Ελληνική Γής

Ελληνική Γής

Ελληνική Γής

Εκκλησία

Τεκμηρίωση – Ιρλανδία 

Ελληνική Γής

[ Μελετήστε πρώτα : Ενεργητισμός – Οργανώσεις, MST,

            Ποσειδών* : «Είμαστε τρία αδέρφια, παιδιά τού Κρόνου που έφερε στόν κόσμο η Ρέα : ο Δίας, εγώ καί ο Άδης... Τά πάντα μοιράστηκαν στά τρία καί ο καθένας έλαβε ό,τι τού αναλογούσε. Σέ μένα έλαχε η γκρίζα θάλασσα γιά νά τήν κατοικώ γιά πάντα. Στόν Άδη έλαχαν τά Τάρταρα καί στόν Δία ο απέραντος ουρανός μέ τόν αιθέρα καί τά σύγνεφα. Η γή όμως καί ο μέγας Όλυμπος είναι κοινό κτήμα καί τών τριών».

Καί όμως ούτε καί οι Αθηναίοι τού Περικλέους δέν συνέλαβαν τό μήνυμα «ανθρωπιάς» τών θεών τους. { ΑΔΕ : Η ελληνική γής, ο ελληνικός ουρανός καί η ελληνική θάλασσα αποτελούν κοινά κτήματα όλων τών Ελλήνων. }

 

            Η πιό ισχυρή αρκούδα καταλαμβάνει τήν καλύτερη θέση ψαρέματος, τήν καλύτερη σπηλιά γιά νά βγάλει τόν χειμώνα, κτ.λ.

Ο σημερινός «επιτυχημένος» καπιταλίστας – μέ θεμιτά ή αθέμιτα μέσα – καταλαμβάνει όσες «σπηλιές» (στρέμματα γής) δύναται γιά τίς ενοικιάσει ή πωλήσει στούς συνανθρώπους ου μέ όσο τό δυνατόν μεγαλύτερο οικονομικό όφελος – ήτοι, η φεουδαρχία όχι μόνο δέν έχει καταργηθεί, αλλά αποτελεί θεμελιώδη αρχή τής σημερινής Ορθολογικής Επιστημονικής Οικονομικής Σχολής τού καπιταλισμού.

Δυστυχώς, ακόμη μεταχειριζόμαστε τούς συνανθρώπους μας πιό εγωιστικά, βίαια καί αυτοκαταστροφικά από τά ζώα φέρονται μεταξύ τους.

 

            Ο Όμηρος (Ιλιάς Μ, 421-426) περιγράφει τήν σύγκρουση δύο αγροτών σάν δύο πολεμιστές που προσπαθούν νά σκοτώσουν ο ένας τόν άλλον γιά τήν απόκτηση μερικών τετραγωνικών μέτρων γής.

Στό Βόρειο Πακιστάν, οι ενήλικοι γιοί περιμένουν μέ ανυπομονησία τήν ημέρα που θά κληρονομήσουν τήν γή τών πατέρων τους, διότι ένας άνδρας δέν έχει αξία στήν κοινωνία τους εάν δέν έχει γή. Γι’ αυτό καί τά αισθήματα αγάπης τού παιδιού πρός τόν πατέρα του, μεταλλάσσονται μέ τήν ενηλικίωση του σέ μία σχέση ωφελιμιστική, η οποία μερικές φορές τούς οδηγεί στήν πατροκτονία ή καί αδελφοκτονία.

 

            Στηριζόμενοι στήν δύναμη που τούς παρείχε η κατοχή τους τού μεγαλύτερου καί πλουσιότερου μέρους τής Αττικής γής, οι ευπατρίδες κατέλαβαν τήν εξουσία καί ακολούθησε η αύξηση τών εμφυλίων συρράξεων · οι δέ φτωχοί άνδρες μαζί μέ τίς γυναίκες καί παιδιά τους έγιναν δούλοι τών πλουσίων.

Στήν Βραζιλία τού 21ου αιώνα, τό 2% τών γαιοκτημόνων κατέχει τό 43% τών καλλιεργήσιμων εκτάσεων, ενώ 4,5 εκατομμύρια μέλη οικογενειών πεινασμένων χωρικών περιπλανώνται στούς δρόμους αυτής τής τεράστιας χώρας στήν οποία 1,5 εκατομμύρια στρέμματα παραμένουν ακαλλιέργητα.

