Category Archives: Land

Tractors, Threshing, Knock, Co. Laois, 2015

The advertisement read “Knock Threshing & Road Run – on Josie Dayton’s farm” and it was run in aid of Knock School Building fund. : 13th September, 2015

There were a lot of tractors on display at the ‘Threshing’

I have labelled this post as ‘Tractors’, as you look through these photos though you’ll see more than tractors.  There are jaunting cars and agricultural machinery which were standing with the tractors.  You’ll have to excuse the fact that some of these photos have a few blurry spots, that was the rain that decided to come on and no matter how much I tried to keep my lens dry it was impossible!

Brehon Laws Relating to Land

1. The Land originally common Property.

The following account of the ancient land laws of Ireland, which has been compiled chiefly from the Brehon Laws, is corroborated in some of its main features by those early English writers who described the native Irish customs from personal observation. It throws much light on the Irish land question of modern times.

In theory the land belonged not to individuals, but to the tribe. The king or chief had a portion assigned to him as mensal land. The rest was occupied by the tribesmen in the several ways mentioned below. The chief, though exercising a sort of supervision over the whole of the territory, had no right of ownership except over his own property, if he had any, and for the time being over his mensal land. It would appear that originally – in prehistoric times – the land was all common property, and chief and people were liable to be called on to give up their portions for a new distribution. But as time went on, this custom was gradually broken in upon ; and the lands held by some, after long possession, came to be looked upon as private property. As far back as our records go, there was some private ownership in land ; and it is plainly recognised all through the Brehon Laws. (Br. Laws, III, 53 ; IV 69 to 159) “All the Brehon writers seem to have a bias towards private, as distinguished from collective, property” (Maine, Anc. Inst., p. 105). Yet the original idea of collective ownership was never quite lost for although men owned land, the ownership was not so absolute as at present. A man, for instance, could not alienate his land outside the tribe; and he had to comply with certain other tribal obligations in the management and disposal of it (Br. Laws, II. 283 ; III 53, 55) all which restrictions were vestiges of the old tribe ownership. But within these limits, which were not very stringent, a man might dispose of his land just as he pleased.

Outside of the Brehon Laws, we do not find much reference to the former common occupation of land. But there are at least two passages which have been noticed by Sir Henry Maine (Anc. Inst., p. 114) as preserving a dim memory of the old state of things: interesting passages supplied to him by Dr. Whitley Stokes. One is an ancient scholiast’s preface in the Book of Hymns (Todd, 132) : –
“For the people were very numerous in Erin at that time (namely, during the reign of the sons of Aed Slaine, A.D. 656 to 664): and so great were their numbers that the land could afford but thrice nine ridges (tri nói immaire : meaning here long narrow plots-not hill-ridges) to each man in Erin: viz., nine of bog, nine of field, and nine of wood.” The other passage is in one of the ancient tales-
“The Birth of Cuculainn ” in the Book of the Dun Cow (and copied into that, A.D. 1100, from an earlier MS.). This story relates how, on one occasion, a party of the Red Branch Knights set out southwards from Emain in chariots in pursuit of a flock of enchanted birds: and they proceeded across country without difficulty, because, says the story :-“There was neither trench, nor fence, nor stone wall round land in those days, until there came the time of the sons of Aed Slaine, but only smooth fields. Because of the abundance of households in their time, therefore, it came to pass that they made boundaries in Ireland.” (Ir. Texte, I. 136, par., 2; and LU, 128, a, 14.) Maine remarks it as instructive that, in both passages, the change is referred to an increase of population: and he goes on to express his opinion that this unquestionably represents true history. The common occupation of land is also alluded to in the early Memoirs of St. Patrick. (Trip. Life, p. 337, 26 ; and Introd. Clxxv)

2. Five ways of holding Land.

Within historic times the following were the rules of land tenure, as set forth chiefly in the Brehon Laws, and also in some important points by early English writers. (For Irish Land Tenures, see Sull, Introd., 185 et seq ; and for the correspondences between Irish and Teutonic land laws, the same vol., 131 et seq.). The tribe (or aggregate of tribes), under the rule of one king or chief, held permanently a definite district of the country. The tribe was divided, as already described (p.166) , into smaller groups-clans or septs-each of which, being governed by a sub-chief under the chief of the tribe, was a sort of miniature of the whole tribe; and each clan was permanently settled down on a separate portion of the land which was considered as their separate property, and which was not interfered with by any other clans or septs of the tribe. The land was held by individuals in some one of five different ways.

First.- The chief, whether of the tribe or of the sept, had a portion as mensal land, for life or for as long as he remained chief.

Second.- Another portion was held as private property by persons who had come, in various ways, to own the 1and. Most of these were ‘flaiths’, or nobles, of the several ranks ; and some were professional men, such as physicians, judges, poets, historians, artificers, &c., who had got their lands as stipends for their professional services to the chief, and in whose families it often remained for generations. Under this second heading may be included the plot on which stood the homestead of every free member of the tribe, with the homestead itself.

Third.- Persons held, as tenants, portions of the lands belonging to those who owned it as private property, or portions of the mensal and of the chief-much like tenants of the present day: these paid what was equivalent to rent – always in kind. The term was commonly seven years, and they might sublet to under-tenants.

Fourth.- The rest of the arable land, which was called the Tribe-land-equivalent to the ‘folc’ or folk land of England-forming by far the largest part of the territory, belonged to the people in general-the several subdivisions of it to the several septs-no part being private property (Br. Laws, III. 17, 53 : Ware Antiqq., 72, top) This was occupied by the free members of the sept, who were owners for the time being, each of his own farm. Every free man had a right to his share, a right never questioned. Those who occupied the tribe-land did not hold for any fixed term, for the land of the sept was liable to gavelkind or redistribution from time to time-once every three or four years. (Davies disc/ Letter to Lord Salisbury, ed. 1787, p. 279). Yet they were not tenants at will, for they could not be disturbed till the time of gavelling; even then each man kept his crops and got compensation for un-exhausted improvements; and though he gave up one farm, he always got another.

Fifth.-The non-arable or waste land-mountain, forest, bog, &c.-was Commons-land. This was not appropriated by individuals; but every free man had a right to use it for grazing, (see chapter xxiii, vol, II, p. 282). for procuring fuel, or for the chase. There was no need of subdividing the commons by fences, for the cattle grazed over it without distinction. The portion of territory occupied by each clan or sept commonly included land held in all the five ways here described.

Between common clan ownership on the one hand, and private ownership by individuals on the other, there was an intermediate link; for in some cases land was owned by a family, though not by any individual member, and remained in the same family for generations. This was often the case with land granted for professional services. A very remarkable and peculiar development of family ownership was what was known as the ‘Gelfine’ system, under which four groups of persons, all nearly related to each other, held four adjacent tracts of land as a sort of common property, subject to regulations, then well recognised, but now hard enough to understand. (On the Gelfine system: See Br. Laws IV, Introd., L ; 41 last par and note 2; 43; 63,3; 249, 20; 269, ,8; 287, note 4; 289, notes I and 2 ; 293,7: Joyce, Short Hist. of Irel., 69 : and Seebohm, Tribal Custom, p. 76.)

It should be observed that the individuals and families who owned land as private property were comparatively few, and their possessions were not extensive: the great bulk of both people and land fell under the conditions of tenure described under the fourth and fifth headings.

3. Tenants: their Payments and Subsidies.

Every tribesman had to pay to his chief certain subsidies according to his means. Those who held portion of the tribe-land, and who used the commons land for grazing or other purposes, paid these subsidies of course; but beyond this they had no rent to pay to any individual for land held or used under the categories tour and five described above. The usual subsidy for commons pasturage was in the proportion of one animal yearly for every seven,(Br. Laws, III. 129 ; iv, 305) which was considerably less than a reasonable rent of the present day. Probably the subsidy for tillage-land was in much the same proportion. Every person who held land shared the liabilities of the tribe; for instance, he was liable to military service, (Br. Laws II, 283)and he was bound to contribute to the support of old people who had no children. (Br. Laws, IV, 19, 41) .

The tribesman who placed himself under the protection of a chief, and who held land, whether it was the private property of the lessor or a part of the general tribe-land, was, as already explained, a ‘Céile’ (cail’eh) or tenant; also called ‘féine’ and ‘aithech’, i.e. a plebeian, farmer, or rent-payer. But a man who takes land must have stock- cows and sheep for the pasture-land, horses or oxen to carry on the work of tillage. A small proportion of the céiles had stock of their own, but the great majority had not. Where the tenant needed stock it was the custom for the chief to lend him as much as he wanted at certain rates of payment. A man might hire stock from the king or a chief, of from a noble, or from some rich ‘bo-aire’. It often happened that an intermediate chief who gave stock to tenants took stock himself from the king of the territory. This custom of giving and taking stock on hire was universal in Ireland; and it gave rise to a peculiar set of social relations which were regulated in great detail by the Brehon Law.

