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Landlord responses to the Irish Land War, 1879-87.

In his magisterial study, Landlords and Tenants in Mid-Victorian Ireland, William Vaughan redresses the imbalance of John Pomfret's pioneering work, The Struggle for Land in Ireland, 1800-1923 (Princeton, 1930), that depicted the Irish landlords as so many "alien and absentee" predators who positively relished rack-renting and evicting their tenants. Vaughan's demolition of the Pomfret orthodoxy epitomizes the best kind of archivally based revisionism. Although he exonerates the landlords from the charge of social vampirism, Vaughan stresses their manifold failures as estate managers, preservers of power, and role models for their tenants. While giving them credit for having survived the fallout from the Great Famine, he deplores their inertia or lack of enterprise as well as their inability to exploit the full value of their lands. In the decades following the famine they extracted "only about 80 per cent of available rents" annually and spent paltry sums on agricultural improvements. To make matters worse, they failed to curb their appetite for an aristocratic lifestyle, to bridge the great social divide between themselves and their tenants, and to resist--let alone support--the forces of political democracy led by an assertive Catholic middle class outside Northeast Ulster. No longer "masters of their fate," they had lost their ability to influence the British state. But then, as Vaughan puts it ever so pungently, "no European landed elite crowed without challenge on its own dunghill."

Vaughan also contends that because they lacked "the protection of a tough state, versed in the ways of bullying peasants," the landlords looked to Dublin Castle and the Royal Irish Constabulary for their salvation. In short, they had "ceased to make themselves useful by providing law and order"; they allowed their tenants to rebel in 1879; they no longer "dominate[d] the constituencies or parliament," and they were at best quixotic paternalists who could not "protect their people from the vicissitudes of the outside world." Having "failed to build up reservoirs of informal power," they were increasingly "peripheral to the land system." Not only did they fall far short of what Disraeli considered "a real aristocracy," but they had also abdicated their position as the "most knowing class" in Ireland to the "lawyers, policemen, and priests." Their failure to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit in their tenants, to take on the responsibilities of a "proper rentier class," and to use their estates as "sources of power and wealth," as did the English aristocracy, meant that they had no chance of surviving as a ruling class. (1) In sum, if Vaughan had to grade their performance, they would be lucky to attain a gentleman's C.

Such strictures may seem ironic coming from a historian whom some critics have seen as letting the landlords off lightly when it came to the abuse of their social and economic power. After all, Vaughan's book provoked one reviewer to write the landlords off as so many "fossilized" parasites. (2) Ironically, the noted nationalist Alexander M. Sullivan, M.P., would have heartily agreed with Vaughan's verdict except for the issues of under-rented farms and evictions. In two long letters to the Times in 1880, this latter-day Young Irelander accused the gentry of having achieved little over the course of three centuries despite their monopoly of power, privilege, and wealth. He pointed out that one hundred landlords had just held a crisis meeting in Dublin to discuss the country's long-term "smouldering civil war," and all they could recommend was repression. "The sum of all their statesmanship, all their counsel, all their reforms, all their conciliation," he declared, "is a bald demand on England for more coercion." After all, "a landlord or gentry class is meant to be something more than so many rent-spenders, fox hunters, and grouse shooters." And if they were not, then they had no right to complain about being heartily despised. "If they are not found to fulfil the function of natural leaders of the people around and dependent on them, alive to their interests, responsive to their needs, that class is a failure and is a peril to the social and political system." (3)

Sullivan's censure cannot be dismissed simply because he embraced home rule after renouncing the republicanism of his youth, or because he was writing at a time of acute social and economic distress that revived searing memories of the Great Famine, when hordes of pauperized peasants had either perished or been evicted and forced to emigrate overseas. Some of his opinions were fully justified. Moreover, many of the farmers and laborers who lived through the hard times of the late 1870s were the sons or daughters of famine survivors, and they had neither forgotten nor forgiven the horrors witnessed as children or described by their parents. In the words of Margaret O'Callaghan, "The survival of the famine as a living spectre in the society was not the product of the memories of the old and tired but also of individuals in their prime whose recollections were fresh and first-hand." (4)

Given the increasing friction between landlords and tenants after mid-century, it took only one or two examples of callous landlordism to give a bad name to other proprietors unless they were extraordinarily benevolent. Needless to say, absentee landlords like the 2nd marquis of Clanricarde (also known as Lord Clanrackrent) and the 3rd earl of Lucan (whose local epithet was "the old exterminator") had earned lasting notoriety by resorting to mass evictions. On the other hand, such absentees as the big three magnates of Mayo--Lords Dillon and Sligo as well as sir Roger Palmer--who together owned 279,600 acres valued at 50,000 [pounds sterling] in that county, employed capable land agents who managed their estates with much more diplomacy. (5)

Vaughan's verdict on the landlords carries weight because it derives from an impressive array of manuscript and printed sources. His book ends, however, with the outbreak of the land war and contains no serious discussion of the landlords' responses to the formidable challenges that they faced after 1879. Readers are thus left with the impression of a ruling class that had grown so feeble and inept as to pose no threat to a rebellious tenantry. On the contrary, as this essay argues, they had not lost all their sting. Far from being defenseless or impotent, many of them used their power to evict or threaten eviction and to distrain chattels or goods in the hope of squeezing some money out of their rebellious tenants. If they were slow to mobilize, they proved quite capable of combining to defend their interests during the land war. In an essay on the "hidden history of the land war" Fergus Campbell rightly points out how much neglect surrounds the role of ordinary farmers and laborers--the foot-soldiers of the Land League--during the agitation. On the other hand, the measures taken by landlords to counter the League's offensive have also been largely "hidden"--indeed, buried--despite the existence of much evidence. (6) What follows is an attempt to contextualize and explain the various responses of the landed elite to the formidable challenge posed by the "moral insurrection"--to use Fintan Lalor's phrase--mounted by the tenantry and their urban allies after 1879.


At the risk of oversimplification we may identify five causes of the prolonged decline of landlord wealth and power after the famine. These are first, the debts or incumbrances that hobbled an owner's ability to meet all his obligations and to grant the kind of abatements demanded by tenants after 1879; second, the forces of democratic nationalism manifested by a more mature political consciousness among Irish Catholics that sustained the home-rule movement; third, the sudden and sharp downturn in the agricultural economy after the prosperous years of the early and mid-1870s; fourth, the eruption of a militant tenant-rights campaign, led by Michael Davitt, Charles Stewart Parnell, and their lieutenants, who posed a formidable threat to landlordism all over the country; and fifth, Glad-stone's Land Act of 1881 that created a supervening authority--the Land Commission with its own courts--that effectively deprived the landlords of their traditional right to determine the rent of their nonleasehold farms.

Because so many historians--from Conor Cruise O'Brien and T.W. Moody to F.S.L. Lyons, Samuel Clark, and Margaret O'Callaghan--have written about the New Departure and the rise of a militant home-rule movement led by Parnell, we will focus here briefly on the landlords' indebtedness, their loss of political power, and the origins of the Land League before dealing at greater length with their individual and collective responses to the challenges they faced between 1879 and 1885.

During the 1870s roughly 6,500 men and women owned estates of 500 acres or more. Most of the 4,000 owners with properties valued at 500 [pounds sterling] or more were of course descendants of the old Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, but they considered themselves Irish; and so we will use that label without prejudice. Even to generalize about the 337 estates valued at more than 5,000 [pounds sterling] runs the risk of distortion because there are so many exceptions to any rule. (7) According to a government survey of 1872, roughly 71 percent of these landlords lived on their estates or elsewhere in Ireland. While the richest owners were mostly Anglicans, some 43 percent of all proprietors were Roman Catholics, 48 percent belonged to the Church of Ireland, and 7 percent were Presbyterians. (8) Given the distinct history of each estate, only a multiple prosopography based on masses of estate papers and steeped in local history could do justice to the subject. Exactly how and why some estates survived economic adversity while others foundered in debt and had to be sold remain mysteries, if only because the records of insolvent properties invariably disappear. Since most Irish estates were heavily mortgaged and their owners found it hard to deny themselves luxuries, the causes of bankruptcy usually involved matters of degree rather than kind.

In both Ireland and Great Britain the landed-estate system rested on the legal and financial bedrock of the strict family settlement that ensured the orderly transfer of the patrimony from one generation to the next by means of deeds or indentures that placed the lands in a binding trust. The marriage settlement drawn up for the heir apparent at the time of his engagement guaranteed not only a jointure for his wife when widowed but also capital sums or portions for the younger children born of the marriage when they reached maturity. For large landowners these trusts involved tens of thousands of pounds, all of which were raised by mortgage loans secured by the collateral of land. Essentially a tenant for life, the head of the family could not sell any of his entailed estate without the trustees' approval or a private act of parliament until the Settled Land Act of 1882 paved the way for voluntary sales. (9) Depending of course on the size of the inherited incumbrances, interest payments often consumed from one-fifth to one-half of the annual rental income. For example, Anna, the dowager countess of Kingston, paid almost 57 percent of her estimated rental to the Church of Ireland on a mortgage loan of 236,000 [pounds sterling], secured by lands on her magnificent Mitchelstown estate in County Cork. (10) The knowledgeable Dublin lawyer Dr. Wentworth Erck reckoned that all these family charges amounted in the mid-1880s to roughly five years' rental, "or 45 millions [pounds sterling] on the encumbered rental of 9 millions [pounds sterling], or one-third of the total encumbrances." (11)

As for the causes of landed insolvency, Anglo-Irish novelists from Maria Edgeworth to Edith Somerville and Martin Ross knew only too well how an impecunious forebear might have married for love rather than money or squandered his inheritance on gambling or building an ostentatious Big House. Other causes of bankruptcy ranged from too lenient an attitude toward arrears to an incompetent or embezzling agent and a demanding mistress. During the Hanoverian era the Anglo-Irish gentry had earned a reputation for heavy drinking and gambling, dangerous dueling, and the abduction of young heiresses. Because their liquid assets did not come close to meeting their appetite for the trappings of an aristocratic lifestyle, they invested little of their own money in agricultural improvements and saddled their heirs with incumbrances that drove many of them into the Incumbered Estates Court after 1849. The buyers of these insolvent estates tended to be both Irish and British men of wealth, who hoped for a decent return on their investment. Between 1790 and 1825 the earls of Belmore spent almost 90,000 [pounds sterling] on building and furnishing Castle Coole in County Fermanagh, thereby saddling their heirs with such heavy debts that land had to be sold in the 1850s. (12) As the agricultural economy gradually recovered from the effects of the famine, the payment of rent on most estates improved markedly, reaching a peak in the mid-1870s, when arrears fell to less than 10 percent of the annual rental on well-managed estates. The arrears on the earl of Kenmare's vast Kerry estate (valued at 25,250 [pounds sterling]) sank to a mere 5.1 percent of the annual rent in 1878 and reached similarly low levels on his Cork and Limerick estates. (13) Aggregate arrears on Lord Cloncurry's estate in County Limerick (5,100 acres valued at 2,600 [pounds sterling]) dropped to only 980 [pounds sterling] for the five-year period 1875-79, while gross receipts reached a total of 17,800 [pounds sterling]. (14) Many owners used this burst of prosperity to embark on costly upgrades to the Big House and demesne rather than investing more money in their tenanted land. (15)

