Зображення сторінки

must be divided among the possessors of property, rich and poor. The poor lost their all. On these the blow first fell; they became wholly destitute ; and many have died from want, disease, and misery. The middle classes have borne their share. Want of trade and heavy expenditure have reduced their means; and unless relieved shortly, many are in danger of becoming pauperised. The rich of all classes have suffered severely. They have found their expenditure increased, and their income diminished. On the landed proprietors a heavy blow has fallen. Already much impoverished, it seems probable that they will feel it still more severely hereafter. Potatoes were not merely the food of the people of Ireland, but in many places they supplied the place of capital and of a circulating medium. They were the capital which enabled the poor cottier to exert his industry, and the coin in which his labour was paid. Stored up for winter food, they enabled the small farmer or the cottier to feed cattle and pigs, to rear poultry, to trade, in short, as if he had possessed so much capital. With them the farmer paid the wages of his labourers, whether farm-servants or cottiers. The loss of potatoes depriving the poor man of his capital, paralysed his industry. He could no longer feed pigs or poultry, or even cultivate his farm, because he had nothing to live on in the mean time. The same cause, in many instances, obliged the farmer to dismiss his servants, and deprived him of the assistance of labourers, whom he could no longer employ, having no money to pay their wages, and the old arrangement of potatoground in lieu of wages having become valueless. To supply this want, and enable the usual operations of the country to be carried on, required the introduction of a considerable amount of capital; to pay the wages of labour in money required a large addition to the currency. The public works last year in some measure effected these objects. The advances from the Treasury were equivalent to the introduction of capital for the time. The large sums circulated through the country, by the payment of wages, added to the currency so much, as to surprise many who had been accustomed to the former restricted scale of money transactions. By these advances, the trade of the country was sustained, and the immediate pressure of the loss greatly lessened. In this respect they have been of most essential service; they have tended to spread the burden over a longer period of time. But being only a loan, it becomes necessary to repay them, and this difficulty seems likely to weigh on us heavily for several years. The immediate effect of the loss of food was a diminution of exports, which had hitherto consisted almost wholly of agricultural produce. The export of corn almost ceased, and we became large importers from America and elsewhere. The export of pigs, eggs, and fowl was greatly diminished. Appendix DD shows the exports of pigs, eggs, and horned cattle, shipped by steamers from the ports of Dublin, Cork, and Waterford, during the first ten months of this year, compared with the corresponding months of last year. It will be seen how greatly the export of pigs and eggs has fallen off, while that of horned cattle is considerably greater than it was last year. It is highly satisfactory to observe, that the export of pigs has decidedly increased during the last two months, and that the export of eggs in the same period is nearer to the quantity exported in the corresponding period of last year, than it was at any earlier time. The price of potatoes this year is so high, as to place them out of the reach of the poor, who must depend on grain for their food. We cannot therefore expect, that the export of wheat or oats will be as large as formerly, while there is every reason to anticipate considerable imports of Indian corn. It may safely be asserted, that until the potato grows plentifully again, or until the cultivation of the ground is greatly improved, there is no probability of our exports of grain much exceeding the imports. The reduced price of food will certainly facilitate the feeding of poultry and the rearing of pigs, but we cannot expect that either of these will be as numerous as before, for a long time to come. As respects cattle and sheep, the case is different; and we may hope that their numbers will increase. Linens and linen-yarn are the only manufactured articles, the value of which constitute important items in our exports. But all these added together will surely be very insufficient to pay for clothing and imported luxuries, to the extent to which we have heretofore consumed them. The whole population will have less to live on. The capital of the country is lessened, and with it the means of profitable employment. The loss of the potato has converted a large portion of the population, who formerly supported themselves, into idle dependents on the public bounty. All classes must feel the difficulty, and bear their portion of the suffering. It will be long before the country regains the position it has lost. The disproportion existing in most parts of Ireland, between the number of labourers and the demand for labour, is the great evil which causes, or at least greatly increases, most of the other evils affecting the country. From it result the poverty and ignorance of the labourers themselves, and the want of skill, and inability for continued exertion, which in many cases make their low-priced labour really more expensive than the well-paid labour of other countries. How can men work hard, when their wages are insufficient to feed them properly 2 Can we expect to find skill and industry and energy in an unfortunate man, who gets nothing but potatoes to eat, whose lodging is a wretched cabin without window or chimney, the roof letting in the rain, and the furniture often only an iron pot and some damp straw to lie on ? From this disproportion results the extremely low rate of wages, where they are paid in money; or the poor remuneration for labour, where it is paid for by an allotment of land. From it result the ruinous competition for land, and the lawless violence and outrage made use of to retain possession of it. From it results the subdivision of farms, by which they are sometimes divided into portions so minute, as to be insufficient to supply a family even with potatoes. From it results the system of letting land on con-acre, as the only means of enabling the peasant to live, who cannot obtain employment Until this disproportion be removed, it is vain to expect improvement. To raise the labourer in the social scale requires that he should be constantly employed, fairly paid, well

« НазадПродовжити »