God's Promises and Dealings

To return to individual exertion. The New York people opened a fund; appointed a Treasurer; and devoted the avails to me, to be used at my discretion; and sent these donations, at first, through the channel of the Central Committee, in Dublin. This favor to me was more than can be described or imagined by any who never witnessed what I had, and who had never been placed in the same condition to act. I now ascended an eminence which was a lofty one; and on which I hope I may never again stand—such a mission, however honorable it may be to be able to rescue our fellow-creatures from death, has an unnatural cause for its claim; and when famine is allowed to progress till the slain are multiplied, it says one of two things:—First, that the promise of a "seed-time and harvest" did not embrace a sufficiency of food for every mouth in the world; or else that man has not done his duty in securing that food. Now God never deals vaguely with man, his promises are clear and definite, his demands rational and peremptory:—"Do this and live; neglect it, and die." When He said "seed-time and harvest," He said, by that, food shall always be sufficient for man: and never was a famine on earth, in any part, when there was not an abundance in some part, to make up all the deficiency; and if man is not warned by some dreamer, like Pharaoh, of a seven years' famine, to secure a wise Joseph, to provide in advance for a seven years' destitution; yet if he is a wise husbandman, a good steward, a discerner of the signs of the times—when the skies drop down "extra fatness," and the harvests are doubly laden with rich fruit, he hesitates not in believing that tithes and offerings will be called for somewhere, into the storehouse of the Lord, proportionable to the seventh day's manna that was rained from the heavens, to be gathered on the sixth.

Thus Ireland's famine was a marked one, so far as man was concerned; and God is slandered, when it is called an unavoidable dispensation of His wise providence, to which we should all humbly bow, as a chastisement which could not be avoided. As well might we say to the staggering inebriate, that he must be patient under a wise dispensation of Providence—that the Lord does not willingly afflict him, &c., as to say that the starving thousands in Ireland must submit patiently, because God, for wise purposes, had turned from all natural laws to send this affliction upon them; for in the first place, the potato had been, everywhere in Ireland, an indirect curse, and in many parts a direct one; for centuries the poor had been oppressed and degraded by this root—for oppression is always degradation; they had not the privilege even of the beasts of the desert in variety; for the brutes, where instinct or pleasure demand, can select their food; the bird, if it cannot find a corn, may select a seed; the lion, if he cannot find an opportunity to capture any nobler game, may secure a sheep or calf; the cat, if the mouse be not in reach of her stealthy step, may secure the unwary bird, or if the wing of the bird be too lofty she may put her quick paw and fasten the nails into the darting fish; the horse or cow, if grass from the meadow or hay from the stack be wanting, may be supplied from the full granary; but the Irish must masticate the potato every day in the year, either boiled or roasted, with or without salt; and if his churlish, dainty, grumbling palate should show any symptoms of relishing food like other men, he is told that, lazy, dirty, and savage as he is, the potato is a boon which is quite too good for him.

Now when God gave the "herb bearing seed, and the tree bearing fruit," to man, He said not that one portion of mankind shall be confined to a single root; and though his patience long continued to see him fed on this root, by his masters, yet, in his own time, He "came out of his place," and with one breath blackened and blasted this instrument of torture and cruelty; and though puny man has attempted to resuscitate and bring it to its old use, this breath blows upon it, and it shrinks back into its insignificance, abashed and deadened, as if cognizant of the degrading use to which it had been applied. But the care of God, at the same time that this fatal work was done, had before filled the granaries of the husbandman, at least over the civilized world, to an overflowing abundance; and while he had been doing this He also prepared the hearts of these husbandmen, all over the Christian world, to rise in one simultaneous mass, and pour into this famished land the fruits of their harvests; so that—shall it be said, for future generations to read,—that it rotted in the harbors while the dying were falling in the streets, for want of it? Yes, unhesitatingly may it be said, that there was not a week during that famine, but there was sufficient food for the wants of that week, and more than sufficient. Was there then a "God's famine" in Ireland, in 1846-78-9, and so on? No! it is all mockery to call it so, and mockery which the Almighty will expose, before man will believe, and be humbled as he ought to be. It is therefore I say, may I never be on such an eminence again, from such a cause, from one which, if its breaking forth could not have been foreseen or prevented, need never have resulted in the loss of a single life.

The principle of throwing away life to-day, lest means to protect it to-morrow might be lessened, was fully and practically carried on and carried out.

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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