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which was to deter dissolute and idle paupers from throwing themselves unnecessarily upon the parish funds.
Since 1795, however, these establishments have been diverted from their original purposes. They are no longer workhouses for the employment of the able-bodied labourer who may be out of work; but mere public receptacles in which the aged, the infirm, and the orphan paupers of the parish are lodged and fed-in common, in too many instances, with loose and dissolute characters discharged from penitentiaries and houses of correction. Such an arrangement is at once impolitic and inhuman. It is not consistent with good policy, that the young and orphan children belonging to a parish should be thus exposed to the influence of vicious and profligate characters; and it is incompatible with humanity, that the industrious labourer should, in the sear of life,' be compelled to exchange the soft attentions of kindred' for the cold and heartless charity of a parish poor-house. We very much doubt whether this barbarous and unfeeling system possesses any advantages even on the score of economy. We are inclined to think that an allowance, not exceeding the cost of their maintenance in the poor-house, would enable aged, infirm, and orphan paupers to live more comfortably and contentedly with their relatives and friends.
If the legislature should, as we sincerely hope it will, take this subject into their early and serious consideration, we shall not despair of seeing the whole system of parish workhouses re-organized. While we would rigidly deprive magistrates and overseers of all power to relieve able-bodied labourers, except under circumstances arising from actual illness, out of the precincts of a workhouse, we would continue to them the power of conferring such relief upon the aged, impotent, and orphan poor, who are unable to work. To close up every inlet for abuse, we would confine the discretionary authority with which they might be invested within some tangible limits. We would, for instance, invest them with discretionary powers to order relief at their own homes to orphan paupers under the age of fourteen years, and to aged and impotent paupers above the age of sixty; and we would render it illegal to relieve children who are not fatherless, or ablebodied labourers between fourteen and sixty, any where but in a workhouse.
The result of this investigation is, on our part, a firm conviction that our poor laws have not proved so mimical to the wealth and prosperity of the country as it has been the fashion of late to represent them. The whole of the funds now actually expended upon the poor (even if we include in this amount the very large proportion which is now paid to able-bodied labourers, and which
to all intents and purposes constitutes a part of the wages of labour,) bears a much smaller proportion to the present resources of the country, than the total amount of the contributions raised for the sustenance of the poor bore to the whole of its wealth in the time of Elizabeth. Indeed if we deduct the sums which are now paid to able-bodied labourers, those paid to the county stock, and the various legal expenses incurred in the administration of these laws, from the amount which is now levied under the general denomination of poor rates, we should find that, taking the augmented resources of the country into consideration, the burden of supporting the impotent poor is much lighter now, than it was towards the close of that reign.
It has been often observed that the present state of Ireland bears, in many points, a very strong resemblance to the state of this country during the sixteenth century. Coinciding in the correctness of this remark, we are disposed to think that the same code of laws which contributed so materially to bring about an improvement in the agricultural economy of England would be attended with similar consequences if introduced into Ireland. The introduction of a system of poor laws administered on the principles which prevailed here before the fatal innovation of 1795, would gradually extinguish the practice of subdividing and subletting land which has proved so injurious to that country; and at the same time it would impose a salutary check upon the sudden and violent depopulation of estates which inflicts upon the ejected tenantry, now totally unprovided for, sufferings at which humanity shudders. We shall not be suspected of wishing to oppose any unreasonable impediments to the abolition of the vicious tenures which now prevail in Ireland; we would only provide against an indiscreet and abrupt alteration of the system, which must prove fatal to the discarded peasantry. While we would give the Irish landowners unshackled liberty to manage their
property in the manner which may seem most conducive to their private interests, we would take care that the pursuit of individual gain should not involve the peasantry in absolute destruction; and we know not how this object could be attained, except by imposing upon the proprietors of land a legal obligation to maintain their ejected tenantry until they can be provided for elsewhere.
Wherever a legal provision has existed for some time for the maintenance of the poor, there is no ground for representing it as pressing exclusively or even partially upon the occupiers of land or houses; the poor rates in fact constitute a rent charge, which is calculated when they are let; the amount is deducted from the rent which, in the absence of this burden, would be ex
acted by the landlord. The only portion of this charge which can fairly be represented as falling upon the tenant is the increase which may bappen to take place in its amount subsequently to the commencement of his lease.
In England, therefore, where the law makes a provision for the poor, the opulent yeomanry deduct the amount of the poor rates from the rent which they pay; while in Ireland the case is reversed. In this country the maintenance of the poor is devolved upon the landowner; in the other, it presses exclusively upon the wretched occupiers, who are themselves but one degree removed from a state of actual pauperism. When the general circumstances of the occupiers of Irish land are taken into consideration, we cannot help expressing the most unbounded admiration of their hospitality and benevolence. However contracted his dwelling, however limited his store, the houseless beggar never in vain solicits relief or shelter at the hands of the Irish peasant.
