clear for younger and bolder men. William Shaw succeeded him as chairman of the Irish party in Parliament; but after the election of 1880, Parnell, who had the Land League at his back, ousted him by 23 votes to 18.
The Land Law of 1860, known as Deasy’s Act, had been based on the principle that every tenancy rested on contract either expressed or implied. The act of 1870, admitting the divergence between theory and practice, The Land League. protected the tenants’ improvements and provided compensation for disturbance within certain limits, but not where the ejectment was for non-payment of rent. In good times this worked well enough, but foreign competition began to tell, and 1879 was the worst of several bad seasons. A succession of wet summers told against all farmers, and in mountainous districts it was difficult to dry the turf on which the people depended for fuel. A famine was feared, and in the west there was much real distress. The Land League, of which Michael Davitt (q.v.) was the founder, originated in Mayo in August, and at a meeting in Dublin in October the organization was extended to all Ireland, with Parnell as president. The country was thickly covered with branches before the end of the year, and in December Parnell went to America to collect money. He was absent just three months, visiting over sixty cities and towns; and 200,000 dollars were subscribed. Parnell had to conciliate the Clan-na-Gael and the Fenians generally, both in Ireland and America, while abstaining from action which would make his parliamentary position untenable. He did not deny that he would like an armed rebellion, but acknowledged that it was an impossibility. Speaking at Cincinnati on the 23rd of February 1880, he declared that the first thing necessary was to undermine English power by destroying the Irish landlords. Ireland might thus become independent. “And let us not forget,” he added, “that that is the ultimate goal at which all we Irishmen aim. None of us, whether we be in America or in Ireland, or wherever we may be, will be satisfied until we have destroyed the last link which keeps Ireland bound to England.” At Galway in October of the same year he said that he “would not have taken off his coat” to help the tenant farmers had he not known that that was the way to legislative independence. Fenianism and agrarianism, essentially different as they are, might be worked to the same end.
To meet the partial failure of the potatoes in Connaught and Donegal, very large sums were subscribed and administered by two committees, one under the duchess of Marlborough and the other under the lord mayor of Dublin. When Lord Beaconsfield appealed to the country in March 1880, he reminded the country in a letter to the viceroy, the duke of Marlborough, that there was a party in Ireland “attempting to sever the constitutional tie which unites it to Great Britain in that bond which has favoured the power and prosperity of both,” and that such an agitation might in the end be “scarcely less disastrous than pestilence and famine.” But the general election did not turn mainly upon Ireland, and the result gave Gladstone a majority of 50 over Conservatives and Home Rulers combined. Earl Cowper became lord-lieutenant, with W. E. Forster (q.v.) as chief secretary, and Parnell remained chairman of his own party in parliament. The Compensation for Disturbance Bill, even where the ejectment was for non-payment of rent, passed the House of Commons, but the Lords threw it out, and this has often been represented as the great cause of future trouble. Probably it made little real difference, for the extreme party in Ireland were resolved to stop at nothing. It is not easy to defend the principle that a landlord who has already lost his rent should also have to pay the defaulter before getting a new tenant or deriving a profit from the farm by working it Boycotting. himself. Speaking at Ennis on the 19th of September, Parnell told the people to punish a man for taking a farm from which another had been evicted “by isolating him from his kind as if he was a leper of old.” The advice was at once taken and its scope largely extended. For refusing to receive rents at figures fixed by the tenants, Captain Boycott (1832-1897), Lord Erne’s agent in Mayo, was severely “boycotted,” the name of the first victim being given to the new system. His servants were forced to leave him, his crops were left unsaved, even the post and telegraph were interfered with. The Ulster Orangemen resolved to get in the crops, and to go in armed force sufficient for the purpose. The government allowed 50 of them to go under the protection of about 900 soldiers. The cost seemed great, but the work was done and the law vindicated. In Cork William Bence-Jones (1812-1882) was attacked. The men in the service of the steam-packet companies refused to put his cattle on board, and they were eventually smuggled across the Channel in small lots. Several associations were formed which had more or less success against the League, and at last a direct attack was made. Parnell with four other members of parliament and the chief officers of the Land League were indicted for conspiracy in the Queen’s Bench. No means of intimidating the jurors was neglected, and in the then state of public feeling a verdict was hardly to be expected. On the 25th of January 1881 the jury disagreed, and Parnell became stronger than ever.
Then followed a reign of terror which lasted for years. No one was safe, and private spite worked freely in the name of freedom. The system originated by Parnell’s Ennis speech became an all-devouring tyranny. In the House of Commons, on the 24th of May 1882, Gladstone said that boycotting required a sanction like every other creed, and that the sanction which alone made it effective “is the murder which is not to be denounced.” The following description by a resident in Munster was published in The Times of the 5th of November 1885: “Boycotting means that a peaceable subject of the queen is denied food and drink, and that he is ruined in his business; that his cattle are unsaleable at fairs; that the smith will not shoe his horse, nor the carpenter mend his cart; that old friends pass him by on the other side, making the sign of the cross; that his children are hooted at the village school; that he sits apart like an outcast in his usual place of public worship: all for doing nothing but what the law says he has a perfect right to do. I know of a man who is afraid to visit his own son. A trader who is even suspected of dealing with such a victim of tyranny may be ruined by the mere imputation; his customers shun him from fear, and he is obliged to get a character from some notorious leaguer. Membership of the National League is, in many cases, as necessary a protection as ever was a certificate of civism under Robespierre. The real Jacobins are few, but the masses groan and submit.” Medicine was refused by a shopkeeper even for the sick child of a boycotted person. A clergyman was threatened for visiting a parishioner who was under the ban of the League. Sometimes no one could be found to dig a grave. The League interfered in every relation of life, and the mere fact of not belonging to it was often severely punished. “The people,” says the report of the Cowper Commission, “are more afraid of boycotting, which depends for its success on the probability of outrage, than they are of the judgments of the courts of justice. This unwritten law in some districts is supreme.”
The session of parliament of 1881 was chiefly occupied with Ireland. “With fatal and painful precision,” Gladstone told the House of Commons on the 28th of January, “the steps of crime dogged the steps of the Land Coercion. League,” and the first thing was to restore the supremacy of the law. In 1871 there had been an agrarian war in Westmeath, and an act had been passed authorizing the arrest of suspected persons and their detention without trial. The ringleaders disappeared and the county became quiet again. It was now proposed to do the same thing for the whole of Ireland, the power of detention to continue until the 30th of September 1882. Parnell cared nothing for the dignity of the House of Commons. His leading idea was that no concession could be got from England by fair means, and he made himself as disagreeable as possible. Parliamentary forms were used with great success to obstruct parliamentary action. The “Coercion Bill” was introduced on the 24th of January 1881. There was a sitting of 22 hours and another of 41 hours, and on the 2nd of February