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it was withdrawn. Coercion will not do ; the most stringent laws are unavailing, so long as the causes of outrage remain. The only remedy is to seek out and remove the causes of irritation, and thus lessen the temptation to commit crime; and to produce such a change in public opinion, as may facilitate the execution of the ordinary laws of the realm. It must not be supposed, that resistance to the law is every where prevalent throughout Ireland. This is far from being the case. These outrages are confined to particular districts; and throughout the greater part of the country, life and property are as secure as in any part of Great Britain. The population of the large towns and cities are probably as free from crime, and as amenable to the laws, as the civic population of any other country. Most of the northern and eastern counties are free from such outrages; and even in those parts of the west, where the greatest want has existed, and still exists, the people bear their sufferings with extraordinary patience and resignation. The people of Ireland have always evinced a desire for justice, and a willingness to obey just laws; and the fact of agrarian outrages existing in parts of the country for so great a length of time, may in itself be considered a proof, that there is something
in the law which presses unjustly, and therefore requires alteration.* The compiler of the “Digest of the Evidence in respect to the occupation of land in Ireland,” states, that “the great majority of outrages appear to “ have arisen from the endeavours of the peasantry, “to convert the possession of land into an indefea“sible title ;” and further, that “in the northern “counties, the general recognition of the tenant“right has prevented the frequent occurrence of “these crimes.” He also refers to “the disproportion “between the demand for and supply of labour, “as the original source of agrarian outrage;” on account of which disproportion, “the possession of “land, however small its extent, has become the “only security for a supply of food.”* The want of capital in connexion with land is evidently the main-spring of all. Proprietors, agents, tenants, all parties connected with land, seem to have forgotten, that capital is as necessary for its effective cultivation, as for the working of a manufactory. Unless increased capital be expended on the land, it is impossible to employ the surplus labour of the country. It is in vain to expect that capital will be so expended, unless there be ample security. Some tenants have money hoarded, or lodged in a bank at a low rate of interest ; but under present circumstances, it is not likely to be expended on their farms. Some landlords, also, are possessed of capital; but do not consider it their interest to employ it for the improvement of an estate, in which they have only a life-interest. If the means now possessed by landlords and tenants are to be rendered useful, they must be given a better legal security than the present laws afford them. But this would not be enough. The capital held by those interested in land, is notoriously insufficient for the full developement of its resources. Does any means exist, by which this want can be supplied, except by the free and unrestricted sale of landed property; which, by opening the land to men of capital, may afford the means of improving it, and supply funds for its effective cultivation, and for the employment of the peasantry on it 2 The power of sale would benefit the present embarrassed proprietor, by freeing him from heavy charges, and supplying him with means for the proper care of the portion he might retain; and the new purchaser would enter on the property with the intention of improving it. The laws of a country may be enforced, either by the arbitrary control of irresponsible power, or by the strength of public opinion, approving and seconding the acts of a government based on a respect for individual rights. The first requires force sufficient to repress any expression of discontent, and must often dispense with the regular forms of law. A government based on popular institutions fails to secure order, unless it have the support of the people. Ireland appears to labour under the difficulty of having aristocratic social institutions, without an aristocracy; and the mechanism of a popular government, inapplicable to its present social condition; because it does not possess an educated middle class, by whom these popular institutions might be worked. The great mass of the rural population have no respect for the laws relating to the tenure of land, because they consider them unjust. They not merely give no assistance to their enforcement; they are positively hostile. The only parties to assist in supporting them, are the landed proprietors, or those beneficially interested in land. The great landed proprietors are non-resident. The residents are few in number, and in many cases their influence is greatly lessened by their well-known embarrassments, and by the disreputable shifts, to which they are often forced by want of means to resort. To revert to arbitrary power is impossible. The only practicable course is, to elevate us to a capacity for using and enjoying the popular institutions we possess. Is there any means so likely to effect this as the free sale of land; by which the number of proprietors may be increased, and their pecuniary respectability secured; by which the industry of the tenant farmer may be stimulated, with the prospect of one day becoming a proprietor; and by which hostility may be neutralized, or co-operation obtained from all, who may hope hereafter to possess a stake in the country 2
* The authority of Sir Robert Peel may be cited, in proof of the general obedience to law in Ireland. In his speech on the discussion of the bill for repressing agrarian disturbances, (now passing through parliament) he says:
“It is most unjust to judge of the general disposition of Ireland, “from the iniquity of these particular districts. I declare, with re“spect to the great towns of Ireland—for instance, Dublin, Limerick, “ and Cork, where the people are collected together in large bodies, “that they seem to be almost more submissive to the laws, more obe“dient to the authorities, than they are in this country; and the same “may be said of the inhabitants of Wicklow, and other counties. In “many districts of Ireland, I think the people are more peaceable, more “resigned, and patient under privation, than the people of this coun“try, and they are quite as obedient to the laws; and I conceive that “nothing can be more unjust, than to judge of the general character “of the people of Ireland, from these plague-spots which have been “mentioned.”—Times, Nov. 30th, 1847.