Στίς αρχές τού 6ου αιώνα, οι Αθηναίοι αγρότες εζήτησαν τήν εφαρμογή τής ισομοιρίας τής αττικής γής, όμως τό αίτημα τους δέν έγινε δεκτό. Στήν εποχή τού Περικλέους, όπου ο Δήμος ήτο η απόλυτη εξουσία, οι Αθηναίοι δέν επανέφεραν τό ζήτημα τής ισομοιρίας, κυρίως διότι εγνώριζαν ότι οι παραβιάσεις τής ιδιοκτησίας σέ άλλες ελληνικές πόλεις προκάλεσαν αναρχία, εμφυλίους πολέμους καί τυραννία, μέ αποτέλεσμα μεγαλύτερη ένδεια από αυτήν τής κοινωνικής τους επανάστασης γιά οικονομική ισότητα.  { ΑΔΕ ελληνική γής à λύνει τό πρόβλημα τών ευπατριδών, τής φεουδαρχίας, τής κάθε δυστυχής (άν καί πλούσιας) «Βραζιλίας, καί ικανοποιεί τήν όρεξη όσων επιθυμούν νά δουλέψουν σκληρά καί νά παράγουν περισσότερο από τόν μέσο αγρότη. }

 

            Ουδείς σοβαρός συνομιλητής σήμερα τολμά νά ισχυριστεί ότι η ατομική ιδιοκτησία γής πηγάζει από κάποια «θεία βούληση». Ο δέ καπιταλίστας δέν δύναται πλέον νά επιχειρηματολογεί υπέρ αυτής επικαλούμενος τήν αποτυχία τού κομμουνισμού, διότι καί η αποτυχία τού δικού του πολιτικού συστήματος βιώνεται καθημερινά από τά 4/5 τού πληθυσμού τού πλανήτη μας.

Μερικοί Έλληνες έχουν γίνει εκατομμυριούχοι όχι διότι παρήγαγαν έργο γιά τό οποίο ωφελήθηκε καί η Ελληνική κοινωνία καί αξίως οι ίδιοι, αλλά διότι έτυχε η γής τους νά πάρει σκανδαλώδη αξία.

Π.χ. : Βούλα, Αθηνών : Γής η οποία είχε παραχωρηθεί από τό Ελληνικό κράτος –  πολύ ορθώς – σέ Έλληνες πρόσφυγες γιά νά επιζήσουν, σήμερα έχει κάνει εκατομμυριούχους τούς σημερινούς ιδιοκτήτες τους καί αυτούς πού τήν πούλησαν.

Σήμερα δέ, γιά σιγουριά ένας λογικός άνθρωπος επενδύει σέ γή ελπίζοντας ότι σέ 10-20 έτη θα υπερδιπλασιάσει τά χρήματα του. Αυτή όμως η επένδυση του είναι νεκρά χρήματα γιά τήν Ελληνική οικονομία διότι δέν παράγουν έργο  αλλά  ανεργία …

Αντί αυτού όμως, η ΑΔΕ τού δίνει τήν ευκαιρία νά μπορεί νά επενδύει σέ επιχειρήσεις/ βιομηχανίες/οικοδομές, στήν γεωργία,… καί τοιουτοτρόπως νά συνεισφέρει καί στήν ελληνική οικονομία καί νά αυξάνει τό εισόδημα του από τήν ημέρα πού επενδύει στήν ενεργή οικονομία.

 

 

Εκκλησία

-- Γ. Μουστάκης, θεολόγος, (Alter Βαρεμένος, 25-02-05 ) : Ο Αρχιεπίσκοπος Σεραφείμ είχε πεί ότι είναι εύκολο νά κλέβεις μή-κατοχυρωμένη γή.

 

            Η πλειοψηφία τής Βουλής καί τά δικαστήρια τής χώρας μας αναγνωρίζουν δικαιώματα κυριότητας χιλιάδων στρεμμάτων γής σέ μοναστήρια τιμώντας τά χρυσόβουλα τών Βυζαντινών αυτοκρατόρων καί τά φιρμάνια τών Τούρκων σουλτάνων, χωρίς νά διστάζουν ακόμη καί νά πετάξουν στόν δρόμο εκατοντάδες οικογένειες βιοπαλαιστών, νά οικοδομούν σέ δασικές περιοχές καί σέ αρχαιολογικούς χώρους.

Η συνεργασία μεταξύ πολιτικών – τής ΝΔ κυρίως καί τού ΠΑΣΟΚ – καί εκκλησίας γιά τήν  αναγνώριση ελληνικής γής ως ιδιοκτησία μοναστηριών, τήν ανταλλαγή δασικών περιοχών καί δάσους (τού οποίου η μεταβίβαση απαγορεύεται διά νόμου) μέ δημόσια γή υψηλής αξίας, καί η παράνομη πώληση αυτών αποφέρει δεκάδες έως καί εκατοντάδες εκατομμύρια ευρώ ανά έτος στήν εκκλησία μέ αντάλλαγμα τήν υποστήριξη τού «ποιμνίου» τής εκκλησίας πρός τούς συνεργάσιμους πολιτικούς καί ένα μέρος τών κερδών ή μερικά στρέμματα  πρός τούς «φίλους» πολιτικούς καί ανώτατους δημοσίους λειτουργούς.

