STATE OF IRELAND
(To the Editor of the Illustrated London News)
August 11, 1849. Page 94.
Having recently traveled in Ireland for the purpose of examining the
prospects and condition of the Sister Isle, I shall feel obliged to you to
insert my views thereon. In the hope they may lead to some measures to alleviate
and ultimately cure the dreaded evils in that country.
The fact is undeniable, and is admitted by all parties, that the condition of
Ireland has undergone, during the last three years, a considerable
retrogradation; and every week adds to her misery. Her poverty can hardly be
conceived by your English readers. In the whole district of the south and west
of Ireland, not a corn-stack is to be seen: the people are worse fed and lodged
than pigs are in England. I have myself seen the poor families' Sunday dinner
consist of boiled nettles only: perhaps this may sometimes have an addition of
one pennyworth of Indian meal; bread is never seen by these poor people. The
consequence will be, the people will grow weaker both in strength of body and
mind, which is now almost prostrate.
The country has the appearance which it might be supposed it would have, if
the destroying angel had passed-over it, blighting the food, the men, and
destroying the dwellings of the people: thousands of houses are seen unroofed;
the late inhabitants being either dead or having emigrated, or, what is more
likely, taken shelter in the union workhouse: yet your readers will be surprised
to hear, that in the face of all this the most fertile land in the United Kingdom
thrown out of cultivation and deserted.
The condition of these people is a disgrace to any civilized country, and I
conceive England has a right to step forward and rescue the sufferers, who are
fast descending into the lowest depths of misery and destitution. By the recent
establishment of the Poor-Law, relief was established to the destitute; but,
instead of this law really benefiting the poor, it is, in reality, desolating
the land. Any poor-law, if enacted among a poverty-stricken people, who have no
surplus food for themselves, only aggravates the evil. Seizures take place every
day for poor-rates. The poor farmer, by this process, is unable to live himself;
his land is thrown up, and he, too, is plunged into the vortex of poverty -- the
poorhouse. It is my opinion this Poor-law must be abolished at all hazards, and
a remedy found elsewhere. I would propose that, however unsatisfactory to some
parties, England should step in with some new remedial measure. We are
naturally responsible to some degree, having united Ireland to England.
The poor people of Ireland at present receiving relief of course could not be
allowed to starve on the road-side -- they must be maintained: but no other
able-bodied man should be admitted to receive relief than those at present
receiving it. I would propose that commissioners be appointed, and they be
empowered to pay the expenses of all persons wishing to emigrate, as many would
be glad to do if they could raise so small a sum as L3. The superintendence of
the poor-houses should be taken out of the hands of the present managers, many
of whom are utterly incapable of governing these unions.
It may be asked, Where are the funds to come from to maintain the poor people
who may still continue a burden in the unions? That fund, during the time it was
really required, I propose should be raised by a Land-tax of 2s. per acre, and a
fixed duty on corn of 3s. per quarter, which would be more than sufficient. This
tax would, I think, be cheerfully paid by all, to rescue so many thousands from
starvation, and save Ireland, with her millions of inhabitants, from total ruin
and destruction. If it was proclaimed that a Land-tax of 2s. per acre could not
be exceeded in Ireland, English capitalists would at once step in and employ the
people in cultivating the land. In throwing out these hints, I earnestly call
the attention of Parliament to the present Poor-Law, which they will find is
working ruin among all classes.
I shall not enter into the many social grievances of the country; they are
many, and the people must remedy these things themselves. The great selfishness
of landlords -- the pride, the distinction of classes -- the want of disposition
to work -- the want of thrift -- the extravagance of some of the higher classes
(there is scarcely any middle class) -- all these social evils must be operated
upon by public opinion and a long course of teaching.
In conclusion, allow me to remind your English readers, that it is not only
their duty, but their interest, to have Ireland a happy and prosperous nation.
We find it in private life better to be allied to rich than to poor relations;
and as a nation England should see that her sister Ireland be made rich,
prosperous and happy. Ireland has all the capabilities of a great nation. She
has the most fertile land in the world; she has a fine people, a healthy
climate, and possesses within herself capabilities of producing everything that
can tend to man's well-being on earth. I hope earnestly that not many months
will elapse before the whole subject is inquired into, as a fearful day of
reckoning is at hand unless some effectual measure is taken.
The man who could save Ireland is Sir Robert Peel. I believe he will be the
man. Let us urge upon him not to delay in giving out his real opinions on the
social and political state of Ireland.
AN ENGLISH TOURIST
London, July 31.