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their relative quality or cheapness" (J. N. Murphy). But in
vain ; because the people had no power to "give effect to their
judgment respecting their own interests," all attempts at such
cert being ineffectual, "unless it receives the sanction and
validity of a law" (Mill). "It is well known that almost all
the manufactured articles used in Ireland, save linen, are
British or foreign products. There are British and French
millinery and silks; British, French, Danish and Hungarian
gloves; English soap, candles, ironmongery, hardware and
glass; in fact, almost everything in use by rich and poor — all
imported and paid for by Irish raw agricultural product"


(Murphy). England has 740 occupations relating to trade, com-
merce and manufacture; little Scotland 501; Ireland only 261.

§ 294. " Some human agency must be accountable," says
Lord Dufferin, " for the perennial desolation of a lovely and
fertile island, watered by the fairest streams, caressed by a clem-
ent atmosphere, held in the embraces of a sea whose affluence
fills the noblest harbors of the world, and inhabited by a race —
valiant, generous, tender — gifted beyond measure with the
power of physical endurance, and graced with the liveliest intel-

Many are the solutions ! 1. "The Irish are an idle, thriftless
race," says prejudice. Their record in the colonies and in
America, as in England itself, disproves the slander. " We
are apt to charge the Irish with laziness," says Swift, " because
we seldom find them employed ; but then we don't consider
that they have nothing to do." "They are priest-ridden, ig-
norant Catholics," says bigotry. They bring their religion with
them to new fields of labor, but it does not prevent their pros-
pering. They are of the same creed as the industrious and
prosperous Belgians; of the same race and creed as the French.
" They are turbulent; the country is so disturbed by popular out-
rages, that capital shrinks from Ireland as a field of investment,"
say the lovers of peace and quiet. It is admitted that Ireland
is disturbed because of the poverty and misery of the people.
It is a miserable circle, if the effects of their misery are such as
to prevent the application of the remedy. Is not the effect put
for the cause here ?

2. " The misery of Ireland arises from the excess of her
population," say the old-fashioned economists. Between the
Union and the Famine (§ 66) the rate of increase of popula-
tion in Ireland was less than in England ; since that date there
has been a decrease of one-third through emigration, without
any corresponding improvement in the condition of the people.
Although England consumes over fifty million bushels of grain
in the manufacture of liquor, she manages to feed, in ordinary
years, two thirds of her population or fourteen and a half mil-


lion people — taking the census of 1868 — on the produce of
twenty-five and a half million acres of arable land. Belgium
on six and a half million acres feeds nearly five million people.
Ireland with fifteen and a half million acres of better land than
cither England or Belgium can show, is overpopulated with a
people that number something over five and a half million
souls! " But since the famine and emigration brought down
the numbers, things are much better in Ireland. Mr. Disraeli,
you know, says that the ; famine did more for Ireland than a
long succession of statesmen had been able to do.' ' The fam-
ine and emigration did reduce the population from something
like eight millions to the present figures, a decline of 32 per
cent. But the best judges pronounce that this reduction has
effected no material improvement in the condition of the peo-
ple, which is improving only where the farmerand the artisan are
in neighborhood, and where the farmer sells his crop to his
neighbors, i. c, in the three or four north-eastern counties. Every-
where else, the Irishman at home is " selling the hide for six-
pence and buying back the tail for a shilling." " The dispropor-
tion of the opportunities of employment to population," as Lord
Pufferin expresses it. is the real state of the case; not the dis-
proportion of natural resources and land to the population.
But this explanation confesses judgment against those who have
control of the industries of Ireland. For the rapid and enor-
mous multiplication of any people, if it outrun the development
of their industrial resources, is a proof and a consequence of the
wretchedness and poverty that first made them reckless and
hopeless. It is the well-to-do workman, the one who has a
social standing and prospects, that considers his ways.

