Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

themselves responsible for any portion of the evils they suffer ; and we may depend upon it the Irish will not form an exception. Unless, therefore, something is done to allay the existing irritation, and to arrest the torrent of pauperism, they will continue, as heretofore, to ascribe their distress and misery, wholly to the abuses in the Government, and the English connexion; and nothing but the presence of a large military force- the expense of which must form a great and continually increasing burden on the people of Britain-will be able to support the existing government.

But without adverting further to the measures of a purely political character that may be necessary for the complete reestablishment of tranquillity in Ireland, we shall confine our attention, in this article, to those that have for their object to lessen the mass of pauperism. And though it must be admitted that very serious obstacles stand in the way of

every measure that can be devised for effecting so desirable a purpose, it may be easily shown that they are not insurmountable; and the best interests of the empire imperiously require that they should be grappled with without delay.

We have repeatedly endeavoured to show, that much of the over-population, and consequent misery of the Irish poor, is to be ascribed to the practice of subdividing farms among all the sons and even daughters of a family, and of subletting them in small portions to strangers. There is reason to think that this practice was at first rather encouraged by the landlords; and, under the late law of landlord and tenant in Ireland, it was quite impossible for any landlord, however much disposed, to check it, or to prevent the finest estate from being parcelled out into potato gardens ! Luckily, however, this vicious system has been completely subverted; and the bill introduced last Session by Sir Henry Parnell, taking away all power of subletting, without the express consent of the landlord, and making leases real property devisable only to the heir at law, has passed into a statute. Previously to the enactment of this law, a strong and almost universal conviction of the injurious consequences of the cottier or small farming system, had grown up among the landlords of Ireland; and many of them had made the most strenuous efforts to free their estates from the swarms of paupers thus encamped upon them, and to consolidate the patches so occupied into considerable farms. The passing of Sir Henry Parnell's Act, and the experience so opportunely afforded by the late elections, of the little dependence to be placed on cottier freeholders, in any struggle in which the landlords and the priests are on opposite sides, has given additional means, and a powerful additional motive to prosecute the clearing of estates. But although the suppression of the cottier system is the first, and by far the most important step in the progress to a better state of things, it is hardly possible to suppose that any very considerable advance can be made in it, without the assistance and cooperation of Government. The obvious and pressing question is, What is to become of the wretches who are ejected ? They can obtain no employment in the towns, which are already gorged with unemployed inhabitants: And it is therefore quite evident, that it they are not carried to some other country, or in some way provided for, the landlords will either not be able to continue the system they have begun, and the reign of pauperism and degradation will in consequence be perpetuated, or the ejected paupers will transport themselves to Great Britain, and lay the foundations of the same wretchedness here that is now. universal in Ireland ! *

It is thus apparent, that, in whatever point of view this subject may be considered, it is of paramount importance to the people of Britain. Even if we could prevent ourselves from being overrun by the swarms of paupers with which Ireland is at present deluging us, it would, notwithstanding, be equally our duty and interest to make every exertion for her improvement, as well in the view of providing for the tranquillity and prosperity of so large a portion of the empire, as of preventing the fatal consequences that must ensue in the event of our being engaged in war, from the hostility of her inhabitants. But it is the merest drivelling to suppose, that in the event of our continuing to allow the existing sources of pauperism to flow unchecked in Ireland, and to seek a vent for themselves, it is possible for us to adopt any measures that will be able to prevent our being overrun by them. Nothing but the abolition of all connexion between the two countries, and the surrounding of Great Britain by Bishop Berkeley's

The emigration of paupers to England, though vastly increased within the last four or five years, has been going on for a considerable period. “The population of this district, ' (Cork), says Mr Newenham, in the Appendix, p. 31, to his View of Ireland, is rapidly increasing, particu• larly in those parts which are most remote from the sea-coast. With

in a few miles of the shore, cultivation has reached that point of im

perfection which seems to set improvement at defiance. The surplus • of the growing population is disposed of, either by emigration to Eng- land, the last resource of the wretched peasant, or by removal into - the interior parts of the country.'

wall of brass, would be sufficient for our protection. Pauperism, like water, will find its level. It cannot be heaped up in Leinster and Ulster without overflowing upon England and Scotland. But it is needless to reason hypothetically on this subject. The process of equalization has already commenced : And we believe that it is not too much to say, that at this moment from a fourth to a third part of the labourers in the west of Scotland and the west of England consist of Irishmen.

The latter have almost entirely supplanted the Scotch and English labourers in all those departments in which strength is of more importance than skill; and they are rapidly gaining on them in the others. The consequence is, that a double injury is inflicted upon the native population of Britain. In the first place, their wages are reduced by the competition of the Irish; and, in the second place, their opinions with respect to what is necessary for their comfortable and decent subsistence are lowered by the contaminating influence of example, and by familiar intercourse with those who are content to vegetate in filth and misery. * We are indeed firmly persuaded, that nothing so deeply injurious to the character and habits of our people has ever occurred as the late extraordinary influx of Irish labourers; and yet the system may be said to be only in its infancy. Previously to the increased facilities of conveyance afforded by means of steam navigation, the expense of the passage from Ireland to Britain, trifling as it was even then, formed a serious obstacle to the intlux of Irish poor: But this expense has now been reduced to almost nothing; and it consists with our knowledge, that thousands of poor creatures have been landed from the steam-packets at Liverpool and Greenock within these two years, the cost of whose conveyance from Ireland did not exceed from 4d. to 6d. each! Let us not, therefore, flatter ourselves with the unfounded and delusive idea, that the misery and degradation of the Irish people is a matter which only affects us indirectly and remotely. On the contrary, nothing ever exerted so direct, so immediate, so powerful, and withal so destructive an influence over all our best interests. If we do not interfere to give another bias to the current of emigration, Great Britain will continue to be the outlet for the pauper population

