BY THOMAS G. SHEARMAN.
An Irish landlord, writing to the London Times, called particular attention to the fact that, in case all the landlords should be expelled, the whole of Ireland, outside of the large towns, would be left without a single person whose annual income would exceed $1,500. To the wealthy landlord who owns the Times, this appalling fact seems to afford such conclusive proof of the desolation and misery which would follow home rule that he deems it superfluous to add a word of comment. He considers it quite enough to say that no such state of things exists in any civilised country. That it should be eventually brought about in Ireland, he evidently believes, must be considered by every sane man as one of the most frightful disasters which could befall the human race.
I am writing in Germany, the country from which have proceeded the most important additions to the intellectual wealth of the world during the last fifty years. The man who knows nothing of the contributions made to history, to theology, to science, whether abstract or applied, by German students, knows practically nothing at all. What have been the income of the men who have thus enriched the world! Rarely so much as $1,500; generally not half that amount. Some of the world-famous German scholars accomplished their great achievements on an income of less than $600 a year.
New England developed a marvelous degree of intellectual activity in the colonial period of our history, though confined within a narrow circle. But that was a period of small incomes and very little accumulated wealth; nor did the few wealthy men contribute anything of importance to the intellectual or moral development of the people. What have the wealthy Irish landlords done for the development of the Irish people in religion, morality or intellect? What contribution has any wealthy Irish landlord ever made to literature, science, art or high thought of any kind? What benefit have these men of wealth conferred upon any part of the world in any direction? They have just held a solemn meeting to answer these questions, and their own testimony affords the best evidence against them. They claim to have advised their tenants to improve their stock, to introduce better methods of cultivation and to qualify themselves generally to pay higher rents, while they themselves have set excellent examples to their inferiors by taking good care of themselves.
Many years ago a practical joker inserted an advertisement in a daily paper to the following effect: "Wanted, by a young gentleman of good birth and breeding, board in a respectable family, where his Christian example would be considered sufficient compensation for his board." The Irish landlords do not advertise, but they get precisely that for which the young man advertised in vain. Their Christian example, however, has been chiefly directed toward hunting, horse racing and hard drinking. Certainly, down to a period less than fifty years ago, all accounts of Ireland agreed in this; and except that the drinking is conducted with more moderation, there seems no reason to believe that there has been any change.