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agricultural authority has connected his name by endeavoring to obtain for it legislative sanction, amounts to no more than this, that on the expiration of a lease, the landlord should make compensation to the tenant for "unexhausted improvements. This is certainly very desirable, but provides only for the case of capitalist farmers, and of improvements made by outlay of money; of the worth and cost of which, an experienced land agent or a jury of farmers could accurately judge. The improvements to be looked for from peasant cultivators are the result not of money but of their labor, applied at such various times and in such minute portions as to be incapable of judicial appreciation. For such labor, compensation could not be given on any principle but that of paying to the tenant the whole difference between the value of the property when he received it, and when he gave it up; which would as effectually annihilate the right of property of the landlord, as if the rent had been fixed in perpetuity, while it would not offer the same inducements to the cultivator who improves from affection and passion as much as from calculation, and to whom his own land is a widely different thing from the most liberal possible pecuniary compensation for it.
s 6. There are then strong objections, as well as great difficulties, opposed to the attempt to make peasant properties universal. But, fortunately, that they should be universal is not necessary to their usefulness. There is no need to extend them to all the population, or all the land. It is enough if there be land available, on which to locate so great a portion of the population, that the remaining area of the country shall not be required to maintain greater numbers than are compatible with large farming and hired labor. For this purpose there is an obvious resource in the waste lands; which are happily so extensive, and a large proportion of them so improvable, as to afford a means by which, without making the present tenants proprietors, nearly the whole surplus population might be converted into peasant proprietors elsewhere. This plan has been strongly pressed upon the public by several writers ; but the first to bring it prominently forward in England was Mr. William Thornton, in a work* honorably distinguished from most others which have been recently published, by its rational treatment of the great questions affecting the economical condition of the laboring classes.
The detailed estimate of an irrefragable authority, Mr. Griffith, annexed to the Report of Lord Devon's Commission, shows nearly a million and a half of acres reclaimable for the spade or plough, some of them with the promise of great fertility, and about two millions and a half more reclaimable for pasture ;t the greater part being in most convenient proximity to the principal masses of destitute population. Beside these four millions of acres, there are above two millions and a half, I pronounced by Mr. Griffith to be unimprovable ; but he is only speaking of reclamation for profit; it is doubtful if there be any land, in a temperate climate, which cannot be reclaimed and rendered productive by laborers themselves, under the inducement of a permanent property. Confining ourselves to the one and a half million of arable first mentioned, it would furnish properties averaging five acres each to three hundred thousand persons, which, at the rate of five persons to a family, a rather low rate for Ireland, answers to a population of fifteen hundred thousand. Suppose such a number drafted off to a state of independence and comfort, together with a very moderate
• Orer- Population and its Remedy. By William Thomas Thornton, pp. 429-34.
Mr. Griffith's numbers are 1,425,000 and 2,330,000. See p. 53 of the Report.
additional relief by emigration; and the introduction of English capital and farming, over the remaining surface of Ireland, would at once cease to be chimerical.*
« The improvement of wastes,” Mr. Thornton observes, “ may perhaps be thought to require a good deal of capital ; but capital is principally useful for its command of labor, and the Irish peasantry have quite labor enough at their own disposal. Their misfortune is, that they have so much. Their labor would not be the worse applied because they worked for themselves, instead of for a paymaster. So far is [large] capital from being indispensable for the cultivation of barren tracts, that schemes of this kind, which could only bring loss to a rich speculator, are successfully achieved by his pennyless rival. A capitalist must have a certain return for the money he lays out, but the poor man expends nothing but his own superabundant labor, which would be valueless if not so employed, so that his returns, however small, are all clear profit. No man in
. If instead of throwing small farms into large, and exchanging peasant for capitalist farmers, the “clearing" were limited to such a consolidation of small holdings as would make them correspond in size to the admirable small farms of Belgium, the adequacy of the resource is still more clear and unquestionable. “There are at present," says the Digest of Evidence to Lord Devon's Report, (p. 399,)“ 326,084 occupiers of land (more than one third of the total number returned in Ireland) whose holdings vary from seven acres to less than one acre, and are, therefore, inadequate to support the families residing upon them." It is shown by calculation that the consolidation of these small holdings, up to eight acres, would require the removal of about 192,368 families, and that the first class of improvable waste land in Ireland would furnish to those removed families locations of about eight acres each ; or the first and second qualities of improrable waste land, taken together, would furnish them with locations of about twenty acres each." It is computed (p. 565) that by these arrangements 500,000 laborers, equivalent to at least two millions and a half of population, would be abstracted from competition in the labor market, while, on the waste land alone, an addition of nearly twenty-two millions sterling would be made to the gross produce of the country; "and that the first three or four years' crops would return the cost requisite to bring about this change.**
his senses would ever have thought of wasting money upon the original sand of the Pays de Waes; but the hardworking boors who settled there two hundred years ago, without any other stock than their industry, contrived to enrich both themselves and the land, and indeed to make the latter the richest in Europe. There is no soil so worthless that an English laborer will not eagerly accept an allotment of it; and while the green valley, from which some Highland community has been driven, is fast relapsing under the superintendence of a wealthy sheep-farmer into its primitive wildness, its former tenants are forming new patches of arable land on the rock-strown moors along the sea-coast.
- The profit of reclaiming waste land,” says the Digest of Evidence to Lord Devon's Commission,* « will be best understood from a practice not uncommon in Ireland, to which farmers sometimes resort. This consists in giving the use of a small portion of it to a poor cottier or herdsman for the first three crops, after which this improved portion is given up to the farmer, and a fresh piece of the waste land is taken on the same terms by the cottier.” Well may the compiler say, “Here we have the example of the very poorest class in Ireland obtaining a livelihood by the cultivation of waste land under the most discouraging and the least remunerative circumstances that can well be imagined.”
It is quite worthy of the spirit which pervades the wretched attempts as yet made to do good to Ireland, that this spectacle of the poorest of mankind making the land valuable by their labor for the profit of other people, who have done nothing to assist them, does not once strike Lord Devon and his Commission as a thing which ought not to be. Mr. Thornton strongly urges the claims of common justice and common sense.
* P. 570.
“ The colonists ought to be allowed to retain permanent possession of the spots reclaimed by them. To employ them as laborers, in bringing the land into a remunerative condition, (see Report of Land Occupation Commissioners,) in order that it may then be let to some one else, while they are sent to shift for themselves where they can, may be an excellent mode of enriching the landlord, but must eventually aggravate the sufferings of the poor. It is probably because this plan has been generally practiced, that the reclamation of waste land has hitherto done nothing for the benefit of the Irish peasantry. If the latter are to derive any advantage from it, such of them as may be located on the waste, should receive perpetual leases of their respective allotments, should be made freeholders in fact, or at least perpetual tenants at a quit-rent. Such an appropriation of waste land would of course require that compensation should be made to all who previously possessed any interest in it. But the value of a legal interest in land which cannot be inclosed or cultivated without permission of the legislature, can only be proportionate to the actual yearly produce; and as land in a natural state yields little or nothing, all legal claims upon it might be bought up at a trifling expense, or might be commuted for a very small annual payment to be made by the settlers. Of the perfect competence of Parliament to direct some arrangement of this kind, there can be no question. An authority which compels individuals to part with their most valued property on the slightest pretext of public convenience, and permits railway projectors to throw down family mansions and cut up favorite pleasure grounds, needs not be very scrupulous about forcing the sale of boggy meadows or mountain pastures, in order to obtain the means of curing the destitution and misery of an entire people.”
It would be desirable, and in most cases necessary, that the tracts of land should be prepared for the labors of the