experience of twenty years, uuring which, in association with Irishmen of all creeds, classes, and pulitics, I have been engaged in an attempt to create a new rural social economy in Ireland through a carefully thought out combination of State assistance and organised self-help.

To the friends of this new Irish movement it is plain that Mr. Birrell and his advisers have missed a truth too commonly disregarded in recent land legislation, perhaps because of the methods usually employed to convince Parliament of the urgent need for agrarian reform. That truth is that the solution of the Irish land question depends ultimately upon the use made of the land. The best system of tenure is that which affords the amplest opportunity and the strongest inducement, to those who work upon the land, to put forth their best energies in the development of its resources. The honest and fearless application of this truth to the existing conditions in Ireland is neither easy nor popular; yet there can be no escape from the consequences of its neglect. The chief adverse factor in the problem is generally ignored. While the country must be saved by agriculture, its people are not agriculturally inclined. Abroad, our people keep off the land altogether; at home they strongly prefer a pastoral to an agricultural existence. The western peasantry, when working for wages in England and Scotland, or engaged in a struggle for bare life in almost impossible physical surroundings, develop surprising industry and resourcefulness. But it is not easy to make farmers of them under favouring conditions. The success of the land purchase policy absolutely demands that on the small holdings, on which the vast majority of the peasantry will be established, a more or less advanced system of mixed farming shall be substituted for the prevalent system of grazing. This is what I mean by the right use of the land, the encouragement of which is the chief test I apply to land legislation.

Whatever may now be accepted as the theoretical defects of Mr. Gladstone's famous three F.'s—fair rent, fixity of tenure, and free sale -it is very pertinent to note the precise point at which the system broke down in practice. The tenant, having no confidence that the rent fixed by the independent tribunal was fair in the vital matter of giving to him and not to the landlord the full benefit of his improvements, did not improve. He was, it is true, enabled and induced to do two things, both good as far as they went. He raised his deplorably low standard of comfort, and he began to accumulate savings in the banks. But he did not make that addition to his working capital, nor, what was still more essential, those improvements in the technical and business methods of his industry, which were confidently anticipated from the brighter outlook and opportunity which he owed to the Gladstonian legislation.'

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| Dr. Moritz J. Bonn, the shrewdest foreign critic of modern Irish movements, states that under this legislation Irish tenants ' had conditions assured to them more favourable than any other tenantry enjoy.' Modern Ireland and her Problem,.p. 162.


The question which has now to be answered is whether the necessary steps are being taken to make single ownership succeed where State-regulated dual ownership failed ? The gravity and urgency of this question can hardly be overstated. It is agreed on all sides that land purchase must go on. Although the progress of this vast undertaking is temporarily arrested by financial difficulties, which the Bill seeks to remove, there can be no turning back. In a not remote future, some two hundred millions sterling of Imperial funds will have been invested in the latest final settlement of the Irish Land question. Is that investment secure ?

My belief is that the investment is secure, and the moderate prosperity of the Irish peasantry assured, if, and only if, the peasants are induced to put more capital, more skilled work, and better business methods into the industry of farming. I do not believe that the 'magic of property' alone is sufficient inducement. I do not see in Mr. Birrell's Bill, or in his speeches in support of it, any evidence that he and his advisers have faced this, the centre of the problem. What is wanted to deal with this question is a statesmanship which can look beyond the exigencies of a Parliamentary situation dominated by passions aroused by the issues to be determined, and unrestrained by that general familiarity with the facts which guides the House of Commons in dealing with English affairs. The statesman who is to solve the Irish Land question must recognise that the most skilful handling of the financial complications, the most complete satisfaction of the two interests immediately concerned, will be no solution of the real problem ; that whether we are to be blessed with a settlement or cursed by the continuance of agrarian strife depends upon the economic soundness and the moral influence of the agrarian revolution, to which history has given the impulse and Parliament is giving the direction.

I have attributed above what I conceive to be the error, into which Mr. Birrell and his advisers have fallen, to their acceptance of the findings of the majority of the Royal Commission on Congestion. It therefore becomes necessary, in submitting arguments upon the problem with which that body has to deal to those who are not familiar with the conditions, to give at least a general idea of what the Irish Congested Districts are.

Ireland, as compared with other countries in Europe, contains a very fair proportion of good fertile land, but its bad lands are, to a considerable extent, massed together in the western half of the island, mainly in the province of Connaught, under a rainy sky, and out of the track of trade. The good bits of grass land scattered through those districts are mostly in the hands of non-resident graziers; the mountains are partly preserved by landlords for shooting ; but the greater part of the plains and much of the mountains, land for the most part either barren and rocky or poaty and water-logged, is occupied by

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small farmers (or crofters as the similar class is called in Scotland) whose holdings are in a large proportion of cases not sufficient to keep them in comfort or decency. The term 'Congested Districts' suggests density of population, and in particular places this exists ; but over most of these regions the people are not numerous in proportion to the space they occupy ; they are, however, numerous in proportion to the amount of sustenance which by their present methods they can extract from the land. Their living, therefore, is very poor and precarious ; a bad failure of the potato crop does still, in this part of the United Kingdom, produce what may without exaggeration be termed a famine.

