« AnteriorContinuar »
gagged and bound, to the jealous custody of the rival interest in England, until at last every fountain of wealth was hermetically sealed, and even the traditions of commercial enterprise have perished through desuetude. By an Act of the 20th of Elizabeth Irish cattle were declared a nuisance,' and their importation was prohibited. Forbidden to send our beasts alive across the Channel, we killed them at home, and began to supply the sister country with cured provisions. A second Act of Parliament imposed prohibitory duties on salted meats. The hides of the animals still remained, but the same influence soon put a stop to the importation of leather. Our cattle trade abolished, we tried sheep farming. The sheep breeders of England took alarm, and Irish wool was declared contraband by a Parliament of Charles II. Headed in this direction we tried to work up the raw material at home, but this created the greatest outcry of all. Every maker of fustian, flannel and broadcloth in the country rose up in arms, and by an Act of William III. the woollen industry of Ireland was extinguished, and 20,000 manufacturers left the country. We next made a dash at the silk business; but the silk manufacturer proved as pitiless as the woolstapler. The cotton manufacturer, the sugar refiner, the soap and candle maker, and any other trade or interest that thought it worth while to petition received by Parliament with the same partial cordiality, until the most searching scrutiny failed to detect a single vent through which it was possible for the industry of Ireland to respire. But although excluded from the markets of Britain, a hundred harbours gave access to the sea. Alas! a rival commerce on her own element was still less welcome to England, and as early as the reign of Charles II. the Levant, the ports of Europe, and the oceans beyond the Cape were forbidden to the flag of Ireland. What has been the consequence of such a system, pursued with relentless pertinacity for 250 years? It is, that, debarred from every other trade and industry, the entire nation flung itself upon the land.' 2
Such a history surely gives the Irish people a heavy claim; but the claim is on the Legislature and people of England, not on the landlords of Ireland, who have been placed in their present position by English policy and English law, and who in a more prosperous and orderly society would themselves be more prosperous and more secure. The relation in which many of them now stand to their lands and their tenants is, moreover, the result of positive recent engagements on the part of the English Legislature. The Acts establishing the Encumbered Estates Court and the Landed Estates Court have given to a considerable number of them parliamentary titles. Mr. Cardwell's Landlord and Tenant Act (33 and 34 Vict. c. 46) in 1860 began by enacting that the relations of the landlord and tenant shall be deemed to be founded on the express or implied contract of the parties and not upon tenure;' and all the subsequent dealings of landlords with tenants in Ireland have been based on the enactment. Finally, the Act of 1870 was passed as a final settlement of the Irish land question, and it recognised in the amplest manner and by careful provision an indefeasible claim
1 In 1698 petitions were presented to the House of Commons from the fishermen of Folkestone and Aldborough, stating that they were injured by the Irish catching herrings at Waterford and Wexford, and sending them to the Straits, and thereby forestalling and ruining petitioners' markets.'
