Thomas Martin's Famine Reports - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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Some new method, then, had to be adopted to turn the thoughts and hopes of that too-credulous people once more towards the "government." Lord Clarendon recommended a tour of agricultural "lecturers," the expense to be provided for by the Royal Agricultural Society, aided by public money. The lecturers were to go upon every estate, call the people together, talk to them of the benevolent intentions of his Excellency, and give them good advice. Their report was published in the following April; and irksome as are these details of one uniform and chronic misery, the due understanding of Lord Clarendon's policy will require some attention to this Report.

One lecturer (one Thomas Martin) travelled in Western Mayo. He writes—"It was almost impossible to produce any impression in this wasted and neglected district." For why? The lecturer tells us—"For, from Bangor to Crossmolina, all was desolate and waste." Driving along "with the Rev. Mr Stock, in his gig, he pointed out to me," says Martin, "a number of farm-houses in the Mullet, all deserted, and the land, too. Nothing possibly could be done there, for the tenants were gone!"

The grand object of all the lecturers was to get the people, those of them who remained, to till the land, instead of leaving it waste, to run to public works and out-door relief; for in truth it began to be feared in England that the process was going too far, and that the sister country might even be defrauded of her usual tribute, if the Irish people all became able-bodied paupers. But when Mr Fitzgerald, another of those lecturers, urged this upon a meeting of tenants in Connemara, he tells us, "They all agreed that what I said was just; but they always had some excuse (the good-for-nothing Celts!); that they could not get seed, or had nothing to live on in the meantime."

These extracts are only samples of what the lecturers did, heard, and said, in all the districts. "I saw," says Mr Fitzgerald, "whole villages of roofless houses, and all I met told me they intended to give up their land, for they had neither food nor strength to till it." A certain Mr Goode, lecturing in Connaught, informs us that:—

"The poor people here appeared to be in a most desponding state: they always met me with the argument that there was no use in their working there, for they were going to be turned out in spring, and would have their houses pulled down over them. I used to tell them that I had nothing to do with that; that I was sent among them by some kind, intelligent gentleman, barely to tell them what course to pursue." ...continue reading »

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