Front Page Titles (by Subject) 88.: The State of Ireland 12 MARCH, 1868 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868
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88.: The State of Ireland 12 MARCH, 1868 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868, ed. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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The State of Ireland
“Speech on Mr. Maguire’s Motion on the State of Ireland, March 12, 1868,” in Chapters and Speeches on the Irish Land Question (London: Longmans, et al., 1870), pp. 108–25. In PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 190, cols. 1516–32. Reported in The Times, 13 March, p. 7, from which variants and responses are taken. Writing to John Elliot Cairnes on 4 December, 1869, Mill mentions the impending publication of Chapters and Speeches, and says that the text is taken from Parliamentary Debates, but that “not being a written speech,” this one “could not be given so exactly [as No. 21, q.v.], but the newspaper report was carefully corrected for Hansard by myself, and is tolerably adequate” (CW, Vol. XVII, p. 1668). He nonetheless made some minor alterations, recorded here in the variant notes. On 10 March, John Francis Maguire had moved “That this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee, with the view of taking into consideration the condition and circumstances of Ireland” (col. 1314), thus occasioning this debate.
it was with a feeling, I will not say of disappointment—because there can be no disappointment where there has not previously been hope—but of regret, that I witnessed the “beggarly account of empty boxes”1 which the Government has laid before us, instead of an Irish policy. My dissatisfaction was not so much with what they did, or what they refused to do, on the subject of the land—although I look upon that question as outweighing all the rest put together, and I believe that without a satisfactory dealing with it, nothing can be done which will be at all effectual. I am afraid the time is far distant when it would be fair to expect that a Government, and especially a Conservative Government, should be found in advance of public opinion—which I cannot deny that the present Government would be, if they were to propose such a measure on the Irish Land question as I conceive would alone be effectual to settle it. But what we have a right to expect even from a Conservative Government, at all events from a Conservative Government which professes a Liberal policy—even with the qualifying adjunct, “truly Liberal”—is that they shall be on a level with the opinion of the people: and this they most assuredly are not, on the subject of the Irish Church. If there ever was a question on which I might say the whole human race has made up its mind, it is this. I concur in every word that was said, and every feeling that was expressed, by my right honourable friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) on this subject:2 and I thank him from my heart for his manly and outspoken declaration in reference to that great scandal and iniquity, which was so well described by the right honourable gentleman now at the head of the Government (Mr. Disraeli), in a speech which, although last year he endeavoured to explain away, I am not aware that he has ever disavowed.3 It is an institution which could not be submitted to by any country, except at the point of the sword. Now, on this subject the Government have not shown themselves altogether inflexible. The noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland has expressed his willingness in some degree to entertain the principle of religious equality,4 and I thank him for it; but, as has been remarked by my honourable friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), he proposed to do it—if at all—by levelling up instead of levelling down.5 The noble Lord is willing that every valley ashalla be exalted; but he does not go on to the succeeding clause, and say that every mountain and hill shall be laid low.6 (Hear, hear, and laughter.) So long as the national property which is administered by the Episcopal Church of Ireland is not diverted from its present purpose, the noble Lord has no objection at all to this country’s saddling itself with the endowment of another great hierarchy, which, if effected on the principle of religious equality, would be a great deal more costly than even that which now exists. (Hear, hear.) Does the noble Lord really think it possible that the people of England will submit to this? I may be permitted, as one who, in common with many of my betters, have been subjected to the charge of being Utopian, to congratulate the Government on having joined that goodly company. It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or cacotopians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favour is too bad to be practicable. Not only would England and Scotland never submit to it, but the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland refuse it. They will not take your bribe. (Hear, hear.) As in many other things I differ from the honourable and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Neate), who moved the Amendment,7 so my opinion on the subject of Irish remedies is directly contrary to his. Whereas the honourable and learned Member thinks that the real obstacle to the peace and prosperity of Ireland is the proposal of extravagant and impossible remedies, my opinion, on the contrary, is that the real obstacle is not the proposal of extravagant and impossible remedies, but the persistent unwillingness of the House even to look at any remedy which they have pre-judged to be extravagant and impossible. (Hear, hear.) When a country has been so long in possession of full power over another, as this country has over Ireland, and still leaves it in the state of feeling which now exists in Ireland, there is a strong presumption that the remedy required must be much stronger and more drastic than any which has yet been applied. (Hear, hear.) All the presumption is in favour of the necessity of some great change. Great and obstinate evils require great remedies. If the House does not think so—if it still has faith in small remedies, I