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peasant, by being drained and intersected with roads at the expense of government; the interest of the sums so expended, and of the compensation paid for existing rights to the waste land, being charged on it when reclaimed as a perpetual quit-rent, redeemable at a moderate number of years' purchase. The state would thus incur no loss, while the advances made would give that immediate employment to the surplus labor of Ireland, which if not given in this manner, will assuredly have to be given in some other, not only less useful, but far less likely to repay its cost. The millions lavished during the famine in the almost nominal execution of useless works, without any result but that of keeping the people alive, would, if employed in a great operation on the waste lands, have been quite as effectual for relieving immediate distress, and would have laid the foundation broad and deep for something really deserving the name of social improvement. But, as usual, it was thought better to throw away money and exertion in a beaten track, than to take the responsibility of the most advantageous investment of them in an untrodden one.
$ 7. If after the superabundant evidence elicited in the Irish inquiries, of the extent and capability of improvement of the waste lands, the reader can doubt their sufficiency for home colonization on such a scale as to effect with benefit to everybody the “ clearing” of all Ireland ; there are yet other means, by which not a little could be done in the dissemination of peasant proprietors over even the existing area of cultivation. There is at the present time an experiment in progress, in more than one part of England, for the creation of peasant proprietors. The project is of Chartist origin, and its first colony is now in full operation near Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire. The plan is as follows:-Funds were raised in shares, by a joint stock company. With part of these funds an estate of several hunVOL. I.
dred acres was bought. This estate was divided into portions of two, three, and four acres, on each of which a house was erected by the Association. These holdings were let to select laborers, to whom also such sums were advanced as were thought to amount to a sufficient capital for cultivation by spade labor. An annual payment, affording to the company an interest of five per cent. on their outlay, was laid on the several holdings as a fixed quit-rent, never in any circumstances to be raised. The tenants were thus proprietors from the first, and their redemption of the quit-rent, by saving from the produce of their labor, is desired and calculated upon.
Should the issue of this experiment be unfavorable, which at present there seems no reason to believe, the cause of failure will be in the details of management, not in the principle. These well-conceived arrangements afford a mode in which private capital may coöperate in renovating the social and agricultural economy of Ireland, not only without sacrifice but with considerable profit to its owners. The remarkable success of the Waste Land Improvement Society, which proceeded on a plan far less advantageous to the tenant, is an instance of what an Irish peasantry can be stimulated to do, by a sufficient assurance that what they do will be for their own advantage. It is not indispensable to begin at once with a perpetuity; long leases at moderate rents, like those of the Waste Land Society, would suffice, if a prospect were held out to the farmers of being allowed to purchase their farms with the capital which they might acquire, as the Society's tenants were so rapidly acquiring under the influence of its beneficent system. It would be a boon to allow them to become purchasers of the land even at the value given to it by their own labor; and though, on the part of government, to take such an advantage of their exertions would be most ungenerous and illiberal, it would be allowable in private
capitalists undertaking a work of national benefit as an advantageous investment of capital. When the lands were sold, the funds of the association would be liberated, and it might recommence operations in some other quarter.
Nor is it only by joint-stock associations, and the introduction of English capital, that this system might be acted upon ; it would be most advantageous to every individual land-owner in the distressed counties, who has any funds which he can freely dispose of. Under the new Irish poor law, there are no means for the landlords of escaping ruin, unless, by some potent stimulant to the industrial energies of the people, they can largely increase the produce of agriculture; and since there is no stimulant available, so potent as a permanent interest in the soil, either the present landlords, or those English mortgagees to whom the estates of the more impoverished land-owners must inevitably pass, would find it to their advantage, if not to grant at once this permanent interest to their tenants, at least to hold out to them the prospect of acquiring it. The government, too, into whose hands no small portion of the land of Ireland may be expected to fall, in consequence of unrepaid advances, either past or yet to come, will have a noble opportutunity of rendering the acquisition instrumental to the formation of a peasant proprietary ; but, to the state, it would be most discreditable to seek for profit at the expense of the peasantry; and whether the ownerships were granted immediately or only held out in prospect, the rent or price should be no more than sufficient to repay the state for its advances.
$ 8. When the formidable difficulties in which the government of this country is becoming more and more deeply involved by the condition of Ireland, shall be met instead of evaded, by men capable of rising superior both to their own indolence and prejudices and to those of others, we may hope to see, for the present lazy, apathetic, reckless, improvident, and lawless Ireland, a new Ireland arise, consisting of peasant proprietors with something to lose, and of hired laborers with something to gain; the former attached to peace and law through the possession of property, and the latter through the hope of it; while the agriculture of one half of Ireland would be conducted on the best system of small cultivation, and that on the other half on the best principles of large farming and combination of labor. Would it be too much to hope, that when the number of hired laborers was duly proportioned to the soil on which they were employed, and a peaceful “clearing” had made the country safe for English capital to dwell in, the rate of wages would be sufficient to establish a tolerably high standard of living—and the spirit of saving, fostered by the desire of acquiring land, would prevent that standard from being again depressed through an imprudent increase of population ?
In the complication of human affairs, the actual effects of causes, whether salutary or injurious, remain always far short of their tendencies. But history is not without examples of changes, similar in kind to that which I have been sketching, and the results of them are not uninstructive. Three times during the course of French history, the peasantry have been purchasers of land ; and these times immediately preceded the three principal eras of French agricultural prosperity.
“Aux temps les plus mauvais," says the historian Michelet,* "aux moments de pauvreté universelle, où le riche même est pauvre et vend par force, alors le pauvre se trouve en état d'acheter; nul acquéreur ne se présentant, le paysan en guenilles arrive avec sa pièce d'or, et il acquiert un bout de terre. Ces moments de désastre où le paysan a
* Le Peuple, 1re partie, ch. 1.
pu acquérir la terre à bon marché, ont toujours été suivis d'un élan subit de fécondité qu'on ne s'expliquait pas. Vers 1500, par exemple, quand la France épuisée par Louis XI. semble achever sa ruine en Italie, la noblesse qui part est obligée de vendre ; la terre, passant à de nouvelles mains, refleurit tout-à-coup; on travaille, on bâtit. Ce beau moment (dans le style de l'histoire monarchique) s'est appelé le bon Louis XII.
“Il dure peu, malheureusement. La terre est à peine remise en bon état, le fisc fond dessus; les guerres de religion arrivent, qui semblent raser tout jusqu'au sol, misères horribles, famines atroces où les mères mangeaient leurs enfants. Qui croirait que le pays se relève de là ? Eh bien, la guerre finit à peine, de ce champ ravagé, de cette chaumière encore noire et brûlée, sort l'épargne du paysan. Il achète ; en dix ans, la France a changé de face ; en vingt ou trente, tous les biens ont doublé, triplé de valeur. , Ce moment encore baptisé d'un nom royal, s'appelle le bon Hinri IV. et le grand Richelieu."
Of the third era it is needless to speak ; it was that of the Revolution.
Whoever would study the reverse of the picture, may compare these historic periods, characterized by the dismembernent of large and the construction of small properties, with the wide-spread national suffering which accompanied, and the permanent deterioration of the condition of the laboring classes which followed, the “clearing” away of small yeomen to make room for large grazing farms, which was the grand economical event of English history during the sixteenth century.
I have concluded a discussion, which has already occupued a space almost disproportionate to the dimensions of this work; and I here close the examination of those simpler furius of social economy in which the produce of the land either belongs undividedly to one class, or is shared only