See \ 68, note. The only evidence we can find for the assertion of a rapid
increase in the population is the fact that the Registrar-General reported
nn enormous birth-rate in Ireland. Rut the official figures of the Irish
-us show that this must have been balanced by a still more
enormous death-rate, as indeed is highly probable ($ 71). Yet Mr.
Mill gives from Quetelet a table of annual increase which puts the
Irish rate far higher than that of England, and indeed the highest in


§ 295. 3. " The misery of Ireland arises out of the wretched
system of land tenure," say the new-fashioned economists,
Mr. Thornton and his disciples; "her people are reduced to
tenants at will, they are rack-rented ; they have no inducement
to improve their land, because the better they make it, the
higher the rents will go. They hide their savings from the
landlords, and get two per cent, interest on them, instead of
putting them into the land. They need security of tenure and
compensation for unexhausted improvement. Till they get them,
as Mr. Caird says, ' what the ground will yield from year to year,
at the least cost of time, labor and money, is taken from it.' '
The inference is that the Irish landlords, and the middlemen to
whom they let their properties, and who again sublet it to the
farmers, have been the vampires who have destroyed Irish
prosperity, and driven her people beyond the seas. But where
the same land tenure has coexisted with manufactures the
people have prospered ; and where the two have not been asso-
ciated, the landlord has often been broken in fortune as well as
the tenant. The commissioners sent out to relieve the sufferers
by the famine, found in the Connaught poor-houses men of
estate and family, who had served as the High Sheriffs of
their counties. Oue-third the landlords of Ireland were swept
away in the common ruin. A very large portion of the land
of Ireland has changed hands in late years ; £25,000,000
worth in the ten years (1849-1859), during which the Encum-
bered Estates' Court sat in Dublin. Of the estates thus sold,
the ownership was often only nominal ; the landlord an unpaid
pensioner on his own laud. And it is a mistake to suppose
that rack-rents are necessarily high, except in relation to the
means of the tenant. "The rents of Ireland are comparatively
low. This, I believe, is generally admitted, though there are
flagrant exceptions ; even a rent that is absolutely low, may be
beyond the means of an indigent or unskilful tenant" (Lord
Dufferiu.) They are in fact much lower than farmers with the
command of a home market easily pay in other countries; much
higher than the Irish farmer can often afford.


After all, what is the charge brought against the Irish land-
lords and their middlemen ? That they acted on the princi-
ples of English Political Economy, and sold their commodity
in the dearest market they could find. " The moral respon-
sibility of accepting a competition rent is pretty much the same
as that of profiting by the market rate of wages. If the first
is frequently exorbitant, the latter is as often inadequate, and
inadequate wages are as fatal to efficiency as a rack-rent is
to production ; though each be the result of voluntary adjustment,
it is the same abject misery and absence of an alternative which
rule the rate of both. . . . The disproportion of the op-
portunities of employment to population has resulted in univer-
sal pressure and universal competition — competition in the labor
market; .... competition in the land market only to be
relieved by the application to more profitable occupations of so
much of the productive energies of the nation as may be in

excess of the requirements of a perfect agriculture

How powerfully the development of manufactures in the North
of Irelaird has contributed to the relief of the agricultural
classes of Ulster, by giving the tenant farmer an opportunity of
apprenticing some of his sons to business, .... and by
enabling the cottier tenant to supplement his agricultural earn-
ings with hand-loom weaving, and by a general alleviation of

the pressure upon the land, I need not describe.

Had Ireland only been allowed to develop the other innumera-
ble resources at her command, as she has developed the single
industry in which she was permitted to embark, the equilibrium
between the land and the population dependent upon the land
would never have been disturbed, nor would the relations between
landlord and tenant have become a subject of anxiety" (Lord
Dufferin). lint the new Irish Land Bill of Messrs. Gladstone
and Fortescue seeks to put a limit to the competition for land
by legal restriction, rather than to put an end to it by removing
its cause — by creating and cherishing a varied industry. They
did so with eyes fully open to the source of this unhappy com-
petition. In the debate on the Bill in the House of Commons