 

2007 : Η εκκλησία, οπλισμένη μέ έγγραφο Τούρκου σουλτάνου, διεκδικεί τό στρατόπεδο όπου στεγάζεται η Ανώτατη Διακλαδική Σχολή Πολέμου στήν Θεσσαλονίκη. Οι υπεύθυνοι τού στρατού δέχονται νά αποζημιώσουν τήν εκκλησία ή νά τής παραχωρήσουν σέ αντάλλαγμα έκταση παλιού στρατοπέδου στό Πανόραμα Θεσσαλονίκης – μία από τίς ακριβότερες περιοχές...

 

-- Οι κάτοικοι τής Κατερίνης κατηγορούν τόν ηγούμενο τής περιοχής τους ότι κάνει εμπόριο κρεάτων καί τούς κλέβει τά χωράφια τους – περί τά 55.000 στρέμματα.

 

-- Σκάνδαλο Μονής Βατοπαιδίου, Σεπτ. ‘08

Ο π. Μεταλληνός : επικαλείται τήν 7η Οικουμενική Σύνοδο, βάσει τής οποίας τά μοναστήρια δικαιούνται** νά έχουν ακίνητη περιουσία. Δηλαδή η Ορθοδοξία έχει δικαίωμα νά λειτουργεί μέ τά διατάγματα τού ανθελληνικού Βυζαντίου* -- όπως καί μέ τά Οθωμανικά φιρμάνια… -- καί ταυτοχρόνως ο Έλληνας φορολογούμενος τού νεοσυσταθέντος κράτος του νά πληρώνει τούς μισθούς τους, νά τούς φορο-απαλλάσσει ενώ μέσω τής ετήσιας επιχειρηματικής δραστηριότητας τους τα εισοδήματα τους ανέρχονται σέ εκατοντάδες εκατ. €, ν’ ανέχεται νά καταστρέφουν αρχαιολογικούς χώρους καί νά καταπατούν εκατοντάδες χιλιάδες στρέμματα ελληνικής γής πρός εκμετάλλευση καί πώληση αυτών.

* Εάν ισχύσουν ξανά τά θεσπίσματα τού Βυζαντίου, τότε σύμφωνα μέ τόν Ιουστινιανό Κώδικα, όποιος λέγεται Έλληνας πρέπει νά θανατώνεται κ.λά.

** δέν τούς επιτρέπει όμως ούτε νά γίνουν κερδοσκόποι μεσίτες ούτε ν’ αρπάζουν τά χωράφια τών πολιτών.

 

 

Τεκμηρίωση – Ιρλανδία 

Η πιό ακαταμάχητη τεκμηρίωση τής ορθότητας τών άρθρων τής ΑΔΕ γιά τήν ελληνική γής πηγάζει από τά μαθήματα τής Ιστορίας.

                                                            Why did Ireland Starve?

Within a few years in the middle of the 19th century, about a million people died of starvation in Ireland – the last large-scale natural demographic disaster to strike Europe in time of peace. With the help of massive emigration, the Irish population declined from perhaps 8 million to 4.5 million in 1900. Meanwhile, the famine and its causes have been once again in the news. Shortly after his election in 1997, British prime minister Tony Blair apologized to the Irish for what happened, stating that those who governed in London at the time had allowed a crop failure to “turn into a massive human tragedy.” In the USA, the New York state legislature passed a law requiring schools to include discussion of the famine in the curriculum, and several other states have mandated that the famine be taught as an example of “genocide.”

            Economic historians have never been able to provide a satisfactory explanation for why so fertile a country should have been the scene of so great a tragedy. In his book Why Ireland Starved, the economic historian Joel Mokyr sees that the problem must be restated in the more general form : “Why was Ireland poor?”

The proximate cause of the famine was the fungus Phylophthora infestans, which spread disastrously throughout the country beginning in 1845, reducing the potato crop – on which much of the population depended – to a fraction of its normal yield. But the famine is not easily explained by the blight, which also struck Belgium, the Netherlands and Scotland with little demographic effect. The underlying problem had already driven Ireland to an extremity of poverty, and in that condition the fungus was sufficient to create widespread starvation. Therefore : Why was Ireland so poor ; Historians have never been able to agree on an answer, or the chose not to answer it.

Some of the most frequently heard explanations are : that Ireland was overpopulated ; or that it lacked the natural resources needed to fire up the Industrial Revolution ; or that the Irish character was inconsistent with the requirements of economic growth ; or that emigration (starting before the famine) reduced Ireland to a residual population ; or that the system of land tenure undermined the farmers’ incentives. Another frequently heard argument is that ample food was exported from Ireland to England at the time of the famine, but the amounts exported were small and by 1847 Ireland was a large net importer of food.

