Curwen: Observations Of The State Of Ireland

Pdf Curwen, John Christian, Observations On The State Of Ireland Vol I, London: Baldwin, Craddock and Brown, 1818
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Observations On The State Of Ireland by John Christian Curwen MP (1756-1828), was published in two volumes in 1818. It was the result of John Christian Curwen's comprehensive study of the social and economic conditions pertaining in Ireland in the early 19th century.

An elite of Anglo-Irish Protestant gentry landowners dominated the social, political and economic life of the island of Ireland while the majority of the Irish peasants especially Catholics lived in dire poverty surviving on a diet of potatoes while subject to enormous rents. This state of affairs came about following the Cromwellian and Williamite wars of the 17th century which saw mass land confiscations and penal laws reducing Catholics to paupery. Whig liberals such as Curwen campaigned for social and agrarian reforms.

Curwen campaigned against the Corn Laws which reinforced British merchantilism and prohibited free trade and was an ally of William Wilberforce a fellow MP who campaigned successfully for the abolition of the African slave trade. Curwen helped to put into law the Rome Catholic Relief Act 1791which reformed the regime of the penal laws and laid the ground work for the future Catholic Emancipation movement of Daniel O'Connell. A major influence was Curwen's avowed atheist beliefs and opposition to religious bigotry.

Curwen was enchanted by the beauty of Ireland but shocked at the what he saw as farcical economic mismanagement, injustices and the poverty he witnessed. His knowledge of the country was minimal before he arrived in country as he freely admitted:

"The prospect of visiting a country, which, although almost within our view, and daily in our contemplation, is as little known to me, comparatively speaking, as if it were an island in the remotest part of the globe, necessarily produces a high degree of interest. "

Curwen empathised with the plight of the ordinary people and came to understand the history of repeated Irish rebellion was due to oppression and injustice although he disagreed with violence as a means of redress for these wrongs. Curwen was fascinated by agriculture and he saw a solution in the development of the agricultural economy of Ireland.

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