(From the “United Irishman” of April 22, 1848).
WHEREVER public addresses have been heretofore made to you as Protestants they were always of one or other of these two kinds – either they came from your leaders, great landlords, Orange Grand Masters and such like grandees, and dwelt much on the enormities of “Romanism” and the treacherous devices of “the Man of Sin,” and on the necessity of strenuously resisting the plots of this same “Man of Sin” (who would appear to have some horrid designs upon you) – or else those addresses came from some “agitating” association or other of O’Connell’s that wanted your help, and so called you gallant fellows, and your fathers and grandfathers gallant fellows, reminded you of the volunteering, and asked you just to volunteer again and follow them, the agitating associations.
Neither of these was exactly the thing for you. The first showed too much zeal for Protestantism and too little for Tenant-right, or any other right of the poor. The second had always a certain air of fawning blarney, besides a suspiciously clerical aspect, that made you naturally recoil.
The first adviser, for all his paternal language and anxiety about “our holy religion,” if you watched him closely, had ejectments hid under his purple sash and orange apron – the other, with his liberalism and truly sincere admiration for your ancestors, appeared too often masquerading in a “holy coat of Treves” or on his knees before the “venerated hierarchy.” Neither of them quite met your case.
For your case was and is just this – the farmers are gradually, in Ulster as in other provinces, losing hold of the soil, under the pressure of poor rates, rents and taxes, and becoming labourers; and the labourers and artisans, from the excessive competition of other labourers and artisans, are sinking gradually into paupers, so that there is a continual sliding scale sloping downward to perdition.
For every ruined farmer there is one destitute labourer the more, for every ejected cottier there is another pauper on the rates, and the still increasing rates weigh down faster and faster continually more and more of those who still struggle to earn their bread into the class which has given up the effort in despair, and thrown itself on the earnings of other men.
Is this or is it not a true statement of the case? And if it be, do you think it is to be remedied by a vow to defend our Protestant constitution in Church and State? It seems to me precisely our constitution in Church and State that has brought us to this condition – it certainly was not the Pope of Rome – the Pope, we know, is the “Man of Sin” and the “Antichrist,” and also, if you like, the “Mystery of Iniquity,” and all that, but he brings no ejectments in Ireland.
The Seven Sacraments are, to be sure, very dangerous, but the quarter acre clause touches you more nearly. In short, our vicious system of government, and especially the infamous land laws, are the machinery that has brought you to this pass, and, as the very Grand Masters say nothing at all about mending these, let them keep their “addresses of loyalty” to themselves.
Then as for the mere “Repealers,” they have long been asking you to join in an effort to restore the Irish Parliament as it stood before the Union. That is to say, to place Ireland and Irishmen and all that is theirs under the feet of the Irish “gentry,” instead of the English and Irish gentry combined; and then our “Repealers” expect you to believe that straightway, on the assembling of Irish peers and Irish nominees of peers in College Green, by some magic or other, tenant-right and the rights of industry will be at once guaranteed to the people.
This kind of babble you have hitherto very properly neglected and despised. While a landlord Parliament rules over Ireland, whether the same sit in College Green or in Westminster, no popular rights will ever be acknowledged by “law.” This is a fundamental axiom in politics; if any of you doubted it before, I hope that the manner in which you have been defrauded in the manner of Tenant-right within the last four years has at length convinced that doubter.
Four years ago Lord Devon and several other landlord-commissioners found that in the North there actually was such a “practice” as the sale of good-will – so much these landlord-commissioners were forced to admit; but they took care to call it a mere practice, not a right, and a practice of selling not a right to hold and enjoy till you were ready to sell.
They further libelled the peaceful farmers of the North of Ireland by calling the sale of Tenant-right a mere “Life insurance,” asserting that an incoming tenant was always forced to pay the price of the outgoing tenant’s good will, lest he should be murdered, and for that reason alone.
You have, I am sure, attended to the course of public affairs since these landlord-commissioners made their report: you have seen four successive bills brought into Parliament by ministers, both Whig and Tory (they are all the same), expressly, avowedly to destroy your tenant-right root and branch, to rob you openly of all you have in the world, and give you instead a title to be compensated for future improvements, provided they were effected according to an elaborate system of specifications which none of you could understand – to be compensated, I say, for these, or an unexpired interest in these, – whenever your landlords, the Grand Masters, might think proper to turn you out of house and home.
You have also observed, doubtless, the tricks of those same ministers (Whig and Tory) to evade the discussion of any of Mr. Sharman Crawford’s bills, by which an imperfect tenant-right would actually have been established; and how, at length, which they could evade it no longer, they boldly threw it out, as an infringement on the “rights of property.”
And you are further aware that the last deliberate attempt to defraud you, that known by the name of Sir William Somerville’s bill – instead of being dropped as you were at first led to believe, is this very week referred to a “select committee” – a very select committee – that they may consider how it may be made to act with most effect.
And all this time, while Parliament and ministers are conspiring to rob you by “law” in London, landlords, agents and bailiffs are conspiring to nibble away your property by a thousand stealthy devices at home. For instance, a rule is introduced “on the estate” that no tenant shall sell his farm except to an approved tenant or an adjoining tenant. Of course this, by restricting the market, lowers the price.
Then, some landlords are hard to please about the tenant they will “approve,” and keep you calling and calling again, bribing agents and bribing bailiffs, and negotiating and petitioning, with your hat, not on your head, where it ought to be, but in your hand, begging leave to sell your own property.