The céiles or tenants were of two kinds, according to the manner of taking stock :- Saer-céiles, or free tenants, and Daer-céiles, or bond tenants- the latter also called giallna (geelna : ‘g’ hard) tenants. A saer (sare) tenant was one who took stock without giving security-nothing but a mere acknowledgment (Br. Laws, II. 195). Stock given in this manner was saer-stock, and the tenant held by saer tenure. A daer tenant was one who gave security for his stock: his stock was daer stock; and he held by daer tenure. The saer tenants were comparatively independent, and many of them were rich: as, for instance, the bo-aires, who were all saer tenants to kings, chiefs, or nobles. The payments saer tenants had to make were reasonable. Not so the daer tenants: they had to pay heavily, and were generally in a state of dependence. Their position was much the same as that of needy persons of our own day, who are forced to borrow at usurious interest. More stock was given to a man in daer tenancy than in saer tenancy. It was of more advantage to the chief to give daer stock than saer stock (Br. Laws, II. 211, 213).

When a man took daer stock, he had to do so openly, without any concealment; and his Finé (finna) – i.e. his family, including all his sept or kindred within certain degrees of relationship – might if they pleased veto the whole transaction (Br. Laws, II. 217). From this it would appear that daer tenancy was viewed with disfavour by the community, for the reason, no doubt, that it tended to lower the status of the tribe.(Maine, Anc. Inst. 163). There was a sharp distinction between the two orders of tenants, the daer tenants being very much the lower in public estimation. When the chief gave evidence in a court of law against his tenants, the saer tenants were privileged to give evidence in reply, but the daer tenants were not (Br. Laws, II. 345). A daer or bond tenant was so called, not that he was a slave or an unfree person, but because by taking daer stock he forfeited some of his rights as a freeman, and his heavy payments always kept him down.

The ordinary subsidy owed by a saer tenant to his chief was called Bes-tigi (bess-tee) or house tribute, varying in amount according to his means or the extent of his land : it consisted of cows, pigs, bacon, malt, corn, &c. He was also bound to give the chief either a certain number of days’ work, or service in war. (Br. Laws, II, 195; III, 19, x 8 ; 495) For whatever he took he had to pay one-third of its value yearly for seven years, at the end of which time the stock became his own property without further payment. (Br. Laws, II, 195, 197, 199, 203) This was equivalent to thirty-three per cent, per annum for seven years to repay a loan with its interest – a sufficiently exorbitant charge. He also had to send a man at stated times to pay full homage to the chief. The labour and the homage are designated in the laws as the worst or most irksome of the saer tenant’s obligations (Br. Laws, II. 195).

A daer tenant had to give war-service (Br. Laws, III. 495) and work. But his chief payment was a food-supply called Biatad (bee’ha) or food-rent-cows, pigs, corn, bacon, butter, honey, &c.-paid twice a year. The amount depended chiefly on the amount of daer stock he took (II. 229), and probably varied according to local custom. At the end of his term he had, under ordinary circumstances, to return all the stock or its equivalent (II. 223). But if the chief died at the end of seven years, the tenant, provided he had paid his food-rent regularly, kept the stock (II. 269). The daer tenants were the principal purveyors of the chief, who could be sure of a supply of provisions all the year round for his household and numerous followers, by properly regulating the periods of payment of his several tenants. This custom is described by several English writers as existing in their own time, so late as the time of Elizabeth.

The daer tenants were bound to give coinmed (coiney), or refection, on visitation-that is to say, the chief was entitled to go with a company to the daer tenant’s house, and remain there for a time varying from one day to a month, the tenant supplying food, drink, and sanctuary or protection from danger. (Br. Laws, II, 20, note 2 ; 233 ; III, 19) The number of followers and the time, with the quantity and quality of food and the extent of protection, were regulated by law according to the tenant’s amount of daer stock (Br. Laws, III. 21), and according to the rank of the guest: the higher the rank the longer the time (II. 20, note 2). The protection might be relinquished either wholly or partly for an increase of food and drink or vice versa (II. 21). Sometimes soldiers, in lieu of regular pay, were sent among the tenants, from whom they were entitled to receive ‘buannacht’ or ‘bonaght’, i.e. money, food, and entertainment: an eminently evil custom. The refection and bonaght, which were by far the most oppressive of the daer tenant’s liabilities, seem to have been imposts peculiar to Ireland. The daer tenants were subject to several other duties, which came at irregular intervals; and in time of war the chief usually imposed much heavier tributes than at other times upon all the tenants. Sometimes saer tenants were liable to coiney :
and occasionally a church was under an obligation to supply a night’s coiney to the chief at certain intervals, such as once a quarter. (Misc. Ir. Arch Society, 1846, p. 143) But besides this, the superior chief, when on his visitations, was to be entertained free by his subordinate chiefs.(hyF, 209) Kings, bishops, and certain classes of chiefs and professional men were also entitled to free entertainment when passing through territories, with the proper number of attendants. (Br. Laws, IV. 347, 349, 351) And it appears that when certain officials met to transact public business, the tenants, both saer and daer, had to lodge and feed them (III. 21) .If either the chief or the tenant fell into poverty, provision was made that he should not suffer by unjust pressure from the other party: “No one,” says the law- book, “should be oppressed in his difficulty ” (II. 339).

The daer tenants were by far the most numerous; and accordingly this system of the chief stocking the farms was very general. It has often been compared to the ‘métayer’ system, still found in some parts of France and Italy , according to which the landlord supplies land, stock, and utensils, and receives half the produce.
The text of the Laws gives no information regarding the circumstances that led some to become saer tenants and others daer tenants; and the whole subject is involved in considerable obscurity. But a careful study of the text will enable one to gather that this is probably how matters stood. All who took land had to pay the chief certain subsidies – as we have said – independently of what they had to pay for stock. Those who chose to become saer tenants did so because they had stock of their own, either quite or nearly sufficient ; and they took stock in small quantity to make up the amount they needed. The daer tenants, on the other hand, were poor men who had to take all their stock – or nearly all – on hire; and they had to give security because they were poor, and because they took such a large quantity. In their case the subsidies for land and the payments for stock are in the Laws commonly mixed up so as to be undistinguishable.

The power, wealth, and influence of a chief depended very much on the amount of stock he possessed for lending out: for besides enriching him, it gave him all the great advantage over his tenants which the lender has every-where over the borrower. This practice was so liable to abuse that the compilers of the Brehon Code attempted to protect borrowing tenants by a multitude of precise detailed rules. Sir Henry Maine considers that the payments made by the Irish tenants for stock developed in time into a rent payment in respect of land.

Very careful provisions-penalties in the shape of heavy compensation payments-are laid down in the Laws to prevent either the chief or the tenant – whether in saer or daer tenancy – from terminating the agreement in an arbitrary fashion, as well as to protect each against any neglect or misconduct on the part of the other .(Br. Laws, II. 313 et seq) The tenure of all was therefore secure, in whatever way they held their lands.

Though the custom of visiting tenants’ houses for coiney or refection was carefully safeguarded in the Brehon Law, it was obviously liable to great abuse. In imitation of the Irish, the Anglo-Irish lords adopted the custom of Coyne and Livery, (food for an and horse. ‘Coyne’ is the Irish Coinmed or coiney ; livery is French – ‘food for horse’) which they commonly levied from the English settlers, and committed such excesses – far beyond any abuses of the native chiefs – that they almost ruined the settlement ,by it. (for Coyne and Liery and its abuses, see Ware, Antiqq., chap. Xii, and Hoyce, Short Hist of Irel, 78)

4. Fudirs or Serfs on the Land.

The social position of fudirs, saer and daer, has been already explained (p. 162). The saer-fudirs were permitted to take land from year to year; and they could not be disturbed till the end of their term. Allowance had to be made to them for unexhausted improvements, such as manure. As they were permitted a settlement by the grace of the chief, they were reckoned a part of the chief’s tine or family (Br. Laws, IV. 283), though they were not members of the tribe. Outside these small privileges, however, they were tenants at will. It would seem indeed that the chief might demand almost anything he pleased from a fudir tenant, and if refused might turn him off (III. 131) But the daer-fudirs were in a still worse position. If a daer-fudir took land, it did not belong to him during occupation (III. 131) ; he was merely permitted to till it – he was a tenant at will, having no right whatever in his holding. He was completely at the mercy of the chief, who generally rackrented him so as to leave barely enough for subsistence. The daer-fudirs, after a certain period of residence (p. 163, supra), belonged to the land on which they were settled, and could not leave it. The land kept by a ‘flaith’ or noble in his own hands was commonly worked by daer-fudirs : and none but a noble could keep them on his estate.

