The Land-War In Ireland (1870) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 533 pages of information about The Land-War In Ireland (1870).
of the Irish as the “finest pisantry in the world;” and we have even felt saddened as we mentally contrasted with what we saw before us the bearing and appearance of our own southern labourers.  For the tattered Irish peasant, living in a mud hovel, is, after all, a gentleman in his bearing; whereas there is generally either a cringing servility or a sullen doggedness in the demeanour of the south Saxon labourer.  The Irishman is, besides, far more intelligent and ready-witted than the Saxon husbandman.  The fact is that the Irishman, if underfed, has not been overworked.  His life has not been one of unceasing and oppressive labour.  Nor has his condition been one of perpetual servitude.  With all his poverty, he has been, to a considerable extent, his own master.  Half-starved, or satisfying his appetite on light and innutritious fare,—­far worse housed and clad than the poorest English labourer, often, indeed, almost half-naked,—­oppressed by middle-men, exactors of rack-rent; with all this the Irish cottier has been, from father to son, and from generation to generation, a tenant, and not merely a day labourer.’[1]

[Footnote 1:  ’Essays for the Times, on Ecclesiastical and Social Subjects,’ by James H. Rigg, D.D.  London, 1866.]



Let us, then, endeavour to get rid of the pernicious delusions about race and religion in dealing with this Irish land question.  Identity of race and substantial agreement in religion did not prevent the Ulster landlords from uprooting their tenants when they fancied it was their interest to banish them—­to substitute grazing for tillage, and cattle for a most industrious and orderly peasantry.

The letters of Primate Boulter contain much valuable information on the state of Ulster in the last century, and furnish apt illustrations of the land question, which, I fancy, will be new and startling to many readers.  Boulter was lord primate of Ireland from 1724 to 1738.  He was thirteen times one of the lords justices.  As an Englishman and a good churchman, he took care of the English interests and of the establishment.  The letters were written in confidence to Sir Robert Walpole and other ministers of state, and were evidently not intended for publication.  An address ‘to the reader’ from some friend, states truly that they give among other things an impartial account of ’the distressed state of the kingdom for want of tillage, the vast sums of money sent out of the nation for corn, flour, &c., the dismal calamities thereon, the want of trade and the regulation of the English and other coins, to the very great distress of all the manufacturers,’ &c.  They show that he was a man of sound judgment, public-spirited, and very moderate and impartial for the times in which he lived.  His evidence with regard to the relations of landlord and tenant in Ulster is exceedingly valuable at the present moment.  Lord Dufferin could not have read the letters when he wrote his book; otherwise I should think his apology for the landlords of the last century would have been considerably modified.

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