exhort it to make haste and adopt them. It has already lost a great deal of time. Counting from 1829, which was the time when this country first began to govern Ireland, or even to profess to govern Ireland, for the sake of Ireland,8 thirty-nine years have elapsed, and during that time, although there may have been some material progress, as there has been everywhere else, moral progress, in reconciling Ireland to our Government, and to the Union with us, has not been made, and does not seem likely soon to be made, unless we change our policy. Honourable gentlemen prefer to soothe themselves with statistics, flattering themselves with the idea that Ireland is improving, and that the evil was greater at some former time than it is now. My right honourable friend the Member for Calne has told us that we have no occasion to care for Fenianism, and that it is bnotb of any consequence.9 I do not suppose my right honourable friend thinks that the remedies proposed by me or any one else for the benefit of Ireland are intended to conciliate the Fenians. I know very little of the Fenians. I do not pretend to know what their opinions are, nor do I believe my right honourable friend knows them a bit better. (A laugh.) We do know, however, that they desire what I greatly deprecate—a violent separation of Ireland from this country; and they desire this with such bitterness and animosity that there is no chance of conciliating them cby any of the remedies proposed by himself or othersc . But the peculiar and growing danger in the state of Ireland is this—that there is nearly universal discontent, and very general disaffection. Honourable gentlemen need not flatter themselves that this is an evil which can be safely disregarded. Ireland has had rebellions before. As a rebellion this recent one is nothing—it is contemptible. A great deal has been said about the circumstance that no person of consequence, personally or socially, has put himself at the head of it. It was not likely that any one who had anything to lose would do so. Is it within the range of possibility that an insurrection could be successful in Ireland at this particular time? (Hear, hear, from the Ministerial benches.) What does Mitchel himself say of it?10 This is the reason why every one who has something to lose (and every one who is an occupant of land has something to lose) will not, until he sees a greater chance of success, countenance rebellion, or throw any other difficulty in the way of suppressing it than by sheltering from the police those who are involved in it. That is not the danger. The danger is one of which there is the strongest evidence. My own information is derived from many trustworthy persons, not of extreme opinions, persons whose idea of remedial measures for Ireland falls far short of mine, but who are unanimously of opinion that the state of Ireland is more dangerous at this moment than at any former period, and that the feeling of the people is one of general discontent and wide disaffection. (Cries of Name.) Gentlemen who hold land in Ireland do not think so; but they would be the last persons to find it out. Persons in possession of power are usually the last to find out what is thought of them by their inferiors. They d awake from their dream and find it out when they little expect it. There are two circumstances which make the disaffection more alarming at this time than at any former period since the rebellion of 1798. One is a circumstance which has never existed before. For the first time, the discontent in Ireland rests on a background of several millions of Irish across the Atlantic. This is a fact which is not likely to diminish. The number of Irish in America is constantly increasing. Their power to influence the political conduct of the United States is increasing, and will daily increase; and is there any probability that the American-Irish will come to hate this country less than they do at the present moment? The noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland said truly that many Irish go to our colonies, and that they remain loyal.11 But why? The Irish who go to those colonies find everything ethere whiche they seek in vain here. (Hear.) They have the land; they have no fsectarianf church; they have even a separate Legislature. All this they have under the British Crown and the British flag. If you gave all this to Ireland the people would be tranquil enough there. They will be so with much less than that; but those who go to America, on the contrary, gassociate England with the deprivation of their rights, andg will be loyal only to the American Government, while their feeling towards England is, and must be, directly opposite to that of the Irish who go to Australia and the other English Colonies. That is one most serious cause of danger in Ireland. Another is that the disaffection has become, more than at any former period, one of nationality. The Irish were taught that feeling by Englishmen. England has only even professed to treat the Irish people as part of the same nation with ourselves, since 1800.12 How did we treat them before that time? I will not go into the subject of the penal laws, hbecause it may be said that those laws affected the Irish not as Irish but as Catholicsh .13 I will only mention the manner in which they were treated merely as Irish. I grant that, for these things, no man now living has any share of the blame; we are all ashamed of them; but “the evil that men do lives after them.”14 First of all, this House declared the importation of Irish cattle a public nuisance.15 When we refused to receive Irish cattle, the Irish thought they would slaughter and salt them, to try whether we would receive them in that shape. But that was not allowed.16 Then they thought that if they could not send the cattle or the flesh, they might send the hides in the form of leather. No; that was not allowed either.17 Being thus denied admission for cattle in any shape, they tried if they imighti be allowed to do anything with respect to sheep; and they commenced exporting wool to this country. No; we would not take their wool.18 Then they began to manufacture it, and tried if we would take the manufactured article. This was worst of all, and we