Out-Door Relief during the Famine - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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object of ambition to Irishmen; and it is very humiliating to remember what eager and greedy multitudes were always canvassing and petitioning for these.

In March, Lord John Russell announced in Parliament that, in view of the judgments afflicting her dominions, "Her Majesty had been graciously pleased to appoint a day of national fast and humiliation!" It needed no appointment of a day to make the Irish fast; and as for the English, the reader may wonder what they should fast for. But all this was to make an impression abroad.

In the new Act for the Out-door Relief, there was one significant clause. It was that if any farmer who held land should be forced to apply for aid under this Act, for himself and his family, he should not have it until he had first given up all his land to the landlord—except one quarter of an acre. It was called the Quarter-acre Clause, and was found the most efficient and the cheapest of all the Ejectment Acts. Farms were thereafter daily given up without the formality of a notice to quit, or Summons before Quarter Sessions.

On the 6th of March, there were 730,000 heads of families on the public works. Provision was made by the last-recited Act for dismissing these in batches. On the 10th of April, the number was reduced to 500,723. Afterwards batches of a hundred thousand or so were in like manner dismissed. Most of these had now neither house nor home; and their only resource was in the out-door relief. For this they were ineligible if they held but one rood of land. Under the new law it was able-bodied idlers only who were to be fed: to attempt to till even a rood of ground was death.

Steadily, but surely, the "Government" people were working out their calculation; and the product anticipated by "political circles" was likely to come out about September in round numbers—two millions of Irish corpses.

That "Government" had at length got into its own hands all the means and materials for working this problem, is now plain. There was no longer any danger of the elements of the account being disturbed by external interference of any kind. At one time, indeed, there were odds against the Government sum coming out right; for charitable people in England and in America, indignant at the thought of a nation perishing of political economy, did contribute generously, and did full surely believe, good, easy men, that every pound they subscribed would give Irish famine twenty shillings worth of bread: they thought so, and poured in their contributions, and their prayers and ...continue reading »

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