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Art. IV. A Statistical and Historical Inquiry into the Progress
and Magnitude of the Population of Ireland. By Thomas New
enham, Esq. A Short Address to the Most Reverend and Honourable William, Lord
Primate of all Ireland, recommendatory of seme Commutation of Modification of the Tithes of that Country. By the Reverend H. Dudley.
A Sketch of the State of Ireland, Past and Present.
It has long been a matter of just complaint with the public,
that, among the few persons whose situations and habits have led them to an intimate knowledge of the state of Ireland, and who are daily compelled to contemplate what is, and to contrast it with what might be, that there has hitherto been so little -anxiety either to collect or to circulate correct information. The attention which the affairs of Ireland have, from particular causes, excited, since the last dissolution of Parliament, and the public cations relating to them, which are now daily issuing from the press, will, we earnestly hope, in no great length of time, reinove this cause of complaint; and, whatever views they may enibrace, or in whatever garb they may be arrayed, we shall be disposed to hail them with satisfaction, as certainly conducing at least to one great object needful on this sabject--discussion. The necessity, indeed, of making the British public more familiar with the state of Ireland, in all its relations, has been strikingly evinced by the allusions made to the opinions of the people, in the late debates on the Catholic petition. If it be really true, that the middling and lower ranks of society in this country are by no means prepared to consider the Irish Roman Catholics as fellow Christians worshipping the same God, and fellow subjects entitled to the same civil privileges; if they are really so bigoted as to wish to deny the benefits of the British constitution to above a fourth part of the population of the empire, and so ignorant as to imagine they can do it with safety, the evil admits of no other remedy than that of bringing the subject repeatedly before them
-of familiarizing them to a more just and rational consideration of it-and of endeavouring to work into their minds the conviction, that, in holding such opinions, they are not only violating the genuine spirit of Christianity, but blindly endangering their own security, and risking the subjugation or dismemberment of the empire." As the denunciation of offences committed against the principles of an enlightened policy, is more peculiarly within our province than the violation of religious duties, it is to the
to fourth to deny the mil privileame God, Roman Country are that the
our provinces of an enlipunciation of vion or dismangering
former that we shall at present principally call the reader's attena tion.
Among the subjects peculiar to the state of Ireland, which have hitherto been comparatively but little noticed, is the extraordinary phenomenon of the very rapid increase of its population. While many of the countries of Europe have been slumbering on with a population nearly stationary, or, at most, increasing very slowly; while even the most prosperous (except the newly civilized country of Russia) have not approached towards doubling their numbers during the course of the last century, Ireland, in the same period, has more than quadrupled them.
The proofs of this position are brought forward by Mr Newenham in a manner which does credit to his industry and information ; and we really think that the public is much indebted to him for the results of his labours. It appears that some unworthy ef: forts have at different times been made to conceal the full amount of the population of Ireland, and the rapidity of its increase. We can hardly imagine that our Government could at any time have been so weak, as directly to encourage such misrepresentations, or attempt to conceal the relative strength and importance of a particular part of the empire, for the purpose of blinding themselves and others to the dangers with which they are surrounded. It is more probable that misrepresentations of this kind should have proceeded, in the first instance, from the friends of Protestant ascendancy in Ireland, though they might afterwards be too readily adopted by the Government. But, however this may be, one of the principal motives which incited Mr Newenham to engage in these inquiries, seems to have been the fear, that even any official returns that might in future be published by authority, collected, as they probably would be, by the Protestant clergy, and revised by persons not unwilling to be deceived, might give a very incorrect statement of the real magnitude of the Catholic population in Ireland.
With the importance of knowing the whole truth on this subject, on whatever side it may lye, Mr Newenham seems fully impressed ; and, in order to ascertain it as nearly as possible, he has collected all the data respecting the population of Ireland, at different periods, furnished by previous inquiries ; has enlarged and extended chem by his own personal researches, and those of his friends; and has strengthened the whole by a variety of collateral information, all bearing upon the main question.
The actual population in 1804, Mr Newenham estimates at 5,400,000. This result is obtained, by applying the present apparent rate of increase, which is stated to be such as would make the period of doubling forty-six years, to the acknowledged po
pulation of 1791, deduced from the last returns for the hearthtax. In this estimate, of course, much depends upon the correctness with which the rate of increase is determined; and though this part of the calculation is not made in a manner which bespeaks a familiar acquaintance with the technical parts of the science, yet we think it founded on sufficient evidence to justify our conviction, that it is not overrated. A still more rapid increase, indeed, seems to have taken place in all the districts of which particular surveys have been collected ; and, wherever an opportunity has occurred of procuring any accurate information respecting the number of children produced by each marriage, the earliness of marriages, and the proportion of the population under puberty, the results, which are very curious and interesting, bear unequivocal testimony to a progress in population at least as quick as that which has been stated.