Spenser, Davies, and other early English writers speak of the Irish tenants as in a condition worse than that of bondslaves, and as taking land only from year to year. No doubt, the tenants they had in view were the fudirs, who must have been particularly numerous during the Irish wars of Elizabeth (p. 164, supra). It is evident from the Brehon Law that the fudirs were a most important class on account of their numbers; for as they tended to increase in the disturbed state of the country from the ninth century down, they must ultimately have formed a very large proportion of the population.

Sometimes a whole tribe, for one reason or another , came to be in such a state of dependence or serfdom as to approach slavery. They were commonly a tribe who had been expelled from their homes by stronger settlers or invaders, and who, seeking a place of settlement from a strange chief, were received by him under hard conditions. Such a tribe was usually designated d’aer-thuath’ (dair-hooa) , i.e. ‘bond-tribe,’ corresponding with. ‘daer-cheile’ as applied to an individual (p. 189, supra) : often called in English, ‘enslaved tribe,’ but the people were really not slaves. They were subject to heavy tributes, and had to execute certain works, such as building, road-repairing, &c., without payment, for the chief of the district, and they were looked upon as inferiors by the people among whom they settled.

The ancient rights of the tenants, i.e. of the ceiles or freemen, as may be gathered from the preceding part of this chapter, were chiefly three :-.
A right to some portion of the arable or tribe-land, and to the use of the commons :
Aright to pay no more than a fair rent, which, in the absence of express agreement, was adjusted by law (Br. Laws, I. 159; II. 317; III. 127)
A right to Own a house and homestead, and (with certain equitable exceptions) all unexhausted improvements.(Brehon Laws, IV. 133, 135, 137)

Unless under special contract, in individual cases, the fudirs had no claim to these-with this exception, how-ever, that the saer-fudirs had a right to their un-exhausted improvements. Among the freemen who held the tribe-land there was no such thing as eviction from house or land, for there was a universal conviction that the landlord was not the absolute owner, so that all free tenants had what was equivalent to fixity of tenure. If a man failed to pay the subsidy to his chief, or the rent of land held in any way, or the debt due for stock, it was recovered like any other debt, by the processes described in next chapter, never by process of eviction. (Brehon Laws, I 123, 157, 159, 169, 187, 215, 217, 219, 231, 233.)

5. Descent of Land.

In Ireland the land descended in three different ways.
First, as private property.- When a man had land understood to be his own, it would naturally pass to his heirs( Brehon Laws: III. 399; IV. 45, 69.) – i.e. his heirs in the sense then understood, not necessarily in our sense of the word; or he might if he wished divide it among them during his life – a thing that was sometimes done. In the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick (109, 111), we find cases of the sons inheriting the land of their father. There appears in the Brehon Law a tendency to favour descent of land by private ownership: “The Brehon Law writers seem to me distinctly biassed in favour of the descent of property in individual families.”(Maine, Anc. Inst. 193)
It should be remarked that those who inherited the property inherited also the liabilities.(Br. Laws, III. 399-405 ; IV, 45)

Second.-The land held by the chief as mensal estate descended, not to his heir, but to the person who succeeded him in the chiefship. This is what is known as descent by Tanistry.

Third : by ‘Gavelkind’.- When a tenant who held a part of the tribe-land died, his farm did not go to his children: but the whole of the land belonging to the fine or sept was redivided or gavelled among all the male adult members of the sept -including the dead man’s adult sons – those members of the sept who were illegitimate getting their share like the rest.(Davies, Discoverie, ed. 1747, p. 169; Br. Laws, IV. 7, 9) The domain of the chief, and all land that was private property, were exempt. The redistribution by gavelkind on each occasion extended to the clan or sept – not beyond. Davies complains, with justice, that this custom prevented the tenants from making permanent improvements. (Letter to Lord Salisbury, ed. 1787, p. 280)

Davies asserts that land went by only two modes – Tanistry and Gavelkind: but both the Laws and the Annals show that descent by private ownership was well recognised.

The two customs of Tanistry and Gavelkind formerly prevailed all over Europe, and continued in Russia till a very recent period; and Gavelkind, in a modified form, still exists in Kent. They were abolished and made illegal in Ireland in the reign of James I. ; after which land descended to the next heir according to English law.

From: “A Social History of Ancient Ireland” Author: P.W. Joyce, Vol. 1, 2nd ed.
Published : Dublin, 1913 Publisher: M.H. Gill & Son Ltd. out of print.

Irish Alliance and the Tenant Right League

A good deal of prominence was given in ‘The Nation’ to the report of an “Aggregate Meeting” held in the Music Hall, Lower Abbey Street, on the 20th November 1849, and called on the requisition of “80 dignitaries and 110 curates of the Catholic Church; 22 members of the regular clergy; 120 magistrates; landed proprietors, corporators, and poor law guardians; 200 members of the learned professions; 700 land-owners,and farmers, and 900 merchants, traders and artizans”.

Richard Grattan, M.D., J.P., Drommin House, County Kildare, presided, and the speakers included Gavan Duffy and M. R. Leyne.

Resolutions were adopted declaring that “legislative independence is the clear, eternal and inalienable right of this country, and that no settlement of the affairs of Ireland can be permanent until that right is recognised and established,” and forming a new organisation to be known as “The Irish Alliance” “to take the most prompt and effective measures for the protection of the lives and interests of the Irish people, and the attainment of their natural rights.”

Other resolutions dealt with the land question, the disestablishment of the Protestant Church, and the promotion of measures for developing the resources, and encouraging the manufactures, trade and commerce of the country, “having due regard to the rights of labour.”

In a leading article on the 24th November, Duffy welcomed the new organisation:
“At last – at long last,” he wrote “out of the huddled chaos wherein Ireland seemed succumbed to absolute death and destruction, comes a courageous and articulate voice – not a beggar’s whine or a braggart’s bawl – not a petition for alien ,alms not a ‘peccavi’ , for past offences – not an invocation to arms – not a dereliction, of present pressing duties for hopes that lie fair but far in the future – not an abjuration of the cause which time, and truth and heroism, have hallowed – no, not one of these, but an enunciation or a plain and vital policy;. the assertion of national principles, which, thriving through the cruel persecutions of the past; and little scathed by the wasting disorganisation of the present time, still live in our, hearts; the prophecy of an era to come; the utterance of a determination which, if patient, is cool, practical, unflinching”

Meetings of the new organisation were, held throughout the country, but it was soon ecilipsed by the Tenant Right Movement

The Tenant Right League, formed in the City Assembly House, William Street, Dublin, in August, 1850, brought Northern Protestant and Southern Catholic together, on the same platform, and promised to do much to kill sectarian bitterness

At the inaugural meeting there was a remarkable gathering, which included magistrates and landlords, representatives of tenants, Catholic priests and Presbyterian ministers, prominent Catholic journalists like Gavan Duffy, and John Francis Maguire of the ‘Cork Examiner’; and Presbyterian journalists like, James Godkin, editor ,of the ‘Derry Standard’, and James McKnight, LL.D., Editor of the ‘Banner of Ulster’, who was moved to the chair and presided during the four days the Conference was in session. Unanimity, earnestness and enthusiasm marked the proceedings throughout.

Gaven Duffy had largely contributed to the establishment of the League; and a letter in The Nation on the 25th May, 1850, signed “T.W. Croke, C.C. Charleville” -afterwards the famous Archbishop of Cashel – advocating the establishment of Tenant Protection Societies, had riveted attention on the unfortunate condition of the farming community.

Meetings of the new organisation were held throughout the country and aroused a good deal of enthusiasm. They were supported by Orangemen as well as by Nationalist & The columns of The Nation were inundated with poems on the League, which gave every indication of activity and progress. It was not surprising therefore, to find that at the General Election of 1852, some fifty Tenant Right candidates were returned to parliament, including Duffy far the Borough of New Ross.

The League was making remarkable progress when the English Government, in a fit of fanaticism, introduced on the 6th of February, 1851, the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, rendering illegal the assumption of territorial titles by Catholic Bishops, as a counterblast to the action of the Vatican in restoring the Church in England to its parochial and dioscescan form. This action was described as “Papal aggression”, and aroused a storm of panic and fury throughout England.

This storm antagonised Catholics and Protestants, not only in England, but in the Tenant Right League. Duffy strove to keep the organisation together and opposed a proposition for the establishment of a “Catholic Defence Association.” Knaves and hypocrites, he declared, would rant and rave as tremendous Catholics, and lash the multitude into madness about “our holy Church” in order that they might effect the destruction of. a popular movement, which threatened to sweep away speculative politicians, ” We shall not serve the Church the more ” he said, “but we shall lose the land.”

