\"Tim

Tim Pat Coogan and his new book, "The Famine Plot." Photo by: Google Images

The definition of genocide and England’s role in Ireland’s Great Famine

\"Tim

Tim Pat Coogan and his new book, "The Famine Plot." Photo by: Google Images

Political economists debated earnestly on the morality of aiding the poor because of the consequent risk of stultifying initiative and self-help among the lower orders. The real problem of course was cost, but the protagonists couched their arguments in moralistic terms. More and more as the debate progressed, one finds that the authorities cited by protagonists tended to lace their arguments with a dose of providentialism.

Providence, the divine will, was declared to have a large bearing on the subject, as it generally does when the rich debate the poor, or the strong con- front the weak. it was the era in which in America the indigenous Americans were going down before a similar doctrine: manifest destiny.

A central figure in the debate was a classical economist. Nassau William Senior, the first professor of political economy at Oxford University, preached, among other things, that it was not the duty of the state to alleviate poverty that came about through the fault of the individual.

English poor law owed a great deal to his theories and, during the Famine, Whig apologists would see to it that the idea of Irish culpability for Irish poverty would become widespread among the British public. “lazy beds” was used as a term of derision to indicate that the Irish even brought their laziness to bear on their potato cultivation. Nassau Senior criticized Irish landlords for neglecting “the duty for the performance of which Providence created [them,] the keeping down population.”

A Royal Commission, of which Nassau Senior was a member, issued a report in 1834, which became the new Poor Law Act of 1834. He was a confidant of the prime minister’s and cabinet members and through his writings in such journals as The Edinburgh Review became one of the most influential voices raised in the great debate concerning how Irish poverty should be tackled. In England, Nassau Senior is remembered as being a very pleasant man who became a lifelong friend of, among others, Alexis de Tocqueville.

"The Famine Plot: England's Role in Ireland's Greatest Tragedy" by Tim Pat Coogan is available from Barnes & Noble.

COMMENTS

Log in with your social accounts:

Or, log in with your IrishCentral account:

Forgot your password ?

Don't have an account yet? Register now !

Join IrishCentral with your social accounts:


Already have an account ?

Or, sign up for an IrishCentral account below:

By clicking above you are indicating that you have read & agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.


Make sure we gathered the correct information from you

By clicking above you are indicating that you have read & agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.


You already have an account on IrishCentral! Please confirm you're the owner.


Our new policy requires our users to save a first and last name. Please update your account: