English Press on Alms for Ireland - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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common English intellect it was enough to present this one idea: here are the starving Irish coming over to beg from you. In the inculcation of this view of the case, the Times, of course, led the way:—

"There would be something highly ludicrous in the impudence with which Irish legislators claim English assistance, if the circumstances by which they enforce their claims were not of the most pitiable kind. The contrast between insolent menace and humble supplication reminds one forcibly of those types of Irish character so popular with the dramatists of the last century, who represent an O'Flanagan or an O'Shaughnessy hectoring through three acts of intermittent brogue—bullying the husband and making love to the wife," &c, &c.

From all this the reader may begin to appreciate the feeling that then prevailed in the two islands: in Ireland a vague and dim sense that they were somehow robbed; in England, a still more vague and blundering idea that an impudent beggar was demanding their money with a scowl in his eye and a threat upon his tongue. In truth, only a few, either in England or in Ireland, fully understood the bloody game on the board. The two cardinal principles of the British policy in this business seem to have been these: first, strict adherence to the principles of "political economy;" and, second, making the whole administration of the famine a government concern. "Political economy" became, about the time of the Repeal of the Corn Laws, a favourite study; or, rather, indeed, the creed and gospel of England. Women and young boys were learned in its saving doctrines; one of the most fundamental of which was, "there must be no interference with the natural course of trade." It was seen that this maxim would ensure the transfer of the Irish wheat and beef to England; for that was what they called the natural course of trade. Moreover, this maxim would forbid the government or relief committees to sell provisions in Ireland any lower than the market price; for this is an interference with the enterprise of private speculators; it would forbid the employment of government ships; for this troubles individual ship-owners; and, lastly, it was found (this invaluable maxim) to require that the public works to be executed by labourers employed with borrowed public money should be unproductive works; that is, works which would create no fund to pay their own expenses. There were many railroad companies at that time in Ireland that had got their charters; their roads have been made since. But it was in vain they asked then for government advances, which they could have well secured, and soon paid off. The thing could not be done. Lend- ...continue reading »

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