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proceeding by distress against a number of small farmers and against the large farmers ; suppose a number of mere peasants, occupying tenements by the road side, what would be the articles against which the distress of landlord would proceed ? -Against a mere cottage-tenant it would be their furniture and their pig, and, if they have one, their cow, but that they would not be likely to have.
Then the effect of a distress upon a small farmer is infinitely more severe than it is acting upon a large farmer; does the proceeding by distress, as against the small farmers, frequently extend to the sale of the potatoes, and the actual means of support of their family?—They may distrain the potatoes.
“ Are you aware whether, in point of fact, it does frequently take place in those small sub-divisions of land ?-I have known many instances where they have been distrained ; I cannot say that that is the general custom in the country to distrain all the food and all the property of the peasantry, it is not the general custom, but there have been instances of it.
“ Then do you conceive that this increasing sub-division of land, and the effect which that produces upon the mode of recovering rent, has had any connexion with the disturbances that have lately prevailed in Ireland ?-I do think that it has a very great connexion with the disturbances.
“ You have described the usual modes of proceeding of landlords to recover their rent,—what are almost the necessary consequence of those proceedings, with regard to the interest of the landlord; does not the ruin of the tenant naturally follow ?-Certainly; if the landlord proceeds by that severe mode of distress.”—Minutes of Evidence, House of Commons, 1824,
There is so much permanent misery in the southern and western parts of Ireland; the mass of the country population are in such a state of depression and suffering; they have so little either to hope or to fear, that they are ready at almost any time to break out
into disturbances, in order if not to repeal, at least to weaken that law which they have always been accustomed to consider as their enemy.
Thus Mr. Barrington, after having stated the manner in which persons ar sworn in by the Whiteboys, is asked
“ You seem inclined to think that they go through the country to swear the people as a matter of business?-I have no doubt they do.
“ The parties who do this are sometimes, as was the case in Clare, not more numerous than eight or nine individuals ?-If you trace back any disturbance to its origin in any of these counties, you will find that it arose from some trifling circumstance. In the county of Limerick it arose from the local cause I have mentioned on the Courtenay estate, and in Clare it was chiefly occasioned by the Caseys.
“What was it that led to it in the county of Clare ?- The want of potato ground; and just previously there had been several contested elections, which brought the people much together, in addition to the extreme excitement of an election.
“ Had the individuals composing these gangs been conspicuous before, as persons committing breaches of the law ?No; they had rather been a quiet family: three of the brothers were executed. Soon after the disturbance was at its height they were apprehended, and each offered himself as an approver. It was not thought prudent to take either of them, but another man of the name of Sheehan was taken as an approver against them; each offered to betray all his companions. The great object should always be to have an approver in every case, as nothing destroys confidence or breaks up a gang so much.
“Your testimony goes generally to the inflammable state of the community, that they are ready prepared, and want nothing but ignition ?- To a great extent it is so; and the peaceable and well-intentioned people are always compelled to join. I do not mean to give such a character to the whole population of Ireland; but I take it, that if there were twenty bad men in
a barony, they would set the whole county in a flame, unless they were checked.
“ Then if there are so few that excite these disturbances, can you give us any reason why it is that they are not arrested ?It is not known that they do excite them until after the disturbance is got to its height; you can generally trace back the disturbance to such a cause.”—Minutes of Evidence, House of Commons, 1832. Nos. 38–41; 45—6.
There is a saying mentioned by Fielding, that “when children are doing nothing, they are doing mischief.” This remark may probably in most cases be extended to men : at least, among the peasantry of Ireland, the want of employment is the cause of crime, not only by creating poverty, and making them dependent on land for their subsistence, but also by affording opportunity and leisure for the commission of outrage. Men who worked during the daytime would be little inclined to spend their nights in Whiteboy expeditions.
It might be supposed, from what has been said, that the disposition to outrage varies directly with the misery of the people; that in proportion as the inhabitants of any district are ill-fed, clothed, and housed, oppressed with heavy charges, and scantily provided with employment for hire; in the same degree disturbances and Whiteboy crimes abound. This, however, is not the case ; there appears to be a certain pitch of wretchedness which breaks the spirit, and produces a dull lethargic languor ; by which people are incapacitated from having recourse to the active measures required for waging the Whiteboy warfare*. The fol
* It was probably a perception of this fact which led Colonel Rochfort, a magistrate of the Queen's County, to express the following opinions :
" Do you think it reasonable to expect permanent tranquillity in Ire
lowing example, to which others might be added, is mentioned by Major Warburton.
“ Do you conceive that the mass of the population in the county of Clare is very miserably provided with food and lodging, and bedding, and the other necessaries of life?-Indeed they are.
“ Could you speak of them comparatively with those in the same class of life in the county of Limerick, on the opposite side of the Shannon ?-My knowledge of Limerick is very limited, but I would not say there was any very substantial difference; I think the people of Clare are a better disposed peasantry than those in Limerick, but I do not think, in point of comfort or accommodation, there is any very substantial difference between the peasantry of the one county and the other.
“ Have you observed the peasantry in the neighbourhood of Rathkeale?-I have seen them.
“ Are there many parts of the county of Clare in which the mass of the peasantry are equally well provided with the common comforts of life, with the peasantry in the vicinity of Rathkeale?-I think I have almost answered that already ; I do not think there is a great deal of difference between them; the wretchedness in some of the western parts of the county of Clare is as great as human nature can almost be subject to.
“ Have you found, generally, that the disposition to outrage among the peasantry of Clare is proportionate to the degree of misery they endure ?—On the contrary, the part I allude to has for some time been, indeed I may almost say since the time I went down in 1816, the most tranquil part of that district.
“ Will you state the name of that district ?— The district I
land, when there is such a state of wretchedness, and the people so badly clothed, fed, and housed ?—My abstract opinion is, the lower in the scale of society the populace is, the more sure you are of its obedience.
“ In order to keep the country quiet, you would keep the country wretched ?-I would not keep it so, but I think it would secure the tranquillity of the country,"—House of Commons, 1832, Nos. 1225-6.
allude to is the coast district, from Kilrush to Galway Bay.”— Minutes of Evidence, House of Commons, 1824, p. 126.
The disturbances in question appear to prevail most where the peasantry are bold and robust, and one degree removed above the lowest poverty; and where the land is productive, and consequently thickly peopled. Thus one of the most disturbed districts in Ireland is that singularly fertile plain which extends from Cashel into the county of Limerick ; indeed, the southern part of the county of Tipperary appears, from the very beginning, to have been remarkable for its disturbances*. On the other hand, in mountainous and thinly-peopled districts (such as Kerry, the south of Cork, and the west of Claret), where the peasants are poorer, but the population is thinner, and there is less opportunity for combination, these crimes are of comparatively rare occurrence. The cause of this difference will appear more clearly when we come to treat of the character of the Whiteboy associations; if the Whiteboys were bands of robbers, like the banditti of southern Italy and Spain, or the Klephts of Greece, they would be cut off from the rest of the people, on whom they would prey indiscriminately; and they would seek to hide themselves in caves and mountains. But, instead of forming distinct and separate bodies, they are taken almost indiscriminately, like jurymen, from the mass of the population, into which, when their work is done, they melt again, undistinguishable from their friends and neighbours.
It may be further remarked that some active interference, either actual or apprehended, with the ordinary
* See above pp. 6. 18.