This law was put into effect in January 1847, and was described as an “Act for the Temporary Relief of Destitute Persons in Ireland” with the main aim of establishing temporary soup kitchens to combat the starving number of Irish (Litton 59). It was greatly welcomed by many parts of the Irish population even though it was only a temporary measure.
Poor Law Amendment Act
In June 1847, the British government chose to amend the Poor Law by “allowing outdoor relief, subject to various conditions, to be provided for the first time by the Poor Law” (Kinealy, This Great Calamity 181). Through this Act, the British government was able to have an easier way of moving the famine relief over to the control of the Poor Law.
The Gregory Clause
In the Poor Law Amendment Act, there was an important section called The Gregory Clause that “insisted that tenants who occupied more than a quarter-acre of land could not be helped by the Poor Law” (Litton 74). Through this section, it was apparent that the government could tighten the amount of Poor Law they had to donate to the Irish.
Poor Law Extension Act
This Act extended in June 1847 the Poor Law to the point where it permitted “outdoor relief from the rates for certain classes of paupers, and for the ‘able-bodied’ poor if the workhouses were full” (Gray, “British Relief Measures” 83). Through this, it provided more details to the Amendment Act, and changed the structure of the Poor Law Commission to provide a larger authority in Ireland.
Labour Rate Act
Two months after the Poor Law Amendment Act, the British government passed the legislation that permitted “the Irish people to tax themselves to give employment to those of them who were worse off than the others” (MacManus 604). This was an important legislation that moved towards the non-interference policy they were applying in Ireland.
Vagrancy Act was passed in 1848, and it “punished by imprisonment with hard labour any one found idly wandering without visible means of support” (MacManus 606). Given that many had been evicted or were looking for a means of support, thus wandering throughout the land, this act harshly convicted famine victims who were perhaps most in need of assistance.
Public Works Act
There were multiple Public Works Acts passed, but the Act in August 1846 supplemented a provision to provide employment that would make the agriculture of certain areas better. All were designed to keep the Public Works alive and functioning.
Encumbered Estates Act
Encumbered Estates Act was passed in 1849 and was “intended to create a free trade in land by facilitating a summary process of sale of indebted estates” (Gray, “British Relief Measures” 84). Whig moralists and radicals who were against landlords attempted to rectify the Irish agriculture system by passing the Act.
On May 24th 1849, the Whig government passed the Rate-in-Aid Act that “made all Irish Poor Law Unions taxable for the relief of stricken western unions as well as for the loans dispensed by the government” (Nally, Human Encumbrances 152). Thereby, they were able to keep the Whig policy of placing all famine relief on the Irish. The famine tax would put the responsibility on the Irish to finance the country.
United States Passenger Acts
In 1847, the United States Congress passed the Passenger Acts, imposing harsher regulations on emigrant shipping and admittance at the harbor. Therefore they raised the fare to £7 per person and forced more emigrants to travel to Canada instead of the United States, (Gray, The Irish Famine 103).
Gray, Peter. The Irish Famine. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc. Publishers, 1995. Web
Litton, Helen. The Irish Famine: An Illustrated History. Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 1994. Print.
Kinealy, Christine. This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-1852. Ireland: Gill & MacMillian, 2011. Print.
MacManus, Seamus. “The Great Famine.” The Story of the Irish Race: A Popular History of Ireland, Revised Edition. New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1972. Print.
Nally, David P. Human Encumbrances: Political Violence and the Great Irish Famine. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011. Print.