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by only a few of the nearest relations. The bonds of natural affection were loosened. Parents neglected their children. Children turned out their aged parents. Husbands deserted their wives and families. The tales of utter selfishness which we have read in history, as occurring among the famished inhabitants of a besieged city, were re
“condition of all parts of it, that I should find it difficult to state which “is the most destitute. All grants sent to me I apply to all parts of the “ Union as nearly as possible in the proportion of the population.” The following is from the letter of a clergyman near Ballinasloe, county of Galway, dated May 13th, 1847: “I have some few but very peculiar cases in my parish, of widows and “others (hitherto remarkable for their habits of industry and cleanli“ness amid neighbours remarkable for all the contrary) who are now “almost naked, and wholly without power or hope of replacing their “rags.” A lady residing in Castlebar writes thus, under date May 10th, 1847: “There are many tradespeople, painters, shoemakers, tailors, and dress& 6 makers, in a starving state ; some of them are literally without furni“ture, food, clothing, or fuel; all that could be sent to the pawn-office “is there, except what is indispensably necessary.” A correspondent from Markethill, County of Armagh, writes, dated 27th of April, 1847: “The state of the small farmer is becoming pitiable. Yesterday, a “respectable religious-minded man, a Presbyterian, whose family “during illness I frequently visited, who holds about four and a balf “acres of ground, came to me and said, ‘ I have never in my life asked “any thing; I have had a pride above it, but what can I do 2 I have a “wife and six children, and there, sir,’ said he, showing me a shilling, “‘is all that is left of my cow, the last valuable thing I had. I have “pawned and sold every thing else before, and I come to ask to be “allowed to spend this last shilling on the meal you are selling at half“price;’ and my conviction is, that before the month of May is over, “there will scarcely be one small farmer, who will not be driven to look “for charitable relief.”
produced, at a time of perfect peace, among the peasantry of the richest, the most civilized, and the most powerful kingdom in the world. It must not be considered that this description is equally applicable to all parts of Ireland. The loss of property and want of employment were everywhere felt; but the superior resources of the eastern counties very much mitigated the distress, and the more frightful scenes of suffering, resulting in death, or loosening the ties of natural affection, were confined to a few localities in the west. The effects of this calamity have been felt throughout all the ramifications of society; no class, no rank has been exempt from loss. The poor could not afford to purchase clothing, or to expend any money except for food. The small shopkeepers therefore lost their trade. The business of the wholesale dealer and the merchant was diminished. The various branches of manufacture felt the want of demand : many of their workpeople were discharged. Carpenters, masons, and other artisans in want of employment, servants discharged from families desirous to economise, added to the general distress. The only flourishing trade was in articles of food. But the difficulties and reverses resulting from this heavy loss have not been confined to the poor and the trading community; they
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 2 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 2 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 circumstances— Extensive 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