compelled our deliverer, William III, of “pious and immortal memory,”19 to promise his Parliament that he would put down the Irish woollen manufacture.20 (Hear, hear.) This was not, I think, a brotherly course, or at all like treating Ireland as a part of the same nation. If we had been determined to impress upon Ireland in the strongest manner that she was regarded as a totally different and hostile nation, that was exactly the course to pursue. In fact, Ireland was treated in that thoroughly heathenish manner in which it was then customary for nations to treat other nations whom they had conquered jor were afraid ofj —with the feeling that the dependent nation had no rights which the superior nation was bound to respect. It is unjust, however, to call that feeling heathenish, since it belonged only to the worst times of heathenism, before the Stoic philosophy—before the great, the immortal Marcus Antoninus proclaimed the kinship of all mankind.21 From the year 1800, these things began to change; but down to 1829 it may be said that though in some sense we treated Ireland as a sister, it was as sister Cinderella. Dust and ashes were good enough for her; purple and fine linen were reserved for her sisters. (A laugh.) From 1829, however, we ceased to govern Ireland in that way. From that time there has been no feeling in this country with respect to Ireland, but a continuance of the really sisterly feeling which then commenced. Since that time it has been the sincere desire of all parties in England to govern Ireland for her good (hear); but we have grievously failed in knowing how to set about it, and kbeen very slow in learning the lessonk . Let me take a brief review of the things done for Ireland during that time. They may be easily counted. First, we made the landlord the tithe-proctor.22 That was a right thing to do; it prevented a great deal of bloodshed, and an enormous amount of annoyance and disaffection. I only wish it had been done before it had become practically impossible to collect the tithes in the old way. But, after all, this was merely changing the mode of taking something from the Irish people: it was not taking less. Next, we gave to Ireland a really unsectarian education.23 Ireland, long before England, received from us an elementary education which came down to the lowest grade of the people; and by degrees she also obtained unsectarian education in the higher branches. This is the most solid, and by far the greatest benefit we have yet conferred upon Ireland: and this, if the proposal of the Government is adopted, we are going in a great measure to give up.24 In your difficulties, this is what you are going to throw over. You are going, in a great measure, to sacrifice the best thing you have done for Ireland, to save the bad things. (Hear, hear.) The third thing did more credit to our kindness and generosity than to our wisdom. It was the £8,000,000—ultimately amounting to £10,000,000—that we gave at the time of the Irish famine, for the relief of the destitution in that country.25 Nobody will say that it was not right to give it; but I do not think that a people ever laid out £8,000,000 or £10,000,000 to meet an immediate emergency, in a manner calculated to do so very minute a quantity of permanent good. We were lavish in the amount that we expended. We certainly saved many lives—though there were probably a greater number that we could not save—and for that we are entitled to all credit. In a case of desperate distress there is in this country no grudging of money. All parties are united in that respect. But when circumstances obliged us to lay out this great sum, we had an opportunity of doing permanent good, by reclaiming the waste lands of Ireland for the benefit of the people of Ireland; and if we had done that, we should probably never have heard anything about fixity of tenure in the shape in which we hear of it now. At that time there was a sufficient quantity of waste land in Ireland to have enabled us to establish a large portion of the Irish population, by their own labour, in the condition of peasant proprietors of the land which they would themselves have reclaimed. We lost that opportunity, and we lost it for ever: because since that time fully one half of all the reclaimable waste land which existed at the time of Sir Richard Griffith’s survey has been reclaimed;26 that is, it has been got hold of by the landlords; it has been reclaimed for the landlords, mainly, or very largely, by the aid of public money lent to them for the purpose. Therefore, it is no longer possible to produce these great results in Ireland merely by reclaiming the waste lands. The opportunity lost never can be regained; and now, therefore, you are asked to do much larger, and, as it appears to you, much more revolutionary things. There is only one more thing that we have done which is worth mentioning, and that is the Encumbered Estates Act.27 The Encumbered Estates Act was a statesmanlike measure; it was a measure admirably conceived, and excellent, provided it had been combined with other measures. Even as it was, it was in many respects a very valuable measure. In the first place, it effected a very great simplification of title. In the next, it to a great extent liberated Ireland from the great evil of needy landlords. But there is another side to the matter. The Act has had another effect, which was not, I believe, anticipated by anybody, at least to the extent to which it has been realized. It has shown to Ireland that there might be a still greater evil than needy landlords—namely, grasping landlords. Those who have bought estates under the Act are, I believe, in the great majority of cases, much harder landlords than their predecessors; and naturally so, because they had no previous connexion with the localities in which the estates they have purchased are situated. They were strangers—I do not mean to Ireland—but to the neighbourhood of their new properties. Many of them came from the towns. At all events, they had no connexion with the tenants, and did not feel that the tenants had any moral claim upon them, beyond the claim—a claim they ought to have recognised—which all who are dependent on us have upon us. They bought the land as a mere