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against the Whiteboys, for which he received the formal thanks of the Lord Lieutenant, conveyed to him in a letter from the secretary *.
It is stated in the Annual Register that, near the beginning of November, 1775, the Whiteboys, in a visit they paid to Johnstown, in the county of Kildare, “ besides breaking the windows of the inhabitants, and other similar outrages, buried a priest to the neck, first inclosing him naked in brambles and thorns, and threatened the like usage to every priest they could lay hands on, on account of their endeavours to dissuade them from these wicked practicest."
In' a petition intended to have been presented on behalf of the Irish Catholics, in 1787, when the clause for demolishing their chapels I was to be debated, it is alleged,—" That in the suppression of the disturbances which happened of late in the South of Ireland, the Catholic nobility and gentry, their prelates and inferior clergy, have been most active. That during these disturbances their chapels have been mailed up, their pastors abused and forced from their parishes, and no distinction made in the paroxysm of popular frenzy g.
So great indeed was the alienation between the priests and their flocks, produced by the conduct of the former in opposing themselves to the rioters, that a Roman Catholic clergyman, who furnished Mr. Newenham with an interesting account of the state of his church in Ireland, considers that the influence of the priesthood over the people, which for some years had
* Plowden's Historical Review, vol. ii. part i. p. 107, and see above p. 16, note. of Annual Register for 1775, p. 170.
See Plowden's Historical Review, vol. ii. part i. p. 162. Ś O'Leary's Defence, p. 172.
been waning, was finally extinguished by the Whiteboy disturbances in 1786*; the very moment when opposition to tithes was at its height. The first effective resistance to the Whiteboys of Kilkenny appears to have been made by the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Ballyragget, who formed an armed association, and drove away with considerable loss, a large body of Whiteboys who attacked a house in the town *.
Upon the whole it is evident, from the conduct both of the Catholic gentry and clergy, and of the Whiteboys themselves, that the Munster disturbances at the end of the last century were wholly devoid of any religious character, and that, although they were carried on by Catholics, they were not intended to serve the cause of Catholicism: in which respect (as will be shown hereafter) they agree with the Whiteboy disturbances of later times.
A few years after the first rising of the Catholic
* Extract of a letter from a Roman Catholic clergyman, of the diocese of Cork, to Mr. Newer ham, dated 12th June, 1806:
“The influence which the clergy formerly possessed over their flocks, and which was for a long series of years proverbial, was considerably diminished by the relaxation of the popery laws; it thenceforward continued gradually to decline, and received the coup de grace by the Whiteboy disturbances in 1786. At that period, not only all former influence was lost, but even that confidence in their clergy, without which all their exertions must prove abortive, ceased in a great measure to exist among the people. Nor was it till the rebellion [of 1798] and its consequent irritations and antipathies opened their eyes, that this confidence began again to revive. The people then perceived that their priests were, in common with themselves, objects of persecution to one party, and of disregard and derision to the other; and that, though some of them had been unfortunately implicated, and some few deeply engaged, in the rebellion, all were accused or suspected, and all condemned, by party enthusiasm, to one general comprehensive indiscriminate execration.” Newenham's View of Ireland, App. p. 41.
* A. Young's Tour in Ireland, p. 77. Annual Register for 1775, p. 92. The attack was made on 21st January, 1775.
peasantry of the south, there occurred a disturbance among the Protestant peasants of the north, though wholly unconnected with it, and springing from local
It seems that the distribution of the labour which each housekeeper was bound to contribute to the repair of roads was abused by the landowners; that the rich had been exempted, and that the work done had been bestowed on roads more beneficial to individuals than to the public.
“At length (says Dr. Campbell), in the year 1764*, in the most populous, manufacturing, and consequently civilized, part of the province of Ulster, the inhabitants of one parish refused to make more of what they called job roads. They rose almost to a man, and from the oaken branches which they wore in their hats, were denominated Oakboys. The discontent being as general as the grievance, the contagion seized the neighbouring parishes. From parishes it flew to baronies, and from baronies to counties, till at length the greater part of the province was engagedt."