• • Familiarised with misery,' says Mr Wakefield, speaking of the Catholics of Down, they have acquired an habitual apathy, and have

become indifferent to those objects in which the inhabitants of a free • country are always interested. They seem neither to know nor to ( feel the extent of their misery. '-Account of Ireland, Vol. II, p. 736.

6

of Ireland. So much indeed is this the case, that, not satisfied with the existing facilities for getting across the channel, societies have lately been formed in many parts of Ireland for facilitating emigration to this country. Nor is it any longer a question, that if left to itself, the tide of beggary and degradation will flow in this direction, until the plague of

poverty has spread its ravages equally over both divisions of the empire!

One of the most intelligent merchants of Liverpool, Mr. Henry Booth, has, in a late pamphlet, given a forcible view of the evils consequent upon the excessive influx of Irish labourers into that town. The mention of Ireland,' he observes, in"troduces a branch of our subject wliich claims our most serious

consideration; the abject condition of her crowded and unem

ployed population affords a theme of deep and melancholy • interest. Dark is the prospect of her future destiny. But

not alone to the sister kingdom are confined the evils of her • humiliation. England becomes the receptacle of her over' flowing population; the witness, and to a certain extent, the • sharer of her misery. Of the lowest orders of the poor in • Liverpool, a very great proportion are Irish. * It is an every • day occurrence for poor families to arrive in the most de

plorable condition. For a few days they traverse our streets • and quays in an ineffectual search for employment, till re• duced to their utmost need, they find their way to the parish • offices, entreating to be passed back to their own country. • Some there are who, having imported themselves upon a des

perate effort, maintain their ground, enduring the cruelest

privations, rather than return to their native shores. These • become domiciled in their new abode, struggling with a thou• sand hardships, till at length, in the hopelessness of utter • destitution, they serve in their day and generation, to swell • the ranks of pauperism, of sickness, and of death. Others, ' with better success, being fairly established in their adopted

country, become, of necessity, persevering competitors with " the English labourer, depriving him, to a certain extent, of • the advantages he would otherwise reap from the superior • habits, manners, and civilization of his own countrymen.

* The select vestry for the parish of Liverpool, in their Report, dated 20th April 1824, in allusion to the influx of destitute Irish, remark, · It • is impossible to behold such a mass of wretchedness, without feelings • of compassion; and yet, to administer indiscriminately to its relief, is

only to hold out encouragement to others, and ultimately to increase • the evil. It is no exaggeration to state, that of the casual poor, who • obtain temporary relief, two-thirds are composed of this description.'

[ocr errors]

• It is a maxim in political economy, that prices in neighbour+ ing districts, where there is a free interchange and communica

tion, will adjust themselves to something near an equality. The same principle is operative with respect to the moral and phy

sical condition of the labouring classes in contiguous countries, « where also there is a facility of intercourse and communica• tion. By this radiating and equalizing process, the privations • and misery, arising out of the defective institutions and sur

plus population of Ireland, extend themselves to the sister

kingdom, especially to the large sea.ports, and principally, • perhaps, to Liverpool,

• And here I would fain direct the public attention to an evil

of such portentous aspect, ere it overtake us in the full tide • of its malignant visitation. At the present day, few persons • will deny how intimately combined is the permanent well

being of the State with the general comfort and respectability • of the labouring classes : But is any one sanguine enough to, . imagine that the independent character of the English la• bourer (too much an ideal picture at the present moment)

can be sustained amidst the debasing competition, resulting from

the eternal influx of poverty and degradation in the never-ceasing, ' importations of Irish peasantry?'-( Thoughts on the Condition of the Poor, &c. p. 42.)

Mr Campbell, the member for Glasgow, informed the Committee that he had good reason to think, from the reports of well-informed gentlemen, that there are at present not less than 40,000 Irish established in Glasgow and its immediate vicinity! And we were truly glad to observe, that the gentlemen of Lanarkshire have, in a Report on the State of the County, which they transmitted to Government on the 23d of September last, particularly called the attention of ministers to this circumstance. They justly state, that the want of employment, so severely felt at present by the labourers and tradesmen of Glasgow, Paisley, &c., has been greatly aggravated by the continued influx of Irish paupers, who can bear almost every sort of privation; and they farther state, that the natives of the country are endeavouring to escape from their competition, by emigrating in great numbers to America, leaving their places to be occupied by the half-famished hordes that are daily pouring in from the great officina pauperum !

These statements cannot be controverted; and they are șurely enough to excite the most anxious attention, and to induce the people and government of Great Britain to give their unqualified support to the principle of the measure recommended in the Report before us, of publicly contribut

« ZurückWeiter »