Art. VIII.--1. Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Com
mittee of the House of Lords appointed to inquire into the
State of Ireland. 1825. 2. Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee of the
House of Commons appointed to inquire into the State of
Ireland. 1895. LARGE landed possessions (says a recent traveller) are of rare occur
rence in Switzerland, and the agriculture of the country is chiefly in the hands of peasantry, who farm the little portions of land handed down to them from their forefathers, divided and subdivided through all the intervening generations. The minute division of land in the country referred to is a fact which all who have visited it will readily admit: and the division even of a single acre into different properties is not uncommon. The father brings up his son to assist him in the management of his little spot of ground : and thus, for instance, a family consisting of father, mother, daughter, and two sons, draw their subsistence from that which, under other management, would support, perbaps, no more than a single man, or a man and his wife. The father dies--bis small estate is divided into moieties between his two sons, who mutually assist in supporting their mother and sister, until one dies, and the other finds a husband in the son of another little landed proprietor. Her two brothers then marry, and have families : and thus the population rapidly increases, and the original piece of land is more and more minutely divided and subdivided, until at last comes a generation in a state of poverty and deprivation worse than that of the lowest English peasantry. Where is there a more fertile, a more beautiful, and more healthy country than that part of Switzerland called Valais ? and where is there to be found a more wretched-looking and disgusting people? In the midst of plenty they
are poor almost to starvation. Their dwellings, although pitched upon the edges of the purest mountain-streams, and surrounded by native charms, are dark and filthy as the dens of wild beasts : and in their per. sons they are frequently disgusting even unto hideousness.'— Tennant's Tour on the Continent, vol. ii.
Had such a state of things been described as existing in any other continental district, it would have been eagerly ascribed to the pressure of tithes, taxes, and the arbitrary exactions of a despotic and corrupt government. But the instance here adduced is not to be so easily got rid of; it appears that in Switzerland the vaunted land of liberty and equality itself—the misery and poverty of the peasants form an exact counterpart of the effect which results from a similar system prevailing in Ireland.
The system of subletting and subdividing land being, in the opinion of all unprejudiced persons, the principal cause of the poverty and wretchedness which are so prevalent in that country, it is evident that the remedy for this evil must be sought for in an alteration of the relation at present subsisting between the owners and the occupiers of the soil. Until a radical and nearly universal change has been brought about in the management of Irish estates; until the land ceases to be divided into minute parcels among a pauper race of occupiers, destitute of capital and skill, and stimulated by no motive to industry; vain and delusive must be the expectation that any improvement can be effected in the condition and circumstances of the peasantry.
Some parts of the system now pursued in the management of Irish land operate so oppressively towards the unfortunate occupier, as to call loudly for the direct interference of the legislature: but it is manifest that no such interference can be productive of any great and lasting benefit, without the concurrence and cooperation of the landlords themselves. On this, as well as on many other accounts, it is exceedingly to be lamented that the chief proprietors of Ireland are almost universally absent from the country. Unable to attend personally to the state of their property, they have necessarily devolved its management upon middiemen or agents, in many instances alike ignorant of the true interests of the owners, and careless of the comforts of the occupiers of the land. Had they resided on the spot, and witnessed what was actually taking place on their estates, it is not credible that they would have suffered them to be overspread by a multitude of pauper tenantry utterly destitute of means and resources. They would long ago have made an effectual stand against that system of subdividing land which has proved so detrimental to their own real interests; which has plunged every successive generation of occupiers into deeper distress; and which has agitated that unhappy country by internal commotions, caused, in most instances, by the absolute want of the necessaries of life. But absent from the districts whence their revenues are derived, strangers to the tenantry by whose labours they are fed, they feel no concern about the means used to obtain their rents, provided the remittances espected from their agents and middlemen are regularly forthcoming. This is one of the most prominent causes of the inferiority of Ireland when compared with England, in the wealth and habits of its population. The improvements which have taken place in the system of agriculture pursued in England, owe their introduction to the persevering efforts of enlightened proprietors residing upon their estates. Few, and far between,' have been the efforts to introduce such improvements into Ireland; where the tenantry are stated to be really desirous of following the advice which is given them' on the subject. Hence the land in the south is nearly in a state of nature, and produces infinitely less than it would yield under a better system. No doubt can be entertained that, under an improved system of husbandry, the land of that country would support in affluence and abundance a population at least equal to that which starves on the scanty produce it noir supplies.
For about six weeks in spring, and six weeks in the time of harvest, employment may be partially obtained by the Irish peasants, but during the remainder of the year, those who would gladly work for a mere subsistence of milk and potatoes can get nothing to do. We consider this to be the natural and inevitable consequence of the subdivision of land when carried to the extent which has prevailed in Ireland. The great body of these small occupiers, aided by the members of their own families, till with their own hands the very limited tenements which they hold, they seldom, therefore, stand in need of hired assistance. The minute subdivision of holdings gives to each individual occupier a surplus of labour, and it would be preposterous to expect that a demand should exist for a commodity of which each family possesses more than enough. The absence of demand for profitable labour, created, perhaps, by the subdivision of land, is aggravated very greatly by the non-residence of the proprietors of the soil.
• You say non-residence is very much to be deplored : if an estate is managed well, by a good agent on the spot, do you consider that it loses much by the proprietor not being there, supposing the agent fulfils bis duties to the tenantry ? I think no agent can do anything like the presence of the proprietor: but wbere there is a good agent, much of the loss of the proprietor is removed : but we never can have sufficient compensation for the loss of the great proprietor. VOL. XXXIII. NO. LXVI. OG