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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54

The Land Question Unsettled

The Land Question Unsettled.

Now I propose to deal with the land question for a few moments. I do not propose to trouble you with the history of confiscation after confiscation—although this must not be overlooked in dealing with such questions, because these confiscations have left their bane behind them. Men who are grandsons have been told by their grandfathers of land of which they were wrongfully dispossessed, and it is utterly impossible to hope to blot out the feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction arising out of this. In fact, in any other country than Ireland we should think it a loyal feeling; we should call it a patriotic feeling. We have praised—and I have heard our statesmen praise—the Poles because they have dared to hope to recover that which was wrested from them not longer ago than this. I have heard our own leading statesman of to-day—and I honored him for the words I heard, as I honor him still for his genius, great as it is—I have heard him praise the Neapolitans for their effort to re-establish themselves, and encourage them in the effort they made. I have heard him speak of the right of the Italians in Milan to overthrow the yoke of the Austrians that then pressed upon them, and I confess that I cannot believe that politics page 31 change with the geography of the country, and that that which is virtue in Poland becomes vice in Ireland, or that that which is patriotism in Warsaw becomes treason in Dublin streets. (Great applause.) While it is true—and perfectly true—that these confiscations date some time back, I urge upon you that they have been brought down to this very day. What did that law mean, which was only repealed by mad George IV.—what did that law mean winch prevented Catholics from holding land at all? I am not discussing the question from a religious point of view, but from a citizen's point of view—a citizen of a State which has men of all religions under its banner, and which has no right to inflict upon men of one religion a disability, and give to men of another religion a preference: which should hold the sword of justice evenly between them all. What did that disability mean? If you tell me that that disability has gone more than forty years, I say it is not true; I say it lived still longer, while Protestant landlords evicted Catholic tenants and gave preference to those who were not, and shut others out from their votes in direction after direction. If you tell me this is an exaggerated statement, I say unfortunately it is not. I can quote from one member of the English Parliament to another; I am not talking the language of Irish patriots; I am trying the question as an Englishman, by the admission of Englishmen speaking against Ireland more than for it, and out of their mouths I will take it, and by their evidence I will ask you to give your verdict to-night. (Applause.) You may tell me Mr. Froude has done all this. There are some men who paint, and some men who caricature; there are some men who intend to paint truly, but whose minds are so warped that the pencil, when it touches the canvas, makes a wry line despite themselves. While I admit Mr. Froude's genius, while I admit his scholarship, his culture, I do not admit the straightness of his look when he is looking at the Irish question; he looks warped and around the corner from an English point of view. (Laughter and applause.) Take this land matter, and take it fairly. What have you here? Landlords who have no interest whatever in tenants: who regard the tenants as so many sponges, out of whom gold and life-blood might be squeezed; agents who were not content to got a rent which was out of all proportion, which only the misery and certainty of death if they did not give it induced any topage 32 give it at all; and who actually tell a man where his child shall go to school, whom his daughter shall marry, whom his son shall marry, whom he shall have to live in the same house with him.