the line of argument adopted by the Government, according to
The Spectator, was this : " Free contract implies free contract-
ors ; however, partly from historical circumstances but chiefly
from the absence of alternative employments, the poorer tenants
of Ireland are not free ; at least half the adult population are
compelled by the coerciSn of hunger to agree to any terms
which will secure them the use of the soil. It is because they
are not free that a penalty is affixed to capricious eviction, —
that a court is to settle the terms on which leases must be
granted, that even on the expiring of the lease, good-will is to
revive like a plant out of the ground." On reading this, we
are obliged to ask : Are there no resources at the command of
statesmanship, by which these " alternative employments "
could be called into existence, and the Irish problem
solved without tampering with vested rights, and re-
calling into existence that " system of limited, imperfect and
half-developed rights, natural only to a low civilization," which
all Europe has taken such trouble to be rid of. There is a re-
source which has always been found fully equal to the occasion,
but unfortunately it is called Protection. And from the most
trusted leaders that the people of Catholic Ireland ever had, a
demand for its establishment has been distinctly made.

" What sort of legislation would follow the establishment of a separate
Irish Parliament, if any legislation at all, might easily be anticipated,
if it were not distinctly foreshadowed iu a tentative declaration of some
Catholic clcrgymeu, drawn with great ability for its purpose, and assur-
edly not put forward without the private sanction of higher authority
than it claims. It is enough to say it is declared that Political Economy
will not do for Ireland, that the Irish manufacturer cannot compete with
the English, and that the natural energies of the Irish people must be
developed — that is to say, properly speaking, repressed — by Protection
and prohibition" — (Clifl'e Leslie (Land Syxtenm of Ireland, England and
the Continent, pp. 35-6.) Mr. Leslie recognises the fact that the absenoe
of manufactures is a chief source of Irish poverty and retrogression.
However, he believes that Ireland is not a manufacturing country, be-
cause her land tenure laws are so bad that the capitalist cannot secure
Bites for factories, and he seeks to substantiate this reasoning by adducing
some half dozen cases of hardship. The land tenure is the same in
England as in Ireland; the same in Ulster as in Connaught. It was

Ireland's "lack of capital." 319

the same in 1783—1801 as it is now, when no such difficulty as to the
sites of factories was experienced.

Did not the Gladstone ministry and their majority in Parliament " declare
that Political Economy would not do for Ireland," when they resolved to
set aside freedom of contract between landlord and tenant ? '• If Eng-
lish landlords, millionaires and economists have an economical convic-
tion, it is in favor of freedom of contract. Yet a house led by the
greatest of living economists has abandoned it. . . . The liill does inter-
fere directly with their claim to do as they like with their own

Mr. Lowe, when taunted with his old economical arguments, acknow-
ledged that the Bill was not intended to increase wealth, which is the ob-
ject of Political Economy, but to save society'" (Spectator).

§ 296. (4) " Ireland is miserable, wretched, unprogressive
•for lack of capital to undertake the industries that would give
her people sufficient employment," says the practical man.
Solomon anticipated him when he wrote, "The destruction of
the poor is his poverty j" but of what use is it to tell the Irish
people that the reason why they are so ill off is because they were
not in the past able to lay by for the present, and therefore will
not now be able to do so for the future ? " We frequently hear
Irish aspirations after English capital ; and loud are the popular
rejoicings when an Englishman settles in Ireland, with a few
thousand pounds, to establish some branch of industry ; and
these rejoicings are not so much for the example he sets, as for
the capital he brings with him. We find, too, the English press
occasionally warning the people of Ireland not to frighten away
by their turbulence English capital, which, if not so deterred,
would be devoted to the development of Ireland, instead of be-
ing sent for employment to the antipodes. — a warning which im-
plies that Ireland must look outside herself for the capital neces-
sary to develop her resources. . . . Capital may be defined as
past labor laid by to aid future. . . . The capital of Great Bri-
tain and other civilized nations has grown from weak and scanty
beginnings. . . . The capital, or saved labor of any country,
must in the aggregate come from the labor of that country. It
cannot come from any other source. Another country will not
supply it. Capital is not parted with unless in exchange for an
equivalent. The more the labor of a country is productively


