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mical arrangements which are now adopted to extend the supply of food would be abandoned; and that prudence and forethought would be left without a motive and without a reward.
It is important, however, that on the subject of rents we should not be misunderstood. It is only in peculiar localities, and for a season, that a poor's rate could produce an increase of rent. The ultimate consequences would be directly contrary. When, by the excess of taxation imposed on all improvements, and by the discouragement of all such investments of capital, an equalization of misery had been produced, rents must fall, and must fall progressively till totally annihilated. The case of Chorluby would then become one of frequent occurrence: rents would be choked; and, ultimately, the cultivation of such lands would be abandoned.
3 and 4. Effects of the Introduction of Poor Laws on the mode of managing landed estates. We have thrown the third and fourth arguments together, because, if both propositions are maintainable, they neutralize each other; and, to use a Parliamentary expression, they may be allowed to pair off together. The same measure cannot, by possibility, promote the consolidation of farms, and prevent that consolidation: it cannot be recommended as a protection against the subletting and subdivision of land, and as a mode of perpetuating that subdivision. It becomes necessary, before we advance further in this branch of our enquiry, to ascertain which of these two systems is that which is most conducive to the public interest; and subsequently to enquire how far the practical application of whichever of these two principles is preferred, would be promoted or retarded by the enactment of a system of Poor Laws. The evidence on this subject is, in our minds, conclusive; and we feel it the more important to refer to it on the present occasion, in consequence of the degree of favour with which the allotment system' has of late been received in England: The system of subletting has operated as an absolute bar to any encourgement which might have been given to 'their tenantry by the proprietors of estates. It led to the pro'mise, if not to the payment, of much higher rents, by the occu'piers.' Such is the statement in the Report of 1830. (P. 6.) Let us examine how this is borne out by the evidence. The 'middleman only looks to an immediate mercantile profit,' observes an English land-agent; the landlord has very different 'feelings; he looks forward and considers the reversionary interest he has in keeping his tenant in a state of prosperity.' (1774.) The evidence of Dr Doyle is, on this subject, of peculiar interest and importance. He informs us, that when a farmer took twenty or thirty acres of land, and was permitted to subdivide
it among his children, he did so when they grew up, and hence 6 the subdivision immediately resulted. Those children again 'subdivided it among their children, until the farm of forty acres ⚫ was subdivided into pieces, not exceeding one acre each. (4011.) "The habitations were most wretched; the land itself was sub'divided by ditches into very small compartments, and those 'were very badly tilled. (4357.) The quality of produce was ' deteriorated, and the quantity, I should think, considerably les'sened; the land being tilled year by year, must become a caput ' mortuum. (4358.) The occasional failure of the potato crop, and the vicissitudes to which it is subject, were peculiarly fatal under this system of cultivation. (4359.) The evil was so great in Ireland that it could not have gone much further, for, at the 'point at which it was arrested, it was producing vast suffering ' and misery among the people.. Had it gone on much further, that misery would have of necessity increased. (4364.)
' ease with which a family is provided, and the simplicity of their ordinary food, induced early marriages among the poor, and these new families are scantily provided for. (4003.) This evidence, as we imagine, is sufficient to justify that conclusion to which, on general principles, we should have arrived; and to prove that this continued and increasing subdivision of landed property is one of the greatest evils to which any society can be exposed.
We are in this stage of the enquiry encountered by a class of theorists, who tell us that the Poor Laws are justified by the very authorities on which we have relied: it is said, that the Poor Laws alone can avert these evils, and can alone compel Irish landlords to guard against the subdivision of their estates. state that this is a theoretical argument, because we are less disposed to controvert the reasoning than to deny the recital of facts. If the case was as is supposed, we could hardly resist the conclusion to which it would lead. But the statement assumes several points, which are distinctly negatived by the great majority of the witnesses examined. It assumes that it is now the practice in Ireland for landlords to encourage a subdivision of land; that landlords find it to be their pecuniary interest to do so; that it is necessary to restrain them from persevering in a system so injurious; and that the Poor Laws furnish the best and most appropriate remedy for imposing upon them this restraint.. Without establishing these four distinct propositions, the whole argument falls to the ground. Now, it not only appears that these propositions cannot be established, but that each and all of them stand refuted by evidence of the
most conclusive nature. The new system of managing land is 'that of consolidating farms, and bringing the landlord and tenant 'more immediately into contact. The benefits of this system are 'so strongly felt, that all the witnesses concur that they are 'universally recognised by landlords and agents, and are carried into practice as far as circumstances will admit.' (Report, 1830, p. 8.) This course is pursued, because, so far is it from being the pecuniary interest of the proprietors of estates to subdivide property, experience has shown them that personal interest imperatively prescribes a contrary mode of proceeding.' (Ibid.)
