February 10, 1846
Every day the Irish question is becoming more oppressive. Stale it has been for a long time. But it is not the oppressiveness which is born of triteness -- it is not the wearisomeness of a "tale ten times told," at which we repine. This majority of all human subjects must soon become too trite for the fastidiousness which repels everything but what is fresh, exciting and unaccountable. It is the condition of our being that we should perpetually retrace an infinite circle of similar events. Temptation, sin and suffering are but the same "stale" objects presented in different colours and viewed in different aspects through each revolution of succeeding ages. Poverty is stale. Misfortune is stale. Death is stale. Yet from things so old and so familiar as these is the creativeness of imagination expected to furbish up forms and combinations at once natural and new. And of these things -- old as they are -- there is enough in the present picture of Ireland to keep alive the first feelings of alarm, of pity and of fear. It is not the reiterated perusal of "deaths from famine," and new "cases of starvation," that can deaden generous hearts to sympathy with the people, where these and the exertions of the Englishman from one end of the island to the other, preove that the monotony of calamity has not dulled their feelings nor dimmed their perception of its horros. Its very duration is with them a motive power of energy. The hand of charity has become more bountiful as the cause which set that charity in action appears more distant than ever from its cessation. Yet the general question of which is but an element, is become more oppressive than ever. Why is this? Why does the horizon seem to grow blacker and more louring each time of watching?
. . . .We have been united to Ireland for 47 years by the ties of legislative association. During that time Ireland has enjoyed all the privileges that England enjoyed. . . .During these 47 years she has contributed to the public revenue not more than one-sixth of the whole -- from several of the more oppressive taxes she has been entirely absolved -- she has devolved on England a debt contracted before the union, the interest of which equals or nearly equals all that she now remits to the Imperial Treasury; she costs annually half of what she yields in the way of taxation -- yet notwithstandin these facts she claims an alternate tones of supplication and menace that her poor shall be supported by our bounty, her improvidence corrected by our prudence, and her self-sought necessities alleviated by our mortgaged wealth. Her representatives tells us at one moment, as Mr. O'Connell told us on Monday -- that we ought to behave with the charity of a Christian country, irrespectively of national distinctions and prudential reflections, proportioning our bounty and the enormity of an unusual infliction and the numbers of complaining multitudes. At another moment they tell us, as Sir W. Barron and Captain Osbourne told us, in Parliamentary languaged, and as the Irish members of the "Reform" Smoking room yell out in language neither Parliamentary nor civil, that do what we can, we are only doing what we ought; that Ireland expects as a right that we should from the last scruple of "mechanic wages" pay down the cost of Irish imprudence and mitigate the acerbity of Irish wretchedness. In a word, between the evictions of a plausible mendicancy and an extortionate vehemence, nothing is left but to tax English labour for uncounted years to come, and to pay Ireland three times over the value of its fee simple, to gratify the prayers of her gentler, and the demands of her noisier, delegates. Is is worth while doing this?
JOHN BULL is very good natured. He does not like the sight of pining indigence; but he detests shuffling, and bullying a great deal more. He hates to see men shirk the duties of their station and fortune. He would give a helping hand to those who set about their work in a season like this with energy and resolution. He would throw his coin freely into the coffers of some commissariat of charity if he saw that those who were on the spot and native to the place had done their duty and given their share. But to be told that he is to pay for the delinquencies of others -- that they who are the natural guardians of their own poor appeal to him -- that property worth 13,000,000l. a year is to be let off comparatively scot free, between the jugglers of mortgagees, lessees, and creditors: and then, after all, to be abused and reviled for not doing instantly that which he sees no reason not doing instantly that which he sees not good reason for doing so at all is a thing which excited his bile against the impudence of Celtic agitators, but also against their English cohorts; and thus begins to ponder the question: "Of what use is this union to England?" It is a critical symptom when quiet citizens begin to speculate on such matters.
We of course shall be abused, as we have been, for striking this key. This is a mere matter of course and we are prepared for it. Only we beg to assure the Irish landlords most strongly that we are not in league with the merchants of London, to raise a cry for the purpose of the hammer. We have no such mischief in our thoughts. Besides, it would be useless if we had. The London merchants are too shrewd to think of speculating in Irish property. It must be very different in Ireland from what it has been before London merchants would invest their fortunes in it. None but an Irishman would think of reviling us for that which if true would have entitled us to his best thanks. For no man could confer a greater blessing on that unhappy country, than by introducing into a body of proprietors, who at the same time practised the virtues of prudence and good management, and acknowledged the duties of their position.