Front Page Titles (by Subject) 353.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 6 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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353.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 6 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 
Mill here defends his article on the Treasury Minute (No. 352) against criticisms in a leading article in the Globe and Traveller, 5 Jan., 1847, p. 2, from which the quotations are taken. For the context of the series, see No. 306. This unheaded leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A forty second leading article on Irish affairs, in the Morning Chronicle of 6th Jany 1847. (The second leader).”
(MacMinn, p. 66.)
the globe of yesterday evening has put forth an answer to our observations on Monday respecting the Treasury minute of the 1st of December, as connected with the question of waste lands. The Globe would be “extremely sorry to have to acknowledge the correctness of the opinion” that the forthcoming measure of the Government is in danger of being defeated, and the whole question prejudged, by the offer so bountifully made to lend the money of the State to any landlord who chooses to reclaim waste land, and is willing to pledge his estate for the repayment. We should rejoice to think that there was no ground for this apprehension; but the article of the Globe has certainly no tendency to reassure us; for though the writer commences as if he meant to affirm that the consequence anticipated will not take place, the whole drift of his article is, to justify it if it does take place, and even to make out that the Government will be greatly to blame if it does not.
The point is—shall Government take measures for reclaiming the waste land in such a way that the whole value given to the land by public money shall be made a present of to the landlords? On this the Globe says, it will not be a present, for the waste land, belonging to them by law, is as much theirs as the cultivated land. Be it so. And the owner has “an equal right to invest his capital in adding value” to the waste land as to the cultivated land. True. And as much right to borrow for the one as for the other purpose. True again; but who questions or obstructs his right? Let him borrow; but why is the State obliged to lend? “Nor, to carry the principle to the full extent of the case, do we see why the reception of a loan from the State should be held to affect his right to the increased value.” Such is the last step in this ladder of propositions, and a most astounding step it is.
The Globe should really reconsider the subject, and think twice before determining to stand to this doctrine. Will any one admit as a principle, that whatever A has a right to do without asking leave from B, he has a right to B’s unconditional assistance in doing? Or that because A has a right to do as he pleases with his own, and to borrow if he can whatever he is able to pay, this constitutes the smallest approach to a reason, as respects B, why he should become the lender? Is any one, either Government or private person, under an obligation to lend money for the purpose of enriching another? Besides, a Government has properly no money. Its money is the money of the public, and is neither to be given nor lent for any reason but the public good, nor in any manner but the manner most conducive to it. One would imagine that the State kept a shop for lending money, and was glad to do any little job in the way of business, without asking questions. On the contrary, lending money is a thing entirely foreign to the usual business and functions of a State; a most exceptional transaction, justifiable only as a means to some public benefit of a high order, not to be attained otherwise; and as it would be the height of impudence in any individual or any class to say to the Government, Lend us public money for our convenience, it would also be the grossest dereliction of duty in the Government to do so, unless it had ascertained that no other mode of employing the money would produce so much public benefit.
We could understand, though we should marvel at, any one who should say, that the money which Government may bestow would be more beneficially employed in improving the land for the landlords than in improving it for the people. But the Globe says the direct contrary. It expressly allows, that “if the Government improved the land, it would make the better disposal of it by dividing it into small farms, instead of continuing the cottier and conacre system,” which our contemporary calls, in as strong language as any we have used, a “vile system.” And does this make scarcely any difference? Does the public good indeed count for so little? Is it so new a thing to consider great social objects and the welfare of a people, in a question about land, that such considerations are not allowed even to turn the scale—are not suffered to outweigh a fanciful claim of men, who have made no use of the land for twenty generations, to be the only persons whom the State shall help to make use of it now! Men who, in any newly formed colony, would have been ousted of their land if it had remained unused for as many years as it now has centuries. Can any one wonder at Socialism, or Communism, after this? Can we be surprised that men should be found who passionately reject and denounce the principle of property, when we see into what a base superstition the worship of it has grown—how it deadens men’s minds to the ends for which property exists, erecting property itself into an end—and how intellects fit for better things are held in bondage by the mere name, though the idea which it ought to represent be absent!
The second argument of the Globe is an extremely original one. You object, it says, to bestowing on the landlord the whole value given to the land by reclaiming it at the public expense; this, however, you are bound to do; for you admit, and so does every one, that property ought not to be taken away without compensation; though the land lie waste, the landlord is entitled to its present value; and its present value is the same thing as its future value when improved, minus the expenses. How this should be is rather difficult to conceive. The Globe, therefore, illustrates it by an example. If Lord De Freyne, whose application to Government we noticed on Monday, be right in his estimate,
his land is of such a nature that for every pound he may now spend upon it he is sure to receive about four in return. . . . Now, either his lordship is right as to the value of his land, or he is wrong. . . . If he is wrong, then the State, by lending him what he asks for, will not “make him a present of £2,150 a-year for ever.”. . . If he is right, his interest in those 10,900 acres of land is now fairly worth (to anybody who has £25,000 to spare for its improvement) some 60 or 70,000 pounds; for as land has recently sold in Ireland, if taken into the market when improved, with an annual value of £3,000, it should not bring much less than £100,000.
So that compensation for the present value of the land could not be made to Lord De Freyne (if his calculations are right), unless he were paid £60,000, or £70,000.
Now, does any human being believe that if Lord De Freyne’s waste, or the waste of any other Irish landlord who allowed it to remain a waste, could have been sold for £60,000, it would have been unsold to this day? Have so needy a class possessed a valuable commodity of great value for all these generations, and never sold it? The dilemma of the Globe will not hold. He argues that either the land when reclaimed will not yield a net profit of £60,000, or if it will, it can be sold for something approaching to that amount now. But everybody knows that waste land in Ireland cannot now be sold for anything more than a trifling price, and that this is no argument at all against its capacity to be made valuable by improvement. Persons who have large sums to buy land with, and large sums to sink in improving it, and who are willing to adventure all this upon the chances of an agricultural enterprise in the most lawless parts of Ireland, are not abundant. Has it not been a complaint and lamentation as far back as any one living can remember, that because of Whiteboyism, or O’Connellism, or the priests, or the Repealers, or some other small fragment of the mass of social evil which presses upon Ireland, capital will not go thither to find employment, although there is a fairer field for it than in almost any other part of the British dominions? If Lord De Freyne can sell his land at what it would be worth under a good Government and in the midst of a pacific and industrious people, in Heaven’s name let him; but if he cannot, the Government is not to pay him that price for it. The Government is only bound to give him what he could get for it now, or the equivalent in money of any benefit he now derives from it, whichever of the two is most to his advantage. Government does not want his land if he is prepared to improve it himself, or to borrow from any other quarter to improve it. But if he can do neither, Government, instead of lending him money to improve it, has a right to take it at its present value; and it rests with Government to create, in and by means of it, a higher value for the benefit, first and preferably, of the Irish people, and if not for them, for the State; for any one rather than for the landlord.