Front Page Titles (by Subject) 364.: EMIGRATION FROM IRELAND MORNING CHRONICLE, 7 APR., 1847, P. 4 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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364.: EMIGRATION FROM IRELAND MORNING CHRONICLE, 7 APR., 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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EMIGRATION FROM IRELAND
This article comments on “A Plan of Colonization for Ireland” (23 Mar., 1847), Spectator, Supplement, 3 Apr., 1847, pp. 1-7, a memorial prepared by a committee headed by W.H. Gregory, M.P., and M.J. O’Connell, which bore the signatures of such dignitaries as the Archbishop of Dublin, the Marquis of Ormonde, and the Earl of Devon. The page references in the text are to the Spectator. This unheaded first leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A leading article on Emigration from Ireland, in the Morning Chronicle of 7th April 1847”
(MacMinn, p. 68).
the memorial addressed to Lord John Russell by a body of influential Irish landlords, on the subject of emigration, is the answer, so far as they are concerned, to his apparently triumphant but really desperate interrogation, “What else have you to propose?”1
A plan for removing, in the course of three years, two millions of the population of Ireland, and locating them in the wilds of Canada, would have been little likely to meet with serious attention a year ago. But the potato disease in presence, and the poor-law in prospect, constitute a state of things which demands the remedies termed heroic. When the first of these calamities is costing England a million monthly, with no visible termination and no permanent result, while the other is threatening every Irish ratepayer with literal, not metaphorical ruin, it is no time to shrink from measures of permanent benefit because they are large, difficult, and costly. The memorialists accordingly propose that the interest and redemption of the loan necessary for this gigantic emigration should be defrayed by extending the English property-tax2 to Ireland. They have made calculations which satisfy them of the sufficiency of this resource. [Pp. 5-6.] Thus provided for, the proposed colonization combines the importance of a great national measure with the essential characteristics of an operation grounded on the voluntary principle. It resolves itself into a combination of the tax-paying classes to effect collectively for Ireland what every landlord, of ordinary foresight and adequate pecuniary means, is already attempting on his own estate. Ireland, for the first time in history, offers to defray the cost of her own regeneration, and asks nothing from England but the sanction of Government, and the removal of local obstacles.
The plan, of which the outlines are given in the printed memorial, bears marks of sober and intelligent consideration. The most obvious difficulties are foreseen, and more or less successfully met. The colonies cannot possibly absorb, as mere labourers, anything like the number of emigrants supposed in the project. Accordingly, it is proposed that the greater part should be located as settlers, not labourers for hire. The Irish do not adapt themselves easily to a settler’s life, singly, or in the midst of a population not Irish and Catholic; it is proposed, therefore, to transplant them, not individually, but as small village communities, with their priest at the head. [Pp. 2, 5.] The preparation of the locality, and the superintendence of the location, require a degree of concert and organization which scarcely any emigrants, and least of all Irish emigrants, can achieve for themselves, and which cannot be efficiently or conveniently conducted for them by salaried officers of Government. To meet these difficulties, it is proposed that an incorporated company should undertake the whole of these details, receiving from Government a fixed sum, suppose five pounds, for each emigrant; employing the emigrants in the first instance as hired labourers, to make the roads and execute the other works requisite for their own location; becoming itself the proprietor (by purchase) of large tracts of land, and deriving its profits from the value given to this land by the public works executed and the population created in the district. [P. 6.] The practicability, and in many respects eligibility, of colonization thus conducted, are upheld by the memorialists with considerable success, and their plan recommends itself at once by just conceptions of the nature of colonization, and by an unusual degree of adaptation to the Irish national character.
It would be easy to raise difficulties and find objections, even formidable ones, to this project; and it is sufficiently known that our remedy is a different one. We do not think the Irish a good stock to colonize with, and we see neither justice nor expediency in sending people to be settlers in Canada who could be made settlers at home. But the desperate condition of Ireland requires all remedies. The land and labour market must be cleared at once of a much larger number of starving competitors than we have any hope of seeing located upon the waste lands of Ireland on the proprietary system; and on the cottier system it is far better abstained from entirely. Besides, the grand difficulty of all remedial measures, in the condition into which things have now been thrown—the doubt whether they can be carried into operation—affects, we lament to say, the question of home still more profoundly than that of foreign colonization. A poor-law, in which out-door relief is to be a reality, in addition to its own peculiar evils, poisons the sources of all improvement. By far the strongest objection to the plan of the memorialists is the uncertainty whether, even after the machinery is constructed and the path smoothed, a population which has been told that it is to be fed and employed at all costs and through all consequences at home, will consent to go abroad. But it is still more doubtful whether any person whose industry and forethought qualify him to become a peasant proprietor, will not think it a better calculation to be a receiver, than a payer, of such poor-rates as every one must expect under the new act. It is almost a fruitless hope which looks to the creation of a superior and independent class of peasantry, when those who would compose the class are even now rapidly quitting Ireland, taking their small savings with them. A law which threatens to leave no creature in the rural districts of Ireland but the mere landlord and the mere cottier or labourer, is an infelicitous preparation for a future yeomanry. It seems as if an immense clearance of the soil of Ireland by emigration, were now a necessary condition of such a state of poor-law management as is compatible with the very existence of society in Ireland, not to talk further of its improvement.
And after all which can be said of Irish inertness and indifference, no reasonable person can for a moment doubt the eminent benefits of well-conducted Irish colonization to the colonists themselves. The magic of property is the same in Canada as in Ireland. The salutary shock to inveterate bad habits would be even stronger in so complete a change of outward circumstances. And if there is more labour and hardship to be undergone, there is also still greater temptation to undergo it. The emigrant settler and the home colonist would both have subsistence and a competency placed within their reach; but the first would have, in addition to this, the possibility of wealth. Both alike would be removed from the fatal influence of cottierism and landlordism, of working solely for another, and multiplying at another’s expense; both alike could claim as their own all that their industry could produce and their frugality accumulate; but this all is a far larger provision, an ampler encouragement to the industrial virtues in distant regions, where the soil is more fertile, and a larger portion of it may fall to the share of each colonist in absolute property. We have full faith in the efficacy of proprietorship, both in the eastern and in the western hemisphere. Turn cottiers into proprietors, and you have done for the Irish the best you have it in your power to do. Turn cottiers into proprietors in Ireland, if possible, but it is better that they be proprietors in America, than cottiers, or even Dorsetshire labourers, in Europe.
[1 ]For Russell’s question, see No. 362, n3.
[2 ]The provisions of 5 & 6 Victoria, c. 35 (1842), had been continued for three further years by 8 & 9 Victoria, c. 4 (1845).