These people support themselves almost exclusively by cultivating insufficient plots of infertile land with inadequate capital and by antiquated methods. The seas round the western coasts of Ireland abound with fish, and before the great famine of 1847 (not to speak of earlier days) there was in the west of Ireland a large and prosperous fishing industry, though it was even then on the decline. But that fearful calamity seems to have destroyed or driven away all those who possessed the knowledge and the means to pursue the industry on a large scale, and in 1890 there was, north of the Shannon, no fishing except for local consumption, carried on from curraghs or other small boats. Again, there were no manufactures for sale, though the people wove home-spun cloth for their own wearing. The main source of money revenue in

many households was—and in many still is-temporary seasonal work in England and Scotland. The Irish migratory labourers are a necessary part of the economy

the economy of many farms in Great Britain ; but the fact that they are in their own country farmers or farmers' sons—for there are very few labourers properly so called in Connaught—and that they find it profitable to divert their labour from their own holdings at the critical seasons of the year, shows that those holdings must be insufficient to employ them profitably. In fact the English or Lowland Scottish reader ought to dismiss from his mind the ideas called up by the word farm, when he is considering the plots of land held by the typical inhabitants of the Congested Districts. The average valuation of the holdings in these districts is 6l., and of the 84,954 holdings which they contain, 74,413 are under 101. valuation. Of these, 45,138 are under 41.2

If we ask what the effect of these adverse conditions has been on the minds and characters of the people exposed to them, it is not easy to give a clear or comprehensive answer. Perhaps for that reason, this aspect of the subject has usually received less attention from inquirers than the more measurable physical and economic facts. But as I believe the two most important questions for consideration, when remedial measures are proposed, to be first what is the character of the people to be dealt with, and next what effect the proposed measures will have on that character, I must endeavour, however imperfectly, to indicate what sort of men these western peasants are.

2 Final Report of the Royal Commission on Congestion, Cd, 4097 of 1908, § 9.

I think it may fairly be claimed for them that their virtues are their own, and their vices those of their circumstances. They are kindly, devout, intelligent, fatalistic, suspicious, and ignorant. By ignorance I do not mean illiteracy, which has been much reduced in the last generation, though naturally it is still much higher than in other parts of Ireland ; but I mean that they have not been taught, and do not understand, the best ways to carry on their business. Thus, for example, many of them do not see, and it is hard to persuade them, that it is better business to pay 28. or 2s. 6d. for the service of a well-bred bull (subsidised by the Congested Districts Board) than to get the service of an ill-bred bull for 6d. or for nothing. Again, when spraying-machines, by which the potato-crop, their staple food, is preserved from blight, are supplied to them at less than cost price, they have in many cases allowed the machines to become useless for want of some small repair which could be easily and cheaply made. Worst of all, their relations with the shopkeeper show a total inability to understand what they pay for the luxury of long credit in business transacted with the minimum of cash payment. This sort of shiftlessness is of course not universal in the congested districts, but it is very widespread, and it shows what care is needed in the application of Government aid.

Unfortunately, before 1891, such Government assistance as they received was of the most demoralising kind. It was temporary relief, given on the basis of necessity during the periodic famines. The experience of these remote rural districts of the west of Ireland amply bears out the conclusion to which the Royal Commission on the Poor Law have been led by examining evidence from English towns, that temporary relief works are almost always demoralising, but that in the absence of previous organisation no other resource exists in a period of distress. In the west of Ireland before 1891 the effect produced by the periodic measures of temporary relief, to which the Government had recourse, is aptly indicated by the anecdote, true or false, of the old peasant woman who remarked to a sympathising stranger 'We'd be starving but for the famine.'

This sketch will give a general idea of the social and economie conditions of the Congested Districts as they existed in 1891 when Parliament first recognised the evils of 'Congestion ' as a problem clamant for solution. In the years which have passed, owing to the work of the Congested Districts Board then established by Mr. Arthur Balfour and other agencies, these conditions have improved ; but improvement, which would not cease if the special measures for pro

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moting it were discontinued, is not general. The evil of congestion has not been remedied, but its area has been narrowed.

Mr. Balfour's object in 1891 was to provide, if possible, a means of assisting this population to make a permanent improvement in its condition, and thereby to supersede the necessity for special, temporary, and pauperising measures of relief. His method was to delimit the area to be dealt with ; to establish a special and temporary authority over that area ; and to give that authority wide powers, and an income, small in comparison with the size of the whole problem, but adequate for experiments on a large scale.

The area was delimited by means of an arithmetical test of poverty. Where the valuation, divided by the population, gave a quotient of less than 308. per head, that district was considered sufficiently poor to form part of the official congested districts, provided that not only isolated patches but a certain proportion of the whole county fulfilled the condition. The area of the official congested districts thus defined is 3,626,381 acres, or rather more than one-sixth of the total area of Ireland; the population in 1901 was 505,723, rather more than one-ninth of the total population of Ireland; the valuation 577,0431., about one-twenty-seventh of the total valuation of Ireland. One unfortunate result of this method of delimitation was that it produced a territory not lying in one mass inside one boundary, but scattered in separate districts intermingled with districts not officially 'congested.' This led to difficulty in various ways.

The authority which Mr. Balfour set up was a nominated board of unpaid members, constituted as these boards usually are-partly of officials and partly of independent persons, numbering eight in all.

The principal official member was the Chief Secretary himself. Thus 5 the Board was kept in close touch with the policy of the Government, to and successive Chief Secretaries were in a position to obtain an intimate

personal knowledge of one of the most instructive and difficult parts

of the Irish problem. The unofficial members were persons who had 5 lived among the people, or who had evinced an interest in the study

1 and improvement of their condition. The best-known among the The members resident in the congested districts are the Most Rev. Dr.

O'Donnell, Roman Catholic Bishop of Raphoe, and the Rev. Denis O'Hara, parish priest of Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo, who are still on the Board. Their services have been most valuable, both on account of their exhaustive local knowledge and also through the great influence

which they were able to exert over the people. Of the other members, is the only one I need mention specially is the late James Hack Tuke, 1 whose benevolent interest in Irish poverty was continued from the

years of the great famine down to his death at the end of the last en century. The annual income with which this Board was first endowed was

Royal Commission on Congestion, $ 8


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