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have extended to the highest rank of society. Persons of limited incomes derived from land have been and are greatly embarrassed. Rents may have been pretty well collected from the richer wheat growing districts, but the owners of the poorer soils, which produced oats and potatoes, cannot have received much. Many are unable (unless they possess other means) to pay the various charges to which they are liable. Those whose property consisted of profit rents have been seriously affected, and many of them are reduced from affluence to absolute poverty. Unable to collect their rents, they cannot pay the head-rent, and will be evicted for its nonpayment. These difficulties are only now beginning to make themselves felt. The future seems dark and uncertain. What can avail the landed proprietor, whose estate is mortgaged for threefourths of its value ? How can he pay the interest and other charges, and bear the present heavy taxation for support of the poor and for repayment of the government advances ? There are many who have been considered rich, and who have lived in affluence, who will find themselves deprived of all property, whose ancestral estates must pass away from them for ever. At least it now appears impossible to preserve them. The longer the evil day of settlement is deferred, the greater will be the loss. An immediate arrangement, which might free them from the liability to heavy charges on the whole estate, seems the only way to preserve any portion.
Means of alleviating the distress—Introduction of Indian corn_Public
works--Disadvantages of this system--Compensating circumstancesExtensive local subscriptions for relief of distress_Unprecedented amount of contributions from England and foreign countries—Private donations–Exertions of the resident Irish gentry-Difficulties of their position_Exertions of Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy-Noble exertions of the wives and daughters of the gentry-Small number of educated residents—Consequent difficulty in the administration of relief_Temporary Relief Act-Difficulties in the way of its operation-Gross abuses in its administration in some districts_Contrasted with good management in others-Beneficial results_Discontinuance of this mode of relief-Amount of expenditure.
The measures taken by the Government in the winter of 1845, were not calculated to provide for so extensive a calamity as that which was experienced in the following year ; it therefore seems unnecessary to allude to them, further than to notice the extraordinary foresight, which, by importing Indian corn from America, introduced a new kind of food, so well suited to fill the void left by the loss of the potato crop.
Before the parliamentary session of 1846 had ended, the Government were aware of the difficulty, though they did not anticipate the extreme severity
of its pressure. The plan of public works proposed by them received the sanction of Parliament. It is scarcely necessary to remark on this mode of relief, which now seems universally condemned ; though no one has pointed out a substitute which would not have been liable to many objections. Perhaps it was not, under any circumstances, the plan best calculated to meet the difficulty ; but if the destitution had been less severe, it might have answered. As it was, it failed chiefly through the same difficulty which impedes every mode of relief, whether public or private, namely, the want of machinery to work it. It was impossible suddenly to procure an efficient staff of officers for an undertaking of such enormous magnitude—the employment of a whole people. The overseers were necessarily selected in haste; many of them were corrupt, and encouraged the misconduct of the labourers. In many cases, the relief committees, unable to prevent maladministration, yielded to the torrent of corruption,* and individual members only sought to benefit their own dependants. The people every where flocked to the public works, labourers, cottiers, artisans, fishermen, farmers,
* A respectable clergyman being asked how he came to lend himself to such doings, replied, “ At first I strove against it as much as I could, “ but I could effect nothing ; and then I thought I was not doing justice “ to my own people not to take care of them.”
men, women, children,-all, whether destitute or not, sought for a share of the public money. In such a crowd it was almost impossible to discriminate properly. They congregated in masses on the roads, idling under the name of work, the really destitute often unheeded and unrelieved, because they had no friend to recommend them. All ordinary employments were neglected ; there was no fishing, no gathering of sea-weed, no collecting of manure. The men who had employment feared to lose it, by absenting themselves for any other object; those unemployed passed their time in seeking to obtain it. The whole industry of the country appeared to be engaged in road-making. It became absolutely necessary to put an end to it, or the ordinary business of the country-the cultivation of the land, would have been neglected.
The effects of such a system are now evident. Works undertaken on the spur of the moment, not because they were needful, but merely to employ the people, were in many cases ill-chosen, and the execution equally defective. The labourers, desirous to protract their employment, were only anxious to give as little labour as possible, in which their overlookers in many cases heartily agreed. The favouritism, the intimidation, the wholesale jobbing which was practised in many places, were shockingly demoralizing. Still we