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MONTHLY REVIEW FOR MARCH.
XII. 1. Third Series of the Munster Festivals. The Rivals.
Tracey's Ambition. By the author of the “ Collegians.”
5. The Lost Heir, and the Prediction. -
Art. 1.- Poor Laws in Ireland, considered in their probable effects
upon the Capital, the Property, and the Progressive Improvement of that Country. By Sir John Walsh, Bart. 8vo. pp. 124. London:
1. Ridgway. 1830. In this pamphlet Sir John Walsh has summed up all that may rationally be opposed to a scheme for the introduction of Poor Laws into Ireland. He is resolute in his hostility to such a project. His opinions are, however, entitled to respect, as the patient deductions of a judicial enquirer,-not to be distrusted as the accidental or interested prejudices of an advocate. The argument is conducted with ability and clearness; the writer has competent information ; and, upon the whole, we consider this brief work as a most exemplary specimen of that sort of tranquil and candid discussion, which, with the greatest expedition and certainty, elicits the true merits of any debateable question.
Those who are prepared to resist any proposal for extending Poor Laws to Ireland, possess an almost exhaustless magazine of defense, in the history of the operation of these laws in England. This writer is, naturally, but little disposed to disguise the calamities which they have produced, and he bestows great pains and some rhetoric on the description of those evils. Nevertheless, he is borne out, to a great extent, by the reality; and nobody, we believe, who has had the opportunity of witnessing the working of the Poor Laws throughout their details, as they are administered in this country, can object to the truth of the following picture. Speaking of the effects of these laws on the agricultural and other mere labourers, Sir John Walsh thus describes them :
• That they have not diminished, but added to, the sum of poverty and misery; that they drag, continually, fresh portions of the community into their vortex, that they have kept down the wages of labour, and acted as a prenijum upon improvidence, are facts, which are sufficiently notorious. They have exercised a deteriorating influence upon the moral character of the peasantry, they have prevented the improvement of property, and the
NO, LV, VOL. XIII.
increase of wealth, which would otherwise, in its natural circulation, have substantially ameliorated the condition of the poor. They have called into existence, and they are still creating, a redundant population, for whose labour there is no adequate demand, and who will always, by their increase, prevent the amount of human misery, occasioned by poverty, from being diminished by the direct relief ihis compulsory provision affords but on the contrary will add to it. They weigh, with a heavy and unequal pressure, upon the landed interest. · They form one great item of the peculiar burthens upon the English agriculturists, from which our neighbours upon the continent are free, and are therefore a principal cause of the necessity which exists for protecting the former against the unrestrained competition of the latter in our markets. How one false step draws on another. The duties on foreign corn are a monopoly, as far as they go, to indemnify the land owner in part for the unequal and impolitic charges with which he has been saddled. Thus, in addition to all their other mischievous effects, the Poor-Laws re-act upon the whole community, by keeping up the price of bread, and consequently, the cost of production.'—pp. 31, 32.
The writer proceeds to shew, that in a state of society deprived of the many advantages which that in England peculiarly enjoys, the operation of the Poor Laws would be still more calamitous. He believes that the increase of poor's rates, rapid as it has been, has received no inconsiderable check from a certain degree of moral superiority in the very lowest orders in this country, (for which they are indebted to the influence and example of their superiors,) and a taste diffused amongst them for the comforts, and even luxuries, of civilised life. The people, here, are encouraged to be ambitious, and are taught, by the policy of our institutions, that the rewards of industry and ingenuity are boundless. The tendency, therefore, of the Poor Laws to bring the population, as it were, under their jurisdiction, thus meets with a strong antagonist principle. Again, there is a very large class—the artizans of England-which may be said to be almost wholly withdrawn from the influence of the Poor Laws, so that the conclusion is perfectly warrantable, that no part of the world is furnished with so many resources against the progress of a demoralising principle as that in which we have the happiness to live. At all events, if there be a country which can boast an equality with us in this respect, that country is not Ireland. Sir John Walsh takes upon him a superfluous task in demonstrating this truth. But he goes farther, and endeavours to shew, not only that Ireland is deficient in those means, by which the growth of the evils resulting from Poor Laws, may be checked ; but that there are, in the moral and political condition of that country, the elements of assured and constant nourishment for those ills. In a comparison which he institutes between the two countries, Sir John seems to consider the great difference to lie in the influence of the middle orders in England, and the want of that link in the social chain in Ireland. The next important peculiarity of England, which Ireland certainly