[From Dublin University Magazine, Vol. XI, No. LXI, January 1838]
To the Editor of the Dublin University Magazine.
sir-Your exertions in the cause of the persecuted and loyal portion of the Irish Protestant population, through whose unflinching bravery, and determination, Ireland has hitherto been preserved to the British crown, have induced me to lay before you the present frightful and insurrectionary state of the county Longford, as an example of what is now systematically going forward in almost every other county in Ireland, where the mass of the population is Roman Catholic.
Previously to the memorable year 1829, and till after the passing of the Emancipation bill, no county in Ireland enjoyed more uninterrupted tranquillity.
Indeed it was most remarkable for the peace and industry of its peasantry, mostly Roman Catholic.
The disturber of his country surveyed this peaceful county, and in its then happy state, he beheld no prospect of adding to his political power. Two loyal and constitutional members were, and had been its representatives for many years-one of them the late lamented Lord Forbes, (a supporter of the Emancipation bill,) who, like other mistaken but honorable men, when too late, resisted the further encroachment of Popery.
What was the consequence? The demon of Ireland, aided and abetted by the low agitators and Romish priests of the county, declared that neither he nor his respected colleague should any longer be returned.
Two gentlemen were accordingly sought for, and brought forward, by names, Rourke and Luke White-the former a gentleman of very limited means, and altogether unknown to the county; the latter the son of a respectable gentleman, who had amassed a large fortune in business, and had recently purchased two or three thousand per annum in the county.
These were the men selected to accomplish the work of agitation and disunion in Longford, and to sow the seeds of discord between the Protestant landlord and his Roman Catholic tenant-and sadly was the work accomplished.
In the year 1832 these two candidates came forward to contest the county, and by means of unheard-of intimidation and violence were returned on the poll, but subsequently unseated by petition.
From that period till the year 1835, when a general election again took place, an unremitting system of persecution and outrage was carried on against every respectable Roman Catholic and Protestant elector who voted against the nominees of O'Connell.
Night after night, robberies of arms, inhuman assaults, Rockite notices, and in some instances the horrible murder of Protestants, were perpetrated.
The election of 1835 took place - Mr. Luke White, and Henry White his brother, opposed the Conservative candidates, Lord Forbes and Mr. Anthony Lefroy, and were defeated on the poll.
This overthrow served but to encrease the more the rage of O'Connell and his priests. Forthwith, every Romish altar in the county was polluted with inflammatory and seditious harangues by the Reverend Incendiaries. The unfortunate electors who voted for the Conservatives were mercilessly persecuted, and a murder of the most atrocious nature in the annals of Irish ferocity, was committed on the 24th June, 1835, at six o'clock in the afternoon, on a respectable Protestant farmer, a tenant of Lord Lorton's, named Brock.
For this crime two men, named Brennan and Rodihan (the latter had been a student of Maynooth College, and was educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood) were arrested and brought to trial. Most positive evidence was borne against them by the unfortunate widow, who, hearing the screams and moans of her ill-fated husband, rushed to the spot in time to obtain a full view of his murderers. As a further confirmation of the guilt of Rodihan, the following facts were given in evidence on his trial, which I find reported as follows in the Longford Messenger:- " Rodihan fled the country immediately after the murder; the houses of his relatives and associates were searched time after time-rewards amounting to £1,500 were offered by the county gentlemen for his apprehension; and it was not till the month of March, 1836, that be was discovered in a cabin in the mountains of Leitrim, almost built into a small apartment,* and going under a false name.
The prisoners were acquitted by a jury composed of Roman Catholics- one of them being a relative of the prisoner Rodihan.-It is not for us to say what were the motives which influenced the jury-we say not whether their verdict was correct-but certainly it was one not expected by any one who heard the evidence.
To an Englishman this acquittal may appear extraordinary, but such acquittals are now unfortunately too common in this misgoverned country.
Hundreds of murderers at this present time stalk with impunity through the land, and how, under the following circumstances, could it be otherwise, as the government, in its wisdom, has long since withdrawn the privilege held by the crown of challenging a certain number of the jury empannelled to try a case of murder.
The consequence has been, that, as in the case of Brock's murder, the accused person can select his own friends, and an acquittal is inevitably the result.
From this period until the death of Lord Forbes in Nov. 1836, the same system of intimidation and violence was pursued, and numberless outrages were committed with impunity. In fact, the sword of justice was allowed to sleep peacefully in its scabbard, at a time, when murder for political purposes was an almost every day occurrence, and a conviction for such a crime unheard of.
In December 1836, an election again took place in consequence of Lord Forbes' death. Mr. Fox started on the Conservative interest, and Mr. Luke White, the oft defeated candidate, again on the Radical.
