The Great Irish Famine
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Causes and contributing factors

From 1801 Ireland had been directly governed, under the Act of Union, as part of the United Kingdom. Executive power lay in the hands of the Lord
Lieutenant of Ireland and Chief Secretary for Ireland, both of whom were appointed by the British government. Ireland sent 105 members of
parliament to the British House of Commons, and Irish representative peers elected twenty-eight of their own number to sit for life in the House of
Lords. Between 1832 and 1859 seventy percent of Irish representatives were landowners or the sons of landowners.

In the forty years that followed the union, successive British governments grappled with the problems of governing a country which had, as Benjamin
Disraeli put it in 1844, "a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien Church, and in addition the weakest executive in the world."
One historian calculated that between 1801 and 1845 there had been 114 commissions and 61 special committees inquiring into the state of
Ireland and that "without exception their findings prophesied disaster; Ireland was on the verge of starvation, her population rapidly increasing, three-
quarters of her labourers unemployed, housing conditions appalling and the standard of living unbelievably low."This was a contrast to Britain, which
was beginning to enjoy the modern prosperity of the Victorian and Industrial ages.
See also: Chronology of the Great Famine

Landlords and tenants

Catholic emancipation had been achieved in 1829, and Catholics made up 80 percent of the population, the bulk of which lived in conditions of
poverty and insecurity. At the top of the "social pyramid" was the "ascendancy class," the English and Anglo-Irish families who owned most of the
land, and who had more or less limitless power over their tenants. Some of their estates were vast: the Earl of Lucan, for example, owned over 60,000
acres (240 km2). Many of these landlords lived in England and were called "absentee landlords". They used agents to administer their property for
them, with the revenue generated being sent to England.A number of the absentee landlords living in England never set foot in Ireland. They took
their rents from their "impoverished tenants" or paid them minimal wages to raise crops and livestock for export.[14]

In 1843, the British Government considered that the land question in
Ireland was the root cause of disaffection in the country. They set up a Royal
Commission, chaired by the Earl of Devon, to inquire into the laws with regard to the occupation of land in Ireland.
Daniel O'Connell described this
commission as perfectly one-sided, being made up of landlords and no tenants.Devon in February 1845 reported that "It would be impossible
adequately to describe the privations which they [Irish labourer and his family] habitually and silently endure . . . in many districts their only food is
the potato, their only beverage water . . . their cabins are seldom a protection against the weather... a bed or a blanket is a rare luxury . . . and nearly
in all their pig and a manure heap constitute their only property." The Commissioners concluded that they could not "forbear expressing our strong
sense of the patient endurance which the labouring classes have exhibited under sufferings greater, we believe, than the people of any other country
in Europe have to sustain."

The commission stated that the principal cause was the bad relations between the landlord and tenant. There was no hereditary loyalty, feudal tie or
paternalism as existed in England. Ireland was a conquered country, with the Earl of Clare speaking of the landlords saying "confiscation is their
common title." According to Woodham-Smith, the landlords regarded the land as a source of extracting as much money as possible. With the Irish
"brooding over their discontent in sullen indignation" according to the Earl of Clare, Ireland was seen as a hostile place in which to live, and as a
consequence absentee landlords were common, with some only visiting their property once or twice in a lifetime. The Rents from Ireland were then
spent in England, it being estimated that in 1842 £6,000,000 was remitted out of
Ireland. Rent collection was left in the hands of the landlords
agents, whose ability according to Woodham-Smith, was measured by the amount of money they could contrive to extract.

During the eighteenth century a new system for dealing with the landlord's property was introduced in the form of the "middleman system". This
assured the landlord of a regular income, and relieved them of any responsibility; the tenants however were then subject to exploitation through
these middlemen. Described by the Commission as "the most oppressive species of tyrant that ever lent assistance to the destruction of a country,"
they were invariably described as "land sharks" and "bloodsuckers."

