Agrarian Outrages in Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXVI

In the north some disturbances had originated as early as 1775, amongst the Protestant weavers, who suffered severely from the general depression of trade, and the avariciousness of commercial speculators. Their association was called "Hearts of Steel." The author of the United Irishmen mentions one instance as a sample of many others, in which the ruling elder of a Presbyterian congregation had raised the rents on a number of small farms, and excited in consequence severe acts of retaliation from them.[5]

In 1784 two parties commenced agrarian outrages in Ulster, called respectively Peep-o'-Day Boys and Defenders. As the Catholics sided with one party, and the Protestants with another, it merged eventually into a religious feud. The former faction assumed the appellation of Protestant Boys, and at last became the Orange Society, whose atrocities, and the rancorous party-spirit which they so carefully fomented, was one of the principal causes of the rebellion of 1798. The Catholics had assumed the name of Defenders, from being obliged to band in self-defence; but when once a number of uneducated persons are leagued together, personal feeling and strong passions will lead to acts of violence, which the original associates would have shrunk from committing.


[5] Them.—Vol. ii. p. 93.