The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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in Ireland and in Europe. Authentic data upon this point are to be found in the financial statement of Sir Charles Wood, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in February, 1847. In that statement he declares—and he tells it, he says, with great satisfaction—that "the English people and working classes" are steadily growing more comfortable, nay, more luxurious in their style of living. He goes into particulars even, to show how rapidly a taste for good things spreads amongst English labourers, and bids his hearers "recollect that consumption could not be accounted for by attributing it to the higher and wealthier classes, but must have arisen from the consumption of the large body of the people and the working classes."

And what do you think constituted the regimen of the "body of the people and working classes" in that part of the world? And in what proportion had its consumption increased? Why, in the matter of coffee, they had used nearly 7,000,000 lbs. of it more than they did in 1843; of butter and cheese they devoured double as much within the year as they had done three years before within the same period. "I will next," says the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "take currants"—for currants are one of the necessaries of life to an English labourer, who must have his pudding on Sunday at least—and we find that the quantity of currants used by the "body of the people and working classes" had increased in three years from 254,000 cwt. to 359,000 cwt., by the year. Omitting other things, we come to the Chancellor's statement, that since 1843 the consumption of tea had increased by 5,400,000 lbs. It is unnecessary to say they had as much beef and bacon as they could eat, and bread á discretion—and as for beer!

So they live in merry England.

This statement was read by Sir Charles Wood at the end of a long speech, in which he announced the necessity of raising an additional loan to keep life in some of the surviving Irish; and he read it expressly in order "to dispel some portion of the gloom which had been cast over the minds of members," by being told that a portion of the surplus revenue must go to pay interest on a slight addition to the national debt. And the gloom was dispelled; and honourable members comforted themselves with the reflection that, whatever be the nominal debt of the country, after all, a man of the working classes can ask no more than a good dinner every day, and a pudding on Sundays.

One would not grudge the English labourer his dinner, or his tea; and I refer to his excellent table only to remark that ...continue reading »

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Page 124

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel


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