From The Nation, 14 February, 1846.
Nearer, nearer, wears the day that will see fell hunger stalking, with plague in its train, over this devoted land. From almost every county in Ireland come reports of more and more urgent alarm and terror, as the earthed-up potatoes are uncovered and found masses of loathsome rottenness.
From Clare, from Galway, from Meath, we hear of calculations of how much of the people’s food remains eatable, and how long it will last. In one district they reckon that there is enough sound food to sustain the population for a week – in others, perhaps a fortnight.
And the men of Clare may comfort themselves in the knowledge that some time in the course of the ensuing spring or summer perhaps one small fishing pier will be commenced upon their coast. Galway, we learn, is getting an additional military force; their port lies wide upon for the food to go out; and if no provisions are coming in, there is at least a war steamer in their harbour. Then as for Westmeath, a man was to be hanged there yesterday; if there is to be no adequate means of supplying them with food, they shall, at worst, have plenty of justice.
They are debating the question of free trade in parliament just now; and the state of the potato crop in Ireland furnishes orators on this side and on that with many plausible topics of discourse by which they may embarrass the Premier, or sustain his views, as the case may be. Meanwhile the Duke of NORFOLK prescribes curry-powder, and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland assures the commercial world that there are absolutely none of last year’s potatoes now remaining in store in that part of the “united kingdom” committed to this government. Oh, Heaven! do these men know what potatoes are – what famishing men are? Have they any conception even yet that there may soon be certain millions of human beings in Ireland having nothing to eat; and that the problem will be, what to do with them? A problem which must be solved, and that right soon, or it will solve itself in some terrible manner?