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who possess some means from the absolutely destitute, and of relieving the latter without destroying every spark of energy and independent feeling, are among the peculiar difficulties of the present time, and greatly complicate the question of both public and private relief.
Prospects of the future discouraging—Loss enormous when compared with the resources of the country—Must be divided among all classes— Potatoes were the capital, and served as the currency of the poor— The wages paid for public works supplied the deficiency of currency to some extent—Difficulty of repayment for government advances— Diminution of exports—The whole population will have less to live on—Disproportion between supply of labour and demand—Injurious results—Supply of labour increased by the present calamity—Ordinary sources of employment diminished—Extraordinary sources of employment now existing—Fearful amount of unemployed labourers— How are these and their families to be supported during the winter?— How are they to obtain the permanent means of subsistence?—Capital must be supplied—Or they must emigrate—Or fall back on the poorrate for support.
The prospects of the future are sufficiently discouraging. A great loss has been sustained, estimated at £16,000,000, but amounting to much more than that sum, when the indirect effects are taken into consideration. We were obliged to import food at a greatly enhanced price, and the productive industry of the country has been in great measure paralysed. The loss can hardly be estimated with any tolerable exactness, but it has certainly been enormous, when compared with the resources of the country. This heavy loss must be divided among the possessors of property, rich and poor. The poor lost their all. On these the blow first fell; they became wholly destitute; and many have died from want, disease, and misery. The middle classes have borne their share. Want of trade and heavy expenditure have reduced their means; and unless relieved shortly, many are in danger of becoming pauperised. The rich of all classes have suffered severely. They have found their expenditure increased, and their income diminished. On the landed proprietors a heavy blow has fallen. Already much impoverished, it seems probable that they will feel it still more severely hereafter. Potatoes were not merely the food of the people of Ireland, but in many places they supplied the place of capital and of a circulating medium. They were the capital which enabled the poor cottier to exert his industry, and the coin in which his labour was paid. Stored up for winter food, they enabled the small farmer or the cottier to feed cattle and pigs, to rear poultry, to trade, in short, as if he had possessed so much capital. With them the farmer paid the wages of his labourers, whether farm-servants or cottiers. The loss of potatoes depriving the poor man of his capital, paralysed his industry. He could no longer feed pigs or poultry, or even cultivate his farm, because he had nothing to live on in the mean time. The same cause, in many instances, obliged the farmer to dismiss his servants, and deprived him of the assistance of labourers, whom he could no longer employ, having no money to pay their wages, and the old arrangement of potatoground in lieu of wages having become valueless. To supply this want, and enable the usual operations of the country to be carried on, required the introduction of a considerable amount of capital; to pay the wages of labour in money required a large addition to the currency. The public works last year in some measure effected these objects. The advances from the Treasury were equivalent to the introduction of capital for the time. The large sums circulated through the country, by the payment of wages, added to the currency so much, as to surprise many who had been accustomed to the former restricted scale of money transactions. By these advances, the trade of the country was sustained, and the immediate pressure of the loss greatly lessened. In this respect they have been of most essential service; they have tended to spread the burden over a longer period of time. But being only a loan, it becomes necessary to repay them, and this difficulty seems likely to weigh on us heavily for several years. The immediate effect of the loss of food was a diminution of exports, which had hitherto consisted almost wholly of agricultural produce. The export of corn almost ceased, and we became large importers from America and elsewhere. The export of pigs, eggs, and fowl was greatly diminished. Appendix DD shows the exports of pigs, eggs, and horned cattle, shipped by steamers from the ports of Dublin, Cork, and Waterford, during the first ten months of this year, compared with the corresponding months of last year. It will be seen how greatly the export of pigs and eggs has fallen off, while that of horned cattle is considerably greater than it was last year. It is highly satisfactory to observe, that the export of pigs has decidedly increased during the last two months, and that the export of eggs in the same period is nearer to the quantity exported in the corresponding period of last year, than it was at any earlier time. The price of potatoes this year is so high, as to place them out of the reach of the poor, who must depend on grain for their food. We cannot therefore expect, that the export of wheat or oats will be as large as formerly, while there is every reason to anticipate considerable imports of Indian corn. It may safely be asserted, that until the potato grows plentifully again, or until the cultivation of the ground is greatly improved,