The middlemen leased large tracts of land from the landlord's on long leases with fixed rents, which they then sublet as they saw fit. They split the
holding into smaller and smaller parcels to increase the amounts of rents they could then obtain, a system called conacre. Tenants could be evicted
for reasons such as non-payment of rent (which were very high), or if the landlord decided to raise sheep instead of grain crops. The cottier paid his
rent by working for the landlord. Any improvements made on the holdings by the tenants became the property of the landlords when the lease expired
or was terminated, which acted as a disincentive to improvements. The tenants had no security of tenure on the land; being tenants "at will" they
could be turned out whenever the landlord chose. This class of tenant made up the majority of tenant farmers in Ireland, the exception being in
Ulster were there existed a practice known as "tenant right" where tenants were compensated for any improvements made to their holdings. The
commission according to Woodham-Smith stated that "the superior prosperity and tranquillity of Ulster, compared with the rest of Ireland, were due to
tenant right."

Landlords in Ireland used their powers remorselessly, and the people lived in dread of them. In these circumstances Woodham-Smith writes "industry
and enterprise were extinguished and a peasantry created which was one of the most destitute in Europe."

Tenants, subdivisions, and bankruptcy

In 1845, 24% of all Irish tenant farms were of 0.4 to 2 hectares (one to five acres) in size, while 40% were of two to six hectares (five to fifteen acres).
Holdings were so small that only potatoes—no other crop—would suffice to feed a family. The British Government reported, shortly before the Great
Hunger, that poverty was so widespread that one third of all Irish small holdings could not support their families, after paying their rent, except by
earnings of seasonal migrant labour in England and Scotland. Following the famine, reforms were implemented making it illegal to further divide
land holdings.

The 1841 census showed a population of just over eight million. Two-thirds of those depended on agriculture for their survival, but they rarely
received a working wage. They had to work for their landlords in return for the patch of land they needed in order to grow enough food for their own
families. This was the system which forced Ireland and its peasantry into monoculture, as only the potato could be grown in sufficient quantity. The
rights to a plot of land in Ireland could mean the difference between life and death in the early 19th century.

Potato dependency

The potato was introduced to Ireland as a garden crop of the gentry. By the late seventeenth century it had become widespread as a supplementary
rather than a principal food, the main diet still revolved around butter, milk and grain products. In the first two decades of the eighteenth century, it
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 becoming a staple food all the year round for the
cottier and small farm class.

The potato's spread was essential to the development of the cottier system, delivering an extremely cheap workforce, but at the cost of lower living
standards. For the labourer it was essentially a potato wage that shaped the expanding agrarian economy. The expansion of tillage led to an
inevitable expansion of the potato acreage, and an expansion of the
cottier class. By 1841, there were over half a million cottiers, with one and three-
quarter of a million dependents. The principal beneficiary of this system was the English consumer.        

"The Celtic grazing lands of... Ireland had been used to pasture cows for centuries. The British colonised... the Irish, transforming much of their
countryside into an extended grazing land to raise cattle for a hungry consumer market at home... The British taste for beef had a devastating impact
on the impoverished and disenfranchised people of... Ireland... Pushed off the best pasture land and forced to farm smaller plots of marginal land, the
Irish turned to the potato, a crop that could be grown abundantly in less favourable soil. Eventually, cows took over much of Ireland, leaving the
native population virtually dependent on the potato for survival      ”

Blight in Ireland

Prior to the arrival in Ireland of the fungal disease Phytophthora infestans, commonly known as blight, there were only two main potato plant
diseases. One was called 'dry rot' or 'taint' and the other was a virus, known popularly as 'curl'. According to W.C. Paddock however, Phytophthora
infestans is an oomycete, not a fungus.

In 1851 the Census of Ireland Commissioners recorded twenty-four failures of the potato crop going back to 1728, of varying severity. In 1739 the crop
was "entirely destroyed", and again in 1740. In 1770 the crop largely failed again. In 1800 there was another "general" failure, and in 1807 half the
crop was lost. In 1821 and 1822 the potato crop failed completely in Munster and Connaught, and 1830 and 1831 were years of failure in Mayo,
Donegal and Galway. In 1832, 1833, 1834 and 1836 a large number of districts suffered serious loss, and in 1835 the potato failed in Ulster. 1836
and 1837 brought "extensive" failures throughout Ireland and again in 1839 failure was universal throughout the country; both 1841 and 1844 potato
crop failure was widespread. According to Woodham-Smith, "the unreliability of the potato crop was an accepted fact in Ireland.

How and when the blight Phytophthora infestans arrived in Europe is still uncertain; according to P.M.A Bourke, however, it almost certainly was not
present prior to 1842, and probably arrived in 1844. At least one of the sources of the infection suggests it may have originated in the northern Andes
region of South America, Peru in particular. It was then conveyed to Europe on ships carrying guano, where there was a demand for it as fertiliser on
European and British farms.

