« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
-One of them holds a considerable number; I dare
about thirty or forty acres of land; and I think his brother holds a considerable deal more.
“ Are they the better class of farmers ?-Yes ; but they have been mostly concerned in the coal business, by which means they have a great deal of influence over the lower class.
“ Several well-disposed farmers in the country have come to me, and said, “Will there be any law given to keep these people from coming to our houses, and visiting us at night ? ' Others have told me they have not slept a wink for many nights, watching their sons for fear they will get out.
“ In speaking of the respectable farmers that spoke to you about the state of the country, wishing something to be done to check outrage, were they Catholic farmers ?-Mostly. The men convicted for Whiteboy offences are not the persons most deeply concerned in these outrages. I know one man convicted at the last sessions, a young man of most excellent character; several came forward to give him a character: many I am sure are forced into it, and many have left the country to avoid the system. Parties who go out at night decoy the sons of farmers and others, who may be detected and brought to punishment, as at the last sessions, and who are now under the sentence of transportation.”—H. C., Nos. 1519-23, 1859, 1870.
Matthew Singleton, Esq. :
"s Amongst those persons called Whitefeet, are there any respectable farmers, or are they confined exclusively to the lower classes ? —There is a man now under sentence of death in Maryborough gaol, who is one of the most respectable class of farmers; he is of the name of James Dowling, and he was the next-door neighbour to Mr. Jacob, whose house was attacked, and I have found many of that class equally connected with the disturbances in the county of Galway.
“ Do you consider that many of that class have joined this illegal association from oppression ?-Certainly not of that
class; at the same time I must say, and I firmly believe, that there are many persons forced into the disturbance of the country from intimidation.”—H. C., 1832, Nos. 4105_6.
The circumstance that few of the parties immediately concerned in the Whiteboy outrages possess any land, has misled some persons into the error that the occupation of land is not the main object of them.
I do not know (says Mr. John Bray) that the letting of land has anything to do with it, for I do not think any of those disturbers hold any land: except a few of them, they are the very lower orders.
“ Have they not any real grievance (he is asked) to induce them to take this course ?—They do complain (he answers) of the driving off the tenantry, and all those things that are grievances, more or less; but looking at the class of persons really Blackfeet and Whitefeet, I do not think that could affect them.”-H. C., 1832, Nos. 3460, 3464.
In the first place it may be observed that none but the very poorest of the Irish labourers are entirely without land, either permanently or as conacre; but it by no means follows that because the parties concerned have no dealings in land, it is not the end of the system to regulate such dealings. They act on the general impression, prevalent among their class, that land is necessary to the maintenance of a poor man's family; and though they may not have a present, yet they have a future interest in the matter ; though they may not be personally concerned, yet their kinsmen and friends and fellows are concerned. It would seem as if those who made use of this argument had forgotten that it is possible for men to be swayed by a regard for the general advantage of their order, without reaping any individual and immediate benefit. In like
manner we are not to conclude because all the Whiteboys are not ejected tenants, therefore the prevention of ejectment is not the object of their system: the fear of losing land may be as powerful a motive as the actual loss of it. This point is satisfactorily explained by the Rev. Mr. O'Connor.
“ Are the Whitefeet in general persons urged by their necessities to combine ?-Yes, at first they were; but now they have found it a useful system. I think if there was a legal provision for the poor, neither priest, nor bishop, nor pope, nor agitator, whoever they might be, could unsettle their minds.
“ The object of the question was, to ascertain whether the men called Whitefeet were men driven by their poverty to form that association, or are they men not in that state of want that would appear to justify in some degree their joining in it?Their poverty and destitution must be very great, from their being ejected out of their ground and turned adrift upon the world."
“ Are the Committee to understand that the Whitefeet are confined to those ejected from their grounds ?— It is not confined to them, but they have been the persons that first made it general, and others had an apprehension of a similar fate, and they have joined it from thinking it would be a protection to them to keep them in their land.”-H. C., 1832, Nos. 3237–9.
Also the Rev. Mr. Delaney:
“ Are they the occupiers of land that form these associations ?-Latterly there have been a few instances of persons occupying land compelled by the system of terrorism that so generally prevailed to join hem: at first they were composed solely of persons alike destitute of property or character; generally speaking of the lowest grade in society.
“ That being the case how could they consider rent a grievance, if they were so low as not to be themselves tenants ?That is one of the objects that they profess to have in view in
combining together; viz., in the first instance to better their own condition, to enforce an advance of wages, and to lower the rents of land generally.”—H. C., 1832, Nos. 4359.-60.
The manner in which the system is to be worked, the crimes to be committed, and the mode of committing them, are of course the subjects of consultation among the parties concerned ; all or most of whom doubtless know one another. But there does not appear to be any such regular organization as deserves the name of committees bestowed by some of the witnesses on these meetings. It seems as if the combination was very imperfect, except at times, when a blow is to be struck. Moreover, the practice doubtless varies in different places ; but there appears no where to be a trace of any organization like that of the Orange or Ribbon lodges. The only testimonies to the existence of committees which I have met with are those of the following two magistrates of the Queen's County.
Colonel R. Johnson :
“ Have they any organization by committees ?—I have reason to believe they have. On a search for arms that took place some time since in that part of the country, there was a regular case found drawn out, the same as a brief, stating the circumstances of the land that the man wished to lay claim to ; in fact the case was decided on by the committee, and Rockite notices were found in this man's possession to be served on the individual he wished to eject.
“ Can you trace the proceedings farther ?—No, we could not; the man was put in gaol; he was not tried at the last commission, as well as I recollect.
“In cases where they have required parties to give up land, do you
conceive it has been the result of a previous investigation of the claim ?- I have no doubt of it; for some people who have remonstrated with these legislators have been told that
they might hold their possessions till they heard from them again, and it appears they have satisfied this committee that it would be a hardship in removing them, as they have been allowed to remain ; at least they have not been interfered with; and it is generally supposed that these committees are to be bought over for a certain sum, but I have no proof of that.” H. C., 1832., Nos. 759-61.
Hovenden Stapleton, Esq.:
“ Is the system governed by committees ?-I have reason to think that it is. I think there is what they call a head committee, composed of seven members, who sit and discuss all matters; then there is a sub-committee under them, who receive orders from the head committee. The body at large are sworn to commit whatever may be ordered.”—H. C., 1832, No. 1518*
The following statements will, however, probably be found to contain a more precise account of the process in fact adopted.
Major Powell :
“Does there appear to you to have been an organized system of outrage ?-Yes ; it does appear to be organized.
" Whom do you suppose to have been at the head of it?— That I am quite unable to answer. There is a general combination.
What proof have you of that combination ?—Persons have been reported to me, as having been taken in nightly assemblies, and coming from distant points to those meetings.
“Does that rest entirely on report ?-All my information is on report.
Have any such assemblies been discovered by the constables ?— They have.
* A story about an organized system of Whiteboy committees, with signs and summonses in blank signature is told in Hickey's confession, already mentioned (p. 122,) which probably never had any existence except in his own imagination. H. C., 1824, p. 302.