Asenath Nicholson
Chapter III

"Man's a king—his throne is Duty
Since his work on earth began."

The responsibility of a stewardship is a great one, and doubly so where the results are connected with life as well as property; and where the last is in the hand of the steward, who at option, may save or destroy the former. Had a commission been intrusted to me, under certain restrictions, and a salary paid, on condition of a right performance of duty, the path would have been open and plain; but working for no reward, under no restrictions but conscience, in the midst of the "valley and shadow of death," emphatically, where some would stumble and fall, and where all had an equal claim upon the bounties which were to be applied, was a fearful task. This task must be entered upon, and the first duty, after securing a room for a deposit, was to find suitable objects—by this is implied objects which were not only needy, but which, in the jumble of so much machinery as was attached to so many different Associations, were overlooked. These Associations had now multiplied to such an extent, that the time in getting the varied instruments into harmonious action was considerable; many died in sight of boilers preparing to feed the hungry, or when prepared, they must wait till the "Relieving Officer had time to enter their names on the books."

I stopped for no books, knowing that a faithful unerring record would be kept in the council chamber above, where the rich and the poor would soon meet before the Maker of them all; and my only prayer was, that when that book should be opened, I should not find there noted the name of any who had gone before as a witness of my neglect.

Cook street furnished a tolerable supply; and the remainder I found scattered in desolate places; some who had despaired of relief, because having neither courage nor strength, to make their way through the tumultuous revolting crowds which congregated about every place of public relief, submitted to their fate with a patient coolness and apparent resignation, which I have never been able to comprehend. One woman I found sitting in her chamber, looking respectably clean; upon inquiry into her real condition, the facts proved to be these;—she had heard of the Government Relief, and had exhausted the last farthing for food, and when hunger became pressing, she sought her way timidly to the Relieving Officer's station, and made her wants known; she was then suffering extremely, but she was sent away with the promise that he would call in the morning and make inquiries, and if he found her worthy she should have her name entered into the "books;" she went to bed supperless, and arose the next morning, waiting for the officer—he came not; she feared if she should go out he would call, and then she should lose her opportunity; that night she went to her bed without the least relief; the next day she did the same; the third morning I found her in that state of patient suffering, with her mind fully made up to die, without making any further effort.

These facts are recorded to show the incomprehensible features of that famine; and to inquire of the Christian, the philosopher, and the physiologist, what is the nature of that kind of suffering, which could bring the mind into such a cool passive frame, especially to operate so upon a nation naturally impetuous in their passions, and keenly alive to the tenderest sensibilities of the heart. Was it their hereditary suffering that had become a second nature—was it the peculiarity belonging to hunger alone—or was it their religion, that had produced that submissiveness which overcame the natural propensities, and brought them into passive obedience, when the hand of affliction pressed them sore?

My first donation was Indian meal, with a few pounds of money. A store-room was made of my lodging apartment, which was three floors from the ground; the carpet was removed; the meal which had been put in sacks, by the order of government, was getting heated, and much of it must be emptied. The government had, for reasons which are not fully understood by all, sent to Ireland sacks which were sold for half-a-crown each—the meal was taken from the barrels and deposited in them, which answered two purposes, it made sale for thousands of sacks, at a tolerable profit, and was an effectual method of heating the meal, which soon gathered dampness, then became mouldy and wholly unfit for use. The hungry, in some cases, took it gladly; the consequences in many instances were fatal, producing a state of the system often beyond the power of nature or medicine to cure.