« PreviousContinue »
under promise of a lease, the signing of which had been delayed by neglect.
Mr. Tracey had written to his agent to say that it was evident to him his property had been much injured by its subdivision, that it was his pleasure no new leases should be granted, and that the process of consolidating the small holdings into large farms should take place without delay, the cottiers who held no leases being ejected from their occupations. These measures are carried into immediate execution by the zealous agent, and the natural consequences ensue. The ejected tenants, rendered desperate by the absence of all possible resource, set fire to their houses and turfstacks—hough all the cattle of the tenants who are brought in to succeed them-and take to the bogs and mountains in a state of rebellion. The family of Mr. Rosso, witnesses to all this desolation, talk it over in a long-winded dialogue, of which we extract a specimen :
• « Would this were all over, boys ! (said Mr. Rosso.) Every case I hear of seems a harder one than the last; and it breaks one's heart to leave them to take their chance. See, from this very point, what melancholy groups of them: aged parents, or helpless children, or weakly women in each! So much for that policy of landlords, by which they first increase the numbers of their tenantry, in order, by force of competition, to let their land high; and then, finding that they have gone too far, take a fit of consolidation, and make no provision for the crowd they called up around them, and now deprive of the means of subsistence. What think you of such policy, Henry?" “ I was just thinking, Sir, that it is rather surprising to me that you lift up your voice, on all occasions, against establishing poor-laws in Ireland, while you have such scenes before your eyes.”'
It is indeed surprising that any one should think it right for the law—which should have as much regard for a peasant's welfare as a duke's—to place such a frightful power over the lives of millions, without check or restraint of any kind, in the hands of the Squire Traceys. But what is Mr. Rosso's answer to the appeal?
"" If the law could rectify these evils, Henry, I would cry out with as loud a voice as you. It is because I am convinced that a legal charity would only aggravate them, that I advocate other methods of rectification. The principle of growth is inherent in that system, whether that growth be rapid or slow; and the destruction of the country in which it is established becomes merely a question of time. (!) The only way to get the belter of it, is to annihilate it in time; (!) and this being the case, it is mere folly to call it in for the relief of temporary evils.".
And all this vague assumption is to be a sufficient answer to the strong cry of the hungry, the destitute, the desperate cottier his cry for a legal protection from the sentence of death which his landlord passes on him and his children when he ejects them from their little holding!
Miss Martineau's grand panacea is education :that is, we presume-make the Irish poor read and understand · Ella of Garveloch,' &c., and all will be right. We do not probably agree with this lady as to what education means—but we are quite as anxious as she can be to see the intellectual condition or the Irish poor elevated. We can, however, by no means believe, that real and immediate relief to the physical sufferings of the peasant is to be anticipated from book-work-No, not though the preventive check' were made, as Miss Martineau clearly intends it should be made, the primary topic of instruction. Her secondary remedies, viz. emigration, and the employment of the now idle cottier in drainages, embankments, making roads, cutting canals, and other comprehensive improvements of the country, we have always advocated as the primary, the true, and the only modes of putting an end to the misery and turbulence of the poor natives, and developing the resources of their country in a way which will make the improvement in their condition permanent. But a principal point on which we differ from Miss Martineau, is her notion that all or any of these works will ever be undertaken spontaneously by the Irish landlords. We are confident that such an expectation is hopeless ; and that it is absolutely necessary for the legislature to step in, and compel such an appropriation of part of their rental to these purposes, as, while it must eventually benefit them in an extraordinary degree, by adding to the value of their estates—is an act of bare justice towards the suffering population of those estates. The first duty of a government is to secure the happiness of the mass of the people under its sway. The laws which determine a property in land åre themselves only means for the attainment of this end; and that law is unjust and indefensible which confers a property in hundreds of thousands of Irish acres on my Lord Lansdowne, or the Duke of Devonshire, without requiring from them any condition for the benefit of the thousands of native Irishmen, whom Providence has brought into existence upon their wide domains. Let the Irish landlords concede, while they yet may, to their suffering tenantry, that moderate and reasonable share of the produce of their estates, which the simplest principles of natural justice claims for them— let this be expended in a well-organized system of employment, in improving the surface of Ireland in all those various ways by which the ablest and most experienced engineers assert that it is so capable of extensive improvement—and the act of justice will be returned upon them in a speedy increase of their own fortunes. Let them, on the contrary, successfully resist 1 2
all such measures; and the alternatives they will have to expect, are either the ruin of their property, under desolating rebellion and civil war, or such justice as Mr. O'Connell's parliament promises to mete out to them—beginning with a tax of 75 per cent. upon absentee estates !
