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savage life, occupancy and use were the only titles to the appro. priation of those things which before lay in common. The same principle which was in primitive days the foundation of property, prompts the uncivilised husbandman to think, that when removed from the soil of which he has long enjoyed the usufruct, he suffers injury and injustice. I by no means intend to say, that this vague notion of right refers to the property of the land. The rent which is paid for it is a perpetual memorial of the quarter where the dominionresides. It is the usufruct only which belongs to the tenant, and it is the long enjoyment of this which, from the principle I have alluded
to, he thinks entitles him to a continuance of the enjoyment. These are prejudices as unjustifiable as they are natural. They should not be submitted to in appearance ; but they should be dealt with gently, because severity can only exasperate, and set reformation at a greater distance. Time, edu cation, good government, and long tranquillity, in which the laws are respected and property is understood, can alone subdue the fierce propensities and absurd prejudices of uncivilised men. They who draw their property from such a people, have a deep interest in their improvement, and many motives to deter them from rousing these unregulated principles into action. More is lost in the disorders occasioned by them, and in the long and durable consequences which follow, than is compensated by the tempora ry gains the extortion of which is the cause of these disorders. If the landlords of Ireland would persuade themselves, that the high rents which they exact must be attended by the consequences which they daily see, that is, if they would exert on this, to them closely interesting subject, the common prudence which they hourly observe in the other affairs of life, of preventing an evil by avoiding a cause which has in countless instances produced it, we should not hear so much of the proverbial embarrassments of Irish estates. True, it is a humiliating thing to reduce a rentroll; but much more humiliating is it, and really reproachful, to keep up a parade of property which exists only upon paper. What would be the real increase of wealth to them at no distant period, and, at all events, to their families after them, if a tranquillity, the continuance of which could be relied on, induced the English manufacturer to settle among them? There are many inducements to tempt him, if he were not scared by the frightful state of lawless insubordination, in which the mass of the population is plunged, in the districts most populous, and therefore most fit for his speculations. The extreme cheapness of labor, bearing a proportion of more than one to three, in some places, to the rate of labor in England, would of itself be a powerful motive. But he will never visit the country, so long as he thinks it possible that his machinery may be destroyed, his buildings pulled down or
burned, and he and his family murdered by a combination among his workmen, schooled in unlawful associations, in part at least, by the harassing system of landlords.
The facts which have been stated are, I think, sufficient to ac count for these disorders without the aid of a supposition, that there is any ulterior plan among the Irish peasantry directed against the great existing establishments of the country. In truth, such a conspiracy could not exist without some intelligent leaders, and what man in his senses, possessing even the mere rudiments of political knowledge, would think of throwing off subjection to England after the failure and the punishment of the enterprise of 1798? If the chastisement suffered then for rebellion had left no impression on the minds of the people (and deep are the im pressions it has made) a comparison of the state of England then and now would banish an idea, which, even in passing, could hardly find a place in the brain of a reasonable creature. If Eng, land in a few weeks pụt down a rebellion commenced when she had scarcely a soldier on the island, and when her hands were full, both from the schemes of the disaffected within her own confinęs, and the mighty efforts of her foreign war; what could be the hope of the most sanguine enthusiast now, a period of peace, when she has a formidable army upon the spot, abundance of troops in reserve, and the upper and middle classes of all denominations confessedly loyal ? If such a design existed, and the lower ranks were the planners of it, it would long since have transpired. Some other weapons would have been discovered besides the few fire-arms (few with reference to such a scheme) plundered from such of the gentry as kept them in their houses, or were unable to resist when attacked. The Irish have never, in any period of their history, been able to keep a secret such as that implied in this apprehension. Every rebellion has fortunately broken out before it was ripe, and done so, in most cases, in consequence of discovery. They are a people singularly faithful in concealing names and persons, but plots and measures transpire from those who will not discover against an associate. But a consideration decisive upon the subject is, that combinations of the peasantry of the same character have appeared at various times, both before the rebellion of 1798, when, as has been abundantly proved, by the investigations on that memorable event, no such design was meditated; and subsequently to it, at periods which we now know to have been equally free from such a conspiracy. The circumstances which seem chiefly to excite these visionary fears among the few who entertain them, are, that the outrages, now spread over so large an extent, are carried on exactly in the same manner in distant places, and are characterised by a violence and obstinacy hitherto almost unprecedented. It would be easy, however, if it were necessary, to show, that their violence has been equalled and exceeded at former times, though at times certainly remote from the present. The concert and union which prevail are the immediate and necessary results of the purpose and character of their system. As we have before seen, the object of preventing high rents cannot be accomplished without working on the fears and interests of the peasantry not originally engaged, and inducing them to join an association, which already has their approbation and their prayers. And the very mode in which their system operates is adapted to extend it, by exciting terror and popularity at the same time. All this requires little cleverness and not much deliberation. The object is simple; the means are obvious, and simple likewise. They are such as would suggest themselves for the same purpose, under the same circumstances, in places between which there could be no communication. But when we recollect, that for more than half a century associations have constantly existed, giving an inveterate habit and a sinister experience in these designs, can we wonder that they are now conducted with all the dexterity and method of disciplined and practised insurgents? The extent to which they have spread might have been expected from the times in which they have arisen ; when the country is teeming, beyond all former example, with unemployed multitudes, ready to engage in any schemes by which a change can be produced.
