Hirelings and Voluntaries

Another most valuable principle was illustrated by this famine, which a God-loving heart must admire, viz., the difference between a hireling and a voluntary worker, and so clear was this difference, that whenever, in going the length of Ireland, I met any of either class upon coaches, in trains, visiting the poor, or distributing donations in soup-shops, or elsewhere, a mistake was not once made in pronouncing who was a paid officer, or who was there moved by an innate voice, to do what he could for the poor. Allow me to dwell a little on this and make it as clear as I can.

An officer paid by government was generally well paid, consequently he could take the highest seat in a public conveyance, he sought for the most comfortable inns, where he could secure the best dinner and wines; he inquired the state of the people, and did not visit the dirty hovels himself when he could find a menial who would for a trifle perform it; and though sometimes when accident forced him in contact with the dying or dead, his pity was stirred, it was mingled with the curse which always follows: "Laziness and filth, and he wondered why the dirty wretches had lived so long; and he hoped this lesson would teach them to work in future, and lay up something as other people did." When his plan of operation was prepared, his shop opened, and books arranged, and the applications of the starving were numerous, he peremptorily silenced this, and sent away that without relief; many who had walked miles without food for twenty-four hours, and some died on their way home, or soon after reaching it; and when the story was told him, and he entreated to look into the cases of such, the answer was, that he must be true to the government, and not give out to any whose names he had not entered into the books; if they died how could he help it, &c. If all did not do precisely as has been stated, all manifested a similar spirit, more or less.

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.