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THE MORAL CONDITION OF IRELAND.
Society in England exhibits a tendency to extremes which cannot but sadden those who, in the true spirit of Christian philanthropy, embrace the many as well as the few within the sphere of their sympathies. But Ireland is emphatically a land of contrasts :—the most benignant dispensations of nature; the utmost wretchedness of social life; a bloated hierarchy almost without a flock; a needy priesthood with the millions to superintend; the greatest part of the property in the hands of the alien few, while the mass are subsisting on a kind and an amount of food which are scarcely comparable to the crumbs that fall from the table of the rich, at the same time that provisions in profusion are sent out of the country; absentee landlords squandering the riches of the soil in distant lands, and greedy resident agents making their gain by grinding the faces of the population; the most generous impulses actuating the people on occasions, and on occasions the most deadly spirit of clanship manifesting its destructive effects ; the property of the stranger and the traveller safe, all other property in peril ;—such are some of the extremes displayed in Ireland in 1834'*_extremes which no good man can think of without the keenest pain, nor without a resolution to allow no opportunity to pass of exciting the public attention to the actual condition of Ireland, and thereby of seeking a remedy for her complicated and direful evils. We shall confine our attention to the moral wretchedness of the mass, and that extreme of poverty which is its parent. In order to condense as much information as possible in a small space, we shall give the substance of Mr. Inglis' observations, and leave the reader to make his own reflections :
The streets of Dublin present strange and striking contrasts between grandeur and poverty. In Merrion Square, St. Stephen's Green, and elsewhere, the ragged wretches that are sitting on the steps, contrast strongly with the splendour of the houses and the magnificent equipages that wait without. I was extremely struck with the strong resemblances to the population of Spanish towns which the pauper population of Dublin presented. I saw the same rags and apparent indolence, the result of a want of employment and a low state of moral feeling: boys with bare heads and feet lying on the pavement, whose potato need only to be converted into a melon or a bit of wheaten bread, to make them fit subjects for Murillo; and houses and cottages in a half ruined state, with paneless windows, or no windows at all. I was also struck with the small number of provision shops. In London, every fifth or sixth shop is a bacon or a cheese shop. What would be the use of opening in Dublin a bacon shop, where the lower orders, who are else
By Henry D. Inglis.
where the chief purchasers of bacon, cannot afford to eat bacon, and livo upon potatoes ? " I remarked the great eagerness of every one to get a little employment and earn a penny or two. After the cattle had been fed, the half-eaten turnips became the perquisite of the crowd of ragged boys and girls without. Many and fierce were the scrambles for these precious relics; and a half-gnawed turnip, when once secured, was guarded with the most vigilant jealousy, and was lent for a mouthful to another longing tatterdemalian. I visited the Mendicity Society, which may be considered a concentration of all the industrious pauperism of Dublin. Such institutions are a miserable make-shift for a legal provision for the poor, the sick and the infirm. There were 2145 persons on the charity, of whom 200 were Protestants. The finances were very low, and the directors were threatening a procession of the mendicants through the streets, by way of warming the charity of the citizens. This has been resorted to ;-a most disgraceful expedient in a civilized community. What a contrast to the gaiety of Grafton-street, would be the filth and rags and absolute nakedness which I saw concentrated in the court of the institution !
In riding through Wicklow, I was seated next to the Protestant clergyman of an adjoining parish, who told me he was a considerable landowner, and spoke strongly of the discomfort of having a Catholic tenantry about him; which, however, he was doing his best to rid himself of. I found rents in Wicklow such as for the most part could never be paid by the produce of the land; and the small farmers, as well as labourers, barely subsisting. High rents were the universal complaint; the competition for land is but the outbiddings of desperate circumstances. One afternoon I walked up a mountain road, and reached a glen with several cabins in it, three of which I visited. The first I entered was a mud cabin-one apartment. It was neither air nor water tight, and the hoor was extremely damp. The furniture consisted of a small bedstead, with very scanty bedding, a wooden bench, and one iron pot; the embers of some furze burnt on the floor; and there was neither chimney nor window. The rent of this wretched cabin, to which there was not a yard of land, was two pounds. The next cabin I entered was situated on the hill-side; in size and material it was like the other. I found in it a woman and her four children. There were two small bedsteads, and no furniture, excepting a stool, a little bench, and one pot. Here also were the burnt embers of some furze, the only fuel the poor of this neighbourhood can afford to use The children were all of them in rags ; and the mother regretted that on that account she could not send them to school. The husband of this woman was a labourer at sixpence per day ;-eighty of which sixpences--that is, eighty days' labour, being absorbed in the rent of the cabin, which was taken out in labour; so that there was little more than fourpence halfpenny per day left for the support of a wife and four children, with potatoes at fourpence a stone. I entered one other cabin : it was the most comfortless of the three; it was neither air nor water tight, and had no bedstead, and no furniture, excepting a stool and a pot; and there were not even the embers of a fire. In this miserable abode there was a decently dressed woman with five children, and her husband was also a labourer at sixpence per day. This family had had a pig ; but it had been taken for rent a few days before. They had hoped to be able to appropriate the whole of the daily sixpence to their support, and to pay the rent by means of the pig ; but the necessities of nature, with the high price of potatoes, had created an arrear before the pig was old enough to be sold. The landlord might not be to blame ;-he was a very small farmer of hill land, at twenty shillings per acre; and was just as hard set to live, and pay his rent, as his humbler dependant was.
