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nooks and crannies of the kingdom. Unfortunately, the circumstances under which this great population came into being, instead of obliterating the memories of the past, kept them bright and clear in ever present suffering. The very framework of society seemed designed to unite the anciently disunited people in a community of miseries and antipathies. The priests, in defiance of the law, and of the rewards offered for their apprehension, never deserted their flocks. They kept alive the traditions of the people while ministering to their spiritual wants. Parents handed down the old tales of suffering to their children, and these again to their children, and the past was ever present to the moody people. By nature imaginative, sensitive, and ardent, the Kelt listened to the wrongs of his country, magnified and distorted in oral recitals, till they incorporated themselves with his very being, and he felt all that his race ever endured as if he had suffered it personally. And the millions of the Irish grew up in hatred and detestation of England.*
Petty believed that the Irish would not easily rebel again, because “six of eight of them live in a brutish, nasty condition, as in cabins, with neither chimney,
* In many cases the hatred of England, and the Irish class anti. pathies, seem to be supported less by definite ideas of the past, than by watchwords and meaningless party cries. In Belfast the lower orders are divided into those who, when drunk, leap in the air, and cry, “ To hell with the Pope;" and those who, in a like condition, shout “Death to King William !"-party expressions, for using which several persons are almost every morning convicted. The memory of Cromwell is execrated, in connection with transactions which took place in parts of the country that he never visited, and in other times than those in which he lived. This is what we should expect. It is none the less true, that it is in the ancient history of the country, as popularly understood, that the antipathies have their common basis.
door, stairs, nor window; and feed chiefly on milk and potatoes, whereby their spirits are not disposed for war." The potato-eaters did, however, very soon after rebel and extract the treaty of Limerick from their oppressors at the sword point. That done, they settled to their potatoes and low spirits, in worse case than ever under the penal code instead of the treaty. They clung to the land, of course, as to life—their cabins and patches of potato ground. They used to neglect marriage and the proprieties of life. They now became ominously decent, finding the only solace of their lives in love and the family affections. They were in the condition most favourable to the growth of population. The moral checks on marriage-self-respect, the hope of rising in the world-operated scarcely at all; the physical but feebly. Satisfied with the poorest cabins and meanest fare—relying on the potato, and content with it—they reared their children to become, like themselves, labourers on ever-diminishing patches of the land. The landlords might have checked this progress by prohibiting the subdivisions of farms, but they did not. Tyrants by position, their only interest in the people was to get out of them as much as possible. In their increase, they saw simply a present advantage—the increase of rent, through the increase of competition for the soil. The absentees, who were numerous, knew nothing of what went on, and cared nothing so their rents were remitted. Resident or absentee, the landlords felt their possessions to be insecure, partly from the state of the country, but chiefly from the state of their titles. The fact that few of their titles would bear inspection was the chief obstacle to such a system of registration as would give security to titles. In consequence of this insecurity, again, they took no such interest in their
estates as landlords usually take in well-settled countries. They regarded their estates as tenants at will regard their farms, looking rather to present profit than to permanent improvement. Had there been a poor-law, to throw the support of a beggared people on the land, the landlords would have been more chary of fostering a population that was ever going lower the greater it grew. Scotland and England had poor-laws; but for Ireland, full of paupers, no such law had been thought of. To have proposed it, would have been to ask the oppressors to support their victims. So, for long, the subdivision of the land proceeded, the population grew, and rents went up till it was impossible they could be paid. Rent was mostly paid by labour done for the landlord; and while the money rent went up,
money value of labour, owing to the same cause, went down, till the year's wage became less than the year's rent. The peasants became debtors first, and then beggarstheir very lives at the landlord's disposal. Many of them were from time to time evicted, and joined the miserable army of wandering mendicants, numbering some hundred thousands, who represented the evicted septmen of the earlier times. Thus, as the Irish grew in numbers, they grew in wretchedness. I have been speaking of course of the peasants merely—the “ six of eight” of Sir William Petty.
When the population had become dense, and the difficulties of subsistence pressing, a sudden and temporary change of system increased the national misery. The better class of farmers, finding agriculture too hazardous under the system of short tenures, bade for large farms as cattle tracts, and the landlords accommodated them. The cottiers had to be cleared off to make way for cattle and pasture-enclosures. It was
undoubtedly this change which led to the diffusion of Whiteboyism, which, originating in Munster in 1761, spread rapidly over Ireland. The Whiteboy Society was a secret one, which, springing out of purely local causes, was thus diffused. It gave organisation to the peasants. Secret societies were to be henceforth the new and characteristic form of Irish combination.
The occasion of the rising of the Whiteboys or Levellers, was the tyranny and rapacity of the landlords, and the exactions of the tithe proctors“harpies,” says one writer, “who squeezed out the very vitals of the people, and, by process of law, dragged from them the little the landlord had left.” This strong language seems justified by a statement by the Lord Lieutenant to a commission of inquiry into the causes of the rising. “I know that it is impossible for human wretchedness to exceed that of the miserable peasantry in the province of Munster. I know that the unhappy tenantry are ground to powder by relentless landlords. Far from being able to pay tithes, they have neither food nor raiment for themselves.” “ As to the peasantry of Munster,” said the Attorney-General in 1787, "it is impossible for them longer to exist in the extreme wretchedness under which they labour.” Of course the aim of the poor creatures, in their Whiteboyism, was to regulate rents, to raise the price of labour, and oppose the collection of tithes and some other taxes, which they could not pay; in short, they aimed at living, which they found they could hardly do, under a law of landlord and tenant in which their interest had never been contemplated. Landlords, tenants who bade high for land, tithe-proctors, and tax-gatherers, were thus their special victims. Their instruments of justice were such rude means as arson, murder, horrible beatings and mutilations nigh unto
death. The long pent-up fires of hate having once burst out, were thus terrible. The insurgents took the name of Levellers from their levelling all the enclosures of the land, to which practice they at first confined themselves. The immediate cause indeed of the rising, was the enclosure of a common. Some Munster landlords having let their lands at utterly exorbitant rents, the tenants stipulated for and were allowed the use of certain common land to make their bargains tolerable. Afterwards, however, the landlords resumed the common, and enclosed it.
The Whiteboys continued their disturbances for several years, in defiance of the exertions of the military and severities of the criminal law. As the consolidation of farms proceeded, the organisation spread with it from Munster into Leinster and Connaught—the numbers and atrocities of the Whiteboys increasing with every eviction. By 1775 they were making such head in Kildare, Kilkenny, and Queen's Counties, that a special Act was passed for their suppression. They continued the disturbances, however, almost without interruption down to 1785, when the wave of disturbance broke away to the south, and reappeared in Munster as the insurrection of the Rightboys—Whiteboys with a new name, and animated with bitter hostility to the clergy, who fled before them in terror to the towns. The proceedings of these insurgents were mysterious, and very alarming to the Government. Bodies of five thousand of them at a time were to be seen marching through the country unarmed, a spectacle not void of political interest. “ In their proceedings," reports the Lord Lieutenant, “ they have shown the greatest address, which is the more alarming, as it demonstrates system and design.” Meantime, within the