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About the year 1785 the north was again disquieted by tumults arising from religious and political animosity, and not from any local grievance. The Protestant party began by visiting the houses of Catholics, in order to search for arms; and, from the time when these visits were made, they derived their name of Peep or Break-of-day-Boys* They did not, however, confine themselves simply to searching for arms, but attacked the houses and chapels of the Catholics, sometimes burning the building, and sometimes destroying all the furniture and property contained in itt. The Catholics, on the other hand, organized themselves under the name of Defenders, and during a series of years many violent conflicts took place between the two parties, who were sometimes engaged to the extent Steelboys was owing, as they said, to the increase of rents, and complaints of general oppression; but Mr. Waring remarked that the pardons which were granted to the Oakboys, a few years before, were principally the cause of those new disturbances.” Warrenstown, Co. Down. A. Young's Tour in Ireland, p. 112: and see Campbell's Phil. Survey, p. 311, and Crawford's History of Ireland, vol. ii. p. 323-6.
* Plowden's Historical Review, vol. ii. part i. p. 200, and see Gordon's History of Ireland, vol. ii. p. 334.
* The destruction of all the moveables and furniture in a house was termed“ wrecking." See the evidence of Mr. James Christie, a quaker, who lived in the county of Down at the end of the last century, before the Commons' Committee on Orange Lodges in 1835, Nos. 5567-9. • There is one thing I should just mention (Mr. Christie says), that, at the time when the wrecking of the Catholic chapels took place in my neighbourhood, it was observed by myself and many others, that while it was lying uncovered, the Catholics, no matter how severe the weather, attended more attentively to their duty during that time than was observable when they had a good house to go into; and in my opinion the old adage was fully verified, that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church ;' persecute a man for his religion and it will make him more strongly riveted to it. I passed by the chapels in the winter time, when they had to kneel down in the snow, six inches deep, and I really pitied them ; and it was remarked by myself, and by others, that they were more attentive in attending their places of worship after the chapel was burnt than previously, when the chapel was in good order." No. 5707.
even of thousands of armed men. The combats of these factions began in the county of Armagh, whence they spread to the neighbouring districts. The Peep-of-dayBoys, in 1795, or soon afterwards, changed their appellation, and were called Orange Boys, or Orange Men*. The Defenders having originally been (as their name purported) a defensive, soon became an aggressive body; they extended their ramifications to counties where there were no strong bodies of Protestants to alarm them, and in many cases they became mere gangs of robbers, breaking into and plundering houses, and committing other outragest. The Secret Committee of the Lords, in 1793, reported that the Defenders of that time “were all, as far as the committee could discover, of the Roman Catholic persuasion; in general, poor, ignorant, labouring men, sworn to secrecy, and impressed with an opinion that they were assisting the Catholic cause; in other respects, they did not appear to have any distinct particular object in view, but they talked of being relieved from hearth-money, tithes, county-cesses, and of lowering their rents 5.
At length the Defenders were partially dissolved, and partly absorbed into the body of United Irishmeng, till they were finally lost in the more important movements which gave rise to the rebellion of 1798; since which time their society has been revived under the name of Ribbonmen.
* Plowden, Hist. Rev. p. 536, and see Christie, Evidence on Orange Lodges, No. 5575. of Plowden, ibid. pp. 437, 460, 537.
Plowden, ibid. p. 389. Ś Plowden, p. 570. Several particulars respecting the outrages committed by these Protestant and Catholic parties at the end of the last century will be found in the evidence taken by the Committee on Orange Lodges in last session.
This rebellion (as is well known) was originally organized by Presbyterians in Belfast, and
from a sympathy with the French Revolution ; the object of its original promoters being to make Ireland, with the assistance of France, an independent republic. When it spread to the south-eastern counties, being an insurrection of the rest of the community against the governing class, it necessarily assumed the character of a war of Catholics against Protestants *; which alarmed the Presbyterians of the north, and deterred them from further participation in the rebellion of which they themselves had been the originators. As this movement was purely of a political nature,-a rising intended to be general, and to produce a total change in the form of government, it has no connexion with the class of disturbances of which it is proposed to give an account in the present workt.
