Incumbered Estates Act - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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creditors and other parties interested. The result to Ireland is simply this—about one-fifteenth part of the island has changed hands; has gone from one landlord and come to another landlord: the result to the great tenant class is simply nil. The new landlord comes over them armed with the power of life and death, like his predecessor: but he has no local or personal attachment which in some cases used to mitigate the severity of landlord rule;—and he is bound to make interest on his investment. The estates have been broken up, on an average, into one-half their former size: and this has been much dwelt upon as an "amelioration:" but I have yet to learn that small landlords are more mild and merciful than great ones. On the whole, I maintain that the "Incumbered Estates Act" has benefited only the money-lenders of England.

As to "Tenant-Right," the salutary custom which I explained before, and which did once practically secure to the tenantry in some portions of Ulster a permanency of tenure on payment of their rent, our Parliamentary patriots have been agitating for it, begging for it, conferring with Ministers about it, eating public dinners, making speeches and soliciting votes on account of it; but they have never made, and never will make, an approach by one hair's-breadth to its attainment.* It is absolutely essential to the existence of the British Empire, that the Irish peasant class be kept in a condition which will make them entirely manageable—easy to be thinned out when they grow too numerous, and an available matériel for armies. This, I say, is necessary to the British commercial and social governmental system—but I do not say it by way of complaint. Those who are of opinion that British civilization is a blessing and a light to lighten the world, will easily reconcile themselves to the needful condition. Those who deem it the most base and horrible tyranny that has ever scandalized the earth, will probably wish that its indispensable prop—Ireland—were knocked from under it.

In the meantime, neither the Incumbered Estates Act, nor any other Act, made or to be made by an English Parliament, has done or aimed to do anything towards giving the Irish tenant-at-will the smallest interest in the land he tills; but, on the contrary, the whole course of the famine legislation was directed to the one end of shaking small lease-holders loose from the soil, and converting them into tenants-at-will, or into "independent labourers," or able-bodied paupers, or lean corpses. Let it be understood further, ...continue reading »

* Mr Gladstone's Law, pretending to secure something like a Tenant-right, is, in fact, only an example and a confirmation of the judgment given in the text.

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