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must not too hastily condemn this mode of relief, as if it had effected no good. The difficulties of our position were great beyond all precedent. The employment given secured the peace of the community, and protected society from that greatest of dangers, a starving mob of able-bodied men. In many places the roads made will eventually be very useful, in opening extensive districts and facilitating communication. A very large amount of money was poured into the country, which, though it may not in all cases have reached the poorest, yet afforded the means of subsistence to many who would otherwise have starved ; and even in cases of abuse, it probably kept from destitution many small farmers and others, who without this assistance would have become absolute paupers. The problem was : in a time of great dearth, to support 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 of destitute persons ; and this was in great measure effected, though at an enormous cost to the empire.
But it was not expected that these public works would support all the destitute. The local relief committees were to raise subscriptions, which the Government offered to double ; and in some cases of peculiar poverty, even a larger proportion was given. This appeal was in very many cases responded to with marked liberality. The Irish gentry had already contributed liberally in the spring of 1846, before the blight of that year appeared ; they now subscribed again, many as largely as their means warranted.
The intelligence that Ireland's most important crop was lost, and her people starving, went through every country, and every where excited one universal feeling of pity. The subscriptions in England were on the largest scale, worthy of the occasion, and consistent with that liberality which Ireland has so often experienced. Money was sent from France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of western Europe, whose inhabitants were themselves suffering from the same cause. Our fellow-subjects in the West and in the farthest East heard of our distress, and joined in the effort to relieve us. The citizens of the United States evinced their feeling for our sufferings, by subscriptions on a scale such as never before were sent by one nation for the relief of another, worthy of a great and benevolent people, and calculated to cement the ties which should ever unite two nations of kindred institutions and similar origin.* Difference of creed, and clime, and colour were disregarded. The Sultan of Turkey sent his aid ; the people of India offered their assistance; the enfranchised Negroes of the West Indies, and the red men of the far West of America added their mites; and even enslaved Negroes in the United States contributed from their poverty, for the relief of those whose condition was, in this respect, one of greater distress than their own. Never before had any civilized people experienced such suffering, never had there existed such a feeling of universal sympathy, accompanied by exertions for their relief on so gigantic a scale.
* The first authentic accounts of the actual evidence of famine in Ireland, awakened a deep feeling of commiseration throughout the States, and a movement surprizing in its extent, and in the magnitude of its results, forthwith commenced. Meetings were convened in many of the principal cities, and committees were formed, who laboured with indefatigable zeal to collect and forward supplies in money and food. Large sums of money were speedily remitted, and cargo after cargo of provisions followed in quick succession. These generous efforts were greatly aided and encouraged by the liberality of the British Government, in undertaking to pay the freight of all donations of food from America.
The aggregate voluntary collections of the several local committees, in the years 1846 and 1847, exceeded £300,000.* The subscriptions confided to the British Association and the principal central relief committees in London and Dublin, altogether amounted to about £800,000.1
• The precise amount of the local subscriptions officially reported, appears to have been £104,689 18s. Id. in 1846, and £199,569 4s. 5d. in 1847. The latter sum may contain some grants from charitable associations, and some subscriptions not strictly local, but it is believed that these do not constitute any large portion of the amount.
† It is not practicable to give the exact amount received by the various central relief committees. The whole sum probably exceeds £800,000. It is evident that the valuation of the food consigned to their care is to some extent arbitrary.
But large as are these sums, their amount would be greatly increased, if we could enumerate the many thousand small contributions sent from all parts, which private charity has been, and is yet, constantly bestowing ; nor is it possible to estimate the value of the exertions used by many Irish families of all classes, who have cramped their means, and denied themselves their usual comforts, in order that they might be able to relieve some of their destitute neighbours. It cannot be denied that some landed proprietors, both resident and non-resident, have not only been wanting in efforts to mitigate the prevalent distress, but have even aggravated it, by a selfish and unfeeling line of conduct towards their miserable tenantry; but there are very many also, who have done their duty nobly in the difficult position in which they have been placed. They saw and felt for the misery around them, and gave their time, and largely of their substance for its relief. No one who has not witnessed it, can conceive the difficulties of their situation. Few, and widely separated amidst such a mass of suffering ; cramped by the non-payment of rents ; without any personal assistance, and in great part without pecuniary contributions from the numerous non-resident proprietors, many of whose estates furnished much beyond an average proportion of pauperism ; weighed down
by the constant sight of misery which they could not relieve ; oppressed by an anxious sense of the responsibility of their position, and by the weight of public business ; alarmed for the future, and frequently reminded of the dangerous nature of their duties, by seeing their neighbours one after another struck down by the fever every where prevalent, and which has proved peculiarly fatal to the higher classes—it is indeed wonderful how so many of the resident gentry have been supported through difficulties so unparalleled, which might well have appalled the stoutest heart.
The exertions of many of the clergy of the Established Church are well known, and appreciated as they deserve to be; the efficiency of their labours was, in many cases, owing to the cordial, and skilful co-operation of their wives and daughters. The peculiar position of the Roman Catholic clergy in this respect, rendered them less able to take an effective part in administering relief; but many of these also, as well as of the ministers of other religious bodies, have not been wanting in the discharge of the great and perilous duties which devolved on them.
Very many ladies have been devoted and unremitting in their endeavours to assist the distressed poor around them. They have established schools, at which poor children are taught some useful