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liberality of the gentleman, the charity of the clergyman, and the justice and uprightness of the magistrate. Many Protestants, though, I thank my God, mostly of the lower order (says that gentleman), were engaged in tendering oaths, in procession by day and in outrages by night, as any other description of men whatsoever. Nay, some of them were captains of these lawless corps, and have been obliged to fly from the prosecution that awaited them*.”
But although Whiteboyism springs from motives altogether foreign to religion ; although it would unquestionably continue to exist unchanged in its main features, if all the Irish Catholics were converted to Protestantism, or if all the Irish Protestants were converted to Catholicism, or if both were converted to the Greek church; yet the connexion of religion with the political state of the people—the fact that the rich and governing and rent-receiving class is almost exclusively Protestant, and the poor and subject and rent-paying class is almost exclusively Catholic, naturally gives a religious tinge to the disturbances in question. Mr. Sergeant Lloyd, being asked in reference to disturbances in the county of Cork, whether
any part of the disposition to outrage arose from religious opinions," answers,
“ It occurs to me, that when disturbance takes place, always those religious jealousies are called in aid, and aggravate it, and make it of longer continuance, and perhaps of a worse description.”—H, L., 1824, p. 112.
Mr. Newenham also gives evidence to the same effect.
6. I consider that most of the disturbances in Ireland, though they may not in the commencement be influenced by a
* O'Leary's Defence, p. 40.
difference of religious feeling, have always come to that; because it is one of the strongest handles the ill-disposed can make lise of to turn to their own purposes.
allude to an habitual discontent prevailing among the people on religious matters ?-I consider that whenever there is disturbance in the country, the discontent is more or less tinged with religious feelings.”—H. C., 1824, p. 300.
Where such strong grounds of hostility exist, religious differences doubtless embitter the spirit of opposition ; yet any person who will fairly review the evidence on this subject, however prepared to meet with traces of the mischief produced by the sectarian animosities of Ireland, will be surprised to find how little the Whiteboy disturbances have either begun or ended in religious hatred.
It is moreover to be observed that an obscurity has been thrown over the genuine objects of the Whiteboy combination by its confusion with Ribbonism ; a confusion which exists not only in language, but in reality, as the one system appears in some instances to pass insensibly into the other, or rather the one is connected with the other. Now Ribbonism (strictly so called), which has prevailed chiefly in the north of Ireland, is a Catholic association, continued from the Defenders of the last century, and has been formed in hostility to the Orange association, consisting exclusively of Protestants*. The leading features of the Ribbon system, as well as its origin, are well exhibited in the following statement of Mr. O'Connell :
“Do you know at what time the Ribbon association began in the north of Ireland ?-No, I cannot say when it began. My own opinion is, that it is a continuation of the Defender
* See Wyse's Hist. Sketch of the Catholic Association, vol. i., p. 409, 10, and above, p. 37.
system, which immediately ensued on the original formation of the Orange association in the north, and was connecting itself with the French Revolution, looking at a complete revolution in Ireland, and a separation from England. The Defender association was at first confined to the lower classes, but had the bad feature of being almost exclusively Catholic, as the Ribbon system is exclusively Catholic. Before the Defender system was put down, the Presbyterians joined a good deal among the Defenders, and thus combined, they mixed with the United Irishmen, when the events of the rebellion put down the Defenderism. Since that period, in proportion as the Orange irritation increased in the north of Ireland, has that of Ribbonism increased.
“ Do not you think the extension of the Ribbon system, within the last few years, has considerably tended to spread Orangeism ?-Unquestionably, they act on each other; the existence of Ribbonism makes it necessary for one perhaps to become an Orangeman, and the existence of Orangeism has certainly created many Ribbonmen.
“ Does not it appear that the outrages that have taken place in the north of Ireland have generally taken place in consequence of conflicts between the Ribbonmen and Orangemen? -No; a great many of them, in my opinion, and I have looked at them pretty closely, have originated with the mere insolence of triumph of the Orangemen, speaking of the lower classes of them. In their lodges they work themselves up into a great hatred of popery; they go out; they are armed with muskets and ball cartridges ; and at the slightest sign of disrespect to them, they fire at the peasants.
“ Do you mean to say that they go out with arms to fairs, for instance, where men of both political feelings assemble; that one party goes armed and the other is unarmed ?—I have not the least doubt that if that, were the subject of inquiry, it could be established, that the Orangemen go to fairs unarmed ; certainly the Catholics, many of whom are Ribbonmen, go equally unarmed, but the Orangemen, in general, leave their arms in a depôt, about a mile or half-a-mile from the fair. In
the evening particularly, a riot is easily excited, and the Ribbonmen are equally willing to commence it with the Orangemen; then the practice has been for the Orangemen to retreat upon their arms, and take their arms and shoot away, and many lives have been lost.”—H. C., 1825, p. 71.
Mr. O'Connell further adds
“ The Catholics in the north are, I believe, more organized into Ribbonmen, and the Ribbonmen do not, if I may so say, choose to fritter away their strength in those driftless acts of outrage which the peasantry in the south do. With respect to the stability of the country, if a foreign enemy were to invade it, the north is in greater danger from its Catholic population than the south; they are better organized. We have a great deal more trouble to check Ribbonism than to check Whiteboyism in the south. By we, I mean the Catholic Association, and those who have taken an active part in Catholic politics.”—H. C., 1825, p. 71.
Ribbonism has doubtless much more the character of an armed and well-organized association, with religious and political objects, than the local and irregular combinations of the south and west. The Whiteboys act rather from an obscure instinct of self-defence, which prompts them to those scattered and single, but constantly recurring acts of outrage which Mr. O'Connell calls “ dristless," and which are deserving of this appellation, if it is assumed that general hostility to the government is necessarily the object of all disturbers of the public peace, but which nevertheless have a very decided and well-defined object, and if that object is rightly understood, are perfectly calculated (as we shall see hereafter) to secure it.
In a more vague sense, however, Ribbonism is sometimes used to comprehend, not only the religious and political party opposed to the Orange lodges, but also
the Whiteboy associations against rent and tithes; and in this sense it is used by Mr. Blackburne, with reference to the counties of Limerick and Clare*.
“ Do not you believe that the Ribbon system is intimately connected with the whole of the insurgent system ?-As far as I am able to know what the Ribbon system is, I believe it is.
To what extent do you know what the Ribbon system is ?Its existence is manifested by its acts, by the oaths of secrecy, and by the use of pass words and signs; but what the precise object of it is I cannot tell, but I believe it differs in different places ; it accommodates itself to what is considered the local grievance of the county; it is, I believe, generally directed against rent and tithes.
“ Are the parties of any particular persuasion ?-I believe they are universally Roman Catholics.
“ Must a man be a Roman Catholic to be a Ribbonman? I believe he must.
“ Do you understand that any societies, under the name of Ribbon societies, exist in that part of Ireland ?-I consider the whole confederacy a Ribbon society.
“ Are there any societies, called Ribbon societies, in that county ?-I cannot say that there has been evidence of any particular association in any particular part, that has gone by that name: but my opinion is, that the whole system is one of Ribbonism, or most intimately connected with it.
“ Is not the familiar name by which they are known in the county of Clare, Ribbonmen?-Always.
" Do not you believe that the Ribbonmen prevail in various parts of the country where there have been no disturbances ? I believe they have. “ And do not you believe, that in some cases those
persons are rather disappointed at the present disturbances, as interfering with their plans; that they have future plans?-I should think that those that speculate upon remote events, are disappointed at these occasional irruptions in different parts; they
* See also above p. 74.