Then there is a rule introduced now on most estates fixing a maximum price for tenant-right – you are not to get more than a certain sum for it by the acre. You bought it perhaps ten or twenty years ago at £15 an acre, but the rule of the estate now is £10, and you are robbed of the difference – and very thankful you must express yourself (holding your hat in your hand) for being allowed to sell it at that.
In short, between the feeling of insecurity produced by the continual tampering of “law,” and the constant gnawing and nibbling of landlords and agents at home, and the quarter-acre law and the poor law, the “tenant-right of Ulster,” a property that ought at this moment to be worth ten millions, is as good as gone.
There never were so many ejectments in Ulster counties at once as have been brought this very spring. Extermination is creeping northward; and there is not in all the nine counties a single small tenant-right farmer who can say with confidence that his house is his own.
Now in such a state of things what ought you, the small farmers of Ulster, to do? Why meet legally and constitutionally, I suppose, appoint a chairman, hurl defiance at the Pope of Rome, express the utmost confidence in Lord Clarendon, and demand a revocation of the Maynooth grant.
Or meet, still legally and constitutionally, and demand a Parliament of Peers and Nominees of Peers in Dublin – so that instead of being robbed in St. Stephen’s you may be robbed in “College Green!”
For government in this country is simply a machinery for grinding out the earnings of the industrious to bestow upon the idle. You, the small farmers of Ulster, are the men at this moment most exposed to robbery, of all the industrious inhabitants of Ireland, simply because you have most to lose.
But now I address the Protestant labourers and artisans. You, it is said, have the utmost confidence in Lord Clarendon, and are so happy and contented, sitting everyone of you under his own vine and fig tree, that you are ready to rise in arms (so I have read in certain addresses) full of burning zeal to chastise those “rebellious” persons who would change so happy a state of things! Is it so?
We are told that the North is thriving, because Belfast exports much linen, and Derry sends off innumerable boxes of eggs and cargoes of corn. How much of the linen do you who weave it get to wear? How much of the corn do you who sow and reap it get to eat?
Just think of this, labourers and artisans of Ulster – Ireland last year produced twice as much as would feed all her inhabitants, not with Indian meal, but with good Irish wheat, oats and beef. And think of this – there is flax enough grown and linen cloth enough woven, and wool enough shorn in Ireland to muffle up every Irishman comfortably, close buttoned to the chin. Where does it go? Who eats and who wears what you make? Who has a better right to it than you?
Ah! Perhaps it is the Pope of Rome who swindles you in this fashion – it is the Man of Sin, the Seven Sacraments, the Maynooth Grant and the Mystery of Iniquity! Why, then, in that case you also, tradesmen and labouring men of Ulster, ought really to lose no time in holding a meeting to maintain the Protestant succession and denounce any further concessions to Jezebel.
It is, indeed, a mystery of iniquity that commits this cunning robbery upon you – it is “our glorious constitution in Church and State” that does it – one of the blackest mysteries of iniquity that ever afflicted men or outraged heaven.
It is this conspiracy of “gentry” and “capitalists,” “doing what they like with their own,” fearing not God, neither regarding Man, that have established such free trade in human bodies and souls that they sit now at ease as the gods of this lower world, and by the alembic of Money, and the crucible of starvation, extract from your blood, and sweat, and brain and marrow whatever there is in you marketable, whereby they may turn a penny and leave the offal of you to the poor houses or the fever hospital.
How this is done you shall hear. The broad land of Ireland, which was given to you by God, has been given by various Kings and Queens of England to some few thousand persons, who now claim it as absolutely theirs, with the growth upon it, and the minerals beneath it, and the air above it, “from the centre” – so says the Law – “up to the Heavens.”
But as you, the “millions” and “masses” cannot live without earth and air, these few thousands persons, having a monopoly of the articles, and finding that men will give anything and do anything rather than die of hunger, cry out – Free trade! Fair competition! No interference with bargains! You see these men are willing to sell us themselves for slaves, soul and body, for so much land, and shall we not purchase? Is it not fair supply and demand?
Thus also capitalists, having by their gigantic operations abolished all household and homespun manufactures, and having laws made to their hand by the other conspirators – “the gentry” – enabling them to combine, and forbidding poor men to combine against them under penalties, can wring out of the working classes (by the same enlightened system of fair competition) their health and strength and life – can take the pick and choice of them – use them up and fling them on a dunghill to die when they are useless.
Our great capitalists never think of manufacturing articles for their own countrymen in the home market – they must compete with foreign nations in foreign markets; and as all nations are less heavily taxed than these two unfortunate islands, the only way in which capitalists can meet the foreign manufacturer is by reducing and pinching, and continually pinching and reducing the wages of their own workmen. They take it all out of your bones.
Thus it comes to pass that both in the matter of food and manufactures you can supply foreign countries, and cannot keep yourselves and your children in food and clothing.
Now it is not the repeal of the Catholic Emancipation Act, nor yet the repeal of the Union Act by itself that will cure all this. Nothing will cure it save the total overthrow of the aristocratic system of government and the establishment of the People’s inalienable Sovereignty.
We must have Ireland, not for certain peers and nominees of peers in College Green, but IRELAND FOR THE IRISH. I scorn and spit upon “Repeal of the Union.” The “Queen, Lords and Commons of Ireland” will never be seen in bodily form upon this earth. “The golden link of the Crown” is as great a humbug as the great Peace principle of the “mighty Leader of the Irish People.”
Oh! My countrymen, I would that I could raise your thoughts to the height of this argument; that I could make you know yourselves, and your powers and destinies, your wrongs and your rights!
Your friend and fellow-countryman,