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Chap. argument of Peel, never failed to attract a full attendance x' of members on both sides of the House, Mr Wilmot

1822. Horton's proposals regarding emigration, the only real remedy for the evils of the unhappy country, and involving the fate of six millions, were coldly listened to, and generally got quit of by the House being counted out.

But it was not merely by sins of omission that the legislature, at this period, left unhealed the wounds, the contrac- and unrelieved the miseries, of Ireland. Their deeds of rar°eucyhe commission were still more disastrous in their effects, upon ir»- rphe cont,raction of the currency, and consequent fall of the prices of agricultural produce fifty per cent, fell with crashing effect upon a country wholly agricultural, and a people who had no other mode of existence but the sale of that produce. This had gone on now for nearly three years; and its effect had been, not only to suck the little capital which they possessed out of the farmers, but in many instances to produce a deep-rooted feeling of animosity between them and their landlords, which was leading to the most frightful disorders.* All the agrarian outrages which have in every age disgraced Ireland have ipearco's arisen from one cause—the contest for pieces of land, the weMesieVf dread of being ejected from them, and jealousy of any Ann3 Reg. stranger's interference. It is no wonder it is so; for lVMarquis to ^hem it is a question, not of change of possession, weiicsiey but of life or death.1 The ruinous fall in the price of

to Secretary , *

of state, agricultural produce of all sorts had rendered the pay1822.' ment of rents, at least in full, wholly impossible, and had led, in consequence, to measures of severity having been

* "I request your attention to the suggestions which I have submitted for the more effectual restraint of this system of mysterious engagements, formed under the solemnity of secret oaths, binding his Majesty's liege subjects to act under authorities not known to the law, nor derived from the State, for purposes undefined, not disclosed in the first process of initiation, nor until the infatuated novice has been sworn to the vow of unlimited and lawless obedience."—Marquis Welleslev to Mr Secretary Peel, Jan. 29, 1823; Lift of WMtslty, iii. 360.

in many instances resorted to. Distrainings had become Chap.

frequent; ejections were beginning to be resorted to,'

and the landlords were fain to introduce a set of Scotch 1822, or English farmers, who might succeed in realising those rents which they had enjoyed in former days, but saw no longer a chance of extracting from their Celtic tenantry.

This was immediately met by the usual system of resistance on the part of the existing occupants of the soil; Progress of and on this occasion it assumed a more organised and rLVduformidable appearance than it had ever previously done. ^ireuTd. Over the whole extent of the three disturbed provinces a regular system of nocturnal outrage and violence was commenced, and carried on for a long time with almost entire impunity. Houses were entered in the night by bands of ruffians with their faces blackened, who carried off arms and ammunition, and committed outrages of every description; the roads were beset by armed and mounted bodies of insurgents, who robbed every person they met, and broke into every house which lay on their way; and to such a length did their audacity reach, that they engaged, in bodies of five hundred and a thousand, with the yeomanry and military forces, and not unfrequently came off victorious. Even when, by concentrating the troops, an advantage was obtained in one quarter, it was only at the expense of losses in another; for the "Rockites," as they were called, dispersed into small bodies, and, taking advantage of the absence of the mili-1 Pearce's tary, pursued their depredations at a distance. No less lesley, iii. than two thousand men assembled in the mountains to the 349,leu north of Bandon, and their detachments committed several ^ul^m murders and outrages; and five thousand mustered toge- ^ ther, many of them armed with muskets, near Macroom, 2M«»s and openly bid defiance to the civil and military forces of 1822,10?" the country.1

These frightful and alarming outrages commanded the early and vigilant attention of the Lord-lieutenant. Not

Chap. content with sending immediate succour, in men and arms, x' to the menaced districts, he prepared and laid before Government several memorials on the measures requisite

1822.

120.

Lord Wei- to restore order in the country, in which, as the first step, conduct and a great increase in the police establishment of the country impartiah- was suggested.* At the same time the greatest exertions were made to reconcile parties, and efface party distinctions at the Castle of Dublin. Persons of respectability of all parties shared in the splendid hospitality of the Lord-lieutenant; Orange processions and commemorations were discouraged; the dressing of King William's statue in Dublin, a party demonstration, was prohibited; and every effort made to show that Government was in earnest in its endeavours to appease religious dissensions, and heal the frightful discord which had so long desolated the country. But the transition from a wrong to a right system is often more perilous than the following out of a wrong one. You alienate one party without conciliating the other; so much more deep is recollection of injury, than gratitude for benefits in the human breast. Mar,Ann. R«e. quis Wellesley's administration, so different from anyssfpewce'.J thing they had ever experienced, gave the utmost offence J^ofWe1-to the Orange party, hitherto in possession of the whole L rfw1:i s^na^ons of influence and power in the country. To lesley to such a length did the discontent arise, that the Lordly Pit\, lieutenant was publicly insulted at the theatre of Dublin, ?823.29, and the riot was of so serious a kind as to give rise to a trial at the next assizes.1