In 1844 Irish newspapers carried reports concerning a disease which for two years had attacked the potato crops in America. According to James
Donnelly a likely source was the eastern United States, where in 1843 and 1844 blight largely destroyed the potato crops. He suggests that ships from
Baltimore, Philadelphia or New York could have brought diseased potatoes to European ports.[30] W.C. Paddock suggests that it was transported on
potatoes being carried to feed passengers on clipper ships sailing from America to Ireland.

Once it was introduced it spread rapidly. By late Summer and early Autumn of 1845 it had spread throughout the greater part of northern and central
Europe. Belgium, Holland, northern France and southern England by mid-August had all been stricken.

On 16 August the Gardeners' Chronicle and Horticultural Gazette printed a report which described 'a blight of unusual character' in the Isle of Wight.
A week later, on 23 August, it reported that 'A fearful malady has broken out among the potato crop... In Belgium the fields are said to be completely
desolated. There is hardly a sound sample in Covent Garden market... As for cure for this distemper, there is none...' These reports were extensively
covered in Irish newspapers. On 13 September[35] the Gardeners' Chronicle made 'a dramatic announcement': 'We stop the Press with very great
regret to announce that the potato Murrain has unequivocally declared itself in Ireland. The British Government were nevertheless optimistic through
the next few weeks.'

Crop loss in 1845 has been estimated at a high of 50%[37] to one third.  The Mansion House Committee in Dublin, to which hundreds of letters were
directed from all over Ireland, claimed on 19 November 1845 to have ascertained beyond the shadow of doubt that considerably more than one-third
of the entire of the potato crop ... has been already destroyed'.

In 1846 three-quarters of the harvest was lost to blight.[39] By December a third of a million destitute people were employed in public works.
According to Cormac Ó Gráda the first attack of potato blight caused considerable hardship on rural Ireland, from the autumn of 1846, when the first
deaths from starvation were recorded. Although there were average yields in 1847, as seed potatoes were scarce, little had been sown. 1848 yields
would be only two thirds of normal. As over 3 million Irish people were totally dependent on potatoes for food, hunger and famine were inevitable.

Reaction in Ireland

The Corporation of Dublin sent a memorial to the Queen, "praying her" to call Parliament together early (Parliament was at this time prorogued), and
to recommend the requisition of some public money for public works, especially railways in Ireland. The Town Council of Belfast met and made
similar suggestions, but neither body asked for charity, according to Mitchel. "They demanded that, if Ireland was indeed an Integral part of the
realm, the common exchequer of both islands should be used—not to give alms, but to provide employment on public works of general utility." It was
Mitchel's opinion that "if Yorkshire and Lancashire had sustained a like calamity in England, there is no doubt such measures as these would have
been taken, promptly and liberally."

A deputation from the citizens of Dublin, which including the Duke of Leister, the Lord Mayor, Lord Cloncurry, and
Daniel O'Connell, went to the Lord
Lieutenant (Lord Heytesbury), and offered suggestions, such as opening the ports to foreign corn for a time, stopping distillation from grain, or
providing public works; that this was extremely urgent, as millions of people would shortly be without food. Lord Haytesbury told them they "were
premature", and told them not to be alarmed, that learned men (Playfair and Lindley) had been sent from England to enquire into all those matters;
and that the Inspectors of Constabulary and Stipendiary Magistrates were charged with making constant reports from their districts; and there was no
"immediate pressure on the market". Of these reports from Lord Haytesbury, Peel in a letter to Sir James Graham was to say that he found the
accounts "very alarming", though he reminded him that there was, according to Woodham-Smith "always a tendency to exaggeration in Irish news".

On 8 December 1845,
Daniel O'Connell, in the Repeal Association, proposed the following remedies to the pending disaster. One of the first things
he suggested was the introduction of "Tenant-Right" as practised in Ulster, giving the landlord a fair rent for his land, but giving the tenant
compensation for any money he might have laid out on the land in permanent improvements.

O'Connell then pointed out the means used by the Belgian legislature during the same season: shutting their ports against the export of provisions,
but opening them to imports. He suggested that if Ireland had a domestic Parliament the ports would be thrown open and the abundant crops raised
in Ireland would be kept for the people of Ireland.
O'Connell maintained that only an Irish parliament would provide for the people both food and
employment, saying that a repeal of the Act of Union was a necessity and Ireland's only hope.