John Sadlier, Solicitor, Banker and M.P. for the borough of Carlow, and William Keogh, Barrister-at-law, and M. P. for Athlone, fought the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill at every stage, and were acclaimed great Popular heroes. They were prominent figures at the “aggregate meeting” held in the Rotunda on the 22nd August, 1851, to protest against the. Bill, which had been passed, and to take measures for Catholic defence. The chair was occupied by the Archbishop of Armagh (Dr. Cullen), in a short time to be Archbishop of Dublin.

Keogh raised the gathering to the highest pitch of enthusiasm by giving the Chairman his territorial title, and promising that he and his friends would have the Act repealed if the people of Ireland would but send them a few “more Parliamentary colleagues.” We will make no terms,” he declared: “with any Minister, no matter who he may be, untill he repeals that Act of Parliament”

In his own constituency, where he was entertained to a public banquet on the 28th October, 1851, Keogh declared, in the presence of Archbishop McHale : “I will not support any party which does not make it the first ingredient of their political existence to repeal the, Ecclesiastical Titles Act;” Again, in Cork on the 8th March, 1852, he declared : “So help me God, no matter who the Minister may be, no matter who the party in power may be, I will support neither that minister nor that party, unless he comes into power prepared to carry the measures which ,universal popular Ireland demands.”

The sequel to these pledges is well known to the Student of history. In a few months Keogh and Sadlier became brazen pledge-breakers and accepted office under the Government – Keogh as Solicitor-General for Ireland, and Sadlier as Lord of the Treasury; and to the disgust of Duffy and his supporters were re-elected to Parliament with the assistance of Catholic bishops, priests and laymen.

Dr. MacHale had no hesitation in expressing his opinion of the pledge breaking place-hunters, but Dr. Cullen remained silent.

The Tenant Right League was rocked from head to foot by dissension. It struggled on for some time, but soon ceased to exist as an effective organisation.

The League candidates returned to Parliament had formed an independent Irish Party, but on the 16th August, 1855, Duffy; despairing of doing any good for the country issued his valedictory address to the electors of New Ross, and, two months later, emigrated to Australia, transferring The Nation to A. M. Sullivan and a businessman named Michael Clery. In a short time Sullivan became sole -proprietor.

In the Memoir of his brother, A. M. Sullivan, T. D. Sullivan, speaking of Duffy, said:
“While he had only the ancient enemy, the open foe of his race, to contend with, he never despaired, but when treachery sundered the national ranks, when champions of the people sold their principles in open market, and when their traitorism was condoned by eminent persons whose exalted office should make them the inflexible guardians of Truth and Honour, and the sternest censors of every kind of immorality, then he felt that he had better confess defeat, at all, events so far as he was persona1ly concerned, retire from the scene of action, and let the Irish people look to their political fortunes for the future as best they could.
Many who belonged to the war party in 1843 looked with dislike, arid even with contempt, on Mr. Duffy’s revived Nation, with its constitutional and parliamentary policy, and its variety of industrial projects; and his unhappy controversy with Mr. Mitchel put a feeling of intense bitterness against him into many hearts.”

On Some Irish Land Deeds

“The President read a paper on some ancient Irish deeds.

These deeds are mostly in the Irish language and character, of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. They are of the nature of deeds of mortgage, wills, covenants, deeds of arbitration, indentures, deeds of partition, conveyance of land; and some of them are Brehon Law judgements.

No. 1 – Is dated A.D. 1450, and also by the local historical fact, “”the year in which Donoch O’Brien died.””
It is a deed of mortgage by deed poll, but differs from our modern deeds of mortgage in that it does not convey the lands. It consists of five parts. In Part I. it is recited that Donnell oge O’Kearney had possession of the lands of Ballymote, or rather a half quarter of them, for a debt due to him by the owners, Teige Mac Sida (Mac Sheedy), [Mac Namara], and his son. But Teige and his son seem to have been in debt to Donoch O’Brien [first Earl of Thomond ?], whose bailiffs entered the lands of Ballymote, then in the possession of Donnell Oge O’Kearney, and carried three valuable mares. Arbitrators were appointted, and Teige Mac Sheedy and his son were condemned to pay five marks to O’Kearney. As security for these five marks, Mac Sheedy, the son, mortgages a half quarter of Ballymote to O’Kearney.

In Part II. it is stated that Mac Sheedy, the son, had been murdered by Donnell Oge Mac Namara, but had by his will left his property to his brother and chief, Donnell Derg [or the red], subject to the debts due to O’Kearney.

Part III. is a further mortgage. Donnell Derg, and the two sons of Lochlainn O’Curry, had stolen two pigs from O’Kearney ; an arbitration was agreed to, and a fine of half a mark given for the pigs, with three ‘unigee as costs, and one ‘uinge’ as a twelfth, or umpires’ fees. To meet these charges, Donnell Derg mortgages the lands to the amount of one mark. These facts enable ns to fix the price of pigs in that golden age in Ireland. The mark was two-thirds of £1, or 13s. 4d., and consequently the two pigs, being valued at half a mark, were worth 3s. 4d. each. The other half mark was equal to four’ uinge’, or ounces, and one ‘uing’e is called ‘the twelfth’ i.e. the twelfth of a pound [of gold ?]. An ‘uinge’ must, therefore, have been 1s. 8d.

Part IV. The pig transaction does not seem to have permanently broken friendship between O’Kearney and Donnell Derg; for the former appears to have lent the latter a sum of money, secured by a further mortgage on the lands.

Part V. Donnell Derg, however, engaged in gambling, but lost eight marks, and his person appears to have been seized by Hugh Roe Mac Namara, and Owen of the Money, the successful gamblers. He was ransomed by Teige Mac Donnell Mac Namara, who gave a good steed for him to the gamblers; so that the price of a good steed in those days-was about £5 6s. 8d Mac Namara, however, owed O’Kearney one ‘uinge’ of gold and six marks for three milch cows; and the rescued gambler, Donnell Derg, mortgaged his lands still further to the prudent O’Kearney, to discharge this portion of his debt to Mac Namara. The lands concerned in this document are situated near Sixmilehridge, County of Clare, and the same remark applies to the next two deeds.

No. 2 – Is another deed, of the nature of a mortgage on the lands of Kill Fiontanain, dated August 11, 1612.

No. 3 – Is a statement of the debts or demands of Conor Mac Teige upon the clan Mac Craith, out of the lands of the Lower Corbally. (No date.)

No. 4. – The will of Mortogh Mac Mahon, written after his death by the testamentary priests who were present at his death-bed; it is little more than an acknowledgment of his debts due to Donn Mac Gorman. ( Not dated). He appears to have lived in the neighbourhood of Kilrush, County of Clare.

No. 5. – A deed of mortgage (1549), on the lands of Donnell Oge O’Kearney (see No. 1), to Mac Con Mac Lochlainn, son of Sida [M’Namara). (The date shows that the Donnell Oge O’Kearney here mentioned to have been the son or grandson of the personage mentioned in No. 1.]

No. 6.- An endrsement on No.5, dated also 1549, containing a power of redemption, and liberty to O’Kearney to carry off manure from the land, “”if there be manure upon it.””

No. 7. A deed of arbitration respecting the lands of Garry Orrtha, between Conor Mac Teige and Mac Craith Mac Teige, dated A.D., 1587.

No. 8.-An endorsement on the former, much obliterated.

No. 9.- A deed of indenture, dated 1551, conveying half the land and inheritance of Murchu, son of Conal’, son of Murchu, son of William, of Bally Sidhnoidh for ever, to Philip and Connor, the two sons of Conor son of Teige, and their heirs after them; and a sort of mortgage of the other half of his land to Philip and to Dermot, to whom Murchu promises to pay a rent, whenever “”he is able to sit in the land,”” and if not able “”to sit”” in it, then Philip and Dermot were to pay him a rent. This document is subscribed by Murchu O’Mulregan, Conor O’Dwyer, William O’Davoren, Shane O’Dwyer, and Philip O’Dwyer .

No. 10.- A mortgage, dated 1587, to Conor, son of Teige [O’Dwyer?] and Eogan, son of Donnell, on the lands of Matthew, son of Murchu [O’Mulregan ].

No. 11.-A mortgage, dated 1576, to Conor, son of Teige, son of William [O’Dwyer], on two-thirds of the lands of Dromainn-an-Chunna, from Matthew, son of Murchu, son of Conor [O’Mulregan). This deed contains two singular covenants :- lst. That Matthew is to have an invitation at Easter and Christmas, “”upon Conor, and upon Eoghan, son of Donnell.”” And 2nd. “”If it shall happen to Matthew to fall into poverty or distress, Conor and Eoghan are to give him food and clothing, Conor paying two-thirds, and Eoghan one-third, of the burthen, .and Matthew doing the utmost service to them on that account.””

