Tenant-Right in Ulster - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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The custom was almost confined to Ulster. It was by no means (though this has often been stated), created or commenced by the terms of the Plantation of Ulster in the time of King James the First; but was a relic of the ancient free social polity of the nation, and had continued in Ulster longer than in the other three provinces, simply because Ulster had been the last part of the island brought under British dominion, and forced to exchange the ancient system of tribe-lands for feudal tenures. Neither is the custom peculiar to Ireland. It prevails in Italy, in Spain, in Hungary, in all Austria. In France and Prussia it has ripened into full peasant proprietorship; and nowhere, perhaps, in all Europe, is it denied or disallowed to the tillers of the soil, except in Galicia (the Austrian part of Poland), and in the three Southern provinces of Ireland.

Surely it was fair, it was not unnatural, that Tipperary should seek to become another Down; and if, throughout all Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, there was idleness and indifference to improvement of farms, who could expect it to be otherwise, seeing that if a man was so insane as to improve, to drain, to fence, to build a better cabin, his landlord was quite sure to serve him with a "notice to quit." In fact, on many estates those notices were always served regularly from six months to six months—so that at every Quarter Sessions the whole population of such estates was liable to instant extermination.

The people of Ireland are not idle. They anxiously sought opportunities of exertion on fields where their landlords could not sweep off all their earnings; and many thousands of small farmers annually went to England and Scotland to reap the harvest, lived all the time on food that would sustain no other working men, and hoarded their earnings for their wives and children. If they had had Tenant-Right they would have laboured for themselves, and Tipperary would have been a peaceful and blooming garden.

Is the American mind able to conceive it possible that noble lords and gentlemen, the landlords and legislators of an ancient and noble people, should deliberately conspire to slay one out of every four—men, women, and little children—to strip the remainder barer than they were—to uproot them from the soil where their mothers bore them—to force them to flee to all the ends of the earth—to destroy that Tenant-Right of Ulster where it was, and to cut off all hope and chance of it where it was not? No; I can hardly suppose that an American is able to grasp the idea; his education has not fitted him for it; and I ...continue reading »

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