[ 22 September 1846 ]

On this day in 1846, an editorial in The Times admonished those arguing for London to intervene to ameliorate the catastrophic potato famine in Ireland. Some might go hungry or starve, but this was a necessary evil, which would correct Irish indolence and their indisciplined attitude to work and self-reliance.

“For our part, we regard the potato blight as a blessing,” the newspaper explained. “When the Celts once cease to be potatophagi, they must become carnivorous. With the taste for meats will grow the appetite for them’ with the appetite, the readiness to earn then. With this will come steadiness, regularity and perseverance.”[1]

The editorial condemned the limited amount of aid as “ruinous beneficence,” declaring that “the government provided work for people who love it not,” and blaming “self complacent poverty” and a population which would “live on a small gratuity rather than large or regular earnings… Alas ! The Irish peasant has tasted of famine and found that it was good.”[2]

Aid from the British government was cut back and as the famine worsened some attempted “to break into gaol.” Others scavenged the countryside for berries, nettles and even the bark from trees. In some villages, almost the entire population had become “famished and ghastly skeletons.”[3]  British intellectuals continued to blame the “low, vulgar, lazy wretches, who prefer beggary to work.”[4]  Nothing was allowed to interfere with the remedy of market discipline, so even as thousands starved, ships were loaded at Dublin with Irish corn for the English market, while the same vessels returned not with much needed supplies, but instead with soldiers to crush the protests.[]   Over the six years of the crisis, from 1845 to 1851, historians estimate that approximately one million died either from starvation or from diseases related to acute malnutrition, while a further 1.5 million were forced to emigrate.[5]


[ 22 September 2002 ] [ relevance ? ]

On this day in 2002, Prince Charles is reported to have told members of the Countryside Alliance  that if hunting foxes was banned, he would emigrate and spend his time skiing. He also wrote a letter to the prime minister Tony Blair arguing that the proposed ban was an example of how country folk were treated far worse than blacks and gays. [6]


  1. The Times cited in The London Evening Mail, 23 September 1846, p4.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Piers Brendon, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire 1781-1997, Jonathan Cape, London, 2007, p119
  4. Cited in Piers Brendon, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire 1781-1997, Jonathan Cape London 2007, p121
  5. Ibid p118-119
  6. Ruth Winstone (Editor) (2008), Tony Benn, “More Time for Politics: Diaries 2001-2007,” Arrow Books, London, p60 and “Prince Charles’ countryside concerns”, BBC News Online accessed at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2273819.stm

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