As the reader is well aware of the efforts which were successfully made by the Irish government, the Rebel Association, paid agitators, and the Romish priests, to return their nominee by fraud and violence, on the poll, I shall not enter into further details of that contest, but merely record, that the sister of a Protestant farmer, named Gee, was stabbed to death shortly after the election, in resisting the attack of an armed body of ribbonmen who came to her brother's house to rob him of his arms-and the murderer is as yet (as a matter of course) undiscovered.
From that time till the late general election, the same frightful system continued with unabated hostility, but with this aggravation, that hitherto, the deluded and priest-ridden peasantry had confined their atrocities to the humbler class of Protestants; but after Mr. Fox's election, they turned their hatred and fury against some of the leading resident gentlemen of the county- outraging, and insulting their feelings wherever they met them; and in some instances, breaking the windows of their mansions by night, as in the case of Frederick Jessop, Esq. of Doory, a gentleman of large fortune, and a humane and excellent landlord, who gave constant employment to hundreds of the infatuated population around him, and whom, for the present, they have driven out of the country by their infamous conduct.
In short, the county Longford this day presents a picture of the most frightful state of disorganization, and suppressed rebellion, and is but a facsimile of every other county in Ireland, where the benign system of Mulgravisation has been introduced.
Mr. Luke White and his brother, were returned at the late general election by the same unconstitutional exertions, but there is little doubt will be unseated on petition.
I shall select two more outrages of the many that have been perpetrated since then, both attended with loss of life.
Mr. Andrew Johnston, a respectable Protestant farmer, residing near Ballymahon, voted for the Conservative candidates at the election. The consequence was, an unrelenting persecution by his Roman Catholic neighbours, at the head of whom figured the priest of the parish, named Dawson, a notorious agitator in the country; who in order to punish Mr. Johnston for not voting with the people, determined to deprive him of the tolls and customs payable to him every market-day in Ballymahon, and which he rented from Mr. Shouldham, the landlord of the town.
Accordingly, supported by a riotous mob of his slavish flock, he set up a crane or weighing machine of his own, commanding every one to avoid Johnston's. The consequence was, that a riot ensued, in which Mr. Johnston and his son were ferociously assailed by the priest's followers, and in the scuffle one of the rioters was killed.
An inquest was held. The jury perhaps was composed of some of the persons engaged in the affray, and, as might be expected, a verdict was returned against Mr. Johnston, who was thrown into jail, where he remained many days, but was at length bailed out by two magistrates on their own responsibility.
The unfortunate victim of Popish persecution was but a few days liberated, before another attempt to assassinate him was made. The following extract, which I copy from the Dublin Evening Packet of Saturday last, will speak for itself- "As Andrew Johnston, Esq. of Ballymahon, was returning from his farm on the 13th instant, accompanied by a man named Armstrong, in Mr. Johnston's employment, several shots were fired at him from behind a ditch. Mr. Johnston had a providential escape, several of the bullets having struck his gig. He has been a marked object of persecution since the late election, and shall be obliged to seek that protection in a foreign land, which is denied him in his own."
I now come to the last outrage, which I shall adduce in order to demonstrate the extraordinary, and infatuated system of government pursued by Lord Mulgrave.
A few weeks ago, two policemen were patrolling the roads by night,- suddenly they came in contact with a numerous body of men, some of them armed, who immediately fired on the police (happily without effect) and then fled. The policemen, notwithstanding the fearful odds opposed to them, gallantly returned the fire, and pursued the insurgents. Two men fell, one killed, the other (I believe) mortally wounded.
The following day it so happened, that Col. Shaw Kennedy, the Inspector General of Police in Ireland, was passing through Longford on his way to Sligo, to investigate the charges preferred against Major Browne after the election there, and hearing what had occurred, sent for the two policemen, one of them a sergeant, and complimented them in the highest terms for their bravery and good conduct. But what did this avail the poor policemen? A coroner's inquest was held on the body of the slaughtered ribbonman, and a verdict returned against them,-the men who at the risk of their lives, had so nobly done their duty, were cast into prison, and allowed to languish there for some days before they were bailed.
Under such an appalling state of society is it to be wondered at, that the loyal and peaceable inhabitants of this unhappy country should call loudly and indignantly for the dismissal of the wicked and infatuated government, that for the sake of holding office, have handed it over to the tender mercies of O'Connell and the Romish priesthood? Is it not enough to drive the betrayed and persecuted Protestants mad, to hear (in the teeth of the most appalling facts to the contrary,) the monstrous falsehoods day by day uttered, by the ministerial press, and its leaders, of the tranquillity of Ireland?
I am, Sir, your obedient Servant,
A Resident of Longford.
* Lest an English reader should not exactly understand the phrase built into a wall, used by the Longford writer, it is necessary to add, that Rodihan was actually immured, and food administered to him by the removal of a brick.