Famine Emigration to America - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel

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mand the Repeal of the Union. They were the same class, sons of the same men, who had, in 1782, wrested the independence of Ireland from an English Government, and enjoyed the fruits of that independence in honour, wealth, and prosperity, for eighteen years. Why not now? It is because, in 1782, the Catholics of Ireland counted as nothing: now they are numerous, enfranchised, exasperated, and the Irish landlords dare not trust themselves in Ireland without British support. They looked on tamely, therefore, and saw this deliberate scheme for the pauperization of a nation. They knew it would injure themselves; but they took the injury, took insult along with it, and submitted to be reproached for begging alms, when they demanded restitution of a part of their own means.

Over the whole island, for the next few months, was a scene of confused and wasteful attempts at relief; bewildered barony sessions striving to understand the voluminous directions, schedules, and specifications under which alone they could vote their own money to relieve the poor at their own doors; but generally making mistakes,—for the unassisted human faculties never could comprehend those ten thousand books and fourteen tons of paper; insolent commissioners and inspectors, and clerks snubbing them at every turn, and ordering them to study the documents: efforts on the part of the proprietors to expend some of the rates at least on useful works, reclaiming land, or the like; which efforts were always met with flat refusal and a lecture on political economy; (for political economy, it seems, declared that the works must be strictly useless,—as cutting down a road where there was no hill, or building a bridge where there was no water,—until many good roads became impassable on account of pits and trenches):—plenty of jobbing and peculation all this while; and the labourers, having the example of a great public fraud before their eyes, themselves defrauding their fraudulent employers,—quitting agricultural pursuits and crowding to the public works, where they pretended to be cutting down hills and filling up hollows, and with tongue in cheek received half wages for doing nothing. So the labour was wasted; the labourers were demoralized, and the next year's famine was ensured.

Now began to be a rage for extermination beyond any former time; and many thousands of the peasants, who could still scrape up the means, fled to the sea, as if pursued by wild beasts, and betook themselves to America. The British army also received numberless recruits this year (for it is sound English policy to keep our people so low that a shilling a day would ...continue reading »

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