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MEANS EMPLOYED IN IRISH DISTURBANCES.
Having, in the last chapter, explained the general character of the Whiteboy disturbances, and the objects which are sought to be attained by them, we now proceed to consider the means employed for arriving at these ends.
In order to understand the machinery by which this system is worked, it will be in the first place desirable to ascertain the description of persons concerned in working it. In general it may be said that they are the worst characters among the labouring agricultural population, frequently young unmarried men employed as servants by farmers. These persons, it will be observed, are not suffering under any immediate distress; their objects can only be general, to avert a state of things by which persons of their class actually, and by which they themselves may hereafter, suffer. In some cases, however, persons already ejected have taken part in the outrages, and at any rate, have been actively employed in disseminating a spirit of disturbance, and in rousing the peasantry to avenge their wrongs*. The leaders of factions (on which subject more will be said at the end of the chapter), likewise are often concerned in heading the Whiteboy outrages.
The following testimonies will explain this point. Major Willcocks. “What description of persons have you found engaged as
* See above, p. 80.
disturbers of the peace in Tipperary; the very lowest class, or something about that ?-I think the very lowest class of peasantry and servant-boys; what I mean by servant-boys are men hired with the farmers by the year.”—H. C., 1824, p. 99.
. “Of what description have been the persons punished under the Insurrection Act; poor and ignorant, or otherwise ?-Mostly poor and ignorant.
“ Are you acquainted with the extent of organization to which this combination had extended ?—I have some idea of it; I think there was for some time a better class than they concerned in it. The farmers, at one time, rather encouraged it, for they thought they would be benefitted themselves; and when the country was getting better, and when we were putting these fellows down in the county of Limerick, a proclamation issued from what they called the Commons of Rathkeale, stating that no man should hold more than one farm; that any man who held more farms than one should give them
that they might themselves have a chance of getting one.
" Do you think that this combination consisted of any among a higher class of people than those who were generally the executive persons in it?-I think it might; but no person of that description ever came to my own knowledge. I may have reason to think there was some person behind the curtain that I was never able to reach, but I never knew such a person ; I think there were persons encouraging them who were themselves of a better class.”—H. L., 1824, pp. 58, 59.
George Bennett, Esq:
66 Of what description were the persons who were transported under the Insurrection Act from those counties ?There were very few actually transported in the counties to which I refer; the persons convicted were, with one exception, persons of the lower order of labourers or farmers. Labourers and farmers in Ireland, of the lower description, are united, I conceive, generally; they both labour and have also small farms,-people of that description,-cottiers is the most accurate description.
“Of what description is the one person who was not of that order?—He was the son of a farmer who, in the good times, had a considerable profit rent, whose property fell very much, and who at this moment, I understand, has a profit rent of about 4001. a-year, incumbered by debts that he contracted in good times.
know whether any of the persons convicted were leaders of disturbances ?- I believe that man was; and I have every reason to believe it, because on his person a written paper was found which contained the oath which I understand he was circulating; it had been found some time before, and contained a number of directions respecting it.
“ Of what description in general are the leaders of disturbances ?-I cannot form an opinion, except in that instance, further than this, that in other counties I have heard they were persons of a low description; I do not know of any ostensible leader of any high description ; none of moderate property, except the person to whom I have alluded*.”—H. L., 1824,
Pp. 32, 33.
Major Powell :
“ Of what description have been the persons in general who have committed outrages ?-Of the lowest description; persons who have no homes or character."—H. L., 1824,
Major Warburton :
• What was the description of the captain, or the person whom you described as a captain, who was taken in the barony of Inchiquin ?-He was a very wretched person.
“ Was he a peasant or a farmer?-He was a peasant-a labourer I think.
• A common labouring man ?-Yes.
“ Was he one of those that found his way from the neighbouring county, or one who had been prepared by the swearers
* With regard to this individual, Mr. Bennett gives some furthdetails in H. C., 1824, p. 82.
of a preceding night ?--As well as my recollection serves me, he had been sworn on a former night, on the border of the county, and was going forward, in consequence of his oath, to fulfil the duty imposed upon him. .
“ You call him captain, because he appeared to command the party ?—He was taken in the act of going forward, and cheering the party to follow him on for the purpose on which they were sent.
“ Was he distinguished by any particular dress ?–1 think he had a white band round his hat that night.”—H. C., 1824, pp. 134, 135.
M. Barrington, Esq.:
“ Are the people totally devoid of all property ?-I think the persons generally concerned in the disturbances are the poorest description of farmers or labourers.
“ That is, they are persons seeking by force to keep possession of lands of which they have had notice of ejectment?Very often they are so, but I do not think they have a combined object. Every case of outrage has its own immediate
“ Do you imagine that there were a great many individuals concerned in the association in Clare ?-A great many; almost the whole peasantry of the country.”—H. C., 1832, Nos. 23, 24. 27.
The O'Conor Don :
“ What class of persons were concerned in those disturbances [in the county of Roscommon]?—They were, in the commencement of these disturbances, of the lower order of people, but in the end it was said they were joined by persons in better circumstances.”—H. C., 1832, No. 293.
W. W. Despard, Esq. :
« On the late trials at Maryborough did it appear what class of people were engaged in these outrages ?—The people convicted on my side of the county were of the very lowest class.
“ Did anything appear to lead you to think that respectable persons were engaged ?-I think there were persons from the neighbourhood of the colliery of a respectable description.”— H. C., 1832, Nos. 415-16.
Colonel Johnson, being asked who are the parties concerned, answers
“ The lower orders; and a good number, I will not say of the very best farmers, but the middling description. I cannot but say they are parties concerned, for they will not assist us in detecting these people,-quite the reverse.”—H. C. 1832, No. 757.
Major-General Crawford, occasionally resident at Castle Comer :
“ What description of persons are engaged in these lawless proceedings ? — There are a considerable number of farmers, but the greater number are of the lower order and ill-conditioned; there are some schoolmasters in it, who are great inciters to it, one of whom was made prisoner.”-H. C., 1832, No. 2055.
Robert Cassidy, Esq.:
“ Have not large numbers of the lower orders, and even the small farmers, been engaged in this Whitefoot and Blackfoot conspiracy?-I rather think not; my information leads me to think that neither the class of persons to whom I have alluded, namely, heads of families, nor men of generally good character, had been in those Whitefoot associations.
" Then, is it your opinion that the Whitefoot and Blackfoot associations, or other associations connected with the disturbance of the public peace, are confined to a few in the county?
- I conceive that they are not confined to a few; but I think the majority comprising them are persons of bad character, and without either house or home, or anything whatever to attach them to the state by any tie of interest.
“ How do you reconcile the state of the county as to general outrage and insecurity, with the notion that the ma