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association ?-There have been numberless instances of that." -H.C., 1824, p. 132-4.
It appears indeed that the emissaries frequently go to a sufficient distance to prevent being recognised, and that the persons sworn are ignorant of those who administer the oath to them.
“ Have you not known instances in which the population which has been engaged in insurrectionary practices are the reluctant agents of those who lead them to the act ?-I believe intimidation and terror are a very principal means by which these conspiracies are established and diffused.
“ Are they not frequently acting under the influence of a secret oath, and often in ignorance of the person who leads them, and of the object which they are to accomplish ?-I believe they almost uniformly act under the influence of a compulsory oath ; and I believe that this oath has been administered with so much secrecy, that, in the first instance, the persons who are sworn in know not the names of those who administer the oaths. I consider secrecy one of the most powerful auxiliaries of the system.
“ And are not the persons who are frequently guilty of the worst acts, acting under the influence of those who are unknown to them ?-I do not believe that, when they come to the perpetration of outrage, they are ignorant; outrages that required combination must have a leader, and the party must know that they are under the command of some particular individual; but at the time they are incorporated by being sworn, I believe, generally speaking, they do not know where the conspiracy originated, or who the person is who swears them, or who are their associates.”—H. C., 1824, p. 19.
Matthew Barrington, Esq. :
“ Can you state what means are taken by these gangs to propagate these systems, as you have given the Committee to
understand that there is a willingness on the part of the peasantry to commit crime?-I do not wish the Committee to understand any such thing: I believe the greater number join through terror and necessity, from the kind of houses they inhabit, and the retired situation in which they are placed. The parties to the murder of Mr. Blood went to the houses of poor farmers to compel them to go with them. Some of these farmers told me that they were delighted to hear of their execution ; they said so secretly, knowing I would not disclose it: they frequently made them join when they went out at night. Captain Rock (the man Delane, whom I have alluded to) told me that he has been obliged to threaten to fire at his own men to make them attack a house.
“ What are the means by which they exercise these systems of intimidation over the lower orders ?-By going to their houses at night, and swearing them to join, and be ready whenever they may be called on to take arms or to attack houses. If they refuse, or their wives, or families should in any way prevent them, they were formerly carded, but latterly wounded or flogged, or some other punishment inflicted on them.
Is punishment nearly certain to follow the non-execution of what is ordered to be done ? - Most certainly; and the consequence is, the whole peasantry of a county, not having any means of resistance, are obliged to join. When this system commences, the whole country is soon in a flame if it is not discovered and instantly checked.
“ In the first instance the gang obtains the support of a great number of individuals ?-Yes.
" Do you make any difference between seduction and intimidation ?- There is very little seduction; it is a willingness to join, or intimidation; they compel them by going to their houses at night. When these men take the oaths, does it appear you
that they continue among the disturbed people through the influence of the oath, or the intimidation that is continued ?Through intimidation ; they do not mind the oath much.”H. C., 1832, Nos. 32–5; 58–60.
“ Has it not fallen within your knowledge, that the approvers, in murders for instance, complained bitterly of the slackness of people under them, and the difficulty they found in bringing them to a point ?-Frequently; they have told me, that they have been obliged to threaten the people they brought out, for not going out to attack a house, that they have been obliged to go behind them. A man called Captain Rock, whose name is Delane, a principal in the murder of young Hoskins, son of Lord Courtenay's agent, has told me that he had been frequently obliged to follow them with a pistol, and threaten to shoot them if they did not attack the house.”H. L., 1824, p. 305.
W. W. Despard, Esq. :
“ You have mentioned being bound together by an oath ; have you ever seen the oath ?-Yes, the Whitefeet oath I have.
• What is the character of it?- They are sworn to go as far as twelve miles to assist a brother; for instance, if a man 'took land, and another person thought he had a better claim to it than he, this man would go twelve miles away and bring strangers to attack that man, and sometimes burn his house.
“ The oath implies an extended confederacy ?—Yes.
“ In what way are they able to extend their associations in regard to the number?—By administering that oath; and I am firmly persuaded there are many people who have taken that oath who have done it through fear.
“ They exercise a system of intimidation over persons of their own class throughout the country ?—Yes.”—H.C., Nos. 394-5; 398–400.
John Dillon, Esq.
• What class of people are they ?-People of the poorest description.
How do they carry on their plan of operations ?—They increase their numbers by a system of terror; those that are not willing to join them they compel by force. • Is there a considerable number of those who
appear to be
in the association that are not sincerely belonging to it?-Yes ; many are there by force.
“What proportion should you say were forced to join against their will ?-I think more than one-half are forced against their will; but when I say they are forced to join the Whitefeet, I think the greater number consider them, in some degree, a protection to themselves, that people, from dread, may be unwilling to take their holdings, or put them out of them.
“ So that many look to the association for protection ?Yes; they think they have no other protection.”—H. C., Nos. 2350-4.
Rev. Michael Keogh :
" Have you known of any persons having small portions of land being engaged in these conspiracies ?-Yes, I have.
“ Have they held land to a large amount?-No; a good many have been forced into it by intimidation.
“ Did they take the first opportunity of retiring from the association ?-Yes, in private; but they were afraid to do so in public.
“ You think it is a system of intimidation that compels those who are now Whitefeet to continue so ?-Yes; I think it is so with many of them. .
“ Then it is your opinion that if the government were to take measures to afford sufficient protection, that many of those who are now ostensibly Whitefeet would be glad of an opportunity of returning to peaceable habits ?-I am sure they would ; I know them to be anxious to do so.
“Do you not think there is a good deal of policy in it, and that many of them join the association in order to deter landlords from turning people out of their farms ?-Yes, I think in
many cases. “ So that they have a personal object in allowing it to go on ?-Yes; that was the opinion I formed.
“ There is nothing political in these associations ?-I do not think there is.”-H. C., Nos. 4689-96.
Robert Cassidy, Esq. :
“ Have not many been compelled to join by constraint and intimidation ?-I think great numbers are obliged to join from a dread of personal injury or personal loss. The manner of compelling those persons to attend is by anonymous notices; in some instances where anonymous notices are disregarded, they are not followed up by any injury to the persons who disregard them ; but in other instances those anonymous notices are followed by the destruction of the property or injury to the person of the individual who disregards them."-H. C., No. 6417.
Mr. John Bray :
“ Have they any particular means of increasing the numbers of the association; do they intimidate people to join them ?-I have heard so, but I think that those persons who plead intimidation are half inclined to join; I think that the honest men could abstain from joining them by staying in and not frequenting fairs.”—H. C., No. 3463.
In a trial on the Leitrim Special Commission in 1806, Mr. Irwin, a magistrate, gives an account of going out at night and apprehending some of a party of Thrashers.
They all said they took the Thrashers' oath ; but each man justified himself by saying he was forced. 1 asked them why they went out with white shirts ? They said they were forced to go out.
“ Did they say who were of the party ?_They said they did not know any of the party who brought them out that night; that they were all strangers*.”
There can be no doubt of the general sympathy of the people with the cause of the Whiteboys, inasmuch as they consider their own interests bound up with its success; but it is equally certain that the majority of the witnesses are right in supposing that the unwilling
* Trials of the Thrashers, p. 259.