Relief of Famine - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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SIR ROBERT PEEL and his Ministry resigned on the 29th of June, 1846; Lord John Russell formed a new Ministry, and went on without dissolving Parliament.

I must take care that I do no injustice to Sir Robert Peel, nor suppress any of his Acts which might look like an attempt to stay the famine. It is true, then, that he advised and procured an appropriation of £100,000 by two several Acts, to be laid out in giving employment in Ireland; but all this employment was to be given under the order and control of English officials: further, the professions of "Government,"—that they had taken all needful measures to guard against famine—had made people rely upon them for everything, and thus turned the minds of thousands upon thousands from work of their own, which they might have attempted if left to themselves. This sort of government spoon-feeding is highly demoralizing; and for one who derived any relief from it, one thousand neglected their own industry in the pursuit of it. In truth, the amount of relief offered by these grants was infinitesimally small, when you consider the magnitude of the calamity,* and had no other effect than to unsettle the minds of the peasantry, and make them more careless about holding on to their farms.

It is true, also, that the government did, to a certain small extent, speculate in Indian corn for Irish use, and did send a good many cargoes of it to Ireland, and form depots of it at several points; but as to this also, their mysterious intimations had led all the world to believe they would provide very large quantities; whereas, in fact, the quantity imported by them was inadequate to supply the loss of the grain exported from any one county; and a government ship sailing into any harbour with Indian corn was sure to meet half a dozen sailing out with Irish wheat and cattle. The effect of this, therefore, was only to blind the people to the fact, that England was exacting her tribute as usual, famine or no famine. The effect of both combined was ...continue reading »

* Double the sum (£200,000) was by the same Parliament authorized to be borrowed on the security of the crown revenue, to be laid out on Battersea Park, a surburban retreat for Londoners.—yet this was never spoken of as alms given by Ireland to England.

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