It was, however, very fortunate for Belfast that the landlord was obliged to sell it; that the head of the great house founded by the conqueror of Ulster, enriched with territory so vast, should have been under the necessity of giving a perpetual property in the soil to some of the sons of industry. By that simple concession he did more to advance the prosperity of the town, than could have been accomplished by centuries of fostering care, under the shadow of feudalism. Belfast shows, on a grand scale, what might be done on many an estate in Ireland, in many a town and village where the people are pining away in hopeless misery, if the iron bonds of primogeniture and entail which now cramp landed property were struck off. The Greek philosopher declared that if he had a standing-place he could move the earth. Give to capital the ground of perpetuity of tenure, whereon to plant its machinery, and it will soon lift this island from the slough of despond. Then may it be said more truly than Grattan said it in 1782, that Ireland had got nearer to the sun.
The history of the Manor of Geashill in the King’s County furnishes another instructive illustration of the land question and of the effect upon the people of the system of management, under the new school of agents, of which Mr. Steuart Trench may be regarded as the brightest ornament, if not the apostle. The epoch was favourable for his mission, and he was the man for the epoch; he had been quietly training himself for the restoration of disordered estates, and the critical emergencies of the times thrust him into the front rank of social reformers. When he describes the wonderful revolutions wrought by his instrumentality, the whirlwinds on which he rode, the storms which he directed and quelled, the chaos out of which he evoked order, he assumes that the hurricane and the chaos were the normal state of things. A mysterious pestilence had blighted the principal food of the people for two or three years, and brought on a desolating famine. Millions perished by that visitation chiefly because the legislature had persistently refused up to that period to make any provision for the Irish poor such as it had made centuries before for the English poor, and because no care had been taken to distribute the population over the waste lands which their labour would have reclaimed and fertilized; or to improve their position, so that they might not be wholly dependent on one sort of food, and that the most precarious and perishable. Mr. Sadler, in his work on Population, had proved that, even in the case of Ireland before the famine, there was really no ‘surplus population;’ that if the resources of the country had been developed by a wise Government, sympathising with the people, the text which he adopted would have been applicable there: ’Dwell in the land, and verily ye