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“ have conceived it possible, that the awful visita“tion with which this country is afflicted, should “ have produced such an utter disregard of inte“grity in the administration of its relief.” Such shameless dishonesty is a melancholy proof of the low standard of morals existing in some parts of Ireland. The gross instances of actual fraud and misapplication of funds, on the part of members of committees, were probably confined to a very few places; but there were many, in which the committees neglected the duty of seeking out the really poor and destitute, or were willing to return the whole or even sometimes more than the whole population as standing in need of relief. Such reckless conduct can only be accounted for by the supposition, that they never anticipated being obliged to repay the money advanced, or that some members of committees were rated to so small an amount, that they had little personal interest in economical management; and under these circumstances were desirous to procure for their own friends as large a share as possible of the “government money.” Both these causes existed to some extent. Subsequent events have shown, that in many places they fully expected to evade repayment; and in those electoral divisions in which there were no resident proprietors, the management frequently fell into the hands of parties, who considered that their interests would be best served by a lavish expenditure. But it must not be supposed that these abuses were every where prevalent. The commissioners state that in the greater part of Ireland the committees exerted themselves zealously. The destitute poor were relieved, and due precautions taken to avoid being imposed upon by those who were not in want. The distribution of food in a cooked state, whether Indian meal porridge, or rice and Indian meal mixed, while it was liked by the really destitute, and was much more wholesome for them than the same quantity of undressed meal, proved an excellent test of poverty; and in some instances “reduced the number of applicants wonderfully.” There were even some districts, in which the anxiety to economise was so great, as in some degree to impede the due administration of the law, the rate-payers endeavouring to prevent the issuing of rations to small holders of land, and to other parties to whom it was intended by the act of parliament to afford relieff
* See Third Report of Relief Commissioners.
t From among many statements to the same effect made to the Relief Committee of the Society of Friends, the following are selected, which may serve to show the degree of economy with which some committees administered the law, and also that the feeling of honest independence is not every where broken down:
The efficient working to which the commissioners succeeded in bringing the act, in so short a space of time, and under so many difficulties, was only accomplished by the most anxious and perse
County of CAvAN, 23rd of June, 1847: “Another class of persons, “namely, small farmers holding from one to four acres, are now with“out any means whatever of subsistence; they have sold their pigs “ and every article they could part with, and spent the money in food. “Our relief committee will not afford any aid to those people, as the “present tax imposed on the rate-payers, which is seven shillings in the “ pound, would be more than doubled if they did, so considerable is the “ number of small farmers in the district.
County of CAvAN, 9th of June, 1847: “We have still in the pa“rishes of and about 1000 persons supported by volun“tary relief, who will starve if it be withheld, and who are for one “reason or other excluded from the relief lists. These are daily sup“ ported with cooked food from four boilers under my care, and a most “trying and anxious and dreadful care it is, to have this multitude “depending on me (under Providence) for their daily bread. My pri“vate means are all but exhausted, and I know not what to do about “this. Those on the relief lists are safe. But the rest, what will they do?”
County of LoNDoNDERRY, 2nd of July, 1847: “There is, how“ever, a class who have been hitherto refused relief on the grounds of “ their having some property, that present to me, who live among “ them, a most affecting spectacle. These are poor landholders, oc“cupying perhaps two or three acres, with large families in the most “deplorable state of distress, and yet on the verge of starvation, “clinging to their holdings as their last remnant of hope in this world. “At this moment there is standing at my window a poor, and I will say, “a worthy man, (for I have long known him, a Roman Catholic, who “has a small farm of about five acres, and a family of ten to sup“ port from it, which he has hitherto done respectably) representing to “me, in that quiet subdued tone which shows the struggle between the “cry of his poor children and the shame of being a beggar, his situation “and his distress. Before he would beg, he had parted with his cow, “had sold his last sheep, his last lamb, his bed-clothes—there now “remain barely two days' food of the most wretched description to sup“ port his little ones. This man is most industrious. In the midst of
vering exertions. It evinced the zeal and humane consideration of men who felt that the lives of millions were at stake. The result has been of the utmost value to the country. The famine was effectually stayed. The people in most places recovered their former strength and appearance. Fever and dysentery, the consequence of previous suffering, still continued to prevail in many parts; but the mortality was greatly lessened. These good results were effected at much less cost than that of the public works, which left somany of the very destitute totally unrelieved. The time approached at which the act would expire. The coming harvest, affording employment and reducing the price of food, rendered the cessation of relief safer than might have been anticipated. Orders were therefore given to lessen the numbers receiving rations gradually, retaining for the last the widow and orphan, and those disabled by infirmity or sickness; and finally, orders were given to close all relief under this act, in some of the best circumstanced unions, on the 15th August ; and in the rest, according to their ability, on the 29th of August or the 12th of September. There were three unions, Antrim, Belfast, and
“ these trials, he has put into the ground an acre and a half of oats, half an “acre of potatoes, and three roods of turnips. “Oh sir," said he, “must “I sell my life and the life of my children next year, to keep them alive “ now 2' "
Newtownards, which made no application for assistance, their local resources enabling them to support their own poor. In the union of Larne, application was made on account of one electoral division only. These unions lie contiguous to each other, being in the counties of Antrim and Down. In general, the management of measures for relief of distress appears to have been much better in Ulster than any of the other provinces, certainly better than in Munster or Connaught. There is a middle class in the greater part of Ulster, and they have been thus enabled to co-operate efficiently, whether for the distribution of private charity, or for the administration of the legal relief.” In Connaught it was often impracticable
* Although none of the unions in Leinster or Munster were able to support the poor within their limits, during this period of severe pressure, without assistance under the Temporary Act, yet in many places the law was very well administered. The measures taken by private committees, previous to the passing of that act, were also marked in several cases by the active and benevolent co-operation of a middle class. The arrangements adopted by the relief committee for the parish of Castletown, in the Queen's County, furnish an interesting evidence of this. Subscriptions were collected by them to the amount of £176 10s. 6d., the largest contribution being £20 from a non-resident proprietor, and a large portion being in small sums, varying from twenty shillings down to two shillings and sixpence. Subscriptions are acknowledged from almost every one in the parish above immediate want. A committee of thirty-seven persons was appointed, some being particularly named for the care of each townland, many of the committee being small farmers, holders of ten to fifteen acres. They state that, after much consideration, they decided to afford relief to the distressed, by a weekly allowance of money, and they give some very cogent reasons for