Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

The Carlow Sentinal

    Farming in Ireland.

    From the Carlow Sentinel. 1864

    THE following is an extract from a lecture recently delivered before the Carlow Young Men's Christian Association, by Mr. Benjamin Haughton:-

    Agriculture is the mainstay of Ireland. Farming- both north, south, east, and west - is the vocation by which the Irish people live; consequently, that upon which her nobility, her gentry, and her professional, mercantile, and official classes are supported. Take the city of Dublin, for instance, with its 250,000 inhabitants. This city is almost exclusively maintained by the land. There are not one dozen importing merchants, and one dozen more of manufacturers in it., From that city, strange to say, the doctrine is now, commonly promulgated-that Ireland is a country' of too damp a climate to be _ a tillage country, and that the sooner it becomes, a pastoral country the better.

    This is the teaching of the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, ex cathedra, at a cattle show banquet, held at the Dublin Society House, in the year of grace 1862; followed up by Marquess of Clanricarde; cautiously touched upon by the Duke of Devonshire at Lismore; and freely advocated by the theorists and political economists of the capital. Vain delusion! The population of Ireland is 5,500,000. To transform that land into a sheep-walk is to diminish its population to 3,500,000; and to reduce our people to this number and reduce the great middle and upper classes in the same ratio. I ask you is not this a logical consequence-as true as that 2 and 2 are 4? What then, is to become of you; lawyers and doctors, and even of you clergymen-both Protestant and Catholic? What is to become of you bankers and shopkeepers? "What, I ask, is to become of you, gentlemen of the official class, who control our public institutions?

    What, in short, is to become of all you who cater for those 5,500,000? The immediate result will be a fierce competition for the reduced business, in which the capitalist and the man of intellectual capital will suffer equally with the rest; and the final result, which it will probably take five or six years to effect, will be that one-half your numbers may cry, "Othello's occupation's gone." If you are men of spirit, you will, in such a state of affairs, rush from the land that gave you birth. If otherwise, you will become degraded to that social class immediately; or perhaps distinctly below you.

    We must arrest this effort of fools and theorists to famish the one-half of the population of Ireland. There is such a thing as fashion in the world-an implement of immense potency, wielded by a very small minority. It has now become the fashion to prattle this clap-trap broadcast through the country, and the cuckoo cry has been taken up in too many instances by the farmer; but I will maintain that it is the teaching of false prophets and of deluded and ignorant men, and I will back my argument by the precepts of the immortal Berkeley. I have just now said that this baneful cry is the cry of the political economist, based upon an ignorant and inhuman teaching. I have every respect for political economy as a science; but defend me and my country from the rule and government of the political economist.

    It is political economy by which shops, banks, and factories, railways, &c, are managed; no feelings of vulgar humanity are there allowed to hold sway; but woe betide the statesman or the magistrate who hopes to direct the destinies of a people by the ruthless laws of supply and demand, and of profit and loss. I accept as a truism the idée Napoléonienne, "That if the earth were made of granite, the political economist would grind it to powder." But how are we to prevent these gentlemen from pulverising us? How are we to arrest this depletion of our people, and this Tartariting of our fields and hills How can we, the people of little Carlow, hope to avert the impending danger? Well, to begin, we ate in the focus of the garden of Ireland, and in the centre of the most English and the wealthiest province of Ireland Leinster.

    This is a certain prestige to begin with. We have resident gentry, remarkable for their common sense and intelligence, and who are easy of access; we must look to them to assist us in our efforts. It is the educated, and intellectual, and intelligent professional and business classes who will suffer most in the political economist's melee; self-interest will actuate them; and let them bring that cultivated intellect which they possess to aid in the task by the suggestion of wise measures to our legislators, and each by his personal influence using his best efforts to change the current that has set in. The clergyman can do much by hi« advice. The lawyer is a man of great influence; he can actuate his client. The shopkeeper can daily take an opportunity of discussing the matter with his customer. What is the legislator to do?

    I cannot answer that question; but I feel confident that our 106 M.P.'s, if they put their heads together, can devise measures of that salutary class which ate so much wanted. I can tell you what England did in the way of a remedial measure-one that was to make the country more desirable for the poor man. When passing the income-tax bill, she excluded from its operation all those classes whose incomes come under £100 a year. She was wise; had she not done to, she would have put a spoke in the wheel of emigration. I must confess, however, that I believe more money be done in the country -house, the shop, and the field far this great question than in the parliament house. This being granted, then, whit are the arguments in favour of tillage versus pastoral farming?

    1. It is a most unwise thing for the farmers to devote their energies to only one system of farming. Suppose a cattle disease of malignant type to attack your herds-a plague, for instance, and we all know how very infectious cattle diseases are – what is to become of you? The whole country is pauperised at one blow. No; the mixed system is the proper one. (Letter from a Lothian farmer in the Times, who says it is the only one at present adopted in the Lothian, and the Lothian farmers have instructed the world in the art of farming.)

    2. In the event of a foreign war, that country would be badly off which grew nothing but beef and mutton. Cereals should form a considerable part in our system.

    3. Tillage farming gives more employment. The great inducements for grazing farming are, no doubt, the high price of beef, mutton, and butter, caused by the great prosperity of England, and the consequent ability of her asiertien to consume a meat diet largely. But it had its drawback, and it would be well that these be carefully considered in time.

    There is a very common objection made by our farmers to the growth of cereals-in what they call the great change of our climate, and its excessive moist and humid character. We have a moist climate, being insular, and lying right in the track of the south-west was a breeze. We must ever have such; but my reply to this assertion is that it is oil moonshine. I am intimately acquainted with the farmers of this district, and I find that what are called good farmers always have good wheat, no matter how the Benson goes. Farming is a business just like cotton spinning or milling, in which the application of capital to the soil is necessary-in which the purchase of improved implement are equally important in the matter of drainage.

    My reply to the asiertien that the country is to humid for cereal it, that Scotland grows them extensively. We all know what Scotch seed is, and there are practical farmers in our neighborhood who introduce "Scotch seed every season. It is of splendid quality; and I myself have seen cargoes upon cargoes of Scotch wheat from Inverness, delivered in Dublin, of superb quality; and yet Scotland is absolutely a more humid climate than Ireland.

    Witness this table of the “rainfall" of the two countries; and let me remark that you have all heard of the Scotch mist. The average fall, according to Symons' tables, in the years 1861, '62, '63, was:-

    Ireland. .. 49 .. 45 .. 47 inches

    Scotland. .. 76 .. 53 .. 57 ditto

    England. .. 29 .. 32 .. 29 ditto.

    Our climate is moist, but this drawback must and can be successfully contended with-by drainage, by improved implements, and by watching. There is a great opening now for flax culture. "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." This tide seems to flow now; it is to be hoped we shall travel with it. It is quite certain cotton will not be cheap for many a long day.



    Source: This article was originally reported on 29 Jul 1864 in The Sydney Morning Herald - p2.

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