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Now, it is a well-known fact that almost every county in Ireland contains some thousands of acres of land, which lie at present waste and unproductive-useless, as well to the proprietors as to the count. ry. According to a competent authority, Sir Richard J. Griffith, better known as Mr. Griffith, Commissioner of Valuation (who for the last half century has occupied a distinguished position in the Civil Service of Ireland), there are altogether 6,290,000 acres of land in Ireland, out of which 1,425,000 acres, it is estimated, might be advantageously reclaimed, so as to produce both cereal and green crops; and 2,330,000 acres more might be drained for meadow, and pasture for sheep ; and doubtless, if owned and occupied hy an industrious class of small farmers, much even of the latter could be made available for cultivation. Let us assume, however, that there are in round numbers 3,500,000 acres of unoccupied waste land, which admit of being rendered productive. Here then we have-in a country where land is the raw material for which competition has actually extended to such a dreadful pitch, that fearful crimes are perpetrated in consequence, and thousands of people, unable to get land, are obliged to seek refuge either in the poorhouse, or on board the emigrant ship -here we have an unoccupied territory, which if reclaimed would be capable of sustaining in comfort a population of more than 1,500,000. It is not then surprising that the Devon Commissioners, in reference to this part of their inquiry, should remark, “when the immense importance of bringing into a productive state 6,000,000 acres, now lying waste, is considered, it cannot but be a subject of regret and of surprise that no greater progress in this undertaking has as yet been made.” Even so it is ; and yet for all that it has been gravely argued that Ireland is over populated, and that nothing can so materially benefit the country as the consolidation of farms and the emigration of the people.
It is a remarkable fact that the question of the reclamation of waste lands had been attentively cousidered in the old parliament of Ireland, at a time and this is peculiarly notable—when the coustry was comparatively thinly populated, and when it might be supposed the same necessity did not exist as in the present day to render this a matter of so much consequence to the legislature ; yet we find that the Irish Parliament had, for inany years, been called upon to entertain this question, and so important was it deemed at that period that several bills were passed on this subject. The first measure of the kind, “ an act to encourage the improvement of barren and waste lans and bogs, and planting of timber, trees, and orchards," was passed in 1731, and from that time down to 1793 there was a constant succession of bills, introduced by members of the Irish House of Commons, having reference to this matter ; some hy eminent statesmen, such as Fortescue, Floou, Grattan, and Hobart. Did the limit of this pamphlet admit, i should here refer more at len th to the details of some of those measures ; however, I must content myself by referring the reader to the Irish statutes themselves. Neither can the fact be altogether disregarded, that under the authority of the British Government, a commission was appointed, so far back as 1809, to report upon the practicability of reclaiming the waste lands of Ireland. Several eminent sceintific men were engaged upon this inquiry, amongst them the present Chairman of the Board of Works
and Commissioner of Valuation. The important results of their labours are to be found in the Bog Commissioners' Reports, a most interesting, and in many respects, valuable work for future reference. However, beyond the mere reporting to parliament, it does not appear, as regards the reclamation of waste lands, that ever anything was done from that day to this--the usual termination of all Royal Commissions relating to Ireland.
It is not necessary, however, that I should here enter into any minute details to show the practicability of cultivating these wastes; for happily theoretic speculation has long since given way to successful practical experience, and I shall quote from the evidence contained in the Land Cominission Reports, before mentioned, to show that even as a mere speculation, with the sole view of increasing a landlord's rental, the reclamation of waste lands has, in almost every in. stance, been attended with peculiar success. “ It is in evidence," said the Commissioners, “ that by an expense of somewhat about £7 per acre, land, in the County Sligo, has been reclaimed and rendered worth a rent of £1 10s. an acre;" and in the County Westmeatb, land that, according to the proprietor, Mr. Fetherston H. was formerly fit for nothing but snipe shooting, has been reclaimed and rendered worth £l an acre, at an expense of £6. In Clare and Galway where the reclaiming and cropping cost from £9 5s. to £10 28., the first year's crop realised from £8 10s. to £11 6s. 8d. per acre. In the Queen's County, where Mr. Stewart Trench carried on extensive operations in reclaiming mountain wastes, in some instances at elevations of 1,000 feet above the level of the sea, land, which in its unreclaimed state was not worth 2s. 6d. per acre, reclaimed was worth £2 per acre; the cost of reclaiming and cropping of which did not amount to inore than £8 per acre, while the value of the first year's produce was £12 10s. per acre, thereby fully clearing all expense of reclamation the first year. Again on the estate of Sir Charles Styles in the County Donegal, where small allotments of unreclaimed land were made to tenants on leases of twenty-one years, with free terms, varying from three to seven years, conditional upon reclaiming an acré each year, building farm-house and offices, and making proper fences, all in accordance with certain prescribed regulations—these tenants were found to have cleared all expenses in three years, and to have made a net profit of £1 12s. 9d. per acre, even under circumstances which, in many respects, would appear unfavourable.
