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Public·71 members

Land Of War The Beginning Free

From 1870, various governments introduced a series of Land Acts that granted many of the activists' demands. William O'Brien played a leading role in the 1902 Land Conference to pave the way for the most advanced social legislation in Ireland since the Union, the Land Purchase (Ireland) Act 1903. This Act set the conditions for the break-up of large estates by government-sponsored purchase.

Land of War The Beginning Free

Agrarian crimes were rising during the late 1870s, from 135 in 1875 to 236 two years later. At the same time emigration (which acted as a pressure valve for political tension) decreased by more than half.[16] Nevertheless, as late as 1877 the areas which would be heavily affected by Land League agitation were completely calm, without any hint of what was to come.[17] In 1878, the Irish-American Clan na Gael leader John Devoy offered Charles Stewart Parnell, then a rising star in the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP), a deal which became known as the New Departure. As a result of this agreement, the physical-force and parliamentary wings of Irish nationalism agreed to work together on the land issue.[18][19] This collaboration was cemented by a meeting on 1 June 1879 in Dublin between Devoy, Parnell, and Michael Davitt. It is disputed what was actually agreed to. Davitt maintained that there was no formal agreement, while Devoy claimed that the IPP had promised not to act against the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and made other concessions in exchange for Irish-American support.[20]

The west of Ireland was hit by the 1879 famine, a combination of heavy rains, poor yields and low prices that brought widespread hunger and deprivation.[21] Compounded by the reduction in opportunities for outside income, especially seasonal agricultural income in Great Britain, many smallholders were faced with hunger and unable to pay their rent.[22][23] Some landlords offered rent abatement, while others refused on the grounds that their tenants were participating in anti-landlord agitation.[24] Irish historian Paul Bew notes that five of the largest landlords in Connacht also refused to contribute any money to relief funds, despite collecting more than 80,000 annually in rent.[7] According to historians such as William Vaughan and Phillip Bull, the serious agricultural recession combined with a unified nationalist leadership prepared to exploit the discontent of the masses to produce a powerful and lasting popular movement.[25]

On 21 October 1879, the land League of Mayo was superseded by the Irish National Land League based in Dublin, with Parnell made its president.[38] As the land agitation progressed, it was taken over by larger farmers and the centre of gravity shifted away from the distressed western districts.[43] In Mayo, the autumn potato harvest was only 1.4 tons per acre, less than half of the previous year.[44] At the Land League conference in April 1880, Parnell's program of conciliation with landlords was rejected in favour a demand for the abolition of "landlordism", promoted by Davitt and other radicals.[45] On 17 May, Parnell was elected to the presidency of the IPP.[46] Local chapters of the Land League frequently were formed from previous associations such as Tenants' Defence Associations or Farmers' Clubs, which decided to join the Land League because of the greater financial resources offered; this brought larger farmers and graziers into the movement.[47]

The league adopted the slogan "the land for the people", which was vague enough to be acceptable to Irish nationalists across the political spectrum.[38] For most of the tenant farmers, the slogan meant owning their own land. For smallholders on uneconomic holdings, especially in the congested western areas, it meant being granted larger holdings that their families had held previous to the Great Famine evictions. For radicals such as Michael Davitt, it meant land nationalization.[48] The fusion between land agitation and nationalist politics was based on the idea that the land of Ireland rightfully belonged to the Irish people but had been stolen by English invaders who had foisted a foreign system of land tenure upon it.[49][50] Nominally, the Land League condemned large-scale grazing as improper use of land that rightfully belonged to tillage farmers. As investment in grazing land was the main vehicle of upward mobility for rural Catholics, the new Catholic grazier class was torn between its natural allegiance to Irish nationalism and its economic dependence on landlords to rent land for grazing. Many sided with the Land League, creating a mixed-class body whose actual economic interests conflicted. This further consolidated the nationalist nature of the Land League.[51]

