Moderate Drinking Clergy

I was once in a miserable part of the country, where death was doing a fearful work, and was stopping in a house ranked among the respectables, when a company of ministers, who had been attending a public meeting in the town, were assembled for dinner. The dinner was what is generally provided for ministers—the richest and best. Wine and brandy were accompaniments. When these heralds of salvation heard a word of remonstrance, they put on the religious cant, and cited me immediately and solemnly the "Marriage of Cana," and the tribunal of Timothy's stomach for my doom; declaring that God sanctioned, yea required it; and ratified it by taking in moderation what their conscience told them was duty. They were pointed directly to the suffering of the people for bread, and the great difficulty of procuring coffins, all this did not move their brandy-seared hearts. When in an hour after dinner the tea was served, as is the custom in Ireland, one of the daughters of the family passing a window, looked down upon the pavement and saw a corpse with a blanket spread over it, lying upon the walk beneath the window. It was a mother and infant, dead, and a daughter of sixteen had brought and laid her there, hoping to induce the people to put her in a coffin; and as if she had been listening to the conversation at the dinner of the want of coffins, she had placed her mother under the very window and eye, where these wine-bibbing ministers might apply the lesson. All was hushed, the blinds were immediately down, and a few sixpences were quite unostentatiously sent out to the poor girl, as a beginning, to procure a coffin. The lesson ended here.

And I would conclude this episode by saying, that at the door of professed Christians of the intelligent class, lies the sin of intemperance in that suffering country, and though some of them have preached and labored hard in those dark days, yet they have not done what they could, and in this they should not be commended; but rebuked most faithfully.

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.