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chance. It thus deteriorates his moral condition. Ask him six barrels of oats, or barley, or six stones of butter, or flax, for a piece of land which never produced four, and his common-sense and experience guides him. He sees and comprehends the simple data before him, knows from his experience that such a crop cannot be raised, such a rent cannot be afforded, and he is off to England or America to seek a living. But ask him six guineas per acre for a piece of land, proportionably as much over-rented as the other, and he trusts to chance, to accident, to high market prices, to odd jobs of work turning up, to summer or harvest labor out of the country — in short, he does not know to what; for he is placed in a false position, made to depend upon chance of markets, and on mercantile success and profits, as much as upon industry and skill in working his little farm.”* Look where we may, in the documents that at various times bave been published in regard to the condition of this country, in which a whole population has so long been “starving by millions,” we meet with evidence of the fact, that those who have a property, to the extent even of 10 pounds, exercise a prudent foresight in reference to the contraction of matrimony, whereas, those who have nothing, marry without hesitation. Nevertheless, look almost where we may, among the books of modern economists, we meet the assertion, that “the low and degraded condition into which the people of Ireland are now sunk, is the condition to which every people must be reduced whose numbers, for any considerable period, increase faster than the means of providing for their comfortable and decent subsistence.”f The proposition might, however, be differently stated — attributing the condition of the people to the fact, that they had been prevented from combining with each other for the purpose of making their labor productive, and thus augmenting the supply of those commodities and things required for giving them a “comfortable and decent subsistence.” Across the Channel, Mr. McCulloch had in full view a country—that of Belgium — in which a much more crowded population was advancing rapidly in production, and in civilization, although the soil they occupied had been, originally, one of the poorest of all Europe; whereas, that of Ireland had been remarkable for its fertility. Without * Notes and Recollections, p. 31. # McCulloch's Principles, p. 383.
leaving England, however, he could have found a population of nearly equal density, for which he, himself, is disposed to claim precedence in both arts and arms. Why this difference Why should the people of Ireland now perish, while those of Belgium prosper? Because, those in the direction of the first, have sought to destroy the power of association, while those who have directed the last, have sought to promote the development of that power. Because, the system of the one has looked to the reduction of a whole people to the condition of mere beasts of burden, while that of the other has tended to their elevation to the condition of the true MAN — the being of power. In this case, as in almost every other, modern political economy substitutes effect for cause—such being the natural result of the working out of a theory from which we learn, that men commence the work of cultivation upon the rich soils of the valleys, leaving the poorer lands of the hills for their successors. The process is an inverted one; and hence it is, that it has given birth to the ideas, that trade and transportation are more profitable than production — that the share of the landlord tends to increase, as the productiveness of labor decreases — and that the tenant is bound, therefore, ultimately to become the slave of him who owns the machine to which, alone, he can look for supplies of food. When men most resemble animals, they look most to the sexual intercourse as affording the only means of enjoyment within their reach, and will have most children—provided the women, though poor, continue chaste. The chastity of Irish women is proverbial, and it is to this cause, combined with the reduction of the population to a condition so nearly akin to that of animals, we must attribute much of the rapidity of Irish increase — those very qualities which, under a sound system, would produce the greatest amount of good, here producing an injurious effect. In the several other countries above referred to, the effect of stoppage of the societary circulation exhibits itself in diminution of the population, whereas, in Ireland, the reverse effect is seen to have been produced—furnishing evidence of the adaptability of the human animal to the circumstances under which he holds his brief existence. Unlike the people of those communities, the Irishman was placed between two other, and rapidly advancing populations — reading the same books, and speaking the same language with himself, and having institutions corresponding in a great degree with those of his native land. Among them, there was found an outlet for surplus population, and the more that such was proven to be the case, the more entire became the recklessness of both the sexes in contracting the marriage tie — all feeling of duty to themselves and to their children, disappearing in the same gulf in which had already disappeared their hopes for either the present or the future.* Centralization, and especially trading centralization, tends to the production of inequality of condition, and hence it is, that the annihilation of Irish and Indian manufactures has contributed so largely to produce the consolidation of British land.
§ 6. Coming now to the home of the over-population theory, we find in England, a country from which, as the reader has already seen, the small proprietors have almost disappeared— the 200,000 land-owners of eighty years since, being now represented by less than 35,000. At that date, the population was 7,500,000—having increased but 10 per cent. in the long period of 75 years. Now, it is estimated, for 1855, at 18,786,914– having increased 150 per cent. in a period but very little longer. Growth of numbers has, therefore, kept pace with a consolidation of the land, that places one class above, and another below, the reach of hope—a state of things tending, more than any other, to reduce the human animal to the condition of a mere instrument to be used by trade.
