Condition of Ireland in 1845 - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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not been too gentle, forgiving, and submissive, their island could never have become a horror and scandal to the earth.

There was a "Poor Law" in Ireland since 1842—a law which had been forced on the country against its will, on the recommendation of an English tourist (one Nichols); and workhouses, erected under that law, received many of the exterminated people. But it is a strangely significant fact, that the deaths by starvation increased rapidly from the first year of the poor law. The Report of the Census Commissioners, for 1851, declares that, while in 1842 the deaths registered as deaths by famine amounted to 187, they increased every year, until the registered deaths in 1845 were 516. The "registered" deaths were, perhaps, one-tenth of the unregistered deaths by mere hunger.

Such, then, was the condition of Ireland in 1844-5; and all this before the "Famine."

Now, the "Landlord and Tenant Commission" began its labours in '44. The people were told to expect great benefits from it. The Commissioners, it was diligently given out, would inquire into the various acknowledged evils that were becoming proverbial throughout Europe and America; and there were to be parliamentary "ameliorations." This Commission looked like a deliberate fraud from the first. It was composed entirely of landlords; the chairman (Lord Devon) being one of the Irish absentee landlords. It was at all times quite certain that they would see no evidence of any evils to be redressed on the part of the tenants; and that, if they recommended any measures, those measures would be such as should promote and make more sweeping the depopulation of the country. "You might as well," said O'Connell, "consult butchers about keeping Lent, as consult these men about the rights of farmers."

The Report of this set of Commissioners would deserve no more especial notice than any of the other Reports of innumerable Commissions which the British Parliament was in the habit of issuing, when they pretended to inquire into any Irish "grievance"—and which were usually printed in vast volumes, bound in blue paper, and never read by any human eye,—but that the Report of this particular "Devon Commission" has become the very creed and gospel of British statesmen with regard to the Irish people from that day to this. It is the programme and scheme upon which the Last Conquest of Ireland was undertaken in a business-like manner years ago; and the completeness of that conquest is due to the exactitude with which the programme was observed. ...continue reading »

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