            Irish poverty is of importance, for as Mokyr comments : “Ireland was a principal reason why the young science of economics abandoned its steadfast adherence to the sanctity of private property and free enterprise and realized that under certain circumstances, Adam Smith’s invisible hand transformed itself into a claw capable of holding the economy in a deadly grip of poverty.” The real problem was not that property in Ireland was regarded with sanctity, but that it was held insecurely – the Irish experience was characterized by conflicts and poorly defined property rights.

            Even before the famine, the “Irish Question” was widely debated in England. In a speech to the House of Commons in 1844, Disraeli drew attention to the general confusion : “I want to see a public man come forward and say what the Irish Question is. One says it is a physical question ; another a spiritual one. Now it is the absence of the aristocracy, then the absence of railroads. It is the Pope one day, potatoes the next.” He believed that “teeming population” was the key, in a country lacking “those sources of wealth which develop with civilization. … (this population) inhabits an island where there is an Established Church which is not their church, and a territorial aristocracy the richest of whom live in distant capitals. Thus you have a starving population, an absentee aristocracy and an alien church… That is the Irish Question.”

            Visiting Ireland before the famine, Thackeray wrote that the traveler “is haunted by the face of popular starvation. It is not the exception, it is the condition of the people. In this fairest and richest of countries, men are suffering and starving by millions.” De Tocqueville’s friend, Gustave de Beaumont was appalled by what he saw shortly before the famine : “I have seen the Indian in his forests and the negro in his irons, and I believe, in pitying their plight, that I saw the lowest ebb of human misery ; but I did not then know the degree of poverty to be found in Ireland.”

A frequent accusation, popular in England, was that Ireland suffered from the idleness of its inhabitants. The Times thought that the cause was genetic – “By the inscrutable but invariable laws of nature,” the paper editorialized in 1847, “the Celt is less energetic, less independent, less industrious than the Saxon.” The economist Nassau Senior concluded that the Irish needed overseers : “(The Irishman) works hard in Great Britain or in the USA, but in his own country he is indolent. … (and this was obvious) even to the passing traveller.” And for the most brave ones, maybe an institutional defect at home was the more logical explanation.

            After visiting Ireland in 1856, Engels wrote to Marx about the great estates he had seen, surrounded by enormous parks, “but all around is waste land, and where the money ιs supposed to come from it is impossible to see. … If one makes an inquiry, they haven’t a penny, are laden with debts, and live in dread of the encumbered Estates Court.” Here was an important but widely overlooked clue from Engels : the landlords lived on vast estates but were often impoverished. Why was that ?

Thomas Malthus, having returned from a tour of the country in 1817, concluded that the “predominant evil of Ireland (is a population) greatly in excess of the demand for labour.” and he recommended that a great part of this population “should be swept from the soil into large manufacturing and commercial towns.” By the second edition of his Principles of Political Economy (1836), he changed his mind : Ireland’s capital shortage, and the failure to industrialize, was more an effect than a cause. Then, briefly, he hit on something far more important : “There is indeed  fatal deficiency in one of the greatest sources of prosperity, the perfect security of property ; and till this defect is remedied, it is not easy to pronounce upon the degree in which the redundant capital of England would flow into Ireland with the best effect.”

Indeed, overpopulation was not the problem. In the 18th century, the Irish population was only half its 1840s total, and yet there had been famine and misery then. In the 19th century, Ireland had more cultivated acres per capita than Holland, Belgium, England and Wales (272) than in Ireland (251).

            An alternative explanation has been discussed, claiming that the real problem lay in the system of land tenure. A parliamentary commission known as the Devon Commission, set up in 1844, collected a mass of evidence on the subject : “Uncertainty of tenure is constantly referred to as a pressing grievance by all classes of tenants… It is said to paralyze all exertion and to place fatal impediments in the way of improvement. We have no doubt that this is the case in many instants.”

            John Stuart Mill, for one, believed that the “cottier system” (land system) was the true problem. Abundant labour allowed owners to raise rents, and the effect was to “to bring the principle of population to act directly on the land.” The land was fixed, the population had “an unlimited power of increase” ; so tenant farmers, by their rivalry, reduced each other to a bare subsistence. This was all deduced from the economists’ “laws” of population and rent. Landlords pocketed their rents and cottier farmers were impoverished.

He was fond of quoting the comment of the writer Arthur Young on the merits of property : “Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden ; give him nine years lease of a garden and he will convert it into a desert. The magic property turns sand into gold.” But this quote undermined his whole argument.

Why were owners in Ireland different ? Mill’s answer was most unsatisfactory, yet in retrospect seems to have coloured the entire debate : Landlords in England were enlightened ; those in Ireland were shortsighted. It is unsatisfactory, obviously, to impute folly to a whole class of people. Something else was going on. Perhaps the landlords in Ireland were shortsighted for a reason.