John Mitchel
John Mitchel, one of the leading political writers of Young Ireland, as early as 1844, in The Nation raised the issue of the "Potato Disease" in Ireland
noting how powerful an agent hunger had been in certain revolutions. On 14 February 1846, he put forward his views on "the wretched way in which
the famine was being trifled with", and asked, had not the Government even yet any conception that there might be soon "millions of human beings
in Ireland having nothing to eat."

On 28 February, writing on the Coercion Bill which was then going through the House of Lords, he noted that this was the only kind of legislation that
was sure to meet with no obstruction in the British House of Commons. His view was that however the government may differ about feeding the Irish
people, "they agree most cordially in the policy of taxing, prosecuting and ruining them." In an article on "English Rule" on 7 March, 1846, Mitchel
wrote that the Irish People were "expecting famine day by day" and they attributed it collectively, not to "the rule of heaven as to the greedy and
cruel policy of England." He continued in the same article to write that the people "believe that the season as they roll are but ministers of England's
rapacity; that their starving children cannot sit down to their scanty meal but they see the harpy claw of England in their dish." The people Mitchel
wrote watched as their "food melting in rottenness off the face of the earth," all the while watching "heavy-laden ships, freighted with the yellow corn
their own hands have sown and reaped, spreading all sail for England."

Mitchel later wrote one of the first widely-circulated tracts on the famine, The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps) in 1861. It established the
widespread view that the treatment of the famine by the British was a deliberate murder of the Irish, and contained the famous phrase:

“         The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the Famine."         ”

Mitchel was charged with sedition because of his writings, but this charge was dropped and he was convicted by a packed jury under the newly-
enacted Treason Felony Act and sentenced to 14 years transportation to Bermuda.

The Nation according to Charles Gavan Duffy, insisted that the one remedy was that which the rest of Europe had adopted, which even the
parliaments of the Pale had adopted in periods of distress, which was to retain in the country the food raised by her people till the people were fed.

Ireland at this time was, according to the Act of Union of 1801, an integral part of the British imperial homeland, "the richest empire on the globe,"
and was "the most fertile portion of that empire," in addition; Ireland was sheltered by both "... Habeas Corpus and trial by jury ...". And yet Ireland's
elected representatives seemed powerless to act on the country's behalf as Members of the British Parliament. Commenting on this at the time John
Mitchel wrote:

"That an island which is said to be an integral part of the richest empire on the globe ... should in five years lose two and a half millions of its people
(more than one fourth) by hunger, and fever the consequence of hunger, and flight beyond sea to escape from hunger ..."

The period of the potato blight in Ireland from 1845–51 was full of political confrontation. The mass movement for Repeal of the Act of Union had
failed in its objectives by the time its founder
Daniel O'Connell died in 1847. A more radical Young Ireland group seceded from the Repeal
movement and attempted an armed rebellion in the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848. It was unsuccessful.

Government response

F.S.L. Lyons characterised the initial response of the British government to the early less severe phase of the famine as "prompt and relatively
successful." Confronted by widespread crop failure in the autumn of 1845, Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel purchased £100,000 worth of Indian corn
and corn meal secretly from America. Baring Bros & Co had to act as agents for the government. The government hoped that they would not "stifle
private enterprise" or that their actions act as a disincentive to local relief efforts. Due to weather conditions, the first shipment did not arrive in
Ireland until the beginning of February 1846.

This corn was then re-sold for a penny a pound.The corn when it arrived had not been ground and was inedible, and this task involved a long and
complicated process if it was to be done correctly and it was unlikely to be carried out locally. In addition, before the Indian meal could be
consumed, it had to be 'very much' cooked again, or eating it could result in severe bowel complaints.[55] Because of maize's yellow colour, and the
fact that it had to be ground twice, it became known in Ireland as 'Peel's brimstone'. In 1846 Peel then moved to repeal the Corn Laws, tariffs on
grain which kept the price of bread artificially high. The famine situation worsened during 1846 and the repeal of the Corn Laws in that year did little
to help the starving Irish; the measure split the Conservative Party, leading to the fall of Peel's ministry.

