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The Irish Potato Famine

It is a warm Irish summer causing the potato crop to sprout early and then a cold spell hits. The crops have survived weather changes in the past, but now the fields are turning brown. A few potatoes are dug up and look fine, but turn to gray mush in storage. Some farmers blame the new locomotive whose tracks have been laid near by, but the potato blight runs far from the tracks. Scientists have no idea how to solve this problem, but it is already too late. Half of this year's crop is unfit for human consumption. Half a million Irishmen are at risk of starvation and death this year. Famine is nothing new to Ireland or the United Kingdom, so Prime Minister Peel dismisses the report: "There is such a tendency to exaggeration and inaccuracy in Irish reports that delay in acting on them is always desirable." The limited amount of grain grown in Ireland is shipped out on schedule, leaving little for the Irish to eat. Emigration laws have been liberalized, and transportation costs have dropped, so Irish families head for the United States and hope for better days. They are held on Deer Island, near Boston, until the authorities can figure out where to put them. The Irish will set down roots and take up residence. It will be a tough go, but the alternative is hunger, disease and death in Ireland over the next decade or so. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Growing a variety of foods is the answer to the danger of a mono-crop, so why didn't the Irish do that? The reasons were mostly political. Land ownership, absentee farmers and tenant leasing laws in Ireland made growing a variety of crops uneconomical. When the famine became obvious, the government let business meet the demand. That strategy assumed that the starving had enough money to buy the food. Tariffs on grain imports made food VERY expensive BY LAW. At this point government usually claims that unregulated capitalism doesn't work. In the 1980s this was called "crazy-making." These days, I think they call it "programmed failure" where a program is designed to fail so that government can provide more services and grow bigger. Those "shovel-ready-jobs" come to mind. The government demands money for infrastructure. The bill passes. A bridge collapses and the government demands money for infrastructure. Wash. Rise. Repeat. [7] [8]

A Slave State Imbalance and the Shadow of War

Texas and Florida are admitted as slave states after the Presidential election produces another winner for the Democrats: James K. Polk. Polk was the dark horse candidate, and never expected to win against a popular figure like Henry Clay, but the question of the annexation of Texas became a sticking point. Clay was originally against annexation since that would create an imbalance of free and slave states. (Texas was a slave state.) Remember that Clay was the author of the Missouri Compromise that made this balancing act a policy. Certainly everyone else remembered as Clay tried to ignore Texas annexation during the campaign. That allowed Polk to steal the issue from Clay, as Polk promised to make Texas a priority. With Florida joining the Union this year that makes 15 slave states to 13 free. Iowa will be added next year as a free state, but the Union will still be out of balance politically. It is looking like slavery will remain a part of American life forever... or until there is a war. Even now, people can feel it coming. In fact, a war starts next year... the Mexican-American War. [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The annexation of Texas was a big problem. Texas had been sure that if they began negotiations with the United States that Mexico would invade, so Texas extracted a promise IN WRITING, that the US would come to their aid regardless of how the negotiations worked out. On Valentines Day, 1844, President Tyler's representative signed such a pledge... which was illegal. Such a pledge amounted to a treaty or a declaration of war and both should go through Congress, but Congress had to read about it in the newspaper! It was too late. Texas and the USA had committed themselves to a war with Mexico called the Mexican–American War. I can hear the US Marine Corps Hymn playing now... "From the Halls of Montezuma". That line comes from what happened during the Mexican–American War. [11]

