Ireland: The Distress. February 6, 1847.
From Our Own Correspondent. DUBLIN. Feb. 4.
Subjoined is an extract from a report forwarded to the Relief Association in Sackville-street by the secretary of a relief committee in the King's County:
"Well-authenticated facts have been brought under the notice of the committee by some of its own members, who testified to the fact of families consisting of from seven to ten being without any food whatsoever for more than 36 hours; and when supplied with food after that period, affording deplorable proofs of exhaustion; and of others, subsisting on green vegetables of the least nutritious property; whole families affording, in numberless instances, the most wretched appearance from the effects of hunger, cold and disease. Even where relief has been afforded from employment on works, many families have been obliged to subsist on a meal a day. . . . No individual exertions of charity, and they have been afforded to a great extent in this neighborhood, can, of themselves, save multitudes from perishing under the complicated calamities which have been borne by the great majority of the poor with unexampled patience and resignation. In instances where the local police were directed to make a search for stolen sheep, they reported that they entered 20 or 30 houses, where the wretched inmates were gathered together in a corner of the building on some of the wildest nights of snow and storm in the season, without a spark of fire, and the only appearance of food in their huts being broken heads of cabbages and turnip tops, supposed to have been picked from the fields where they had been thrown out for cattle."
A gentleman residing in a southern county, who has taken an active part in alleviating, by personal exertions, the distress which prevails to a frightful extent in his neighborhood, thus writes:
"Throughout there has been a fall in the prices of corn for the last ten days. I very much fear that rates will soon go up. We are now arrived at a most critical period. Though the Roads Labour -rate Act was so much abused, it must be allowed that the spouters for reproductive works have been most tardy in availing themselves of the permission to go on with them, and so put an end to ploughing the roads. I may here observe, that the farming class of Ireland is a most sordid race. In the winter season and spring it has oozed out in our committee, that the labourers received from the farmers as low wages as from 3d. to 5d. per day in many cases. Although the latter have been receiving enormous prices for a fine harvest of grain, they cannot bear to pay the wages which would enable the labourer to procure that food which they have sold at so dear a rate. Hence the slowness of the class in availing themselves of the Treasure minute; and now they are waiting for the bill which is to establish a rate in aid of wages -- another yawning Charybdis for millions, which they will strive to make a job of, with the assistance (I regret to say it) of but too many of the Roman Catholic priests. By the way, I do sincerely believe that this would be a favourable time for the Government to bring forward a proposition to pay the Romish clergy. I am sure the people would not join in any agitation against it; and if the former was once known to be the recipient of Government bounty, of course, all voluntary (?) payments would be at an end; the clergyman would have less inducement to quarter his flock upon the public purse, and the English might think it cheaper than to be paying both parties, which is indirectly the case under the present vicious system. Notwithstanding what I have said about the rate of wages, I think that if it were possible it could be well guarded from the influence of which I speak, it would be a good bill, and I hope likely to correct and supersede some of the cruel absurdities of our nicknamed "Poor Law."
The Wexford Paper complains that, in about a fortnight hence, 1,000 able-bodied men will be thrown out of employment in that locality, in consequence of the works on which they are now engaged being likely to be finished in that period. This is called a "startling fact," but it is one for which all parties should have been prepared, from the explicit announcement made by the Prime Minister in his palace in the House of Commons on Monday week last.
The country grain markets continue to decline. The reports today from Limerick, Clonmel, Waterford, Derry, and Belfast are all in favour of the consumer, and from the immense importations of breadstuffs and other provisions in Irish ports, it is to be hoped that prices will be kept to their average level, and that the gloomy predictions of a reaction in favour of the speculators will be falsified. The following gratifying announcement appears in the Belfast Chronicle of yesterday:
"The import of breadstuffs and provisions generally into Belfast has been on a very extensive scale during the last ten days. Almost every steamer which arrives from Liverpool, Glasgow, or Ardosan, brings as the most important portion of her cargo, Indian corn and meal, peas and flour; and in addition to our regular traders, we had on Sunday two other stamers or large tonnage, the Princess Royal and Town of Drogheda, which disembarked a great bulk of provisions. Donegal quay was literally a curiosity on Monday -- from the water's edge all across to the stores it was densely covered with bags of Indian corn, sacks of peas, and barrels of flour, and the passenger could with difficulty make his way through the narrow passes and labyrinthine windings of this accumulation of good things. In addition to these arrivals coastwise, immense quantities are being daily landed from foreign ports, the latest of these being the Chusan, from New Orleans, with nearly 9000 bushels of Indian corn, arrived here on Monday, and a number of other vessels from Philadelphia, Nantes, Venice, St. Michael's & c. More are daily expected and as a considerable reaction has already taken place in the markets, we think it highly probably that prices of grain will tend yet lower."
A monthly agricultural report, published in the Derry Journal, thus refers to the culture of the potato in the province of Ulster:
"In consequence of the failure of the potato crop, for the last two seasons, farmers appear inclined to plant earlier; and we have already observed what may be considered, for this season, extensive preparations for proceeding with that operation. In some localities, such as Inch, and the parish of Ardstraw, a sufficiency of seed may be calculated on; but in most districts the want of the requisite amount of seed, and also the deficiency of manure, on the part of the cottiers, who, to help themselves through their present distress, have disposed of the manure heaps, and who have hitherto been the great producers of this crop, induce us to believe that not more than a half of the crop planted last year will be put down this season."
With respect to the wheat crop the same authority says:
"The wheat crop at one time showed signs of recovering that unhealthiness which we noticed in our last report; but we regret to say that latterly it has retrograded in most fields, which the excessive rains only can account for. The plants are generally thin on the ground, and for their appearance anything but vigorous; but a good spring may yet bring this crop into a promising condition. Owing to the favourable weather at the commencement of the month, a considerable breadth of ground was put down with spring sown wheat; and we should think that by this time there is a full average of that grain committed to the soil.