Surrounded by a bevy of advisors--from land agents, subagents, family solicitors, accountants, and stewards to trustees--the richest landowners could afford to carry mortgage loans that would have crushed their poorer friends or cousins. For example, the fixed charges on the 4th marquis of Downshire's Irish and English estates came to 516,000 [pounds sterling]. At 4.4 percent interest the servicing of these debts cost him 22,800 [pounds sterling] annually. Given his gross income of roughly 79,000 [pounds sterling], however, these charges accounted for less than one-third of his receipts in the 1880s. (16) At different times the yearly interest payments of the 5th Baron Dufferin and the 4th earl of Gosford came close to one-quarter of the gross rental of their estates in the counties of Down, Armagh, and Cavan. By contrast, the 4th earl of Lucan inherited almost 206,000 [pounds sterling] in mortgages in 1888 and then had to raise another 33,100 [pounds sterling] to cover portions for his younger children. The annual payments on loans totaling 239,000 [pounds sterling] amounted to 10,750 [pounds sterling] or close to 83 percent of the annual valuation of his vast Mayo estate. (When Lucan sold most of his 60,600 acres after 1903, some 91 percent of the purchase money went to creditors.) (17) By definition the owners of thousands of acres of marginal soil had a much harder time making ends meet unless they had outside sources of income. Wealthy or eminent proprietors, moreover, could always find a moneylender or banker willing to meet their needs, whereas their poorer and more obscure cousins had to search hard and pay more for creditors with money to lend to such bad risks. In fact, the land agitation prompted some life-insurance companies--whom the Munster land agent Samuel Hussey considered "the greatest mortgagees in Ireland"--to cease lending money to Irish landlords. (18) According to Hussey, the incumbrances on Munster estates came close to six or seven times the gross rental. (19)

Some idea of the disparate debt burdens borne by landowners may be gained from the mortgage-loan ledgers of the Representative Body of the Church of Ireland (RCB). After disestablishment in 1869 the church invested much of its generous compensation from the state in mortgage loans to over one hundred small, medium, and large proprietors of the Anglican persuasion. The amount of interest paid by the 34 proprietors with the smallest loans approximated 71 percent of the official valuation of their estates. By contrast, the debt burden carried by the dozen largest borrowers amounted to only 19 percent of their combined property valuation. (20)

Of course, the distinction between solvency and insolvency could hinge on whether or not the owner or his heir gambled recklessly or chose the path of prudence by marrying an heiress. In 1853, Sir Charles Denny Wheeler-Cuffe inherited a small estate at Lyrath near Kilkenny town. He had hardly any cash; the house was "in very bad repair"; and family charges drained 69 percent of his rental income of close to 2,000 [pounds sterling]. For these compelling reasons he embarked on a career in the army, which took him to garrisons from Gibraltar to India. Driven to the brink of insolvency as an absentee owner, he thought about selling the estate. But in 1861 he married the only daughter of a wealthy peer, Henry, Lord Stuart de Decies of Dromana, near Villierstown, Co. Waterford. This prudent match brought him a dowry of 10,000 [pounds sterling]. He then sold his commission for 2,000 [pounds sterling] and saved much money by living for eleven years in the sumptuous house of his father-in-law. Urged by Lord Stuart to make Lyrath house fit for his daughter, Cuffe borrowed over 6,000 [pounds sterling] to cover the cost of renovations. After an absence of twenty-three years, he finally returned to the family mansion. For the next forty years he struggled to make ends meet, only to die mired in debt. (21) One sure sign of landlord distress was the fourfold rise in the number of estates under receivership in the Land Judges' Court between the end of 1881 and 1886. (22)

The good times for agriculturists came to a grinding halt after 1877, when two increasingly cold, wet summers caused severe crop losses, especially in the West. To make matters worse, imports of cheap foods from America drove prices down, to the despair of tillage farmers. (23) As a class, the landlords also suffered from declining incomes. According to Erck, their net rental fell from roughly 12 million [pounds sterling] in 1878 to some 8 million [pounds sterling] a decade later, while their interest payments remained the same. (24) Arrears piled up on estates around the country, reaching 89 percent of the rental of Lord Kenmare's Killarney estate by 1882. The landlords' response to this growing crisis varied widely. After rejecting requests for abatements, the earl of Donoughmore found himself bereft of any rent in December 1880. On the other hand, some landlords made concessions on a sliding scale, reducing the rents of their poorest holdings by up to 20 percent, while granting 10 percent abatements to farms valued at more than 40 [pounds sterling] or 50 [pounds sterling]. In the autumn of 1879 the liberal earl of Erne granted a temporary reprieve of 10 percent on his Fermanagh estate and 20 percent on his Mayo property. At the same time he issued instructions for the improvement of butter production to make farms more profitable. But in 1880 he refused the tenants' demand for a 25 percent reduction. The marquis of Ely also gave abatements varying from 10 to 20 percent on his Enniskillen estate, depending on the value of the holding. A number of northern landlords, however, were not so obliging. Some wrote letters to the papers insisting that their rents were reasonable; and Lords Annesley, Enniskillen, Lanes-borough, and Charlemont flatly refused any abatements during the winter of 1879-80 on the grounds that arrears were depriving them of much-needed money, concession was a sign of weakness, and crops were plentiful (or so they said). (25)

The unrelenting burden of fixed charges, not to mention personal debts, meant that the most heavily mortgaged owners balked at abatements of more than 10 percent unless on a strictly ad hoc and temporary basis. Because most owners under-rented their land and had to pay out as much as five-eighths of their net rental income to their mortgagees, any sharp decline in annual receipts was bound to have, in Vaughan's words, "a drastic effect on landlords' disposable incomes." (26)

Landlordism sustained another blow toward the end of 1881 when Gladstone carried into law his historic Irish Land Act that authorized the famous "three Fs" of fair rents, fixity of tenure, and the free sale of the occupier's interest in his holding to an incoming tenant. This measure created what was widely, if misleadingly, called a system of "dual ownership" by depriving owners of their right to determine the letting value of farms held by tenants-at-will. In the short run the so-called judicial rents handed down by the land courts reduced the rents of applicants--exclusive of leaseholders--by an average of 20 percent. Unwilling or unable to block this bill in the House of Lords, the landlords' lobby settled for minor amendments, while sending a stream of angry letters to the Times and other newspapers deploring this assault on their property rights. (27) Coming on the heels of scattered rent strikes, this measure caused further grief to landlords, who soon realized that they had to pay most of the legal fees of tenants applying for a fair rent. (28) Writing at the end of 1881 to Lord Dufferin from Dartrey House in County Monaghan, Lady Dartrey called the tenants' demands for reductions in the new land courts "more and more outrageous," and she accused the assistant land commissioners of being "violently prejudiced" against the landlords. (29) Whatever the face amount of rent reductions approved by the land courts, the fact remained that the landlords lost a much higher percentage of their net income than of their gross rental. (30) Even more ominous for the landed elite was the prospect of a second round of judicial rents fifteen years later.

All told, some 381,700 "first-term" rents, involving a gross rental of 7,523,800 [pounds sterling], were fixed under the act. The average reduction came to 20.7 percent--a figure not far off Griffith's valuation on a number of estates. (31) Delighted by these results, the Freeman's Journal and other nationalist newspapers faithfully reported the reductions of the assistant land commissioners around the country in the hope no doubt of encouraging other proprietors to follow this example. (32) Faced with the loss of up to one-quarter of their former income and confronted by sullen or resentful tenants, some landlords and agents demanded that tenants with judicial rents pay up sooner than those without. (33) In the meantime Gladstone's government removed another major irritant in landlord-tenant relations by carrying the Arrears Act of 1882 that wiped out a large portion of the outstanding arrears that had piled up since 1878. (34)

The most obvious sign of the Irish landlords' loss of political power was their gradual disappearance from the House of Commons. The erosion of political clout began long before the land war but was accelerated by a man of impeccable gentry origins, Charles Stewart Parnell. In the southern provinces middle-class Catholics, whom Daniel O'Connell had done so much to politicize, took advantage of the franchise extension in 1867 and the introduction of the secret ballot in 1872 to defeat most of the patrician candidates at the polls. In 1868, Irish voters returned 91 MPs (out of a total of 105 seats) who owned estates larger than 500 acres or valued at 500 [pounds sterling] and above. At the general election of 1874, however, this cohort of gentry MPs fell to 72 (out of 103) and then shrank to 47 in April 1880. Among the gentry who lost their seats in the latter election were two men of ancient Gaelic lineage--the Catholic Liberal, Charles Owen O'Conor (the O'Conor Don) of Clonalis, Co. Roscommon, and the Protestant Conservative, Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh of Borris, Co. Carlow. So shattered was Kavanagh by his defeat that he denounced his tenants--men whom he had trusted and befriended over many years--as "traitors" and "double-faced liars." In the depths of despair he contemplated closing his Big House and leaving the country for good. (35)

Only 14 of the 61 victorious Parnellite MPs in 1880 owned more than 500 acres; and in 1885 no more than five of these MPs owned over 1,000 acres. At the general election of 1892 the number of Anglo-Irish gentry MPs outside Ulster sank to two. By 1900 there were 14 landowning MPs sitting in the House of Commons, with the one southern seat going to the eminent historian W.E.H. Lecky, who had been elected in December 1895 as the member for Dublin University. (36) In short, the old landed elite was supplanted by middle-class professionals, small businessmen, shopkeepers, and strong farmers, most of whom were Catholic and nationalist. The remnants of the old Ascendancy had little choice but to hope that the 28 representative Irish peers along with British landed magnates would defend their interests in parliament. By 1906 the forces of southern unionism had been dwarfed by the powerful coalition of landed and business magnates in the Northeast that was determined to scuttle home rule. As Theo Hoppen has noted, the political decline of the gentry outside Ulster makes it all the more remarkable that they managed "to retain a strong voice in political and electoral affairs" for so long. (37)


Most recent historians of the land war agree that the sharp downturn in the agricultural economy after 1877 put farmers in a financial bind that eventually drove them to join the "challenging collectivity" known as the Land League. Given the sums that they had borrowed from shopkeepers and moneylenders at high interest rates, tenants were unable to satisfy both their creditors in the towns and their landlords. (38) When they looked to the latter for help after the disastrous summer of 1879, they encountered resistance in the estate office to anything more than modest concessions based on individual need. With some exaggeration William O'Brien, MP, the able nationalist politician and editor of United Ireland, attributed the founding of the Land League of Mayo in January 1879 to the refusal of the largest landowners in that county to grant "a wretched abatement of only 10 per cent to a tenantry on the brink of starvation." As he put it dramatically, "they kept their 10 per cent and they founded the Land League." (39)

Slowly but surely, tenant farmers fell further behind in the payment of their rents. The clearest sign of trouble was the rapid increase in arrears all over the country. Admittedly, a few landlords could afford high arrears and did not have to come down hard on their tenants. On the duke of Abercorn's vast estate in County Tyrone, arrears reached the 40,000 [pounds sterling] mark for much of the 1870s. On the other hand, Sir Victor Brooke's agent managed to hold arrears down to around 1 percent on a rental of 12,100 [pounds sterling] in County Fermanagh during the mid-1870s. After the summer of 1879, however, the situation rapidly deteriorated. Tenants' arrears on Captain Robert Cosby's estate in Queen's County increased tenfold between 1876 and December 1880. The arrears on Lord Castletown's estate in the same county rose from 3,500 [pounds sterling] in November 1879 to 8,300 [pounds sterling] a year later--or almost half the entire annual rental. On the Monaghan estate of the county historian Evelyn Philip Shirley, arrears soared from 15 percent of the rental in the mid-1870s to 94 percent in 1882. On the sprawling Ormonde estate in County Kilkenny arrears rose from 7,000 [pounds sterling] in 1879 to 12,300 [pounds sterling] in 1881, dipped below 10,000 [pounds sterling] for the next few years, and then mounted steadily until reaching a peak of 24,300 [pounds sterling] in 1890. (40) Such shortfalls in receipts gave indebted owners good reason to worry about their ability to meet all the fixed charges on their estates as well as their personal debts. With rental income dwindling to a mere trickle on many estates in 1880-81, signs of alarm in the Big House were not hard to find. (41)

