Imágenes de páginas
PDF

it like Portia's maxim, “To do a great good, do a little wrong.” There seems no fairer claim than that of the tenant-farmer to remuneration, when at the expiration of his term he gives up his land greatly enhanced in value. He borrows it in a certain condition; if he improves it while in his possession, surely he should be allowed for that improvement; he should not be made to give back more than he has received. The usurer who, with his ten or fifteen per cent., requires also whatever his debtor may have realised, would be looked upon as doubly iniquitous, yet such usurers are our landholders—they exact for what they lend the highest possible rate of interest, and when they get back their own, require also the vested energies of their debtors. This is manifestly unjust; and yet, to do justice, overnment is obliged to do an act of injustice. The tenant made a voluntary agreement - at least as voluntary as a drowning man could be said to make with him who offers to save him from destruction—and they are obliged to step in between the necessities of the victim and the crushing influence of a tyrannous system. They are obliged to say to the landholder—“From the necessities of his condition, you have forced from your tenant unjust and arbitrary engagements. We know you have his promise to fulfil them, but we will not allow them to be enforced.” Surely there can be something better than this What endless sources of litigation will it give rise to —how ineffectual is its protection : The tenant will still be dependent on his landlord, the victim of oppression and petty tyranny, and of the fearful evils of legal persecution, one of the worst of the curses of Ireland. The whole borrowing system should be discountenanced, and severy encouragement and facility given to purchasers of land. The laws of entail and all the legal difficulties and technicalities sur‘rounding its sale and transference should be done away with, and it should be rendered as easy for a man to buy an acre, or half an acre of land, as a cow or a sheep. The immense tract of country kept waste by the nominal titles which a few possess to them, should be given up to the husbandman, the value of those nominal titles paid, and the drones driven from the hive. When such things are done, a free and independent resident proprietary would spring up. In a few years the greater portion of the land in Ireland would change owners, greatly to the advantage both of the present possessors and the tillers of the soil. The country would be held by five millions of its own people, instead of by five hundred foreigners. The advantages are obvious. Its wastes would be reclaimed, its fruitfulness increased an hundred fold, its population would be all busy and industrious, we would hear nothing of discontent or disturbance, and plenty would overspread the land. I have now stated my case and given my proofs. To my mind, it is as clear as daylight, that all the political vicissitudes, not only of this country but of England, are traceable to the land monopoly, and the absurdities of land tenure. It is not merely an Irish question; but with you English it is not, as with us, one of life and death. You have large and profitable manufactories to provide bread for your people ; and your land-holders, though too often opposers of everything that has a tendency to elevate humanity, are yet Englishmen, and live in England, and are consequently less likely to abuse their power, and more under the influence of sympathy and public opinion. Yet you are deeply interested : this worst of the heir-looms of accursed feudalism yet remains ; it must be struck down by the same hands that felled the giant monopoly. No greater boon could be conferred on our involved aristocracy, than to give them facilities, and urge on them the necessity for selling off large portions of their estates: most of them are only nominal owners, and are in reality but a sort of land-agents to a host of money lenders, lawyers, and relatives. It is for such reason, and in connection with measures of a more comprehensive character, that the proposed expedient of compensation to tenants would be of value; it would force sales, for few of our proprietary would be able to pay for improvements in their lands, and therefore should sell. I do not say that this is all that should be done for Ireland: there are many other questions of importance. The Church abuse should be cut down, and the franchise and the representation equalised with England. But, compared with the land question, all are minor matters, and, if that were settled, other reforms would soon follow. If such measures pass, the repeal of the Union may be deferred for years to come ; if they do not, it should be granted at once. If England is incapable of governing Ireland except by force, and with a constant recurrence to extraordinary and temporary enactments, let her give it up. We are still satisfied to pay our share in the expenses of Government, tawdry and extravagant though it be in appearance, and clumsy and bungling in execution —our share in the expenses of war, so long as that great sin of

[graphic]
[ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors]
[graphic]

'Tis not by a rash endeavour
Men or states to greatness climb ;

Would you win your rights for ever,
Calm and thoughtful, bide your time.”

Men of England, help us ! I say again unto you, it is your cause ! You have independent minds, and honest hearts : you are before us in the march of freedom—the men who wrought out your freedom riveted our chains. Your Cromwell, the scourge of kings, who taught both monarchy and aristocracy that the people's voice is not to be resisted, wrote his name in our country's history in one deep, dark, blood-streak. The people, whom he led to victory in England, in Ireland he exterminated ; and William, who freed you from the hateful, imbecile, tyrannical Stuarts, placed his iron hoof upon our necks, and crushed us to the earth. Your statesmen followed in their train. However liberal and just in England, in Ireland their policy was changed, and grinding oppression and rampant injustice were the only laws we knew, until after six centuries of warfare, Ireland was conquered, and laid her calmly down at the feet of her spoiler. Amock union was effected, and our independence passed away. Did I think that an imaginary evil, far would I be from lamenting over it ; but nearly fifty years of experience has found our people more deeply steeped in poverty than ever : the manufactures we had, have all but disappeared ; religious dissensions are still kept alive amongst us ; and while all the rest of Europe has been advancing, we have been going back; and the conviction has been forced upon us that the worst legislation by Irishmen was better than the wisest efforts of the English parliament. Do away with this conviction by a course of policy different from any you have yet manifested, or give us our own again. S. S. W.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][graphic][graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »