Page images


249 himself in new difficulties, to relieve the starving, but he availed himself of every opportunity to warn the people against the sin and madness of intemperance at such a moment. Thus he continued to accept invitations to preach for local charities in many parts of the country, because, independently of his desire to assist his brother clergymen in promoting works of charity or advancing the cause of religion, it afforded him the occasion of addressing their flocks upon his great theme. One of the happiest of his addresses was delivered in the commencement of the Famine, at Lisgoold, a village some miles from Cork. It was spoken from the altar of the Catholic Church, and produced a profound impression upon a congregation whose faces wore a sad and anxious expression; for the hunger' was already in many a home in the parish. An extract or two from that admirable address will be found appropriate in this place:

Thousands upon thousands now pine in want and woe, because they did not take my advice; to them the horrors of famine and the evils of blight are aggravated, while tens of thousands of those who listened to me and adopted my advice are now safe from hunger and privation, because they had the virtue to surrender a filthy sensual gratification, and the wisdom to store up for the coming of the evil day. Thousands are now perishing, who, if they had not had the folly to spend their hard-earned money in drink, in riot, and in debauchery, would now be safe from danger, and enabled to assist, by their charity, creatures who are now without a friend to comfort or assist them. The prison and the poor-house are opening wide their doors for many who have wilfully brought ruin on themselves and their families, and who, had they only sense, would now be among the wealthy of the land. I will not upbraid such victims for the past, I would rather cheer and console; I would rather tell them that it is not yet too late, that no one should despair, that there is still balm in Gilead, still a physician there.

I am here in the name of the Lord. I am here for your good. This is a time to try men's souls; and that man or that woman must be a monster who would drink while a fellow-creature was dying for want of food. I don't blame the brewers or the distillers-I blame those who make them so. If they could make more money in any other way, they would: but so long as the people are mad enough to buy and drink their odious manufacture, they will continue in the trade. Is it not a terrible thing to think that so much wholesome grain, that God intended for the support of human life, should be converted into a maddening poison, for the destruction of man's body and soul? By a calculation recently made, it is clearly proved that if all the grain now converted into poison were devoted to its natural and legitimate use, it would afford a meal a day to every man, woman, and child in the land. The man or woman who drinks, drinks the food of the starving; and is not that man or woman a monster who drinks the food of the starving?

It would be difficult to say in what country or among what people the most active sympathy was displayed towards the suffering people. of Ireland. The generosity of the people of England of all classes was most munificent; but the practical benevolence of America was in a special degree cheering and timely. In the great cities of the United States, meetings were held, in the early part of 1847, to raise money

for the relief of Ireland, and these meetings were attended by the most influential men of the country. Thus, in Philadelphia, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presided over a meeting held in that city on the 28th of January 1847; and the noble charity displayed on that occasion wiped out the last trace of the blood shed in the riots of 1844. The Vice-President of the United States presided over a meeting held in Washington. In New York and Boston the same sympathy was felt, and the most active exertions were made to afford the description of relief then most required by Ireland. Providence had vouchsafed that to America which it had, for wise reasons, denied to Irelandabundant supply of food for man; and America, in giving from her abundance to her distressed sister, proved how beautiful and holy is that bond of humanity which links nations, even the most remote, in one great family, sympathising with each other's joy and sorrow.



On Monday, the 13th of April, a noble sight might be witnessed in Cork Harbour-the sun shining its welcome on the entrance of the unarmed war-ship Jamestown,' sailing in under a cloud of snowy canvas, her great hold laden with bread-stuffs for the starving people of Ireland. It was a sight that brought tears to many an eye, and prayers of gratitude to many a heart. It was one of those things which a nation remembers of another long after the day of sorrow has passed. Upon the warm and generous people, to whom America literally broke bread and sent life, this act of fraternal charity, so gracefully and impressively offered, naturally produced a profound and lasting impression, the influence of which is felt to this moment.

The noble-hearted commander of that unarmed war-ship was thus favourably introduced to Father Mathew :

Boston, U.S.A.: March 27, 1847.

DEAR SIR,-This will introduce to you the commander of the United States unarmed ship, the 'Jamestown,' Robert B. Forbes, Esq., who has nobly volunteered his services to convey to your shores a cargo of provisions for the relief of the destitute.

It affords me great pleasure to make this philanthropic countryman of ours known to one who is personally known to me, and to millions in both hemispheres, as one of the greatest benefactors of his race. In Mr. Forbes you will find one of nature's nobles, who, leaving the endearments of home at this boisterous season, crosses the ocean to imitate HIS and our SAVIOUR, to feed the hungry and raise the desponding. To you, my excellent friend, I cordially commend him, hoping at no distant day to grasp your hand, and welcome you on our shores, and then assure you that our sympathies and hearts are one, though separated by the ocean and a different faith. With high esteem, your friend, JOHN TAPPAN.

The Very Rev. Theobald Mathew.

Father Mathew lost no time in paying his respects to Captain Forbes, who expressed in the strongest terms the pleasure he felt in meeting and knowing the man with whose name he had been so long



familiar, and spoke of the impatience of the American people to receive him among them. Captain Forbes concluded by offering Father Mathew a passage in the Jamestown;' which offer was gratefully declined, on the ground that the state of the country required the best exertions of everyone who could in any way assist her, and that it would be an unpardonable crime to desert her in the hour of her direst necessity.

George C. De Kay, commander of the United States frigate 'Macedonian,' another American bread-laden ship-of-war, also desired to have the honour of taking Father Mathew to the States in his ship. It is not within the scope of this biography to enter into a detail of the measures adopted by Parliament and the Government for the relief of Irish distress; or within the province of the writer to attempt a criticism, much less to pass judgment, upon the merits or the shortcomings of those measures, or the manner of their administration. This properly belongs to the historian who writes the history of the Irish Famine. But it is much to be deplored that the works undertaken at that time, with a view to provide employment, were not in most instances of a remunerative character, and that some such scheme as that proposed by Lord George Bentinck-to lend fifteen millions of money for the construction of the earthworks of railways— was not even partially adopted. For, while it would be untrue to state that considerable good was not accomplished by the works then executed, especially in opening up, and rendering accessible to traffic, remote or hilly districts of the country; it would be equally untrue to state that many most useless and unprofitable works were not undertaken. Allowance must, however, be made for a time of panic, which is always fruitful of measures of precipitation, as of blunders and disasters.* The delay in granting work to a parish or district was fatal to life, and the work itself was, in fearfully numerous instances, almost equally fatal. When the work was obtained, the physical energy of the workman was gone; and the very effort to use the spade, the wheelbarrow, or even the hammer, accomplished the destruction of a life which hunger and dysentery had undermined.

In the month of March 1847, there were employed on the public works the enormous number of 734,000 persons, representing, says Mr. Trevelyan, 'at a moderate estimate of the average of each family, upwards of three millions of persons.' It being apprehended that

* In a note to his article in the Edinburgh Review, Mr. Trevelyan has the following:

A Member of the Board of Works, writing to a friend, observed as follows:"I hope never to see such a winter and spring again. I can truly say, in looking back upon it, even now, that it appears to me, not a succession of weeks and days, but one long continuous day, with occasional intervals of nightmare sleep. Rest one could never have, when one felt that in every minute lost a score of men might die.""

the drawing away of such a vast amount of labour from the ordinary agricultural operations of the country would dangerously interfere with the harvest of 1847, and thus bring about a renewal of the famine which then afflicted Ireland, it was determined to substitute for these works gratuitous distributions of food; and on the 20th of March, a reduction of 20 per cent. of the numbers employed on the works was carried out, and the same plan of reduction was persevered in until the new system of gratuitous relief was brought into full operation. Even the partial diminution of the numbers so employed was attended with the most serious consequences, as it tended to aggravate the distress, which was at its height in the months of April, May, and June. The Temporary Relief Act was brought into effective operation in July, during which month over 3,000,000 of persons received daily rations. The machinery by which this gigantic system of relief was administered consisted of Relief Committees in each electoral division, with a Finance Committee and a Government Inspector in each union, the entire being under the control or direction of a Board of Commissioners in Dublin.

This system of relief, which Sir John Burgoyne exultingly described as the grandest attempt ever made to grapple with famine over a whole country,' was administered through more than 2,000 local committees, to whose honour and trustworthiness Mr. Trevelyan thus bore testimony:-'It is a fact very honourable to Ireland, that among upwards of 2,000 local bodies to whom advances were made under this Act (the Temporary Relief Act), there is not one to which, so far as the Government is informed, any suspicion of embezzlement attaches.' 1 *

The estimated cost of this relief in food was 3,000,000l.; but the amount actually expended was 1,557,212., being nearly 500,0007. less than what had been allowed by Parliament to be raised under the Act.


The Bishopric of Cork-Father Mathew is nominated by the Clergy-
Letter from Father Prout-The Capuchin's Beard-Decision of the
Holy See adverse to Father Mathew-Addresses from the Clergy and
Laity-He bears the Disappointment bravely-His Friends the Rath-

THE Right Reverend Dr. Murphy, Catholic Bishop of Cork, one of the most learned prelates of his Church, died on the 7th of April 1847; and at the customary time-a month after-the parochial clergy of * Article on the 'Irish Crisis' in the Edinburgh Review, Jan. 1848.




the diocese met for the purpose of nominating his successor. clergy nominate by election; and, as a general rule, the candidate who stands 'dignissimus' is appointed Bishop by the Holy See. But while it is usual that the clergyman who stands first of the three who are nominated by the Parish Priests of the diocese, is raised to the dignity of the Episcopate, it occasionally happens that the Holy See, for reasons which it deems sufficient, selects the second, or even the third on the list, or goes out of the list and beyond the diocese, and appoints a priest who has no connection with the diocese, and who probably never dreamed of the mitre. The election is presided over by the Archbishop of the Province and his suffragans; and the report forwarded by those prelates to Rome materially influences its decision. The result of the election-held in Cork in the month of May— was, that Father Mathew was placed highest on the list; and as there were but rare instances of the election of the clergy being overruled, and the first on the list not being appointed by the Holy See, it was taken for granted that Theobald Mathew was in reality the future Bishop of Cork.

The election by his brother priests was the crowning honour of his life. It was the most emphatic testimony that could be borne to his public and private virtues. The delight of his fellow-citizens was unbounded; and whenever he appeared in the streets, he was met with congratulations as sincere as they were enthusiastic.

Father Mathew himself looked with much confidence to his receiving the briefs from Rome in due course, and accepted the congratulations of his friends as upon a matter of which there was no doubt whatever. He believed that the cause which he had so deeply at heart would be served by his elevation to the mitre; and if he had any apprehension as to the result, it was lest that cause might suffer through his failure. In the General of his order, in Rome, he knew he had an influential supporter; and an extract from a letter he received from a distinguished townsman and attached friend, the Rev. Francis Mahony, better known to the world of literature as the witty and erudite Father Pront,' will show how strong was the interest which the venerable Cardinal Micara felt in his career. The letter was written from London, on the 20t of May, 1847 :

I left Rome as above stated, but had previously ordered a bust of the Frish Capuchin, robed in the cowl and habit of his order, to be executed by Hogan; and although Cardinal Micara was laid up in bed with the gout when the present arrived in the Barberini Convent, I had the satisfaction, in calling next day, to find it placed conspicuously in his reception-room, with thè inscription as follows:




« PreviousContinue »