Temporary Relief Act during the Famine - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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blessings with them. In vain! "Government" and political economy got hold of the contributions (of prayers and blessings neither Government nor political economy takes any account), and disposed of them in such fashion as to prevent their deranging the calculations of political circles. For example: the vast supplies of food purchased by the "British Relief Association," with the money of charitable Christians in England, were everywhere locked up in Government stores. Government, it seems, contrived to influence or control the managers of that fund; and thus, there were thousands of tons of food rotting within the stores of Haulbowline, at Cork Harbour; and tens of thousands rotting without. For the market must be followed, not led (to the prejudice of our Liverpool merchants)!—private speculation must not be disappointed, nor the calculations of political circles falsified!

All the nations of the earth might be defied to feed or relieve Ireland, beset by such a Government as this. Suppose America tries another plan;—the ship "Jamestown" sails into Cork harbour, and discharges a large cargo, which actually begins to come into consumption; when, lo! Free Trade—another familiar demon of Government—Free Trade, that carried off our own golden harvests of the year before—comes in, freights another ship, and carries off from Cork to Liverpool a cargo against the American cargo. For the private speculators must be compensated; the markets must not be led; if these Americans will not give England their corn to lock up, why, she defeats them by "the natural laws of trade!" So many Briarean hands has Government;—so surely do official persons, understanding book-keeping by double entry, work their account.

Private charity, one might think, in a country like Ireland, would put out the calculating Government sadly; but that too, was brought in great measure under control. The "Temporary Relief Act," talking of eight millions of money (to be used if needed)—distributing, like Cumaean Sybil, its mystic leaves by the myriad and the million,—setting charitable people everywhere to con its pamphlets, and compare clause with clause,—putting everybody in terror of its rates, and in horror of its inspectors,—was likely to pass the summer bravely. It would begin to be partly understood about August; would expire in September:—and in September the "persons connected with Government" expected their round two millions of carcasses.

A further piece of the machinery, all working to the same great end, was the "Vagrancy Act," for the punishment of vagrants,—that is, of about four millions of the inhabitants,— ...continue reading »

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