“Mr. Morley says,” quotes Lord Powerscourt, “that the Irish people are more backward than the Scotch or English, which I venture to doubt, at least as regards intelligence, and gives as the reason:—
“’It is because the landlords, who have been their masters, have rack-rented them, have sunk them in poverty, have plundered their own improvements, have confiscated the fruits of their own industry, have done all that they could to degrade their manhood. That is why they are backward. (Cheers.) Will anybody deny that the Irish landlords are open to this great accusation and indictment? If anybody here is inclined to deny it, let him look at the reductions in rent that have been made since 1881 in the Land Court.’
“Well, have not rents in England and Scotland been reduced quite as much, nay, more, than Irish rents since 1881? And have not the economic causes which have lowered the prices of all farm produce all over Europe caused the same depreciation in the value of land in Germany or France, for instance, in the same ratio as in Ireland? And has not the importation of dead meat from America, Australia, or New Zealand had something to do with it?
“These facts are well known. But to return to the Irish landlords. Does not every one who is resident in Ireland, and therefore conversant with the state of affairs there for the last twenty or thirty years, know that the discontent and uprising against the land system is due to the action of a very few unjust persons, now mostly dead, but whose names are well known to any one who really knows Ireland, as I venture to maintain Mr. Morley does not? The principal actors in the drama could be counted on the fingers of one hand. And Mr. Morley, ex uno disce omnes, accuses the whole of the Irish proprietors of these cruel and unjust practices which we should scorn to be guilty of. And he is an ex-Cabinet Minister, and late Chief Secretary for Ireland for a few months, and a very popular one he was!
“He says, again: ’Public opinion would have checked the Irish landlords in their infatuated policy towards their tenants,’ &c. He challenges denial of these charges. Well, I deny them most emphatically, and am quite willing to abide by the verdict of the respectable tenants. I throw back in his face the accusation that the Irish landlords as a body have rack-rented or plundered their tenants or confiscated their improvements.
“Far be it from me to taunt the Irish population. No, they have been tempted very sorely by prospects being held out to them of getting the land for nothing, and, all things considered, it is wonderful how they have behaved. But Mr. Morley is like many another politician who comes to Ireland for a few months or a few weeks, and goes about the few disturbed districts and listens to all the tales told him by cardrivers and those very clever people who delight in gulling the Saxon, and goes back to England, full of all sorts of horrors and crimes alleged to have been perpetrated by landlords, and takes it all as gospel, making no allowance for the great intelligence and inventive genius of his informers, and says, ’Oh! I went to the place, and saw it all.’ And this he takes to represent the normal state of the whole of Ireland, and makes it a justification of the Plan of Campaign!”