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« In all their proceedings they have shown the greatest address, with a degree of caution and circumspection which is the more alarming as it demonstrates system and design. Bodies of 5000 of them have been seen to march through the country unarmed, and if met by any magistrate who had spirit to question them, they have not offered the smallest rudeness or offence; on the contrary, they have allowed persons charged with crimes to be taken from amongst them by the magistrates alone, unaided with any force. Wherever they went they found the people as ready to take an oath to cheat the clergy as they were to propose it; but if any one did resist, the torments which he was doomed to undergo were too horrible
savages to be supposed guilty of. In the middle of the night he was dragged from his bed, and buried alive in a grave filled with thorns; or he was set naked on horseback, and tied to a saddle covered with thorns : in addition to this perhaps his ears were sawed off.
“ Sir, there is this day an account received of two military men, who had exerted themselves in the line of their duty,
eing attacked by a body of Rightboys, and, I fear, murdered, for there is but little hope of their recovering from their wounds. The way in which the Rightboys perpetrated this crime wasthe two men were walking together armed, they set a dog at them, when one of the men fired; he had no sooner thrown away his fire than a multitude rushed upon the two from behind the ditches, and wounded them in a most shocking
“ Now, Sir, upon the best inquiry that I have been able to make, it does not appear that there is the least ground to accuse the clergy of extortion. Far from receiving the tenth, I know of no instance in which they receive the twentieth part. I am very well acquainted with the province of Munster, and I know that it is impossible for human wretchedness to exceed that of the miserable peasantry in that province. I kuow that the unhappy tenantry are ground to powder by relentless landlords. I know that, far from being able to give the clergy their just dues, they have not food or raiment for themselves;
the landlord grasps the whole; and sorry I am to add, that, not satisfied with the present extortion, some landlords have been so base as to instigate the insurgents to rob the clergy of their tithes, not in order to alleviate the distresses of the tenantry, but that they might add the clergy's share to the cruel rackrents already paid.
“Sir, I fear it will require the utmost ability of Parliament to come to the root of those evils. The poor people of Munster live in a more abject state of poverty than human nature can be supposed able to bear; their miseries are intolerable, but they do not originate with the clergy; nor can the Legislature stand by and see them take the redress into their own hands. Nothing can be done for their benefit while the country remains in a state of anarchy*.”
The first proceedings of the Whiteboys in Munster, such as the levelling of fences and the restoration of commons, were exclusively directed against the landholders, and were connected directly or indirectly with the payment of rent. The receivers of rent, however, whether landlords or middlemen, finding it easier to divert than to suppress the newly awakened spirit of resistance, encouraged or connived at the attempts which were soon made by the Whiteboys to withhold the payment of tithe ; a payment to which they themselves were equally liable.
Dr. Curry states, with respect to the earliest Whiteboy disturbances in Munster, that " it was well known that several Protestant gentlemen and magistrates of considerable influence in that province, did all along, for their own private ends, connive at, if not foment, these tumults t." It was, however, at a later period,
* Irish Debates, vol. vii. p. 57-9.
** Review, vol. ii. p. 272. A similar statement is made by Dr. Campbell :—“ In order to divert their [i. e, the Whiteboys] attention from themselves, it became the policy of the landlord and grazier to cherish
during the tumults of the Rightboys, that this influence appears to have been most exerted. Thus in addition to the strong statement of the Attorney-General just cited, Mr. Lowther, in the same debate, says,
the magistrates and landlords are accused, and, I fear, not without reason, as being one cause of the Whiteboy disturbances * :" and in another debate in the same year, Sir James Cotter, defending the conduct of the magistrates in the county of Cork, admits that “perhaps some have been base enough to connive at the excesses in hopes of raising their rents, by adding the clergy's share to what they now receive f." Even Dr. Woodward, the Protestant bishop of Cloyne, who wrote a pamphlet in 1787 (which attracted much attention at the time), to prove that the Whiteboys were actuated by systematic hostility to the Established Church, distinctly states that they were encouraged by the Protestant land-owners.
“ The present proceeding (he says) is not a paroxysm of frenzy, originating with ignorant and rash peasants; but a dark and deep scheme, planned by men skilled in law and the artifices by which it may be evaded. These enemies to the public peace and the Protestant clergy (though nominal
or at least connive at, the spirit of curtailing the church of its pittance." Philosophical Survey of Ireland, p. 305. This work was published in 1777; the Rightboy disturbances did not begin till 1785 or 6.