pecuniary speculation, and have very generally administered it as a mere speculation. Not unfrequently the first step they took was to raise the rents to the utmost possible amount, and in many cases they have ejected tenants because they could not pay those rents. These, then, are the things that we have done, since we began to do the best we could, the best we knew how to do, for Ireland; and I do not think they are l well calculated to remove from the minds of the Irish people the bitterness which had been produced by our previous mode of government. If you say that there was nothing better to be done, you confess your incompetency to govern Ireland. I maintain that there is no country under heaven which it is not possible to govern, and to govern in such a way that it shall be contented. If there was anything better to be done, and you would not do it, your confession is still worse. But I do you more justice than you do yourselves. I believe that if msmallm measures would have sufficed you would have granted them; and it is because nsmalln measures will not suffice, because you must have large measures, because you must look at the thing on a much larger scale than you now do, because you must be willing to take into consideration what you think extravagant proposals—it is because of that, and not from any want of good intentions, that you have failed. The present state of Ireland is, I hope, gradually convincing you, if it does not do so all at once, that you must do something on a much larger scale than you have ever acted upon before, whether the particular things proposed to you are the right things or not. It is under this conviction that I have thought it my duty not to keep back three-fourths of what I believe to be the truth in regard to Ireland, for fear of prejudicing minor measures which the very people who propose them do not expect to produce any very large results. As to the plan which I have proposed—and whether honourable gentlemen think that it is right or wrong, surely they will admit that it is good to have it discussed—as to that plan, it seems necessary that I should in the first place state what it is; for it does not appear to have been at all correctly understood by most of those who have attacked it, and least of all by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland.28 When I listened to his speech, I did not orecogniseo my own plan. It is evident that the arduous duties of his important position had not left him time to read my pamphlet,29 and that he had been compelled to trust to the representation of some one who had given him a very unfaithful account of it. The noble Lord seemed to think that my plan was that the State should buy the land from the present proprietors, and re-sell or re-let it to the tenants. Now, I have said nothing whatever about buying the land. I should think it extremely objectionable to make that a part of the plan. I do not want the rent-charge to be bought up by the tenants, because that would absorb the capital which I hope to see them employ in the improvement of the land. There is another mistake which seems to have been made pretty generally. Those who have objected to my proposal have always argued as if I was going to force perpetuity of tenure on unwilling tenants. I propose nothing of the sort. There are at present in Ireland a very great number of tenants who do not pay a full rent. The most improving landlords are precisely those who are the most moderate in their exactions. Now, it is an indispensable part of my plan that perpetuity should only be granted at a full rent—a fair rent, not an excessive, but still a full rent; and probably, therefore, many of these tenants will prefer to remain as they are. They might not do so if they were never to have another chance of gaining a perpetuity; but as according to my plan they would retain the power of claiming a perpetuity at any future time, on a valuation to be then made, I think it extremely likely that many would wish to go on as they are. Many landlords, too, might prefer to arrange amicably with their tenants at something less than a full rent, in order to retain the present relations with them: and these, I believe, would be the best landlords, the most improving landlords, those who are on the best terms with their tenants, and whom it is most important to retain in the country. Many practical objections have been raised to the plan, to all of which I believe that I have answers; but there is a preliminary question that I should like to ask. Does the House really wish that these difficulties should be met? Because it is very possible that in the minds of honourable gentlemen the question may be concluded and closed by pa preliminary objection; such, for instance, asp that it is an interference with the rights of property. If honourable gentlemen are determined by this single circumstance—if this is enough to make them absolutely resist and condemn the plan—it is probable that they would be rather sorry than glad if it is possible to answer the practical objections, and show that the plan would work; and in that case I cannot expect to have a very favourable or very unprejudiced audience when I attempt to answer them. And then there is another sort of preliminary objection: that which was made by my right honourable friend the Member for Calne, in the name of political economy.30 In my right honourable friend’s mind political economy appears to stand for a qparticularq set of practical maxims. To him it is not a science, it is not an exposition, not a theory of the manner in which causes produce effects: it is a set of practical rules, and these practical rules are indefeasible. My right honourable friend thinks that a maxim of political economy if good in England must be good in Ireland. (Hear, and a laugh.) But that is like saying that because there is but one science of astronomy, and the same law of gravitation holds for the earth and the planets, therefore the earth and the planets do not move in different orbits. So far from being a set of maxims and rules, to be applied without regard to times, places, and circumstances, the function of political economy is to enable us to find the rules which ought to govern any state of