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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54

Have Your Irish Landlords Done This?

Have Your Irish Landlords Done This?

I regret if these examples have increased the disposition of my friend who disagrees with me to shake his head as to what I say. We labor under the disadvantage that both of us have learned the same history; but we have read it on different pages. He has read his in the margin, and taken Government notes in lieu of the real facts. It is true that in the Land Bill of Mr. Gladstone itself you will find clauses—42 to 46—which provide a means by which the peasant may become the proprietor of the land. Mr. Gladstone therefore thought there was a need for the peasant becoming a proprietor of the land, or he would not have made such legislation. The only thing Mr. page 39 Gladstone did not provide was the means of compelling the landlord to sell out. The landlord may reside in Paris, never see his land, and if he will not sell it then it may go out of cultivation, as land has done in Ireland in the last twenty years.

There is less corn grown in Ireland now than twenty years ago, less rye, less barley, and yet there is no more fruitful soil in all the British Islands than in Ireland. Why is it? Because the Irish land has only been the sponge from which the aristocracy have sucked the life-blood, giving nothing back for it in return. (Here a vigorous shaking of the head of a gentleman in the body of the hall was observed by the speaker). Our friend again disagrees with me, and I say the responsibility of expressing his disagreement is a grave responsibility, that rests upon him, and I challenge him to come on the platform and say in one word if I have made a mistake.

I urge that the British system should recognise the right of the tiller of the soil to some part in the crop he produces. I urge that the law of Baron Stein, which gave the man the hope that if he was industrious, if he was energetic, if he was economical, he should have for himself some of the land he tilled—I say that this is no wild idea. I say that if you want to give a people an interest for life in the land, let them feel that that which they tread on is theirs. Do not let them feel that that which they dig never can be theirs. To you, with your mighty acres stretched around, to you of America, it may seem nothing; but there are men here before me whose memories I would carry back to a little spot, perhaps in Clare, perhaps in Tipperary, perhaps in Cork, perhaps in the North, perhaps in the South, a little spot with which your fathers were identified, and from which they have been driven away, and it has been their crowning ambition and hope that they should get back to win for themselves. I say a land bill might do this, and a real land bill would have done it, and nothing short of a real land bill will meet any of the difficulties here.