In March Peel set up a programme of public works in Ireland but was forced to resign as Prime Minister on 29 June."[57] This fall came on the 25
June, when he was defeated in the House of Commons on a motion that the Irish Coercion Bill be read a second time. According to Michael
Doheny, the majority against him was seventy-three, and it was made of the "Whig party, the extreme Conservatives, the ultra-Radicals and Irish
Repealers." Ten days after, Lord John Russell assumed the seals of office.

The measures undertaken by Peel's successor, Lord John Russell, proved comparatively "inadequate" as the crisis deepened. Russell's ministry
introduced public works projects, which by December 1846 employed some half million Irish and proved impossible to administer.

The Public Works were "strictly ordered" to be unproductive—that is, they would create no fund to repay their own expenses. Many hundreds of
thousands of "feeble and starving men" according to John Mitchel, were kept digging holes, and breaking up roads, which was doing no service.

The new Whig administration under Lord Russell, influenced by their laissez-faire belief that the market would provide the food needed then halted
government food and relief works, leaving many hundreds of thousands of people without any work, money or food." In January the government
abandoned these projects and turned to a mixture of "indoor" and "outdoor" direct relief; the former administered in work-houses through the Poor
Law, the latter through soup kitchens. The costs of the Poor Law fell primarily on the local landlords, who in turn attempted to reduce their liability by
evicting their tenants.[59]

This was then facilitated through the "Cheap Ejectment Acts." The poor law amendment act was passed in June 1847. According to James Donnelly
in Fearful Realities: New Perspectives on the Famine it embodied the principle popular in Britain that Irish property must support Irish poverty. The
landed proprietors in Ireland were held in Britain to have created the conditions that lead to the famine. It was asserted however, that the British
parliament since the Act of Union of 1800 was partly to blame.

This point was raised in the Illustrated London News on the 13 February 1847, "There was no laws it would not pass at their request, and no abuse it
would not defend for them." On the 24 March the Times reported that Britain had permitted in Ireland "a mass of poverty, disaffection, and
degradation without a parallel in the world. It allowed proprietors to suck the very life-blood of that wretched race."

The "Gregory clause" of the Poor Law prohibited anyone who held at least a quarter of an acre from receiving relief.[59] This in practice meant that
if a farmer, having sold all his produce to pay rent, duties, rates and taxes, should be reduced, as many thousands of them were, to applying for
public outdoor relief, he would not get it until he had first delivered up all his land to the landlord. Of this Law Mitchel was to write: "it is the able-
bodied idler only who is to be fed — if he attempted to till but one rood of ground, he dies." This simple method of ejectment was called "passing
paupers through the workhouse" — a man went in, a pauper came out. These factors combined to drive thousands of people off the land: 90,000 in
1849, and 104,000 in 1850.

Food exports to England :  

Records show Irish lands exported food even during the worst years of the Famine. When Ireland experienced a famine in 1782–83, ports were closed
to keep Irish-grown food in Ireland to feed the Irish. Local food prices promptly dropped. Merchants lobbied against the export ban, but government
in the 1780s overrode their protests; an export ban did not happen in the 1840s.

Cecil Woodham-Smith, an authority on the Irish Famine, wrote in The Great Hunger; Ireland 1845–1849 that no issue has provoked so much anger
and embittered relations between England and Ireland as "the indisputable fact that huge quantities of food were exported from Ireland to England
throughout the period when the people of Ireland were dying of starvation." Ireland remained a net exporter of food throughout most of the five-year

Christine Kinealy, a University of Liverpool fellow and author of two texts on the famine, Irish Famine: This Great Calamity and A Death-Dealing
Famine, writes that Irish exports of calves, livestock (except pigs), bacon and ham actually increased during the famine. The food was shipped under
guard from the most famine-stricken parts of Ireland. However, the poor had no money to buy food and the government then did not ban exports.

The following poem written by
Miss Jane Francesca Elgee, a well known and popular author, was carried in the The Nation

“Weary men, what reap ye? Golden corn for the stranger.
What sow ye? Human corpses that wait for the avenger.
Fainting forms, Hunger—stricken, what see you in the offing
Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger's scoffing.
There's a proud array of soldiers—what do they round your door?
They guard our master's granaries from the thin hands of the poor.
Pale mothers, wherefore weeping? 'Would to God that we were dead—
Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread.



