New York Daily Tribune 17th July, 1851 p4 (abridged)
We publish this morning the details of the Irish Census of 1851. Facts more startling were never contained in figures, and yet they are little more than we have expected. They are what the causes long in operation have tended to make them.
While other countries have been increasing in population, Ireland has at this day three hundred thousand people fewer than thirty years ago; above a million and a half fewer than ten years ago, and two millions less than it would have been at the usual rate of increase. The diminution has been caused by disease and emigration.
It is estimated that at least half a million of persons have died by famine within these ten years. There are even fewer houses now than there were then. Above a million have emigrated because at home despair and death alone awaited them in the future. Apologists for human wickedness and disorder blasphemously call this exterminating process the Visitation of God. We proclaim it to be the Crime of Man.
Ireland is a fair and pleasant country. Its climate is genial, its soil fertile, its position excellent. It might support in abundance a dense and happy population. The people are industrious and endowed by nature with talents and qualities that, if developed would make their green island a paradise on earth. But now it is a Hell.
It has been prevented from attaining any kind of independence, forbidden from engaging in foreign commerce, allowed no manufactures to spring up there.
We shall be told, no doubt, of the improvidence of Irishmen; but what made them improvident? Was the ever a provident nation that had become habituated to being plundered and dispossessed of everything which prompts to thrift and foresight? We shall be told too, of the tendency of the religion professed by the Irish to keep nations in the background; but this cannot account for a tithe of the facts in the case. It is still certain that landlordism, taxation and the monopoly of manufactures and commerce have been enough ten times to ruin the most powerful and energetic people that ever existed.
Let no man in these days dare to say that the loving and blessed Heaven sends war, pestilence and famine to devastate and destroy the nations. God gives man blessings, not curses and starvation. Disease and misery are the work of human wrong and human ignorance alone.
The very year of the famine there was shipped for sale food enough to have saved the death of the hundreds of thousands then perishing. Had the soil belonged to the people and had they no taxes to pay but those for the support of their own government they would have eaten this food and lived.
Looking around the circle of humanity, there appear so many established wrongs still perpetuated by self-interest and a blind obedience to authority, tradition and prejudice, that it is impossible to regard any social order or any nation as either wholly free from stain or wholly worthy of condemnation. It will be well for us and for the world if the lessons taught by those facts are taken to heart and acted on.