A provocative essay, tackling the issue of the failure of agriculture, coupled with the reluctance of Parliament or landowners to address the problems.
After looking at Parliamentary Committee evidence, Murray attacks both landlords and tenants, before proposing a variety of remedies.
The theory is blended with practical examples and solutions, and consistently compares and contrasts the Scottish and English experience. "Scattered over an immense district of country, and far apart from each other, the world from which the tenant draws his information of things is local and circumscribed. Physical circumstances preclude him and his brethren from acquiring a correct notion of the effects which passing events have upon his condition; and from ever attaining, by unity of ideas and opinions, that determination of purpose which constitutes political strength, and which has so frequently and so successfully been displayed by the inhabitants of towns. These circumstances have been instrumental in keeping the tenantry of Great Britain in comparative ignorance as to the situation of their brethren throughout the kingdom; destitute of which knowledge, they can form but a very imperfect opinion upon the subject of Agricultural Distress........The accompanying remarks are offered to the consideration of the tenantry; convinced, as I am, that 'an endeavour, however partially it may prove successful in promoting the great object which it aims at. may nevertheless have some slight influence in drawing the attention of the tenantry of the kingdom t-o a serious and resolute consideration of their general situation, and may in some manner be effectual in winnowing from the question of Agricultural Distress the chaff which the interested and the selfish have unblushingly mingled with it. Notwithstanding all that has been stated as to the incomprehensible nature of this question, I do not feel that I am presumptuous in supposing that I can, from the circumstance of having had more leisure and opportunity to bestow upon its consideration than most of the tenantry, so simplify it by clearing it of the rubbish which has been heaped upon it....
Originally published in 1836