            If tenure was the problem, long-term leases were the solution. They would allow farmers to benefit from their own improvements. Men could not be expected to exert themselves to improve the land if they believed that the fruits of their labour would be reaped by others. Indeed, in the province of Ulster (today Northern Ireland), there was a custom whereby the new tenant paid a sum of money to the departing tenant, compensating him for his improvements. Conditions were indeed better in Ulster, and the famine was also much less severe there.

            It is difficult to determine how much land in Ireland was held under lease, and how much at will. Mokyr concluded that lease was shortening before the famine, and some experts say that over half the land was held at will. Predatory behaviour by landlords was certainly a possibility. But before we assume that the landlords in Ireland were merely avaricious, we need to remember that they have an interest in the prosperity of their tenants. Capturing improvements by raising tenants’ rents would only discourage such improvements in the future, so, logically, owners would not engage in this self-destructive behaviour. As Mokyr put it : “The neoclassical landlord sees his rent increase steadily as the tenant accumulates capital. The predatory landlord earns a once-and-for-all windfall, but at the cost of a future flow of rents… Predatory land-lordship was not likely to persist among large number of rational landlords, as it amounted to the willful sacrifice of future income on their part.”

            Predatory behaviour, thought, according to the capitalist system of the Western civilization is considered rational when the owners’ time horizons are short : landlords may try to grab what they can today if next year’s prospects are worse. And we have seen that many Irish landlords did become impoverished ; so, it begins to seem likely that horizon-shrinking conditions in Ireland encouraged the uneconomic behaviour that in the end impoverished both tenants and landlords. But the precise conditions which caused this have not received the attention it has deserved.

            The terrible situation meanwhile dragged on and brought discredit upon the private property system. Marx saw the long-awaited revolution coming at last. In 1870, he told friends in the USA that the decisive low against the English ruling class would be delivered in Ireland.

Reform was time and again defeated in the House of Lords – which was dominated for decades by Anglo-Irish landlords – with the argument that the “sanctity of private property” was at stake. But at the same time, Ireland caused Mill to renounce his faith in “absolute property in land”, and Henry George – the author of Progress and Poverty – believed that Ireland vindicated his theory that the private ownership of land lay at the root of poverty. Both men, thought, failed to identify the critical issue. In order to see it more clearly, we need to look further back into the past.

A Title of Confiscation

The British left the majority of the Irish where they found them and, instead of settling among them and attempting to govern them, took possession of much of the property while preferring to live in England as absentees. Jonathan Swift asserted that at least one-third of the rent collected from the Irish was spent in England.

            Before the Reformation, British attempts to conquer Ireland had been sporadic and ineffectual. British rule was mostly confined to the Pale, within about 20 miles of Dublin – outside of which the Irish were beyond the Pale. After the reformation, however, the British responded to the survival of Catholicism with great ferocity. Ireland was conquered, yet was neither assimilated nor subdued. Lord Clare suggested in 1800 that this outcome was worse than defeat : “If the ears of England, carried on here (in Ireland) from the reign of Elizabeth, had been waged against a foreign country, the inhabitants would have retained their possessions under the established law of civilized nations, and their country would have been annexed as a province to the British Empire. But the continuing and persevering resistance of Ireland to the British crown during the whole of the last century was mere rebellion, and the municipal law of England attached upon the crime”.

            Ireland’s Catholic allegiance threatened Britain’s national security – as we would now say – and, of course, limitless brutality was thereby rationalized. For their part, many Irishmen felt that he survival of Catholicism depended on the downfall of England, and so they supported the enemies of their oppressors. Cecil Woodham-Smith wrote that “In the defeat of the Armada, Ireland’s hope of independence went down, ... (but), in every crisis of England’s history, she seized the moment of weakness to stab her enemy in the back. It is the explanation if not the excuse, for the ferocity with which the English have treated the Irish.”

In 1796, French warships were prevented only by bad weather from landing in the southwest of Ireland. Mill believed that “If the ships had landed, the great landowners would have fled to England, ... (and) every farm on their property would have become the property of the occupant... Ireland would then have been in the condition in which small farming, and tenancy by manual labourers, are consistent with good agriculture and prosperity. The small holder would have laboured for himself.”

Fearing an Irish alliance with their enemies, the British had already imposed harsh penal laws : Outrage Acts, Test Acts, Coercion Acts, Public Peace Acts, Suppression of Disturbance Acts. Habeas corpus was routinely suspended, and, above all, property was expropriated. Englishmen acquired title to a vast amount of confiscated land in Ireland. No Catholic was allowed to buy land, inherit it or receive it as a gift from Protestants. If a Catholic secretly purchased land owned by a Protestant, the first to inform on him became the new owner.

