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clad, and comfortably lodged. These objects never can be effected while the present disproportion exists. Some employers may pay their labourers better, and lodge them comfortably; and they will probably be amply repaid for so doing, by the increased value of the services performed ; but such partial instances cannot influence the general standard, or free the country from its evil consequences. How this disproportion has been affected by the present calamity is a most important question. Is the number of men looking for employment greater or less than formerly 2 Before the potatoes failed them, the labourers, whether holders of con-acre or cottiers, were enabled to live without employment for five months in winter, depending for support on the produce of their own gardens. This is now at an end. The small farmers also were usually idle in winter for the same length of time, living much in the same manner as the labourers they sometimes employed. Few of them will now be able to do so. The many farm servants who have been discharged form an unexpected addition to the number of labourers. Certainly the number of men who will require employment this winter must be much greater than formerly. But what are the probabilities of their obtaining employment 2 Has the demand for K
labour increased or diminished 2 The serious losses which the landed gentry have already experienced, —their incomes in some places being greatly diminished by non-payment of rent, and by the heavy taxation for the support of the poor, which they have never before been required to pay—have so far crippled their resources, as to forbid us to expect that they will be able to employ even their usual number of labourers. Rather will they in many cases be forced to economise, by dismissing all they can do without, and deferring many important works to a future day, when they may be better able to afford to pay for them. But what are the extraordinary sources of employment, which have been provided to relieve the labour-market 2 how far will they go in supplying this want of demand 2 The extraordinary sources of employment are drainage and other improvements, under the late act, Vict. 10th, cap. 32; and the construction of railways. This act of parliament authorises the expenditure of £1,500,000 in various improvements on the land. It is not very likely that the whole sum will be expended; but let us suppose it all expended in the six months of the coming winter and spring, and let us take £1,000,000 as the expenditure on railways during the same period, which is, probably, much over the amount ; the whole sum of £2,500,000 would employ about 240,000 labourers for six months, at the rate of eight shillings per week, which is a low rate in railway work. This amount, if each labourer maintained a family of five persons, himself included, would support a population of 1,200,000 persons. This then is the very utmost limit of extra employment; but it may safely be affirmed that the actual result will be very much less. The numbers supported by the temporary relief act, for a considerable period of last summer, amounted to 3,000,000 ; and during that period, the number supported by railway works was probably larger than at present. We may take another mode of comparison. The total expenditure on public works last winter probably amounted to about £5,000,000. It is not likely that the expenditure in the construction of railways, will be greater during the coming winter and spring, than it was during the last. The parliamentary grant of £1,500,000 is therefore the only source of increased public expenditure during the coming season, being £3,500,000 less than was found necessary last year.” In whatever point of view we regard it, there
* The accounts not having been yet presented to parliament, it is impossible to state the exact amount of expenditure on public works. The above estimate is founded on the best information to which the writer has access.
appears a fearful number of unemployed labourers—a multitude of persons, who were formerly supported by potatoes, the growth of their own gardens, but who this year have no such means of subsistence. How are these people to be supported during the coming winter Ž are any means to be taken for this purpose ? or are they to be left to die, in the vain expectation that the present arrangements will secure them either emloyment, or gratuitous support in the several localities in which they now live 2 or are they to wander with their families through the better parts of Ireland, begging their way and looking for work 2 Or are they to transfer their hopes and their miseries to England, as to a land of richer promise and greater ability to assist them; obtaining only casual employment, until, at last, forced by want to seek parochial relief, they are bandied from one parish to another, finally sent back to Ireland, and perhaps landed many miles from their native home, to experience even greater distress 2 But suppose these unhappy people are in some way enabled to exist through the coming winter, —suppose them housed in the workhouses, or receiving out-door relief; how are they to obtain the means of subsistence afterwards? Last summer required the distribution of rations to three millions of persons. Will none be required during the next 2 The expenditure of £1,500,000 in wages, under the act of last session, should it be taken advantage of to its full extent, will have an important temporary effect; but it will by no means put an end to the disproportion between the number of labourers and the demand for labour 2 How is this to be effected ? Is it by diminishing the number of labourers, or by increasing the means of employing them 2 If nothing effectual be done to increase the demand for labour, the solution of the difficulty is only deferred. The great evil still remains, that there is a large proportion of the population, who even in the best of times scarcely contributed any thing to the resources of the state by their labour, by the payment of rates, or the consumption of exciseable articles.” They hired a plot of ground by the year, or for a single crop, and lived on its produce, spending a large part of every year in idleness. They received no money wages except for a few days in spring and harvest ; they had nothing to sell except their pig and fowl, and made but little use of money except to pay their rent. They can