No. 12.- A mortgage, not dated.

No. 13. – An endorsement on No. 12, dated 1531. These are of no particular interest, except that the payment is made in cows, and no mention made of money. The parties seem to belong to the same families of O’Dwyer and O’Mulregan, who are concerned in Nos. 9, 10, and 11. Nos. 7 to 13 inclusive relate to a district in the county of Tipperary, on the borders of the county of Limerick. “”

No. 14.-A deed in Latin, nearly obliterated.

No. 15.- A deed of arbitration, in Irish, dated 8th Oct. 1584, containing a very full and formal statement of the names of the parties concerned, the cause of controversy, and the decision of the arbitrators. The original is in Mr. Curry’s collection, and is a very remarkable and valuable specimen of a decree of arbitrators under the Brehon Law between two parties of the O’Kennedys of Lower Ormond, county of Tipperary.

No. 16.-This is very nearly in the form of a modern deed poll, dated 19th July, 1611. It is a lease for twenty-one years, of the western half of the lands of Moy Lacha, parish of Kiliush, barony of Clonderala, county of Clare, from Turloch Roe Mac Mahon, to Shane, son of Teige O’Gilltinane, and after the expiration of the term of twenty-one years, “”until redeemed by the payment of ten pounds of the crowned money of the Saxons, of good metal and pure silver.”” This deed contains a formal clause of re-entry, the appointment of a bailiff to give possession, and a covenant for peaceable possession. .

There is also a remarkable covenant in which Turloch Mac Mahon, the lessor, acknowledges himself bound “”to put this writing into the force of the law of the Saxon king, as the law adviser of the above Shane may advise.””

The originals of this and of the five following are in Mr. Curry’s collection.

No. 17.- A curious document, evidently founded· on Brehon Law, but not dated. It is a statement of certain personal and other injuries inflicted upon Teige, son of Sioda, or Mac Sheedy, by Fingin, son of Mac Con, and his family. It is a kind of bill of indictment.

No. 18 . – A deed of arbitration for certain injuries inflicted on Donnell, son of Rory, by the sons of Lochlainn, son of Fingin, son of Donnchadh [Mac Namara.] These personages appear to have lived in the neighbourhood of Cratloe (county of Clare); and the outrages which gave occasion to the arbitration were committed “”in the summer in which Murchadh O’Brien and Donnchadh O’Brien went to England.”” The deed was executed in 1550. Nos. 17 and 18 relate to the Mac Namaras mentioned in No. 1.

No. 19.-This document, dated 1591, is a curious compact, in which the descendants of Melachlainn O’Lochlainn of Ballymachane [in Burren, county of Clare], acknowledge themselves bound to Donnchadh O’Brien, by the terms of a compact made with their family by Connor, son of Turloch O’Brien, grandfather of the then Earl of Thomond. In this covenant they acknowledge themselves tenants of certain lands and vassals under the Earl; and he, on the other hand, concedes to them what would now be called tenant-right :- .. “”I, the Earl of Thomond, acknowledge upon my honour that I have promised that whenever lands or castles belonging to these people shall be brought to an end”” [meaning, it is presumed, by the expiration of their lease or tenancy], “” I will give them the appraisement of Boece [Mac Egan] and John O’Tierney and Eoghan O’Daly.””

No. 20.-A deed of partition, dated April 3, 1675, between Aedh and Cosney, the sons of Gillananoemh Oge O’Davoren, of certain lands of their ancestors, situate in the district of Burren, county of Clare. This document provides that if any part of the lands be lost to the parties, they are to balance the loss with each other, in the same way as in the original partition. Also, that neither party has a right to put away his portion in pledge or perpetuity, so that the other cannot redeem it; also, that if any part of the lands be in pledge, whoever is first able to redeem it shall hold it until redeemed by the other; and if one party shall fail to have heirs, the other shall succeed to his portion of the property. Lastly, that if there be any part of Aedh.’s land which he is unable to occupy, Cosney shall, if able, occupy it without let or hindrance from Aedh.

No. 21.-An agreement between Donnell Oge O’Kearney and Graine, daughter of Mac Con [Mac Namara). Donnell had a mortgage upon the lands of Graine [situate near Six-mile-bridge, county of Clare], to the amount of eleven ‘uinge,’. with a right to two free cows; the lady being advanced in years, gives up her rights and her lands to Donnell, on the condition that he supports her, with power to her son, and to him only, to redeem the lands after her death; but if there be manure or buildings on the lands, they shall be appraised and redeemed according to appraisement. Here is another recognition of tenant-right. This document is dated 1522.

No. 22-1s a copy of a deed, made by Mr. Curry from the original, in the British Museum (Egerton, No. 139, p. 179). It is an agreement dated 1510. Lochlainn Riabhach O’Mullona [Mullowney] mortgaged his lands to Shane O’Radan for four cows, in calf, and a good male pig; Shane O’Radan gives Connor O’Gleeson the privilege of having four cows on the land until it is redeemed.

No. 23.-This is a judgment of four Brehons in a controversy respecting land. The Brehons were of the family of O’Deoradan, Domhnall, Cathal Ferganainm, and Giolla Patrick; and the contending parties were, Gerald, son of Cathal Carrach; Brian, son of Murtoch; and Donnchadh, son of Crimhthan. Witnesses were examined upon oath, and the Brehons, acting upon their testimony, decide; and in an appendix to their decision minutely describe the boundaries of the land. The decision is as follows:- “”And in accordance with that”” [viz., the evidence], “”the Brehons gave it as a judgment that Gerald should have possession of the land, and that neither Teige nor Donnchadh should have any claim on it from that time forth. And the one-eighth part of the sheaf of that year was awarded to Donnchadh in payment for his labour.””

This decision is dated 1560, showing that the Brehon Law continued to be practised in some parts of Ireland to that period; and it can be proved to have continued at least 100 years later. The original is in the Library of Trinity College (H.. 3, 18, p. 455). The lands and parties mentioned in this document belonged to the county of Wexford.

No. 24. – Is a letter of confraternity, in Latin, granted by Patrick Culvyn, local Prior of Dublin, of the order of Friars Eremite of St. Augustine, to John Stackpoole, and Genet Gwyth, his wife. Dated 31st of August, 1507.

Dr. Todd then made some remarks on the historical and antiquarian value of the deeds described, and exhibited to the Academy some of the deeds, together with a MS. book containing transcripts (made by Mr. Curry for the University Library), in which the whole are written, without the contractions of the originals, and rendered accessible to ordinary readers of Irish.”

Comment: Taken from Irish Natural history Society Journal, Vol. VIII. Vol. VIII, 1858-1861. pp. 15-19. ‘on Some Ancient Irish Deeds.

The League with Ulster

North & South Unite?

At the beginning of 1850 Lucas at length transferred the ‘Tablet’ to Dublin. At that time the local Tenant Societies, founded by the Callan curates, were spreading over Munster, and a Tenant Protection Society had existed for four years in the North under the auspices of Sharman Crawford, with my old friend Dr. M’Knight for secretary. A Land Bill had been recently proposed by the Whig Government menacing the existence of Ulster tenant-right, which created exasperation throughout the province, and indeed throughout the island. Here was a grievance common to North and South, but North and South had not acted together on any question for more than half a century, and the union of Catholic priests and Presbyterian ministers seemed the most hopeless of improbabilities.

In this crisis I came to an understanding with Lucas to summon if possible a National Conference. on the Land Question which would bring together all the discontented parties. It was now that my intimacy with Dr. M’Knight in Belfast came into play. I invited him frankly to join the movement, and to get the principal men in his society to act with him. On his return from London, on a bootless deputation to the Government, he became my guest for a time. We had anxious consultations, and came to an understanding which produced memorable results. He signed the requisition for the proposed conference, and promised to bring to it a solid body of the Presbyterian clergy.

When their attendance was announced in the newspapers the promise was smiled at by experienced politicians. But when the conference projected for June had to be postponed until August, to enable Presbyterian ministers otherwise engaged with the General Assembly of their Church to be present, a livelier interest began to prevail.

Tenant’s Charter

This interval was not wasted. The men who projected the conference employed it in preparing the necessary agenda, and the Press was busy debating the principles on which the Land Question ought to be settled, and the method by which these principles could best be established. Plans and projects were nearly as plentiful as in Paris between the summons and the assembly of the Tiers Etat in ’89, I took occasion to specify the policy of the Nation in the premisses, all the more because the claim of the tenants for complete justice had been first formulated by the Nation eight years earlier. There ought to be a plan, I contended, so just and adequate that it could be accepted by North and South, and might become the Tenants’ Charter. It must provide, once for all, perpetuity of tenure.

