‘Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.’
One of the best pamphlets on the Irish Land Question is by Mr. William M’Combie, of Aberdeen. A practical farmer himself, his sagacity has penetrated the vitals of the subject. His observations, while travelling through the country last year, afford a remarkable corroboration of the conclusions at which I have arrived. Of the new method of ‘regenerating Ireland,’ he says:—
’In it the resources of the soil—to get the most possible out of it by the most summary process—is the great object; the people are of little or no account, save as they can be made use of to accomplish this object. But, indeed, it is not alone by the promoters of the grand culture that the people have been disregarded, but by Irish landlords, generally, of both classes. By the improving landlords—who are generally recent purchasers—they are regarded merely as labourers; by the leave-alone landlords as rent-producers. The one class have ejected the occupiers, the other have applied, harder and harder, the screw, until the “good landlord”—the landlord almost worshipped in Ireland at this hour—is the landlord who neither evicts his tenants nor raises their rents. The consequences are inevitable, and, over a large portion of the island, they are patent to every eye—they obtrude themselves everywhere. The people are poor; they are despondent, broken-spirited. In the south of Ireland decay is written on every town. In the poorer parts you may see every fifth or sixth house tenantless, roofless, allowed from year to year to moulder and moulder away, unremoved, unrepaired.... To make room for these large-scale operations, evictions must go on, and as the process proceeds the numbers must be augmented of those who are unfit to work for hire and unable to leave the country. The poor must be made poorer; many now self-supporting made dependent. Pauperism must spread, and the burden of poor rates be vastly increased. If the greatest good of the greatest number be the fundamental principle of good government, this is not the direction in which the state should seek to accomplish the regeneration of Ireland. The development of the resources of the land ought to be made compatible with the improvement of the condition of the people.’
CONCLUSION—AN APPEAL TO ENGLISHMEN.
The difficulty of understanding the case of Ireland is proverbial. Its most enlightened friends in England and Scotland are often charged with ‘gross ignorance of the country.’ They might excuse themselves by answering, that when they seek instruction from Irishmen, one native instructor is sure to contradict the other. Yet there must be some point of view from which all sides of the Irish question can be seen, some light in which the colours are not confused, the picture is not exaggerated, the features are not distorted.