Page images
PDF
EPUB

of Graigue in the peaceful enjoyment of their victory.

The example of Graigue was quickly followed throughout the counties of Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford and Tipperary, and the strike against tithes soon became general. On the 18th of June, some cattle seized for tithe by the Rev. Alexander M'Clintock, rector of NewtownBarry, were put up for sale.

The people had collected in large numbers to prevent the sale, and to make a demonstration generally against the tithe system. On the cattle being brought out under an escort of police, the mob charged the police, seized the cattle, and carried them off in triumph. The police promptly rallied, charged the mob, and recaptured the cattle. The peasantry apparently determined not to be baffled in their designs, quickly collected again, and crowded upon the police and sheriff's officers. The resident magistrate in charge, feeling alarmed at what he considered the threatening attitude of the peasants, called out a division of the yeomanry, mustering 190 men, each man being provided with fifty rounds of ball cartridge. Who began the encounter which ensued, it is difficult to say. Some assert that the yeomanry were at once received by the people with a volley of stones; others declare that the attitude of the people was perfectly passive when the yeomanry fired on them. The one thoroughly well authenticated fact is, that the appearance of the yeomanry was followed by a most sanguinary conflictthe people (who were without firearms) assail

1831)

NEWTOWN-BARRY

277

ing the yeomen with stones, sticks and slanes, the yeomen charging the people with fixed bayonets, and pouring into them a steady and well-directed fire. The conflict was soon over. Twelve of the peasants were almost instantaneously shot dead, and twenty fatally wounded. The yeomen escaped almost scathless. The mob were effectually dispersed, but the sale of the cattle was not carried out. The people succeeded in their immediate design, but at a high cost.

On the 26th of December 1830, a large gathering of people collected around the house of Dr Hamilton, the rector of Knocktophera gentleman not unpopular in the parish (where the Catholics were as forty to one to the Protestants), though his tithes were set high,' and regularly exacted. Dr Hamilton despatched one of his servants to learn their business, and they sent back word, saying, We want a reduction of tithes; we want to see Dr Hamilton.' Dr Hamilton refused to see them, declaring that he would hold no intercourse with a mob which had approached his house in a threatening manner. 'But,' he added, 'I am prepared to receive a respectable deputation from the tithe-payers ; and if such a deputation will wait upon me this day week, I shall hear what they have to

[ocr errors]

say.'

The peasants expressed themselves quite satisfied with this proposal, and peaceably withdrew. On the 3d of January 1831, a deputation, consisting of twelve of the most

was

we

are

respectable tenant - farmers of the neighbourhood, waited on Dr Hamilton, who attended on the occasion by Colonel Harvey, Mr Greene the resident magistrate of the district and others.

Dr Hamilton received the deputation in an apparently irritated and a petulant mood. What do you want?' he said, when they were ushered in. “Are you tired of me? Do you want to get rid of me?' 'No, your reverence,' the deputation replied, not tired of you; we would never get a better. You have lived amongst us, and spent your income amongst us. All we want is a reduction. The people are determined on it, and we beg you to consent to a small reduction.' 'I have lived among you,' answered Dr Hamilton, 'for thirty-five years. Have I during that time done any act of harshness towards you?' 'No, your reverence; but at the same time, sir, you are drawing from us in tithe £1700 a year, and your reverence's father drew only £350. Yes,' said Hamilton, "but it is not more than the value of the tithe.' 'But, sir, what value do you give us for the tithe?' 'I tell you what it is,' said Hamilton, evading this question, you are refusing to pay tithes now; you will refuse to pay rents by-and-by. “There is a great difference, sir,' retorted the spokesman of the deputation, between tithes and rents. We get some value for the rents; we get the land, anyway, for them. But we get no value at all for the tithes. We pay our own clergy, and we have

[ocr errors]

1831]

CARRICKSHOCK

279

not any business with any other.' 'Well, and what reduction do you want?' said the rector, coming ultimately to the point. The deputation answered that they would be satisfied with a reduction of five per cent., but this reduction Hamilton firmly declined to make. After some further conversation and argument, the deputation withdrew, having failed completely in the object of their visit.

As they were leaving, they said to Colonel Harvey, who enjoyed the privilege, rarely possessed by English officials in Ireland, of commanding popular confidence, Colonel, if his reverence will give us the five per cent. reduction, he will be paid every shilling of his tithes; if he does not, he will not get a farthing of them.'

The deputation having failed, Colonel Harvey, as was his wont, endeavoured to negotiate a friendly arrangement or compromise between the parson and the tithe-payers, but without success.

It may be stated that in Knocktopher, as at other places, the peasantry were divided into two partiesma moderate party and an extreme party—the one willing to pay on certain conditions, the other indisposed to

The immediate effect of the failure of the deputation--which represented the moderate section—was to throw the parish completely into the hands of the extreme men (who were led by a hedge schoolmaster, an old United Irishman), and this circumstance, conjoined with Dr Hamilton's stubborn resolve

pay at all.

not to grant a reduction, led to the breakdown of the negotiations opened by Colonel Harvey.

In March, as there was no prospect of a settlement, and as the peasantry manifested a stronger determination than ever not to give way, Dr Hamilton wrote to Colonel Harvey requesting that strong measures should be taken to put the law in execution.

"A military force,' he said, 'ought to be sent to collect the tithes. . The people are in a state of rebellion. They ought to be compelled to pay.' But Colonel Harvey does not seem to have been inclined to take strong measures to 'compel the people to pay.' His view appears to have been that measures ought rather to be taken to alter than to enforce the law. "The people,' he says, writing to the under - secretary at Dublin Castle, in March, the very day on which he received Hamilton's letter, "are quieter, but still looking for legislative relief.' And again in April he writes, I am of opinion that nothing but legislative enactment—in other words, a change in the law—will allay the agitation.' As Colonel Harvey showed no disposition to place a military force at the service of Dr Hamilton to enable him to collect his tithes, Dr Hamilton communicated directly with the Castle, asking for advice and assistance. The Castle advised that legal proceedings should be taken against the tithe-payers, and promised to provide whatever forces might be requisite for carrying out the law.

In November 1831, the legal proceedings

« PreviousContinue »