“Over three-fourths of Europe (I said) the tenant is as immovable as the landlord, where landlords are not altogether unknown. From the British Channel to the Sea of Azof the tiller of the soil sits firm. Even under the British flag in Guernsey and the Channel Islands no one can divorce him from the land. This fixed tenure turned the rocks of Switzerland and the harsh sands of Belgium into cornfields. It would turn the spectral graveyard of Skibbereen into the cheerful and prosperous home of men. It is the custom of the civilised world on both sides of the equator. Here, then, the Irish tenant is entitled to take his stand.”

The second essential point in a tenants’ charter was a just rent. To fix a just rent it was necessary that the land should be valued; The proposal had been scoffed at as something new and monstrous, but this was a mistake; it was neither new nor monstrous.

“Every estate, and every farm upon it, is valued by order of the proprietor to ascertain the rent it can pay. The demand of the tenant is only that this process shall be fairly performed; that such valuation, instead of being private or partial, shall be an official one, made upon established priniciples and by competent persons. The County Cess and the Poor Rate, levied by the direct authority of the State, cannot be assessed arbitrarily, like rent just now, so much on this man and so much on that. The law provides that there shall be a careful valuation of the land beforehand, and that the rate assessed shall correspond with the value. The tenant only asks to put upon the private landlord (insatiable in thepursuit of his own interest) that restraint which the State puts upon itself “( Nation, May 11, 1850)

To obtain the recognition of these rights it was necessary to have a popular organisation and a Parliamentary Party representing it. An organisation which could appoint and cashier members of Parliament would become more formidable in the House of Commons than if its principles were specifically approved of in the Decalogue.

The time was come when a settlement must be made if the Irish race was not to be extirpated, and I warned landlords that if they would not accept a fair rent they might evoke a spirit which would strike against rent altogether till a settlement was accomplished.

That we might be ready for our work a small committee of the best men connected with the movement was formed to prepare the business. By constant consultations, extensive correspondence; and the practice of printing and distributing the agenda among leading men, they laid the basis of unanimity. In the three or four months between the issue of the invitations and the assembly of the conference they were as assiduous as the Ministers of a great State awaiting a new Parliament, and it was during that time that the seed of all future success was sown.

I have described the Tenant League elsewhere.( “League of North and South” London: Chapman and Hall.)

The Convention

There were nearly three hundred delegates in attendance, mostly representative men, carrying the proxies of a district. There were Presbyterian ministers, afterwards to be Moderators of Synods or professors in colleges; farmers who had manned the local societies, and some of whom were to ripen into members of Parliament; priests, destined to be archdeacons and bishops; and nearly a dozen professional men, who afterwards entered the House of Commons or were legislators in some of the great colonies. I have seen deliberative assemblies in free countries from the Thames to the Arno, and from the German to the Pacific Ocean, but I am persuaded that the picked men of the Tenants’ Conference would match any of them in practical ability and debating power.

Sharman Crawford, who would naturally have presided, was detained in Parliament, and his place was filled by Dr. M’Knight. The secretaries were father Tom O’Shea, Rev. William Dobbin, P.M., and William Girdwood, an Ulster attorney: Reserved, stern Covenanters from the North, ministers and their elders for the most part, with a group of brighter recruits of a new generation, who came afterwards to be known as Young Ulster, sat beside priests who had lived through the horrors of a famine which left their churches empty and their graveyards overflowing; flanked by farmers who survived that evil time like the veterans of a hard campaign; while citizens, professional men, the popular journalists from the four provinces, and the founders and officers of the Tenant Protection Societies completed the assembly.

Day by day capable and energetic Presbyterian ministers worked side by side with Catholic priests of the same calibre in perfect harmony and good faith. When difference of opinion, which is inevitable amongst honest and intelligent men, arose, it was never a difference between North and South. The debates were free and full, but invariably courteous. There was no attempt to stifle dissent, a weak device very common in Irish councils; and the result was a definite plan framed on principles which have since been recognised as just, and which, after long resistance and delay, have all got established by law.

Rents, it was declared, must be fixed by valuation of the land, and the power of raising them at will or recovering a higher rent than the one so established taken away from landlords.

The tenant must have a fixed tenure, and not be liable to disturbance so long as he paid the rent settled by the proposed valuation. If he chose to quit, or if he could not pay his rent, he must have the right to the market value of his tenancy.

One principle which has since been recognised by law, but evaded in practice, is worthy of being set out in the ipsissima verba of the Conference.

Nothing shall be included in the valuation, or be paid under the valuation, to the landlord on account of improvements made by the tenant in possession, or those under whom he claims unless these have been paid for by the landlord in reduced rent or in some other way.

These principles have since blazed like beacon fires in Ireland, sometimes obscured and apparently extinguished, but only to revive again. Sir Robert Peel thought it his duty when he passed the Catholic Emancipation Act to recognise that it was not to him, but to O’Connell in Ireland, and to Whig statesmen in England, that the success of the cause was due; and when he repealed the Corn Laws he attribute to the labours of the Anti-Corn Law League and the unadorned eloquence of Richard Cobden the triumph of which he was the agent, but I do not remember that either Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Parnell, or Mr. Davitt has thought it necessary to acknowledge where the principles of the Land Act of 1881 were first successfully formulated and made articles of popular belief.

The Tenant League

The Conference closed its labours by establishing the Tenant League at a public meeting at which Catholic priests and Presbyterian ministers succeeded each other in the tribune in support of each resolution, A Council was appointed fairly representing the entire country, and it was agreed to raise a fund of ten thousand pounds, for the purposes of the movement, by assessing the counties in proportion to their capacity. We asked for money that many things might be attempted which, without money, were impossible – deputations, tracts, and contested elections being the most familiar. Meetings of the Council were ordered to be held successively in different parts of the country, each to be followed by a county meeting, which should be invited to adopt the principles of the League.

The feeling of the country at these proceedings was divided between satisfaction at the cordial union of the provinces and alarm. at the startling programme. But satisfaction greatly predominated. The journals friendly to tenant-right were jubilant. ‘The Fermanagh Mail’, a strictly Protestant journal, circulating in one of the most Orange districts in the North, broke into poetic prose, which represented characteristically the delirium of the hour :—
“It was a grand, an ennobling sight to see the children of the Covenant from the far North, the Elizabethan settlers from the Ards of Ulster, the Cromwellians of the centre, the Normans of the Pale, the Milesians of Connaught, the Danes of Kerry, the sons of Ith from Corea’s southern valleys, the followers of Strongbow from Waterford and Wexford, and the Williamites from Fermanagh and Meath-all, all uniting in harmonious concert to struggle for this dear old land.”

And a young poet of the Nation sang the event in authentic verse, of which one couplet passed from mouth to mouth :-
“The news was blazed from every hill, and rung from every steeple;
And all the land, with gladness filled, were one united people”

The reception of the League by the country was something as unprecedented as the union from which it sprang. In the first week county meetings were held in Wexford and Kilkenny, where Dr. M’Knight, Rev. John Rogers, Rev. David Bell, and other leading ministers of the Presbyterian Church had a cordial reception, and were overwhelmed with private hospitalities. Sergeant Shee, a leader of the Common Law Bar in London, presided at the Kilkenny meetings and justified the principles of the League, a fact of great significance. In the second week a deputation of Catholic laymen crossed the Boyne, and met a great assembly of tenant farmers at Ballibay, the noted headquarters of the Orangemen of three counties. Resolutions were proposed by Masters of Orange Lodges, and seconded by Catholic priests, and the Reverend Mr, Godkin, my old friend in Belfast, now a Congregational minister .in Londonderry, invited the deputation to go further North, and receive the welcome of Ulster under the historic walls of Derry.

Lucas, who was ordinarily a man of sound judgment, made a mistake at Ballibay which bore bitter fruits. The Rev. David Bell had arranged that the Dublin deputation should stop at the “York Arms,” an hotel kept by the family of Sam Grey, as a sign of amity and unity. As Lucas and I approached the town. we were met by a local agitator named J. J. Hughes, who assured us that the Catholics were indignant at our stopping at the Orange headquarters, and besought us to go elsewhere. I replied that the fact was a signal evidence of the success of our movement, and that if the Orangemen were sacrificing their prejudices Catholics must not cherish theirs. I went to the “York Arms” and had a committee meeting in the evening, but Lucas unfortunately accepted the advice pressed upon us, and went elsewhere, a fact which created ah opinion in the North altogether unfounded, that he was a man of intractable prejudices. The great county of Meath assembled on the banks of the Boyne. An immense meeting was addressed, among others by Sharman Crawford, who justified the principles of valued rents.

