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Transcript of IRELAND 1845-1851
IRELAND 1845-18511Mother IRELAND
Scholars, politicians and commentators argue about what happened and who was responsible. Writing and researching about the Great Irish Famine, the most tragic event in Irish history has not been straightforward. For many years, the event was cloaked in silence, its memory partially buried or neglected.
But very recent scholarship has helped deepen our understanding of what took place, the reasons why, and help us understand more intimately the suffering and hurt of those who perishedthe true witnesses of this central event in this small islands history which has transformed our own society as well as that of others around the world. NEW PUBLICATIONS: The Atlas of G.F.50 scholars produced latest research 2012 to challenge our understanding of such a tragic eventand the manner in which governments responded to it. Sold out 5000 copies in months. John Kellys book etc. & New Famine Museum opened in CT.2IRELAND remains a canvason which many of the broad brush strokes of the modern worlds formation imperialism, colonialism, nationalism, revolution, emigration, democratization, et al. can be fruitfully studied and examined. --Peter Quinn, novelist, essayist, and a chronicler of Irish-America. 3The Great Irish Hunger epoch changed the face and the heart of Ireland.The Famine--yielded like the ice of the Northern Seas;it ran like melted snows in the veins of Ireland for many years afterwards. --Edith Somerville, Irish Memories (1917).
4Prior to 1845, Ireland was called the breadbasket of the United Kingdom. It was a major exporter of food to Britain, including vast amounts of high quality grain products. Irish food fueled Englands industrial revolution.
5Irelands climate is salubrious, although humid with the healthy vapours of the Atlantic; its hills, (like its history,) are canopied, for the most part, with clouds; its sunshine is more rare, but for that very reason, if for no other, far more smiling and beautiful than ever beamed from Italian skies. Its mountains are numerous and lofty; its green valleys fertile as the plains of Egypt, enriched by the overflowings of the Nile. There is no country on the globe that yields a larger average of the substantial things which God has provided for the support and sustenance of human life.
6And yet, there it is that man has found himself for generations in squalid misery, in tattered garment often as at present; haggard and emaciated with hunger; his social state a contrast and an eye-sore, in the midst of the beauty and riches of nature that smile upon him, as if in cruel mockery of his unfortunate and exceptional condition.
--Bishop John Hughes, New York, (from Co Tyrone, Ireland) A Lecture on Antecedent Causes of Irish Famine - 18477"IRELAND by a fatal destiny, has been thrown into the ocean near England, to which it seems linked by the same bonds that unite the slave to the master.The traveler meets no equality of conditions: only magnificent castles or miserable hovels; misery, naked and famishing shows itself everywhere and the cause of it all? A cause primary, permanent, radical, which predominates over all others--a bad aristocracy.
-- Gustave de Beaumont, colleague of Alexis de Tocqueville, in his book: IRELAND, after he had visited Ireland in mid-1830s. (Reprinted by Harvard Press 2006)8Alexis de Tocqueville wrote to his father from Ireland in 1835, ten years before the Famine began: "You cannot imagine what a complexity of miseries five centuries of oppression, civil disorder, and religious hostility have piled on this poor people.... [The poverty is] such as I did not imagine existed in this world. It is a frightening thing, I assure you, to see a whole population reduced to fasting like Trappists, and not being sure of surviving to the next harvest, which is still not expected for another ten days. 9Mother IRELAND
10IT WAS SAID THAT THE.Irish peasant can live...if his crop does not fail;and he can pay his rent, and if his pig-- fed like himself out of his garden--does not die. Why did Ireland's economy fail to flourish and develop on a par with the rest of Europe after 17th centuryHow did the Irish become so dependent on the potato? English law replaces Irish law in 17th century
Brehon legal system collapsed: was based on honor and communitarian principles of justice, managed to survive for almost three millennia and to remain the law of the Irish until the Cromwellian onslaught of the 17th century.