The mention of absentees reminds us that Miss Martineau takes up and defends Mr. M‘Culloch's stupendous, and, we had really thought, exploded paradox; and since that egregious doctrine is still in fashion among our rulers, we must take the liberty to say a single word on it. Professor M‘Culloch, and his disciples, male and female, forget wholly one very simple fact, namely—that the distress of the Irish arises from a want of Food. The mass of the inhabitants of Ireland are starving; and her friends congratulate each other on the increase of her exports of corn, beet, and bacon! Is Ireland turbulent? The Lord Lieutenant threatens her with an embargo on her ports, which shall force the Irish, as the ne plus ultra of punishment, to eat the produce of their own fields and fatting-stalls. And Mr. M‘Culloch in his turn declares, that the absentee landlords, by creating a foreign demand for this produce, and causing eight millions' worth of her primest eatables to leave her shores for the markets of London, Bristol, and Manchester, confer an extraordinary advantage on her fasting inhabitants, who have enjoyed the inestimable privilege of raising all these good things, for English epicures, upon a diet of potatoes and skim-milk, varied with seaweed and neuiles! May we venture to hint to all these reasoners, that what the Irish want is the privilege, not merely of raising so many millions' worth of corn, and beef, and bacon, and butter, but of eating moreover as much of it as will appease the wolf in their insides. As long as there are fertile acres, and stout arms in Ireland, so long will there be plenty of food grown in it; but the great question for its inhabitants is, what shall become of the food when grown-who are to eat it? If the landlord lives abroad, his share of the produce of his estate -(and living out of sight of the distress caused by exorbitant rents, he will, generally, exact a very large one)—is sent to him in the shape of food for the foreign markets, which he (indirectly, if not directly) exchanges there with the natives of the country for all the comforts and luxuries he consumes. Were he to return to reside on his estate, or at Dublin, he would exchange this same produce with Irish shopkeepers, artisans, and labourers, for their services in supplying him with comforts and luxuries, instead of with British or French shopkeepers, &c. And thus, were all the absentees to return, the entire amount of their rental (with the exception only of the prime cost of what foreign productions they would still consume) would be spent in the employment of Irish industry. The greater part of the food now exported to pay these rents would remain at home, and be consumed by the Irish themselves; and the landlord, moreover, when resident on his estate, would find it impossible to exact such exorbitant rents as at present from the tenants aniong whom he lived; but must allow them to retain a somewhat larger share of the produce of their labour, and expend a portion of the remainder in employing them to improve his property. Miss Martineau, it seems, following Mr. M'Culloch, actually believes and insists, that every landlord gives employment and a maintenance to his tenants by the act of taking his rents from them ; but confers no benefit on those among whom he spends his rents, because he takes an equivalent from them! (p. 101.) So that if the race of Irish landlords were extinct, and their tenants were forced to eat or pocket the value of all they grow, they would be ruined !-while the shopkeepers of Bath or London, among whom Irish landlords now spend so many thousands a year, would lose nothing by the withdrawal of their custom! Are these opinions accordant with observation, experience, or reason? And if not, can they be sound political economy?*
ductions * We admit, that the case of English absenteeism, considered merely with respect to what our authoress's narrow-minded school call Political Economy, stands on different grounds. England exports nothing but manufactures, while Ireland exports little else but food. The rental of an English landlord who resides abroad can only be remitted in the shape of manufactured articles, which must be first purchased of English workmen with the food grown on the landlord's estate. The Irish absentee, on the contrary, can only have his rent remitted in the shape of food and it needs no laboured demonstration to prove, that, the more food goes out of the country, the less remains behind to support its inhabitants.
Let Miss Martineau, who is exceedingly fond of the term subsistence-fund, as expressing that portion of capital which sets the labouring class to work, reflect, that this consists, in fact, of food, and little else : and we do not despair of her coming round to the opinion, both that absenteeism is an evil, since, by causing an exportation of food, it diminishes the subsistence fund; and that a poor-law, which should compel Irish landlords to spare to their starving fellow-countrymen, in purchase of their labour, a little of that food which is now sent on their account to England, would itself provide the capital necessary for setting the poor Irish to work.
In another of these stories, entitled “French Wines and Politics,' the author's chief aim is to show, that the value of everything that is exchanged depends on the labour required to produce it' (p. 37); and the particular object selected for the exemplifica
tion of this principle' is the same which Mr. M‘Culloch employed for the same purpose in his famous assertion, that the increased value which wine derives from being kept in a cellar till it mellows, is entirely owing to the LABOUR bestowed upon it during the years it lies there untouched! Dramatizing this dictum, Miss Martineau—(oh! that M. Scribe could hear her!)—makes her Parisian wine-merchant talk to his wife of his cellar-full of Jabour' (p. 38); and having called in a hurricane to destroy an entire vintage in the South of France, she assures us, that the increased value of the wine-merchant's stock is owing, not to the consequent scarcity of wine (as plain folks would suppose), but to the dearness of labour !—which dearness of labour, however, she can only contrive to bring about at the same time, by actually extending her hurricane over the corn-fields of the North of France, as well as the vineyards of the South. But supposing that the two hurricanes had not happened together, where would be Miss Martineau's 'principle'?
Again— For Each and for All,' is intended to illustrate the principle' already refuted by us, that profits and wages (that is, the entire remuneration for labour) must be continually lowered with the advance man makes in numbers and civilization, through 'the necessity of taking inferior soils into cultivation.' And how is this principle illustrated ? Not by any story in which the reader could perceive it at work—there might have been a difficulty in framing any such tale—but we are presented with a titled lady, the wife of a cabinet mivister, who, while spending the autumą vacation at a country-seat, enters into discussions on the laws which regulate wages and profits with · Nanny White who keeps the little huckster's shop in the village,' and 'old Joel the sexton.' These two worthies enlighten the minds of the great Whig lord and his countess on the causes of the distress of the country, and dogmatically lecture them on the operation of the natural laws of distribution,' throughout several chapters of dialogue, which our readers would not thank us for extracting—but the burden of which is, that whenever a farmer takes into cultivation some inferior. land,' the profits and wages of his neighbours instantly fall in consequence, on which account the said neighbours are naturally very angry with him! (p. 75.)—All this is so just, so clear, so self-evident, and so ably illustrated,' thut we do not wonder at our actual ministers having followed the example of • Lord F--;' and resorted for lessons on political economy to Miss Martineau, who is evidently quite as capable of governing the nation as Old Joel himself, We hardly think it worth while to remark upon another story,