Tories in Ireland

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXI

The third "beast" was the Tory. The Tory was the originator of agrarian outrages in Ireland, or we should rather say, the English planters were the originators, and the Tories the first perpetrators of the crime. The Irish could scarcely be expected to have very exalted ideas of the sanctity and inviolable rights of property, from the way in which they saw it treated. The English made their will law, and force their title-deed. The Anglo-Normans dispossessed the native Irish, the followers of the Tudors dispossessed the Anglo-Normans, and the men of the Commonwealth dispossessed them all. Still, the Celt, peculiarly tenacious of his traditions, had a very clear memory of his ancient rights, and could tell you the family who even then represented the original proprietor, though that proprietor had been dispossessed five or six hundred years.

The ejectments from family holdings had been carried out on so large a scale, that it can scarcely be a matter of surprise if some of the ejected resented this treatment. There were young men who preferred starving in the woods to starving in Connaught; and after a time they formed into bands in those vast tracts of land which had been wholly depopulated. The men were desperate. It is difficult to see how they could have been anything else, when driven to desperation. They were called robbers; but there was a general confusion about meum and tuum which they could not understand. Strangers had taken possession of their cattle, and they did not comprehend why they should not try to obtain it again in any possible way. Young men, whose fathers had landed estates of £2,000 a-year, which were quietly divided amongst Cromwell's Life-Guards, while the proprietor was sent out to beg, and his daughters compelled to take in washing or do needlework, could scarcely be expected to take such a change in their circumstances very calmly. A man who had been transplanted from an estate worth £2,500 a year near Dublin, which his family had owned for four hundred years, and whose daughters were given the munificent gratuity of £10 a-piece by the Council Board, and forbidden for the future to ask for any further assistance, might certainly plead extenuating circumstances [8] if he took to highway robbery.

Such circumstances as these were common at this period; and it should be borne in mind that the man whose holding was worth but £40 a-year felt the injustice, and resented the inhumanity of his expulsion, quite as much as the nobleman with £4,000. So the Tories plundered their own property; and, if they could he captured, paid the penalty with their lives; but, when they were not caught, the whole district suffered, and some one was made a scapegoat for their crime, though it did not seem much to matter whether the victim could be charged with complicity or not. After some years, when even the sons of the proprietors had become old inhabitants, and the dispossessed generation had passed away, their children were still called Tories. They wandered from village to village, or rather from hovel to hovel, and received hospitality and respect from the descendants of those who had been tenants on the estates of their forefathers, and who still called them gentlemen and treated them as such, though they possessed nothing but the native dignity, which could not be thrown off, and the old title-deeds, which were utterly worthless, yet not the less carefully treasured. Yet, these men were condemned by their oppressors because they did not work for their living, and because they still remembered their ancient dignity, and resented their ancient wrongs. To have worked and to have forgotten might have been wiser; but those who are accustomed to ease are slow to learn labour, even with the best intentions; and those who had inflicted the wrongs were scarcely the persons who should have taunted the sufferers with the miseries they had caused.


[8] Circumstances.—Lord Roche and his daughters were compelled to go on foot to Connaught, and his property was divided amongst the English soldiers. His wife, the Viscountess Roche, was hanged without a shadow of evidence that she had committed the crime of which she was accused. Alderman Roche's daughters had nothing to live on but their own earnings by washing and needlework; and Mr. Luttrell, the last case mentioned above, was allowed as a favour to occupy his own stables while preparing to transplant.