In all speculations on the state of the south of Ireland, we must never lose sight of the events which occurred in the summer of 1820. In a few weeks ten country banks, all in the southern districts, failed ; besides one in the metropolis, which had extensive provincial circulation. Nearly £1,000,000 of the circulating medium vanished in and about the districts now disturbed. It smote the peasantry a double blow. It caused an instant depression in the markets ; and the cash they may have had, whether pres pared for the payment of rent, or reserved for the purchase of stock, being almost entirely in provincial paper, became an immediate and irretrievable loss. On the one side their pockets were emptied ; on the other the means of replenishing them were cut off. The distress of that time of trouble, terror, and dismay, beggars description. Credit was destroyed, for poverty was suspected every where. Those who wanted to sell could find none to buy ; those who had need to buy were unable to pay for the purchase. Every creditor pressed for his debt; and the landlords, of course, exacted theirs. When, in addition to all other privations and disasters, the landlord distrained ; sold for fourth part value at a time when little money was in circulation, and every thing sold low; and when he finally ejected ;-if ever there was a time, when the peasantry were likely to join, one and all in these desperate measures, that surely was the period.
The use of ardent spirits has, within the last three years, increased beyond all former example. The low price of grain, and the high duties paid by the licensed distillers, have encouraged illicit distillation to a prodigious extent. The mode of concealing the practice from the revenue officers is curious enough, and quite Irish. The peasantry make no secret of it to their neighbors, but those who pass the place where they are at work, are liberally supplied with liquor. If this public and comprehensive kind of bribery were withdrawn, discovery, it seems, would be a certain punishment to the inhospitable and penurious delinquent. It is astonishing how few discoveries are made, when the number of stills, and the publicity of the practice, are considered. It is a formidable proof of the fidelity which the community of interest and feeling produces in this singular people. But the effect is ruinous in the extreme. If we may form a conclusion from the usual practice in other things, we may assure ourselves, that the schemes of the associated insurgents are planned where profuse potions of whiskey add ardor and desperation to their resolves. When commencing any labor, the Irish peasant will drink spirits to animate him if he have any means of procuring them. Can we wonder at any acts of savage atrocity, committed by a band of resolute malecontents, in whom intoxication inflames to the utmost heat of passion every emotion of malice, resentment, and revenge ? The use of these maddening draughts was at its height when the failure of the banks plunged the south of Ireland into the misery which I have described. The ejected tenant, the unemployed laborer, the idle and poor of every description, if a shilling remained, would resort to drinking to sink the consciousness of suffering in intoxication, or to converse over their liquor with their partners in misfortune. They would crowd round the private still, which in Ireland is sometimes a kind of lounge for the unoccupied, and the conversation would turn on this irritating subject. A little liquor is always given gratis to the visitors, and if the owner of the still happened to be in a situation approaching that of his unhappy neighbors, these meetings would be devoted to concerting plans and forming associations. Such a stimulus, at a period of general distress and discontent, would naturally urge men from condolence to combination, from conference to action. In short, it would be idle to doubt, that the extensive use of ardent spirits, within the last two years, has been a powerful aiding cause in producing the present disturbances.
It would be absurd empiricism in an individual, because he has in the Southern Districts of Ireland. 129 observed and examined some of the multiplied evils' which press upon this unhappy country, to suppose that he can find out remedies adapted to their removal. But there are certain obvious principles which present themselves to the plainest understanding, on learning what these evils are. One of the chief means of reclaiming a people so backward is, of course, to diffuse as widely and as rapidly as possible, the kind and extent of instruction adapted to their pursuits. No effectual plan of education has ever been framed for Ireland, nor ever will be brought into practice, without entire' acquiescence in the religious prejudices of the people. It is the vainest of all idle things to attempt diffusing instruction by collision and remonstrance.
All such attempts must not only prove abortive, but tend to defeat the cause, and confirm the ignorance and distaste for instruction, which they are meant to dispel. Instruction, when directed to the unenlightened, must not only be robbed of every thing disgusting and repulsive, but must be rendered, by all possible means,
agreeable and seductive. It is of no manner of consequence whether the prejudices which exist have some foundation in reason, or be wholly absurd; only that when they are altogether unreasonable, opposition be comes still more unwise. It is the nature of prejudice to be proof against argument, just in proportion as it is irrational. If the Irish will not, from religious scruples, admit the best mode of education, let one of inferior merits be adopted, rather than none at all. The faintest glimmerings of light are better than total darkness, and in the case of education are of tenfold importance, because they will infallibly lead to farther illumination.
In a country where gross ignorance and unreflecting habits preserve the activity of those many causes which we have seen to promote early unions, and the consequent increase of numbers beyond a just proportion, education becomes an object, not merely desirable for the welfare, but essential to the existence of civil society. Where the lower ranks are in a state of perpetual conflict with the upper orders, civil society can scarcely with propriety be said to have a being. There is no security of property or life, If both be not a prey to savage outrage, all that is durable, and therefore really valuable, in the one, and all that is sweet and estimable in the other, are in such a state of constant jeopardy, that they may be considered as absolutely lost to enjoyment. It resembles more the state of a country, in which military conquest requires forcible maintenance over vanquished and rebellious hordes, than of one in which the people are incorporated in civil union. It is partial civilisation, making continued struggles to keep its stand against a tide constantly flowing back to barbarism Such are the dreadful evils which overgrown population has a ten VOL. XXIV.
NO. XLVII. I