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been the leaders of the disturbances ?-Persons who have been the subordinate and atrocious leaders of the disturbances.
“ Then the want of protection that the people feel, is protection against the persons concerned in outrage ?-Against outrage.
“ Have those people obtained a considerable degree of influence by their system of terror? -No doubt of it; the system of terror is most dreadful.
“ Then the industrious poor people suffer equally with the upper orders from those disturbances ?—They are the persons who suffer most, both in their feelings and their property, and their lives and their persons.”—H.C., 1824, p. 442.
The O'Conor Don is asked, with reference to the proceedings of the Whiteboys in the county of Roscommon in 1831:
“ Was their violence attended with any success; did they carry their point ?—Yes, for some time; the landlords were obliged to promise to reduce their rents, and to submit to their dictation. No man dared to work for a landlord who would not comply with their orders. They were fearless of apprehension. They went even to a magistrate at twelve o'clock on a Sunday, and requested him to reduce his con-acre rent, and he felt obliged to agree to do so.”—H. C., 1832, No. 298.
" That the ordinary laws of the country, (says Lord Oxmantown, lieutenant of the King's County, in a letter to the chief secretary,) administered by a magistracy zealous and upright are unable to withstand an organized combination, both reason and experience have fully proved. Why it should have been so is very obvious. The combination is directly opposed to the law, and it is stronger than it, because it punishes the violation of its mandates with more severity, and infinitely more certainty than the law does. If a peasant resists the combination, it is scarcely possible he can escape punishment ; but if he violates the law, his chance of escape is at least fifty to one. You will find I am warranted in what I say by a comparison of the convictions in a disturbed district, with the out
rages, recollecting that several persons are usually engaged in committing each outrage, probably on an average not less than five; so that if five be a fair average, the outrages should be multiplied by that number to give you the convictions which should have been had, were the law effective in every instance. The fact that the same individual has often been engaged in several outrages does not alter the position; because if the laws were carried into effect, there would be a corresponding number of convictions had against him*."
Having now explained the machinery by which the Whiteboy law is carried into effect, it remains to show who are the persons on whom the weight of the Whiteboy's arm falls,—who are the victims selected for the exercise of his vengeance.
So far as the taking of arms is concerned, it is manifest that those persons only are attacked who are likely to have arms in their possession. But with respect to the other two main objects of the Whiteboy offences, viz., the regulation of dealing with land, and of the employment of individuals, it is manifest that both parties to the forbidden contract being equally guilty, the Whiteboy has the option which of the two he will punish, the landlord or the tenant, the employer or the servant. Now it almost invariably happens that the latter, and not the former, of these two is selected; that the poor and weak, not the rich and strong, are the sufferers. A gentleman may barricade his house, and if he has a numerous household, and is well supplied with arms and ammunition, he may bid defiance to any force which the peasantry can bring against himt. But the thatched cabin of the poor man is de
Papers relating to the State of Ireland, 1834, p. 20. † It may be observed that the invention of gunpowder has had a levelling and democratic tendency, not only in assisting to make infantry a more powerful arm than cavalry in the field, but also in diminishing
fenceless, is easily broken into, and easily burnt, He has no servants or retainers to protect him, and less means of bringing offenders to justice. Moreover the murder of a poor man produces less sensation, and is sooner forgotten than that of a magistrate, a chief constable of police, or a clergyman*. Accordingly, if a tenant is ejected, not the landlord, but the new tenant is made responsible; and if, after due notice to quit the land, he remains immovable, justice is forthwith executed upon him.
course is taken with strange servants or labourers : the master who has perhaps been the means of bringing his servant from a distance escapes unhurt, but the servant himself is
persecuted till he leaves the spot; or is killed if he refuses to depart. In fact, the Irish peasant reverses the cry of the French revolutionists, Paix aux chaumières, guerre aux châteaux !
The Whiteboys, it seems, (though, from sympathy, they would doubtless, if they could, bear lightly on their own class,) have been unable to avoid the injustice imputed to more regular systems of law, of dealing out different measures to the poor and to the rich.
- Plate sin with gold,
Arm it in rags, a pigmy's straw doth pierce it.” the protection of armour at home. A feudal baron, living in a fortified castle, never going out except in armour, and on horseback, and with a train of armed followers, was almost an irresponsible being among an unarmed population when gunpowder was unknown, and he might oppress his vassals and villeins almost at discretion. A modern Irish landlord may barricade his house, and he is secure so long as he remains at home; but if he ventures in the open air, he is liable to be shot from a distance by a man who may have given his last farthing to purchase the powder and ball with which his stolen gun was loaded.
* See above, p. 23, note, for the account of the suppression of the disturbances in the county of Kilkenny, in the first Whiteboy rising.
In some cases, doubtless, the stronger party has been attacked; but that the safer course has generally been followed, will appear from the following statements; and indeed has already been partly explained in showing that the Catholics are as much assailed as the Protestants*.
“ What (says Mr. J. Moore, on the Limerick Special Commission) has been developed during these investigations? Is it the poor man contending with the rich, or the rich man oppressing the poor man?—No such thing. A selfish principle of monopoly was the main-spring of their proceedings—the same which runs through almost the entire system, and which has given birth to these outrages; for we find the inhabitants of a particular district prescribing rules and regulations, by which they exclude from the sphere of their influence, as they would the enemies of the country, the inhabitants of the same nation, and the subjects of the same king, saying, not only they shall not presume to inhabit a certain place, but forbid the exercise of their lawful occupations. Thus, then, we see the poor man the object of their persecutionst."
The following remarks occur in the Attorney-General's address to the court at the close of the same special commission :
“ It so happens, that with the exception of a very few cases so few, that I could easily enumerate them-we have been administering the law of the land, not for the protection of the rich, but for the protection of the poor, the weak, and the defenceless. Whatever may have been the original cause of those wicked associations, certain it is, that their force and fury generally fall on the very poorest of the poor. I need hardly, as a proof of this, call to your lordships' recollection what has lately passed in this court. A man has been sen
* Above, pp. 129–36. + Report of the Limerick and Clare Special Commission in 1831,
tenced to transportation for life this day, who, in the name and by the terror of those wicked associations, levied tribute from the merest paupers in the county, and compelled the poor widow to dispose of her chicken for six-pence, which she was obliged to pay, to meet their illegal demands. Again, (I can hardly trust myself with the recollection of it,) the sickly child, the only son of a widow, was tortured in his mother's presence, to compel him to discover the alms which the hand of charity had bestowed on her. These are a few selected from numerous cases, in which the law has raised its shield to protect the weak, and has stood forward the avenger of the cause of the widow and the orphan*.”
Similar observations are made by the AttorneyGeneral at the termination of the Maryborough Special Commission.
My lords, I would further remark, as a circumstance peculiar to the prosecutions which have taken place under this commission, that, overrun as this county is by lawless, extensive, and powerful confederacies, there is scarcely an instance in which a criminal has been brought to justice in which the crime has been perpetrated against the person or property of a man of power or rank. The objects of the aggression have been those who have been unable to protect themselves,—the poor and the defenceless. I could prove this by enumerating the cases one by one. There is not, I believe, in the whole catalogue, a single person prosecuting in the rank of a gentle
The victims of lawless outrage, unable to redress their own wrongs, have seen justice executed on their authors with the most exemplary success, and I trust will have learned that as the law is ready to afford them protection, so it is their interest, as well as duty, to aid its administration by all the exertions in their power.”—p. 324.
Major Powell:“ Were the outrages levelled chiefly against landlords, or * Report of the Limerick and Clare Special Commission in 1831, p. 217.