In Other News

  • The first Presidential veto is overridden. On the last day of the Congressional session, the clock is stopped at midnight, but the debate goes on until President Tyler's veto is overridden. The new law restricts the President's power to have ships built for the coast guard. [12]
  • The Salt Hill murderer is captured... by telegraph! The suspect was seen at the train-station so the telegraph is used to signal ahead. The suspect is apprehended as he disembarks. [13] [14]
  • The first underseas telegraph cable is laid across the English Channel. Beam me up, Scotty! What is next? [9]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1845, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Great Famine (Ireland) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 29 March 2016. “The Great Famine or the Great Hunger was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1852. It is sometimes referred to, mostly outside Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine, because about two-fifths of the population was solely reliant on this cheap crop for a number of historical reasons. During the famine, approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island's population to fall by between 20% and 25%.”
  2. Trapped Under the Sea, Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles into the Darkness, Crown Publishers. “In the centuries that followed, Deer Island continued to be the place where Boston quarantined its problems. Even after that hurricane turned the island into a peninsula, the place still somehow managed to stand apart. In the mid-1800s, when the potato famine brought desperate Irish to the shores of Boston, city officials sent many of them to a holding station and hospital on Deer Island. In just a couple of years, more than eight hundred died on the island and were buried in a makeshift cemetery. In later years, when the island was housing the poor, the criminal, and the insane, several thousand more people ended up making their final rest there.” 
  3. Highland Potato Famine - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 June 2016. “The Highland Potato Famine refers to a period of 19th century Highland and Scottish history (1846 to roughly 1856) over which the agricultural communities of the Hebrides and the western Scottish Highlands saw their potato crop (upon which they had become over-reliant) repeatedly devastated by potato blight.”
  4. European Potato Failure - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 June 2016. “The European Potato Failure was a food crisis caused by potato blight that struck Northern Europe in the mid-1840s. The time is also known as the Hungry Forties. While the crisis produced excess mortality and suffering across the affected areas, particularly affected were the Scottish Highlands and even more harshly Ireland. Many people starved due to lack of access to other staple food sources.”
  5. IRELAND'S RAILWAY SYSTEMS. mikes.railhistory.railfan.net (2016). Retrieved on 9 August 2016. “By 1845 the three railways of Ireland covered a total of only seventy miles, compared with about 1,700 miles in Great Britain. In 1847 one of the worst disasters in the economic history of Ireland, the Great Famine, occurred. The earnings of the railway companies fell considerably. English capitalists were chary of investing in Irish railways, and work on new lines was held up by the lack of money. After the Great famine, however, the work of building railways proceeded, and every year saw further lengths of line opened to traffic.”
  6. Egan, Timothy. Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero, The. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. “The Irish: good God, everyone knows they're prone to high drama. 'There is such a tendency to exaggeration and inaccuracy in Irish reports that delay in acting on them is always desirable,' he wrote in October of 1845. Still, the English government took some precautions against a revolt of the hungry: boats laden with grain grown on Irish soil now left port under armed escort.” 
  7. "Obama Brings 'Shovel-Ready' Talk Into Mainstream", The Washington Post, January 8, 2009. Retrieved on 9 August 2016. “Announcing his energy team, Obama beams about 'shovel-ready projects all across the country.' Unveiling his choice for education secretary, Obama plugs his plans 'to start helping states and local governments with shovel-ready projects.' So many shovels. All of them, apparently, quite ready.” 
  8. Corn Laws - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 9 August 2016. “The first two years of the Irish famine of 1845–1852 forced a resolution because of the urgent need for new food supplies. Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, a Conservative, achieved repeal with the support of the Whigs in Parliament, overcoming the opposition of most of his own party. 'Corn' included any grain that requires grinding, especially wheat. The laws were introduced by the Importation Act 1815 (55 Geo. 3 c. 26) and repealed by the Importation Act 1846 (9 & 10 Vict. c. 22). The laws are often considered examples of British mercantilism.”
  9. 9.0 9.1 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 412-413. 
  10. Greenberg, Amy S.. Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico, A. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780307592699. “Few politicians wanted to disturb the delicate sectional balance between North and South. Men who believed with their whole hearts that all of North America would eventually become part of the United States, who lobbied even for the acquisition of Canada, objected to allowing Texas into the Union. For the enormous territory would enter as a slave-owning state, possibly as many as five slave states. And for those who believed (as did many northerners) that there was a 'slave power conspiracy' at work in the government, the last thing they wanted to do was increase the power of the South, particularly in the Senate.” 
  11. United States Marine Corps - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 9 August 2016. “Commandant Henderson volunteered the Marines for service in the Seminole Wars of 1835, personally leading nearly half of the entire Corps (two battalions) to war. A decade later, in the Mexican–American War (1846–1848), the Marines made their famed assault on Chapultepec Palace in Mexico City, which would be later celebrated by the phrase 'From The Halls of Montezuma' in Marines' hymn.”
  12. The First Congressional Override of a Presidential Veto - US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. history.house.gov (US GOVERNMENT SITE) (2016). Retrieved on 8 August 2016. “President Tyler vetoed the bill to protect existing contracts and to retain presidential prerogative. Huntington responded that 'the objections of the President relied entirely upon a philological criticism.' On the final day of the session, the Senate overturned Tyler’s veto with only one dissenting vote and sent it to the House for immediate consideration. The House debated late into that evening. As it proceeded to vote on the bill, Thomas Bayly of Virginia noted that 'the clock, the hand of which was just at 12 [midnight] . . . had been stopped for five minutes, and that by the constitution the House was adjourned.'”
  13. Moore, Peter (2014). Weather Experiment: The Pioneers Who Sought to See the Future. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780865478091. “The train arrived at Paddington where the suspect was seized by policemen. It was a revelation, as far away from the old hue and cry as possible. No man could outpace electricity, however fast he ran. As in America a telegraphic craze ensued. A long-range chess game was played, between a Mr Staunton and his partner Major Kennedy at the Portsmouth terminus against the ‘celebrated' Mr Walker and a friend at Vauxhall.” 
  14. Salt Hill - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 5 August 2016. “On 1 January 1845, John Tawell, who had recently returned from Australia, murdered his lover, Sarah Hart, at Salt Hill by poisoning her with prussic acid. With various officials in chase, Tawell fled to Slough railway station and boarded a train to Paddington. Fortunately, the electrical telegraph had recently been installed and so a message was sent ahead to Paddington with Tawell's details. Tawell was trailed and subsequently arrested, tried and executed for the murder at Aylesbury on 28 March 1845. This is believed to be the first time ever that the telegraph had been involved in the apprehension of a murderer.”

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