STATE OF IRELAND. August 11, 1849. Page 94.
(To the Editor of the Illustrated London News
Having recently travelled in Ireland for the purpose of examining the prospects and condition of the Sister Isle, I shall feel obliged to you to insert my views thereon. In the hope they may lead to some measures to alleviate and ultimately cure the dreaded evils in that country.
The fact is undeniable,a nd is admitted by all parties, that the condition of Ireland has undergone, during the last three years, a considerable retrogradation; and every week adds to her misery. Her povety can hardly be conceived by your English readers. In the whole district of the south and west of Ireland, not a corn-stack is to be seen: the people are worse fed and lodged than pigs are in England. I have myself seen the poor families' Sunday dinner consist of boiled nettles only: perhpas this may sometimes have an addition of one pennyworth of Indian meal; bread is never seen by these poor people. The consequence will be, the people will grow weaker both in strength of body and mind, which is now almost prostrate.
The country has the appearance which it might be supposed it would have, if the destroying angle had passedover it, blighting the food, the men, and destroying the dwellings of the people: thousands of houses are seen unroofed; the late inhabitants being either dead or having emigrated, or, what is more likely, taken shelter in the union workhouse: yet your readers will be surprised to hear, that in the face of all this the most fertile land inthe United Kingdom thrown out of cultivation and deserted.
The condition of these people is a disgrace to any civilised country, and I conceive England has a right to step forward and rescue the sufferers, who are fast descending into the lowest depths of misery and desitution. By the recent establishment of the Poor-Law, relief was established to the destitute; but, instead of this law really benefitting the poor, it is, in reality, desolating the land. Any poor-law, if enacted among a poverty-stricken people, who have no surplus food for themselves, only aggravates the evil. Seizures take place every day for poor-rates. The poor farmer, by this process, is unable to live himself; his land is thrown up, and he, too, is plunged into the vortex of poverty -- the poorhouse. It is my opinion this Poor-law must be abolished at all hazards, and a remedy found elsewhere. I would propose that, however unsatisfactory to some partieis, England should shtep in with somenew remedial measure. We are naturally responsibile to some degree, having united Ireland to England.
The poor people of Ireland at present receiving relief of course could not be allowed to starve on the road-side -- they must be maintained: but no other able-bodied man should be admitted to receive relief than those at present receiving it. I would propose that commissioners be appointed, and they be empowered to pay the expenses of all persons wishing to emigrate, as many would be glad to do if they could raise so small a sum as L3. The superintendence of the poor-houses should be taken out of the hands of the present managers, many of whom are utterly incapable of governing these unions.
It may be asked, Where are the funds to come from to maintain the poor people who may still continue a burden in the unions? That fund, during the time it was really required, I propose should be raised by a Land-tax of 2s. per acre, and a fixed duty on corn of 3s. per quarter, which would be more than sufficient. This tax would, I think, be cheerfully paid by all, to rescue so many thousands from starvation, and save Ireland, withher millions of inhabitants, from total ruin and destruction. If it was proclaimed that a Land-tax of 2s. per acre could not be exceeded in Ireland, English capitalists would at once step in and employ the people in cultivating the land. In throwing out these hints, I earnestly call the attention of Parliament to the present Poor-Law, which they will find is working ruin among all classes.
I shall not enter into the many social grievances of the country; they are many, and the people must remedy these things themselves. The great selfishness of landlords -- the pride, the distinction of classes -- the want of disposition to work -- the want of thrift -- the extravagance of some of the higher classes (there is scarcely any middle class) -- all these social evils must be operated upon by public opinion and a long course of teaching.
In conclusion, allow me to remind your English readers, that it is not only their duty, but their interest, to have Ireland a happy and prosperous nation. We find it in private life better to be allied to rich than to poor relations; and as a nation England should see that her sister Ireland be made rich, prosperous and happy. Ireland has all the capabilities of a great nation. She has the most fertile land in the world; she has a fine people, a healthy climate, and possesses within herself capabilities of producing everything that can tend to man's well-being on earth. I hope earnestly that not many months will elapse before the whole subject is inquired into, as a fearful day of reckoning is at hand unless some effectual measure is taken.
The man who could save Ireland is Sir Robert Peel. I believe he will be the man. Let us urge upon him not to delay in giving out his real opinions on the social and political state of Ireland.
AN ENGLISH TOURIST
London, July 31.