Marx-Engels Correspondence 1870

Engels To Marx

Source: Marx and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, 1971;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

April 15, 1870

Your conclusions from the Parliamentary Reports agree with my results. It should, however, be remembered that after 1846 the process of clearing 40-sh. freeholders was at first interspersed with clearing of labourers the reason being that, up to 1829, in order to produce freeholders, leases had to be made for 21 or 31 years and a life (if not longer), because a person became a freeholder only if he could not be turned out during his lifetime. These leases hardly ever excluded subdividing. These leases were partly still valid in 1846, resp. the consequences, that is, the peasants were still on the estate. The same was the case on the estates which were then in the hands of middlemen (who mostly held leases for 64 years and three lives or even for 99 years) and frequently their leases were revertible only between 1846 and 1860. Thus these processes were more or less interspersed so that the Irish landlord was never or seldom in a situation where he had to decide whether labourers in particular rather than other traditional small tenants should be ejected. Essentially it comes to the same thing in England and in Ireland: the land must be tilled by workers who live in other Poor Law Unions, so that the landlord and his tenant can remain exempted from the poor tax. This is also said by Senior or rather by his brother Edward, Poor Law Commissioner in Ireland: The great instrument which is clearing Ireland is the Poor Law.

Land sold since the Encumbered Estate Court amounts according to my notes to as much as 1/5 of the total, the buyers were indeed largely usurers, speculators, etc., mainly Irish Catholics. Partly also enriched stock-breeders. Yet even now there are only about 8,000-9,000 landowners in Ireland.