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marrying early, dwelling in separate houses, and satisfied with the scantiest and poorest food, they had sufficient regard for their children to make every effort to rear them, but were indifferent about everything except their mere existence. Far removed from the brutality of those half-civilized nations, which have practised the exposure of new-born infants, they nevertheless performed only the animal, and none of the moral duties of parents ; nor did they feel any scruple in raising up children to whom they had nothing to bequeath but a sad legacy of poverty and wretched
Fever and other epidemic diseases, the consequences of bad or insufficient food, of close and damp dwellings, and of the want of other comforts and necessaries, doubtless then, as now, thinned the ranks of the lower classes in Ireland: but on the other hand, the country was never devastated by any invading army, or
*A. Young, enumerating the causes favourable to the growth of population in Ireland, says :-“Marriage is certainly more general in Ireland than in England: I scarce ever found an unmarried farmer or cottar; but it is seen more in other classes, which, with us, do not marry at all; such as servants; the generality of footmen and maids in gentlemen's families are married, a circumstance we very rarely see in England. Another point of importance is their children not being burdensome. In all the inquiries I made into the state of the poor, I found their happiness and ease generally relative to the number of their children, and nothing considered as such a misfortune as having none." Part ii. p. 61. A. Young forgot to add that the Irish poor did not find a large family burdensome, only because they omitted to perform those duties which a parent in restricted circumstances finds it difficult to perform. Another circumstance mentioned by Arthur Young as assisting the growth of population in Ireland is the absence of poor-laws; so that he may be added to the testimonies adduced by Mr. McCulloch before the Committee on the State of the Irish Poor, No. 6458, to show that the English poor-law before 1798 operated as a check to population. On the frequency of marriage in Ireland, see also Newenham's Inquiry into the Population of Ireland, p. 18.
subjected to those influences which had laid waste whole tracts of land after the rebellion of 1641.
We need not therefore wonder that the population of Ireland should have increased more rapidly during the eighteenth century than that of any other country in Europe*, notwithstanding occasional drains of emigration to America and Great Britain. It is moreover to be observed, that this great increase was doubtless confined exclusively to the poorer classes, and especially to the country population. There is no reason to suppose that, in the upper ranks, and in the inhabitants of towns, the rate of increase was different from that which prevailed at the same time in Great Britain.
Under these circumstances, the labouring peasantry, loaded with large families, and unprotected by a poorlaw, were forced to submit to any rent which the landowner, or his middleman, chose to exact from them. For, as accumulation of capital among the agricultural tenantry had been made impossible by the system of government, the whole country was divided in small portions, among a set of occupiers almost equally poor; so that each man was in general able, with the assistance of his family, to cultivate his own ground, and thus there was little or no agricultural employment to be obtained for hire: even those persons who employed labourers were in the habit of paying them in land, or (what comes to the same) setting off their rent against their wages. Hence it was the first ambition of every man to obtain a small holding of land, on which he could erect a mud hovel, and raise enough potatoes for the subsistence of himself and his family; and to keep
* See Malthus on Population, book ii. c. 10, ad fin. Vol. i. 470, 6th ed.
possession of his holding, when he had once obtained it, at any sacrifice of rent which he was able to make, after reserving, from the proceeds of his land and labour, just enough to support life.
When the peasantry who lived in this manner were thinly scattered over the country, they had more facility of turning cattle, or sheep, or pigs on waste land, and their distance from each other prevented communication, and made detection more easy : but when the rapid increase of population brought them nearer to one another, they had more difficulty in finding a subsistence among so many competitors, and their greater numbers gave confidence, security, and means of easy intercourse. Accordingly we find that when the Catholic part of Ireland began to be thickly peopled, then, and not till then, local disturbances broke out, occasioned, in the first instance, by the inclosure of waste lands, and the dispossession of tenants.
The causes of the original Whiteboy insurrection in 1761 appear sufficiently from the testimonies already cited. The following statement of them by Lord Charlemont, in a paper preserved by his biographer, may, however, be here inserted.
“ As the insurgents were all of the Catholic religion, an almost universal idea was entertained
the more zealous Protestants, and encouraged by interested men, that French gold and French intrigue were at the bottom of this insurrection; the real causes were indeed not difficult to be ascertained.—Exorbitant rents, low wages, want of employment in a country destitute of manufactures, where desolation and famine were the effects of fertility ; where the rich gifts of a bountiful mother were destructive to her children, and served only to tantalize them ; where oxen supplied the place of men, and by leaving little room for cultivation, while they enriched
their pampered owness, starved the miserable remnant of thinly scattered inhabitants : farms, of enormous extent, let by their rapacious and indolent proprietors to monopolizing landjobbers, by whom small portions of them were again let and relet to intermediate oppressors, and by them subdivided for five times their value, among the wretched starvers upon potatoes and water: taxes yearly increasing, and tithes which the Catholic, without any possible benefit, unwillingly pays in addition to his priest-money-misery, oppression, and famine ! -These were undoubtedly the first and original causes, obvious to the slightest inspection, though resolutely denied ; and every public investigation into them impudently frustrated by those whose sordid interest opposed their removal *.”
That the same causes have produced the more recent Whiteboy disturbances is proved by the almost general consent of the numerous and well-informed witnesses examined by the parliamentary committees above mentioned; whose evidence we will now adduce, so far as it bears on this part of the subject.
The extracts, which we now proceed to select, relate principally to the increase of the agricultural population, the want of employment, and the consequent desire to get possession of land, as the only means of support.
Francis Blackburne, Esq., Barrister, appointed in 1823 to administer the Insurrection Act in the counties of Clare and Limerick.
“Will you describe what you conceive has been the cause of the population increasing so considerably beyond any demand for employment that could exist ?—That question requires some detail. The population in Ireland has been, at least in that part of Ireland to which my testimony refers, I believe rapidly increasing. I believe the Irish peasant scarcely ever forms, at least while he remains at home, an idea of
Hardy's Life of Charlemont, vol. i. 17). 8vo. ed.
bettering his condition : they are improvident: and either from that improvidence, or the high rents, are seldom able to realize personal property. When a farmer, who has a few acres of land, (I mention this as an instance,) has his children to portion out in the world, and they are about to be married, he has nothing to give them but land. The farm is subdivided, the portions which each member of that family gets are in the next generation liable to be again subdivided; and thus subdivision of land and the multiplication of the species go on pari passu. The increase of population, in a country where land forms the only means of subsistence, has produced in Ireland the effect of creating, in my judgment, a perfectly erroneous criterion of the value of land.”—Minutes of Evidence, Lords' Committee, 1824, p. 8.
My opinion was and is, that in Limerick, and the adjacent parts of the counties of Cork and Kerry, the spirit of insurrection which has broken out, proceeded from local causes, and the condition of the lower orders of the people.
“ Have the goodness to state to the Committee generally, in what way you think the condition of the lower orders operated to produce this apprehension on your general view of the state of the country, your general view of the case ?—The population of the parts of the country, where insurrections were most prevalent, is extremely dense. The property is greatly subdivided, and the condition of the lower orders of the people is more miserable than I can describe it. The great increase of people, with other causes, which I shall advert to more particularly, had raised the rents of lands in that part to a degree that was perfectly exorbitant. Land in that county, which is totally destitute of manufactures, appears to me to have become (if I may use the expression) a necessary of life. The common mode of livelihood speculated upon in that country is the taking of land; of course, in proportion as the population multiplied, the demand for land increased; and that, combined with the extravagant prices of all species of agricultural produce, had raised land to a price beyond anything which we can call its intrinsic value. The subdivision of land