The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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date, Ireland sent away and England received, of grain alone, of the crop of 1845, three millions two hundred and fifty thousand quarters,—besides innumerable cattle;—making a value of at least seventeen millions sterling.

Now, when Parliament met in January, the sole "remedial measure" proposed by Sir Robert Peel (besides the Coercion Bill, and the Corn Bill to cheapen bread in England), was a grant of £50,000 for Public Works, and another grant of as much for drainage of estates;—both these being grants, not to Ireland, but to the Commissioners of Public Works; and to be administered, not as Irishmen might suggest, but as to the said Commissioners might seem good. It was the two-hundredth part of what might probably have sufficed to stay the famine. It might have given sensible relief—if honestly administered—to the smallest of the thirty-two counties. How it was used, not for relief, but for aggravation of the misery, I have to tell hereafter. For that season's famine it was, at any rate, too late, and before any part of it became available, many thousands had died of hunger. The London newspapers complacently stated that the impression "in political circles " was, that two millions of the people must perish before the next harvest.

January, February, and part of March passed away. Nothing was done for relief; but much preparation was made in the way of appointing hosts of Commissioners and Commissioners' clerks, and preparing voluminous stationery, schedules, specifications, and red-tape to tie them up neatly, which so greatly embarrass all British official action*—a very injurious sort of embarrassment in such a case as the Crimean war; but the very thing that did best service on the present occasion.

O'Connell, O'Brien, and some other Repeal members proceeded to London in March, to endeavour to stir up Ministers, or at least discover what they were intending. In answer to Mr O'Brien, Sir James Graham enumerated the grants and loans I have above mentioned; and added something about other public moneys, which, he said, were also available for relief of distress, adding:—

"Instructions have been given on the responsibility of the government to meet every emergency. It would be expedient for me to detail those instructions; but I may state generally there is no portion of this distress, however wide-spread or lamentable, on which government have not endeavoured on their own responsibility to take the best precautions, to give the best directions of which circumstances could admit." ...continue reading »


*In April of next year, Jones, Twistleton, &c, were enabled to report that they had sent to Ireland "Ten thousand books—besides fourteen tons of paper." They give no no account of the tape.

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Page 105

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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