POOR INHABITANTS, TRADESMEN, AND LABOURERS OF THE KINGDOM OF IRELAND.”
I received a paper from you, wherever you are, printed without any name of author or printer, and sent, I suppose, to me among others, without any particular distinction. It contains a complaint of the dearness of corn, and some schemes of making it cheaper which I cannot approve of.
But pray permit me, before I go further, to give you a short history of the steps by which we arrived at this hopeful situation.
It was, indeed, the shameful practice of too many Irish farmers, to wear out their ground with ploughing; while, either through poverty, laziness, or ignorance, they neither took care to manure it as they ought, nor gave time to any part of the land to recover itself; and, when their leases are near expiring, being assured that their landlords would not renew, they ploughed even the meadows, and made such a havock, that many landlords were considerable sufferers by it.
This gave birth to that abominable race of graziers, who, upon expiration of the farmer’s leases were ready to engross great quantities of land; and the gentlemen having been before often ill paid, and their land worn out of heart, were too easily tempted, when a rich grazier made him an offer to take all his land, and give his security for payment. Thus a vast tract of land, where twenty or thirty farmers lived, together with their cottagers and labourers in their several cabins, became all desolate, and easily managed by one or two herdsmen and their boys; whereby the master-grazier, with little trouble, seized to himself the livelihood of a hundred people.
It must be confessed, that the farmers were justly punished for their knavery, brutality, and folly. But neither are the squires and landlords to be excused; for to them is owing the depopulating of the country, the vast number of beggars, and the ruin of those few sorry improvements we had.
That farmers should be limited in ploughing is very reasonable, and practised in England, and might have easily been done here by penal clauses in their leases; but to deprive them, in a manner, altogether from tilling their lands, was a most stupid want of thinking.
Had the farmers been confined to plough a certain quantity of land, with a penalty of ten pounds an acre for whatever they exceeded, and farther limited for the three or four last years of their leases, all this evil had been prevented; the nation would have saved a million of money, and been more populous by above two hundred thousand souls.
For a people, denied the benefit of trade, to manage their lands in such a manner as to produce nothing but what they are forbidden to trade with, or only such things as they can neither export nor manufacture to advantage, is an absurdity that a wild Indian would be ashamed of; especially when we add, that we are content to purchase this hopeful commerce, by sending to foreign markets for our daily bread.