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curing money by any means: and an erroneous opinion that no real scarcity prevailed, filled up the measure of general distress.
The gentry of Ireland rarely took into their consideration these impediments; or when they did, they made few serious attempts to remove them. They only wanted money to satisfy their wants ; and when the people who worked upon their lands had none to give, they drove away their stock of cattle, and consequently precipitated them into beggary and ruin. These cruel hardships were often exercised by persons of whom the tenants had no knowledge ; with whom they had made no contract: persons who were called the head landlords; and between whom and the cultivators there was a chain of intermediate landlords, such as have been described in the beginning of these observations. This most pernicious system of middlemen originated in the idleness and poverty of the Irish gentry. A gentleman, involved in extravagance, and unable to provide for his immediate wants, would often let a portion of his estate on a long lease, at a rent so small as three, four, or five shillings an acre; on condition of receiving a sum of money at the moment. The immediate lessee, either too proud or too lofty to cultivate this land himself, would let it on lease to another, at a profit rent of ten or fifteen shillings an acre; and the next lessee would dispose of it at an advanced rent to a third person, until at last the most ignorant and indigent of the people became the occupiers and cultivators of that land, which, in the hands of an English yeoman, would have produced double the quantity it was in their power to make it yield. Yet these miserable drudges paid a larger rent than is now paid for some of the best farms in England, and had to run the gauntlet between all the gradations of landlords, from the proprietor to their immediate lessor, who were ultimately obliged to look to the soil itself for their profit rent.
Land thus rack-rented, thus curtailed of its productive powers, and of which the profits were divided among so many idlers, and consumed as soon as received, could never add any thing to the stock of national wealth. The gentry derived their incomes from no other source, and as soon as their rents were received, they were instantly sent off to the capital of the island, or to some other trading town, to pay for the luxuries wbich were consumed in their houses. This money did not flow back into the interior of the country, any more than the sums sent over to support the Irish landowners who spent their fortunes in England.
To enter more fully into a description of that system of violence and injustice, of folly and extravagance, which we have noticed, would far exceed the limits prescribed to this publication. Enough has been said to shew that the seeds of the late dreadful rebellion have not been sown in modern times.
As the great object of this sketch has been to supply the Imperial Legislature with correct intelligence, should any measures for the amelioration of Ireland become the subject of parliamentary
discussion, the author begs leave humbly to submit the general outline of such a plan as would, in his opinion, lead to very beneficial consequences.
There are two great objects which it should be the study of government to accomplish, with regard to the peasants of Ireland:- 1. To enable them to acquire property.
2. To communicate to them instruction. The great impediment in the way of the former has generally been the excessive high rents paid by the occupiers of land, and their inability to render that land productive. This evil could not be remedied all at once, without the active interference of the Irish gentry. But, without injuring a particle of any man's property, it might be prevented in future, by an act of the legislature, to render null and void all leases for lands that should hereafter be given by persons holding the same lands themselves on lease, as well as the leases by which persons so offending held those lands; and to provide, that no persons, except the owners of lands, should be at liberty to let them out to yearly tenants. No informers would be required to enforce the execution of such a law as this; for the moment it should happen to be violated, the landowner, for his own interest, would take care to have the offender punished by the forfeiture of his lease. This regulation would in time completely destroy that class of people called middlemen ; who, without having any just property in, have derived an undue profit from the soil, and greatly enhanced the price of it to the cultivator. These men, instead of living in idleness and luxory, would then apply themselves to useful industry. But the most important effect of this regulation would be that of lowering the rents of lands to the cultivators, and increasing them for the proprietors; by which means there is not a landowner in Ireland who would not be benefited: for his income would not only be increased, but his tenants, by having their burthens lightened, would be able to pay their rents with more ease and punctuality than formerly.
The next care of the government should be to remedy the evils occasioned by a want of capital. Many persons in Ireland have taken land without possessing money enough to purchase the common implements of husbandry. The practice might in a great measure be prevented, by the removal of the cause; by doing away the whole system of middle-men. The owners and cultivators of land would then know each other : the former could chuse their tenants, . and in all probability would take care that their lands did not fall into the hands of the poorest and most ignorant classes of the community. But as it will require time to produce these effects, the immediate attention of government ought to be applied to the best means of encouraging industry among the labourers employed in agriculture. Persons, under the direction of the Dublin society, might be sent through all parts of Ireland for the purpose of giving rewards and instructions. If the poverty of farmers did not proceed from idleness or vice, they ought not to be exposed to beggary and ruin;
but supplied with the means of bettering their condition. A fund was raised many years ago, by voluntary subscription, in a certain part of the county of Meath; out of which small sums were given, by way of loan, to distressed tradespeople and mechanics. The persons borrowing gave security for the payment, and paid an interest at the rate of five or six per cent. This institution was attended with the happiest consequences in relieving many distressed families. Might not a similar, but more extended, plan be adopted, under the authority and controul of government, for the relief of such poor farmers as could produce certificates of having, for two years immediately preceding their application, conducted themselves with honesty, sobriety, and industry? such certificate to be signed by the minister and popish priest of their parish, and one justice of peace. The fund for this purpose might be raised by the counties; the parties borrowing giving security, and paying a moderate interest for the sums lent to them. In order still further to increase the agricultural produce of Ireland, and give employment to the poor, it would be highly expedient to hold out valuable rewards to those who should reclaim bogs and other barren tracts of land; as well as to make a provision for their exemption from the payment of tythes for a certain number of years.