employed, the larger will be the amount of its saved labor. The
greater the activity of industry, the energy of production, the
process of perpetual consumption and reproduction, the greater
will be the capital created within the country" (J. N. Murphy).
But even savings are not capital unless they are reproductively
employed in the country itself; and the productive classes of
Ireland save large sums of money, for whose investment there is
absolutely no opening in Ireland. An average of £1(3,000,000
is deposited with the Irish banks at 1J per cent, interest, and
is invested in the London money market by the bankers. And
the amount of these savings would be very much greater, were it
not for the vast number of the unemployed and unproductive
class who live off the national income. These are the two ex-
tremes of Irish society, — the landlords who draw incomes from
Irish estates and spend them in Paris or Naples, instead of de-
voting themselves, as captains of industry, to the development
and improvement of their estates ; the great host of beggars,
paupers and dependent persons, who find nothing to do, and
live in idleness off the the earnings of others, some of them in-
side, but most of them outside the workhouse.

Even Lord Dufferin joins in this talk about Ireland's need of capital: —
" Let capital overflow her soil, and though her superficial area remain the
same, the stimulus to her powers of production would be equivalent to an
accession of territory sufficient to support thousands in affluence, where
at present hundreds find a difficulty in extracting a bare subsistence."
Ireland has, and under any free trade regime would have, to compete
with the industrial skill and the division of labor which has been the
slow acquisition of centuries of English history. Irish labor is dear, as
all unskilled labor is. As her people say, " their fingers are all thumbs"
at manufacturing, and Lord Dufferin himself tells us that "even the tra-
ditions of commercial enterprise have perished through desuetude." The
nascent industries of Ireland would be " strangled in their cradle,"
unless the new capitalists had — as the Australian expressed it — "a pretty
strong back" to bear up against the sort of competition that Manchester
and Bradford, Sheffield and Birmingham would bring to bear upon them.

§ 297. What will England do for Ireland ? Almost anything
except protect her industry or repeal the Union and concede the
" Home Rule" that would enable her to protect herself. Every-
thing, that is, but the one thing that will be of permanent use.


She will eveu interfere with the rights of property, and put the
competition of the land market under restraint. But she will
suffer no restraints upon the market for cottons, woollens, hard-
ware, soap, candles and glass; its competitions are something
unspeakably sacred, on which none may lay irreverent hands.
And then, is not British prosperity bound up with the doctrine
that men have the right to buy in the cheapest aud sell in the
dearest market, and do what they will with their own, — provided
it is not land in Ireland ? Only one English voice is raised in
protest : " The destruction of Irish industry by the ancient
English policy is not only a case for repentance, but for restitu-
tion, or at least compensation. Like other sinners, we are very
willing to confess that we have done wrong; ready even to
promise that we will do so no more. But a proposal that we
should give any Irish industry, or even any English industry on
Irish ground, a partial and temporary advantage, so as to place
Ireland, as nearly as we can, in the same state as if she had al-
ways been fairly treated, as an integral part of the empire — a
proposal to make up for past delinquencies and really restore in-
dustry to its natural channels — I say such a proposal, just and
natural as it is, would at present be received in England with
derision." ... If this were done " England's gain in the re-
sult cannot be calculated. But she will be no loser even in the
process. The wealth that native manufactures will at once pour
into Ireland's lap will not be abstracted from the United King-
dom, but created in Ireland" (Judge Byles).

See Sophisms nf Free Trade ; Chap. XVI. : " Free Trade for Ireland."
Also Lord Dufferin's Irish Emigration and the Tenure of Land in Ireland;
and Mr. J. N. Murphy's Ireland — Industrial, Political and Social.

