The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

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prison, without any charge against them. The Act was passed, of course.

Then, as the famine of 1848 was fully as grievous and destructive as any of the previous famines;—as the rate-payers were impoverished, and in most of the "unions," could not pay the rates already due—and were thus rapidly sinking into the condition of paupers; giving up the hopeless effort to maintain themselves by honest industry, and throwing themselves on the earnings of others; as the poor-houses were all filled to overflowing, and the exterminated people were either lying down to die or crowding into the emigrant-ships;—as, in short, the Poor Law, and the New Poor Law, and the Improved Poor Law, and the Supplementary Poor Law, had all manifestly proved a "failure," Lord John Russell's next step was to give Ireland more Poor Law.

When I say that the whole code of poor laws was a failure, I must qualify that expression, as before. They were a failure for their professed purpose—that of relieving the famine; but were a complete success for their real purpose—that of uprooting the people from the land, and casting them forth to perish. I have not much faith in the "government" statistics of that country, but as some may wish to see how much our enemies were willing to admit, I shall give some details from a report furnished in '48 by Captain Larcom, under the orders of the government, and founded on local reports of police inspectors. I find the main facts epitomized thus, for one year:—

"In the number of farms, of from one to five acres, the decrease has been 524,147; from five to fifteen acres, 27,379; from fifteen to thirty acres, 4,274; whilst of farms above thirty acres the increase has been 3,670. Seventy thousand occupiers, with their families, numbering about three hundred thousand, were rooted out of the land.

"In Leinster, the decrease in the number of holdings not exceeding one acre, as compared with the decrease of '47, was 3,749; above one, and not exceeding five, was 4,026; of five, and not exceeding fifteen, was 2,546; of fifteen to thirty, 891; making a total of 10,617.

"In Munster, the decrease in the holdings, under thirty acres, is stated at 18,814; the increase over thirty acres, 1,399.

"In Ulster, the decrease was 1,502; the increase, 1,134.

"In Connaught, where the labour of extermination was least, the clearance has been most extensive. There, in particular, the roots of holders of the soil were never planted deep beneath the surface, and, consequently, were exposed to every exterminator's hand. There were in 1847, 35,634 holders of from one to five acres. In the following year there were less by 9,703; there were 76,707 holders of from five to fifteen acres, less in one year by 12,891; those of from fifteen to thirty acres were reduced by 2,121; a total depopulation of 26,499 holders of ...continue reading »

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Page 211

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

by John Mitchel

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