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give more summary powers by process of civil bill before the assistant barristers of counties. It was provided that, if the tenant was in arrears for half a year, or if he deserted, or left his land uncultivated, or carried off stock, proceedings of this more summary kind might be taken against him. Two justices were first to survey the premises and see that they were in the state described. As to the rent that might be due, they were to take the landlord's affidavit. They were then to sign a certificate, which the landlord was to serve with the process.
If the tenant failed to appear or to prove his case, the landlord was to be put in possession.
The fifteenth section of the Act gave the Irish landlord what English landlords had long held, the right of seizing growing crops in distress for arrears of rent. This poor remnant of tenant right, which the Irish peasantry had retained, was snatched away.
The effect of the Act was that the peasant who had sown his potatoes and oats in the spring, and crossed the Channel in the early summer to eke out his poor livelihood and earn his rent by haymaking in the English counties, came back to find his cottage unroofed, his crops sold, and his wife and children begging their bread. To authorise this summary procedure for arrears of six months was to hand over the tenantry bound hand and foot, for their landlords to work their will upon them; for the “hanging gale" of six months was a universal custom in Ireland. The formality of the landlord's affidavit, to be read and approved by two magistrates, who, when not landlords themselves, were landlords' agents or creatures, was bitter a mockery of justice as had ever veiled itself in the garb of law. Nevertheless this Bill conceded something to the tenant. A clause was inserted to remedy the gross abuse of calling on the occupying tenant to pay his rent twice over, when the middleman had failed to pay rent to his superior. In such cases the occupier might recover by civil bill process to the extent of fifty pounds, and he might set off costs against rent subsequently due. The clause was equitably meant, but it was utterly inoperative in By II Geo. II. c. 19.
? Section 16 of the Act.
practice. It was found by the Parliamentary committee of inquiry nine years afterwards that, whether from ignorance of the law or from the cost of litigation, procedure under this clause never took place. Practically the abuse remained unaltered. But the main purpose of the law was strenuously followed. Men and women were driven by thousands from their fields to make way for cattle.
Nemesis was kind; for she struck soon and strongly. The two years that followed were years of pestilence and famine. The oat harvest of 1817 was poor in quality and scanty. The potato crop had not failed; in some parts it was even plentiful; but the season was wet, and storage more difficult than usual. And many had none to store, for those they had planted had been seized. The seeds of typhus have been always endemic in Ireland. Favoured by some subtle atmospheric change, they ran riot on feeble frames depressed to the lowest stage of vitality by want, by forced idleness, by despair. Hordes of starving families were driven from their homesteads into the garrets and cellars of the nearest town; when hope of finding work was gone, and town after town had been visited in vain, they betook themselves to a life of aimless vagabondage, living on wild turnips and nettles when alms failed, and carrying death with them. From Donegal to Wexford, from Kerry to Armagh, hardly did a village here and there escape. The fever was in the highest degree contagious; doctors, priests, nurses were struck down by it. Strangers who had sought refuge in a cabin, sometimes even its usual inmates, were brought out when seized into the open air, and set down by the roadside, a rude imperfect shelter of sticks and straw being set up over their heads. Food was brought to them by the passers-by; the rough weather was less fatal than the tainted air of the cabins. Private charity and official help did not fail. Reports were called for from the physicians of every district, and a medical inspector was appointed for each province. Grants of public money were made. The medical reports, while dwelling with sufficient fulness on the insanitary conditions of towns and villages, the overcrowded lodgings unsupplied with air and light, the
want of hospitals in which to isolate contagion, and other such outward conditions of distress, are also unanimous in pointing to the more potent factors-vagrancy, starvation, cold, and above all the moral lethargy and despondency resulting from enforced idleness. These were for the statesman rather than for the physician to cure.
