Sir Robert Peel's Famine Policy - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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ing money to Irish railroad companies would be a discrimination against English companies—flat interference with private enterprise.

The other great leading idea completed Sir Robert's policy. It was to make the famine a strictly government concern. The famine was to be administered strictly through officers of the government, from High Commissioners down to policemen. Even the Irish General Relief Committee, and other local committees of charitable persons who were exerting themselves to raise funds to give employment, were either induced to act in subordination to a Government Relief Committee, which sat in Dublin Castle, or else were deterred from importation of food by the announcement in Parliament that the Government had given orders somewhere for the purchase of foreign corn. For instance, the Mayor of Cork and some principal inhabitants of that city, hurried to Dublin and waited on the Lord Lieutenant, representing that the local committee had applied for some portion of the parliamentary loans, but "were refused assistance on some points of official form—that the people of that county were already famishing; and both food and labour were urgently needed. Lord Heytesbury simply recommended that they should communicate at once with the Government Relief Committee;"—as for the rest, that they should consult the Board of Works. Thus every possible delay and official difficulty was interposed against the efforts of local bodies—Government was to do all. These things, together with the new measure for an increase in the police force (who were their main administrative agents throughout the country), led many persons to the conclusion that the enemy had resolved to avail themselves of the famine in order to increase governmental supervision and espionage; so that every man, woman, and child in Ireland, with all their goings out and comings in, might be thoroughly known and registered—that when the mass of the people began to starve, their sole resource might be the police barracks—that Government might be all in all; omnipotent to give food or to withhold it, to relieve or to starve, according to their own ideas of policy and of good behaviour in the people.

It is needless to point out that Government patronage also was much extended by this system; and by the middle of the next year, 1847, there were 10,000 men salaried out of the Parliamentary loans and grants for relief of the poor—as commissioners, inspectors, clerks, and so forth; and some of them with salaries equal to an American Secretary of State. ...continue reading »

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