Arthur Young

Young, Arthur, a distinguished agriculturist, was born at Bradfield, Yorkshire, 7th September 1741. He wrote accounts of several tours of observation in different parts of Europe, and is regarded as one of the highest authorities upon the social and agricultural condition of Ireland in the latter half of the 18th century. Between the years 1776 and 1779 he travelled in a chaise 2,300 miles through the country, and from 1777 to 1779 managed the estates of Viscount Kingsborough in the County of Cork. He held the clearest and soundest opinions upon political science. His Tour in Ireland, with General Observations on the present state of that Kingdom, made in the Years 1776,1777, and 1778, and brought down to the end of 1779, was first published, in one volume, in 1780. It is more generally to be met with in two volumes. The first is occupied with his tour through Ireland in the autumn of 1776. A few pages of the second volume are devoted to tours in 1777 and 1778, the remainder being devoted to "Observations on the preceding intelligence." There are several interesting plates of scenery, and one giving a shocking picture of "an Irish cabbin." He accurately describes the system of farming in different parts of the country, and specifies the rents and wages; states the condition of roads and public works, and makes judicious comments upon all matters within the scope of his observation. He was not indifferent to natural scenery, and was specially delighted with Lough Erne and Killarney.

Two countries could hardly be more unlike than the Ireland he describes and that of to-day. He is indignant at the oppression to which the mass of the people were subjected:— "The abominable distinctions of religion, united with the oppressive conduct of the little country gentlemen, or rather vermin of the kingdom, who never were out of it, altogether bear still very heavy on the poor people, and subject them to situations more mortifying than we ever behold in England. The landlord of an Irish estate inhabited by Roman Catholics is a sort of despot who yields obedience in whatever concerns the poor to no law but that of his will... Speaking a language that is despised, professing a religion that is abhorred, and being disarmed, the poor find themselves in many cases slaves even in the bosom of written liberty... A landlord in Ireland can scarcely invent an order which a servant, labourer, or cottar dares to refuse to execute. Nothing satisfies him but an unlimited submission: disrespect or anything tending towards sauciness he may punish with his cane or his horsewhip with the most perfect security; a poor man would have his bones broke if he offered to lift up his hand in his own defence. Knocking down is spoken of in the country in a manner that makes an Englishman stare. It must strike the most careless traveller to see whole strings of cars whipt into a ditch by a gentleman's footman to make way for his carriage; if they are overturned or broken in pieces, it is taken in patience; were they to complain, they would perhaps be horsewhipped. The execution of the laws lies very much in the hands of justices of the peace, many of whom are drawn from the most illiberal class in the kingdom... A poor man having a contest with a gentleman must — but I am talking nonsense; they know their situation too well to think of it; they can have no defence but by means of protection from one gentleman against another, who probably protects his vassal as he would the sheep he intends to eat."

Young's personal experiences are often interesting. The miseries of a two days' voyage from Passage to Milford are descanted on, and the delay of twenty-four days before sailing upon another occasion.— "The expenses of this passage are higher than those from Dublin to Holyhead" — he paid £15 5s. for himself, two servants, three horses, and a chaise. The most important part of the work is that in which he reviews the general condition of Ireland — the destruction of her trade by Great Britain, the iniquity of the penal laws, the necessity of a fixed composition for tithe, the impolicy of the bounty on inland carriage, and his belief in the desirability of a union with Great Britain. McCulloch says: "The works of Arthur Young did incomparably more than those of any other individual to introduce a taste for agriculture and to diffuse a knowledge of the art in this and other countries. They are written in an animated, forcible, pure English style, and are at once highly entertaining and instructive... Though sometimes rash and prejudiced, his statements and inferences may in general be depended upon. His activity, perseverance, and devotedness to agriculture were unequalled... His Tours, especially those in Ireland and in France, which are both excellent, are his most valuable publications." Arthur Young died 12th April 1820, aged 78, and was buried at Bradfield, of which parish his father had been rector.


16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

350. Young, Arthur: Tours in Ireland. 2 vols. London, 1780.