Fearing foreclosure or eviction, thousands of tenants joined the Irish National Land League after October 1879. Modeled on the Land League of Mayo that radical tenant-righters and ex-Fenians had launched in the previous January, this new organization promoted branches in every province. Local League activists promptly demanded permanent reductions down to the level of the tenement valuation carried out between 1852 and 1865 by Sir Richard Griffith and his staff. Designed exclusively for local tax purposes, this valuation was based on the low prices prevailing for agricultural goods during the years 1849-51. Given the increased value of produce by the mid-1870s, the original valuation usually fell well below the actual letting value of farmland. (42)

According to Samuel Hussey, the prominent Munster land agent, who also owned a small estate in Cork, the League was wholly responsible for stirring up hostility against landlords and for provoking agrarian outrages. Mindful that many tenants felt compelled to pay their rent in secret for fear of being shot by Moonlighters if this was ever discovered, he attributed the worst agrarian crimes to the more prosperous farming class. (43) What he failed to mention was the role played by eviction in provoking tenants to defy their landlords. When and where agents obtained civil-bill decrees and writs of ejectment in the county courts, thereby forcing the tenants to bear some of the legal costs, League organizers had a much easier time recruiting new members. (44)

Hoping to avoid another catastrophic famine in the West in the winter of 1879-80, the Conservative government allocated half a million pounds in low-interest loans to landlords and local authorities for land improvements. The British treasury received so many applications for loans that Gladstone's new administration increased this sum by 750,000 [pounds sterling] in August 1880. During and after the hard winter of 1879-80 private charity supplied some 830,000 [pounds sterling] to the needy in food, clothing, fuel, and other forms of relief, according to the Dublin Mansion House Relief Committee. (45) This huge outpouring of private and public funds, however, did not deter the League's leaders from encouraging tenants to hold out for Griffith's valuation and nothing less.


What became known as the land war bore some resemblance to the "moral insurrection" for which James Fintan Lalor had called in 1847. (46) It involved an increasingly bitter conflict between "two groups of creditors"--not to mention debtors--orchestrated by activists whose long-term goal was to abolish landlordism by means of compulsory land purchase that would turn occupiers into owners. (47) Because landlords as well as tenants were victims of a rising-expectations syndrome, neither side was in a mood to make the kind of concessions that would diminish their disparate standards of living. Although slow to mobilize in some areas, the agitation against landlordism soon spread throughout the southern and western counties and also deep into mid-Ulster, as Robert Kirkpatrick has shown. (48)

At first most proprietors and their agents refused to concede more than a modest abatement to tenants who could prove genuine hardship. Many of them dealt with requests for major reductions during the autumn of 1879 and winter of 1880 by granting temporary abatements. In some cases they also supplied seed potatoes and coal to needy tenants and subscribed paltry sums to the local poor-relief fund. As Carter points out, these modest concessions cost landlords little and spared much aggravation. But any respite from strife was short-lived. Here and there hard-nosed landlords took umbrage at petitions for rent relief. Lord Donoughmore spurned any reductions at the end of 1880 and earned a rent strike for his obstinacy. John George Adair refused to concede and blamed the tenants' complaints about high rents on such personal failings as "want of industry, bad habits," and extravagant borrowing. Lord Ashbrook dug his heels in and threatened to unleash a shower of ejectment writs if his tenants did not pay the full amount promptly--a threat that evidently proved effective. (49) Any begrudging or negative response by the owner ruptured what once had been relatively good relations. When League branches launched their low-rent or no-rent campaigns during 1880-81, the more pragmatic landlords took the route of timely concession even while firing off angry letters to Dublin Castle and the press denouncing what they called a criminal or communist conspiracy. (50) After persuading Parnell to assume the presidency of the National Land League, Davitt worked hard to strengthen the dynamic alliance between ex-Fenians, tenant-right radicals, and militant home-rulers that would transform not only landlord-tenant relations but also Irish history.

The Land League challenged not only landlordism but also the forces of law and order that supported this ancient institution. As soon as local branches were established, spokesmen began to denounce proprietors as tyrants and insisted that rents be brought down to the level of Griffith's valuation. When tenants abandoned any pretense of deference and demanded drastic reductions, their landlords were understandably incensed as well as apprehensive. (51) At the end of 1880, Robert Staples, a small landowner and magistrate in Queen's County, despaired of the growing "anarchy and lawlessness" as well as "the terrorism and fear of boycotting." In fact, he "heartily wished" that he had forsaken "this most accursed and distracted country" years ago. (52) Vilified by League activists, the 3rd marquis of Ormonde turned down a request to build a new bridge across a river because the falling value of Irish land made it unwise to invest money in improvements. (53) Relations grew more acrimonious as soon as the owner rejected the demand for estate-wide abatements above 15 or 20 percent. (54) Lord Arthur Butler, acting as agent for his brother Lord Ormonde, denied one request for a lower rent on the grounds that "the landlord should [not] be called upon to bear the loss which a tenant may sustain by a temporary depression in the price of cattle, when that landlord never asked any increase of rent when cattle were enormously high in price." (55)

Lord Talbot de Malahide lamented the disrespect shown by his tenants, whose rents he had never raised. Akhough he admitted that the "confiscations" of landlord rights by both the League and the Liberal government had made him lose interest in his estate, he still hoped "to die in peace and to leave some property to my children." (56) Even landlords sympathetic to home rule--like Lady Gregory and Sir Patrick O'Brien--fumed when they learned that their tenants had joined the League and now refused to pay the amount due. (57) But evicting those who had paid no rent for at least two years did not solve the problem because landlords soon discovered the difficulty of finding anyone willing to take their place. The so-called land-grabber" was not just despised; he was also the object of boycotting, cattle-maiming, arson, nocturnal gunfire, or worse.

The steady rise in final evictions--from 1,100 in 1879 to 5,000 families in 1882--reflected the growing resistance to the payment of the old rent and the landlords' determination to squeeze more income out of their tenanted lands. Because no more than 5 percent of the 29,100 families evicted between 1880 and 1887 were readmitted as caretakers (compared with 17 percent of the 6,850 families evicted in the previous decade), there can be little doubt about the owner's desire to get rid of both his most insolvent and defiant tenants. (58) Those who were readmitted after paying a token rent to the agent had to accept probationary terms that made them even more vulnerable to eviction. Of course, living under the threat of eviction imposed untold stress on the entire household. Because evictions involved an act of traumatic violence against the occupants, they usually resulted in some kind of retaliation--especially death threats. (Of the 11,300 agrarian outrages officially recorded during the land war, some 62 percent involved threatening letters.) (59) Typical of these messages was a notice nailed to a gate on Lord Drogheda's demesne offering 1,000 [pounds sterling] for his lordship's head and 100 [pounds sterling] for that of his agent. (60) Only in rare cases did groups of "loyal" tenants dare to sign petitions or memorials addressed to their lord and master repudiating the Land League--as happened to Evelyn Shirley on his County Monaghan estate in May 1881. (61)

Such threats, of course, did not deter landlords or agents from ousting those tenants with the largest arrears or the fiercest loyalty to the League. But the repercussions could prove costly. During the summer of 1880, Hussey ordered the destruction of three evicted houses near Castleisland in County Kerry. When one of those farms was relet to a landgrabber, hostilities boiled over and for more than six years the new tenant was boycotted, while the former occupant and his wife divided their time between a Land League hut on the estate and prison. (62) In January 1881 a rash of highly publicized evictions and the government's announcement of more coercive measures prompted John Dillon to predict that the special powers contained in the new coercion bill would spur the landlords to resort to "the crow-bar brigade" and evict as many as 50,000 tenants. (63)

As for resisting eviction, League members knew that if only they could stop the process server or bailiff from actually serving the ejectment writ or civil bill on the occupier, then no eviction could take place. By the summer of 1881 small gangs of men were assaulting these despised officials, many of whom returned from their forays onto estates beaten, bloodied, frightened, and bereft of all their writs. At least one process server was forced to chew and swallow a writ, another was held over a fire, another dipped in a cesspool, and several were stripped naked and thrust onto the public road. (64) The landlords despaired of this campaign because it foiled their plans to relet the evicted holding to a solvent tenant or stock the farm with their own cattle. Soon hundreds of police were being assigned to protect these beleaguered officials from enraged protesters. Attacks on process servers grew so serious that more than one county-court judge allowed them to post their ejectment writs in the nearest town or marketplace instead of having to enter what had become a virtual combat zone.

Far removed from Fenian-style skirmishing against the police, this land agitation resembled a tug of war between the mobilized tenantry with their superior numbers and the landlords with their wealth and the backing of the courts, coercion acts, the magistracy, the Royal Irish Constabulary, and the military. In most respects it was a war of nerves as well as words. And yet there was enough violence and intimidation to prompt the former Irish attorney-general Edward Gibson, MP (later Baron Ashbourne), to tell Lord Beaconsfield in January 1881 that "Ireland is in a terrible way, half-anarchy, half-revolution." (65) During that year the rhetoric on both sides reached the incendiary stage. Speaking at Queenstown on the eve of sailing to America with T.P. O'Connor, MP, to raise funds for the Land League, the American journalist James Redpath deplored the suffering of tenants who were "at the mercy of 7,000 irresponsible rural despots called landlords." He accused these "tyrants" of having robbed the Irish people for centuries by confiscating their lands, destroying their homesteads, and sentencing millions to emigration or death by starvation. (66)

Such rhetoric was bound to make life more difficult, if not more dangerous, for landlords living in districts where militants ran the local League branch and where Captain Moonlight's marauders were thick on the ground. Those gentry who received death threats rarely ventured beyond their demesne gates on business or pleasure without a police escort and at least one revolver or shotgun close at hand. An artist hired by the Graphic evoked the poignancy of a father bidding farewell to his children and his wife as he leaves the manor house under the protection of three members of the Royal Irish Constabulary in "The Land Agitation, Ireland--A Resident Landlord: The Daily Farewell." (67) By the end of 1880 League branches were setting up local courts, often presided over by a priest or curate, and potential litigants were urged to take their disputes to this tribunal. (68)

On many estates negotiations over rents and arrears dragged on for months, draining resources on both sides and driving hard-pressed landlords to distraction. A wealthy proprietor like the earl of Cork and Orrery might have little trouble lowering the rents of his Charleville tenants by 25 to 35 percent in 1881, but Colonel Edward King-Harman was not amused when some 500 tenants on his Boyle and Rockingham estates in Roscommon requested a 25 percent reduction. He curtly reminded them that their farms were already let at 10 percent below Griffith's valuation, and he saw no reason why he should concede more. Faced with crippling interest payments and dwindling income, lesser landlords often demanded the full amount due but then compromised when faced with the prospect of no rent. (69) On the other hand, those tenants who did not live in fear of the League's long arm tried to pay most of the rent and for this good reason they remained undisturbed on their holdings.

