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in Ireland,' said Lord Donoughmore, have been in the habit of letting land, not farms.' Never has a happier description of the Irish land system been given than this. The landlord let land'-a strip of bog, barren, wild, dreary. The tenant reclaimed it, drained, fenced, built, reduced the waste to a cultivable state, made the land ' a 'farm.' Then the landlord pounced upon him for an increased rent. The tenant could not pay; his resources had been exhausted in bringing the bog into a state of cultivation ; he had not yet recouped himself for his outlay and labour. He was evicted, Aung on the roadside to starve, without receiving one shilling's compensation for his outlay on the land; and the farm 'which he had made was given to another at an enhanced rental. What did the evicted tenant do? He entered a Ribbon Lodge, told the story of his wrong, and demanded vengeance on the man whom he called a tyrant and oppressor. Only too often his story was listened to, and vengeance was wreaked on the landlord or new tenant, and sometimes both. The result
the horrible agrarian war which raged in Ireland during the whole period of the Union. Landlords evicted without pity, and tenants murdered without remorse. Poverty and anarchy were the result.
No resources, no foresight could, probably, have averted the terrible visitation of 1845-47.
Life of Thomas Drummond.
THE LAND SYSTEM
But it would not have fallen with such crushing disaster on a prosperous people. The potato was the staple food of one half of the whole population, then numbering between 8,000,000 and 9,000,000 souls. In the autumn of 1845 a blight fell on the crop. O'Connell, with his knowledge of the country and his experience of similar disasters in the past, warned the government of the coming calamity. But the government paid no heed to his admonitions. An Irish famine they regarded as a figment of the Irish imagination. Throughout 1846 the condition grew worse, and by the end of the year famine was already in the land. Hundreds and thousands were perishing by want and pestilence. O'Connell, whose health had been failing since 1845, now broke down utterly. He was crushed by the misfortunes of his people. His physicians urged him to leave Ireland immediately and to settle for a time in the south of Europe. He consented to go, but stopped on his way through London to make a last appeal to Parliament in behalf of his starving countrymen. In February 1847, he entered the House of Commons. His changed appearance filled the members of that hostile assembly with sympathy and perhaps with sorrow. It was clear to every man that the mighty giant who had made and unmade Cabinets, whose name was a terror in the councils of ministers, and whose fame extended to every civilised country in the world, was fast sinking into the grave. Feeble and dejected, with bent head and broken voice, he rose to ask parliament to do its duty and to save a dying nation. He said,
I am afraid the House is not sufficiently aware of the extent of the misery; I do not think the members are sufficiently impressed with the horrors of the situation of the people of Ireland ; I do not think they understand the miseries—the accumulation of miseriesunder which the people are at present suffering. It has been estimated that 5000 adults and 10,000 children have already perished from famine, and that twenty-five per cent. of the whole population will perish unless the House shall afford effective relief. They will perish of famine and disease unless the House will do something speedy and efficacious—not doled out in small sums, not in private and individual subscriptions, but by some great act of national generosity, calculated upon a broad and liberal scale. If this course is not pursued, parliament will be responsible for the loss of twenty-five per cent of the population of Ireland. I assure the House most solemnly that I am not exaggerating. I can establish all I say by many and many painful proofs. Typhus fever, in fact, has already broken out, and is desolating whole districts. It leaves alive only one in ten of those it attacks. This fearful disorder ere long will spread to the upper classes ; the inhabitants of England will not escape its visitations, for it will be brought over by the miserable wretches who escape from the other side of the Channel. The calamity will be scattered
O'CONNELL'S LAST APPEAL
whole empire, and no man will be safe from it.'
The government ultimately took vigorous measures for dealing with the famine. Parliament voted large sums to succour the distressed; and outside parliament private individuals and societies came forward with magnificent generosity to relieve the sufferings of the people.
But help came all too late. In a few years famine, pestilence, and the tide of emigration which these misfortunes set in motion, swept away nearly two millions of the population.
O'Connell's prophecy was fulfilled, but he did not live to see its fulfilment. In March 1847, he left England for Rome, accompanied by his youngest son, Daniel, by his chaplain, Father Miley, and by his faithful valet, Duggan.
At Paris the great advocate, Berryer, and the great Liberal thinker, Montalembert, waited on the Irish chief. 'I cannot,' he said to Berryer, 'refuse myself the pleasure of pressing your hand.' But he was too feeble to converse. Montalembert introduced a deputation from a Catholic society. O'Connell said, “Sickness and emotion close my lips. I should require the eloquence of your president to express to you all my gratitude.'
From Paris, O'Connell proceeded by easy stages to Lyons. There he grew rapidly worse 'I am,' he said, “but the shadow of what I was, and I can scarcely recognise myself.'
As he passed through the city on his way to the boat which was to bear him down the Rhone and on to Genoa, the streets were filled with crowds of persons, who uncovered and bowed in the presence of one whom they regarded not only as the most famous Irishman, but as the most famous Catholic of his day. On May 6, Genoa was reached. There O'Connell lingered helplessly for a few days. Disease of the brain had set in. The light of that brilliant intellect was for ever quenched. In the afternoon of May 15, he sent for Duggan and said, 'I am dying; you have been a faithful servant, and I bid you good-bye.' Turning to his son and Father Miley, who stood by his couch, he said, 'Let my heart be carried to Rome, and my body to Ireland.' He then fell into a deep slumber, and woke no more. His dying wishes were religiously carried out.
A box containing his heart was placed by his son in the hands of Pio Nono, and subsequently laid with great solemnity in the church of St Agatha. His body was brought back to Ireland and buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, amid the poignant sorrows of the people to whom he had devoted his existence.
In less than twelve months after his death, the 'outbreak' which he had foretold occurred. The Young Irelanders rose in arms; but the insurrection was quickly quelled. Some of the leaders were arrested, tried, convicted and imprisoned or transported; others fled beyond the seas.
The Repeal movement was strangled, and Ireland for a time sank into a state of torpor and lethargy.