* Irish Debates, vol. vii. p. 61.
** Ib. p. 24. The following account of the origin of the Whiteboys in Kilkenny is given by Mr. Mason, in a debate in 1786 :-" The Whiteboys in that county first began with opposing tithes; no person gave himself any trouble about them. They then proceeded to prevent the payment of rents, and for years a landlord could not distrain a tenant in that county, or set his lands but according to the will of the Whiteboys. At last, unused to opposition, they broke into the house of a gentleman, and murdered him. People then saw the danger; they thought it approached too near ; they roused and exerted themselves, and the Whiteboys were suppressed." Debates, vol. vi. p. 444.
Protestants), suggested to the farmers to enter into a combination, under the sanction of an oath, not to take their tithes or to assist any clergyman in drawing them. And a form of summons to the clergy man to draw, penned with legal accuracy, was printed at Cork, at the expense of a gentleman of rank and fortune ; and many thousand copies of it circulated with diligence through the adjacent counties of Limerick, Kerry, and Tipperary*.”
The Whiteboys of this period, however, did not content themselves simply with resistance to the payment of tithe, and intimidation of the individuals concerned in collecting it, but even carried their hostility so far as to attack the persons of the Protestant clergy. The bishop of Cloyne enumerates a long list of clergymen in his diocese and those of Ross and Cork, who had been threatened or assaulted by the Whiteboys.
The following may serve as specimens of these attacks :-“ One (a dignitary in my cathedral) was forced to come out of his house at midnight, by a band of 150 ruffians, to swear that he would give up his legal rights; a gun being pointed close to his head whilst the oath was tendered, and a horse produced with a saddle full of spikes, on which he was to be mounted if he refused to swear.” Another “was menaced (with dreadful imprecations) that he should meet with a horrible reception, if he did not obey their laws more punctually, though he by a public notice declared submission.” Another “received a written message from the Whiteboys, declaring, with their usual imprecations, that if he intended such villany as to set title at the
* Present State of the Church of Ireland, p. 79. Similar statements are made in a pamphlet on the same side of the question, published in 1787, entitled “ Advice to the Protestant Charmy of Ireland, &c. By a Layman of the Church of England.'
old rates, they had prepared a pitched shirt for him, in which they would set him on fire.” “ A clergyman, now resident in Cork, a fortnight since received a Whiteboy message, that his ears should be cropped or his tongue cut out of his mouth.” “ On the whole (continues the bishop), all the clergy in the extensive county of Cork (of whom only I speak with the support of authentic proofs), whose places of residence were in the country, were under continual alarm, and obliged to arm themselves in the best manner they could ; and had they not yielded to the violence of the insurgents, I am persuaded, would have been personally ill-treated; perhaps buried in those graves which were in many places dug (professedly) for their reception *.”
To so great an extent were the Protestant clergy of Munster the objects of popular attack at this period, that many of them fled from their parishes and took refuge in the large towns; and the Government, in the session of 1786, introduced a Bill 'to protect the persons, houses, and properties of rectors, vicars, and curates actually resident within the parishes t.' This Bill,
* Present State of the Church of Ireland, pp. 82-5. Grattan, in moving for a Committee to inquire into the state of tithes, in February 14, 1788, says,
“ The most sanguinary laws on your statute books are tithe bills ; the Whiteboy act is a tithe bill; the riot act a tithe bill.” Speeches, vol. ii. p. 49. It is probably in allusion to the circumstances of this: period that Dr. Doyle, in his evidence before the House of Commons' Committee on Irish tithes, states that “ it is universally admitted that the first object of the Whiteboys was to dissolve the tithe system,”—a statement by no means true in a general sense. (Qu. 3044).
of Irish Debates, vol. vi. p. 400. In a debate on this bill, Lord Luttrell tells the following story: “A friend of mine, a few days since, after riding through Urlingford early in the morning, overtook, beyond that town, a person, who proved to be a clergyman, riding seemingly in pain, with his head muffied to a monstrous size, and bound over with a napkin. My friend addressed him, being a very compassionate man, and inquired