Besides staging mass rallies accompanied by colorful banners and brass bands and enlivened by virulent denunciations of landlords, the League's two most effective weapons were boycotting (the collective ostracism of those who defied its authority) and resistance to eviction. Provided that it could be enforced, the boycott proved so effective because it lay within a gray area of the criminal law, and jurors were reluctant to convict the organizers. Several months after Parnell had first recommended sending anyone who defied the League to "moral Coventry," Lord Erne's English land agent in County Mayo, Captain Charles C. Boycott, found himself completely isolated near Lough Mask following disputes with both his laborers and Erne's tenants. As a result his name became a household word. Long after the autumn of 1880, far more plebeians than patricians experienced the pain of this communal punishment. Although the League officially condemned physical force, it condoned boycotting and other measures that made life difficult, if not unbearable, for anyone who challenged its hegemony. The agrarian violence that flourished during 1881-82--without the approval of the Land League executive--included arson, shootings into houses or at abnoxious" persons, and mutilation of livestock. Keen to emphasize the League's encouragement of tyranny and violence, the unionist press featured these incidents. In early November 1881, English as well as Irish readers learned that three of Lord Kenmare's tenants living near the border of Cork and Kerry had been shot in the legs by Moonlighters because they had paid their rent surreptitiously. (70) At the end of January 1881 the bodies of two bailiffs working for Lord Ardilaun were hauled out of Lough Mask with grappling hooks. Both men had been shot, stuffed into sacks filled with stones, and dumped in the water a month before. (71)

On another front the gentry suffered further aggravation during and after the autumn of 1881, when League activists disrupted their favorite sport of fox-hunting to protest the imprisonment of Davitt, Parnell, and other leaders. Supported by local farmers who resented horses trampling on their winter crops, this campaign waxed and waned throughout the decade as raucous crowds hurled insults, stones, and sods of grass at riders and made enough noise around coverts to scare away any fox. The poisoning of hounds forced half a dozen masters of packs of foxhounds to abandon hunting altogether, to the detriment of the local economy. (72) Beneath all the fear, anger, and distrust felt by tenants toward the landed elite lay a deep desire to own their holdings. In 1887 a French journalist visiting Killarney asked a poor "peasant" on the road if Lord Kenmare was a bad landlord. The tenant replied: "No--far from it. But he has taken his stand against the League, and that is enough. Besides, in the eyes of the peasants the best landlord is good for nothing. They want the land, and they will have it." (73)

Although assaults on the employees of the Big House--whether the agent, steward, gamekeeper, or workman--were not exactly new, the number of such offenses soared after 1879. (74) A remarkable feature of the land war, however, was the paucity of proprietors killed or wounded, despite all the threats to their lives. Arguably, the combination of the League's official opposition to violence and the ubiquity of police protection saved the lives of many gentry. Most shooting victims were in fact tenant farmers who had either paid their rent secretly, or aided a boycotted person, or--a much graver offense--taken an evicted holding. In fact, no more than 6 of the 113 victims of agrarian murder between 1857 and 1878 belonged to the landlord class. During the first phase of the land war (1879-83) only half a dozen landlords and four land agents died from gunfire. (75) Animals probably suffered most from agrarian violence. According to John Dillon, cattle maiming fell into the category of "an historical outrage" because the peasantry had for centuries regarded cattle as their enemy owing to clearances designed to make way for pasturage. In any event countless livestock were injured or died at the hands of Moonlighters, who stabbed them, cut off their tails, or drove them into bogs and over cliffs. Even a few pet donkeys belonging to "the Quality" were mutilated; and "a valuable Spanish ass" was set on fire after being doused with paraffin. (76)

Excluding the assassination of Lord Frederick Cavendish and his undersecretary Thomas H. Burke in Phoenix Park on 6 May 1882, the two most patrician victims of homicide during the land war were William, 5th Viscount Mountmorres, of Ebor Hall, Clonbur, Co. Galway and Mrs. Henry (Maria) Smythe, the wife of a small landowner, who lived in Dublin. An amiable and insolvent owner of a 300-acre estate, Mountmorres died after being ambushed near his demesne. His bullet-ridden body lay on the road for hours because the nearest cottager would not allow it to be carried inside. (77) On the other hand, Mrs. Smythe was the victim of "collateral damage" because the intended target was her brother-in-law William Barlow Smythe, who lived in Barbavilla House near Collinstown, Co. Westmeath. She was returning with him from Sunday service when an "assassin guerrilla" blew her brains out with a single shot. The other murdered landlords were minor players who had recently ordered or carried out evictions. (78) In addition, at least twenty rather obscure landlords were wounded by gunfire. (79) Land agents made much easier targets because they had to deal directly and constantly with the tenantry. They were also the prime movers in cases of eviction. The motives and identities of the shooters often remained shrouded in mystery. Needless to say, the burden of protecting so many recipients of death threats strained the resources of Dublin Castle to the limit. (80)


Although physical assaults on the gentry were rare, death threats were not, and the press reported many of these notices. (81) It took only one or two shootings of patricians to send shudders of fear through the Big Houses and county clubs. With agrarian outrages dominating the news from the Irish countryside, just one threatening letter could spur a nervous owner to take his wife and children abroad for months on end. This decision meant, of course, closing the Big House and laying off the servants--a somewhat punitive measure that affected the local economy. Far from being cowardly, however, many landlords adopted the age-old response of "flight and fight." If they went abroad, most returned within a year. No sooner had they rejected the demand for major rent reductions than the local League branch would order the tenantry to withhold the next gale of rent. At that point the agent would receive instructions to proceed against those with the heaviest arrears or the local League organizers. When the evictions finally began, death threats and agrarian violence became the order of the day--or night. On the other hand, the threat of eviction did bring some tenants into line. Thus on Lord Doneraile's estate in Cork in January 1882 most of the tenantry chose to pay the rent rather than face being served with ejectment writs. (82) When and where evictions occurred, the landlord often had to choose between staying on with police protection or leaving the country until the immediate danger had subsided.

The prospect of insolvency, not to mention death or injury through ambush, deprived many landlords of a good night's sleep. After all, Land League leaders had made clear that their long-term goal was to eliminate landlordism, no matter how benevolent individual owners might be. Lord Kenmare tried to help the poorest occupiers on his Kerry estate through the hard winter of 1879-80 by allowing them to gather wood and kindling in the forest; and on the strength of a loan from the Board of Works he hired 250 heads of families to build new roads around the demesne. (83) By the end of 1880, however, such good works and significant abatements were all but forgotten in the wake of several evictions that prompted League denunciations. On 8 November the financially strapped earl received a death threat. Within a month he had shut down his newly completed mansion and bundled his wife and children off to London. The queen, who had just appointed him her lord chamberlain, described him as "once a rich man, a Liberal and Roman Catholic, and a most popular, kind-hearted man." In a letter to the Times Kenmare never mentioned his shortage of cash but placed all the blame for his decision on "the action of the Land League, which has compelled me to discontinue the entire labour expenditure on my estates and has made my residence in Ireland impossible: (84)

After several death threats and acts of arson following evictions on their Limerick estate, Lord and Lady Cloncurry left their house at Lyons near Hazlehatch, Co. Kildare and spent the winter of 1880-81 in Milltown Malbay--a move that also saved them some money. (85) Worried about the safety of his wife and son, Sir William Gregory threatened to abandon Coole Park at Gort, Co. Galway, in 1881, shortly after returning from Ceylon, because the League was "creeping on like lava, filling every cranny." Conditions slowly improved, however, and he decided to stay at home even though he no longer trusted his tenants. (86) A new landowner, Major Robert George Maunsell, JP, of Glenwood, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, abandoned his small property in October 1881 after receiving several dire threats. Among the larger proprietors who sought safety abroad were Hugh, 5th earl of Annesley, of Castlewellan, Co. Down, and Lord Templemore of Dunbrody Park, Co. Waterford. (87) Whether or not prompted by the League, Lord Ormonde found warmth and tranquility during the winter of 1879-80 and the following spring by cruising around the Mediterranean. A combination of gout, bronchitis, and tenant unrest sent Sir Charles Wheeler Denny-Cuffe to Madeira in 1880, where he spent almost a year and a half. After returning in July 1882, he found more resistance to rent despite giving abatements of 15 percent to every tenant. (88)

Highly publicized ambushes or shootings naturally heightened the gentry's fears for the safety of their wives and children. A brief glimpse of the emotional state of "the Quality" at this time appears in a letter written from England by Lord Inchiquin to his cousin and agent, in which he revealed the reluctance of his wife Ellen (the daughter of Lord Annaly) to return to Dromoland Castle in Clare. Evidently, her English friends had "frightened her by saying that there will be attacks on private houses, probably a rising, and anyhow that we run considerable risk of our lives" Such alarmist talk, however, did not impress Inchiquin, who declared that he would never "risk taking my large family to a place of danger." (89) Just how many aristocrats and gentry actually took flight in the early 1880s remains unknown, but the Dublin press announced numerous departures of prominent aristocrats. Some of the gentry's high anxiety was captured by a Graphic artist in "The New Year in Ireland--Awaiting His Return." Here two ladies and a young girl with worried expressions stand on the threshold of their mansion, looking up the drive for the master to appear. (90)

On the other hand, many landowners were not so easily spooked by threats of assassination. These men stood their ground and coped with the League's hostility by a mixture of bold confrontation and timely concession. If they had not served in the British army, as so many had, they were field-sports enthusiasts who knew how to handle firearms. No doubt some veterans of foreign wars were excited at the prospect of shooting a few "Fenians." In disturbed districts the Big House became a center for light-arms drills and target practice. Even though the evidence is scarce, it would seem that some ladies learned how to shoot in case of ambush, as an artist attested in "The Reign of Terror in Ireland--A Lesson in the Art of Self-Defence." The young daughter in this picture sits in an armchair with a bored expression while her father casually teaches his wife how to hold and fire a heavy revolver. (91)

Another illustration in the Graphic depicts several well-dressed and well-armed young ladies preparing to attend a formal dance in "Irish Society in 1882--Going to a Ball." In the upper left-hand corner a lady's maid hands her mistress a fan and a revolver to complete her attire. In the center another lady deposits her firearm with the butler upon arrival, while the man to her right wields a shotgun. At the bottom of this picture two carriages set forth at dawn on the journey home under armed escort. (92)

Samuel Hussey, who earned the nickname of "Woodcock" the hard way--by dodging bullets--gave shooting lessons to his family in the garden on Sunday afternoons. He had reason to be vigilant because the evictions he ordered on various estates made him a natural target. Indeed, the entire Hussey household narrowly escaped death in 1884 when a dynamite bomb exploded at the back of Edenburn House at Gortatlea near Tralee. Fortunately, no one was injured in the blast. (93) The wife of Colonel John O'Callaghan, an early victim of boycotting in Clare, carried both a revolver and a rifle whenever she drove to the local post-office. (94) One old soldier, Major-General William Devenish-Meares of Mearescourt near Ballymore, Co. Westmeath, ran into an ambush while returning from Sunday service. Instead of taking evasive action, he jumped out of his open car and chased two armed men across a field. Although the culprits escaped, the police rounded up six suspects on the following day and took them to Mullingar jail. (95) After an elderly Catholic landlord, Thomas Golding of Donaghmore, Co. Cork, had served some writs to recover rents, someone drove iron spikes into his cornfield, hoping to damage the mowing machine. On his way home from Sunday mass he was surrounded by angry protestors who were not deterred by the three warning shots he fired. They closed in and beat him severely. (96) Few landowners living in disturbed districts ventured beyond their gates without a loaded weapon, or even a metal vest, and many of these proprietors also had police protection.

