Depopulation of Ireland during the Famine - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel

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that the condition of an Irish "Tenant-at-will" is unique on the face of the globe,* is utterly unintelligible to most civilized Europeans, and is only to be found within the sway of that Constitution which is the envy of surrounding nations. The German, Von Raumer, making a tour in Ireland, thus tries to explain the thing:—

"How shall I translate tenants-at-will? Wegjagbare? Expellable? Serfs? But in the ancient days of vassalage, it consisted rather in keeping the vassals attached to the soil, and by no means in driving them away. An ancient vassal is a lord compared with the present tenant-at-will, to whom the law affords no defence. Why not call them Jagdbare (chaseable)? But this difference lessens the analogy—that for hares, stags, and deer there is a season during which no one is allowed to hunt them; whereas tenants-at-will are hunted all the year round. And if any one would defend his farm (as badgers and foxes are allowed to do), it is here denominated rebellion."

In 1849, it was still believed that the depopulation had not proceeded far enough; and the English Government was fully determined, having so gracious an opportunity, to make a clean sweep. One of the provisions of Lord John Russell's Rate-in-Aid Bill was for imposing an additional rate of two shillings and sixpence in the pound, to promote emigration. During the two years, 1848-9, the Government Census Commissioners admit 9,395 deaths by famine alone; a number which would be about true if multiplied by twenty-five. In the year 1850 there were nearly 7,000, as admitted by the same authorities; and in the first quarter of 1851, 652 deaths by hunger, they say, "are recorded."

In the very midst of all this havoc, in August, 1849, her Majesty's Ministers thought the coast was clear for a Royal Visit. The Queen had long wished, it was said, to visit her people of Ireland; and the great army of persons, who, in Ireland, are paid to be loyal, were expected to get up the appearance of rejoicing. Of course there were crowds in the streets; and the natural courtesy of the people prevented almost everything which could grate upon the lady's ear or offend her eye. One Mr O'Reilly, indeed, of South Great George's Street, hoisted on the top of his house a large black banner, displaying the crownless Harp; and draped his windows with black curtains, showing the words Famine and Pestilence: but the police burst into his house, viciously ...continue reading »


* Paralleled in some sort only by the ryots of India—another people privileged to enjoy the blessings of British rule.

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