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commerce, which feed the 2,000,000 inhabitants of London with unerring regularity, have grown with the growth of the city; but scatter the same number of persons over a wide extent of country, covered with mountain and bog, and
“anything better than potatoes, and having lost them, are totally
without sufficient roads, and how are they to be supplied ? To become acquainted with the circumstances of each applicant, so as to prevent imposition, was a great difficulty. Where all were wretched, it was hard to select the most destitute. It required an efficient machinery, which existed in but few places. Many gave up at once, and attempted no selection; others selected their own immediate dependants, and seeing they could not assist all, endeavoured to preserve those in whom they had the most interest. Nothing could have overcome this difficulty, but a large number of residents of education and property, well acquainted with their several localities. The want of such a resident body, of an intelligent middle class, must greatly impede the execution of the poor-laws, and of every measure for relief of distress in Ireland.
“In almost all the parishes, the Catholic clergyman is the only one to “give consolation.” From the same, dated 1st of May, 1847:—“The state of the union as “a whole is alarming. There are no resident gentry. There are four “ members of the finance committee. The chairman resides about 18 “miles from the place of meeting, another member about 30, another “about 15, and the other about 7. The government inspecting“officer, Captain —, does all any man can do to expedite the law, but “there are no elements existing in the various electoral divisions, for “effective local committees to carry out the provisions of the 10 Vict. “ch. 7. A highly wrought organization is in part necessary. The cler“gymen are almost all constantly employed; farmers too; then there “ are no persons to assist others in turn.”
The evils of the system of public works rendered a cessation of this mode of relief imperative, and the temporary relief act, 10 Vict. cap. 7, was adopted by the legislature early in last session. By this act, which expired on the 30th of September, all the destitute, of whatever class, were to receive daily rations, without any labour being required in return. The machinery adopted consisted of a relief committee for each electoral division, a finance committee for each union, a government inspecting-officer for each union, and a board of commissioners in Dublin. The funds were to be supplied from the Treasury, by loans advanced on the security of rates, and by grants in aid of rates, and in aid of local subscriptions. The electoral division committees were appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, and included the local magistrates and poor law guardians; the three highest ratepayers, as being those who had the greatest interest in economical management; and the ministers of religion living in the district, as those who ought to be best acquainted with the wants of the poor. These committees prepared lists of the destitute in each electoral division, which, when approved by the finance committee, were transmitted to the relief commissioners in Dublin ; and being certified by them, the requisite amount of money was transmitted from the Treasury to the finance committee ; and thus the electoral division committee was enabled to purchase the food required for the support of the destitute within their limits. This new mode of relief was by no means popular at first. It was much more troublesome to the managing committees than the public works, and the daily rations were much objected to by those who had been in the receipt of money wages. The commissioners insisted that the rations should be cooked, wherever practicable ; which created great dissatisfaction with almost all parties. To feed such numbers of able-bodied men in complete idleness, seemed to offer reasonable ground of complaint; and their daily attendance being required, necessarily produced great crowds, lounging for several hours each day about the food depots, spreading the infection of fever, and increasing the demoralization of the labouring classes. These objections, whether well or ill founded, were evidently inseparable from this mode of relief, which was probably as well calculated to effect its object as could readily have been devised. In the gratuitous support of so large a portion of the population, rendered destitute by an unexpected calamity, many abuses were unavoidable. It was only a choice of evils. The complete operation of the new system of relief was delayed for some time, through the disinclination of the relief committees in many places, who hoped, by deferring the necessary proceedings, to force the continuance of expenditure on public works; but the judicious arrangements and steady determination of the commissioners at length succeeded in carrying the act into effective operation throughout almost all those districts in which it was required. The public works were discontinued gradually; and the change from one mode of relief to the other was effected with so much prudence and caution, that no serious difficulty was experienced. The orders of the commissioners were ably carried out by the inspecting-officers, who appear to have been in general peculiarly well qualified for the duties allotted to them ; and also by the finance committees, which were composed of from two to four gentlemen of each union, whose energy and intelligence fitted them for the important post assigned them. When at its highest amount, the number of persons receiving daily rations exceeded 3,000,000, and the average cost of each ration was about two-pence. The whole expense of this system of relief appears to have been about