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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/605

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THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK.

of Irish tenants to achieve. But since then, the fall of prices has entirely changed the condition of affairs and made a reduction and perhaps an entire abolition of the rents of arable land in Ireland an essential, if the Irish tenant is to receive anything in return for his labor. A French economist—M. de Grancey—who has recently published the results of a study of Ireland, founded on a personal investigation of the country, is of the opinion that, although the population of the island has been reduced by emigration from 8,025,000 in 1847 to 4,852,000 in 1887, it is not now capable of supporting in decency and comfort more than from two to three million inhabitants. The same authority tells us that agricultural distress, occasioned by the same agencies, exists to-day in France, in as great a degree as in Great Britain. The peasant proprietors have ceased to buy land and are anxious to sell it; and in the department of Aisne, one of the richest in France, one tenth of the land is abandoned, because it is found that, at present prices, the sale of produce does not cover the expenses of cultivation.[1]

Now, if it were desirable to search out and determine the primary responsibility for the recent large increase in the number of the English unemployed, or for the distress and revolt of the Irish tenantry, or the growing impoverishment of the French and German peasant proprietors, it would be found that it was not so much the land and rent policy of these different countries that should be called to account, as the farmers on the cheap and fertile lands of the American Northwest, the inventors of their cost-reducing agricultural machinery, of the steel rail, and of the compound marine engine, which, collectively, have made it both possible and profitable "to send the produce of five acres of wheat from Chicago to Liverpool for less than the cost of manuring one acre in England." And, looking into this matter from a cosmopolitan point of view, and balancing the aggregate of good and bad results, how small are the evils which have been entailed upon the agricultural laborers in England, Ireland, or elsewhere, in consequence of changes in the condition of their labor, in comparison with the almost incalculable benefits that have come, in recent years, to the masses of all civilized countries, through the increased abundance and cheapness of food, and a consequent increase in their comfort and vitality!

Another matter vital to this discussion may here and next be properly taken into consideration. As the evidence is conclusive that the direct effect of material progress is to greatly increase and cheapen production and to economize labor; and as there is no reason to sup

  1. M. de Grancey is of the opinion that one of the most fertile sources of Irish misery and degradation is the unauthorized and illegal subletting of farms. lie states that he met with cases where from forty-five to fifty persons lived in a state of semi-starvation on a farm calculated to yield a comfortable subsistence to a family of five or six. In each generation, the farm, in despite of special prohibitory clauses in the lease, is divided among the sons. Where there are no sons, subtenants are found willing to take small parcels of land at the most exorbitant prices.