Below is a preview of my next article for ALH seeing as the Irish Land League is my
favourite topic there will be a lot added to this article in the future. This is just a preview for the moment....
By 1870 Ireland had assumed an appearance of economic, social and political stability unknown since the famine the eighteenth century. Despite the famine catastrophe, the residual rural population had preserved much of its familiar way of lip while achieving unfamiliar prosperity.
Destitution was no longer sufficient to exhaust the capacity of the poor law system; emigration continued to ameliorate underemployment by removing surplus population.
The depletion of the poorest classes and the optimism of those more privileged had weakened social animimosis while Gladstone’s 1870 Land Act had offered the promise of further and more effective state interventions in the troubled relationship between landlord and tenant.
Ulster Protestants were beginning to relish the Victorian Sensation of Progress, while the growing Catholic middle class and the Catholic Church attained a new respectability in Irish Social and Political life.....
On the 7th of Febraury 1880 in the Galway Vindicator newspaper, it was reported that a public meeting was held in Athenry on Sunday for the purpose of establishing a local branch of the National Land League.
There was a large attendance. A substantial platform was erected in the chapel yard and the Athenry Brass Band at the beginning and termination of these orderly proceedings discoursed in the practiced style some likely, soul stirring airs.
Among those present at that meeting were: - Very Rev. Cannon O’Brien, P.P. , Rev P. McPhillip C C, Patrick Egan-Secretary Land League, Richard J. Kelly, Tuam, D. McDonagh, J. McPhyllin, P. Naughton, P.Hennelly, Michael Fahy, T.R. Kelly, P.C. Kelly, A. Keary, P.P. Broderick, M. Nolan, M. Hennelly, P.L.G. , P. Callanan, L. Lardner, J. Shaughnessy, J.Fahy, J. Donohue, M. Culkin, P. Mahon, P. Murphy, T. Coyne, & C & C.
On the motions of Denis McDonagh, seconded by Mr. Hennelly. The chair was taken loud and continued applause by the Very Rev. P.J. Cannon O’Brien. The very Bev Chairman, in addressing said:
“My respected fellow townsmen, parishioners, and friends, I have to thank you very much indeed for the honourof thus promoting me to the proud position of President of the Athenry Tenant’s Defence Asscoiation, which is to be engrafted on the great Irish Land League.
I accept the enviable post with more than ordinary promptitude and pleasure because I believe the work which that league is resolved to do to be a work which that should enlist the best sympathies, and secure the most strenuous co-operation for every man to feel for, or an intellect to understand or inexpressingly calamitous, distressful, and degraded state into which our ill-starred sountry is flung down by the despotic felonious murderous system of feudal landlordism wherewith we and our fathers for many generations have been cursed and cumbered on our native soil.
Yes! my friends this atrocious Landlordism should force every tongue in Ireland legally to denounce, and every hand in Ireland constitutionally to destroy it utterly and forever from our midst.
Need we go back to the bloodstained records for the unnumbered evils and humiliations and sufferings which it caused again and again in the olden times to all the Celtic and Catholic classes in this misgoverned land? Most assuredly not.
No! We have unfortunetly at our very doors, yes, within our very thresholds, in Athenry, at this melancholy moment, bitter, sadly thrilling evidences of the widespread, woeful, wicked, consequences of this adominable system.
The feudal landlordism it emphatically is which as already brought this county of Galway into the ghastly presence of famine and fever, and the many unspeakable miseries that ever follow in their fatal wake – this fendal lanlordism it is that now leaves our labourers, standing idle in the market place, where there is no one to hire them –our artisans straving, our farmers in despair, our small tenants perishing, our shopkeepers despondent, and our merchants pauperized-this feudal landlordism it is that has drawn the black pencil of poverty across the face of this unhappy province.