The average rate of increase throughout the country, can only be correctly determined by setting out from a correct estimate at first; and here, perhaps, the statement of Mr Newenham may be most open to objection. The estimate he adopts, as nearest the beginning of the century, and the most accurate that could be obtained, is that of Captain South in 1695, which makes the population at that time amount to 1,034,102 ; but as it was calcu. lated from the assessments of a poll-tax, though it appears to have been done with considerable care, it is probable, or rather certain, that the usual evasions of such taxes have made it fall below the truth. And this seems to be in some degree corroborated by the result of an enumeration in 1731, from which the population appeared to amount to 2,010,221, which would imply an increase from 1695 considerably greater than the average rate of the century. This objection, however, is expressly noticed by Mr Newenham ; and in answer to it he observes, that the omissions in 1695 were probably not greater than those of 1791, relative to which, the Inspector-general of hearth-money declared to him, that there was no truth of which he was more thoroughly convinced, than that the return should have compris. ed a much greater number of houses exempt from the hearth-tax than it did. Were this really the case, and the proportion of omissions the same, any supposed deficiency in the computation of 1695 would not, of course, affect the average rate of increase throughout the century; but, even allowing for some difference in these proportions, our general position, that the population of Ireland has quadrupled during the last century, cannot be on either side far from the truth.
The causes of this rapid increase, among a people groaning under a penal code of singular severity, and oppressed for three
dourths a second exampleare at a losgaid do
fourths of the period in a manner of which history does not furnish a second example, cannot fail of exciting our astonishment and curiosity. We are at a loss to reconcile such an instance to those causes of increase laid down by Hume and Smith, wise institutions, and an increasing demand for labour.' Under circumstances apparently the most opposite, Ireband has increased with extraordinary rapidity; and this fact affords so striking an illustration of the doctrines which Mr Malthus has advanced in his late Essay on Population, that we are surprised that he did not enter into it more in detail. Nothing, however, that this author has said tends really to contradict these positions of our illustrious countrymen. It is still true that wise institutions, and an increasing demand for labour, are most powerful promoters of population; because, in all ordinary cases, they most effectually tend to produce the means for its support. But in any particular case, where such means could be produced and distributed without the aid of these advantages, population would still make a rapid progress under circumstances in other, respects the most adverse.
The introduction of the POTATOE into 'Ireland, and its becoming the general food of the common people, seems to have formed this particular case ; and to be the single cause which has produced the effects that excite our astonishment. At what period potatoes became the staple support of the Irish poor, it is difficult precisely to ascertain; but, whenever this event took place, it would necessarily occasion à most prodigious facility in the payment and production of labour. The way in which the means of subsistence practically regulate the increase of population in civilized societies, is, by limiting and determining the real wages of the labourer, or the number of persons -which the labour of one man will support upon the staple food of the country. In England, at present, reckoning labour at ten shillings a week, the quartern loaf at a shilling, and allowing a half .peck loaf a week to each individual, the earnings of a single man will support, on bread alone, five persons. With his weekly wages he will be able to purchase 43 pounds 7 ounces * of bread, his usual nourishment.
In Ireland, at the time that Mr Young made his tour, the average price of labour was 6 d., and the prime cost of potatoes to the cultivator 14d. f the stone of 14 pounds. At these rates, the Y3
* The half peck loaf weighs 8 lib. 11 oz.
+ In estimating the effect of potatoes upon the population of IreSand, it is necessary to take them at their cost to the cultivator ; because, according to Mr Newenham, four fifths of the people are şupported on the produce of land cultivated by themselves. (p. 271.)
labourer would be able to procure, with his weekly earnings, 364 pounds of potatoes, and, allowing four pounds of potatoes to one of bread, 91 pounds of solid nourishment,-above double the quantity earned by the higher wages of the English labourer, and adequate to the weekly support of above double the number of persons. If either the wages of labour in England have been taken too low, or the price of bread too high for the general average ; or, if a pound of bread contain more nourishment than four pounds of potatoes, * the difference of course will not be so great as here stated ; but, at all events, it will be prodigious, and sufficient to account at once for the much more rapid increase of population in the one country than in the other.
According to Mr Young, four times the quantity of land is required in Ireland to yield the same nourishment in wheat as in potatoes. + In the cottar system, which is almost necessarily adopted in every agricultural country deficient in capital, this circumstance must afford incalculable advantages. The farmer would be able, by letting a very small proportion of his land, to provide that most important branch of capital, the wages of labour; and the facility with which labour could thus be paid, would naturally prompt him to procure it in abundance; more solicitous to have an ample supply in seasons of pressure, than fearful of not being able to keep all his cottars constantly em. ployed. The latter consideration, indeed, would chiefly rest with the labourer himself. The farmer would at all events receive a fair price for his land, and would only deduct so much from the rent of it, as the number of days labour which he had required might amount to. It would depend upon the judge
* Mr Newenham is of opinion, that three pounds of good meals potatoes are more than an equivalent for one pound of bread; but, in allowing thirty-six pounds of potatoes for the daily consumption of a family of six persons (p. 340.), he does not seem to adhere to this estimate, unless indeed we suppose with Mr Young, that the Irishman has always a beliyful, and the Englishman not. We understand that, in England, a half peck loaf a week, or 8 lib. 1 1 oz. in seven days, is considered as a fair average allowance for each in. dividual of those families that live almost wholly on bread; but we know, at the same time, that a young and healthy labourer will eat double the quantity. We believe that the Irish labourer in general lives more exclusively upon potatoes than the English labourer upon bread; and this is probably the chief reason why the allowance to an Irish family is greater in weight than the proportion of 4 to 1, though, as to the comparative nourishment of the two kinds of food, Mr Newenham's estimate is probably nearer the truth than ours.
+ Suur i:2 Irland, vol. II. p. 120.