William Lecky wrote : “The whole country was soon filled with spies, endeavouring to appropriate the property of Catholics ; and Popish discoveries became a main business of the law courts. The few Catholic landlords who remained after the confiscations were deprived of the liberty of testament, which was possessed by all other subjects of the crown. Their estates, upon their death, were divided equally among their sons, unless the eldest became a Protestant ; in which case the whole was settle upon him. In this manner, Catholic landlords were gradually but surely impoverished. Their land passed almost universally into the hands of Protestants...  (The penal code) was inspired less by fanaticism than by rapacity, and was directed less against the Catholic religion than against the property and industry of its professors.  It was intended to make them poor and keep them poor, to crush in them every germ of enterprise, to degrade them into a servile caste.”

            Catholics were burdened with tithes to support the Anglican Church ; denied the vote ; excluded from the magistracy, the bar, and the bench ; could not be sheriffs or constables ; and could not possess arms. In his own country, Lecky wrote, the Catholic was recognized by the law only for repression and punishment. The lord chancellor and the chief justice both laid down from the bench “that the law does not suppose any such person to exist as an Irish Roman Catholic.” A system that induced Catholics to abandon their faith, and an army of spies to prey upon their property, had an extremely demoralizing effect. The people “gradually acquired the vices of slaves.”

            England and Ireland were united under British rule in 1800, and the Irish parliament abolished. Although the law in Ulster was no different from that in other provinces, the Ulster tenants enjoyed a customary right that improved their position. The Devon (parliamentary) Commission concluded that “the present tenant-right of Ulster is an embryo copyhold,” referring to an important development of the common law in England. A copyhold was a secure lease on the land, with the holder’s name copied into a ledger kept by the local court. This ensured legal protection for the tenant in case of dispute. “The disorganized state of Tipperary, and the agrarian combination throughout Ireland, are but the methodized war to obtain the Ulster tenant-right,” the commission added.

The great difference between Ulster and the rest of the country was that in earlier centuries the native Irish there had been more thoroughly vanquished in battle. The land was then settled by predominantly Scottish and English tenants. In the 17th century, a particular attempt had been made by Sir John Davis1, James I’s attorney general, to ensure that the land in northern Ireland was “divided among many”, and not “granted away in gross, or by whole countries to any one man.” By the 18th century, then, landlords and tenants in Ulster did not regard each other as hereditary enemies and, as another commission of inquiry noted, “the Ulster tenant felt (and feels) he had a property in his farm – something on earth he could call his own ; and the fruits of his industry would be allowed to accumulate into a small capital.”

1 [ Davis observed that insecure tenure had promoted civil strife in England, It had permitted lords at the time of the barons’ wars to raise their own armies. By the 17th century, however, if any of the great lords of England had tried to raise an army, they might be able to muster “ some of their household servants, or some few light-brained factious gentlemen to follow them.” But tenants who had enjoyed good leases for years would not lay down their farm tools to take up arms. Some of them – copyholders – could even “bring an action for trespass against their lords if they dispossess them without cause of forfeiture.” In short, copyhold tenure, recognized by the courts, was slowly making tenants independent of their lords ; in fact, making de facto property owners of them. And so it became much harder to roust them from their homes and press them into military service.

In Ulster, then, the custom arose that new tenants paid for improvements that the departing tenants had made.

            In the rest of Ireland, overwhelmingly Catholic, no such custom existed. James O’Connor wrote in his History of Ireland : “The antipathy between him and his landlord forbade any arrangement based on mutual goodwill. … In Ulster, the Presbyterian Scot was of sturdier mould, for he had not been under the heel of class, religious or race oppression. There was this bond between him and his landlord, that each was an intruder and knew he was looked on as such.” The same point was made by Isaac Butt – professor of political economy at the University of Dublin, brilliant pamphleteer and leading 19th century analyst of the Irish land question – who also was one of the few to see the problem in its political, legal and economic aspects. (Land Tenure in Ireland : A plea for the Celtic Race, 1866).

A notorious rack-renting case (the term denotes a torturously high rental) in County Clare illustrates the problem elsewhere. The marquis of Coyningham had imposed a rent increase equal to the full value of the tenants’ improvements, and then foreclosed on those unable to pay. This drove out half the population, leaving them “to wander about Ireland, or to England or America, and swell the ranks of the bitter enemies of Great Britain,” as Mill put it. Many such cases were reported. The Irish attempted to redress such grievances by “agrarian combination”, i.e. by unionizing tenants. Some used terrorist tactics to prevent new tenants from moving in, and the reprisals against the ones who did were horrifying. And unfortunately, as expected the newcomers were themselves often on the verge of starvation, and willing to promise the landlord any rent to gain a brief access to the land before being evicted in turn. Lawlessness was endemic.

