Зображення сторінки

additional employment; it would lessen the competition for land, by affording other means of supporting existence; it would tend to create a middle class, the want of which is so injuriously felt by the country. What means of encouragement exist? are there any restrictions to be removed ? or can any thing be done, which may improve the condition of the existing manufactures, or facilitate the introduction of new ones 2 The restrictions which formerly existed, and which cramped our woollen trade, and fettered industry, have long since been removed. There is nothing now in the laws or institutions of the country, which places our manufacturers in a worse position than those of England. Yet, with the exception of linen, all our native manufactures have decreased, while those of England and Scotland have increased beyond all former precedent in any age or country. The removal of injurious restrictions, if such existed, is all that could be looked for. No one now could be weak enough to ask for bounties or protection. If our manufactures cannot be maintained in a fair and open competition with those of other countries, they are undeserving of support, and should be allowed to fall. The absence of a sufficient home demand has

had an injurious influence in some cases, in which it is essential to cheapness that the manufacture be conducted on a large scale. The various causes which have depressed the agricultural industry of the country, have thus indirectly affected manufactures also ; and the removal of those legal impediments to improvement, which press so heavily on the agricultural classes, will essentially assist the manufacturers, by increasing the number and the wealth of their customers. If we exert our industry and intelligence as we ought, we shall readily uphold those manufactures for which the country is best suited; and surely the linen manufacture, which has so long existed in Ireland, is the chief of these. The corn laws have heretofore tended to divert attention from the culture of flax, by holding out to the farmers an ideal protection, which made them rely on corn as their principal crop. But with a free trade, we may trust that it will receive more attention, and that it will prove highly remunerative to the cultivator. The soil and climate are very favorable to its growth. Its cultivation is well suited to the manners of the people, and to the circumstances by which land is divided into small holdings. It will repay the labour and cost of garden cultivation by the spade, and give employment to all the members of the family in preparing it for market. Flax may be made even more valuable to Ireland than cotton is to England; because, while it is necessary to import the raw material of the cotton manufacture from a foreign country, at an annual cost exceeding £10,000,000, it is within our power, if proper attention be paid to the cultivation of flax, to supply not, only our own manufacturers, but also those of England and Scotland. A society has been formed in Belfast, to promote and improve the cultivation of flax in Ireland, and their exertions appear to have been very useful, both in extending the cultivation into other parts of the country, and in improving the quality. By the sixth annual report of that society, we find that the quantity of flax and tow imported into the kingdom in 1845 amounted to 1,418,323 cwts, and that the value of the imports of flax, flax-seed, and oil-cakes averages about £6,000,000 annually. The deficiency of exports this year has already been noticed. Unless our peasantry again revert to the potato as their sole, or at least their principal, food, our exports of grain must be permanently diminished; in which case, some other articles of export are necessary, to enable us to purchase clothing and foreign luxuries. Can we look to anything so important as flax to supply this

deficiency 2 We cannot expect at once to increase the cultivation, to such an extent as to render importation from foreign countries unnecessary; but we may hope to do so in time, and that eventually, the growth of flax being extended throughout Ireland, and the manufacture of linens greatly increased, we may find these products of our industry to be the chief support of the prosperity of the country. That the fisheries of Ireland might be made a most important means of increasing the national wealth is universally admitted, and the neglect of such valuable resources appears the more to be lamented at the present time, when so much suffering has been and is experienced for want of food. The sea around our shores teems with fish, offering an almost inexhaustible supply of food, and a mine of wealth which only requires to be diligently and skilfully worked. In the various sea-ports and fishing villages along the eastern coast, the business is followed with more or less success, supports a large number of fishermen, and supplies the various markets well. But along the western coast, there is but little regular fishing, except in a few of the principal ports. When the herrings appear on the coast, they take them, often in large quantities, but it is only for local and immediate consumption. They are rarely salted, or sent to any great distance for sale. The small number of persons in the west of Ireland able to purchase fish, are insufficient to constitute a market, except in the large towns. Under such circumstances, it could scarcely be expected that any regular fishing should exist. The government, with the view of supplying this deficiency, have instituted an experiment in the establishment of curing stations, where they are always willing to purchase fish for curing at a low fixed price. They hope thus to induce the habit of constant fishing, by securing to the fisherman the certainty of a market. If the experiment prove successful, the curing stations will doubtless be transferred to private individuals, and the fishing trade will be left to the support of private enterprise. Perhaps the fisheries on the western coast may never become very profitable, until a better distribution of property take place, which may increase the home market, so as to afford a good remuneration to those who may be induced to devote their whole time to fishing. Assistance has also been given to the formation of harbours in many places; but as yet by no means sufficient for the due protection of the

fishermen, on a coast so much exposed to storms, M

« НазадПродовжити »