* See Lord Kingston's evidence before the Lords' Committee on the state of Ireland, 1825, p. 428; and Mr. O'Connell's before the Commons' Committee, p. 73.
† The following extract from Mr. O'Driscol's Views of Ireland is curious as showing that, in joining in the rebellion, the Irish peasant did not look beyond the alpha and omega of his grievances—land.
“ The Irish peasantry received slowly and imperfectly the ideas which were attempted with so much pains to be impressed upon them. They understood nothing of theories of government. The word liberty, which was in every one's mouth, imported nothing with them but freedom from the old annoyance of tithes and taxes. It was no more than the old system of Whiteboyism, in which they were surprised to find themselves joined by numbers of the higher ranks of society, and multitudes of the middle classes. They had been used to confederations of their own class; and, as in all cases of accession of allies, they soon began to extend their views beyond the old grievances of tithes and heavy assessments to the grievance of rent. Those who had land expected to hold it discharged of this as well as other incumbrances; those who had none, hoped to procure some on the like terms.
“But in the midst of these imaginations they never put off in idea their allegiance to the throne; and their leaders found it necessary to amuse them with a show of respect for kingly authority. This, too, was accord
By the Union, carried in 1800, it was intended that a more equal system of government should be introduced into Ireland; by which the motives for resistance to the English influence would be weakened. The policy of its authors, though tardily and imperfectly followed, was at length adopted under the pressure of necessity; and the plan of administration pursued since the Union has at least prevented the existence of such widespreading discontent and disaffection as prevailed in Ireland at the end of the last century.
The Union, however, only affected the surface of the Irish community; the under-currents of society still flowed in their former directions. To the peer or landholder, who lost his place in parliament; to the barrister, who found his profession inconsistent with a seat in an English House of Commons; to the various persons who were concerned in the management of parliamentary majorities, the distribution of places, and the exercise of ministerial influence; the loss of (what was termed) national independence must have produced a mighty change; but to the Munster or Connaught peasant, who still was forced to pay rent and tithe, to the same persons, at the same rates, and under the same laws, the change was only nominal, and scarcely had more influence on his condition than the contemporaneous transfer of the French sovereignty from the Directory to the First Consul. Accordingly we find that the local troubles arising from the misery
ing to the usual process of Whiteboyism ; which in all its violence never was used to contemplate more than a redress of real and almost intolerable oppressions. Upon this occasion, stretching itself far as it did beyond its accustomed range, surrounded by temptations, and irritated with the difficulties and hazards of its enterprise, yet it failed not to respect the throne of the monarch."-Vol. ii., p. 205.
of the peasantry proceeded without interruption, and have continued to the present day.
The first disturbance in Ireland after the Union, not of a political nature, was that of the Thrashers, in 1806. At this time, “ the entire province of Connaught, with the exception of one county, and two counties on the north-west circuit (Longford and Cavan), were overrun by insurgents so formidable, that the king's judges upon a special commission could not move through the country, except under a military escort; so formidable, that the sentence of the law could not be executed in one particular county town till a general officer had marched from a distant quarter, at the head of a strong force, to support the civil power*.”
The Thrashers of Connaught, like the Whiteboys of Munster in 1786, appear to have had two principal objects in view, the regulation of the parson's tithe, and of the priest's duest. The purposes of these insurgents and their proceedings are thus described by the Attorney-General in his opening speech at Sligo :
“ These persons have discovered that the existing laws are not to their mind; they have found out that there are errors in the state and in the church, and they have conceived that they are the proper persons to undertake the task of reforming them. But not satisfied with infringing the law in their own persons individually, they become associated for the purpose of saying that no person in the community shall dare to obey the law.
So that the first act of those who profess to interfere upon principles of liberty, is to exercise compulsion over the consciences of others, and to say that no man shall presume to form an opinion for himself, nor act upon it, unless
* Chief Justice Bushe on the Maryborough Special Commission,