After the general election of April 1880 with the Land War still raging, Parnell believed then that supporting land agitation was a means to achieving his objective of self-government. Prime Minister Gladstone attempted to resolve the land question with the Land Law (Ireland) Act 1881. The Act gave greater rights to tenant farmers, so-called dual ownership, but failed to eliminate tenant evictions. Parnell and his party lieutenants, William O'Brien, John Dillon and Willie Redmond went into a bitter verbal offensive against the Act and were imprisoned in October 1881 in Kilmainham Jail, together with other prominent members of the League, under the Irish Coercion Act. While in jail, they issued the No Rent Manifesto, calling for a national tenant farmer rent strike until their release. Finally, on 20 October the Government moved to suppress the Land League.[52]

Between 1906 and 1909, smallholders seeking more land launched the Ranch War, demanding the sale of untenanted land owned by landlords and the breakup of large grazing farms.[58] Opponents of ranching highlighted the fact that many ranches had been created after the famine from land formerly tilled by evicted smallholders.[59][60] Organised by the United Irish League and Laurence Ginnell,[61] the Ranch War involved cattle drives, public rallies, boycotting, and intimidation.[62][63] Between August and December 1907 alone, 292 cattle drives were reported to the authorities.[64] It was most intense in areas of Connacht, North and East Leinster and North Munster where large grazing farms and uneconomic smallholdings existed side by side.[65][66] The campaign resulted in a defeat for the small farmers; besides "a legacy of bitterness and cynicism in Connaught",[67] the main effect of their campaign was to show how Irish nationalism had become a bourgeois movement, including many large graziers.[68]

Some of the Land League's local branches established arbitration courts in 1880 and 1881,[73] which were explicitly modeled off of British courts.[74] Typically, the cases were heard by the executive committee, which would summon both parties, call witnesses, examine evidence presented by the parties, make the judgment and assign a penalty if the code had been broken. Sometimes, juries would be called from the local communities and the plaintiff occasionally acted as prosecutor. Despite the trappings of common-law procedure, American historian Donald Jordan emphasizes that the tribunals essentially were an extension of the local branch judging if its own rules had been violated.[75][76] These courts were described as a "shadow legal system" by British academic Frank Ledwidge.[77] According to historian Charles Townshend, the formation of courts was the "most unacceptable of all acts of defiance" committed by the Land League.[78] In 1881, Chief Secretary for Ireland William Edward Forster grumbled that Land League law was ascendant:

... all law rests on the power to punish its infraction. There being no such power in Ireland at the present time, I am forced to acknowledge that to a great extent, the ordinary law of the country is powerless; but the unwritten law is powerful, because punishment is sure to follow its infraction.[79]

From 1882, the Irish National League organised courts to replace those of the earlier organisation. The key provisions forbade paying rent without abatements, taking over land from which a tenant had been evicted, and purchasing their holding under the 1885 Ashbourne Act.[80] Other forbidden actions included "participating in evictions, fraternizing with, or entering into, commerce with anyone who did; or working for, hiring, letting land from, or socializing with, boycotted person".[81] Tribunals were typically led by the leaders of local chapters, holding open proceedings with a common law procedure. This was intended to uphold the League's image of being in favour of the rule of law, just Irish law instead of English law.[82]

When a man takes a farm from which another has been evicted, you must shun him on the roadside when you meet him, you must shun him in the streets of the town, you must shun him at the shop-counter, you must shun him in the fair and at the marketplace, and even in the house of worship... you must shun him your detestation of the crime he has committed... if the population of a county in Ireland carry out this doctrine, that there will be no man ... [who would dare] to transgress your unwritten code of laws.

One of the Land League's main tactics was the famous boycott,[85][86] whose target at first was "land grabbers".[87] Land League speakers including Michael Davitt began to advocate a new non-violent moral tactic against those taking over the land of evicted tenants.[88] Parnell gave a speech in Ennis in 1889, proposing that when dealing with such tenants, rather than resorting to violence, everyone in the locality should instead shun them. This tactic was then widened to landowners. The term "boycott" was coined later that year following the successful campaign against County Mayo land agent Charles Boycott. The concerted action taken against him meant that Boycott was unable to hire anyone to harvest the crops in his charge. Boycott was forced to leave the country;[89] and the tactic spread throughout the country. The use of "intimidation" to enforce a boycott had to be criminalized in the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act 1882.[90][91] 041b061a72


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