Into some kind of action statesmen were driven. To enforce sanitary regulations, to form local boards of health, was well; to build tramp wards for vagrants would at lcast give work to those who built them. Something more was needed. With great reserve at first, and afterwards more boldly, the committee of 1819 came to the conclusion that political economy, as men then understood the word, must be set aside; that the State must provide work. “Seeing," they said, in their report of June 7, “that landlords in Ireland throw expense of buildings and repairs on the tenant, and bearing in mind the lamentable circumstance, almost peculiar to that country, of the non-residence of a great proportion of proprietors, they think that Ireland has a claim to the generous consideration of Parliament."? They suggested the establishment of public works; the reclamation of bogs and of mountain-lands; the revision of the fishery laws; and the formation of roads from the principal fishing-ports to the inland towns. Kind suggestions these; and the attempts to realise them were undoubtedly beneficial for the moment. Their permanent utility has been far more doubtful. That permanent good may result from public works wisely conducted, no one who has read history would deny. A despot has carried out such works for a dependent nation; a free Parliament for its own countrymen. But a board of works, responsible to the careless judgment of a distant and alien Parliament, has always sunk into jobbery. The grants for public works in Ireland were for a long time the purchasemoney of Parliamentary support.
Reports of Committee of House of Commons on contagious fever in Ireland, 1818 and 1819. The fever was typhus, complicated in the second year by an outbreak of
ing fever. 2 The second report of the committee, in 1819, is much more outspoken than the first.
The years that followed Waterloo brought gloom and oppression to Western Europe, in which Britain as well as Ireland shared. The suspension of Habeas Corpus, and the enactment of coercion in all its forms, was not limited to the western side of the Irish Channel. The Seditious Meeting Act of 1817, defied and enforced with bloodshed at Peterloo, two years afterwards, was followed by the Six Acts of December 1819. There were as many secret societies in Glasgow and in London as in Dublin or Cork. The West Riding' was to the full as unquiet as Tipperary. During the two years of famine and disease, Ireland was too prostrate for disturbance. Times of misery are less dangerous to oppressive rulers than the memories which survive them.
One feature of the coercive legislation of 1817 is significant. The Seditious Meeting Act of that year was expressly made inapplicable to Ireland. The reason of the exemption was an open secret. Political associations of all kinds were amenable to this Act, and it was specially severe on those in which secret oaths were administered. It would, therefore, have suppressed the Orange lodges, which statesmen then, as in later times, while affecting to deplore, covertly supported. On Sir J. Newport moving that the Act should extend to Ireland, Lord Castlereagh observed that Ireland was in so tranquil a state as not to need unusual restraint. As to Orange societies, he very much regretted their existence; he felt persuaded that, after what had been said in Parliament about them, they would not be extended. On this occasion, however, it was not necessary for Parliament to interfere. To do so would provoke resentment. The sincerity of the pretext may be tested by the fact that in the same session Peel moved the continuance for a year of the Insurrection Act of 1814, which otherwise would have expired. Yet Peel, too, was
. profuse in his assurance that Ireland was tranquil. “No description," he said, “could give an adequate impression of the distress prevailing in many districts. But subordination and good order prevailed even where that distress
1 “Parliamentary Debates," vol. xxxv. pp. 812 and 1131.
was most deeply experienced." It is not famine that stirs men to action, but the memories of famine.
A moral lethargy hung over the country during those gloomy years. The cause of Catholic Emancipation was pleaded still by Grattan in Parliament. But the dispute as to the veto on Catholic bishops remained, and it hindered any cordial alliance between Grattan and the Catholic Board in Dublin. O'Connell was told by his friends that he was going too far, and was urged to yield. But he stood firm; he guarded the independence of his Church like the ark of the covenant. He was no bigot ; Ireland was now, as always, more to him than the Church: but in the Church of the majority, free from State control, lay the smouldering embers of national life. O'Connell's firmness during those years is not the least of his titles to his countrymen's gratitude. From time to time he issued a stirring appeal to the Catholics of Ireland, urging them to hope against hope, gratefully recognising the support of their Protestant countrymen in their struggle for justice, but firmly rejecting every compromise that involved State interference with Church government.
In 1820 Grattan died at the age of seventy. His last speech in Parliament had been a protest, in the previous year, against the tax on air and light, which, as medical evidence had shown, had done much to foster and propagate the recent pestilence. It was a fit close of his career. In the spring of 1820 he had come from Dublin, intending to present the usual petitions of the Catholics. His strength was already failing, and he was urged to leave the task to another. But he chose to die at his post.
He had served for twenty years in the Irish, and for fifteen in the united, Parliament. His judgment as to the Union never altered. But the marriage, he said, had taken place, and it was the duty of every one to render it as fruitful and advantageous as possible.? His life, public or private, had been without a spot. For a brief moment
1 See letters to Catholics of Ireland of October 1819 and January 1821, in “O'Connell's Life and Letters."
2 Speech on window tax, May 4, 1819.