The first object of these insurgents was to produce a more equal distribution of the burden of maintaining the roads; the second, to deprive the clergy of a portion of their tithe ; the third, to regulate the price of land, especially of peat-bogs I.
• They appeared (says Hardy, in his Life of Lord Charlemont) in bodies of four or five hundred, headed, it is said, by farmers of respectable property. According to the ancient practice of
Hardy, in his Life of Lord Charlemont, p. 94 quarto ed., gives 1763 as the year of the rising of the Oakboys. The same date is given by Gordon, History of Ireland, vol. ii. p. 242. of Phil. Survey of Ireland, p. 309.
Ibid. p. 310. “The exactions of the clergy in their collection of tithes, and still more the'heavy taxes on the country, and the making and repairing of roads, were, according to Lord Charlemont, the principal causes of these disturbances." Hardy, p. 74.
all insurgents in Ireland, they obliged such obnoxious persons, clergy or laity, as fell into their hands, to swear that the former should not levy more than a certain proportion of tithe; and the latter, that they would not assess the county at more than a stipulated rate. . . . It is to be observed, that though they talked much, though they insulted several gentlemen, erected gallowses, and menaced ineffable perdition to all their enemies, no violent cruelty was exercised, as Lord Charlemont said, nor was a single life lost, or any person maimed, in the county of Armagh; a species of conduct totally opposite to that of the southern insurgents, but which his Lordship ascribed, not to any diversity of religion, but to the oppression under which the unfortunate creatures in the south laboured. *A rebellion of slaves (continued he) is always more bloody than an insurrection of freemen.'»
This Oakboy disturbance was easily quelled by the King's troops, in five or six weeks after its commencement, and with the loss of only two or three lives. In the following session the law with regard to roads was altered, and with the cause of discontent all disturbance was removed.
About eight years afterwards, the neighbouring counties of Antrim and Down were the theatre of a disturbance closely resembling in its origin and character the Whiteboy risings in the south, already described.
“In the government of Lord Townshend, (says Mr. Gordon, in his History of Ireland,) a part of Ulster began to be disturbed by an insurrection which, originating from a local cause, yet a severe grievance, was much less extensive, but vastly more bloody and of longer duration, than that of the Hearts of Oak. An estate in the county of Antrim, a part of the vast possessions of an absentee nobleman, the Marquis of Donegal, was proposed, when its leases had expired, to be let only to those who could pay large fines; and the agent of the Marquis was said to have exacted extravagant fees on his own account also.
Numbers of the former tenants, neither able to pay the fines nor the rents demanded by those who, on payment of fines and fees, took leases over them, were dispossessed of their tenements, and left without means of subsistence. Rendered thus desperate, they maimed the cattle of those who had taken their lands, committed other outrages, and, to express a firmness of resolution, called themselves Hearts of Steel. To rescue one of the number, confined on a charge of felony in Belfast, some thousands of peasants, who neither before nor after took any part in the insurrection, marched with the Steelmen into the town, and received the prisoner from the military guard; the officers of which were fortunately persuaded by a respectable physician to his liberation, to prevent the ruinous consequences of a desperate battle.
“ The association of the Steelmen extended into the neighbouring counties, augmented by distressed or discontented peasants, who were not affected immediately by the original grievance. By the exertions of the military some were taken, and tried at Carrickfergus. As they were acquitted from the supposed partiality of the witnesses and jury, an Act of Parliament was passed in March, 1772, ordering their trials to be held in counties different from those in which their offences were committed. Some, in consequence, were carried to Dublin, but were there acquitted, from prejudices entertained against a law so unconstitutional. In the December of 1773, in the administration of Lord Harcourt, the obnoxious Act was repealed. From a sense of the evil consequences of disorder, insurgents tried in their respective counties were now condemned and executed. The insurrection was totally quelled, but its effects were long baneful. So great and wide was the discontent, that many thousands of Protestants emigrated from those parts of Ulster to the American settlements, where they soon appeared in arms against the British Government, and contributed powerfully, by their zeal and valour, to the separation of the American colonies from the empire of Great Britain *.”
* Gordon's History of Ireland, vol. ii. 250, 251.
The rising of the