§ 298. India was a manufacturing country when English
merchants first began to establish their factories or trading sta-
tions along the coast of the Bay of Bengal. Down to quite a
recent period a great trade in the fine cotton goods of India —
"so fine that you can hardly feel them with your hand" — was
carried on. " On the coast of Coromandel and in the Province
of Bengal, when at some distance from a high-road or principal


town, it is difficult to find a village in which every man, woman
and child is not employed in making a piece of cloth. At pres-
ent much the greater part of whole provinces are employed in
this single manufacture," whose process " includes no less than
a description of the lives of half the inhabitants of Indostan "
(Col. Orme, 1805). The manufacture was very ancient : "the
weaver of Dacca on his clumsy loom produced in the days of
the Roman empire that ' woven wind,' the transparent Indian
muslin, — the human gossamer, of which a whole dress will pass
through a finger ring. Any other nation than our own, I sup-
pose, would have cherished the manufacture of a fabric, the
most perfect probably in the whole world, and certainly the
most ancient that can be specifically identified : had it fallen
naturally into disuse, would have held a little state money well
spent to preserve it. Not so we English. We have well-nigh
annihilated the cottou manufacture of India. Dacca is in great
measure desolate; the population, from 300.000 has fallen to
60 or 70,000; its most delicate muslins are almost things of the
past. We imposed prohibitory duties on the import of Indian
manufactures into this country. We imported our own at. nomi-
nal duties into India. The slave-grown cotton of America,
steam-woven into Manchester cheap-and-nasties, displaced on
their native soil the far more durable but more costly products
of the Indian loom. ..."

See J. M. Ludlow's British India, its Races and its History. Two vols.
Cambridge, 1858. Also, his Thoughts on the Policy of the Crown toward
India. London, 1859; and Chapman's Cotton and Commerce of India.

England brought India juster and cheaper government, an
era of peace, lighter taxes and improved methods of manage-
ment. But under the Christian rule of Britain the industry of
the country has been blighted, and ' ; the manufactures of India
were, it may be said completely ruined by a general lowering
of import duties [in 1813] on articles the produce or manu-
facture of Great Britain, without any reciprocal advantages
beim; given to Indian produce or manufactures when brought
home. Next, inasmuch as the sale of opium, — a government


monopoly in Bengal and Behar — was greatly impeded by
the competition of tree-grown opium from the native states
of Malwa, prohibitory duties were imposed at all the Presiden-
cies on" the latter, " and the native princes of Malwa were ac-
tually induced to prohibit the cultivation of the poppy for British
behoof, — being suitably bribed for thus ruining their own sub-
jects " (Ludlow). By 1833 not a single piece of cloth was ex-
ported from India, and for the ruin inflicted on its artisans Lord
William Bentinck, the Governor-General, could find " no paral-
lel in the annals of commerce." English writers tell of ; ' the
enormous and undeniable falling off in the commercial activity
of India; the decay of those flourishing marts with which the
whole coast was once studded; . . . the contraction, and in
great measure the ruin of trade; the neglect of public works ;
the depreciation of agricultural produce ;" which last " is ob-
served to be a marked feature of our rule. . . . The numerous
local markets created by the existence of the native princes,"
and by the wide existence of a class that had other means of
subsistence than farming, <v and which, by serving as centres of
money circulation, enhanced the value of produce on the spot,
disappeared." " The trade of India is so trifling, as compared
with its agriculture, that the trading classes, except the village
bankers" or usurers, "form a very small item" (J. M. Lud-
low). " A great part of the time of the laboring population in
India is spent in idleness. I don't say this to blame them in the
smallest degree. Without the means of exporting the crude and
heavy agricultural produce, and with scanty means, whether of
capital, science or skill, of elaborating it on the spot, they have
really no inducement to exertion beyond what is necessary to
gratify their present and very limited wishes" (Chapman).

In fine, there is nothing left in India save an impoverished
agriculture and a lifeless trade. The Hindoo cotton -grower pro-
duces the raw material to clothe his countrymen ; but it reaches
them by way of Calcutta and Manchester ; the skill (if his won-
derful manufactures is being lost. He pays for the strip of
cloth that covers his own nakedness twenty times the amount


of cotton that it contains. To carry his cotton crop even to the
river on bullocks costs on an average five cents a pound, and em-
ploys vast numbers of the people and of cattle in laborious and
unproductive work. He has lost the power of association with

Online LibraryRobert Ellis ThompsonSocial science and national economy → online text (page 29 of 38)