William Smith O'Brien, speaking on the subject of charity in a speech to the Repeal Association February 1845 was to applauded the fact that the
universal sentiment on the subject of charity was that they would accept no English charity. He expressed the view that the resources of this country
were still abundantly adequate to maintain the population and that until those resources had been utterly exhausted, he hoped that there was no one
in "Ireland who will so degrade himself as to ask the aid of a subscription from England."

Mitchel wrote in his The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps), on the same subject, that no one from Ireland ever asked for charity during this period,
and that it was England who sought charity on Ireland's behalf, and, having received it, was also responsible for administering it. He stated suggested
that it has been carefully inculcated by the British Press, "that the moment Ireland fell into distress, she became an abject beggar at England's gate,
and that she even craved alms from all mankind." He affirmed that in Ireland no one, ever asked alms or favours of any kind from England or any
other nation but that it was England herself that begged for us. He suggests that it was England that "sent round the hat over all the globe, asking a
penny for the love of God to relieve the poor Irish," and constituting herself the agent of all that charity, took all the profit of it.

Large sums of money were donated by charities; Calcutta is credited with making the first donation of £14,000. The money was raised by Irish soldiers
serving there and Irish people employed by the East India Company. Pope Pius IX sent funds and Queen Victoria donated £2,000.

Quaker Alfred Webb, one of the many volunteers in Ireland at the time, wrote:

“         Upon the famine arose the wide spread system of proselytism ... and a network of well-intentioned Protestant associations spread over the
poorer parts of the country, which in return for soup and other help endeavoured to gather the people into their churches and schools...The movement
left seeds of bitterness that have not yet died out, and Protestants, and not altogether excluding Friends, sacrificed much of the influence for good
they might have had..."

In addition to the religious, non-religious organizations came to the assistance of famine victims. The British Relief Association was one such group.
Founded in 1847, the Association raised money throughout England, America and Australia; their funding drive benefited by a "Queen's Letter", a
letter from Queen Victoria appealing for money to relieve the distress in Ireland.[71] With this initial letter the Association raised £171,533. A second,
somewhat less successful "Queen's Letter" was issued in late 1847. In total, the British Relief Association raised approximately £200,000.
(c.$1,000,000 at the time)

Private initiatives such as The Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends (Quakers) attempted to fill the gap caused by the end of
government relief and eventually the government reinstated the relief works, although bureaucracy slowed the release of food supplies.

Ottoman aid

In 1845, the onset of the Great Irish Famine resulted in over 1,000,000 deaths. Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid declared his intention to send 10,000
sterling to Irish farmers but Queen Victoria requested that the Sultan send only 1,000 sterling, because she had sent only 2,000 sterling. The Sultan
sent the 1,000 sterling but also secretly sent 3 ships full of food. The English courts tried to block the ships, but the food arrived at Drogheda harbour
and was left there by Ottoman sailors

From American Indians

In 1847, midway through the Great Irish Famine (1845–1849), a group of American Indian Choctaws collected $710 (although many articles say the
original amount was $170 after a misprint in Angie Debo's The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic) and sent it to help starving Irish men, women
and children. "It had been just 16 years since the Choctaw people had experienced the Trail of Tears, and they had faced starvation... It was an
amazing gesture. By today's standards, it might be a million dollars." according to Judy Allen, editor of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma's
newspaper, Bishinik, based at the Oklahoma Choctaw tribal headquarters in Durant, Oklahoma. To mark the 150th anniversary, eight Irish people
retraced the Trail of Tears, and the donation was publicly commemorated by President Mary Robinson.


Landlords were responsible for paying the rates of every tenant who paid less than £4 in yearly rent. Landlords whose land was crowded with poorer
tenants were now faced with large bills. They began clearing the poor tenants from their small plots, and letting the land in larger plots for over £4
which then reduced their debts. In 1846 here had been some clearances, but the great mass of evictions came in 1847.[75] According to James S.
Donnelly Jr, it is impossible to be sure how many people were evicted during the years of the famine and its immediate aftermath. It was only in 1849
that the police began to keep a count, and they recorded a total of almost 250,000 persons as officially evicted between 1849 and 1854.

Donnelly considered this to be an underestimate, and if the figures were to include the number pressured into involuntary surrenders during the whole
period (1846–54) the figure would almost certainly exceed half a million persons. While Helen Litton says there were also thousands of "voluntary"
surrenders, she notes also that there was "precious little voluntary about them." In some cases tenants were persuaded to accept a small sum of
money to leave their homes, "cheated into believing the workhouse would take them in."

