Irish Harvest of 1845 - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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end to the Union. Take one other extract from a speech of O'Connell's:—

"If we had a paternal government, I should be first to counsel the appropriation of a portion of the revenues of Ireland to the wants of the people, and this, too, without very strictly considering whether the whole should be repaid or not. We have an abstract claim to such application of the Irish revenues; but if we were to advocate such an arrangement now, we should be mocked and insulted (hear, hear). Therefore I approach the government of England on equal terms. I say to the English people—You are the greatest money-lenders in Europe, and I will suppose you to be as determined as Shylock in the play (hear, hear, and cheers). During the last session of Parliament, an Act was passed for the encouragement of drainage in England and Ireland. According to the provisions of that Act, any money advanced for the purpose of draining estates takes priority over the other charges affecting those estates; so that whatever amount of money may be so applied becomes the first charge on the estate of the proprietors of Ireland, and thus is its repayment secured beyond all hazard (hear, hear). The government can borrow as much money as they please on Exchequer bills, at not more than three per cent. If they lend it out for the purposes of drainage, they can charge such proprietors as may choose to borrow, interest at the rate of four per cent. They, therefore, will have a clear gain of one per cent., and we shall owe them nothing, but they will stand indebted to us for affording them an opportunity of obtaining an advantageous investment of the capital at their disposal."

All this while, until after the meeting of Parliament, there was no hint as to the intentions of Government; and all this while the new Irish harvest of 1845 (which was particularly abundant), with immense herds of cattle, sheep, and hogs, quite as usual, was floating off on every tide, out of every one of our thirteen sea-ports, bound for England; and the landlords were receiving their rents, and going to England to spend them; and many hundreds of poor people had lain down and died on the roadsides, for want of food, even before Christmas; and the famine not yet begun, but expected shortly.*

All eyes were turned to Parliament. The Commission of learned naturalists—the inquiries and reports made by means of the constabulary, and various mysterious intimations in the Government newspapers—all tended to produce the belief that the Imperial "government" was about to charge itself with the whole care and administration of the famine. And so it was—with a vengeance. ...continue reading »

* The Census Commissioners admit only 516 "registered deaths" by starvation alone up to 1st January. There was, at that time, no registry for them all; thousands perished, registered by none but the recording Angel. Besides, the Commissioners do not count the much greater numbers who died of typhus fever, the consequence of insufficient nourishment.

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