* One authentic document may convey an idea of the general state of Ireland, with the exception of the Protestant province of Ulster, at this period. "The progress of this diabolical system of outrage, during the last month, has been most alarming; and we regret to say that we have been obliged, from want of adequate force, to remain almost passive spectators of its daring advances, until at length many have been obliged to convert their houses into garrisons, and others have sought refuge in the towns. We cannot expect individuals to leave their houses and families exposed, while they go out with patrolling parties; and to continue in such duty for any length of time, is beyond their physical strength, and inconsistent with their other duties."—(Memorial of twenty-eight Magistrates of County Cork.) Annual Regitter, 1823, p. 9.

Dreadful but necessary examples were made, in many Chap. of the disturbed districts, of the most depraved and x"

hardy of the depredators. So numerous had been the outrages, that although the great majority of them had Dreadful

, b J J examples in

been perpetrated with impunity, yet great numbers or thedisturb

, , i j • . i .-i ed districts.

prisoners had been made—prisoners against whom the evidence was so clear that their conviction followed of course. In Cork, no less than 366 persons awaited the special commission sent down in February to clear the jail, of whom thirty-five received sentence of death. Several of these were left for immediate execution. Similar examples were made in Limerick, Tipperary, and Kilkenny, where the assizes were uncommonly heavy; and by these dreadful but necessary examples the spirit of insubordination was, by the sheer force of terror, for the time subdued. One curious and instructive fact appeared from the evidence adduced at these melancholy trials, and that was, that the principal leaders and most daring actors in their horrid system of nocturnal outrage and murder, were the persons who had been cast down from the rank of substantial yeomen, and reduced to a state of desperation1 by the long-continued depression in the price of agricul- si.'' tural produce.1 *

But ere long a more dreadful evil than even these ,?) agrarian outrages broke out in this unhappy land; and Dreadful the south and west of Ireland was punished by a cala- {he"»outh mity the natural consequence, in some degree, of its sins, "ed, of but aggravated to a most frightful extent by a visita-APril 1823 , tion of Providence. The disturbed state of the coun

* "The authors of the outrages consisted of threo classes: 1. Many farmers had advanced their whole capital in improvements upon the land. Those men, by the depression of farming produce, had been reduced from the rank of substantial yeomen to complete indigenco, and they readily entered into any project likely to embroil the country, and, by the sharo of education which they possessed, unaccompanied by any religious sentiments, became at once the ablest and least restrained promoters of mischief. 2. The second consisted of those who had been engaged in the Rebellion of 1798 and their disciples. 3. The third consisted of the formidable mass of ignorance and bigotry which was diffused through the whole south of Ireland."—Annual Regitter, 1822, pp. 30, 31.

VOL. II. 2 I

Chap, try during the whole of 1822 had caused the cultiva

tion of potatoes to be very generally neglected in the

1822- south and west, partly from the numbers engaged in agrarian outrages, partly from the terror inspired in those who were more peaceably disposed. In addition to this, the potato crops in the autumn of 1822 failed, to a very great degree, over the same districts; and though the grain harvest was not only good, but abundant, yet this had no effect in alleviating the distresses of the peasantry, because the price of agricultural produce was so low, and they had been so thoroughly impoverished by its long continuance, that they had not the means of purchasing it. Literally speaking, they were starving in the midst of plenty. The consequence was, that in Connaught and Munster, in the spring of 1823, multitudes of human beings were almost destitute of food; and the nocturnal disturbances ceased, not so much from the terrors of the law, as from the physical exhaustion of those engaged in them. What was still worse, the sufferings of the present had extinguished the hopes of the future ; and the absorption of three-fourths of the seed-potatoes, in many places, in present food, seemed to presage a still worse famine in the succeeding year. In these melancholy and alarming circumstances, the conduct of Government was most praiseworthy, and was as much distinguished by active and welljudged benevolence as it had previously been by impartial administration, and the energetic repression of crime. Five hundred thousand pounds were placed at the disposal of the Irish government by the English cabinet; 1 Pearce'a and roads, bridges, harbours, and such objects of public weuedeyf utility, were set on foot wherever they seemed practicable. Sh'sm; •^u*; *u's melancholy calamity called forth a still more ?822 33g' storing proof of British kindness and generosity, and Balrdtos'ir an<orded proof how thoroughly Christian charity can obH.jajior, literate the fiercest divisions, and bury in oblivion the 1822.' worst delinquencies of this world. England forgot the sins of Ireland; she saw only her suffering.1 Subscrip

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