By farming my land myself,' states a working farmer, I should 'be certain of making it more profitable to myself than I could by letting it to cottier tenants. Some of them pay in money or labour, but, taking them in general, they will not pay a farthing; and you will have at last to forgive them all to get rid ' of them. I have found that to be the case by general experience.' (416, 419.) Upon the average of the whole king'doms,' observes Mr Mahony, I am sure that the large farmers, who are good farmers, pay more actual money to their landlords than the small ones who promise to pay more.' (1140.) My opinion is,' says Mr Delacour, that rentals would be bet'ter secured by letting land in larger holdings, and to a better 'description of tenants.' (3104.) The subdivision of land at 'last becomes so small,' Mr Bicheno informs us, that it will not support a family; then no rent can accrue to the landlord, the 'occupiers absorbing the whole.' (4250.) The opinion of Dr Doyle is strongly given to the same effect: The feeling in the 'minds of all persons is, that a pauper population would go on increasing, and the value of property diminishing, till the produce would be insufficient to maintain the resident inhabi'tants.' (4354.) We have thus shown, upon the direct evidence of witnesses of all descriptions, English and Irish, favourable and adverse to the principle of Poor Laws, that it is a total misapprehension to conceive that it is either the practice or the interest of landlords to encourage or to permit the subdivision of their farms; and that, on the contrary, their interest and their practice are directly opposed to such a course. We are, therefore, under the necessity of enquiring whether it is expedient to add to their motives for adhering to this principle; or whether the enactment of a legal support would be a fitting mode of doing so. In fact, the evil, and the real danger come from an opposite quarter. The risk to be apprehended is not, that the proprietors of land should be insensible to these considerations, but ' that they should, in some cases, proceed with too much rapi
VOL. LIX. NO. CXIX.
'dity.' (Ibid.) This danger, we fear, would be greatly increased by the alarm inevitably excited by a system of assessment; and this opinion is supported by the evidence of almost all the most intelligent witnesses.
5. Effect of Poor Laws on the peace of the country. Waiving all former arguments, we are told, that in order to silence the cry for the repeal of the Union, and to deprive the agitators of their present misused and mischievous power, no course remains but to create a charge upon the rental of Ireland for the maintenance of the poor. Our readers will not suspect us of being repealers; and we are ready to condemn the quackery of the agitators as vehemently as any individuals in the community. But we are prepared, not only to 'hint a doubt,' whether this anti-agitation specific would be effectual, but to express our decided conviction that it would lead to consequences of the most opposite tendency. Let us suppose a system of Poor Laws introduced into Ireland: By whom are those laws to be administered? Could elective vestries be chosen and intrusted with these delicate functions? Who are to be the constituents, and who the functionaries? Is every parish throughout Ireland to be called upon annually to go through the ferment of a canvass, in order to select trustees who are to be allowed to tax their own and their neighbours' property? Has any system of agitation been ever proposed, that would lead to results as formidable as this? But rejecting a course which, in the present state of Ireland, would be impracticable, even if vestries could be constituted without these dangers, let it be remembered, that in many parts of Ireland, were the rate to be thrown on the owner of land, that owner would be of a different religious persuasion from the pauper claimants for relief. What would become of an Irish parish with Orange overseers, a High-Protestant select vestry, and a Roman Catholic population? Would not all the asperities of religious animosity be rekindled with a violence hitherto unexampled? What cause of contest that has ever arisen in Ireland, could equal that deadly feud in which the pauper would fight for life, and the landowner would struggle for property? Even in England, has not the intimidation of those who administer these laws, and the desperate conspiracies and undisguised frauds of those who extort relief, produced a state of things at which the boldest must tremble? If the farmers' stacks burn in Sussex, will the homesteads be safe in Cunnemara ? Is violence, is bloodshed, is resistance to the law, so congenial to English natures, and so foreign to the habits of the Irish, that, under the same system, all may be danger at the one side of
the Channel, whilst all is safety on the other? Is Swing' to be the object of distrust and of punishment, whilst Captain Rock' is considered harmless and innocent? Is it proposed that the Roman Catholic clergy are to be excluded from the management of the funds to be raised under a Poor Law`system? Would such exclusion be just or practicable? On the other hand, if admitted, are they to be allowed that which, in the greater part of Ireland, they would soon possess,- -an unlimited mastery over the whole property of the country? Could such a system lead to peace and unanimity; or would it not, on the contrary, arrest the progress of improvement, paralyse industry, and prevent the accumulation of capital?
If our limits allowed an examination of the various plans suggested for the administration of the Poor Laws in Ireland, an exposure of the mass of impracticable incongruities and mischievous absurdities which have been suggested on this subject, would considerably add to the force of our general reasoning. But we prefer a discussion upon economical principles, to the gratuitous and needless refutation of the doctrines of Mr Sadler and his disciples.
We must, however, allude to one argument often urged, and the only argument which is very popular in Ireland. The Poor Law system is applauded by many, not as the means of relie ving distress, but as a penalty on absenteeism, and as a mode of imposing a contribution upon absentee estates. We shall not here raise a general question which has been often argued; but we must refer, on this branch of the subject, to the very characteristic evidence of Dr Chalmers; requesting our Irish readers to weigh it attentively. I feel strongly apprehensive,' observes our eloquent moralist, that indignation should prompt the levy of a tax on absentees for the expense of general pauperism. I feel no tenderness for them; but if such shall be the application of a ' tax on absenteeism, I should dread a very sore mischief to the population at large. I have noticed so often in the separate parishes of Scotland, that it was the desire to punish absentees, which has been the moving power that led to the establishment ' of a compulsory assessment, that I should be apprehensive for Ireland, of the same consequences on the country at large. Any objection I have against a compulsory system of assessment, is 'not to save the pockets of the wealthy, but the character and the principles of the poor.'
Are no steps, then, to be taken to improve the condition of the Irish poor? we shall be asked; and is the result of this prolonged argument to leave the peasantry without hope, and to free their