West Clare was one of the worst areas for evictions, were landlords turned thousands of families out and demolished their derisory cabins. Captain
Kennedy in April 1848 estimated that 1,000 houses, with an average of six people to each had been levelled since November. The Mahon family,
Strokestown House alone in 1847 evicted 3,000 people, and according to John Gibney were still able to dine on lobster soup.

After Clare, the worst area for evictions was County Mayo, accounting for 10% of all evictions between 1849 and 1854. Earl of Lucan, who owned
over 60,000 acres (240 km2) was among the worst evicting landlords. He was quoted as saying 'he would not breed paupers to pay priests'. Having
turned out in the parish of Ballinrobe over 2,000 tenants alone, the cleared land he then used as grazing farms.[81] In 1848 the Marquis of Sligo
owed £1,650 to Westport Union he was also an evicting landlord, though he claimed to be selective, saying he was only getting rid of the idle and
dishonest. Altogether he cleared about one-quarter of his tenants.

According to Litton evictions might have taken place earlier but for fear of the secret societies. However they were now greatly weakened by the
Famine. Revenge still occasionally took place, with seven landlords being shot, six fatally, during the autumn and winter of 1847. Ten other
occupiers of land, though without tenants, she says were also murdered.[83]

Lord Clarendon alarmed that this meant rebellion, to combat crime asked for special powers. Lord John Russell however according to Litton, was not
sympathetic to this appeal. Lord Clarendon belived that the landlords themselves were mostly responsible for the tragedy in the first place, saying "It
is quite true that landlords in England would not like to be shot like hares and partridges...but neither does any landlord in England turn out fifty
persons at once and burn their houses over their heads, giving them no provision for the future." The Crime and Outrage Act was passed in
December, 1847 as a compromise and additional troops were sent to Ireland.

Under the notorious Gregory clause, described by Donnelly as a "vicious amendment to the Irish poor law, named after William H. Gregory, M.P.[85]
and commonly know as the quarter-acre clause, provided that no tenant holding more than a quarter-acre of land would be eligible for public
assistance either in or outside the workhouse. This clause had been a successful Tory amendment to the Whig poor-relief bill which became law in
early June 1847, where its potential as an estate-clearing device was widely recognised in parliament, though not in advance. At first the poor law
commissioners and inspectors viewed the clause as an valuable instrument for a more cost-effective administration of public relief, but the drawbacks
soon became apparent, even from an administrative perspective. They would soon view them as little more than murderous from a humanitarian
perspective. According to Donnelly it became obvious that the quarter-acre clause was "indirectly a death-dealing instrument.


Emigrants Leave Ireland, engraving by Henry Doyle (1827–1892), from Mary Frances Cusack's Illustrated History of Ireland, 1868

While the famine was responsible for a significant increase in emigration from Ireland, of anywhere from 45% to nearly 85%, depending on the year
and the county it was not the sole cause. Nor was it even the era when mass emigration from Ireland commenced. That can be traced to the middle
of the 18th century, when some quarter of a million people left Ireland to settle in the New World alone, over a period of some fifty years. From the
defeat of Napoleon to the beginning of the famine, a period of thirty years, "at least 1,000,000 and possibly 1,500,000 emigrated" However, during
the worst of the famine, emigration reached somewhere around 250,000 in one year alone, with far more emigrants coming from western Ireland
than any other part.

Families en masse did not emigrate, younger members of it did. So much so that emigration almost became a rite of passage, as evidenced by the
data that show that, unlike similar emigration throughout world history, women emigrated just as often, just as early, and in the same numbers as men.
The emigrant started a new life in a new land, sent remittances "reached £1,404,000 by 1851" back to his/her family in Ireland which, in turn,
allowed another member of the family to emigrate.

Emigration during the famine years of 1845 to 1850 was to England, Scotland, the United States, Canada, and Australia.[90] Many of those fleeing
to the Americas used the well-established McCorkell Line.

Of the 100,000 Irish that sailed to Canada in 1847, an estimated one out of five died from disease and malnutrition, including over five thousand at
Grosse Isle. Mortality rates of 30% aboard the coffin ships were common.