This feudal landlordism it is that has prostrated her energies, paralyzed her spirit of enterprise and annihilsted her propriority - this feudal landlordism it is that has shorn her-as Sampson was once shorn of his strength and consigned her to be helplessly kicked and scuffed, and jeered at, and spit upon by every contemptous philistine at his arrongant will - this feudal lanlordism, it is that now day after day, alas, presents before us the sad and sickening spectacle not only of decrepit husbands, and shrivelled wives and famishing widows, and half-naked children; but evcen stalwart men and youthful maidens coming in their hundereds to our relief depots, and piteously craving for for the miserable beggar's dole-this feudal landlordism it is that has made our country at this moment, as oft she was before a by-word for sorrow, a parable of wretchdness, and a medicant for aims at the dorr of every nation under Heaven!
This, in fine, is the feudal landlordism, of which may be truly said, as was cloquently said of the alien robbers in Peru - that "Wherever it moves in anger desoultion marks its progress, and wherever it pauses in amnity afflictions mourns its friendship".
No wonder, therefore, my friends, that such a ruthless and ruffian system should come at last, to be repudiated by equity, to be rejected by justice, to be renounced by reason, and to be reprobated by argument.
Yes! reprobated and undefended by every argument save one, that proveriably notorious argument of tyranny. The savage argument, of bayonets and brute force. Yes, thank God, despite of that barb-rous argument, despite of the death bearing rifles and menancing revolvers.
Now, put forward with such a promising parade, and pomp and glistening bravodo in its behalf; despite of the fact that it is formally propped up. This destestable feudal landlordism is manifestable tottering to its near and inevitable destruction.
For everyone to that hath eyes to see the palpable shadows of the fast and surely coming events, its doom is already written on the wall; it is already written on the wall. It is weighed in the balac es of principle alike and policy, and found wanting - tis cruel couse is already well-nigh run, and its crimeful days are numbered.
Even as Rome of old fell beneath the load of own long culminating corruption, so shall feudal landlordism in Ireland fall under the overwhelming burden of its long accumlating inquities-like Richard's- the very weight of its own guilt shall crush it.
Well, you will, my friends, naturally ask me, if this is so, what need have we of a Tenant's Defence Association at all?
The awnser is not far to seek. It is the duty of every honest man to hasten by all legitimate means, the disappareance of such a mischievous and maligant monstrosity (from?) amgonst us. No, I hope to convience you that there is no constitutional means better calculated to effect this blessed purpose. To accomplish this desiderated end, than the action whic is to be taken by the Tenant's Defence Association with which our Athenry Branch commences to be joined today.
Feudal Landlordism, is as I have said, doomed to die without any very long delay. But trust me, my friend, that like many a noxious evenomed animal, it will "die hard". Knowing even as he, mentioned in the Scriptures knew of himself, that it "hath but a short time," work refreshed, as it were a redoubled wrath and energy.
Now nothing that I can concieve of, , will more effectively stay in its hostile hand, and neutrailize, as far as may be, its work of wickedness , than what the Tenants Defence Association, acting strictly with in the lines of legality intends to do. The chief reason why landlordism wrought almost without raising a little finger of effort. or closing a single farthing of money, much lamentable ruin among the tenantry of Ireland hitherto, was, that with a priarie, hunter's skill, it separated and singled out its victim from the heard.
But aswell as an imbecile infant strive against a giant in the furious falness of his rage, as a poor individual, isolated tenant contend successfully against against this landordism. So, of course, it goes without saying, that the poor isolated tenant was worsted; that down went his homestead before the levelling crowbar; and that out went himself and his wailing wife and shivering waste.
Again,and again, and again for countless times was this same cunning plan of inexpensive inhumrnity adopted by landlordism against other haples tenants. More than that: comparatively speaking and as a rule all these dees of desolation were done without, what landlordism so much dreads, any special knowledge or notice on the part of the general public. Now thanks to the defence association, landlordism can never again hope to enjoy either of these, its olden advantages.
No more can landlordism victimize the tenants as it did in the days of yore. Every tenant who is a member of this Defence Association, and he can become an enroled member for a trifiling-a nearly nominal sum- will Land League
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