The meeting passed a resolution pledging the county to support no candidate at the next election who would not support the principles of the League. Tipperary followed Meath and was followed in its turn by Orange Tyrone, where over the platform waved a banner of orange, green, and blue – colours which had not met in Tyrone in the memory of man except in open conflict. Mr. Powlett Scrope, an English member and well known for his benevolent sympathy with the labouring classes, sent me his congratulations on the union of creeds so long separated, and proclaimed the fundamental principle that “Property can have no rights inconsistent with the welfare of the people”

Donegal followed Tyrone, and Clare followed Donegal, everywhere the union of creeds was complete, and harmonious, and priest and presbyter vied in language of conciliation. They were invited to knock at the gates of Limerick as well as the gates of Derry, once the citadels of contending armies, and they were assured of a cordial welcome in both.

Hope, which had died out of the hearts of the people, rekindled like a torch; money, which had been long refused for all political purposes, came in a golden tide. The League had commenced in autumn) and when the winter was half over local societies were planted in nineteen counties out of thirty-two, an agency which gave the Council more eyes than Argus and more hands than Briareus, and, above all, the basis for obtaining a Parliamentary party was being silently laid. More than thirty constituencies pledged themselves to elect only leaguers prepared to work in and out of Parliament for the establishment of our principles.


On this sunny prospect broke a sudden storm. The appointment of a Catholic Hierarchy in England by the Pope, and Lord John Russell’s famous Durham letter, were occupying all minds.

A vacancy in the Archbishopric of Armagh a little earlier enabled the Pope to appoint to the Primacy Dr. Cullen, Rector of the Irish College at Rome, a man who had spent his life in the labours and traditions of that Imperial City. He came with the additional and unmeasured authority of a Papal Delegate, and was welcomed with an interest not unmixed with awe, He had led a cloistered life in Rome, knew nothing of men, had an inordinate belief in maxims of policy designed for other regions, and a rooted reliance on his own judgment. The new ruler did not realise the common ideal of an Italian ecclesiastical diplomat. He had an awkward, upimpressive figure, and his speech was colloquial and commonplace, but under an unpromising exterior lay a decisive will and an overwhelming sense of authority which, with the mysterious attributes of Delegate of the Holy Father, gave his bearing not dignity indeed, but an air of individuality and power.

His idea of government was said to be simple to nudity. Ireland should be ruled, as Rome was ruled, by ecclesiastics, laymen having no function but to contribute a sympathetic and deferential audience. The lively, joyous, loud speaking Celt, with his strong sense of individuality and keen love of distinction, was a hopeless subject for such an experiment, but of this the new-comer knew nothing.

Dr. Cullen had been in confidential correspondence with Lucas for years, and was pleased with his ability and zeal, and did not doubt that he would fall submissively into his projects. He gave him a subscription for the League, and thought it might do good if it held altogether aloof from rash counsels and temerarious projects of which he believed I was a focus. But Lucas understood the era and the country better than the Primate, and held on his course steadily with the League.

The Irish landlords determined to turn this sectarian feud to their purpose. The Grand Orange Lodge published an exhortation to good Protestants to rally round their menaced institutions, and a great landlord meeting was held in Dublin to kindle the No-Popery feeling of the country anew. No greater danger than this could assail the recent union of North and South, but the Northerners stood firm, and minister after minister at League meetings declared that the clamour of the landlords, and probably of Lord John Russell, was mainly designed to break up the blessed harmony which existed in Ireland.

Catholic Defence Association

Dr. Cullen, zealous for religion and indifferent to everything else, formed a Catholic Defence Association in Ireland, and chose as his principal colleagues and exponents Mr. William Keogh, Mr. John Sadleir, and Mr. John Reynolds, three men whose names need no addition to any reader who has lived in the same generation. Lucas, as a Catholic journalist, necessarily entered into this new Association. I declined to because I was committed to a work of far higher importance, failing whiich another million of the Irish people would be shovelled into pauper graves.

Mr. Keogh was a vigorous speaker, and his confederate, John Sadleir, though never heard in debate, was skilled in the wiles and devices by political dupes are enlisted. These two men saw the opportunity the religious struggles gave them to better their parliamentary position, for the Peelites under Mr. Gladstone and the Free Traders under Mr. Cobden opposed the new Penal Law by which Lord John Russell designed to strike the Cathohc episcopacy. A considerable opposition was created in the House of Commons, and Mr. Keogh, who had rarely given an honest vote or uttered an honest sentiment, returned to Ireland as the champion of the Church and of the country. He wanted a political organisation at his back and a Catholic Defence Association furnished it. It cannot be denied, that the agitation if wisely conducted was justified by the new Whig policy if the interest of Ireland in keeping North and South united was not liable to be imperilled by it. A large number of the Catholic clergy went into the Defence Association; but two sections of them, experienced old parish priests who knew the condition of the rural districts, and vigorous curates whose hearts were aflame with sympathy for the people, remained true to the League.

Lucas endeavoured by private expostulation to realise to the bishops the actual interests of the country at the moment, but he was essentially a Catholic journalist, and in the ‘Tablet’ he maintained a close relation with the policy of the Episcopacy.

Dr. M’Knight was pained and finally exasperated by Lucas’s articles at this time, and naturally sent his complaints to me. But there was no immediate remedy possible.

The General Election A remedy, however, seemed to come in an unexpected direction, Mr. Disraeli, by an adroit motion which the Irish members supported, put Lord John Russell in a minority, and he resigned. If a Government could be formed from the Opposition there was an end to the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, and Ireland would be free to pursue its more vital purpose alone. But Lord Derby was not able to form a Government at that time, and the Whigs returned to office and carried their Penal Bill into law, but so damaged and discredited that neither they nor their successors ever made any use of it, and it was finally repealed after nearly thirty years.

A little later the Russell Administration was effectually ejected from Downing Street. Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli sat in their places, supported, however, only by a minority of the House of Commons, and a general election was announced. This was the opportunity the League had long anticipated. A list of trustworthy candidates was immediately prepared, with the name of Sergeant Shee at the head of it. That place was at first assigned to Sharman Crawford, for whom a Southern constituency was provided; but the Northerners insisted that he must fight the county Down, which he alone could win.

Dr. M’Knight found it impracticable to reconcile a Parliamentary career with his office as editor of the ‘Banner of Ulster,’ and Lucas’s name and mine were next on the list. It was only after serious hesitation that I consented to enter Parliament. I had not the deep chest and wide shoulders they need who undertake that exhausting career. But I longed to try the experiment of independent opposition which I had uurged on the Confederation, and to have the tragic story of the lrish tenantry told before the faces of their oppressors.

We sought to strengthen our party by bringing into it a great Englishman, John Stuart Mill, whose opinions we largely shared, and failed only for reasons which he has specified in his memoirs. The first contest befell at New Ross, where I defeated Sir Thomas Redington, Under Secretary to Lord Clarendon, and his active agent during my long contest with him, and who, although, a Catholic, had continued to hold office under Lord John Russell while he passed the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. This election was one of the most interesting and significant incidents in my life. But I have described it in a former book, and I must not repeat the story here. A birds-eye view of the transaction, however, is indispensable to my memoir.

New Ross

New Ross asked a candidate from the League, and the Council sent me accompanied by Father Tom O’Shea and S. H. Bindon, the secretary. The most influential member of the Election Committee was well understood to be Father Doyle, the senior curate of the town. We saw him immediately, and while sharing his evening meal he frankly told me that I had no chance of success. The committee were nearly all Old lrelanders, and he was persuaded they would accept no Young Irelander. I induced him to call them together that I might face their objections.

Next morning the committee, which consisted of about two dozen persons, mustered eighteen or twenty, and Father Doyle, who was suffering from influenza, arrived, wrapped in a heavy cloak and muffler, to look on, he said, but not prepared to take part in the proceedings. Three or four members who would not consent to pay me the courtesy of listening to me came to the door and stared in for a minute or two as at some strange animal, and then took their departure. I had formed a resolution during a sleepless night to make that day a cardinal one in my life; it might be one of discomfiture and disaster; but at any rate it should be signal and decisive.

I told the committee I had been forewarned of their prejudice against me because I was associated with men whom I believed to be the most enlightened and disinterested whom Ireland had known in this century, but they had probably only heard one side of the case, and should now hear the other.

A committee who were all Irishmen, who were probably all Repealers, and who had the additional ground of sympathy that they were all Catholics, afforded as fair a tribunal as I could ever hope to appeal to on my past career and my present designs, and I had come to the fixed resolution of accepting their verdict as final, whatever it might be. If after hearing my defence of the conduct of the Young Irelanders, and my aims in entering Parliament they declared that I was not a fit candidate for New Ross, I would abandon my candidature, resign my seat on the Council of the League, discontinue the ‘Nation,’ and retire from Irish affairs for ever. This was my fixed determination, and I spoke for an hour under the strong feeling created by the belief that it was perhaps my last appeal to an Irish audience.

