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the country with Protestant Saxons in the room of Catholic Celts.

Before we continue the story, it may be well to sum up a few of the more immediate and obvious results of an event which has thus been regarded on the one side as a great crime, and on the other as a terrible remedy for a desperate disease. In 1841 the population had been 8,175,124; in 1851 it was reduced to 6,552,385. The census commissioners calculated that if the ordinary rate of increase had been maintained, the population in 1851 would have been 9,018,799, or about two and a half millions more than it was in fact. In Leinster the population diminished 15.25 per cent.; in Ulster, 15.70; in Munster, 22.47; and in Connaught, 28.81. For every square mile in Ireland there were 49 fewer persons in 1851 than in 1841. In county Mayo the number per square mile of arable land fell from 475 to 225; in Kerry, from 416 to 216; in Monaghan, from 428 to 288. In 1841 there were 1,328,839 houses in Ireland, and in 1851 only 1,046,223, and the decrease took place only in the lowest of the four classes into which houses are divided in Irish statistics. There were 355,689 fewer mud cabins with a single room than in 1841; in Ulster, the decrease was 81 per cent. ; in Connaught, 74; in Munster, 69; and in Leinster, 62. In 1841 there were 697,549 holdings under 15 acres, and in 1851 only 307,665; on the other hand, the number of holdings over 15 acres increased from 127,967 to 290,401. The landlords and the poor law, as well as disease and starvation, were clearing the rural districts. In the years 1847, 1848, and 1849, the number of ejectment processes in the superior courts and the assistant-barristers' courts was 32,531, the plaintiffs obtaining judgment in 25,739 cases. The constabulary returns of evictions begin in 1849; and we find that, in the four years 1849–1852, 58,423 families were evicted, or 306,120 men, women, and children. The poor law, while it increased the burdens of landowners, provided also an effective means of clearing their estates. The “quarteracre clause" left the peasants no choice. So great was their necessity that its effect was to make them abandon

1849]
AFTER THE FAMINE

425 their holdings, and not to lessen the amount of pauperism. If the Act of 1847 had been purposely framed for the weeding out of the Irish cottiers, it could not have been more effectual. The actual diminution, as distinct from the shifting, of the population was mainly due to death and emigration. From 1846 to 1851 nearly a million persons died, and more than a million emigrated. With the favourable season of 1850 the death-rate declined, but emigration continued steadily to drain the country. So far from requiring to be driven to it, the people grew more and more eager to depart. This feeling “pervades every class," wrote Sir G. Nicholls in 1853, “and is strongest with the best educated and most intelligent. I found this to be the case with the boys in the workhouse schools. The sharp, active, intelligent lads were all eager to emigrate. It was only the more dull, feeble, and inert who appeared content to remain at home.” 1 In 1852 the emigrants numbered 220,000; and in 1853, 192,000. From 1852 to 1861, the number was 1,123,000. About 40 per cent. of these were between twenty and thirty years of age, and about 75 per cent. were between ten and forty years.

Hardly less striking than the magnitude of the emigration was the fact that, after the first years of panic, it was accomplished mainly by the people themselves and by their friends. Between 1848 and 1864 the Irish in America sent home, either in the form of prepaid passages or of money, more than £13,000,000 to enable those who remained to rejoin them. That this great sum should have been saved for such a purpose is a marvellous testimony to the strength of the family tie among the Irish people, but it proves also how hopeless, in the opinion of the earlier emigrants, the situation had become.

If Ireland had been afflicted by nothing else than the overcrowding of the rural districts, disease, eviction, and emigration would have gradually worked an effectual cure.

1 Letter quoted in his “ Irish Poor Laws,” p. 401.

2 The figures for each year, from a return of the Government Emigration Board, are given in Lord Dufferin's “ Irish Emigration and Land Tenure,” p. 36. There were also considerable contributions from Australia.

