April 15, 1846
THE IRISH FAMINE
To the Editor of the Times
Sir, From the eloquent and powerful articles you occasionally write in favour of this unfortunate country, I think you will not hesitate to expose the heartless proceedings of the Government, or their agents, with respect to the distribution, or rather non-distribution, of the Indian corn meal so prudently imported, about which so loud a flourish of trumpets was made in the House, and for which paternal care the English press appears to think we are so astoundingly ungrateful.
The Irish are not ungrateful, and the poor are the least ungrateful of all; but with all their quickness and acute perception, they are yet to learn for what they are expected to list the dust. They have heard of such things as a birthright bartered for a noggin of stirabout; but it seems they are expected to give up the one without getting the other in exchange, and they are to throw their gratitude to boot into the bargain. We ask for bread, and you give us a stone. Can you wonder if we put it in our sleeve to hurl it at you in your time of utmost need? for the day will come despite all your greatness in which I rejoice, and of all your glory, in which I take pride, when you will need us, hungry and helpless though we are, and despised though we seem to be.
Government has provided maize, but they refuse to give it for the relief of the poor of Cork, even for cash at cost price! Some time since the Commissary-General gave 50 sacks to the Poor Relief Committee, for which they paid; but he refused to give any more without instructions from Dublin, and the last and most promising reply was that the application for an issue of the meal for money would be taken into consideration! This was the answer to letters urging in the strongest terms the extreme distress of the poor, arising from the high price of potatoes, caused mainly by forestallers; for there is abundance of food in the country if the people had the means to buy it. It is perhaps true that Government are first providing for the outlying districts; but the evil effect of their operations is great as regards this place; for by monopolizing the mills, a much less portion of wheat is ground for other markets, and the usual quantity of coarse flour, amounting to what would feed 12,000 persons, is lost to the poor of Cork, who are therefore thrown back on the potatoes. Merchants, too, are deterred from importing maize, fearing that when it arrived the hearts of Government might be softened -- that they would lose their supply, and that the traders would be undersold. Thus what seems to be a benefit is turned into a curse. I know now what the motives of Government may be, but this I do full well know -- that if their intentions were to raise the price of food on the people, which one can hardly suspect, even with the view of carrying the Corn bill, they could not contrive to act in a manner better calculated to produce that result.
The Poor Relief Committee have other grave matters to lay to the charge of the authorities in Dublin; but on these I shall not enter -- they may be capable of explanation, though I cannot even divine how that is possible.
If Ireland is fed, England need have not fears of her fidelity, or of her gratitude. But coercion bills will not do it, nor will the speeches of the Knights of Netherby perform it, and least of all will free trade relieve a people who have so little to trade in.
Let England beware, not of us, but of herself. If she will not, then let her beware of both; for she is making bad subjects of the best in Ireland.
I am, Sir, your most obedient servant,
32, South-mall, Cork, April 11.