proprietor, and allow on each farm only a single dwelling. These conditions, made known from the first, and expressly inserted in the legal instrument of grant, would bear obviously in their aspect the public motives by which they were dictated, and could neither be complained of nor misunderstood. For another, but equally important reason, the consent of Government should be required to every sale, or a right of pre-emption should be reserved to it. The object of this would be to prevent the small properties from being bought up, and thrown into large ones.
[1 ]Eduard Im-Thurn (1813-77), Der Kanton Schaffhausen (1840), Vol. XII, p. 59, of Historisch-geographisch-statistisches Gemälde der Schweiz, 18 vols. (St. Gallen and Bern: Huber, 1834-46).
[2 ]See Pliny the Elder (ca. 23-79), Roman military leader, historian, and naturalist, Natural History (Latin and English), trans. H. Rackham, et al., 10 vols. (London: Heinemann, 1938-62), Vol. IV, p. 64 (XII, 87).
[3 ]Cicero, “Pro A. Cluentio habito oratio,” p. 282 (lix, 5).