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Alexis de Tocqueville visited Ireland in 1835; this is his description of the Poorhouse and the University in Dublin on 9 July 1835.
A vast building maintained from year to year by voluntary gifts. 1,800 to 2,000 paupers are received during the day; they are given food, and, if they are capable of it, work. They go to sleep where they can.
The sight within: the most hideous and disgusting aspect of wretchedness.
A very long room full of women and children whose age or infirmity prevents
them from working. On the floor the poor are seated pellmell like pigs in the
mud of their sty. It is difficult to avoid treading on a half-naked body. In
the left wing, a smaller room full of old or disabled men. They sit on wooden
benches, crowded close together and all looking in the same direction, as if
in the pit of a theatre. They do not talk at all; they
do not stir; they look at nothing; they do not appear to be thinking. They neither expect, fear, nor hope anything from life. I am mistaken; they are waiting for supper which is due in three hours. It is the only pleasure that remains to them; apart from that they would have nothing to do but to die.
Further on are those who are able to work. They are seated on the damp earth. They have small mallets in their hands and are breaking stones. They receive a penny at the end of the day. They are the fortunate ones...
From the Poorhouse they took us to the University. An immense, magnificent garden kept up like that of a nobleman. A granite palace; superb church; admirable library. Livened lackeys; twenty-four fellows... Enormous revenues. Men of all religions receive education there. But only members of the Church of England can administer the establishment and benefit from its revenues.
The University was founded by Elizabeth I on land confiscated from the Catholics, the fathers of those whom we had seen sprawling in the filth of the Poorhouse. The University provides for 1,500 students. Few belong to rich Irish families. Not only does the Irish nobility live away from their homeland; not only do they spend abroad the money their country earns; they have their children educated in England, no doubt for fear that a vague instinct of patriotism and youthful memories might one day attract them to Ireland.
Alexis de Tocqueville, Journeys to England and Ireland (ed. J. P. Mayer, 1958) pp. 121-2.
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