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Mitchel was "transported" (exiled) to Bermuda for 14 years for speaking the truth. Tim Pat Coogan will suffer no such fate for writing: "The Famine Plot; England's Role in Ireland's Greatest Tragedy." In America, he will suffer worse: the vast majority will never hear of, let alone read, his book. Of those of who do, almost all will view it as either a tale of "Olde Tyme Irelande" or as a political critique of, and only pertaining to, early Victorian England.
Coogan makes a well-researched, well-argued case for Mitchel's aphorism. Moreover, the faults of London's politicians and bureaucrats persist today, whenever government exploits tragedy to advance narrow, ideological, and partisan goals at the expense of ordinary citizens and in favor of the wealthy elite. It is a case history that Coogan's book can best assist our understanding of present day political culture.
The English Government, particularly after Russell succeeded Peel as Prime Minister in June 1847, put forward a number of reasons why it would not relieve Ireland's distress - even though Ireland, de jure, was an integral part of the so-called United Kingdom. I will summarize Coogan's arguments, which he includes as part of his chronological assessment, instead by topics.
Most Irish farmers were tenants, farming plots rented from often absentee landlords. Those landlords believed (often rightly) that they could receive more money if the small farms were extinguished, and the land use for "big farming" - cattle and export crops. The famine, though death and emigration, accomplished their goals.
Laissez faire economics
Prime Russel's Whigs were great proponents of laissez faire economics and the philosophies of Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus. So much so, they opposed food assistance as it would lower the price received by merchants. Nor was thought given to retaining food in Ireland - food exports continued in accordance with "sacrosanct" contracts. When at last public work programs were put in place, the roads were built in wildernesses -- "Boithre an ocrais (roads of hunger)" (p. 109), to not give private road builders competition.
Opposition to Government Welfare
Only with great reluctance did Russell's government provide welfare, and usually only under limited and demeaning circumstances, namely the infamous Dickensian workhouses. Coogan cites England's senior bureaucrat (Trevelyan) as asserting that any wages paid for public works should be lower the prevailing wage, and only enough to keep away starvation. (p. 108) Recipients of welfare were to be destitute, devoid of even the smallest plot of land on which subsistence could be made. The governing philosophy was that poor relief (welfare) must be "penal and repulsive" - Treveleyan again. (p. 117), ignoring the overcrowded and diseased conditions of the workhouse that prevailed in reality. Instead, the Whigs and their favorite newspaper, The Times (of London) imagined as late as 1848, after a million Irish had died or emigrated in "coffin ships" that the Irish "are sitting idle at home, basking in the sun, telling stories, going to fairs, plotting, rebelling, wishing death to the Saxon," all born "on the shoulders of the hard working" Englishman (p. 213).
Coogan does not spare his readers the racist epithets of the English leadership, wherein such lights of the Victorian age as Disraeli, Punch magazine, and many others lesser known to an American audience compared the Irish to apes and rats. In a passage reminiscent of W's "they hate our freedoms," Disraeli proclaimed, "The Irish hate our order, our civilization, our enterprising industry, our pure religion." (p. 57)
Coogan underscores as well the objection of HMG to relief on the grounds of government expense. It is somewhat difficult to parse from Coogan what would have been the expense of a responsive plan, one that would have spared the Irish from the famine. It appears, however, to be on the scale of 15 million pounds - roughly the UK's annual defense budget, or 1/4th the total financial cost to the UK of its wholly unnecessary and thoroughly unproductive prosecution of the Crimean war ten years after the Famine.
There is much, much more in Coogan's magnificent book, and I whole-heartedly recommend to anyone interested in Irish history, English politics, or political behavior and philosophy in general.