The Feel Of The Lash


It goes without saying that neither Canada nor the United States welcomed these newcomers gladly. Still, most of them did survive, and made their contribution to the new lands they had come to. One of them, for instance, was a man from County Cork named John Ford, who managed to get to Detroit and there, in time, became grandfather of Henry Ford.

Altogether, the Irish famine was one of the great disasters in human history. It must be admitted that it presented the British government with a problem altogether too large for easy handling; it must also be admitted that the handling the government gave it was abominable. And it was abominable, not because of active ill will but largely because of a singular obtuseness, an inability to be deeply and passionately moved by someone else’s sufferings. There was no attempt to end the age-old system of exploitation that had created the conditions under which failure of the potato crop must mean indescribable suffering. Throughout, the government was guided by the belief that it must not interfere with the operation of natural causes, that too much famine relief would corrupt the Irish people by teaching them to rely on the government, that the ancient virtues of self-reliance and industry must be promoted. The simple compassion that would have forced men to override such considerations and relieve the agony at any price was lacking.

The lash was coming down on the other man’s back.