Property rights obliterated
Property of the native Irish confiscated - ownership transferred to British settlers
Penal laws in 1695 by British government (repealed 1820s just before Famine): Banned Catholics from: owning land - having a gun - being involved in politics - receiving education (except in the Protestant faith) - owning a horse over 5 value. Penal laws imposed an attempt to force Irish Catholics to convert to Protestantism; Effects not merely confined to religion, but had profound economic effects and on the agricultural economyownership and use of land.
The GREAT FAMINEGREAT HUNGER of 1840s Ireland cannot be understood WITHOUT an historical perspective of the colonization of Ireland.
The English invasion, conquest and colonization in Ireland resulted in the wholesale destruction of property rights of the Irish people and the imposition of English feudal concepts and common law which was incompatible with the ancient principles of Irish Law which had developed over the previous 3000 years.
Although, traces of the native Irish way of life and law and society survived to the 17th century, it rapidly was totally vanished from the land. The English conquest meant a vast displacement and dispossession of the Irish landholding classes and tenants as well. Most of the Irish were reduced to tenants or serfdom in their own land. (Property Rights in Celtic Irish Law by Joseph Peden, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1977)
The stage was set for a disaster unimaginable-- when the potato fungus visited the island.12
Edmund Burke described Penal Laws (1792): a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.
13Dependency on Potatoes
Dependency of Irish people on a potato crop is primarily explained through the pre-famine land system and the result of colonization by the English.
The Irish people were British subjects at this time. (Act of Union 1800)The law doth punish man or womanThat stole the goose from off the common;But lets the greater felon looseThat stole the common from the goose.(anonymous: West Cork, 1800 A.D., making reference to Act of Union when British abolished Irish parliament)
By 1830s, 95 per cent of Irish land was owned by about 5,000 English landlords, having been confiscated by conquest, colonization and plantation policies of British monarchs and governments, especially since time of Elizabeth I, Queen regnant of England & Ireland (1538-1603).
Between one-half and two-thirds of Ireland's landowners were permanent absentees, who governed their Irish estates through agents and middlemen whose mandate was to extract the largest amount of profit from the land.
The Famine would not have been so lethal had Poverty no reduced the bottom one-third of the population to an almost exclusive dependence on the potato for sustenance. The half-century or so before the Famine was a period of increasing impoverishment for the landless poor. On eve of FAMINE Ireland looked much like the condition of Ethiopia and Somalia today. (Cormac OGrada)
In the 1800s, George IIIs government took up once again the perpetual nuisance of Ireland, a province united by conquest and law to the Kingdom. We know about this George and his governments policies toward its colonies from our own successful Revolution.
With the Act of Union, 1800, In theory, Ireland was an integral part of Great Britain. Its counties and their subjects were as precious to the Crown as the souls in English shires, but in reality they were not.14By the late 17th century, the potato had become widespread as a supplementary rather than a principal food, as the main diet still revolved around butter, milk, and grain products.
In the first two decades of the 18th century, however, the potato became a base food of the poor, especially in winter. The expansion of the economy between 1760 and 1815 saw the potato make inroads in the diet of the people and became a staple all the year round for farmers.
The large dependency on this single crop was one of the reasons why the emergence of Phytophthora infestans had such devastating effects in Ireland, and had far less effects in other European countries (which were also hit by the fungus).Although Ireland was very poor in the pre-Famine decades, it was not overpopulated (as some have tried to suggest). Chicago based economic historian Joel Mokyr has studied economic and demographic data and concluded:The real problem was that Ireland was considered by Britain as an alien and even hostile country. When the chips were down in the frightful summer of 1847, the British simply abandoned the Irish and let them perish. p. xiv. In Atlas of G. F. 201215These unequal conditions, coupled with the incompetence and greed of the landowners, could only lead to a catastrophe for Ireland when the potato blight struck in Ireland on 9 September 1845. _____________________
16An Irish poet in 1849 gives his version of what happened:
God sent a curse upon the la