Lire le texte de Maureen Murphy
Had you been travelling in Ireland in 1844-1845, you might well have seen – or heard about – an extraordinary American woman who was walking through the countryside singing hymns, reading the Bible and distributing religious tracts drawn from the depths of her large, black, bearskin muff. She wore Indian rubber boots, a polka coat, a bonnet and – when they weren’t missing – silver-rimmed spectacles. A number of doctors offered to remove the large wart on her face. She recorded, with some indignation, that people stared at her. She was Asenath Hatch Nicholson: teacher, reformer, abolitionist, writer and traveller and she had come to Ireland to investigate the condition of the Irish poor. Her account of her travels, Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger (1847), is one of the most valuable records we have of Ireland on the eve of the Famine. She left Ireland in the fall of 1845, just before the first sighting of the potato blight was reported. She returned in 1846, determined to do what she could do to relieve the suffering.
Ireland’s political life during the Famine: Election, constitutionalism and revolution
This article aims at exploring the available means of political response in Ireland to the issue of the Famine. What comes first to mind is the case of the representative function, democratic, or approximately so, by the standards of the day; i. e., parliamentary activity. Compiling the records of all individual Irish MPs in Parliament over the period is a tempting intellectual task but clearly beyond the scope of this paper; instead, I approach electoral activity during the period, since elections provide the opportunity of assessment of past contributions, and of confrontation. In the specific context of the Famine, theoretically at least, Irish MPs at Westminster were instrumental in bringing about a better knowledge of what was going on – and indeed some did so in quite a sustained, articulate, and often humane manner. Conversely, elections are moments in a country’s life when voters can take their representatives to account; and clearly, there was much to account for.