MF – 1867.08.20 – Maguire on Johnville – #158 – F12252
In the House of Commons on July 26th during the discussion of the Irish question –
Mr. Maguire asked what was the real condition of the South of Ireland? As a rule there was no security for the tenant – no protection whatever or his industry in the great majority of instances. He knew there were many great and improving landlords; but, as a rule, the state of things was this – leases were discouraged in three of the provinces of Ireland – Let him suppose a man in Tipperary; he held from year to year – he might make improvements, but if evicted, he had no claim for compensation, and his landlord might turn him out a beggar. There were hundreds of thousands of such cases. He had been in the other house of parliament in March last year with a Catholic Bishop from New Brunswick. A noble lord was addressing the house and expressing his deep regret that emigration was draining the life blood of Ireland – Earl Grey used some such expression, when a gentleman standing near said to the bishop, I don’t agree with the Earl Grey, for unless Irishmen leave the country – unless Ireland be repeopled with Englishmen and Scotchmen, there is no chance of her prosperity;.” The bishop knew he (Mr. Maguire) was about to go to America, and asked him to come and see with his own eyes a living refutation of the implied slander. In company with the same bishop in his late visit to New Brunswick he went two or three hundred miles up the St. John River and into the heart of an essentially Celtic settlement. What did he see? In 1861 the first man and woman went into the living forest; the second year another man and woman went there; the third year the settlement began to pour in in large numbers. He was there in October, 1866, when he saw 600 human beings in the settlement. They passed through a long avenue of the forest, and from a moderate eminence saw a vast plain – miles of it cleared and dotted all over with human habitations. He was in fifty of these farms and houses. He scarcely saw one shanty – in most instances they were large, roomy, log cabins. There were cows, horses, hogs, and barns bursting with produce. Not only were there large and commodious log cabins such as settlers in the United States and British colonies were content with for years, but he saw 14 or 15 large framed houses, as good as any he saw in the United States, occupied by these people, who had scarcely £600 among them when they first entered the forest. That was what the Irish people could do when the opportunity was afforded them, and he had known it done in a hundred other instances. Among the people who dwelt in that clearing was a family, who having been robbed, stripped, and plundered by a landlord in Galway, had been driven by sheer disgust and destitution across the ocean, and was now rising every day in wealth and independence. Was not the question of the settlement of Ireland equally important with the settlement of the Reform question? The hon. baronet who spoke last stated that Fenianism was chiefly the result of two bad seasons, but he could tell them that the feeling of discontent in Ireland had been deepened – he did not say caused – by the denial in this country of the existence of distress in Ireland in 1860, 1861, 1862, and 1863. He warned the house and the people of England that such a feeling of animosity and vengeance existed among the Irish in America, as would some day or other prompt them to endeavour to plunge the two countries into war – a result that might be calamitous, indeed, for Ireland, but would be still more calamitous for England. If a million more of the population crossed the Atlantic, a feeling of burning hatred would be aroused which would hereafter cause our statesmen to mourn over neglected opportunities of conciliating the people and removing the causes of discontent on this side of the Atlantic and of [machination] on the other. Irish members would return home with the miserable satisfaction of having made places for a few eminent lawyers, but of having still left their countrymen ready to listen to the wildest whisper of rebellion. Prompt action alone could save Ireland and prevent the safety of the empire from being [imperilled] (cheers).