I might add numerous instances of successful reclamation of waste lands in Ireland of late years, but it is needless to accumulate cases, for few persons in the present day will doubt the practicability of such undertakings. One thing, however, must be said, that for the greater part, these reclamations have been carried on by capitalists, or by improving tenants aided by encouraging landlords; but many instances there have been throughout the country, where a labourer of the poorest class, with no other capital to coinmence with than his own labour, for the consideration of getting a patch of land rent free, for a term of three years, would effectually reclaim such land, and then, at the expiration of the term, would undertake a similar contract; from whence it must be inferred, that, even under the most discourazing and least remunerative circumstances that can well be
imagined, some profit can be gained by such an undertaking. No doubt the share of profit coming to the unfortunate labourer, in this case, must be small indeed, and this consideration leads to the con. clusion, that the Irish peasant will undergo the severest toil where any fair prospect of reward is offered. Now the result of these in. quiries prove that we have in Ireland over 3,500,000 acres of waste and unprofitable land, and that the reclamation of this immense waste can be effected at a cost of about £10,000,000, and that this land when reclaimed would be capable of supporting a population of 2,000,000. Here is a large basis for philanthropic patriotism to work upon. If we take the authority of Colonel Robinson, the manager of the Waste Lands' Improvement Society of Ireland, in his evidence before the Land Commission, when he said : “ we find that a man can reclaim one acre himself annually, and when he has several children he can reclaim from one and a half to two acres annually. An industrious tenant, possessed of £20 capital, taking a ten acre mountain farm of reclaimable land, can, with his family, reclaim the whole in seven years.” And another equally reliable authority, Mr. Trench, when asked, before the same Commission, whether he considered that the reclamation of waste lands would pay capitalists, said: “ were each tenant only given a house or hovel to live in for a few years, lime, for two or three acres, some guano or other portable manure to assist in raising a present provision of potatoes, and were care taken at first not to press him with too heavy a rent, I am convinced, in a few years, any industrious man would rapidly become comparatively comfortable in his circumstances, and an estate so managed would amply repay the care and capital bestowed upon it."
The Devon Commission also reported, in reference to the reclamation of waste lands, “ that a great public benent would be attained, in increased employment for labourers, in the progressive extension of productive land, and in the opportunity thereby afforded for the location of industrious families.'
Having thus shewn what could be done in the way of reclamation, Mr. Hayes then proceeds to develop his scheme, and states the cost of reclaiming land in Ireland, and compares that cost with the expen:e of reclamation in Canada. Ile writes :
I have said that the waste lands of a country, of right, belong to the state, but as this principle is not recognised in the case of the waste lands of Ireland, I propose that they should be converted into
I estates for the poor by a simple process, whereby the Poor Law Comunissioners of Ireland will become the agents or purchasers in trust for the benefit of the people, who shall become actual occupiers and owners of the land under certain terms and conditions. At pre. sent under the Act 11 and 12 Vic., cap 25, the Poor Law Commis. sioners, on receipt of a memorial from a majority of a Board of Guardians, are empowered to hire or purchase a quantity of land, not exceeding twenty-five statute acres, for the instruction of child ren in workhouses in an improved system of agriculture, and the inajority of the Unions in Ireland have availed themselves of this privilege, and if permitted, no doubt would gladly extend the appli. cation of the principle. I mention this circumstance merely to show that there is no new principle involved in the purchase of land, for the benefit of the Unions, by the Poor Law Commissioners; but I contend for an extension of this principle, whereby a direct benefit will accrue to the rate-payers of Ireland by the immediate conver. sion of a large class of persons, who are on the point of becoming a burthen upon the Unions, into a class of small farmers and proprietors contributing to the welfare of the country.