We shall find, however, that the relief was to prove only partial and temporary. The poison of other evils remained. The previous story has made clear that in a great measure those were right who attributed the distressful condition of the country to English misgovernment. “Bad legislation, careless legislation, criminal legislation, has been the cause of all the disasters we are now deploring;" so said Mr. Horsman in 1849, and the substantial truth of the charge was not disputed by any English statesman out of office. Not less certainly could the misgovernment be traced to the dominating influence of the Protestant and landlord minority, for whose benefit an English Church was maintained by the State, in whose interest an English land system was artificially propped up, whose voice alone was heard in the administration of the law, and whose persistent opposition made nearly every reform impossible. Notwithstanding recent changes, that minority still practically held political supremacy in Ireland, and they gave no sign that their temper had altered, or that they clung less tenaciously than of old to their position of privilege. Thus the thinning of the cottier population did not touch many of the roots of Irish disaffection. What it did was to bring the country into a situation eminently favourable for a reversal of the old and discredited policy. On the one hand, the great diminution of the population averted many of the dangers which must attend a sudden interference with even the worst social arrangements; while, on the other hand, the ordinary excuse of English apathy and prejudice could not be pleaded as a reason for postponing the work of reform. Popular feeling had been roused in England by the action of Irish landlords. English newspapers denounced them in language of extraordinary vehemence, and with scarcely any reserve qualification declared them responsible for the miserable condition of the peasantry. Seldom have any class of men been visited with public condemnation so general and unsparing. The blame, indeed, was not theirs alone. Even their persistent neglect of the duties of property could not

1 Hansard, July 23, 1849.

or

1849]

A LOST OPPORTUNITY

427

have brought the country to such a pass but for the countenance of English Governments and the indifference of the English people. Nevertheless, whether the blame was fairly apportioned or not, the prevailing indignation gave an opportunity which a great statesman would have been quick to seize.

The opportunity passed away almost unused. Except the Encumbered Estates Act of 1848 and 1849, no serious effort was made during Lord John Russell's administration to deal with the condition of Ireland. Several feeble attempts to settle the question of tenants' improvements came to nothing. In 1848, Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bill for extending the Ulster custom was rejected; as already stated, a Bill introduced by Sir William Somerville, and containing the same provisions as Lord Lincoln's Bill of 1846, was referred to a select committee and no more heard of. In 1849 nothing was done. In 1850, Sir William Somerville's and Mr. Crawford's Bills again appeared, and were again dismissed. There the question remained until Irish agitation compelled a Tory Government to take it up with some show of resolution.

The Encumbered Estates Act, finally passed on July 28, 1849, was certainly a measure of real importance, and it exercised a profound influence on Irish land-holding. The impoverished state of many Irish landlords had long been notorious. With their estates mortgaged up to the hilt, and weighted by settlement charges, they were bad landlords because they could not afford to be good landlords. Lack of means prevented them from effecting im

1 In 1851 the position of the tenants was rendered more insecure than ever by an important change made in an Act to regulate the procedure in the Irish county courts. Up to that year the remedy of ejectment for rent in arrear was not applicable to tenancies from year to year not created by written agreement. It was necessary for the landlord to determine these tenancies by notice to quit, and the delay which this involved was a very great protection 10 the tenants. By the Civil Bill (Ireland) Act, 1851, sect. 73, this protection was taken away from yearly tenants whose rent was under £50; they were placed in the same position as tenants under a written agreement (see hey' "Irish Land Laws,” p. 41). In 1851 there were 608,066 holdings in Ireland, and probably not more than 30,000 of these were over £50.

provements, and the conduct of such of them as behaved with indulgence and liberality to their tenants in times of distress must be considered as unusually meritorious. Neither they nor their creditors could end the difficulty by a sale, so long as the various encumbrances and other interests had to be dealt with before the estates could be transferred. Mortgagees might get a decree for sale in the Court of Chancery, but the tedious and costly process of working it out often made the decree worse than useless. A great part of Irish land was thus practically unsaleable. The Devon Commission had strongly recommended the adoption of some means of facilitating the sale of such estates, and after their report the famine and the repeal of the corn laws had enforced their argument by plunging the landlords deeper than ever into insolvency. Parliament passed the Encumbered Estates Act simply as a measure of desperate necessity. Shortly stated, its object was to enable the court, on the petition of a creditor or of the landlord himself, to sell the encumbered estate and to give an indefeasible title to the purchaser; so that persons who before had a claim on the estate should now have a claim only on the purchase-money. This was very strong legislation to come from a Parliament the majority of whose members regarded Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bill to legalise the Ulster custom as a proposal of confiscation. With good reason could Mr. Butt point to the Encumbered Estates Act as a striking instance of interference with the rights of property. “In many of its provisions," he said, in his vigorous language, “that Act entirely disregarded vested rights. It set aside the most solemn contracts. It compelled creditors to submit to a sale, who had an express contract that no one should ever disturb them in their claim on the land except by paying off that claim. It forced properties to a general auction, to be sold for what

1 The Act was temporary, but four later Acts continued the Encumbered Estates Court till 1858, when the whole system was revised. In that year the Landed Estates Court was established, with jurisdiction to carry out sales and give an indefeasible title in respect of any kind of interest in land, whether encumbered or not.

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