2 Lord Dufferin on Emigration and the Tenure of Land in Ireland,' pp. 129–132.
on the part of the landlord to the full payment of his rent according to contract. A phrase came into fashion some years ago that Ireland ought to be governed in accordance with Irish ideas,' and Lord Derby, in his speech on the second reading of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, in the House of Lords, thus described one of the ideas which Mr. Forster's Bill seems to have embodied: 'One eminent person is reported to have said that we owe a large measure of reparation to the Irish peasant for injustice in the past. That may or may not be; but it is a very Irish idea to repair the injury committed by Government hundreds of years ago at the cost of English, or Scotch, or Irish landowners of the present day, who have bought under the Encumbered Estates Act with the direct encouragement of the State.' The State ought not to regard the payment of rent as the supreme object and principal use of the national soil, but it is surely not thereby relieved from the duty of maintaining the existence of property and the observance of contract. And if for some paramount public advantage it sets them aside, it owes compensation to those whom it expropriates or deprives of the fruits of their property. In 1867 Mr. Mill proposed a plan for the solution of the Irish land question, at which politicians of all parties shook their heads as a gross violation of private property. Yet Mr. Mill never suggested that the landlords should be deprived of land or rent without full compensation. The strongest argument on behalf of Mr. Forster's Bill was Mr. ShawLefevre's adroit reference to the French law which allows to tenants, half or more of whose crops have failed, an abatement of rent in proportion. But all dealings between owner and tenant in France have been framed accordingly; French tenants, too, can be trusted to do their best by the land, so that a failure of crops is never half their own fault; French tenancies, too, are short, seldom lasting beyond three years. No Government in France could stand for a month after proposing to add to the law a provision that the judge might give a compensation equivalent to seven years' rent to a defaulting tenant whom the owner refused to leave in possession of his farm. Harsh words about selfishness and injustice have been applied to landlords who assert a claim to rent from tenants in Ireland. 'Odisse quem læseris' is a natural feeling. But can it reasonably be called selfish or unjust on the part of landlords to endeavour to pay their own debts, meet their obligations, and maintain their families? Must not society be resolved into chaos, did any other system become general? Property in land,' said Lord Mansfield, is capital without income; property in the funds is income without capital; property in mortgages is both capital and income.' Mr. Forster's Bill seemed to embody the first clause of this dictum, but mortgagees would soon find that its legislative adoption made their property neither capital nor income, and the next thing would be a sponge to wipe out the debt from which income of the fundholders is derived.
If the main use of the soil of a country, as already said, is not to afford rent to landlords, neither is it to maintain, however miserably, the greatest number of tenants, but to do the maximum of good to the whole community, to the buyer as well as the producer, to the labourer as well as the tenant farmer, to the town as well as the country, and to all who desire national peace and prosperity. If the reader looks at the map showing the scheduled districts to which the provisions of Mr. Forster's Bill applied, he will observe that, hastily and inaccurately as the districts were scheduled, as, for instance, in including the whole county of Waterford, the region of distress is in the main one west of a line from Londonderry to Cork -that is to say, of a line drawn by ethnology, physical geography, and history. East of the line the population is mainly Teutonic-of Danish, Norman, English, and Lowland Scotch blood. There have been since that time-the time of Henry II.-said Sir John Davis in the reign of James I., so many English colonies planted in Ireland, as that if the people were numbered at this day by the poll, such as are descended of English race would be more in number than the ancient nation.' Since then a succession of English and Scotch settlements have been made in the east of the island, while the natives have been driven to the west. The east of the island has, moreover, a drier climate; it is nearer the English market, and throughout history its connection with England has, in the main, been a friendly one. On the west of the line, on the other hand, the rainfall is heavier, the people are, and have always been, farther from commerce and civilisation; they have the most unmixed aboriginal blood; they are the people who were driven to the mountains and bogs by Danish and Norman invaders, who were bidden to choose between hell and Connaught by the Cromwellians, who have been throughout a thousand years the children of misfortune, whose husbandry is so unskilful and slothful that it could not prosper in the most genial clime, and whose habits are improvident and thriftless to a degree unknown to the cultivators of any civilised region. Mr. Forster himself spoke of the people of the West of Ireland as crowded together on mountain farms, on which they .could scarcely exist even in good years.' And the future condition of such farms must be even worse than the present, because American competition and the surrounding progress of agriculture must break down altogether their rude, primitive system of husbandry. More than thirteen years ago, before the problem was complicated by a rapid extension of American agriculture and railways, the present writer, upholding the cause of the tenants and condemning the Irish land system, was compelled to argue against measures designed to perpetuate the smallest holdings in the West, or, according to a vulgar political phrase, 'to root their occupiers in the soil':
