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ultimately defeated; in the long run severity wears itself out against so dense a body of resistance. When the government is overcome, the proprietors, who come into immediate contact with the danger and the evil, have little chance of success. They can only palliate for a time by submission. Their sturdy neighbours may be induced to assume the character of tenants without the feelings of that condition; and all the disorder, idleness, and profligacy of the feudal system, (without even its limited subordination to the immediate superior,) will be introduced into a society having no fair claim to them. But this palliation is merely temporary, and must necessarily end in further aggravation; for the children of the immediate possessors will enforce their demand of a settlement by the same cogent reasons which their fathers found successful. If waste land of a good staple beyond the limits of cultivation had still existed to be occupied, as in North America, these applicants would be a blessing rather than a curse to their country. But if, as in Ireland, the mass of the land is appropriated, what resource is there but, either, that they be left to starve, or that further portions of the land already cultivated be allotted to the claimants, till employment can be found for them in regular departments of industry foreign to the soil. But in such a condition of society it is to be feared that the establishment of manufactures would offer no resource for the employment of the superfluous hands.
The want of subordination, and the insecurity of property incident to the system, will more than counterbalance the natural effect of the cheapness of labour, in tempting the capitalist to turn his
views to manufactures. The immense surplus of hands in the uncivilized parts of Ireland has scarcely tempted a single capitalist to transfer his industry to those devoted regions. There appears therefore to be no probable result, but a continued contest between the pressure of severity in the government against the people, and that of misery in the people against the government; between the outcry of a depressed and starving population, and the fears of a proprietory prevented in all its legitimate views towards the accumulation of capital. A more deplorable picture of society, a condition more devoid of hope, a state of political darkness more impervious to a single ray of light, can scarcely be imagined. Yet it is impossible to deny that a mischievous encouragement of population, beyond its natural rate of progress, is, at least, the immediate cause of the evil. If either the proprietors had used more precaution in preventing their waste lands from being settled by a race whose labour was surperfluous in the place of their settlement, or if the government could have found the means of opening sources of industrious employment for their children, in situations where the abatement in the progress of population, natural to the advancement of society, could have had its fair operation ; none of the evils just recited would
probably have occurred: for the individuals, instead of multiplying in miserable hovels, devoid of all concern and taste for the comforts and decencies of life, would have been drawn off from their native villages, for the regular supply of the mercantile and manufacturing towns, or for the other departments of industry. I think it may
be safely affirmed that the general spread of such a
population, as is here reprobated, over the face of a country, can only be the result of a long course of misgovernment and of misdirection of public industry, and that it is a reproach to any nation. A few individuals might have so settled in particular districts, wholly through the apathy and neglect of the proprietors; but a general system of the kind argues something worse than neglect or apathy on the part of the government.
Upon investigating the foundation therefore of this unnatural encouragement to population, we find that it resolves itself into misconduct on the part of the government and the proprietors of land, and ignorance and evil customs on the part of the people.
The remedy, to be effectual, must be gentle and slow in its operation; for the task is nothing less than to correct the sturdy prejudices, and to alter the inveterate habits of a numerous population. A gradual elevation of the religious and moral character of the natives; the introduction of a taste for the comforts and decencies of life ; laws enlisting the -self-interest of the proprietors to second these philanthropic objects, and to prevent the further progress of the evil, by charging them with the support or employment of the superfluous population which they encourage to grow up under their eye; these, joined with enlightened measures for the promotion of domestic industry, and honourable distinctions conferred on those, who are zealous and active in devoting their time and talents to the amelioration of their country, would in the course of time operate a happy change, and in some degree atone for the long neglect which had diverted a portion of the people from their just and legitimate functions
in the commonwealth, and encouraged them to pro. duce a race of human beings which can only be contemplated as a dead weight in the scale of society.
Let it be observed, however, that this superfluous population does not press even against the actual supply of food, of which, by the supposition, there is still a surplus produce; for the country must be yet in the agricultural state of society to engender such a nuisance, or at least not far enough advanced from it to have consumed its surplus produce, and render inferior land valuable. But the idle and listless beings, who have been called into existence, can make no valid claim to any share of this produce, (which will still be exported) but are miserably subsisting on the produce of their own potatoe garden. Great quantities of corn were, till very lately, exported even from those very parts of Ireland where the wretched and starving cotters are most numerous and most miserable. A population of this description, therefore, is a mere excrescence on the body politic, which might be eradicated to its great relief, could the operation be performed without infringing upon the laws of humanity, or endangering the system. But since it would be too severe for the humanity of the faculty to advise, and too difficult for the skill of any operator to perform, the only remaining resource is to try the method of absorption, slow and tedious as the process may be, and largely as it may draw the
patience of the subject.
It will be perceived that a picture, not very dissimilar to what has been here exhibited, would soon be produced by the general extension of a system of charity often recommended by benevolent individuals, who
suppose that the condition of the people would be materially ameliorated by building cottages on all waste lands, and endowing them with portions of land, large enough to support the tenants. That such schemes of charity in a few instances, and carefully superintended by sagacious proprietors, have produced much individual happiness I rejoice in believing. But any general prevalence of the system would doubtless lead to all the inconveniences detailed in the preceding pages, because it would increase the population, without augmenting the demand for labour by depressing its price.
Throughout the whole of this chapter, I have constantly borne in mind, that in a free and Christian country every human being born within its limits will by some means or other be supported : and it is the method by which this support is bestowed that renders the competition between the necessities of the lower orders, and
and the superfluities of the higher, alluded to towards the close of the second chapter of this book, available in favour of the former. The ordinary fluctuations of employment in such a country will always keep up a sufficient number of distressed persons to establish that competition in full vigour. To destroy it, by turning the balance wholly on the side of the necessitous, would be ruinous to industry, and would prevent all accumulation of capital. The utmost vigilance should therefore be exercised by the proprietors of a country not to suffer the natural operations of society to be impeded, by permitting a population to settle itself upon their estates, for whose employment there will probably be no demand. The best mode of effecting this appears to be to keep the number of tenements, as nearly as possible, within those limits which will