for which that period was remarkable. There, on the poorest of bog-soil, amongst "the lowest order of Irish poor, discontented, disorderly and vicious, and under the worst circumstances imaginable," an ideal little experimental community was formed. Among the agreements entered into by these practical impossibilists was one which said that "no member be expected to perform any service or work but such as is agreeable to his or her feelings," yet certain it is that the disagreeable work was daily performed. The following dialogue between a passing stage-coach passenger and a member of the community, whom he found working in water which reached his middle, is recorded: —
"Are you working by yourself?" inquired the traveller. "Yes," was the answer. "Where is your steward?" "We have no steward." "Who is your master?" "We have no master. We are on a new system." "Then who sent you to do this work?" "The committee," replied the man in the dam. "Who is the committee?" asked the mail-coach visitor. "Some of the members." "What members do you mean?" "The ploughmen and labourers who are appointed by us as a committee. I belong to the new systemites."
Members of this community were elected by ballot among the peasants of Ralahine. "There was no inequality established among them," says G. J. Holyoake,* to whom I am indebted for the above description. He adds: — "It seems incredible that this simple and reasonable form of government** should supersede the government of the bludgeon and the blunderbuss — the customary mode by which Irish labourers of that day regulated their industrial affairs. Yet peace and prosperity prevailed through an arrangement of equity."
The community was successful for three and a half years, and then its end was brought about by causes entirely external. The man who had given his land up for the purposes of the experiment lost his money by gambling, and the colony of 618 acres had to be forfeited. This example of the introduction of a new system among such unpromising circumstances might
* "History of Co-operation."
** I need not, I think, stay to explain the sense in which this word is used. The committee were workers, not specialised advisers; above all, they had no authority and could only suggest and not issue orders. They were, therefore, not a Government.