Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/326

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there were but fifty looms in Ireland. When the Union was passed, the silk manufacture was utterly killed.

One hundred years ago the Irish found that they could reclaim their peat land by cutting a ship canal through the country from Galway to Dublin. They have shown since that the cost would be more than four times repaid by the price of the land. They showed that they could save sailing ships seventy hours in passing to and from Northern Europe, and save them from the dangers of the Channel. They showed that ships sailing from the West of Ireland obtained an offing so soon that they often reached America before vessels, leaving England on the same day, had beaten their way out of the English channel. But the merchants of the Southern ports of England—Bristol, Southampton, and London—said that that canal, if cut, would be disastrous to them, and the Parliament refused to allow it to be done. Nineteen times the Irish people have tried to cut that canal; but the Irish people cannot build a wharf or do anything else that a civilized community usually does at its own option, without going to the English House of Commons for permission to do it.

In the last century Ireland made the best woolen cloth in Europe. It was said they competed with England, and the Parliament put it down. The same law was enacted against the leather trade, and then against the trade in raw hides. Ireland obtained prominence in the manufacture of glass. English glassmakers petitioned Parliament, and an act of Parliament was passed stopping the glass trade.

Every means of industry in Ireland has been killed by act of Parliament. Every means of honest development in the country has been suppressed by act of Parliament or by the possession of the land given silently into the hands of English capitalists. The coming question in Ireland is purely commercial and industrial. The absentee landlord wants no alternative but one—pay the back rent or emigrate. Men like Hartington, a Liberal in name but a Whig at heart, a man of hereditary possession and no hereditary production, will be joined by others, and depend on it they will appeal to the worst passions and prejudices and the worst interests of the middle classes of trading Englishmen.

There are about forty-six thousand owners of land in Ireland. They own the whole country. They are largely Englishmen who live out of Ireland and have never seen it. They obtained possession in the main by confiscation; In the County of Derry, fourteen London companies, such as the vintners, drysalters, haberdashers, etc., obtained from King James most of the land of the country. These companies of London traders have never seen the land; they have kept their agents there, though, to raise the rents, generation after generation, as the poor people reclaimed the soil from moor and mountain. In two