Virtually every member of the landed elite who sought safety abroad returned within a year or two. Shortly after arriving back from another such respite in July 1883, the Cloncurrys gave a dinner for thirty estate employees and 400 tenants, who heartily cheered their hosts. (97) Homecomings did not always end so well. Despite the relative calm of County Down, Lord Annesley took his family abroad during the winter of 1880-81 but returned to Castlewellan in the spring. However, the receipt of another threatening letter in August moved him to seek police protection and hire private guards to patrol the castle. (98)

So long as they refrained from ejectments, the majority of landlords managed to coexist peacefully with their tenants after 1882. A single eviction could inflame the community, especially if the ousted tenant was politically active and took refuge in a Land League hut on the estate. Thus Lord de Vesci ordered the eviction of "the purported leaders" of a rent strike on his Queen's County estate. But the victims moved into hastily built shelters nearby and caused him aggravation for at least four years. (99) A series of evictions ordered by the notorious absentee Lord Clanricarde on his Portumna and Loughrea estates in County Galway provoked recurrent violence for the next twenty years. On the other hand, even Captain Boycott returned to Lough Mask after a year's absence. Although a hostile crowd jeered and burned his effigy when he landed at Westport, he remained in his house despite several death threats from "Rory of the Hills" until 1886, when he left Ireland for good in order to manage an estate at Flixton in Suffolk. No matter how bitter his memories of the land war, the fact remains that he looked forward to spending his holidays in "dear old Ireland. (100)

How far, then, had the landlords fallen from their aristocratic perch by 1882? Much too far by their own reckoning but not far enough in the eyes of ardent nationalists and radical land reformers like Davitt and his cohorts. On most estates the more or less regular payment of rents and arrears resumed after 1882, even though receipts fell significantly owing to the "fair rents" fixed in the land courts. (101) Agents continued to use the threat of eviction to extract some rent from delinquent tenants. (102) But danger loomed when and if they pushed the tenantry too hard. The dowager countess of Kingston and her land-agent husband William D. Webber sparked a major conflict by refusing to grant abatements owing to the heavy incumbrances that she had inherited from the "wild extravagance" of her forebears. In December 1880 some 1,600 tenants sallied forth to protest this rebuff. After they decided to withhold their next rent payments, the owners countered with a series of evictions in the spring of 1881 that poisoned relations even more. Within a month or so an army of 700 soldiers and 300 police had encamped near Mitchelstown Castle in order to protect the owners, who had to endure a state of siege for months on end. (103)

The wide range of landlord experiences during the land war defies sweeping generalizations except for the obvious realities of shrinking rental income and nagging fears of injury to man, woman, and beast on the estate. At the same time the resident "Quality" did not allow fear of ambush to deter them from carrying out their paternalistic duties, even if this required a police escort. Thus the Graphic published a picture of a lady bountiful making her charitable calls around the estate with a friend or daughter, accompanied by two police constables, in "What Boycotting Means in Ireland--A Lady of the Manor Making Calls." (104)

If the Land Act of 1881 did not destroy the edifice of Irish landlordism, it certainly dislodged several foundation stones. On estates where the League had established a firm grip, some tenants continued to pay their rents covertly despite the danger involved. Relations between landlord and tenant ran the gamut from respect to hate, loyalty to disloyalty, and deference to subversion, depending on the circumstances and the personalities involved. Boycotting remained a serious problem. In the meantime the nationalist press highlighted both rent abatements and evictions. Until the Plan of Campaign struck some three hundred estates after 1886, most tenants were mollified by a mixture of judicial rent reductions, arrears written off, and greater restraint on the part of agents.

In a crucial passage of his book Vaughan contends that "the land war merely demonstrated what had already happened--landlords had lost control of their tenants" by 1879. (105) But what exactly is meant by "control"? If this was the case, why then did the tenantry bother to join the Land League and agitate for the "three Fs"? The landlords never did control every aspect of their tenants' lives--except perhaps in the febrile imaginations of Land Leaguers. One does not have to embrace Foucault's concept of the multidirectional flow of power/knowledge to realize that neither the owner nor his agent could know, let alone control, all that went on beyond the walls of the demesne. Furthermore, as Vaughan readily admits, neither the Land League nor the Land Act of 1881 destroyed Irish landlordism. Despite all the erosion of their authority or power, landowners still had the right to evict for cause and even had some say in choosing the incoming tenant. Moreover, the annual average of about 3,200 final evictions between 1880 and 1883 does not exactly suggest loss of control. Indeed, the resolve of tens of thousands of tenants to support the League after 1879 and the willingness of so many to risk arrest and imprisonment for their convictions would seem to belie the contention that the tenants had already become masters of their own destiny.


Most historians of the land war have ignored or underplayed the steps taken by landlords to counter the League's offensive. Admittedly, proprietors were slow to mobilize, and their initial passivity drew critical comments in the press. Nevertheless, by December 1880 more and more landowners had begun to unite against the new enemy. Although the Freeman's Journal described the landlords as "fearful, timorous, and trembling" at the outset of the agitation, this pathetic posture did not last long. (106) According to popular belief the Land League swept across the country like a huge tidal wave crushing every obstacle in its path. Significantly, the standard biographies of Parnell, Davitt, Dillon, O'Brien, and Healy lack any discussion of the landlords' counter-offensive even though more than sixty years ago Norman D. Palmer outlined a few of the steps taken by landlords to defend their interests. Quite rightly, Palmer denied that the landlords remained "supinely inactive" and limited their response to writing, as the Freeman's Journal put it, "waspish letters of complaint or terror" to the press. (107) In their studies of the land war neither Paul Bew nor Samuel Clark ventured beyond allusions to Norris Goddard's work on behalf of both the Property Defence Association and the Orange Emergency Committee. (108) Even the authoritative Donnelly dismissed the landlords as "almost incapable of uniting to defend their interests," although he later alluded to the vigorous "counterattack" carried out by the Cork Defence Union between 1885 and 1890. (109) Terence Dooley's useful survey of the decline (and fall) of the landlords ignores their counter-offensive but does mention the political activities of southern unionists after 1885. (110) One of the few exceptions to this general silence is J.W.H. Carter's account of the formation of Property Defence Association branches in Queen's County at the end of 1881. (111)

In fact, several thousand landowners, land agents, and incumbrancers contributed both money and manpower to a number of combinations designed to parry the thrusts of the Land League, the National League, and the Home Rule party. Some of these organizations caused their opponents serious discomfiture and served notice that the landlords were not going to surrender their rights and privileges without a fight. During the 1880s they raised large sums of money and hired hundreds of armed laborers to defend the victims of boycotting and intimidation around the country. Although heavily outnumbered and suffering from all the inadequacies charted by Vaughan, the landlords produced some very combative and resourceful leaders, who realized that the government was not going to bail them out of their difficulties. Of course, they continued to rely on the police to protect their families and "loyal" tenants from violence, and initially their activities were confined to calls for law and order at meetings of the county magistrates. Nevertheless, they eventually turned the land war into a hard-fought contest rather than a rout.

Excluding local or county organizations founded for the purpose of defending property rights, the landlord class sustained eight national associations between 1879 and 1887. (112) Two of these were short-lived and propaganda-producing affairs, but the other six hampered or thwarted League operations and forced their opponents to spend much money on the relief of evicted tenants. Even though these combinations failed to restore any of the lost rental income, they moved the Freeman's Journal to observe in October 1881 that the landlords "have all of a sudden become blatantly, noisily, and offensively brave." (113)

The first of these combinations was the Irish Land Committee (ILC), founded in November 1879 by Lords Ardilaun, Cloncurry, Donoughmore, Drogheda, and several other magnates. The ILC sent out questionnaires to landlords and agents seeking to amass data about conditions on estates in every province. Painting a picture of benevolent landlordism, the ILC's spokesmen often stressed the amounts of money spent on agricultural improvements over the years. Much of this information was relayed to the duke of Richmond's royal commission appointed to inquire into Irish agricultural distress. Chaired by the marquis of Drogheda, the ILC met regularly in Dublin, published informative, if partisan, pamphlets about the land question, and sent delegations to Westminster armed with landlord grievances. Determined to enlist Liberals as well as Conservatives in the cause, the ILC called itself "strictly non-political." But not even the backing of Lord Salisbury enabled this lobby to block the passage of Gladstone's land bill. By the end of 1882 this pressure group was on its last legs. (114)

The second organization was downright confrontational. The Emergency Committee of the Orange Institution, better known as the Orange Emergency Committee (OEC), was launched in Belfast in early December 1880 by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. Two county associations founded and financed by northern proprietors--the Anti-Land League of County Down and the Landlords and Tenant Farmers' Defence Association of County Fermanagh--may have served as embryonic models of what became the national OEC. Sharing the sentiments of the County Tyrone magnate, the earl of Charlemont--"We all must be Orange to save ourselves'--landlords in mid-Ulster arranged countering rallies by local Orange lodges whenever a Land League meeting was held.11s Under the leadership of Lord Enniskillen, the secretive OEC worked hard to bolster the cause of law and order and break up boycotting conspiracies. The energetic lawyer and land agent Athol J. Dudgeon, who served as secretary of the OEC, urged Orangemen all over Ulster to denounce the League's activities. In the course of only two days the Grand Orange Lodge collected some 10,000 signatures on a manifesto that condemned not only agrarian outrage but also every enemy of the union, the British empire, landed property, and commercial contracts. (116)

In the spring of 1881 the OEC launched an appeal for funds from Protestant businessmen, landowners, farmers, and shopkeepers in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. (117) To deal with requests for help from boycotted owners or farmers, the OEC appealed to stalwarts like Lords Caledon and Rossmore, who rounded up loyalist laborers on their estates and sent them to trouble spots. One of the first such rescue operations took place in January 1881 on the estate of Colonel John O'Callaghan, JP, of Maryfort near Tulla in Clare. By July the OEC had some 300 armed Protestant laborers from Ulster hard at work in nineteen counties. Known as "emergency men"--a term that became notorious in nationalist circles-they harvested crops and supervised their sale, assisted bailiffs whenever tenants resisted eviction, and served writs for the recovery of rent or goods from defaulters. Despite the inherent danger and their constant demonization in nationalist cartoons, remarkably few of these muscular mercenaries were ever shot. (118)

Little is known about the OEC's finances and management. Much of its inspiration came from the highly publicized ordeal of Captain Boycott himself, whose disputes with laborers and tenants in the autumn of 1880 resulted in the refusal of the locals to harvest his crops or deliver goods to the house. When accounts of his plight appeared in the press, Lord Rossmore decided to send fifty armed Orangemen from his Monaghan estate on a rescue mission. Fearful lest this "relief expedition" provoke a sectarian riot, Dublin Castle then dispatched 1,000 soldiers and some 200 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary to protect the "emergency men." They were followed by a score of reporters and several artists in search of a sensational story. On 10 November this formidable expeditionary force arrived at Lough Mask in a driving rain. While the emergency men dug up Boycott's "prayties," the soldiers and police pitched their tents in a muddy field. Although no violence occurred, Boycott and his wife soon left for a respite in England, escorted as far as Claremorris by soldiers of the 10th Hussars. (119) Among the emergency men recruited by the OEC were veterans of the British army and the RIC, who were unfazed by death threats. From offices in both Dublin and London the OEC sent out appeals that raised 15,000 [pounds sterling] from supporters. With several hundred men deployed on boycotted or evicted farms, the OEC boasted of having saved farmers some 60,000 [pounds sterling] in the course of two years through the sale of crops, livestock, and other assets. (120)

The third combination, the Property Defence Association (PDA), proved by far the landlords' most effective counter to the League's operations. As the Times put it retrospectively in September 1887, the PDA was "a physical force organization" and "the very antipodes of that academic institution," the Irish Land Committee. Launched at a meeting of landlords and agents in Dublin on 6 December 1880, the proactive PDA sought to "stem the tide of crime and outrage" around the country. It had an out standing chairman in James Stopford, 5th earl of Courtown, of Gorey, Co. Wexford, a vigorous legal director in Norris Goddard, an enterprising general secretary and publicity agent in Peter Marshall, and an aggressive director of field operations in Captain the Hon. Somerset Henry Maxwell, a well-connected Orangeman from County Cavan. Maxwell had married the daughter of the 3rd marquis of Headfort and later became the 10th Baron Farnham. (121) Ten of the twenty-nine members of the general committee were Irish peers, and some of them were Whigs or Liberals. Most of the leaders were in their prime, with an average age of forty-eight. Far from being minor gentry, twenty-four members of the managing committee owned estates averaging almost 22,500 acres and valued at 11,200 [pounds sterling]. (22) At the outset membership cost only 5 [pounds sterling] annually, but the executive soon increased this amount to one-half of one percent of the estate's valuation.