Without entering into minute details it may suffice if I indicate the principal outlines of a measure, which I submit would effect the object here proposed, thus:
1. Poor Law Commissioners to be Commissioners under this act.
2. Waste lands to be treated as encumbered property, and to be made saleable by legislative enactinent.
3. Commissioners to be empowered to raise money by way of loans for the purchase of waste lands.
4. The requisition of a majority of any Board or Boards of Guardians shall be sufficient iegal authority to oblige Commissioners to treat for the purchase of waste lands.
5. Boards of Guardians of several Unions may unite together and forin a board or committee of management of the waste lands.
6. Boards of management to appoint surveyors and agriculturists to superintend the construction of roads, bridges, canals, &c.; the laying out of allotments, and the direction and proper disposition of reclaiming operations to be carried on hereafter by settlers.
7. Pauper labour, where practicable, to be applied to the construction of works deemed necessary for facilitating settlements.
8. Allotments to be made in convenient sections as regards com. munication with public roads; and no holding to be of less size than 5 statute acres, nor to exceed 30 statute acres.
9. Applicants for waste land allotments to be first recommended by the representatives of electoral divisions where applicant shall re. side; having obtained which recommendation, applicant sshall tender a formal requisition to be laid before the Board of Management.
10. Qualifications of applicants-to be defined strictly as persons who have followed agricultural pursuiis as a means of living, to be eighteen years of age, and not to be actual paupers receiving Union relief.
11. Applicants for allotments, although they may at the time of making application be in the occupation of land, shall not be actual holders of land elsewhere when entering upon the occupation of waste land allotments.
12. Settlers on waste lands to build a house of a certain class, to reclaim one acre of land yearly, and to reside permanently upon al. lotments, and to be subject for a certain period to the instructions of officers appointed by the Board of Management.
13. Allotments to be sold according to a valuation which shall have been made previous to occupation, and which shall be sufficient to cover alt expenses of original purchase with interest, of prinary operations, and of management, evenly applotted. Payments, in ten yearly instalments, which, when completed, shall entitle settler
to receive a deed of conveyance, executed by the Commissioners, and this deed shall have the force of a complete parliamentary title to his lot.
14. Board of Management to be empowered to aid settlers with building materials and seeds by way of loans.
15. Settlers shall receive contract card, promising deed of conveyance of allotment on conditions and terms therein specified, on the back of which card all payments on account of land and of loans shall be duly marked.
16. Settlers not to subdivide or dispose of allotments while any claim shall be pending, without sanction of Board of Manageinent, under penalty of forfeiture of title.
Such are the imperfect outlines of a measure which, I believe, might effect the proposed object—without involving any infringement upon the rights of individuals— without introducing a principle that is not to be found already in operation either at home or in our colonies—which might, without any inconvenience, be engrafted on the present Poor Law Act; and which, I have no doubt, would have the effect of creating a large class of industrious small farmers enjoying a moderate share of prosperity, of fostering habits of order and self reliance amongst the people, of decreasing criine and pauperism, and, therefore, of adding to the peace, security, and welfare of the country. Of course much consideration should necessarily be given to the details of such a measure, to render it effective ; but, I am fully convinced that never before was there a more opportune time, or a more urgent necessity, calling upon us to attempt some measure of this kind.
It is true that a measure of the nature proposed cannot be realised without encountering the violent landlord opposition, usual in the case of every project for the benefit of the people. This, of course, we must make up our minds to meet as best we may; for it is a lamentable fact, that this powerful class invariably act as if the interests of the people were inimical to their own; ever forgetful of the obvious truth, that no country can prosper where the masses are steeped in poverty and wretchedness. Then, the hostility of others must be anticipated too, because of the novelty of the scheme, and the utter impossibility of perpetrating thereby anything in the shape of a job. But I have little doubt that all such narrow and selfish prejudices, if resolutely encountered, can be easily disarmed or overthrown.
The experience acquired by the last few years only goes to prove the utter failure of emigration as a means of improving this country; for the masses of the people are as wretched now as ever. The young, enterprising, and industrious, the ablebodied and intelligent are leaving us; whilst the old, infirm, poor, and helpless stay behind. Population is still decreasing, small farms are rapidly disappearing, and with them an industrious population. Consolidation follows, sheep and cattle take the place of men, whilst no adequate progress in developing the industrial resources of the country is apparent.
Independent of the consideration of the immense loss of its able and industrious population, it must be taken into account also, that Ireland suffers a tremendous drain of capital by emigration. I estimate that no less a sum than £600,000 is annually abstracted out of this country by this process alone.