William Smith O'Brien on Relief for Ireland - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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O'Brien had just come from Ireland, where he had anxiously watched the progress of the "relief measures," and of the famine; he had seen that while the latter was quick the former were slow—in fact, they had not then appeared in Ireland at all; but the very announcement that government intended to interpose in some decisive manner, had greatly hastened collection of rents and ejectment of tenants: and both hunger and its sure attendant, the Typhus, were sweeping them off rapidly. British Ministers listened to all he could say with a calm, incredulous smile. Have we not told you, they said, we have sent persons, Englishmen, reliable men, to inquire into all those matters? Are we not going to meet every emergency?

"Mr W. S. O'Brien was bound to say, with regard to the sums of money mentioned by the right hon. baronet as having been, on a former occasion, voted by the House for the relief of Ireland, that as far as his own information went, not one single guinea had ever been expended from those sources (hear, hear, from Mr O'Connell). He was also bound to tell the right hon. baronet that 100,000 of his fellow-creatures in Ireland were famishing.

And here the report adds—the hon. gentleman, who appeared to labour under deep emotion, paused for a short time. Doubtless it was bitter to that haughty spirit to plead for his plundered people, as it were, in formâ pauperis, before the plunderers; and their vulgar pride was soothed: but soon it was wounded again, for he added:—

"Under such circumstances, did it not become the House to consider of the way which they could deal with the crisis? He would tell them frankly—and it was a feeling participated in by the majority of Irishmen—that he was not disposed to appeal to their generosity in the matter. They had taken, and they had tied, the purse-strings of the Irish purse!"

Whereupon the report records that there were cries of "Oh! oh!" They were scandalised at the idea of Ireland having a purse.

Notwithstanding these reputed repudiations of alms, all the appropriations of Parliament, purporting to be for relief, but really calculated for aggravation of the Irish famine, were persistently called alms by the English Press. These Irish, they said, are never done craving alms. It is true they did not answer our statement that we only demanded a small part of what was due; they chose to assume that the Exchequer was their Exchequer. Neither did they think fit to remember that O'Brien, and such as he, were by no means suffering from famine themselves, but were retrenching the expenses of their households at home, to relieve those who were suffering. To the ...continue reading »

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