circumstances with which we have to deal—circumstances which are never the same in any two cases. I do not know in political economy more than I know in any other art ror sciencer , a single practical rule that must be applicable to all cases; and I am sure that no one is at all capable of determining what is the right political economy for any country until he knows its circumstances. My right honourable friend perhaps thinks that what is good political economy for England must be good for India—or perhaps for the savages in the back woods of America. My right honourable friend has been very plain spoken,31 and I will be plain spoken too. Political economy has a great many enemies; but its worst enemies are some of its friends, and I do not know that it has a more dangerous enemy than my right honourable friend. It is such modes of argument as he is in the habit of employing that have made political economy so thoroughly unpopular with a large and not the least philanthropic portion of the people of England. In my right honourable friend’s mind, political economy seems to exist as a bar even to the consideration of anything that is proposed for the benefit of the economic condition of any people in any but the old ways: as if science was a thing not to guide our judgment, but to stand in its place—a thing which scans dispense with the necessity of studying the particular case, and determining how a given cause will operate under its circumstances. Political economy has never in my eyes possessed this character. Political economy in my eyes is a science by means of which we are enabled to form a judgment as to what each particular case requires; but it does not supply us with a ready-made judgment upon any case, and there cannot be a greater enemy to political economy than he who represents it in that light. (The honourable member was here interrupted by expressions of impatience from several members.) tI presume that the House will not be unwilling to allow me to state my answer to the attack which has been made upon me by the right honourable gentleman. (Hear.) A good deal has been said about the sacredness of property. Now, this regard for the sacredness of property is connected witht a feeling which I respect. (Ironical cheers and laughter.) But the sacredness of property is not violated by taking away property for the public good, if full compensation is given; and the interference that I propose is not more an interference, it is not even so much an interference, with property, as taking land for public improvements. Then, too, a man’s right to his property is sacred uunless that property is required for public purposesu ; but is not a man’s right to his person still more sacred? And yet no man is allowed to dispose of his person—in marriage, for instance—except in such way as the law provides (great laughter); nor will it allow him to relieve himself from the contract, except on very special grounds, to be decided on by a Court of Justice. To those honourable gentlemen who are fond of applying the term confiscation to the plan that I propose,32 I will say that I recal them to the English language. I assure them that it is possible to argue against any proposition, if need be, and to refute what we think wrong, without altering the meaning of words, by doing which people only succeed in imposing upon themselves and others. How can that be confiscation in which the “fisc” instead of receiving anything, has only to pay; by which no individual will be the poorer, but many, I hope, a good deal richer? (Oh!) It may be objectionable, but that is a matter of argument; it may be undesirable, because the case may not be deemed strong enough to require it; but let us fight against opinions from which we differ without extending the war to the English language. I recommend to honourable gentlemen to be always strictly conservative of the English tongue. (Oh!) I will now come to arguments of a more practical kind. (Ironical cheers and laughter.) I will first mention the strongest argument I have ever heard, either in this House or elsewhere, against my plan—namely, that if we substitute the Government in the place of the present proprietors, we shall expose the Government to great difficulties, and make it still more unpopular than it has ever yet been.33 I have two answers to make to this objection, and if honourable gentlemen are not impressed by the one they may perhaps be convinced by the other. Undoubtedly, if the proposal is not received by the tenants as a great boon—if they do not think that perpetuity of tenure on the terms I have suggested is a gift worth accepting, then I admit that there is nothing to say in favour of my plan; it would be idle to propose it. If, when we offer to the tenantry of Ireland that which they desire more than anything else in the world—a perfect security of tenure—the certainty that they will never have more to pay than they pay at first—that everything which their industry produces shall belong to them alone—if they do not think that a boon worth having, I have nothing more to say. But this is a most improbable supposition. A similar prediction was made about the serfs of Russia. Many people said and believed that the emancipated serfs would never consent to pay rent, especially to the Government, for land which they had been accustomed to receive gratis when in their servile condition. That was the general prediction; but we do not hear that the prediction has been fulfilled. Everything seems to be going on smoothly, and the serfs, as far as is known, pay their rents regularly. This, then, is one answer. I have another which is more decisive. If it is thought that it will not do to make the Government a substitute for the landlord, I answer that this is an objection affecting only vthe smallestv part of my plan—an additional provision, not for the benefit of the tenant, but for the convenience and consolation of the landlords (laughter)—that they should be allowed to receive their rents from the public Treasury wor in Consolsw . If, after the rent is converted into a rent-charge, it be thought that the landlords should, like other rent-chargers, be left to the ordinary law of the country to collect their dues, by all means leave