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Want of industry in Ireland–Ascribed by some to the race, by others to the religion of the people—Futility of these assumptions—Irishmen succeed in America—Why not at home 2–Large remittances from America—Security of property essential to industry—Long enjoyed by England—Contrast presented by the history of Ireland—Degrading effects of penal laws—Discouragement of the woollen manufactures— Repeal of these impolitic laws—Their effects still felt—Political agitation unfavourable to industry—General improvement during the past sixty years—Condition of the labouring class not improved—Their privations—Their emigration to England—Their condition must be raised—This is an imperial question.
THE people of Ireland have been accused of idleness and improvidence. These vices are attributed by many to the prevalent creed; and their supineness and want of industry are laid at the door of their religion. Others speak of them as the inherent characteristics of the Celtic race. By the first, they are looked upon as almost incurable, while the religious belief of the people is unchanged. If the opinion of the latter be correct, the case must be considered hopeless, as it is evident no change of race can take place. The carefully irrigated and fertile plains of Lombardy; the high cultivation of the vale of the Arno, densely peopled with industrious, contented, and thriving inhabitants; and the skill and industry which maintain the agriculture of Flanders among the first in Europe—an example worthy of imitation by Protestant England—may well prove that their religion offers no insuperable barrier; and that if the inhabitants of some of the Roman Catholic states of Europe are less industrious than their Protestant neighbours, we must look to something else than their creed for a sufficient explanation of the cause. The inferiority of the Celtic race is a gratuitous assumption, not easy of proof; but even if this be admitted, those who on that account consider the Irish as unimprovable, forget the great admixture of races which has taken place in this country. Most of the maritime cities were Danish colonies. A large proportion of the Norman or early English settlers intermarried with the original inhabitants, and their descendants having remained Roman Catholics, are now considered as mere Irish. There is now no apparent distinction between a Fitzgerald, a Burke, a Grace, or a Lacy, and the purest Milesian family. It is sufficient, as respects these charges, to say that they are useless taunts; that it is impracticable, under present circumstances, to change either the people themselves or their religion; that being in the country, they must be taken for better for worse; and that fair means, the removal of impolitic restrictions, and the extended influence of education are more likely to improve them, than the rough usage which has been already tried, or the injurious language which is now too often used. But the subject is worthy of closer examination. We see that Irishmen succeed in America. Why do they not thrive at home 2 In America they are certainly on a level with all their neighbours; they have a fair field and no favour; and there they are industrious, and reap the fruits of their industry, in the acquisition of property and the respect of their fellow-citizens. Here the labourer earns a bare subsistence, by precarious employment at low wages, with but little hope of improvement, and consequently but little stimulus to exertion. When he crosses the Atlantic, the improved chances of suc cess arouse his energy, he assumes a new character, he feels the necessity of exertion, and proves himself equal to his new position. It has been asserted that even in America the Irish are to be known by their idleness, their want of cleanliness, and their improvident habits. It is true, there are many who never rise out of the faults of early life; but that these are exceptional cases, that the great majority are industrious and saving, is proved by the amount of remittances in sums, small in themselves, but large in the aggregate, made by Irish emigrants to their friends and relatives at home. A correspondent of the writer's has informed him, that, having made inquiry from the various banking-houses in that city and in Philadelphia and Baltimore, he found that the remittances by small orders from £1 to £10, made by Irish emigrants to their friends in Ireland, in the year 1846, amounted in all to 1,000,000 dollars, or £200,000 sterling. These remittances, coming from working men and women depending upon their daily labour for support, prove at the same time their industry, their economy, and that love of kindred which absence and distance cannot efface.* Many of these remittances are sent to enable a relative to follow in the same path, to a land where industry has free scope and a sure reward. The husband sends home the means which may enable his wife and children to follow him ; the child sends for his parent, or the brother for his sister; and in this manner many whole families have gone, one after the other, to seek a new home in the West. The writer is far from denying the influence of national character, and the hereditary transmission of peculiar qualities in the various families of man; and it must be admitted that we do not possess the same patient and persevering industry, which so eminently distinguishes the people of England. Neither is he disposed to deny the influence of religion on the temporal well-being of mankind; but, on the contrary, to assert its paramount importance; and that, so far as Christian principle prevails and influences the heart, by whatever name we may be called, it brings out those virtues which constitute a good citizen, and promote the welfare of society. Time alone can change the character of a nation, and develope those habits of continuous exertion, which distinguish an energetic and industrious people. The savage will exert himself violently for a time, when impelled by hunger or by strong passions; but his exertion ceases with the exciting cause, and he sinks again into listless inactivity. Civilization, by multiplying the wants of man, supplies a motive for industry. A permanent governing authority, which can give security to the acquisition aud possession of property, maintain the supremacy of law, and protect all classes in the enjoyment of their rights, is essential to its full development. Has not England enjoyed these advantages more than any other European nation ? Perhaps the civilization introduced by the Romans
* In a letter dated July 12, the same correspondent says: “Bishop “Hughes sent me a note the other day, which he had just received from “Washington, enclosing five dollars, being the first earnings of a poor “ emigrant only two weeks in the country, which he wanted to be sent “home to his suffering friends !”