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state of the peasantry is required, in order to rouse them to aggressive measures ; some positive ill usage or infliction of evil, such as ejeçtment from land, driving for rent, &c. : to the mere passive state of suffering produced by scantiness of food, or the failure of the potato crop, the Irish peasants, a class remarkable for their patient endurance, are willing to subunit; and hence we find, that, at times, when a large part of the population are hanging over the verge of starvation, (a state in which the English peasantry would infallibly break out into disturbance,) the country is nevertheless for the most part tranquil. This appears from the statements of the same witness, with respect to the western part of the barony of Moyferta, county of Clare, (the southwestern extremity of the county.)
“ You cannot forget, in the year of distress, how that part of the barony was affected ?-Nothing could exceed the misery of it. you aware how
thousand souls were left entirely destitute by the failure of that sort of supply which they had been accustomed to trust to for support ?-I paid a great deal of attention to the subject at that time, and I know, that early in March, there were hundreds of families that lived upon one meal a day.
" What was that meal composed of?—They pared their potatoes, and they mixed them up, indeed, sometimes with seaweed; the period that I allude to, was when they had but one meal a day, and that very soon was consumed.
< What was the conduct and deportment of the peasantry of this district, so thickly peopled, in this state of peculiar suffering ?-1 recollect perfectly, in the year 1817, when outrages were committing in other parts of the country, and particularly in the vicinity of Ennis, stores broken open and provisions carried off, at that time we were enabled to bring cargoes of provisions through the town of Kilrush, backwards and for
wards, to send them up to Limerick, without the least interruption; it was wonderful that the people bore it with such patience; I am alloding to 1817.
“ Will you describe their conduct in that district during the year 1822, under those sufferings ?—There was no instance of any violence whatever that came to my knowledge; the people bore it most astonishingly, and were exceedingly easily managed; all the arrangements that were made for their relief, they fell into with great regularity, and there was no difficulty with them.”-House of Commons, 1824, p. 153.
In confirmation of what has just been stated, it may be added, that the Whiteboy crimes are generally committed in winter, during the long dark nights; whereas the great distress always occurs in summer, in the months of June and July, when a deficient potato crop is exhausted, and the new crop is not yet fit for food.
Having now adduced all the chief statements of the witnesses examined by the Committees above-mentioned, with respect to the causes of the local disturbances in Ireland, who agree generally (in Mr. Baron Foster's words), in assigning them to the poverty of the agricultural labourers and cottier tenants, and their inability to meet certain pecuniary charges; I shall abstain from commenting in detail on the manner in which rent and other payments press upon the Irish peasant, inasmuch as this would lead to a discussion of the tenure of land, the system of agriculture, and other important questions, altogether foreign to the immediate object of the present work. With regard to the system of managing landed property, I will only add the testimony of Mr. Wakefield, who (although not, perhaps, of equal authority to the persous whose evidence has been above adduced) yet might, in this
instance, if it were necessary, be confirmed by a host of witnesses.
“ In Ireland, landlords never erect buildings on their property, or expend anything in repairs; nor do leases in that country contain so many clauses as in England. The office of an agent is thus rendered very easy, for he has nothing to do but to receive his employer's rents twice a-year, and to set out the turf-bog in lots in the spring. Six months' credit is generally given on the rents, which is called 'the hanging gale.' This is one of the great levers of oppression by which the lower classes are kept in a kind of perpetual bondage ; for as every family almost holds some portion of land, and owes half-a-year's rent, which a landlord can exact in a moment, this debt hangs over their heads like a load, and keeps them in a continual state of anxiety and terror. If the rent is not paid, the cattle are driven to the pound, and if suffered to remain there a certain number of days, they are sold. This I have frequently seen done after the occupying tenant had paid his rent to the middleman, who had failed to pay it to the head landlord. The numerous instances of distress occasioned by this severity, which every one who has resided any time in Ireland must have witnessed, are truly deplorable; and I believe them to be one of the chief causes of those frequent risings of the people, under various denominations, which at different times have disturbed the internal tranquillity of the country, and been attended with atrocities shocking to humanity, and disgraceful to the empire*.”
* Wakefield's Account of Ireland, vol. i. p. 244.
CHARACTER AND OBJECTS OF IRISH DISTURBANCES.
Having thus attempted to trace the causes of the Whiteboy disturbances in Ireland, we now proceed to consider their nature and character, and the objects which the persons concerned in them seek to attain.
In order to comprehend the peculiar character of the offences springing from the Whiteboy system in Ireland, it is desirable to consider all crimes as divided into two classes, not according to the ordinary distinction of crimes against the person, and crimes against property, but with reference to the motive with which they are committed, or the effect which they are intended to produce.
Under one class may be arranged those which are intended to intimidate, to determine men's wills, to produce a general effect, not necessarily even limited to the individual whose person or property is the object of the crime, but at any rate calculated to influence his conduct in respect of some future action. Such are threatening notices, malicious injury to property, beatings, murders, &c., in consequence of some act of the party injurious to a particular person, or to classes of persons. The object of these is either directly to prevent, or to compel the performance of some future act, which a specified individual is supposed to be likely to perform or not to perform; as when a man is threatened, either orally or by a written notice, that he will
be killed if he ejects or admits such a tenant,-if he dismisses or does not dismiss such a servant,-if he prosecutes or gives evidence against such a party; or, secondly, it is to punish a party for having done some act; as when a person is killed or beaten, his house or ricks burnt, his cattle maimed or mutilated, his wife or daughter ravished, because he has ejected or admitted such a tenant, because he has dismissed or not dismissed such a servant, because he has prosecuted or given evidence against such a party. In the former of these two cases, the party is called on to do, or forbear from some designated act, on pain of a threatened evil; in the latter, the evil is actually inflicted on him, for having conducted himself in a manner either known by public fame to be obnoxious, or contrary to express orders conveyed to him. In both these cases, it will be observed, the offenders undertake to carry into effect their wishes, by means not of moral but of physical sanctions; to give to their opinion the weight of the law of the state, by arming it with sanctions as painful as those employed by the criminal law; viz., death, corporal punishment, and loss of property. The outrages in question are committed by the offenders as administrators of a law of opinion, generally prevalent among the class to which they belong. In this character they look, not merely to particular, but also to general results ; not merely to the present, but also to the future; not merely to themselves, but also to those with whom they are leagued, and with whom they have an identity of interests. The criminal, who acts with these views, is as it were an executioner, who carries into effect the verdict of an uncertain and nonapparent tribunal; and it usually happens that others