them to the ordinary legal remedies. If it be thought injurious to the public interest to give xthe proposedx consolation to the landlords, then do not give it. So falls to the ground a full half of the dissertation of the right honourable Member for Calne on the fatal consequences of the plan. But I must say that I do not believe the landlords as a body would wish to exchange their present condition for that of being mere receivers of dividends from the State. I observe that those who argue against any plan supposed to be contrary to the interest of landlords, invariably assume that the landlords are destitute of every spark of patriotic feeling. I do not think so. I believe that a large proportion of the landlords would prefer to retain their yconnexion with the landy ; that they would make private arrangements with their tenants on terms more favourable to them than my plan would give, and that so Ireland would retain a large proportion of the best class of landlordsz, while the tenants, knowing that if they choose they can obtain a perpetual tenure, will feel themselves in perfect securityz . Another objection made against my plan is, that many of the holdings are too small.34 But Lord Dufferin states in his pamphlet that the consolidation of small holdings has ceased—that the number of separate holdings has not diminished in the last fifteen years.35 We may conclude from this that the holdings, generally speaking, are as large as is required by the present state of the industry and capital of Ireland; because, if that were not so, I cannot but believe that the movement of consolidation would still be going on. I perfectly admit that a great many tenants hold smaller holdings than could be desired. But if the holdings are so small that the tenants cannot live on them, and, at the same time, pay the amount of rent that would be required, they will soon fall into arrears; and, if they fall into arrears, it is a necessary part of my plan that they should be ejected. (Hear, hear.) This would enable the landlord, if he thought fit, in every case of eviction, to consolidate farms; and whether he did so or not, the consequence would be the substitution of a better class of tenants. It is part of my plan that the landlord, if the holding were forfeited by non-payment of the rent-charge, should choose the tenant’s successor, and that the consent of the landlord should be necessary to any sale of the occupier’s interest. Another objection which has been urged is, that in Ireland lands held on long leases are always the worst farmed. Now, these are almost always old leases, granted to middlemen. These middlemen hold the farms at low rents; but I never heard that they granted leases at low rents to the sub-tenants; and who on earth would or could improve under competition rents? What interest has a man in improving, who has promised a rent he can never pay, and who therefore knows that, lease or no lease, he may be turned out at any moment? If the farmers have undertaken to pay a rent equal to double what they make from the land, is it likely that they will exert themselves to double the produce, merely for the benefit of the landlord? One of the most extraordinary circumstances connected with the attack made on my plan by my right honourable friend the Member for Calne, is that he went on ascribing all manner of evil effects to peasant proprietorship,36 and yet from the beginning to the end of his speech he never made allusion to any of the arguments in its favour. One would have thought that he had never heard the common and principal argument, that the sentiment of property, the certainty that athe fruits of a man’s labour are to be his owna is the most powerful of all incentives to labour and frugality. (Hear, hear.) This is the universal experience of every country where peasant proprietorship exists. And this brings me to the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who gave three reasons why peasant proprietorship is not desirable.37 These reasons were, that it does not prevent revolution, that it does not obviate famine, and that it leads to great indebtedness on the part of the holders. In regard to the first of these reasons, the case which the noble Lord appealed to, that of France, is certainly not in his favour; for in France the revolutions have not been made by the peasant proprietors, but by the artizans bin the townsb (hear, hear); all that the peasant proprietors have had to do with them being to put them down. (Hear, hear.) Whether it was right or wrong—whether it was for good or evil—to substitute the present Government of France for the Republic, it was the peasant proprietors who did it. As to the co-existence of great famines and small properties, the noble Lord was rather unhappy in the instance he gave of East Prussia, for it so happens that East Prussia is not a country of peasant proprietors, there being next to no small properties there. It is the Rhine Provinces of Prussia that are a country of small proprietors, and the noble Lord did not tell us of any famine there. With reference to the argument as to the indebtedness of the small proprietors, I rather think the noble Lord is indebted to me for one instance he gave—that of the canton of Zurich;38 but in adducing that instance he omitted to mention the testimony given, by the same author, to the “superhuman” industry of the peasant proprietors there.39 If we take the instance generally appealed to on this subject, that of France; M. Léonce de Lavergne stated some ten years ago that the mortgages on the landed property of France did not on the average exceed 10 per cent of its value, and on the rural property did not exceed 5 per cent; and he estimated the burthen of interest at 10 per cent of the income.40 He added that these burthens were not increasing, but diminishing. It is true that this average is taken from all the landed properties in France, and not solely from the small properties; but the large proprietors must be very unlike other large landed proprietors if their estates are not generally burthened to at least this extent, so that the average is probably fairly applicable to the small properties. With regard to the danger of sub-letting, what cshould a man who has