I do not know, and I can never know, to what extent I won the sympathy of the committee, for a factor came into play which baffled all calculation. As soon as I sat down Father Doyle stript off his cloak and muffler, and plunged into the business. He declared he would give me his unequivocal support, and made a passionate appeal for fair play, before which opposition seemed gradually to melt away. There were thrilling cheers which were not for the orator solely, as he urged point after point, and when I withdrew I believed that a majority of the committee were prepared to support me.

The Whigs were alarmed and the local gentry of both parties were besought to lend their help to Redington. The League felt that the contest was about to be a decisive one, and an address to the electors of Ross, signed by fifty leading Leaguers, North and South, lay and clerical, was issued and a strong deputation of Northerners and Southerners addressed the constituency in a public meeting. The landlord of the town and the parish priest were unfriendly to me, and success would have been impossible but for the decisive will of Father Doyle. He had promised his support, he said, and he did not feel relieved from his pledge because his respected pastor had changed his mind. The people, familiar with his daily life and unsleeping services to the poor, accepted his guidance. The contest occupied the Press everywhere, it was the chief topic wherever political issues were debated, and the interest constantly increased. The young priests throughout the diocese of Ferns, some of whom had been Young Irelanders; and all of whom were friends of Father Doyle, trooped in to aid the popular cause, and the result of two days’ canvass was that a majority of the electors were pledged to support Duffy.

The ‘Freeman’s Journal’ announced that the Reform Club in London had granted funds to tamper with the constituency, and then, as a counter move, a public fund was immediately opened to bear the entire expense of the election. The design spread from Dublin to London, and from London to New york. Enough funds, and more than enough, were supplied for the long contest, and the election did not cost me a shilling. I have many times before and since refused to accept tribute or testimonial for public services to the Irish people, but to relieve a man from the necessity of buying a seat which he does not intend to sell is a wise national policy and a good public investment. William O’Hara, uncle of Mrs. John Dillon, when my intention of entering Parliament became public, offered me a qualification by a rent-charge on his estate in the county Dublin; and when a report got about that Redington hoped to defeat me on some supposed informality in this instrument, William Eliot Hudson, living apart from politics, engrossed in the cultivation of national art and literature, sent me a rent-charge on his estate in Cork to make assurance doubly sure.

The organ of the Castle assailed me in every number. I had spent my life in work which at all events was not obscure or discreditable, but the Castle critic declared I was no better than an adventurer, and that it was preposterous to compare my claims with those of the eminent official against whom I had the presumption to appear. I joined issue in a letter, not to the libellers, but to their employer : –
“I am ‘an adventurer’ (it seems) , without stake or fortune in the country.’ Well, be it so. I have no more stake in the country than Henry Grattan had when he entered the Irish Parliament. I am not much richer than Andrew Marvell when he sat in the English Commons. But let it be noted that whatever I have, great or small, was honestly earned. Not a penny of it was won, Sir Thomas, by denying the country or the creed of my fathers. There is no blood-money in it, Mr. Under-Secretary. Dublin Castle stood open for me also if I could walk in the miry footsteps of a Monahan or a Redington. The mart where Irish Catholics are bought, sold, or exchanged at the highest market-price, would not have refused even such humble capacities as mine when it finds it answers to buy up squires from Galway and ‘fat cattle from the banks of the Barrow.’ …I am ‘an adventurer!,’ ‘ Thank Heaven, I am independent,’ Robert Burns wrote, ‘for I have learned to hold a plough,’ if I may venture to echo so noble a sentiment, I would say, ‘Thank Heaven, I am independent, for I have learned to hold a pen!'”

The contest, I reminded my adversary, had begun in the Court in Green Street. In their own dens of law I had defeated him and his patron, Lord Clarendon, and now the case was set down for rehearing at New Ross :-
“There we shall have fair play at last, Mr. Justice Petrin shall not close the door against the people. Mr. Sheriff French shall not pack the panel. Mr. Solicitor Hatchell shall not pick and choose the jury, Mr. Baron Lefroy shall not harangue the audience in’ double- barrelled’ charges. We shall have untainted justice, and you shall remember it to your dying day.”

The prediction was justified. In the end Redington withdrew from the contest in despair. A candidate set up by the owner of the town, however, went to the poll, but by twelve o’clock the contest was over, and I had won by a majority of more than two to one. Even my bitterest Old Ireland opponents in the ,committee voted for me in the end. That night the town was illuminated, and the neighbouring hills blazed with bonfires to celebrate an event which a dozen weeks before seemed impossible.

The victory was pleasant news to my friends beyond the Atlantic. Meagher wrote to me :-
“It was a glorious licking you gave that ‘baptized spaniel’ and all the curs, of high and low degree, that hunted with him. Dillon and O’Gorman thoroughly unite with me in this expression of delight! and have specially requested me to say so.”

Election Results

I was already a member when Lucas stood for Meath, and able to aid him by my personal presence. From Meath, I went to Kilkenny, where I assisted at the election of Sergeant Shee, and from Kilkenny to Wexford, where the young priests who had aided my contest in New Ross carried the county in favour of one of my friends – Patrick M’Mahon, a barrister practising in London. John Francis Maguire, a popular journalist, was selected for Dungarvan against the influence of the Duke of Devonshire, and Tristram Kennedy for Louth against the influence of all the local gentry. Two Irishmen resident in London, Richard Swift, late Sheriff of Middlesex, and Dr. Brady, a man of large fortune, fought and won under the sanction of the League, counties where great expenditure had become habitual.

We did not attempt to displace men who had distinguished themselves in the Catholic Association, but our friends in their constituencies compelled them to accept a pledge to support Sharman Crawford’s Bill, which included all the leading principles of the League but one. The original union of North and South did not create a greater surprise than the result of these, which secured the return of more than half the Irish members on the new principles.

Meeting & Resolution

When the elections were finished throughout the United Kingdom the Government and the Opposition each claimed a majority. This was the precise result we had hoped for and predicted; for now, plainly, Irish votes would prove decisive. While the new members were still under the spell of the hustings, a conference of the friends of Tenant-Right was summoned by the League, to which all the members pledged to Crawford’s Bill were invited. It met on September 8th in the City Assembly House at Dublin. Upwards of forty members of Parliament, about two hundred Catholic and Presbyterian clergymen, and gentlemen farmers, traders, and professional men from every district in the country, answered the call. Sharman Crawford presided; the Conference deliberated from ten in the morning till ten at night with unbroken temper and courtesy. The object of the Leaguers in this Conference was to obtain the adhesion of the whole body of members to the critical and cardinal policy of Independent Opposition. Some of the old brigade hesitated and made difficulties, but the temper of the Conference could not be mistaken, and Mr. Keogh and his friend Mr. John Sadleir fell in with it, and were zealous for the policy and practice of independence.

The following Resolution was adopted ;-
“That, in the unanimous opinion of this Conference, it is essential to the proper management of this cause that the members of Parliament who have been returned on Tenant-Right principles should hold themselves perfectly independent of and in opposition to all Governments which do not make it a part of their policy and a Cabinet question to give to the tenantry of Ireland a measure fully embodying the principles of Sharman Crawford’s Bill.”

The number of members of Parliament accepting the decision of the Conference amounted to upwards of fifty; and no opposition from any quarter disturbed its unanimity. Since John Forster vacated the chair of the Irish Commons half a century before so effectual and practical a work for Ireland was not accomplished as at these two sittings.

As Mr. Crawford was defeated in Down it was directed by an unanimous vote that Mr.Sergeant Shee, Mr. Keogh, Mr. Lucas, and Mr. Gavan Duffy should be requested to place their names on the back of the Bill and take charge of it.

I stated in the ‘Nation’ the principle of Independent Opposition now at last triumphant as it was understood by the new Party :-
” The Irish members will keep themselves apart as an independent Party and a distinct power; precisely as the Pitt Party, the Peel Party, and the Free Trade Party did when they were small minorities and in hopeless opposition. They will act together; and in order to do so submit individual opinion, within the limits of conscience, to the common sense of the majority. They will vote for every measure of benefit to Ireland, no matter from whom it may proceed.

They will vote against ministers opposed to the Irish measures, not, as the Chronicle alleges, on every question, but on any question (not involving the serious interests of Ireland) on which they can be turned out of office.” Thus the basis was laid for a great Parliamentary campaign for the long-neglected claims of the Irish tenantry.

The Irish people, who are contemptuously, but not altogether unjustly, accused of being incuriosi suorum, and the English people, who are indifferent to whatever is merely Irish, have let the events of this era fall into obscurity, but some of the transactions which are now to be detailed were powerful and permanent factors in the political history of Ireland as it is, and as it is to be.