Fortified by professional auditors who kept an eye on receipts and expenses, the PDA's executive met weekly in Dublin and dispatched emergency men to assist besieged landlords and tenant farmers by ensuring the sale of livestock at auctions and by performing other chores. The muscular Goddard carried a sturdy blackthorn cudgel in the field when supervising the emergency men, who served writs, took charge of evicted farms, and harvested crops that would otherwise have rotted in the ground. In short, the prime objectives of this organization were to defend the rights of property and freedom of contract and to make boycotted farms productive. (123)

From the outset the leadership insisted that the PDA was a non-political as well as nonsectarian body. As Marshall informed readers of the Irish Times on 7 July 1881, the PDA differed from the OEC in that it helped the victims of "fraudulent" or "hostile combinations" without regard to "creed and politics." In other words, it claimed to represent "all shades of politics and religious opinion," and it aspired to be ecumenical when selecting farmers deserving rescue from the baneful effects of the boycott. In a long letter to the Times on 1 November 1881, Courtown urged Catholic as well as Protestant incumbrancers or mortgagees, annuitants, and land agents to join the fight against boycotting and intimidation. The circular sent out in August 1881 listed the "charges for services rendered" by emergency men and other workers--ranging from 4 [pounds sterling] for attending the sheriff's sale of livestock to 2 [pounds sterling] for serving two or more writs and IIs. per week for taking care of evicted farms. (124)

At first, the PDA's Emergency Committee, run by the Dublin land agent and lawyer Athol Dudgeon, made little headway in the provinces because too many magistrates seemed content to pass resolutions calling on the government to adopt more draconian measures against the League. But the growing threat to their safety and position soon changed their mood. By the spring of 1881 the Cork branch of the PDA was up and running under the direction of a land agent. (125) With the earl of Bandon in the chair, over 100 magistrates in County Cork met at the end of October to support the government's new coercion bill and to denounce the tyranny "which had hung over the country like a nightmare." Such language prompted the Freeman's Journal to dismiss the landlords' talk of "Land League terrorism" as simply "hysterical." (126) Nevertheless, the PDA's strenuous efforts to harvest crops on boycotted farms and ensure the sale of distrained goods gradually loosened the League's stranglehold on selected estates.

In Queen's County several PDA agents attended a sheriff's sale of goods in the spring of 1881, but months passed before landowners took collective action. On 11 October more than 200 proprietors, land agents, and tradesmen gathered at Abbeyleix to hear Lord de Vesci urge all "loyal men" to help defeat "the wanton malice" that was ruining hard-working farmers and shopkeepers. This meeting ended with the formation of the Abbeyleix Defence League, whose members pledged to aid the victims of boycotting by every possible means. At the first general meeting a fortnight later, those present agreed to act together to protect liberty and assist any members subject to boycotting or any other form of persecution. At Stradbally on 28 October the influential landowner Captain Robert A.G. Cosby chaired a meeting of "loyalists," who agreed to form a similar association in the county. Soon both groups evolved into branches of the PDA along with one at Mountmellick. By November, then, the landed interest in Queen's had determined to combine forces in order to defeat the League. As Carter has concluded, the landlords may have been "slow to organise," but once they realized the full extent of their peril, they strongly concurred on the need to act. (127) During the fall proactive landlords in County Wicklow, led by Lords Meath, Monck, and Wicklow, also affiliated their anti-League association with the PDA; and the same networking took place in the counties of Cork, Dublin, Fermanagh, Monaghan, and Tipperary. (128) If the League's leaders ever thought that they could ride roughshod over the landlords, the PDA soon disabused them of this notion.

One of the PDA's first successes occurred on the absentee estate of the Royal College of Physicians at Dungarvan in County Waterford, where the tenants had refused to pay more than Griffith's valuation. When the sheriff seized the cattle of a protesting tenant and announced a public auction, local League leaders assumed that no one would dare to enter a bid. But Goddard appeared on the scene with a police escort and bought the herd for a bargain price owing to the absence of any other bidders. Since no dealer in Dublin's cattle mart would touch these cattle, he shipped them to Belfast, where they were sold at a profit, most of which went to the PDA. According to Lord Courtown, the Dungarvan tenants soon got the message and paid their rent in full. (129)

The landlords in County Galway took their time to mobilize and did not embrace the PDA until 23 January 1882, when Lords Annaly, Clancarty, Clonbrock, Dunsandle, and Westmeath, along with over forty other aristocrats and gentry, converted the Galway town branch of the Irish Land Committee into a western outpost of the PDA. Lord Clonbrock and his son, the Hon. Luke Dillon, then set up a legal-defense fund and organized a delegation to attend the big anti-Land Act rally in Dublin on 3 January 1882. They also supervised work on boycotted farms and coordinated evictions near Craughwell and Loughrea. Roughly one-third of the war chest which they collected that year went to the Dublin executive. The activities of this branch soon inspired other proprietors to form PDA committees of three to five members each in Athenry, Ballinasloe, Gort, Loughrea, Portumna, and Tuam. (130) By the summer of 1882 almost every county outside northeast Ulster had at least one effective PDA branch, and money was pouring into the main office from more than 1,800 Irish subscribers. (131)

The PDA owed much of its success to the generosity of rich supporters across the Irish Sea, who shared the conviction that socialism and Irish-American republicanism were driving the land agitation, and that the defeat of the landed interest in Ireland could have serious repercussions in Great Britain. Toward the end of 1881 a delegation from the Dublin executive went to London to request help from the new lord mayor, Sir John Whittaker Ellis, a prominent businessman with many friends among the "liveried companies" in the city that still owned tens of thousands of acres in mid-Ulster. After conferring with several PDA leaders on 5 December, Ellis invited some fifty British landowners and business magnates to the Mansion House to discuss ways of helping the PDA. Although Lord Salisbury advised his colleague Sir Stafford Northcote that their party should not officially support this cause, (132) the Conservative and unionist press heartily endorsed the formation of the Mansion House Committee for the Defence of Property in Ireland (MHCDPI). This potent coterie contained 100 aristocrats and businessmen (including 6 dukes, 6 marquises, 8 earls, and 17 other peers) along with 23 MPs.

Ellis orchestrated the fund-raising campaign, sending out a circular to fellow mayors all over the country, urging them to defend Ireland's "civilized community" against the forces of "anarchy and barbarism." Within a month this committee had raised some 9,000 [pounds sterling], and by December 1882 donations came close to 21,000 [pounds sterling]--amounting to one-third of the PDA's entire income in that year. The Irish viceroy, Earl Spencer, believed that this "great emergency" fully justified the landlords' appeal to the friends of property in England: "If the Irish landlords are beaten by boycotting and the illegal combination against rent, their whole game is up. (133) Contributions flowed into the MHCDPI until 1885, when the fund was superseded by the Irish Defence Union that espoused most of the same objectives. (134)

In 1884, Ellis's efforts on behalf of Irish proprietors earned him the governorship of the Hon. the Irish Society, which served as the coordinating body for all the London liveried companies with property in the north of Ireland. Besides the lord mayor, the linchpin of the Mansion House fund was the Carlow landowner Arthur Kavanagh, who supervised relations with the PDA in Ireland. Born without arms or legs, this incredibly agile man used his stumps to ride a horse, fish, eat, and shoot with skill. Proud of his descent from Dermot, king of Leinster, he was an improving landlord and paternalist, who read agricultural journals, managed his estates personally, wrote letters in a beautiful script, and treated his tenants like so many adopted children. Significantly, his crusade to defend Irish landlordism began shortly after his humiliating defeat in the general election of 1880. An indefatigable champion of property rights, Kavanagh sat on the executive committees of at least four anti-League associations. (135)

Within a year of its hunch the PDA was employing some 450 worker-mercenaries on over 130 boycotted farms concentrated in the South. As the following map shows, the PDA was managing at least 135 boycotted farms by 1885, most of them located in Leinster and Munster. (136) Besides serving as caretakers of farms, PDA agents also carried out evictions and stood guard while the sheriff auctioned off goods or livestock seized under writs. Exposed to constant verbal abuse and condemnations in the nationalist press, these emergency men rarely flinched even though their presence in a district provoked more unrest. Although the PDA's donations and expenditures fell off sharply after 1883, the outbreak of a new round of strikes against rent after October 1886, known as the Plan of Campaign, caused the number of requests for help to triple. In fact, the PDA's annual outlay on field operations shot up from 6,200 [pounds sterling] in 1885 to 12,400 [pounds sterling] in 1887 owing to the deployment of emergency men on Plan estates. (137) Between October 1881 and February 1894 the PDA raised a total of 151,000 [pounds sterling]. Although requests for help dwindled during the 1896s, it continued to assist boycotted farmers and to ensure the sale of distrained goods. In February 1896, Maxwell described its financial situation as "thoroughly sound," and as late as 1905 the PDA received thirty-four new applications for caretakers and agents to attend sheriffs' auctions. (138)

The PDA's successes worried the leaders of the Land and National Leagues who had underestimated the enemy and were not prepared for such a counterattack. Speaking in the House of Commons in 188i, Dillon defended the right of Irishmen to bear arms and wished that they could wage a "civil wars against the 50,000 troops that the landlords supposedly had at their beck and call. After accusing the "Property Defence Committee" [sic] of having "hired gangs of armed men to go into the midst of a furiously excited people and to purchase cattle which had been seized on distraint," he admitted that this organization had caused him "much more trouble and anxiety than the coercion bill." And yet, only a few months later, he was predicting the PDA's defeat while deploring the terror incited by "the crowbar brigade." (139) For his part Lord Courtown boasted that the PDA was defending not only landlordism but also the union and the British empire against Irish revolutionaries. He took pride, he declared, in its mission to teach "the people that there is still some strength left in the law--some loss and penalty attached to wrong-doing." (40)

The fourth landlords' combination--the Irish Defence Union (IDU)--was formed in London in 1885 to rescue the victims of the so-called "illegal coercion" being conducted by the Land and National Leagues. Led by the 4th earl of Bandon and endorsed by at least three former and future chief secretaries of Ireland (W.E. Forster, A.J. Balfour, and W.H. Long), the IDU's general committee contained 140 members, among whom were 3 English dukes, 4 Anglo-Irish marquises, 18 earls, 6 viscounts, 12 barons, and assorted gentry. Nine of the twelve MPs on this committee were either English or Scottish. Like the PDA, the IDU sought to combat boycotting and intimidation around the country. Given the increasing likelihood of a Home Rule Bill, the IDU also pledged to defeat the forces of separatism. To prime its pump the IDU received a subvention of 1,300 [pounds sterling] from the Mansion House Committee of the PDA as well as 105 [pounds sterling] from the Mercers' Company, 50 [pounds sterling] from the Scriveners' Company, and 100 [pounds sterling] each from Lord Pembroke and the English millionaire Walter Morrison. From its main office at 22 Charing Cross, London, flowed a torrent of pamphlets or fliers vilifying the enemies of landlordism and the union. (141)

