More Poor Law - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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land, exclusive of their families, was effected in Connaught in one year."

On this report it may be remarked that it was a list of killed and wounded in one year of carnage only—and of one class of people only. It takes no account of the dead in that multitudinous class thinned the most by famine, who had no land at all, but lived by the labour of their hands, and who were exposed before others, as having nothing but life to lose. As for the landlords, already encumbered by debt, the pressure of the poor-rates was fast breaking them down. In most cases, they were not so much as the receivers of their own rents, and had no more control over the bailiffs, sheriffs, and police, who plundered and chased away the people, than one of the pillars of their own grand entrance gates.

Take one paragraph now from amongst the commercial reports of the Irish papers, which will suggest more than any laboured narrative could inculcate:—

"Upwards of 150 ass hides have been delivered in Dublin from the county Mayo, for exportation to Liverpool. The carcasses, owing to the scarcity of provisions, had been used as food!"

But those who could afford to dine upon famished jackasses were few, indeed. During this winter of '48-9, hundreds of thousands perished of hunger. During this same winter the herds and harvests raised on Irish ground were floating off to England on every tide: and, during this same winter, almost every steamship from England daily carried Irish paupers, men, women, and children, away from Liverpool and Bristol, to share the good cheer of their kinsmen at home.

It was in this state of things that Lord John Russell, having first secured a continued suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, proposed an additional and novel sort of poor-rate for Ireland. It was called the "Rate-in-aid." That is to say, poor-law unions, which were still solvent, and could still in some measure maintain their own local poor, were to be rated for relief of such unions as had sunk under the pressure. Assuming that Ireland and England are two integral parts of an "United Kingdom," (as we are assured they are), it seems hard to understand why a district in Leinster should be rated to relieve a pauper territory in Mayo—and a district in Yorkshire not. Or to comprehend why old and spent Irish labourers, who had given the best of their health and strength to the service of England, should be shipped off to Ireland to increase and intensify the ...continue reading »

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