In Gorey I found much to please me. There are many resident landlords—the condition of the people, especially of the farmers, is better than in Wicklow-but nothing approaching to constant labour is to be had. A loan society has been of great service. Artizans and labourers equally availed themselves of it; the shoemaker, for instance, obtained money to purchase leather; the countryman, to buy a pig or build a cabin. The sums lent are from £l to £5, and are repaid by weekly instalments at the rate of a shilling for each pound lent; sixpence interest is also paid on each pound; and every borrower must give two joint securities, and produce a character from two householders, for honesty and sobriety. I found that the loans were repaid with wonderful punctuality, and that the society had not lost one penny. Could not something of this sort be done by the Government ? ' Most of the cabins I visited in this neighbourhood boasted a pig; in many cases the result of a loan. Most of them were in styes, but some in the cabin, where, as Paddy says, he has the best right to be, since it's he that pays the rint.” There were here some clean neat cabins, the secret of which I found to be a premium offered by an agricultural society of from 10s. to £2 for the cleanest and most comfortable cottages.
Religious bitterness is carried very far in this neighbourhood, and this may mainly be ascribed to the recent institution of an Orange Lodge. Let Government be truly paternal, and there will be no occasion for Orange Lodges. The result of this ill-judged zeal are strikingly displayed at Gorey. There is a Protestant and a Catholic inn-known by these names; the Protestant and the Catholic Coach ; and the very children, playing or squabbling in the streets, are divided into sects. This is miserable work, for which the Orange Lodge has to answer.
Before leaving Waterford, I visited some of the worst quarters of the town, and saw the most appalling misery. I found three and four families in hovels, lying on straw in different corners, and not a bit of furniture visible ; the hovels themselves placed in the midst of the most horrid and disgusting filth. The heads of the families were out begging potatoes round the country.
About Thomastown, I found the condition of the people generally wretched. I met in my walks, wives and mothers begging about the country, carrying their sacks home with a few potatoes, and under their arms a little bundle of sticks—the only firewood they had-picked up by the road-side. They were not common mendicants, but the wives and daughters of labourers who could find no employment;-many had not even the means of obtaining seed to put into their little patches of potato grounds. The cabins were wretched in the extreme-many without even a pig in them. A new light had dawned on me. I used to be shocked at seeing a pig's snout at the cabin door, and thought it a proof of wretchedness; but I now began to bless the sight, and to pity more those who possessed no pig. Much might be effected, if resident landlords would more identify themselves with the people. This the proprietors of Woodstock have done ; and as one proof of the influence of character, I may mention that the Catholic children of the village attend, without exception, the school of Lady Louisa Tighe, which is taught by a Protestant. It is not enough that landlords be resident; absenteeism would be imperfectly cured, unless they were philanthropic also.
In what state are the people of Kilkenny? I wish I could have contemplated their situation with as much pleasure as I did the city itself, and the natural beauties that surround it ; but I am compelled to say, that I found the most wide-spread and aggravated misery. There were, when I visited it, upwards of 2000 persons totally without employment.
In the south of Ireland, I found that the whole of the lower and a great proportion of the middle class are repealers; and Protestants, who are few in number, quite as much as Catholics. It is, however, admitted that if employment were provided for the people, and absentees enticed or forced back, repeal would lose its force.
At a fair, about four miles from Kilkenny, I was particularly struck with the difference in the display of luxuries at an Irish and an English merry-making. Gingerbread and other dainties are exhibited at a race or fair in England; here I observed carts filled with good common household bread : this was deemed a luxury.
