Land-holding Revolution

Justin McCarthy
Chapter III | Start of Chapter

The land question in Ireland has always been the great trouble to English legislators. The complete revolution effected in the system of Irish land tenure after the Norman settlement was always regarded by the vast majority of the Irish as an outrageous act of tyranny. The Irish depended for the most part on the culture of the soil, and under the old patriarchal system that culture was so carried on as to identify with it the comfort and growing prosperity of the cultivator while he kept on doing his work well, as directly as it provided for the dignity of the local Chieftain. It was a sort of Communism in which the proportionate rights of the occupier were as clearly recognised and firmly maintained as those of the landlord—if I may use this modern word. The great change in the national mode of life was the more unwelcome because it was the result of a foreign invasion and conquest, the expulsion of the old-time Chieftains and heads of families, and the settling of foreign masters over the conquered people. The Irish tiller of the soil had not only to accept a system of land tenure entirely strange to all his national traditions, but also to accept the presence of a foreign landlord whose language and habits and sympathies were alike unintelligible to him.