Consolidation driving the laborers from cultivation of the soil, while improved machinery was expelling them from the factory, the poor were thus made poorer and weaker, as the rich grew richer and stronger. Ireland, too, contributed largely to the same result. As the Act of Union gradually closed her factories. and forced her people to cultivation as the sole means of supporting life, they found themselves, like the Italians of olden time, forced to emigrate to the place where taxes were distributed, in the hope of obtaining wages—their competition, of course, throwing the English laborer still more upon the “tender mercies” of the capitalist. From year to year, the small proprietor was seen to pass into the condition of a day-laborer, and the small employing mechanic or tradesman to pass into a receiver of wages— the whole people, thus, tending towards becoming divided into two great classes, separated from each other by an impassable gulf, the very rich and the very poor, the master and the slave. * As England became more flooded with the wretched people of the sister island, driven from home in search of employment, the wealthy found it more easy to accomplish “the great works” for which the country has been indebted to the “cheap labor of Ireland,” and the greater the influx of such labor, the more rapid was the decline in the power of both Ireland and Britain to furnish a market for the products of the manufacturing labor of England. Hence arose, of course, a necessity for looking abroad for new markets to take the place of those before obtained at home, and thus cheap labor, a consequence of the system, became, in its turn, a cause of new efforts at dispensing with and further cheapening labor. As the Irishman could no longer buy, it became necessary to expel the Hindoo from his own market. As the Highlander was expelled, it became more important to underwork the spinners and weavers of China. As the Bengalese are impoverished, there arises a necessity for filling the Punjab and Afghanistan, Burmah and Borneo, with British goods. Pauperism and recklessness lie necessarily at the root of such a system, based, as it is, upon the idea of a perpetual antagonism of interests.f The result is seen in the facts, that the condition of the agricultural population is steadily deteriorating *—that, in despair of any improvement of their condition, they marry early in life, and under circumstances that are totally destructive of morality f – that infanticide prevails to a frightful extenti—and, that demoralization is progressing with a rapidity scarcely elsewhere to be exceeded. § That man becomes more free, and more responsible, as the prices of raw materials and finished commodities approximate to each other—the former rising and the latter falling — is a great principle, whose truth is proved by the experience of all the nations of the world, past and present. Directly the reverse of this, however, is the doctrine lying at the foundation of British policy — cheap labor and cheap raw materials being there treated
* How this has operated upon the condition of the people of Great Britain, is thus exhibited by the London Times:
“For a whole generation, man has been a drug in this country, and population a nuisance. It has scarcely entered into the heads of economists, that they would ever have to deal with a deficiency of labor. The inexhaustible Irish supply has kept down the price of English labor, whether in the field, the railway, the factory, the army, or the navy; whether at the sickle, the spade, the hod, or the desk. We believe that, for fifty years at least, labor, taking its quality into account, has been cheaper in this country than in any part of Europe; and that this cheapness of labor has contributed vastly to the improvement and power of the country, to the success of all mercantile pursuits, and to the enjoyment of those who have money to spend.”
* See ante, vol. i., p. 239.
f “Since the same cause, the difficulty of production, raises the exchangable value of raw produce, and raises also the proportion of the landlord for rent, it is obvious, that the landlord is doubly benefited by difficulty of production. First, he obtains a greater share, and secondly, the commodity in which he is paid, is of higher value.”—RicARDo: Chapter on Rent.
* See ante, vol. i., p. 441; vol. ii., p. 94.
+ See ante, vol. ii., p. 492. “The accounts we receive from all parts of the country, show that these miserable cottages are crowded to an extreme, and that the crowding is progressively increasing. People of both sexes, and of all ages, both married and unmarried—parents, brothers, sisters, and strangers— sleep in the same rooms, and often in the same beds. One gentleman tells us of six people of different sexes and ages, two of whom were man and wife, sleeping in the same bed, three with their heads at the top, and three with their heads at the foot of the bed. . . . Nor are these solitary instances, but similar reports are given by gentlemen visiting in ALL parts of the country.”—KAY: Social Condition of England, &c., vol. i., p. 472.
t “It was declared by the coroner of Leeds, and assented to as probable by the surgeon, that there were, as near as could be calculated, about three hundred children put to death yearly in Leeds alone, that were not registered by the law. In other words, three hundred infants were murdered to avoid the consequences of their living, and these murders, as the coroner said, are never detected.”—Leader.
“It has been clearly ascertained, that it is a common practice among the more degraded classes of poor in many of our towns, to enter their infants in these [burial] clubs, and then to cause their death, either by starvation, ill-usage, or poison! What more horrible symptom of moral degradation can be conceived? One's mind revolts against it, and would fain reject it as a monstrous fiction. But, alas ! it seems to be but too true.”—KAY: vol. i., p. 433.
Commenting on these and numerous other facts of similar kind, Mr. Kay says: —
y These accounts are really almost too horrible to be believed at all; and were they not given us on the authority of such great experience and benevolence, we should totally discredit them.
“But, alas! they are only too true. There can be no doubt, that a great part of the poorer classes of this country are sunk into such a frightful depth of hopelessness, misery, and utter moral degradation, that even mothers forget their affection for their helpless little offspring, and kill them as a butcher does his lambs, in order to make money by their murder, and there with to lessen their pauperism and misery.”—Ibid, p. 446.
3 See ante, vol. i., p. 425.
Wos,. III. — 19