received a perpetuity sub-let it forc ? He could only sub-let at the rent he himself paid, unless he had in the meantime improved his holding, and if he had done so he would have a good right to be allowed to realize his improvements, if he pleased, by sub-letting at an increased rent. dBut if he had not improved the land he would be no gainer by sub-letting.d It is thought that even if he did not sub-let, he would subdivide. But to suppose that subdivision would be general, is to ignore altogether one of the strongest motives that can operate on the mind. There is nothing like the possession of a property in the land by the actual cultivator, for inspiring him with industry and a desire to accumulate. It is not necessary to suppose that this influence would operate on the whole body of tenant proprietors. If it acted only on one-half, a great deal would be gained. Let honourable gentlemen consider what an accumulation of savings there is in the hands of Irish farmers. I must say that it reflects great credit on the landlords of Ireland, taken as a body, that the tenants should have been able to accumulate such almost incredible sums as it is admitted that they have. Well, what is done with these savings? The farmer carries them anywhere but to the farm. (Hear, hear.) They are invested in everything but the improvement of his holding; eand this is a most striking circumstance,e showing that the very landlords through whose forbearance these sums have been accumulated, are not trusted by the tenants; or, if they trust the landlord himself, they do not trust his heir, whom they do not know, or his creditor who may come into possession, or the stranger to whom he may be obliged to sell. But under the small proprietary system, these sums would be brought out and applied to the farms, and there is enough of them to make all Ireland blossom like the rose.41 Tenants who had given such proof of forethought would be more likely to provide for their younger sons by buying more land than by subdividing their own holdings. Moreover, it must be remembered that a bridge has now been built to America, over which the younger sons might cross. According to the testimony of Lord Dufferin, marriages are already less early in Ireland than they used to be, and many farmers have become sensible of the disadvantage of subdividing the small holdings.42 It may be thought that owing to the competition which exists for land,f those who hold at a full rent might g sub-let at an increase, heven if they could noth sell their interest for a large sum of money. But even if this worst result should happen, the purchaser would, even then, be in as good a condition as the Ulster tenant would be in, if the tenant right, which he enjoys by a precarious custom, were secured to him by law: and this tenant right, even while resting only on custom, has been found to give a considerable feeling of security, and some encouragement to improvement. Then I am asked, what my scheme would do for the agricultural labourers of Ireland?43 It would give to them what is found most valuable in all countries possessing peasant proprietors—the hope of acquiring landed property. This hope is what animates the wonderful industry of the peasantry of Flanders, most of whom have only short leases, but who, because they may hope, by exertion, to become owners of land, set an example of industry and thrift to all Europe. (Hear, hear.) My plan is called an extreme one, but if its principle were accepted, the extent of its application would be in the hands of the House. Let the House look at the question in a large way, and admit that rights of property, subject to just compensation, must give way to the public interest. If the Commission which I propose44 were appointed, it would soon find out what iconditions and limitationsi might be applied in practice. I could myself suggest many jsuchj . I would not undertake that I myself would support them, but the House might. For instance, if it were thought that the holdings were too small, the holders of all farms below a certain extent might receive, not a perpetuity at once, but only the hope of it. Leases might be given to them, and the claim to a perpetuity might be made dependent on their, in the meantime, improving the land. Again, such a change as I propose is less required in the case of grazing than of arable land: confine it then, if you choose, in the first instance, to arable land, dealing with the purely grazing farms on some other plan, such as that of buying up such of them as might advantageously be converted into arable, and re-selling them in smaller lots. It is not an essential part of the scheme that every tenant should have an actual perpetuity, but only that every tenant who actually tills the soil should have the power of obtaining a perpetuity on an impartial valuation. I believe that as the plan comes to be more considered, its difficulties will, in a great measure, disappear, and the House will be more inclined to view it with favour than at present. (Hear, hear.)
[The debate continued on Maguire’s motion on 13 and 16 March, when it was withdrawn (col. 1792).]
[1 ]Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, V, i, 46; in The Riverside Shakespeare, p. 1088.
[2 ]Lowe, cols. 1501–3.
[3 ]On 26 July, 1867, Disraeli, in a speech on Ireland (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 189, cols. 201–9), attempted to explain his remarks on Ireland on 16 February, 1844 (ibid., Vol. 72, cols. 1007–17).
[4 ]Richard Southwell Bourke (1822–72), Lord Naas, M.P. for Cockermouth, Speech on the State of Ireland (10 Mar., 1868), ibid., Vol. 190, cols. 1387–91.
[5 ]Jacob Bright (1821–99), M.P. for Manchester, and brother of John Bright, col. 1514.
[a-a]PD] CS,TT should
[6 ]Isaiah, 40:4.
[7 ]Neate, Motion on the State of Ireland (10 Mar., 1868), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 190, col. 1323.
[8 ]I.e., after Catholic Emancipation (by 10 George IV, c. 7 ).
[9 ]Lowe, cols. 1484–5.
[10 ]The History of Ireland, from the Treaty of Limerick to the Present Time (New York: Sadlier, 1868), p. 609, by John Mitchel (1815–75), Fenian leader, at this time publishing the Irish Citizen in New York,
[d]PD , however,
[11 ]Bourke (Lord Naas), col. 1354.
