This apart. The Irish Council Bill was lost because of bad leadership and bad faith, and the Irish Party continued to travel stumblingly along its pathway of disaster and disgrace.
LAND AND LABOUR
The fortunes of every country, when one comes seriously to reflect on it, are to a great extent dependent on these two vital factors—Land and Labour. In a country so circumstanced as Ireland, practically bereft of industries and manufactures, land and labour—and more especially the labour which is put into land—are the foundation of its very being. They mean everything to it—whether its people be well or ill off, whether its trade is good, its towns prosperous, its national economy secure.
The history of Ireland, ever since the first Englishman set foot on it with the eye of conquest, centres to a more or less degree around the land. We know how the ancient clans tenaciously clung to their heritage and how ruthlessly they were deprived of it by the Plantations and the Penal Laws and by a series of confiscations, the memory of which even still chills the blood. Conquest, confiscation, eviction, persecution—this was the terrible story of Ireland for seven centuries—and the past century worst of all. At the commencement of the nineteenth century Ireland was extensively cultivated. The land had been parcelled out amongst the people; holdings were multiplied and tenancies for life increased amazingly because it meant a larger rent-roll for the landlord and a great increase in the voting power of his serfs. But there came the Corn Laws, making cultivation unprofitable, and earlier the law of Catholic Emancipation, withdrawing the right of voting from the forty-shilling freeholders, and the crisis was reached when the Great Famine appeared and was followed by the Great Clearances. The Famine lasted for three years, the Clearances endured for over thirty. Houses were demolished, fences levelled, the peasants swept out and the notices to quit kept falling, as the well-known saying of Gladstone expressed it, as thick as snowflakes. Between 1849 and 1860, according to Mulhall, 373,000 Irish families were evicted, numbering just about 2,000,000 in all. “I do not think the records of any country, civilised or barbarian,” said Sir Robert Peel, “ever presented such scenes of horror.”
Legislation became necessary to counteract the appalling evils arising from such a state of things. It went on through the years with varying fortune, never providing any real solution of the intolerable relations between landlord and tenant, until the blessed Land Conference pact was sealed and signed and the country finally delivered from the haunting terror of landlordism. Now although the entire population may be said in Ireland to be either directly or indirectly dependent on the land, two classes were absolutely dependent on it for their very livelihood—namely,