By far the most effective branch of the IDU flourished in County Cork, where Lord Bandon (president), Arthur Hugh Smith-Barry, later Lord Barrymore (chairman), and Viscount Doneraile (vice-president) applied their talents to breaking up boycotting conspiracies on numerous farms. Sixteen of the twenty members of the Cork Defence Union's executive committee owned estates averaging 7,700 acres and valued at 5,200 [pounds sterling]. With an average age of fifty, they were far from senile. Like the parent organization, the CDU stood fast for law and order and helped the victims of National League "tyranny" to survive. Actively engaged in raising its profile, it published brief reports of field operations, including a pamphlet, Boycotting in the County of Cork (1886), filled with the particulars of 101 rescue operations. By June 1888 the CDU's hirelings were hard at work on almost 2,00 acres that would otherwise have lain derelict, and these efforts continued well into the 1890s. (142)

Arthur Kavanagh was the founding father of the fifth combination--the Land Corporation of Ireland (LCI)--launched in the summer of 1882. Functioning like a joint-stock company or "cooperative association," the LCI leased or bought evicted holdings that could not be farmed owing to boycotting. The directors hired laborers or caretakers and lent money at low interest rates to landlords who could not afford to stock their farms with cattle. (143)

Kavanagh's printed circular promised shareholders a 5 percent return on their investment, with half of the profit made from rescue operations going to the occupiers or owners of the holdings. He blamed the anti-landlord campaign on men of criminal intent who were financed by "foreign" or Irish-American money; and he pointed out that the League could afford to play "a waiting game" because its members vastly outnumbered solvent landlords. As he put it, "Whichever side has the most staying power must win." Citing the PDA as an example of what the landlords could achieve when they dosed ranks, he asked the wealthier ones to bail out their poorer comrades and thereby enable the LCI to become "a full-grown Hercules, the richest and most powerful corporation in the United Kingdom, and Ireland would be transformed." If this came to pass, the landlords would finally be "freed from the tyranny of the Land League" and Irish land would realize its full value. Given the close ties between the land agitation and the home-rule movement, and given the inability of the landlords to coexist with the League, Kavanagh insisted on total victory. After all, the stakes could not be higher: "The absolute expulsion of the landlord-class is the avowed object of the League as a preliminary to attacking the connexion with England." To finance this counterattack attack he proposed to offer shares ranging in price from 1 [pounds sterling] to 10 [pounds sterling]. Among his many friends, Lord Longford bought fifty 10 [pounds sterling] shares of Land Corporation stock; Lord Ranfurly spent 180 [pounds sterling] on shares from 1885 to 1891; and Lord Ormonde invested over 2,000 [pounds sterling] in the same venture between 1882 and 1892. (144)

In an optimistic mood Kavanagh talked of raising a capital sum of 750,000 [pounds sterling] by selling ordinary and deferred shares to landed and business magnates in England as well as Ireland. Such an endowment would, he hoped, function like a bridle on "the untamed colt of the Land League." Within a few months the guarantee fund had grown to 123,000 [pounds sterling] and more money was on the way. Although the LCI fell far short of its goal, raising some 200,000 [pounds sterling], Kavanagh remained confident of success. He regarded the Freeman Journal's denunciation of his scheme as a sure sign that "we have hit the right nail on the head." The Land Corporation eventually saved almost a dozen estates from bankruptcy, but it would have taken well over a million pounds, as the Times pointed out, to defeat boycotting around the country. (145) Relishing a good fight, the indefatigable Kavanagh continued to defend Irish property rights to the end of his life by supporting the Anti-Plan of Campaign Association in 1887 and the Cultivation of Derelict Land (Ireland) Trust in 1889. (146)

The sixth organization had a much more explicitly political or electoral agenda. The Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union (ILPU) emerged from a meeting of leading southern unionists in Dublin on I May 1885 after the land agitation had died down and Parnell's campaign for home rule had taken center stage. Led by Lords Longford, Castletown, De Vesci, and Sir Thomas Butler, and ardently supported by the gentry historians Richard Bagwell and William Lecky, the ILPU constituted an "unsectarian" and bipartisan lobby pledged to protect the union by force of words or propaganda. Keen to win as many Irish seats as possible at the upcoming general election, the ILPU raised funds and spewed forth pamphlets and leaflets on the iniquity of Irish nationalism, the evil of boycotting, and the Parnellite threat to the Protestant minority. The failure of unionist candidates in December 1885 to win a single seat in the South beyond the precincts of Trinity College did not stop the ILPU from trying to rally the flagging forces of southern unionism. (147)

The ILPU was associated, at least tangentially, with one of the great political spectacles of the late 1880s. On 18 April 1887 the Times began publishing a series of letters allegedly written by Parnell, one of which seemed to condone the Phoenix Park murders of 1882. These letters were of course forged by the seedy Dublin journalist Richard Pigott, who had sold them to the Times's stringer in Dublin, Edward Caulfield Houston. Not altogether coincidently, Houston was the ILPU's secretary. Toward the end of February 1889, Pigott testified before the special commission that had been set up earlier by the Conservative government to investigate a wide variety of charges stemming from the Irish land war, including those against Parnell. When Pigott's nefarious handiwork was exposed, he fled to Madrid, where he committed suicide in a hotel bedroom. (148) Supported by wealthy Protestants in the South, the ILPU did its best to ignore this scandal and concentrated its energies on condemning the National League and the Plan of Campaign. In 1891 the leadership of the ILPU decided to change its name to the Irish Unionist Alliance (IUA), which became the main source of propaganda against home rule during the battle over Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill in 1893. (149) According to the annual report for that year, the IUA had held "upwards of 800 meetings" in England, Wales, and Scotland, and its members had helped unionist candidates at by-elections. The ladies' committee, moreover, received praise for its sterling work in distributing leaflets and obtaining signatures on petitions. (150)

The seventh landlords' combination was both short-lived and ineffectual. In 1885, Wentworth Erck, who owned a small estate in Wicklow, founded the Irish Landlords and Incumbrancers' Association (ILIA). He aimed at creating a broad-based coalition that would represent everyone with a vested interest in Irish land, including institutional mortgagees. Mindful of the ILC's fate, Erck wanted the ILIA to serve as both a clearing house for information about conditions on estates and a lobby at Westminster on behalf of lower interest rates and compensation to the landlords for all their losses. It took Erck over a year to realize that his project was doomed for lack of support. At that point he cooked up a plan for a more aggressive organization with branches in every county. During Horse Show week in 1887 the ILIA met in Leinster Hall on Molesworth Street in Dublin, where he revealed his scheme for a national body composed of elected representatives who would press the landlords' case for compensation and a generous measure of land purchase. Among the eminent personages present at that meeting were the duke of Abercorn, the marquis of Headfort, the earls of Bandon, Erne, and Rosse, Viscount Bangor, Barons Ardilaun, Castletown, and Massy, and Sir Thomas Butler. Not even this glittering cast, however, could attract much support.

When these landed magnates met again on 14-15 September, they approved the metamorphosis of the ILIA into the eighth landlords' combination, the Irish Landowners' Convention, which became the largest and longest-lived organization ever assembled by Irish proprietors and incumbrancers. As president of this new consortium, Abercorn received constant advice from Erck, who served as the first honorary secretary. Each province had its own vice-president, most of whom were peers. Richard Bagwell and the O'Conor Don of Clonalis, Co. Roscommon, lent their expertise in matters relating to land questions. Five subcommittees were appointed to study and report on everything from mortgages and family charges to land values, tenant rights, and the pressing need for lower interest rates. (151)

The Landowners' Convention emerged not long after the Conservative unionists had returned to power following the momentous defeat of the first Home Rule Bill in June 1886. Firmly committed to the unionist cause, the Salisbury regime espoused not only coercion--applied consistently and relentlessly--but also a bailout for the landlords through the voluntary sale of land to the occupiers underwritten by treasury loans. In 1887 the government enacted a stringent new Crimes Act that inter alia authorized trials by resident or special magistrates in disturbed districts where jurors and witnesses were often too intimidated to act. In December of that year the Landowners' Convention invited delegates from each county to attend a three-day meeting in Dublin. Disavowing any hostility to the tenantry and deploring all the lies leveled against landlords, Abercorn stressed the benefits of a resident gentry and applauded the landlords' counterattacks. Several speakers then advocated state compensation for the loss of income arising from the Land Act of 1881, and the delegates unanimously approved a resolution to this effect. For the next twenty years convention activists lobbied vigorously at Westminster for compensation--all to no avail.

With offices adjacent to the exclusive Kildare Street Club in Dublin, the convention worked long and hard to redress the grievances of landlords. Supported by so many rich and influential proprietors, this organization could count on the Dublin and London press to cover its annual meetings in detail. Whenever Irish land bills were being debated in parliament, convention delegates appeared at Westminster to press their case. Although unable to initiate or shape legislation, this pressure group proved at least its resilience by lasting well into the twentieth century.

The dearth of internal records pertaining to all these landlord combinations forces the historian to rely heavily on partisan announcements, manifestos, and newspaper articles along with the occasional private letter. Despite the inevitable biases, this evidence does prove that the landlords spent a great deal of time, energy, and money defending their interests during the two major phases of the land war--first from 1879 to 1882 and then from 1886 to 1890, when the Plan of Campaign reignited the embers of the agitation. The cumulative effect of all these landlord combinations sustained Irish landlordism into the early twentieth century. Despite all the bitter memories and hard feelings on both sides, and despite continuing threats of eviction for nonpayment of rent, relations between landlords and tenants did improve on some estates after 1882--excepting of course those struck by the Plan of Campaign. For example, the annual reports for 1883-85 by Captain Robert Cosby's agent at Stradbally in Queen's County contained allusions to the prevalence of "friendly feelings" and even some contentment among the tenantry. (152) Admittedly, these reports cannot be used to characterize relations elsewhere.

One notable feature of these landlord combinations was the extent of interlocking directorships and memberships. Among many examples, the duke of Abercorn along with Lords Ardilaun, Bandon, Castletown, Clonbrock, Cloncurry, Courtown, Donoughmore, Erne, Farnham, Longford, Posse, and Rossmore served on the executive committees of at least three different associations. So too did Arthur Kavanagh and Arthur Hugh Smith-Barry. Typical of their defiant mood after 1881 was Captain Cosby's comment: "I do not intend to die without a struggle." (153) In short, these tough patricians belie the image of the effete, ineffectual, or impotent male protagonists who populate such Big House novels as The Real Charlotte, The Last September, and Troubles.

It would be a mistake, moreover, to ignore the effects of all those cartoons of predatory or demonic landlords featured in the nationalist press. That talented trio of comic artists in Dublin--John Fergus O'Hea, Thomas Fitzpatrick, and John D. Reigh--excelled at demonizing the landlords, depicting them in their tattered fox-hunting attire with sadistic grimaces on their faces and ejectment writs protruding from their pockets. While these colorful pictorial melodramas made the best kind of nationalist propaganda, they also sent forth the message that the landlords still possessed the power to harm or exploit the people, and therefore the struggle had to continue into the early 1900s.

