WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 1848.
Another winter is approaching, and Ireland again appeals to the sympathies and solicitudes of her provident and more fortunate sister. The rebellion has been suppressed, but not the famine. Throughout extensive districts there is as great a failure of the potato as there was two years since, and with a return of the cause we must expect a renewal of the disastrous consequences. There are, it is true, some circumstances now in our favour. The white crops have not been as deficient as in 1846. There is not a European famine, nor is there likely to be. We have also the benefit of our former experience. All things considered, therefore, the difficulty will confine itself to the relief of certain districts, with existing agencies, and as much as possible from the local resources. For many weeks, indeed, considerable portions of the western population, as, for example, on the wild coast of ill-fated Connemara, have been supported by regular doles of oatmeal-porridge, supplied from the union funds. If such is the case now, and has continued so even in the midst of the harvest and of the season for the fishery, what will it be when the earth is locked by frost, or wrapped in snow, and when the ocean denies alike to the fisherman and the emigrant its wonted hospitality?
As measures of relief are in actual operation, and we have not to construct at the eleventh hour an original machinery for the purpose, there will be no overpowering pressure on official responsibility and public resources. What, then, is the work to be done? In the first place, there are vast accumulations of misery in certain parts, owing partly to the immigration of outcasts, and partly to the secluded nature of the region, and the consequent extraordinary ignorance and inaction of the people. There are corners of Ireland which are the Ultima Thule of civilization, and where a Cimerian gloom hangs over the human soul. The people there have always been listless, improvident, and wretched, under whatever rulers. Ever since the onward Celtic wave was first stopped by the great Atlantic barrier, these people have remained the same, and their present misfortune is that they are simply what they have always been, and that from want of variety and intermixture they have not participated in the great progress of mankind. When we see a dense population on one of the finest shores of the world, with an inexhaustible ocean before their eyes, yearly allowing immense shoals of fish to pass visibly before their eyes, with scarcely to exact a toll from the passing masses of food, we must either rebuke their perverseness or pity their savage condition. We do pity them, because they have yet to be civilized. In Canada we have Indians in our borders, many of whom we yearly subsidize and maintain. In Ireland we have Celts equally helpless and equally the objects of national compassion. Such cases are only to be met by some form of public alms. Should the local resources be utterly drained, or so severely drawn upon as to paralyze industrial employment, England must make up her mind to some amount of imperial assistance, for the present at least.
But how far can Ireland maintain herself? That is a question which demands an immediate answer. It does not follow because there are districts of intense destitution that Ireland is, on the whole, unequal to the task of supporting her people. Nor is it so in fact. There is great wealth in Ireland. The state of cultivation, the value of the stock, and the produce, the manufactories, the pits, the mines, the edifices, and every other form of fixed wealth, has been immensely developed since the Union. We have given Ireland a commerce. Her ports are prosperous. The alleged decay of her cities is a gross fable. Dublin is a thriving metropolis, and if, as in every other metropolis, and not the least in London, certain streets are comparatively neglected and some meansions are unoccupied or desecrated to plebian uses, the beautiful suburbs, on the other hand, especially in the Wicklow direction, exhibit the same increasing rows of cheerful villas as our own Camberwell or Islington. Within the last fifty years an immense number of gentleman's seats have been erected in all parts of the island, and roads have been made even beyond the wants of the people. A vast amount of British capital has been sunk with more or less profit. Such a country cannot be a pauper. She may have her poor; but it is ridiculous to imagine that she should throw herself altogether upon the alms of an English population, the greater part of whomare as well acquainted with hunger, and far more familiar with toil, than the most unfortunate of our Irish neighbors.
It may serve to show the utter falsity of the current picture of Irish impoverishment just to mention one fact. During the last four years, or rather the four years ending last January, the total of Government stocks in the books of the Dublin Bank and standing probably in the names of Irish residents, has increased more than five millions. In other words, Ireland now possesses five millions more of funded property than she did in January, 1844, and receives therefore about 200,000l. more of the annual dividends. What is more remarkable, and what certainly suggests some unpleasant suspicions, this increase of funded property was the greatest in the year of the famine -- the ever memorable 1847. . . .
There can, we think, be no doubt that Ireland is able to maintain herself. Indeed, who does doubt it? The very cry of rebellion is that she should keep her own produce at home, a demand which implies much folly and dishonesty, but yet testifies to the general opinion of Irish self-competency. We have therefore only to set the wealth of Ireland against its poverty, and draw the more favoured districts the material and moral assistance required by the rest. There are two alternatives before us, and only two. Either we must have an Irish system, amply sufficient for Ireland, without this perpetual recurrence to English bounty, or the Imperial system must be applied without any reserve. Either Ireland must distribute fairly over all her resources the burden of her great houses and plague spot of misery, by the operation of a property tax or other comprehensive means, or she must submit to the Imperial taxation as the condition of Imperial relief.