Ireland was in a state of degradation, Isaac Butt wrote, because : “… the great mass of the people have been treated as belonging to a conquered race. All legislative and administrative efforts have been directed to secure the position of the landowners, to protect them against the people, and to enable them to raise as much as they can from the serfs that were located on their estates. … In a country of which the dominant caste consist of those who hold their properties by a title of confiscation it is not, perhaps, surprising that the rights of property have been religiously, or rather irreligiously, upheld ; the rights of industry and labour slighted, and no account taken of the first and most sacred of all rights – the right of the Irish people to live in their native land.”

            The penal code had been lifted in the 1780s and 1790s, but the law in Ireland was by no means the same as that in England ; Mill and others being under the impression that it was, were led to conclude that the law itself was not the place to look, in trying to account for the great economic differences between England and Ireland. Mill even believed that in England, too, landlords were free to rack-rent tenants, but were restrained from doing so by their own good character and by a “powerful public opinion” – by the media, as we might say today.

According to one of the best sources, though, Isaac Butt – the queen’s counsel in London and one well versed in these legal matters – English law did not fully apply in Ireland. The common law in England discouraged eviction of tenants, even for nonpayment of rent, and a landlord who tried to proceed against a tenant “was held strictly to every requisite of the law. Forfeitures were odious in all English courts.” But special legislation had reversed these principles in Ireland. An Ejectment Code, enacted at the time of the anti-Catholic laws, eased the eviction of Irish tenants : “Statute after statute was passed for those purposes, … If defects were discovered in the old penal law, they were met by a new one. As some latent principle of common-law protection was discovered undestroyed, a new and more stringent enactment mowed it down – until, as I said, the whole principle of the common law was reversed.”

            The underlying problem in Ireland, then, was the chronic guerrilla war between tenants and landlords, and between Irish subjects and British rule generally. The British had tried to crush the Irish into submission ; when they gave up trying, the Irish were in no mood to co-exist peacefully with their oppressors, while the religious disagreement only made the problem much worse. What all this suggests is that the long-neglected actor on the Irish stage has all along been the landlord.

Ownership in Ireland was often a trophy of politics, not the result of free exchange. Such titles had in the past been subject to confiscation when the political regime changed. It was said by Lord Clare, at the time of the Act of Union between England and Ireland, that the whole of Ireland had been expropriated three times within little more than a hundred years. That is, the expropriators had been expropriated at least twice. For a long period, then, politics in England, in addition to the guerrilla war in Ireland, rendered the landlord insecure in his property. An 1840 parliamentary commission recounted the history : “In the south of Ireland (before Cromwell), the title to property was unsettled. For more than a century, confiscation and re-confiscation followed each other, until the Acts of Settlement and Explanation (in 1660) secured the followers of Cromwell in their estates.” When James II was driven from England, he retreated first to France and then to Ireland. Before his defeat at the Battle of Boyne (1690), Protestant land owners were driven out and all lands confiscated since 1641 were restored to their original owners. “The repeal of the Irish Act of Settlement by the Parliament of James II gave the Protestant proprietors a fright from which they have not perfectly recovered even to this day. … Since that time they have been persuaded that every change of policy, or isolated disturbance, threatens their titles. They deem that they only garrison their estates, and therefore they look upon the native occupants (I cannot call them tenants) as persons ready to eject them upon a favorable opportunity. Hence, the Munster landlord was afraid to give the persons who occupied his ground a permanent hold upon the land, or a beneficial interest in its occupancy. The old struggle of title, in natural course, produced the new contest of tenure.”

After 1690, William III obtained control of more than a million acres of forfeited estates in Ireland, which he disposed of in large swaths to his English and Dutch friends. But then they were seized after eight years, this time by Parliament.

            Landlords were once reminded of the precarious nature of their titles when the Act of Union between the two countries was debated in 1800. Certain Lords encouraged the landlords who were opposed to it to vote for it anyway, because the retention of their Irish acres depended wholly on the survival of British military rule : “The whole power and property of the country has been conferred by successive monarchs of England upon an English colony, composed of three sets of English adventurers who poured into this country at the termination of three successive rebellions. Confiscation is their common title ; and from their first settlement they have been hemmed in on every side by the old inhabitants of the island, brooding over their discontents in sullen indignation… What, then, was the security of the English settlers for their physical existence at the Revolution (of 1688), and what is the security of their descendants at this day? The powerful and commanding protection of Great Britain. If by any fatality it fails, you are at the mercy of the old inhabitants of the island.” (Fox, Key to the Irish Question.)