By 1854, between 1½ and 2 million Irish left their country due to evictions, starvation, and harsh living conditions. In America, most Irish became city-
dwellers: with little money, many had to settle in the cities that the ships they came on landed in. By 1850, the Irish made up a quarter of the
population in Boston, Massachusetts; New York City; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Baltimore, Maryland. In addition, Irish populations became
prevalent in some American mining communities.

The 1851 census reported that more than half the inhabitants of Toronto, Ontario were Irish, and in 1847 alone, 38,000 famine Irish flooded a city
with less than 20,000 citizens. Other Canadian cities such as Saint John, New Brunswick; Quebec City and Montreal, Quebec; Ottawa, Kingston and
Hamilton, Ontario also received large numbers of Famine Irish since Canada, as part of the British Empire, could not close its ports to Irish ships
(unlike the United States), and they could get passage cheaply (or free in the case of tenant evictions) in returning empty lumber holds. However
fearing nationalist insurgencies the British government placed harsh restrictions on Irish immigration to Canada after 1847 resulting in larger influxes
to the United States. The largest Famine grave site outside of Ireland is at Grosse-Île, Quebec, an island in the St. Lawrence River used to quarantine
ships near Quebec City. In 1851, about a quarter of Liverpool's population was Irish-born.

The famine marked the beginning of the steep depopulation of Ireland in the 19th century. Population had increased by 13–14% in the first three
decades of the 19th century. Between 1831 and 1841 population grew by 5%. Application of Thomas Malthus's idea of population expanding
'geometrically' (exponentially) while resources increase arithmetically was popular during the famines of 1817 and 1822. However by the 1830s, a
decade before the famine, they were seen as overly simplistic and Ireland's problems were seen "less as an excess of population than as a lack of
capital investment." The population of Ireland was increasing no faster than that of England, which suffered no equivalent catastrophe.

1848 rebellion  : Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848 : William Smith O'Brien

In 1847 William Smith O'Brien, the leader of the Young Ireland party, became one of the founding members of the Irish Confederation to campaign
for a Repeal of the Act of Union, and called for the export of grain to be stopped and the ports closed The following year he organised the resistance
of landless farmers in County Tipperary against the landowners and their agents.

Death toll

It is not known how many people died during the period of the Famine, although it is believed more died from diseases than from starvation. State
registration of births, marriages or deaths had not yet begun, and records kept by the Roman Catholic Church are incomplete. Eye witness accounts
have helped medical historians identify both the ailments and effects of famine, and have been used to evaluate and explain in greater detail
features of the famine. In Mayo, English Quaker William Bennett wrote of

“         three children huddled together, lying there because they were too weak to rise, pale and ghastly, their little limbs ... perfectly emaciated, eyes
sunk, voice gone, and evidently in the last stages of actual starvation.        ”

Revd Dr Traill Hall, a Church of Ireland rector in Schull, described
“         the aged, who, with the young — are almost without exception swollen and ripening for the grave.       ”

Marasmic children also left a permanent image on Quaker Joseph Crosfield who in 1846 witnessed a
“         heart-rending scene [of] poor wretches in the last stages of famine imploring to be received into the [work]house...Some of the children were
worn to skeletons, their features sharpened with hunger, and their limbs wasted almost to the bone...    

William Forster wrote in Carrick-on-Shannon that
“         the children exhibit the effects of famine in a remarkable degree, their faces looking wan and haggard with hunger, and seeming like old men
and women.        ”

One possible estimate has been reached by comparing the expected population with the eventual numbers in the 1850s (see Irish Population
Analysis). Earlier predictions expected that by 1851 Ireland would have a population of eight to nine million. A census taken in 1841 revealed a
population of slightly over 8 million. A census immediately after the famine in 1851 counted 6,552,385, a drop of almost 1,500,000 in ten years.
Modern historian R.J. Foster estimates that 'at least 775,000 died, mostly through disease, including cholera in the latter stages of the holocaust'. He
further notes that 'a recent sophisticated computation estimates excess deaths from 1846 to 1851 as between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000...; after a
careful critique of this, other statisticians arrive at a figure of 1,000,000.' In addition, in excess of one million Irish emigrated to Great Britain, United
States, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere, while millions emigrated over following decades.
An article adapted from information provided by Wikipedia
Detailed statistics of the population of Ireland since 1841 are available at Irish Population Analysis.
Irish Famine - Further Resources
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