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I speak from personal knowledge when I say that the leaders of Irish
industry and commerce are fully alive to the practical consideration
which they have now to devote to the new conditions by which they are
surrounded. They recognise that the intensified foreign competition
which harasses them is due chiefly to German education and American
enterprise. They are deep in the consideration of the form which
technical education should take to meet their peculiar needs; and I am
confident that Ulster will make a sound and useful contribution to the
solution of the commercial and industrial problems which confront the
manufacturers of the United Kingdom.
That such a knowledge is still required, though the need is becoming
less urgent, is shown by an incident which illustrates the pathos of the
Irish exodus. A poor woman once asked me to help her son to emigrate to
America, and I agreed to pay his passage. Early in the negotiations,
finding that she was somewhat vague as to her boy's prospects, I asked
her whether he wanted to go to North or South America. This detail she
seemed to consider immaterial. "Ach, glory be to God, I lave that to yer
honner. Why wouldn't I?" Had I shipped him to Peru she would have been
quite satisfied. Why wouldn't she?
Yet another view which seems to uproot most agrarian ideas in
Ireland has been put forward by Dr. O'Gara in The Green Republic
(Fisher Unwin, 1902). His main conclusion is that the present disastrous
state of our rural economy is due to our treating land as an object of
property and not of industry. He advocates the cultivation of the land
by syndicates holding farms of 20,000 acres and tilling them by the
lavish application of modern machinery as the only way to meet American
competition. His book is able and suggestive, but it is perhaps, a work
of supererogation to discuss a theory the whole moral of which is the
expediency of absolutely divorcing the functions of the proprietor and
the manager of land at a time when the consensus of opinion in Ireland
is in favour of uniting them, and in view of the fact that under the new
Land Act the future of the country seems inevitably to lie for a long
time in the hands of a peasant proprietary.
The reader may wonder why I touch so lightly upon a fact of such
profound significance as the Irishman's acceptance of self-help as a
condition precedent of State aid in the development of agriculture and
industry. But such a cursory treatment, in the early chapters, of this
and of other equally important aspects of the Irish situation is
necessitated by the plan I have adopted. I am attempting to give in the
first part of the book a philosophic insight into the chief Irish
problems, and then, in the second part of the book, to present the facts
which appear to me to illustrate these problems in process of solution.
The best expert agricultural opinion tells me that under present
conditions a family cannot live in any decent standard of comfort--such
as I hope to see prevail in Ireland--on less than 30 acres of Irish
land, taking the bad land with the good.
It is, of course, unnecessary for me to dwell upon the part played
by the home in the standard of living, especially amongst a rural
community. But it may not be irrelevant to note that M. Desmolins, who,
in his remarkable book, A quoi tient la superiorité des Anglo-saxons?
hands over the future of civilisation to the Anglo-Saxons, ascribes to
the English rural home much of the success of the race.
Speed's Chronicle, quoted in Calendar of State Papers, Ireland,
1611-14, p. xix.
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