[g-g]+TT [in past tense]
[12 ]By the Act of Union, 39 & 40 George III, c. 67 (1800).
[h-h]TT or the horrible oppression exercised towards the Roman Catholics
[13 ]E.g., by the two Test Acts, 25 Charles II, c. 2 (1672) and 30 Charles II, Second Session, c. 1 (1677), and by 7 & 8 William III, c. 27 (1696).
[14 ]Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, III, ii, 75; in The Riverside Shakespeare, p. 1121.
[15 ]18 Charles II, c. 2 (1666), Sect. 2.
[17 ]Mill may be thinking of the duty imposed by 8 & 9 William III, c. 21 (1697).
[18 ]By 1 William and Mary, c. 32 (1688), Parliament had made it difficult, but not impossible, for the Irish to export wool to Britain.
[19 ]Part of the traditional Whig toast, celebrating William III (1650–1702), called from Holland to replace James II at the time of the English Revolution; cf. Whig Club, Instituted in May, 1784, by John Bellamy (London: n.p., 1786).
[20 ]As was done by 10 & 11 William III, c. 10 (1699).
[21 ]Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121–180), Roman Emperor and philosopher, Communings with Himself [Meditations] (Greek and English), trans. C.R. Haines (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1930), pp. 70–1 (IV, 4).
[22 ]By 1 & 2 Victoria, c. 109 (1838), which substituted charges on rent for composition for tithes.
[23 ]In 1831; see “Copy of a Letter from the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to His Grace the Duke of Leinster, on the Formation of a Board of Commissioners for Education in Ireland,” PP, 1831–32, XXIX, 757–60.
[24 ]Bourke, in his Speech on the State of Ireland (10 Mar., 1868), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 190, cols. 1384–6, had proposed the founding of a Catholic university in Ireland.
[25 ]See “An Account of Loans Advanced by the Imperial Treasury for Public Works in Ireland” (which includes other expenditures since 1800), PP, 1847, LIV, 91–282.
[26 ]Richard Griffith (1784–1878), “Return of the Probable Extent of Waste Lands in Each County in Ireland,” in “Report from Her Majesty’s Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of the Law and Practice in Respect to the Occupation of Land in Ireland,” PP, 1845, XIX, 48–52.
[27 ]12 & 13 Victoria, c. 77 (1849).
[28 ]Bourke, col. 1369.
[29 ]England and Ireland (London: Longmans, et al., 1868); in CW, Vol. VI, pp. 505–32.
[p-p]TT the primary objection
[30 ]Lowe, cols. 1494–7.
[31 ]Ibid., esp. col. 1493.
[t-t]TT [in third person, past tense CS,PD I will presume, therefore, that the House will not be unwilling to allow me to state what answer I can make to the practical objections to my plan. First, there is the objection founded upon the sacredness of property. That is]]
[u-u]+TT [in past tense]
[32 ]E.g., Frederick Snowdon Corrance (1822–1906), M.P. for East Suffolk, col. 1479, and Lowe, col. 1497.
[33 ]Again Corrance, col. 1479, and Lowe, cols. 1494–6.
[y-y]PD present position
[z-z]+TT [in past tense]
[34 ]Horsman, col. 1475, and Lowe, col. 1494.
[35 ]Frederick Temple Hamilton Temple Blackwood (1826–1902), Lord Dufferin, Mr. Mill’s Plan for the Pacification of Ireland Examined (London: Murray, 1868), p. 32.
[36 ]Lowe, cols. 1489–99.
[a-a]TT [in past tense CS,PD that they are working for themselves]]
[37 ]Bourke, cols. 1370–4.
[38 ]Bourke referred to the citation in Mill’s Principles of Political Economy, II, vi, 2, of the description by Gerold Meyer von Knonau (see CW, Vol. II, p. 258n).
[39 ]The reference is actually to Eduard Im Thurn, another Swiss author; see ibid., II, vii, 1 (Vol. II, p. 278).
[40 ]Louis Gabriel Léonce Guilhaud de Lavergne (1809–80), Economie rurale de la France depuis 1789 (1860), 2nd ed. (Paris: Guillaumin, 1861), pp. 453–4 (cf. CW, Vol. II, p. 436).
[c-c]TT [in past tense CS,PD motive would a tenant have to sub-let]]
[e-e]+TT [in past tense]
[41 ]Cf. Isaiah, 35:1.
[42 ]Blackwood, p. 27.
[g]PD be able to
[43 ]Neate, cols. 1317–18.
[44 ]England and Ireland, CW, Vol. VI, p. 527.
[i-i]TT] CS,PD temperaments