Front Page Titles (by Subject) 351.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 1 JAN., 1847, P. 4 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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351.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 1 JAN., 1847, 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 
For the context, see No. 306. This unheaded first leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A fortieth leading article on Irish affairs, in the Morning Chronicle of 1st January 1847”
(MacMinn, p. 66).
as the time approaches when the measures in preparation by Government for the present relief and future improvement of Ireland must be brought to maturity, of which measures it is impossible that some plan for the reclamation of the waste lands should not form an essential part, we think it useful to continue presenting, from time to time, what occurs to us on the various points of detail which must be considered in dealing practically with the subject. We have applied ourselves particularly to this portion of the great Irish question, not because any one remedy can possibly suffice to cure evils so inveterate. To give Ireland a chance of redemption, many beneficent agencies must combine. But of all improving influences which can be made operative upon the poorer classes of any people, and especially of a people like the Irish, the most efficacious are those which grow out of the possession of property—its actual possession by a class among the labouring people, and the possibility and hope of it to them all. This, the most powerful of all instruments of good, next to popular education—and itself better deserving the name of popular education than much of what now passes by the name—it is, by a rare concurrence of circumstances, in the power of Government to confer upon Ireland, almost by an effort of will, with scarcely more difficulty or embarrassment than it is at any rate necessitated to encounter for the sake of keeping a whole people from perishing with famine. Yet this, the most important by far of the practical questions arising out of the crisis, was the most neglected. The voices which had made themselves heard on the subject were few and far between, and no echo had followed. It seemed therefore advisable to make the more beaten topics of Irish discussion matters of secondary consideration for a time, and to obtrude perseveringly this great neglected topic upon those who, in their several capacities, had a voice in determining the use, or the no-use, which should be made of the present temporary evil for permanent good.
The question is now, however, in a different position. Sufficient attention has been directed to it, by ourselves and others, to ensure its not being passed over unregarded. And, once entertained, the proposition has so little from which the most timid imagination can conjure up ideas of danger, while if successful it is so full of the richest promise of good, that it can scarcely fail to meet with favour, even if only as an experiment. The chief thing now to be guarded against is, lest a plan, good in its object and general conception, should miscarry in the details. Details are not here of minor importance. The whole efficacy of the scheme depends on them. A single point of detail decided the wrong way may be fatal to the success of the plan. The details are the plan. It would therefore be neither right to the Government nor to the subject to be backward in making suggestions because they relate to matters of detail. We do not offer any suggestions of ours for more than they are worth; they are not given dogmatically as final, but as hints for consideration. If the matter were to be decided by those alone who have reflected on it, they would not require such aid as we can give. But since to be thoroughly conversant with the principle of a measure is not always one of the qualifications required from those entrusted with planning or executing its provisions, it will not do to withhold thoughts which have any bearing on the subject, under the idea that if really valuable they will have occurred to some one else.
In a late article we endeavoured to point out the considerations which should be attended to in fixing the size of peasant properties, and we expressed an opinion that on the average they should neither exceed nor fall short of that which will fully occupy and amply remunerate the labour of the proprietor himself and of his family.1 It seems necessary to add, in explanation, that in suggesting this standard for the average we do not propose that each individual allotment should be made to conform to it. It is, on the contrary, extremely desirable that there should be considerable inequality and diversity among the allotments, in order that there may be peasant proprietors of different grades. Complete equality is only a school of improvement where there is already a strong habitual sentiment of emulation. A multitude of persons occupied exactly alike, all equally well off, and having nobody near who is superior or dissimilar to them, do not improve. Each is confirmed in his own habits by seeing precisely the same habits prevailing all around him. It is not enough that the day labourer aspires to be a proprietor; the man of five acres should aspire to be the proprietor of ten, the man of ten to fifteen or more. The largest size (whatever it be) that a family can properly manage without assistance should be the most usual size of an allotment, but there should also be many smaller and some larger. The best mode of providing for these diversities will soon be discovered by experience, if the executive functionaries are competent to their task. Possibly no more recondite contrivance may be requisite than that of allotting to each selected family as much land as it can bring into a certain prescribed completeness of cultivation within a given time. The different energy and ability of different cultivators would hardly fail to produce as much inequality of possessions as is desirable, and this without departing from the general principle previously laid down, since those capable of reclaiming more would be capable of managing more without calling in the aid of hired labour.
Another point ought not to be overlooked. In every plan which has to do with Irish labourers the obstacle is—too little ambition, too few wants; the danger that they will be satisfied with a bare subsistence, and will prefer rags, a turf cabin, and idleness, to comfort with labour. When a people of this character is discovered in the South Sea islands or on the African coast, our merchants and navigators excite new wants by placing suitable objects before their eyes. The new colonists must have objects before their eyes sufficiently attractive to be worth working for. Comforts and conveniences must be shown to them—must be brought within easy reach. Many of the tracts now waste, and capable of being colonised, are at a great distance from any existing town or village. In planting these tracts with settlers, it is proper to do what is always done in America—to lay out villages or towns at suitable distances. In these, artisans would settle and shops establish themselves; the peasant proprietors would find a market for surplus produce, and facilities for converting the proceeds into articles of comfort and convenience. Roads should be made, from the very first, to connect these villages with the country round and with the more distant centres of civilization. Individual exertion might here co-operate very usefully with the plans of Government. A society for the improvement of Ireland could hardly find a more useful employment of funds than to establish depôts in convenient situations, where the various things for which it is useful there should be a demand among the peasantry might be provided, and kept constantly in their sight; tools of good construction; seeds suited for various kinds of culture; useful books, good and cheap clothing, solid and useful utensils, and articles of furniture. There might even be established with great advantage (if the term may be permitted) itinerant bazaars of all sorts of articles, at once useful to the peasantry and within their capacities of purchase. A philanthropic society could afford to wait for its reimbursement until a demand had been raised up by its own continued exertions; which, considering all the uncertainties of the case, could hardly be expected from individual capitalists.
[1 ]See No. 349.