The History of the Great Irish Famine of 1847 (3rd ed.) (1902) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 575 pages of information about The History of the Great Irish Famine of 1847 (3rd ed.) (1902).
on the 5th of October, suddenly and unexpectedly issued, through his Chief Secretary, the famous Proclamation known as “Labouchere’s Letter,” which, if it did not entirely repeal the Labour-rate Act, changed its whole nature.  In that document the Irish public are told that the Lord Lieutenant has had under his consideration the various representations which had been made to him of the operation of the poor employment Act, and the difficulty of finding “public works” upon which it would be expedient or beneficial to expend money to the extent requisite for affording employment to the people during the existence of distress; and to obviate the bad effects of a great expenditure of money in the execution of works comparatively unproductive, he desires that the Commissioners of Public Works would direct their officers, in the respective counties, to consider and report upon such works of a reproductive character and permanent utility, as might be presented at any Sessions held under the above Act; and his Excellency would be prepared to sanction and approve of such of those works as might be recommended by the Board, and so presented, in the same manner as if they had been strictly “public works,” and presented as such in the manner required by the Act.[138]

Never did any Government pronounce against itself a more complete verdict of ignorance and incapacity.  The Government had framed the Act; every clause of it was its own handiwork; it was passed through Parliament without being modified, amended, or in the slightest degree opposed, and yet, before it was brought into practical operation—­for a single work had not been commenced under it at the date of the Proclamation—­that same Government virtually repeal it, well knowing that for such proceeding it must come before Parliament for an Act of Indemnity.


[122] This rule gave great dissatisfaction, the wages in many places being already far too low, in proportion to the price of provisions.  When the Cork deputation waited on Lord John Russell, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, in reply to Rev. Mr. Gibson, that the Minute of the Lords of the Treasury requiring that wages should be twopence under the standard of the country was not the law, and if necessary could be modified.

[123] The italics are their lordships’.

[124] Letter to Mr. Trevelyan, Commissariat Series, Part I, p. 439, who did not like it all, and sent in reply, on the part of the Treasury, an elaborate defence of high prices and large profits; although the people in many districts could only purchase one meal a day with the wages they received on the public works, as is testified by Commissary-General Doree’s letter (p. 444); and by numberless other letters from almost every part of the country; hence men in full employment on the Government works died of starvation, or of dysentery produced by it.  And why should they not?  They were earning 8-1/4d. a day at task work, whilst meal was 3s. a stone; and the next shop in which it was sold for that sum was often a great distance from them—­in some cases twenty, and even five-and-twenty miles!

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