Congressman Abraham Lincoln donated $10 to Irish famine relief in 1847 — the equivalent of several hundred dollars today.
Christine Kinealy, a professor at Drew University in New Jersey, discovered Lincoln’s name on a list of contributors.
The Great Hunger, which killed almost 1 million Irish, was the first national disaster to attract international fundraising efforts, Prof. Kinealy writes.
Although the British wouldn’t move to allieviate the suffering of the Irish people they taxed, thousands of others around the world did — including the future president, an Ottoman sultan, and an impoverished Choctaw Indian tribe.
Shortly after he arrived in Washington, D.C., Congressman Lincoln attended a meeting where letters from Irish women were read aloud. They described coffinless starvation victims surrounded by family members who were screaming, not because of their sorrow but because of the agony of their extreme hunger. Their stories moved Mr. Lincoln to help.
Other donors included Pope Pius IX, Tsar Alexander II and American President James Polk, who gave $50.
Prof. Kinealy’s book “Charity and the Great Hunger in Ireland: The Kindness of Strangers” will be published by Network Educational Press in August, 2013.
President Lincoln had no Irish ancestors, but Mary Todd Lincoln’s paternal great-grandparents emigrated from County Longford in 1737.
Sources: Drew Magazine. IrishCentral.com, IrishAmerica.com