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cultivate the soil with fewer labourers than he now requires ; on the other hand, many of the best authorities in agricultural matters anticipate that the land, when rendered capable by higher culture, for the production of crops which could not now be profitably grown, will be in a condition to repay the expense of much more labour than has hitherto been bestowed upon it. M'Culloch, in his remarks on the Irish poor-law, gives the following opinion on the subject : “Any attempt “ to force waste lands suddenly into cultivation “ on a large scale, would be attended with enor“ mous expense, and would be a complete failure. “ What Ireland wants, is not the bringing in of
waste lands, but the application of an improved “ system of agricultural management to the lands “ already under tillage.”
An opinion generally prevails, that the Subdivision of land into small farms has been very injurious to Ireland. The remedy proposed, and often attempted to be acted on, is, to unite several of these small farms into one large one. This mode of proceeding has been called “ Consolidation."
If a whole district be cut up into portions varying from one to five acres, the state of agriculture will probably be very defective, and the inhabitants all of one class, and only one remove from pauperism. These holdings are too small, without other resources, to afford comfortable support to a family after paying rent and taxes ; and it will in many cases be highly desirable, to use any opportunities that offer, to consolidate some of them into larger farms ; provided that in so doing, the tenants be treated with justice and humanity. Consolidations have taken place in many parts of Ireland, during the past ten to fifteen years; and will no doubt be much increased by the present circumstances, which lessen the value of land as a means of mere subsistence, since potatoes can no longer be depended on.
Some persons have looked to this consolidation of small farms into large ones, and the conversion of the small farmers into labourers receiving daily wages, as a most important means for the improvement of the country. It may, perhaps, be useful in some places, but surely it may be carried too far; and unless great caution be used, and employment be provided for the small farmers when reduced to labourers, great suffering must be produced, and the most serious consequences may ensue.
The prejudice against small farms appears in many respects unfounded. Although the universal breaking up of the land into small holdings may be injurious, yet it would be equally objectionable if the whole country were apportioned into farms, none of which were under one hundred acres. Small and large intermixed are best, and afford opportunity for diversity in the mode of culture, and in the kind of crop raised. Flax has always succeeded best on small farms, and no crop gives more employment for the breadth of ground under it. Unless the tenant of the large farm has a proportionately increased capital, the consolidation must prove injurious. A peasant holding two or three acres, cultivated by his own family, may supply the want of money by great industry ; but if the farm be increased to forty or fifty acres, he must employ labourers, keep horses, &c. and unless he possess sufficient capital to provide all that is necessary, the farm is probably worse tilled and less productive than the separate small lots were before. The proportion of small farms in Ulster is considerably more than in Munster, and the people are unquestionably more comfortable, and the land better tilled. Armagh and Down taken together are nearly the size of Tipperary. The two former contain 25,385 farms under five acres, and only 2,174 farms over thirty acres ; while the latter has only 13,032 of the small farms, and 2,960 of the larger.
If the farmers, large and small, possessed capital in proportion to the extent of their ground, and had such security as might encourage them to expend it in the necessary improvements, much more good would be effected, than by the consolidation of small farms into large.
Many allusions have been made, in the course of this essay, to the want of security, which prevents the tenant from embarking his capital in the improvement of his holding ; and reference has been made to the system of Tenant-right existing in Ulster, which has been of such evident value in the districts where it prevails. Many persons have proposed to remedy the evils existing in the south of Ireland, by the compulsory extension of the Ulster system of Tenant-right to that part of the country ; believing that its adoption would afford such security to the tenant-farmer, as would encourage the investment of his capital in the improvement of the land.
To use the words of an able advocate of this system, it may be said that “ The want of tenure, “ and want of security for the application of agri“ cultural capital, has produced in Ireland the “ effects which economists would predict. As the “ permanent improvements are left to be made " by the tenant without security, they are almost “ entirely neglected, except on leasehold tenements, " and in the Ulster tenant-right districts. The “ want of security has given rise to those agrarian “ crimes, which have had such an injurious effect " on the condition of the farmers. Such crimes “are scarcely known in the parts of Ulster, where " the adoption of tenant-right has afforded the “ partial security of a custom not established by “ law."'*
If such be the value of tenant-right, the question naturally arises ; why not extend this custom to the rest of Ireland, and thus confer on it the advantages which Ulster enjoys ? The answer is, that it cannot be extended in its present form, because a custom cannot be established, except by usage continued throughout a series of years. Even if the present landlords were desirous of establishing such a custom, they could not bind their successors. Probably there is no way in which it could be extended, as a mere custom, unsupported by law, except by means of the present Lynch-law operating on the fears of the landlords. This would be ruinous to the rights of property. Such a victory over the law would only show what might be gained by persisting in the same course of outrage. It would probably be followed by a refusal to pay rent, and a claim to the absolute
* Professor Hancock's Lectures, page 32.