Front Page Titles (by Subject) 354.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 7 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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354.: THE CONDITION OF IRELAND  MORNING CHRONICLE, 7 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 
The evening Globe and Traveller responded in a leading article of 6 Jan., p. 2, to the Morning Chronicle leader on the Treasury Minute (No. 353), of the same day. The quotations are from the Globe’s leader of 6 Jan., except as indicated. Though Mill continued to write leaders for the Morning Chronicle on Ireland into April of 1847, this unheaded leader is the last of the series on Irish land that began on 5 Oct., 1846, with No. 306. It is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A forty third leading article on Irish affairs, in the Morning Chronicle of 7th Jany 1847”
(MacMinn, p. 67).
we earnestly hope that the rejoinder of the Globe to our yesterday’s article has not correctly stated or surmised the intentions of Government on the question of the waste lands. For if so, the forthcoming measure1 will indeed, truly enough, not be thwarted and nullified by the operation of the Treasury minute, but only because the principle of the Treasury minute, if the Globe be rightly informed, is itself the principle of the measure.
The doctrine which the Globe lays down, and which it supposes to be adopted by the Government is this: That the money which the State disburses for the employment of the people ought all to pass through the hands of the landlords, up to the point at which the landlords will not accept any more. When the landlords have had all that they will consent to take, it is supposed “that there will yet be men with idle hands and empty stomachs, with none to employ and feed them,” and that the State having done its very utmost to bribe other people to employ them without effect, will be driven, “as a necessary evil,” to employ them itself. Under these painful circumstances, the State, it is conceded, might as well employ them in converting such waste land as the landlords may have spared into small farms, which, however, when fit for cultivation, are to be sold by auction, so that if the scheme does introduce any small proprietors, they will not be peasants, and probably not Irishmen. We have written to very little purpose for months past if it is necessary for us to waste any more argument upon a scheme which makes no pretence of doing anything to amend the landed tenure or the agricultural system of Ireland. It is a mere expedient for the emergency, with no attempt at permanent social improvement; and if such be the plan propounded by Government and adopted by Parliament, there is nothing left but to mourn over an opportunity lost, never to be recovered.
The Globe charges us, though with perfect amenity, and doing us the full justice which we sincerely reciprocate, with a palpable misconception of its arguments; but it does not state what it is which we have misconceived. It restates one argument, which we certainly did not misstate, but, as we candidly confess, passed over entirely—“the peculiar value of individual agency, and the danger and difficulty attending all official interference, however well contrived, with either the agriculture or the commerce of the country.”2 Individual agency, no doubt, is generally (though not always) more efficient and economical than Government agency. But it does not follow that we should employ individual agency for what we do not want, in preference to Government agency for what we do want. If all that is wanted is mere temporary employment for the people, nothing more needs be said. Worse cannot be said, and we will think nothing so bad of a Liberal Ministry, until facts compel us to it. But if it is desired to reform the industrial system of the country, and raise the permanent condition and character of the people, the individual agency of the landlords will not do this at all; and the question, therefore, whether Government or individuals would do it best, is at least superfluous. The Globe tries a little to maintain that the landlords will surely do away with the “vile” cottier system, because it is in the end as unprofitable to them as degrading to the peasantry. The system “is not now willingly continued by any of that class of Irish landlords who are likely now to sink capital in the improvement of their estates.”3 Perhaps not by those who sink their own capital; but sinking the capital of the State is another matter. We hardly know what landlord, who has any wastes pronounced improvable by the Board of Works, is likely to refuse an unlimited offer of public money for accomplishing a transaction so profitable to himself. But grant the landlords willing to get rid of cottiers, how will they set about it? Will they make the tenants proprietors? No one supposes that they will hear patiently of such a thing. Will they even make them hired labourers? Then the public must find capital for that too. What remains but to fix them on the soil as cottiers, like their fathers before them.
But, further, it is yet to be shown that individual agency will have one particle more to do, or that Government agency will have less, on the plan which the Globe patronizes, than on one directed to nobler and larger objects. Government does not intend to leave everything to be done by the landlords which is done for the landlords’ profit. The Treasury minute tells them what they are expected to do, and what the State will do for them. The State undertakes the general drainage of the country. It consents to deepen the larger watercourses, and provide great conduits for carrying off all waters which will flow or can be guided into them. Now this, which it must necessarily do for the great landlords, since they cannot themselves combine to do it, is almost all that it needs necessarily do for the poor peasants, since it is the only thing which peasants cannot possibly do for themselves. No doubt the drainage would, in that case, require to be extended into more numerous and smaller ramifications; but the arrangements which must be made and the machinery which must be erected for the one purpose would suffice for the other; and the whole would be better done, and perhaps even more economically, if done under one general systematic supervision.
The Globe fights us with an argumentum ad hominem, asking how we can object to making the landlords a present of the value which is to be given by public money to the waste, when we do not object to lending them money for the improvement of their cultivated lands, and how we can make any distinction between the two cases? We can easily satisfy our contemporary on this point. In the first place, it is not we who ever advocated loans to the landlords, even for their cultivated lands. We have acquiesced because there was no help for it. Making a present to the landlords is to our minds what making a present to the peasantry is to our contemporary—a “necessary evil.” And, like him, we would have nothing to do with it unless it is necessary. Our own opinion is, that the whole of the Government expenditure should be directed, in the first instance, to the waste lands. But since there might be a greater number of persons to employ than could be usefully set to work at one and the same time in reclaiming the waste, we have no objection to employing the remainder in improving the cultivated land, even though this can only be done by lending to the landlords. The distinction we make between the cultivated and the waste land is simply that the State can give the one to the peasantry, and cannot the other. Of course, in abstract justice, it could do both, making due compensation, as in the common case of making a railroad; but the one would be an extreme assertion of an acknowledged right, the other a very temperate one, and we are content with the moderate measure.
[1 ]For the measure, see No. 359.
[2 ]This passage is in the Globe and Traveller’s leaders of both 5 Jan. (see No. 353) and 6 Jan.
[3 ]Ibid., 5 Jan., p. 2.