I never travelled through a more pleasing country than that which lies between Kilkenny and Callen, and I never entered a town reflecting $0 much disgrace on the owner as the latter. In so execrable a condition are the streets, that the mail-coach, in passing through it, is allowed twelve minutes extra; an indulgence which can surprise no one who drives, or rather attempts to drive, through it; for no one who has the use of his limbs would consent to be driven. And yet, will it be credited, that a toll is levied on the entrance into the town, of every article of consumption ; and that not one shilling of the money 80 received is laid out for the benefit of the town? The potatoes, coal, butter-milk, with which the poor wretches who inhabit this place supply their necessities, are subject to a toll, which used to produce £250 per annum; but which, having been resisted by some spirited and prying person, who questioned the right of toll, the receipts have been since considerably diminished. It was with some difficulty that I obtained a sight of the table of tolls; but I insisted on my right to see it ; and satisfied myself that potatoes and butter-milk, the food of the poor, pay a toll to Lord Clifden, who, out of the revenue of about £20,000 per annum which he draws from this neighbourhood, lays out not one farthing for the benefit of his people. I had not yet seen in Ireland any town in so wretched a condition as this. I arrived in it very early in the morning; and having been promised breakfast at a grocer's shop (for there is no inn in Callen,) I walked through the outskirts of the town and round a little common which lies close to it, and there I saw the people crawling out of their hovels,—they and their hovels not one shade better than I have seen in the sierras of Granada, where the people live in holes excavated in the banks. Their cabins were mere holes, with nothing within them (I speak of two which I entered) excepting a little straw, and one or two broken stools. And all the other outskirts of the town are in nearly a similar condition :-ranges of hovels, with
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out a ray of comfort, or a trace civilization about them; and people either in a state of actual starvation, or barely keeping body and soul together. All this I saw, and cannot be deceived; and from the inquiries which I made of intelligent persons, the Protestant clergyman among the number, I may state, that in this town, containing between 4000 and 5000 inhabitants at least, 1000 are without regular employment; 600 or 700 entirely destitute ; and that there are upwards of 200 actual mendicants in the town-persons incapable of work. Is there any one so blind as to contend, that this is a state of things which ought to continue; and that an absentee nobleman should be permitted to draw, without deduction for the support of the infirm poor, the splendid income which he wrings out of a people left to starvation or crime? An attempt was made by some philanthropic persons, to have the common inclosed and cultivated, which would have given some employment; but the project was unsuccessful. The great resisted it.
And again, will any one say that Lord Clifden, or others situated like bis lordship, ought not to be forced to consent to a proposal tending to give employment to those, whom his own rack-rents and ejectments have made
Let any one who desires to see a specimen of an absentee town, visit Callen. And Lord Clifden is the more reprehensible, since he occasionally visits the country, and is not ignorant of its condition. It is true, that his lordship drives as rapidly through his town as the state of the streets will admit; but it happened fortunately that upon one occasion the carriage broke down, and this patriotic and tenderhearted nobleman was forced to hear the execrations of the crowd of naked and starving wretches who thronged around him.
I walked back to Kilkenny from Callen in the evening, without any fear of robbery, in a country where half the people are starving. Robbery, singular to tell, is a crime of unfrequent occurrence; and I look upon it, that a traveller is in less danger on the highways of Ireland, than in any part of the British dominions.
In Cashel, wages were only eight pence a-day, without diet, and numbers were unemployed. The population is about 7000—the number of Protestant communicants, 150. I heard bad accounts of the Protestant archbishop. He was universally disliked, even by those dependant upon him and of the same persuasion. He does no good, and, by all accounts, is a hard man; in every sense far over-paid by the ten or twelve thousand a-year which he enjoys. In his lordship's palace and gardens is all that can delight the senses. Sitting in the evening at the window of the ion, I saw a sight such as I never saw in any other part of the world—a lad twelve years of age so entirely in rags that he might as well have been naked. At a baker's shop opposite the inn, I saw very many children buy a half-penny worth of bread, and divide it into two or three pieces for the supper of as many.
There has been much exaggeration; but, doubtless, frightful instances of ferocity, hatred, and revenge have occurred, and I heard but one opinion as to the necessity of the Coercion Bill. Almost every outrage and murder that has disgraced Ireland, has arisen out of one of two causes—competition for land, or tithes. The first may be abated by finding employment for the people, but tithes are objectionable in any and in every shape. Nothing but their abolition will give satisfaction.
In Mitchelstown the distress was so urgent, that in order to prevent