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Now, let the whole school of Political Economists set their heads to work, and endeavour to show how it was possible for these poor, weak, and degraded people, to have commanded higher wages, and with higher wages, better and more food, better and more clothing, better habitations. Let them show, if they can, by what course these poor people, having no capital of their own, could have created capital under those prevailing civil and social incidents or conditions of civilisation in which they were placed; that capital by which alone their labour could have been in better demand, their earnings raised, and their state improved. The members of the school ought to hold it a sacred duty to find out and declare who those persons were, on whom the high trust rested of creating this essential capital, and, when created, of so managing it, as to insure its just distribution. Such, however, having been the existing state of things, it is not a matter for wonder, that a visitation of misery and destruction of life alighted on this unhappy people, of which few instances of a parallel kind are to be found in the history of nations. A heavy responsibility rests here, an awful responsibility, a responsibility respecting which an account will have to be rendered on a future day.
The horrible state of things to which I have now referred is that where, in addition to the unjust and oppressive working of the absentee principle, there was the destruction, by a natural cause, of the small aliment of food upon which the miserable people had been compelled to rely. This particular state of things has, therefore, to be held as an exceptional state, in so far as this natural cause of disturbance and destruction was involved. But the general state is nearly as bad, and often quite as bad. Hence, we have to hear the sad tale of "Evictions." This is when the number of families having, by the bad social courses before alluded to, become
so poor and helpless, as to be a heavy burden on the estate of the person upon whose land they live, the desire of the owner of the estate is to be relieved of them altogether, or to get rid of them. With this object, he gives them notice to quit the miserable dwelling where, as children, as daughters and sons, as mothers and fathers of families, they have been reared. The notice for departure has been given; but where are the people to go? The world to them is a blank. They cling to their home, wretched though it be. They resolve on disregarding the command for departure. A threat is then issued. The extremity having arrived, the course resorted to is that of forcible expulsion; this sometimes done by setting fire to the miserable dwelling- the home, the only home! Then, under the power of the law, "Eviction" is accomplished. This is common both in Ireland and Scotland, arising, of course, from the same causes, namely, derangements of that social commercial action on which it is ordained that we shall depend, and by which alone we are to live.
It might naturally have been expected that a branch of Social and Political Economy, so important and so deeply interesting as that of the principle of absentee expenditure would have engaged the especial attention of those men who should undertake to treat of the science of Political Economy, and that this subject would have received at their hands, not only a special investigation, but, also, the strongest effort of their intellectual faculty. Unhappily it has not been so. To their shame it has to be declared, that, having necessarily come upon a notice of the subject, instead of being persevering and faithful soldiers, they have become deserters. Few, very few, writers have been able, or have chosen, to give the subject a special place within the range of their discussions; and not one has treated it carefully, faithfully, and honestly.
As the treatment given by Mr. M'Culloch presents about the best specimen that can be selected, I will refer the reader a second time to that part of the work of this writer where the absentee principle is alluded to. I say alluded to, for I cannot say discussed. On examining the matter there presented, it is seen that Mr. M'Culloch not being prepared and able to take the subject by itself, or in its character of a distinct subject, and to bestow upon it distinct substantive treatment, chose to view it merely as an issue of that free principle of trade for which he had been contending, and to which he had committed himself or surrendered his judgment. He discerned that if under all conditions of circumstances, or every prevailing state of a nation's capital, the importation of foreign commodities was a good and beneficial course of trade, it would be an inevitable sequence that absentee expenditure must, likewise, be a good and beneficial course; for, whether the commodities were brought to the persons at home for their consumption, or the persons went abroad to the foreign commodities and there consumed them, there could be no difference of fact. He argued, hence, that as the advocates on both sides of the much disputed question of the principles of trade had contended, and unitedly admitted, that exportation of commodities was a good course of trade, promoting the enrichment of a nation, so importation must also be a good and enriching course. The passage in which the treatment occurs is the following:
"What has now been stated goes far to settle the disputed question as to the influence of absentee expenditure. If an English gentleman, living at home, and using none but foreign articles in his establishment, gives the same encouragement to industry that he would do were he to use none but British articles, he must, it is obvious, do the same
thing, should he go abroad. Whatever he may get from the foreigner, when at Paris or Brussels, must be paid for, directly or indirectly, in British articles, quite in the same way as when he resided in London. Nor is it easy to imagine any grounds for supposing his expenditure in the latter more beneficial to this country than in the former.
"The question really at issue refers merely to the spending of revenue, and has nothing to do with the improvement of estates; and, notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary, I am not yet convinced that absenteeism is, in this respect, at all injurious.” *
Having already examined (Book I. Chapter iv.) the quality of the reasoning and argument here advanced by Mr. M'Culloch, and shown it to be false and bad, I will refer the reader, for his satisfaction, to that examination. And, moreover, I will bring before his attention the recorded fact, that Mr. M'Culloch's fellow-disciple of the free school, Mr. Senior, discerned and pointed out the false character of the views which Mr. M'Culloch had adopted, and which he had attempted to pass off on Parliament as based upon trustworthy and good evidence.
Instead, then, of conceding to the modern school of Political Economists- or those writers who have contended that the absolute freedom of trade, and of social action, involve, in all cases, those courses that are most conducive to the general welfare of the people of every nation of the worldthe conclusion which their theory involves, namely, that absentee expenditure is a good and enriching course for a nation, we have to reject their evidence, to oppose their conclusion, and to reverse their judgment. On examining the character of the evidence, and of the argument, by which they have attempted to maintain their conclusion, we have
Principles of Political Economy, by J. R. M'Culloch, p. 157.
to discern that this character presents an abandonment of all the obligations connected with property, of every course of social duty, and the adoption, in their places, of a mean pandering to the selfish vices of the possessors of property, of the rich, or those who live by luxury, and making a sacrifice, for the sensual indulgence of this class, of the social rights and the natural provision of that larger class who are destined to live by the exercise of their labour.
Following upon this false, mean, and ungenerous, course, we have to contemplate the horrible spectacle of thousands, and hundreds of thousands, of families consigned to a condition of abject poverty and destitution; and, then, upon a people so reduced, a small additional pressure, coming by means of a natural disturbance of production, the same people thrown into a condition of starvation. As a general working of the bad social principle, we have to contemplate the fact of the superabundant labour thus generated having been conveyed to other spheres, having been made to overload the labour market generally; for the undemanded labourers of Ireland have been forced to seek for employment and wages in the labour markets of Scotland and of England, and so have been the unwilling cause of reducing the wages of labour in both of these markets. And, again: when the labour markets of Scotland and England have become so overstocked as, by an inadequate demand, to prevent the Irish labourers from finding a refuge within them, or procuring any employment or wages, they have then been forced to go, in large bodies, to other countries, to the United States of America, &c., &c., there to convey the common social disease, to inflict and to perpetuate the common evil of an overstocked labour market, thereby reducing the wages of the labourers of those countries in which they have sought a refuge.
On examining the subject, for the purpose of ascertaining