Coachman's reasons for Murder

I was riding upon a coach in the second year of the famine, in a lonely part of the west, when the coachman pointed me to a corner around the wall, and remarked, "When I passed this place to-day, a man lay dead there who had been killed some hours before by one of the tenants living upon the land here." "Why did he do the shocking deed I inquired. "A good deed, by dad," was the answer. "Why lady, he was the greatest blackguard that ever walked the airth; he was agent to a gentleman, and he showed no mercy to a poor man that was toilin' for the potato; but as soon as the famine was sore on the craturs, he drove every one into the blake staurm that could not give the rent, and many's the poor bein' that died with the starvation, without the shelter; and wouldn't ye think that such a hard-hearted villain better be dead, than to live and kill so many poor women and helpless children, as would be wanderin' in the black mountains this winter, if he should live to drive 'em there." Now, this is certainly unchristian logic, but it is resentful nature's logic, and in accordance with all the principles of national killing. In vain I preached and held up a better principle—"A great good had been done to all the parish, and all the parish should be glad that so many lives had been saved by this one which had been taken."

It was night, and I felt a little relief when a policeman ascended the coach, who was going in quest of a coroner; a sad deed, he added, but the murdered man was hard-hearted, and no doubt that it was some of the tenants on the land of which he was agent who did the work, yet not one has escaped. "And why," retorted the driver, "should a hap'orth of 'em take up the heel; they have done a good deed, and if they're hung, it will be better than the starvation." The policeman was silent, and I was not anxious to pursue the fruitless argument with one who saw no light, but through the medium of doing unto others as others do to him. And where this principle prevails, as it does in the hearts of all the unsanctified, the wonder is that so few have been the lawless deeds that have been transacted in that oppressed country for centuries gone by. The mischief is all laid at the door of the Papists; and when I speak of the Christianity of Ireland, I would do it with caution—I would not "hurt the oil or the wine,"—I would not "judge nor set at naught my brother,"—but I would say deliberately and conscientiously, that if those who call themselves the only true light of that benighted land, the only safe lamps to guide to the heavenly country, were more careful to show mercy and walk humbly, they might long ago have seen a better state of things. Yes, had Bible men and Bible women possessed that love in heart which has been upon the tongue, had they manifested that tenderness for Christ, as they have for a party, a name, or a church; had they been as assiduous to win souls to Christ by love and kindness, as they have to gather in their tithes by law and violence, many who are now scoffing at a "truth held in unrighteousness," might have been glorying in one producing holiness and peace. But I forbear: "murder will out," wrong will be righted, however painful the process, and though judgment long delay, yet it must come at last; the wheel of Providence is ever rolling, and every spoke belonging to it must in turn be uppermost, and the oppressed cannot always be at the bottom.

Read "Annals of the Famine in Ireland" at your leisure

Annals of the Famine in Ireland

Read Annals of the Famine in Ireland at your leisure and help support this free Irish library.

This book still has the power to shock and sadden even though the events described are ever-receding further into the past. When you read, for example, of the poor widowed mother who was caught trying to salvage a few potatoes from her landlord's field, and what the magistrate discovered in the pot in her cabin, you cannot help but be apalled and distressed.

The text of this new edition has professionally been reset and an index added to the paperback.


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