Bad Management of Grants

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter V (16) | Start of Chapter

The author of the Irish Crisis, January, 1848, gives a dear statement of many things relating to Grants, Public Works, and many other valuable statistics, and upon the whole it presents a fair picture for future generations to read of the nice management and kindly feelings of all parties; and "that among upward of two thousand local officers to whom advances were made under this act, there is not one to which, so far as Government is informed, any suspicion of embezzlement attaches." It further states that the fasts set apart in London were kept with great solemnity, and that never in that city was there a winter of so little gayety. But he has not told posterity, and probably he did not know, that the winters of 1847 and 1848 in Dublin were winters of great hilarity among the gentry. The latter season, particularly, seemed to be a kind of jubilee for "songs and dances." The Queen appointed fasts on both these winters, the people went to church, and said they had "all gone astray like lost sheep, and there was no soundness in them," and some who heard believed that this was all true; but it may be scrupled whether many priests "wept between the porch and the altar," or that many Jeremiahs' eyes ran down with water, "for the slain of the daughters of the people." That the people of England felt more deeply, and acted more consistently than did the people of Ireland, cannot be disputed. Ireland felt when her peace was disturbed and her ease was molested, and she cried loudly for help in this "God's famine," as she impiously called it; but ate her good dinners and drank her good wine, as long as she could find means to do so—famine or no famine; her landlords strained for the last penny of rent, and sent their tenants houseless into the storm when they could pay no longer.

This, her sirs, her lords, and her esquires did. "No suspicion of embezzlement attached!" when a company of more than two thousand were intrusted with money at discretion, they must indeed have been a rare lump of honesty if some few glasses of wine had not been taken out of it, to drink the Queen's health on their clays of festivals, or a pound now and then to pay off some vexatious debt, &c. And who shall tell Government of that? shall the United Fraternity themselves do it?—shall the poor, who are powerless and unheeded, tell it? or shall "Common Fame," that random talking tell-tale, fly through the kingdom, and declare that Mr. ——, " head and ears in debt," suddenly came out "clear as a horn," that Mr. Somebody was fitting up his house, and where did he get his money'? and that the cattle and horses of Farmer G—— were getting fat and thriving astonishingly, &c.

It was my fortune to be placed in a position among all classes, acting isolated as I did, to see the inner court of some of these temples—(not of the Committees), with these my business ended when at Dublin. But I had boxes of clothing, and am obliged to acknowledge what common report says here, that the people of the higher classes in general showed a meanness bordering on dishonesty. When they saw a goodly garment, they not only appeared to covet, but they actually bantered, as though in a shop of secondhand articles, to get it as cheap as possible; and most, if not all of such, would have taken these articles without any equivalent, though they knew they were the property of the poor. Instead of saying, "These garments are not fit for the cabin people, I will pay the full worth and let them have something that will do them good," they managed most adroitly to secure them for the smallest amount. These were people too who were not in want. The poor were shamefully defrauded, where they had no redress and none to lift the voice in their favor. Among the suffering it was not so; whenever I visited a neighborhood or a school, and clothed a naked child, or assisted a destitute family, those who were not relieved, never, in my presence or hearing, manifested the least jealousy, but on the contrary, blessed God that He had sent relief to any one. This so affected me, in schools where I went, that a garment for a naked child was not presented in the school-room; I could not well endure the ghastly smile of approbation that some child sitting near would give, who was nearly as destitute as the one that had been clothed. In one of Mr. Nangle's schools the teacher was requested to select the children most in want, and let me know, that I need not go into the room with new garments for a part, to the exclusion of others. These little suffering ones had not yet learnt to covet or envy—always oppressed, they bowed their necks patiently to the yoke.