The practice of appropriating vast tracts of land to pasture, is another evil that has long prevailed in Ireland to an enormous extent. Individuals in many places occupy five, ten, and fifteen thousand acres of land, for the sole purpose of feeding cattle, for exportation in time of peace to foreign countries; but in time of war certainly found very beneficial for the supply of our fleets and armies. This benefit, however, is only temporary; and were it permanent, it could not compensate half the mischiefs occasioned by the depopulation, the idleness, and beggary which this practice has caused in Ireland. On a portion of land, which, if applied to tillage, would have maintained one thousand families, no more than twelve or twenty persons have been often employed. Numbers enjoying health and strength of body, but unable to find employment, have consequently been reduced to beggary. But it may be asked how this evil can be remedied, without violating that right which every man has to dispose of his property as he pleases? That right certainly should never be violated; but the grievance, like all other things that have grown into usage, might be remedied by indirect means. Large bounties are offered in times of scarcity, by government, for the importation of corn from foreign countries, and imniense sums of money have been sent out of the kingdom -in payment for this corn. Might not such bounties be given to the growers of corn in Ireland as would be a sufficient temptation to those depopulators of the land, called graziers, to convert part of it to agricultural uses? A quantity of corn might thus be produced in Ireland, sufficient to provide against times of scarcity, and obviate the necessity of depending on foreign coun
tries for support. The expence of the bounties would be trifling, compared with the consequent increase of population, of industry, and prosperity. A vast variety of other regulations, adapted to places and circumstances, might be taken into consideration : but ihe measures already recommended appear to be the most general and simple, the easiest to be carried into execution, and the most likely to be attended with the desired efiect.
It cannot be doubted that a proper system of instruction would operate most powerfully in civilizing the peasants of Ireland, in reconciling them to peaceable habits, and attaching them to his Majesty's government. In considering this subjeet, the most minute attention should be paid to the habits and prejudices of the people. Many plans of public education were adopted in Ireland, not one of which ever answered the expectations of the projectors. Considerable property was applied to this purpose, and applied in vain. Almost every institution suffered the most flagrant abuses: the incomes intended to support them were converted into sinecures, and became an injury instead of a benefit to the community. The teachers in many endowed schools did not receive one tenth of the profits intended for their use by the founders: and the children placed there derived little benefit from the institutions. The object of all those endowed schools, where children were received, was that of promoting the Protestant religion. The children of Roman Catholics were not allowed admission into them, unless their parents became Protestants. The very measures adopted during the last century, for converting the Irish Catholics, had only the effect of more firmly rivetting their prejudices. The experience of ages must convince us how absurd and tyrannical it is, to tell men that the only condition on which they are to receive the same privileges with other subjects, is that of abandoning the faith in which they were brought up from their infancy. The history of Ireland, for the last two hundred years, presents little more than a dreadful catalogue of feuds and massacres, occasioned by religious animosities. Thank God there is now reason to hope that the system of mildness and toleration, of which his present Majesty first set the example, will be carried more extensively into effect. It is not enough that permission should be granted to Irish Catholics to educate their children in their own religion: it is the duty of government also, to see that the children of all, particularly of the poorer orders, shall be instructed in the first principles of morality, in the nature of their duties as subjects, and their rights as freemen. We have the example of Great-Britain before us, to know that a well-informed and virtuous people is the best security for a free government. There are no men so cautious of injuring others as those who feel that they shall not themselves be injured with impunity.
The Roman Catholic priests of Ireland, so far as the author has been able to judge from his personal knowledge and experience, are in general men of probity, and possess a considerable share of
scholastic learning. Being mostly the sons of farmers, and having had no opportunity in their youth of mixing in polite society, their manners are simple and unpolished, sometimes vulgar. But many of them, particularly those who are educated in great towns and cities, and related to rich and respectable tradesmen, possess as much information, and display as much elegance of manners, as any of the French clergy. They have indeed all been charged with secretly inspiring their flocks with hatred against the Protestants: how far that accusation is true, cannot well be ascertained. It is however certain, that their influence, and the respect which . they command, have gone farther in restraining the licentiousness, and correcting the barbarous manners of the common people, than all the power of the magistrate, assisted by military force. Whether in general they have been well or ill affected, it is not now too late for government to make use of their abilities and learning in a way as honourable to themselves as it must be beneficial to Ireland and the empire at large. Sound policy requires the establishment of a competent provision for the Catholic clergy, which, so far from being a loss to the public, may become a remuneration for great public services. Let them receive it on the express condition that they shall superintend the education of all the Roman Catholic children throughout their respective parishes.
In most parishes there are two Roman Catholic priests, one of whom is an assistant or curate: to him might be assigned the principal part of the labour of teaching, under the direction of his superior. A preparatory course of instruction, in interior schools, would perhaps be necessary, but such a regulation could be easily adjusted.
In order to prevent this plan from degenerating into abuse, and at the same time to reward the meritorious, persons appointed annually by the university, by the bishops, or by government, might visit every parish throughout the island, make a faithful report of the manner in which each master discharged his duty, and suggest at the same time such alterations and improvements as should appear to them worthy of adoption.
The author contents himself with the bare suggestion of a system of education, the outline of which may be correctly drawn, and the details judiciously filled up by men in every respect qualified for the important task; and though his plans may appear to some impracticable, or dangerous, he has the consolation of knowing that they all spring from the most sincere and anxious wish to promote the happiness of his native country, and increase the general prosperity of the empire.