Page images
[graphic][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

N 1830 the population of Ireland

consisted of 7,943,940 persons, of whom 852,064 were Episcopalian Protestants; 642,356 were Presbyterians, and 21,808 members of other forms of Protestant dissent; the Catholics

numbered 6,427,712 souls. The Church of the 800,000 Protestant Episcopalians was established and endowed, the Church of the 600,000 Presbyterians was endowed but not established, the Church of the 6,000,000 Catholics was neither established nor endowed, the 21,000 Protestant dissenters maintained their churches by voluntary contributions. The 800,000 Protestant Episcopalians belonged to the wealthy, the 6,000,000 Catholics to the poorest classes.

The latter supported their 1 Abridged from Fifty Years of Concessions to Ireland.

clergy according to their means, with generosity; the former had theirs supported for them by the State, and by the Papists, who were forced to pay tithes to the Protestant Establishment. The places of worship of the one body were, comparatively speaking, well-built, commodious edifices, attended by scant congregations; the places of worship of the other were ill-raised structures, utterly inadequate to supply the wants of the people, who, in hundreds and thousands, flocked on the Sabbath to their doors.

On an Irish Sabbath morning,' says Sydney Smith, 'the bell of a neat parish church often summons to worship only the parson and an occasionally - conforming clerk, while, two hundred yards off, a thousand Catholics are huddled together in a miserable hovel, and pelted by all the storms of Heaven.'

In 1830, O'Connell, and a great Catholic bishop, Dr Doyle, opened fire on the tithe system. In a memorable sentence, for which he was much censured at the time, Dr Doyle struck the key-note of the new agitation. Let your hatred of tithes,' he said, "be as lasting as your love of justice.' In October 1830, the tithe war began. Mr Macdonald, the Protestant curate of Graigue--a parish containing 4000 Catholics and 63 Protestants—contrary to the general practice of the clergy of the Established Church, demanded tithes of the Catholic priest, Father Doyle. Father Doyle refused to pay, and Macdonald seized his horse. The news of this demand and




seizure quickly spread throughout the parish, and the peasantry, rallying round the priest, struck against the payment of tithes.

In February 1831, steps were taken to enforce the law. Colonel Sir John Harvey, the resident magistrate of the district, collected a strong force of military and police, and with them seized the vantage points of the parish. The village of Graigue, which lies in a beautifully situated valley on the banks of the Barrow, was occupied by a body of 350 police. Thomastown was held by a troop of the ist Dragoon Guards, and Gowran by a detachment of the 21st Fusiliers. Altogether, Colonel Harvey had at his disposal a force of 600 men. In March 'hostilities' commenced. Colonel Harvey's plan of campaign was this: he determined to make a raid on all the cattle in the vicinity of Graigue, and to move the whole lot off under an escort so strong that the peasants would not dream of resistance, and that the law might thus be enforced without any risk of bloodshed. The peasants were well aware of the strength of Colonel Harvey's force, and also shrewdly suspected what the plan of attack would be. They accordingly resolved to take great precautions to safeguard the cattle, and they knew so much of the law as to be aware that cattle placed under lock and key could not be seized. Their plan of defence, therefore, was to 'hurry' the cattle off the moment the military and police should come up, and to place them in legal security. The better to carry out this plan, the cattle


[ocr errors]

were collected in groups at various points around the village, sentinels were placed in charge of them, directions were given to have Colonel Harvey closely watched; and the 'mot d'ordre' was issued that the moment his force appeared a general rush should be made for the cattle-folds, and the cattle swept under cover before the military and police arrived. Colonel Harvey, on his part, caused a sharp look-out to be kept on the movements of the peasants, and directed that the first favourable opportunity should be seized for taking them by surprise.

On the 3d of March, having heard that all was quiet in the valley of Graigue, that the men were at work ploughing in the fields, the women engaged in various avocations, and perfect peace and stillness prevailing everywhere, Colonel Harvey gave orders to advance. The police and soldiers moved rapidly up the hills by which the valley is surrounded, but before they had reached the summits their attention was arrested by the blowing of horns, the ringing of chapel bells, the shouting and whistling of men, and all the sounds of a great commotion. On reaching the summits, they looked upon a lively and an exciting scene. The men had unyoked their horses from the ploughs, and were galloping off at a great speed in all directions over the plain. Thousands of peasants, mounted and on foot, were dashing into the valley and filling up the spaces through which the troops had to pass to reach the points where the cattle were known





to be collected. The women rushed after the men, making for the houses and hurrying before them the children, who, screaming and yelling, joined in the general chase. The position of affairs was clear at a glance; the peasants were hastening to the improvised cattle-folds for the purpose of placing their flocks securely under lock and key. To intercept their movements and to reach the cattlefolds before them, the troops set off in full chase, helter skelter. An exciting and an amusing race ensued, but the peasants won. When Colonel Harvey's men reached the cattle-folds there was not so much as a pig to be seen-except under lock and key. During the manoeuvres of the military and the defensive operations of the peasants not an angry word passed, not an expression of ill-will was interchanged. Indeed, to Colonel Harvey and the military, the whole scene appeared supremely ludicrous and painfully undignified. When the ‘engagement' was over, many of the peasants came up to the magistrate and said, 'We wish no harm to the soldiers and police, colonel, and we don't want to do them any harm, but we will not pay any tithes ever again, and we will resist always as we resisted to-day.' For two months Colonel Harvey, with his force of 600 men, persevered in his efforts to collect Mr Macdonald's tithes, and at the end of that period he had succeeded in collecting precisely one-third of the amount due by the whole parish. He then desisted and early in May withdrew his little army, leaving the peasants

« PreviousContinue »