Donation from Pauper Children of New York

The winter passed, but the spring brought no fresh hopes; onward was the fearful march—many faces that were ruddy, and limbs that were robust, and hearts that had scarcely had a fear that the wolf would enter their dwelling, now began to fade, stumble, and finally sink under the pursuer. My purse was low, my meal gone, when a letter, the choicest and best, arrived, written by a teacher of a pauper school in New York, and signed by the Corresponding Committee there of the Dublin Friends' Society, transmitting me a few barrels of meal, from the children of that pauper school. This was an offering richer than all, it was the interest of the widow's mite, coming through the channel of the orphans, whose willing hearts and ready hands had gathered from their scanty comforts a few pounds without solicitation, and begged the privilege to send it to me. It came: I had previously been informed that a school in the poorest convent in Dublin was in a state of the greatest suffering. These schools were composed of children who had no means of support, many of them orphans, or the offspring of parents reduced to beggary, and gathered into convents and other schools of charity, where they were fed once a day.

The nuns were of the order belonging to the poor, and in time of plenty had only been able to feed sixteen daily; and when some hundreds were added, the distress was almost overwhelming. This donation, coming from children of the poorest emigrants in New York, particularly belonged to such as were in like condition, for if such children were turned from the schools, many, and most of them, must inevitably perish, notwithstanding the Friends' Society were acting with the greatest vigilance. The British Association, too, was in motion; besides the Government had been bountiful.

America was doing much—private individuals, of the Irish in America, and in all other countries where they were scattered, were sending one continued train of remittances, to the utter astonishment of the postmasters; yet death sharpened his teeth daily, for new victims. With gladness of heart I hastened to the committee-rooms—presented the letter—was requested to wait an answer till the next day; the next day another day was demanded; called the third day, and was denied in toto. The clerk returned the letter without an explanation, only saying, that "the committee had concluded not to grant it." Had I that moment been summoned by a policeman, to appear before a court, and answer to a charge of swindling or fraud, I could not have been more astonished, and certainly not so disappointed, for my heart had been most intensely fixed on this, as the most sacred offering ever sent me. The deep sense of injustice which was felt, drew these remarks:—That if the Americans had misplaced their confidence, in sending remittances through that channel, I was sorry that I had requested them to send mine in that way, and would immediately write them to desist. No other explanation was given than a plain decided denial; but when I had passed the door, the solution began to open.

The fault was mine, God had sent me to Ireland, in His own way, and instructed me to lean entirely on Him; His promises had never failed toward me—nothing had been wanted, but had been supplied to my wonderment; and now, when daily He had been explaining for what purpose I had been sent hither, that I should lean to the creature, and ask aid, which in reality was not needed, and only retarded my operations, He had sent a rebuke upon my unbelief, which silenced the severity I at first felt toward those instruments in whose hands I had foolishly placed myself. I do not censure them, they acted from motives no matter to me; and God might have used them as a corrective most effectual, because in them I had placed both confidence and power, which were in safer hands before. Man may do well, but God can do better; and it would be fulsome flattery to say, that the "Central Committee of Dublin" were infallible; and cruel injustice to assert, that they did not act effectually, liberally, and, taken as a whole, do the best that was done.

On my way home, with my rejected letter in my hand, Richard Webb met me, took the letter, and entered the committee-room; what barriers he removed I know not, but the meal was sent. This was the only co-working that I attempted in Ireland; not because my strength and wisdom were complete, but because they were so inefficient, that an Almighty arm was requisite to effect the object.

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

Annals of the Famine in Ireland

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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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