[From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4, July 21, 1832]
It is lamentable to see how our fine fertile soil is abused by the manner in which it is at present allotted. Let no one say that the evil is owing to the natural indolence of the Irish character. It is no such thing. It arises from men undertaking with inadequate capital, to till a farm of, say two hundred acres, when twenty would be large enough for their resources. The pedlar in small wares might as well take the pack off his back, hire a shop in Grafton street, and after displaying his whole stock in the window, look for success, as for a man to expect that with little money, inadequate imple-ments, poor stock, and wretched manure, he can successfully cultivate an extensive holding. For instance, our friend Terence Nulty, with a cast off-horse, an old cow, a few ewes, and a pig, and but little of the ready in his pocket, has taken a farm of about fifty acres of tillage land-and what will be the result? Why, he will struggle on for a time, his farm will look like the sluggard's garden, and at last he will break down, become a beggared man, and add to the list of the country's miseries. In a word, we desire to see agriculture treated in a commercial way; we desire to see land adapted to capital, the larger capitalist spiritedly and scientifically cultivating his two hundred acres; the smaller capitalist attending to his smaller farm-and thus the one giving regular employment to numerous well paid labourers, and the other keeping his own family and perhaps a labourer or two, at constant, permanent, and productive work. One of the great evils of our isle is the ambition which almost every one is beset with, to become master of a portion of the soil, leading many to strive in vain, like the frogs in the fable, to attain an impossibility. In a little book published by a friend to the poor of Ireland," last year, the author says, "I think I can show that an improved system of agriculture, such as practised by our neighbours in Scotland, would remove pauperism, would give ample employment to all the people, would do away the necessity of emigration, and evince that we, even we, have not a sufficient number of hands to work the new system." This position we hold to be good, and the author proves it, by a table, in which he exhibits the mode in which a district in the county of Kildare, consisting of 11,000 acres, is at present managed, and by the way it is one of the best cultivated districts in Ireland, whereby 734 families are maintained, and that in a comparatively wretched and uncomfortable manner; and then he says, "Now, suppose this district divided into farms of not less than 100 acres each, similar to most of the improved districts in England and Scotland, such as would afford respectable maintenance to a farmer and his family, and give him scope to employ cottagers the year round at remunerative wages; and suppose he could work his farm as his neighbours on the other side of the channel do, he must employ at least ten men (some count twelve) to every Irish acre, or six to every English, throughout the year, together with women weeding, &c. &c. and extra men in spring and harvest. This, we will say, will give ample support to ten families. A man constantly employed at fair wages can maintain a family of five or six. This would give employment to 11,000 families. Add thereto, 110 farmer's families, which could be supplied on their own farms, and thus 1210 families could be supported in comfort and independence, peace and plenty, where now only 734 families exist, and this simply by a change of system-by doing well what is now done ill."
But we would say, that besides allocating land to the amount of 100 acres or upwards to farmers, patriot landlords should also encourage the small capitalist, and if labouring families, were possessed of little portions of land, say from one to three acres, or even five, on which their surplus labour could be expended; and that if these families possessed a cow, a pig, poultry, &c. &c. and if their little holdings were submitted to a regular rotation of crops, under the inspection of some experienced overseer, their cattle always housed, their manure completely collected and husbanded, their cottages well kept, their children carefully educated-what a change would take place in Ireland! In the Netherlands and Switzerland, by the careful, steady, vigorous cultivation of cottage farms, consisting of two or three acres of land; and in Holland by poor colonies, the most sterile tracts of soil, and barren and sandy countries, have been successfully cultivated, and the cottager, instead of being a pauper, is a comfortable being, living, when compared with the Irish cottager; in a state of independence.
In our next article we will enter into details respecting the Poor Colonies of Holland.