Title to property seemed as insecure as everything else in Ireland. Arthur Young’s description of the country, published in his Tour of Ireland in 1780, indirectly illustrates the point. Valuable forests had been cut down in haste, he noted. The short time horizons of landlords in Ireland could not have been better illustrated : “In conversion with gentlemen, I found they very generally laid the destruction of timber to the common people, who, they say, have an aversion to a tree. At the earliest stage they steal it for a waling stick, afterwards for a spade handle ; later for a car (buggy) shaft ; and later still for a cabin rafter. That the poor do steal it is certain, … Is the consumption of sticks and handles that has destroyed millions of acres? Absurdity! The profligate, prodigal, worthless landowner cuts down his acres, and leaves them unfenced against cattle, and then he has the impudence to change the scarcity of trees to the walking sticks of the poor, goes into the House of Commons and votes for an Act, which lays a penalty of forty shillings on any poor man having a twig in his possession which he cannot account for.”

Arthur Young brilliantly described the situation, but failed to explain why landowners were profligate and prodigal. They feared, with good reason, that the lands they owned today would no longer be theirs tomorrow. So they took every opportunity to convert their insecure real property into secure bank balances – patiently awaiting the slow maturation of plans or plants is not something that insecure owners do. At the time of William and Mary, confiscated estates were immediately pillaged by those who received them. The commissioners of confiscated estates reported that the new owners, far from being grateful, “have been so greedy to seize upon the most trifling profits that large trees have been down and sold for six pence each.” (Fox, Key to the Irish Question.)

With the end of the Napoleonic Wars, title to property in Ireland did become more secure. By the 1840s, however, many owners were so impoverished that they were unable to pay their creditors. They had borrowed heavily against their estates, but had been unable to collect the “fictitious rentals that pauper tenants had covenanted to pay.” as Isaac Butt wrote. The landlords suffered severe reverses during the famine. At least 1/3 were ruined and many others were in financial difficulties. By 1849, it was said, “the tenants looked as though they had just come out of their graves, while the landlords looked as though they were just entering theirs.”

            Parliament established the Encumbered Estates Court in 1849, forcing all Irish landowners to sell their property on petition of any creditor, leading to a general auction of property in the 1850s. Hundreds of thousands of acres were sold – often for ½ to 1/3 of the purchase price – usually not enough to cover debts. By 1857, over 3,000 estates had been sold and divided between 8,000 new owners, mostly Irish.

            There was an additional reason why owners had miscalculated. In 1797, the Bank of England suspended the convertibility of sterling into gold, thereby permitting inflation. Commodity prices increased by 44% in the next three years. With the introduction of the sovereign (a gold coin worth one pound) in 1817, convertibility was resumed, but at the prewar parity. To prevent the loss of its gold reserve, the Bank of England tightened money until prices fell back to their prewar level. Commodity prices in England fell by half, from an index level of 182.5 in 1813, to 90 in 1845. This price deflation was by far the most severe England had ever experienced, both in depth and duration. Hardly anyone understood what was going on, and many attributed the general hardship to laissez-faire economics rather than monetary deflation. Hard times were also felt in England, of course, and described by Charles Dickens, and should be understood in light of this deflation.

Landlords who had acquired property in Ireland at a time of inflated prices found with the restored gold standard that their estates were worth far less than they had paid for them. To the insecurity of property, then, was added the unpredictability of money. Economists have usually overlooked this point in connection with Ireland ; and indeed England. The landlords themselves didn’t understand what was happening – deflation wasn’t understood at all at the time. Nonetheless, they attempted to recoup their losses by any means, including rack-renting their tenants and expropriating their labour ; in doing so, they were barely constrained by law, and were encouraged by a climate of opinion holding that the Irish were lazy or subversive, or both.

            After the forced sales, the Irish situation slowly improved. Estates were broken up, helping to create what had long been lacking – a middle class. The new owners – most of whom were Irish -  received a title that was legal and indisputable, conferring an absolute right to the property. “It was hoped that English or Scotch purchasers would have been induced to buy land in Ireland, and farm it ; but neither, it seems, have come forward,” Lavergne added. “There exists an old distrust of Ireland, not soon to be eradicated. They fear the revival of jacqueries, and detest popery and the papists. Ask an Englishman to invest his capital in Ireland, promising him at the same time a return of 8 or 10% : it is much the same as proposing to a Frenchman to send his to Africa among the Arabs.”

            With the Irish Land Act of 1870, the tenants’ right to be recompensed for improvements was acknowledged, and landlords were given incentives to grant long leases. With the restoration of full civil rights to the Irish, economic conditions finally became tolerable, and the Irish question at last receded.

            The insecurity of property in Ireland explains the pillaging of estates, the scarcity of capital, the rack-renting of tenants and the contest of tenure. It more generally explains why, in 1845, in a green and fertile and by no means overpopulated land, the country was already destitute and on the brink of starvation, needing only the potato blight to trigger the catastrophe.

 

 

Σπύρος Ε. Κουλουμπέρης

http://amesidemocratiaellenon.blogspot.com

adeepsilon@yahoo.gr

27440-26458

694-1569303

 

Comments