The only mode of subsisting upon a few acres by which the tenant's very existence is not precarious, is by the Flemish system of spade husbandry, elaborate, minute and scientific. But that is in Ireland a new and difficult
art, irksome to learn, and not to be learned by peasants to whose customs, traditions and habits of life it is foreign. In some parts of Ireland the land now occupied by the smallest holders is naturally too bad for the success of the Flemish system without great previous outlay of capital and labour; in others it is so exhausted that it would take years to restore it to fit condition. Even on the best soils Flemish husbandry would in Ireland be much stiffer work than in Flanders, because the soil is much stiffer. The very causes which have thrown the bulk of the population of Ireland upon agriculture for support have thrust into the smallest farms some who are naturally ill-adapted for such a business, though perhaps adapted for some other. If legislation could keep such men in their holdings, it would only keep them in privation, and keep men who might succeed out of them.' 3
It is a wrong to the whole community, and even to the unfortunate. tenants themselves in the West of Ireland, of whom Mr. Forster spoke as crowded together on farms on which they could scarcely subsist, even in good years,' to encourage them to cling to their holdings in the hope of escaping the payment of rent. To encourage, on the contrary, their emigration is the statesman's true policy. The state of Ireland is one calling for the utmost caution and foresight. Festina lente should be the statesman's maxim with respect to it. The son of an Irish landlord, who had passed an examination respectably, so far as book-learning was concerned for a commission in the army, was recalled for re-examination of his eyesight, which was really defective. The youth urged to a general officer whom he saw on the subject that he was in the habit of riding to hounds without glasses. Well, sir,' said the general, and what does that prove, except that you are an Irishman? You Irishmen are such devil-may-care fellows that you would ride to hounds blindfold.' As a matter of fact, the youth was of pure English descent and had no Irish blood in his veins. Nor are blind and rash ventures made only by Irishmen. The most reckless traders in the world are Englishmen and Americans; and the last six years have not taught the world to regard English statesmen as the most farsighted and prudent. The general, however, was right that it is not always the best horseman that rides straightest across country, taking the shortest cuts and the most desperate leaps; but the rider who does not see what is before him, and who lets his horse have his head, however dangerous a brute he may be, as the easiest way out of a difficulty.
The truth is that we live in an age ambitious in politics, as well as in commerce, science, and letters, of producing great effects; but sparing of the care, perseverance, and honest work necessary to attain them. The deceits' thus practised are hardly entitled to Burke's epithet 'generous.'
T. E. C. LESLIE.
3 Land Systems of Ireland, England and the Continent. By T. E. C. Leslie. Pp. 24, 25.
THE PALACE AND THE TOWER.
N the days before the sun caught fire, before the moon froze and before you were born, a great queen had three children, whose names were Hilda, Harold, and Hector. Princess Hilda, who was the eldest, had blue eyes and golden hair; Prince Hector, who was the youngest, had black eyes and black hair; and Prince Harold, who was neither the youngest nor the eldest, had, of course, brown eyes and brown hair. There was nothing else specially remarkable about them except that they were (at the time I write of) the best children in the world, as well as the prettiest and the cleverest for their age, that they lived in the most beautiful palace ever built, and that the garden they played in was the loveliest ever seen.
The palace stood on the borders of a mighty forest, on the further side of which lay Fairyland. But there was only one window in the palace that looked out upon this forest, and that was the round window of the room in which Hilda, Harold, and Hector slept. And since the round window was never open except at night, after the three children had been put to bed, they knew very little about how the forest looked, or what kind of flowers grew there, or what sort of birds sang in the dark branches of the lofty trees. Sometimes, however, as they lay with their three heads on their three pillows, and with all their eyes open, waiting for the Spirit of Forgetfulness to come and fasten down their eyelids, they would see stars, white, blue, and red, twinkling in the sky overhead; and below, amongst the gloomy shadows of the trees, other yellow stars which danced about and flitted to and fro. These flitting stars were supposed by grownup people to be will-o'-the-wisps, jack-o'-lanterns, fire-flies, and glowworms. But the three children knew them to be the torches borne by the elves, as they capered hither and thither about their affairs. For although the Forest of Mystery (as it was named) was not, strictly speaking, in Fairyland, but formed the boundary between that and the rest of the world, yet many fairies held nightly revels there. The children wished that a few of these tiny people would come in through. the round window some evening, and pay them a visit. But if such a thing ever happened, it was not until after the children had fallen asleep; and then, when they woke up in the morning, they had forgotten all about it.
The garden was on the side of the palace opposite to the Forest of Mystery; it was called the Garden of Delight. It was full of