Altogether, Irish landlords must have spent over 350,000 [pounds sterling] during the 1880s on combined operations to loosen the League's grip and protect their own rights and privileges. This was a huge sum by any standard, especially as it excludes all the money secretly collected and doled out by both the Orange Order and the various anti-Plan of Campaign syndicates from 2886 to 1890. (154) This rough estimate includes donations to the various national associations and their county branches as well as the expenses of staffing offices, attending meetings in Dublin and London, paying for emergency men, and printing propaganda. The outlay of so much money during a time of financial exigency for the landed elite proves how determined these landlords were to stand their ground and not fly abroad permanently like so many tame geese. Among other things the extent of this counterattack forced theft opponents to spend many thousands of hard-earned pounds on defraying the legal expenses of agrarian activists and on relieving evicted tenants. (155)

In sum, a significant number of landlords were neither as lethargic

nor as ineffectual when dealing with their rebellious tenantry as most historians have supposed. If many proprietors lost up to 20 percent of their rental income during the 1880s owing to a combination of rent strikes, abatements, arrears written off, and judicial rent reductions, others survived with minimal damage to their incomes for the short haul. On well-managed estates receipts picked up after 1880s. Taking a sample of fifteen estates comprising almost half a million acres scattered through the four provinces, we find that average annual rents received on an aggregate rental of 278,000 [pounds sterling] stood at 274,100 [pounds sterling] in 1875-78, dropped down to 258,700 [pounds sterling] during the land war 0879-8z), and then rose slightly to 261,600 [pounds sterling] thereafter (1883-86). (156) This modest loss hardly spelled ruin. At the same time the rent receipts of most British landowners fell by almost one-fifth during the 1880s as a result of voluntary abatements. Habakkuk has pointed out that the crucial difference between these two classes arose out of long-standing "cleavages of race and religion" in Ireland, where "the Irish landlord was almost invariably a mere receiver of rent and not, like his English counterpart, a partner with his tenants. As a result, less of any increase in rental income went into agricultural improvement in Ireland and more into personal ostentation." (157) Left with few powerful friends in the House of Commons and faced with constant vilification in the Irish nationalist as well as the British Liberal and Radical press, Irish proprietors gradually mobilized their resources and confronted both the Land League and the National League. When Dillon, O'Brien, and other antilandlord activists launched the Plan of Campaign in 1886, the battle of words and wills was renewed. On the Headfort estate in Cavan a firebrand Presbyterian minister named Gentleman declared that Ireland "could never thrive until all landlords and agents were in their coffins and securely screwed down, and that he would do his level best to see them securely screwed down." (158) Many of the dramatic scenarios of eviction, boycotting, intimidation, ambushes, armed landlords, and police patrols that appeared regularly in the press in the early 1880s were replayed time and again on various estates from 1886 to 1890.

In the long run what saved the landlords from disaster was state-subsidized land purchase. The Ashbourne Act of 1885, named after the Irish lord chancellor, proved so successful that the 5 million [pounds sterling] then provided by the treasury was soon exhausted, and the government had to appropriate an equal amount three years later. This ambitious strategy enabled the smarter landlords, or those more alienated from the new Ireland of the 1880s and 1890s, to bow out of their thankless or onerous roles while the British treasury subsidized the buy-out. Those who were not mortgaged to the hilt managed to salt away a fair amount of the purchase money in trust. But the mapping of the long and rocky road leading to the promised land of peasant proprietorship deserves an essay unto itself.

(1) All the quoted passages come from W.E. Vaughan, Landlords and Tenants in Mid-Victorian Ireland (hereafter, LTMVI) (Oxford, 1994), v-x, 168, 215-22. For his estimates of expenditures on estate improvements, see 122-23, 277-78. Special thanks for critical comments on an earlier draft of this essay go to Dr. Richard Hawkins of the Royal Irish Academy. In addition, Kevin Browne of the National Library of Ireland and Peter Harrington of the John Hay Library, Brown University, helped me to find the illustrations for this essay.

(2) M.G.R. O'Brien, Book Review, English Historical Review III (Summer 1996), 1006-07.

(3) Times, 14, 22 Oct. 1880. Born in Bantry, A.M. Sullivan (1830-84) moved to Dublin in 1853, where he became a newspaper artist and reporter. From 1858 to 1876 he owned and edited the Nation and earned the enmity of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Returned to the House of Commons from Louth and later Meath, he won many admirers for his oratory. Dictionary of National Biography (London, 1897), Vol. LV, 157-59.

(4) Margaret O'Callaghan, British High Politics and a Nationalist Ireland(Cork, 1994),9.

(5) See the special correspondent's article, "Tenure and Tenants in North-West Mayo," Times, 12 April 1881. For the Mayo clearances during the famine, see James S. Donnelly, Jr., The Great Irish Potato Famine (Stroud, 2001), 156-59.

(6) Fergus Campbell, "The Hidden History of the Irish Land War: A Guide to Local Sources," in Carla King, ed., Famine, Land, and Culture in Ireland (Dublin, 2000), 140. Terence Dooley's chapter in this same volume, entitled "The Landlords and the Land Question, 1879-1909," 116-39, ignores the landlords' counter-offensive against the Land League.

(7) This estimate derives from the return presented to parliament in 1876, as extrapolated by Finlay Dun, Landlords and Tenants in Ireland (London, 1881), 2, and T. Jones Hughes, "The Estate System of Landholding in Nineteenth-Century Ireland," in William Nolan, ed., The Shaping of Ireland: The Geographical Perspective (Dublin, 1986), esp. 138-40. All told, some 32,614 persons owned one acre or more. See Land Owners in Ireland: Return of Owners of Land of One Acre and Upwards in Ireland (Dublin, 1876; reprinted Baltimore, 1998), 325.

(8) Vaughan, LTMVI, 3-4, II.

(9) A thorough account of the strict family settlement may be found in John Habakkuk, Marriage, Debt, and the Estates System: English Landownership, 1650-1950 (Oxford, 1994), 1-140. See also David Spring, The English Landed Estate in the Nineteenth Century: Its Administration (Baltimore, 1963), 141-43, 175-77. The Settled Land Act enabled the owner to sell part or all of his estate, but the proceeds belonged to the family trust. See also Lawrence and Jeanne Stone, An Open Elite? England, 1540-1880 (Oxford, 1984), esp. 73-75; F.M.L. Thompson, English Landed Society in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1963), 64-71, 98-103.

(10) The Kingston estate comprised 24,400 acres valued at 17,800 [pounds sterling]. During the 1890s Lady Kingston was paying annual interest of 10,000 [pounds sterling] on this loan. Anecdotes about this once great estate and the hospitable but impecunious 4th earl of Kingston may be found in A.M. Sullivan, New Ireland (London, 1878), 129-34. J.S. Donnelly, Jr., provides a lucid account of the struggles on this estate during the land war in The Land and the People of Nineteenth-Century Cork: The Rural Economy and the Land Question (London and Boston, 1975), 278-82, 321, 377-78 (hereafter cited as Cork). See also L.P. Curtis, Jr., "Incumbered Wealth: Landed Indebtedness in Post-Famine Ireland," American Historical Review 85:2 (April 1980), 348-49; Mark Bence-Jones, Life in an Irish Country House (London, 1996), 189-90.

(11) Wentworth Erck, Note on the Reduction of the Rate of Interest since 1870, with Some Remarks as to the Probable Amount of Encumbrances on Irish Land (Dublin: Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, 21 May 1889), 18 (available among Joly Pamphlets, National Library of Ireland [NLI]).

(12) Castle Coole was built in the 1790s at a cost of more than 54,000 [pounds sterling]. The 3rd earl of Belmore spent almost 30,000 [pounds sterling] on lavish furnishings. See Gervase Jackson-Stops, "A Temple Made Tasteful," Country Life 179:4625 (10 April 1986), 918. For the origins and working of the Incumbered Estates Court, see Padraic G. Lane, "The General Impact of the Encumbered Estates Act of 1849 on Counties Galway and Mayo," Journal of the Galway Archaeological Society 33 (1972-73), 45-51; Donnelly, Great Irish Potato Famine, 164-68; Sullivan, New Ireland, 134-43.

(13) Making good use of the Kenmare estate papers, Donnelly has analyzed the fluctuation of rents and arrears in "The Kenmare Estates in the Nineteenth Century, Part II, "Journal of the Kerry Archeological and Historical Society 22 (1989), esp. 68 (hereafter cited as JKAHS).

(14) Dooley, "Landlords," in King, Famine, 123.

(15) Using a small sample of fifteen estates, Cormac O Grada estimated the amount spent by Irish landlords on agricultural improvements as lying between 3 and 5 percent of average annual rental income, exclusive of Board of Works loans. He deemed this average "very low" compared with the performance of British landowners. See his "The Investment Behaviour of Irish Landlords, 1850-1875: Some Preliminary Findings," Agricultural History Review 23 (1975), 150-55. On the other hand, Vaughan's estimate, based on a sample of nine estates from 1850 to 1880, hovers around 11 percent. On these estates the outlay on improvements ranged from a high of 27 percent to a low of 6 percent. See Vaughan, LTMVI, 122-24, 277-78. The 6th duke of Devonshire's expenditure on improving his Lismore estate is discussed in Lindsay Proudfoot, "The Estate System in Mid-Nineteenth Century Waterford," in William Nolan and Thomas P. Power, eds., Waterford: History and Society (Dublin, 1992), 533-35.

(16) W.A. Maguire, The Downshire Estates in Ireland, 1801-1845 (Oxford, 1972), esp. 83.

(17) Lucan Estate, Final Schedule of Incumbrances, EC 160, 656 and CDB 1146 (Irish Land Commission, Dublin).

(18) Quoted in Terence Dooley, The Decline of the Big House in Ireland (Dublin, 2001), 101.

(19) Donnelly, Cork, 304.

(20) See Ledgers A and D1-D3 in the mortgage-loan records of the Representative Body of the Church of Ireland (hereafter cited as RCB), Church House, Rathmines, Dublin. These volumes list thirty-four borrowers whose estates were valued at less than 1,000 [pounds sterling], and also twelve magnates with properties valued at over 15,000 [pounds sterling]. See Curtis, "Incumbered Wealth," Table 1, 344.

(21) Sir Charles Denny Wheeler-Cuffe (1832-1915) married the Hon. Pauline Villiers-Stuart in 1861. In the mid-1870s the rental income from his estate (valued at 2,750 [pounds sterling]) hovered at around 2,350 [pounds sterling]. Rebuilding and furnishing Lyrath eventually cost 11,000 [pounds sterling], but he had no children to support. See his journal, Wheeler Cuffe MSS, Lyrath. I am indebted to Captain Anthony James Tupper, DSC, for allowing me access to these family papers. See also Peter Somerville-Large, The Irish Country House: A Social History (London, 1995), 287-88 (hereafter cited as ICH).

(22) The number of insolvent estates in the Land Judges' Court rose from 165 on 31 December 1881 to 689 five years later. The combined gross rentals of the estates to be sold came to 98,900 [pounds sterling] and 354,100 [pounds sterling], respectively. Between 1883 and 1887 the court sold 406 estates for a total of 1,406,000 [pounds sterling], or an average of 3,460 [pounds sterling]. See Return Relating to the Landed Estates Court, Land Judges' Branch of the Court of Chancery (Ireland), H.C. 1888 (400), lxxxviii, 3.

(23) In the words of T.W. Moody, "1879 proved to be the wettest year on record and temperatures the lowest." As a result, the total value of agricultural produce in Ireland fell from 43.7 million [pounds sterling] in 1876 to 35.5 million [pounds sterling] in 1879. See Moody, Davitt and Irish Revolution, 1846-82 (Oxford, 1981), 328.

(24) Erck, Note, 13-14.

(25) Robert W. Kirkpatrick, "Landed Estates in Mid-Ulster and the Irish Land War" (Ph.D. Thesis, Trinity College, Dublin, 1976), 60-70.

(26) W.E. Vaughan, "An Assessment of the Economic Performance of Irish landlords, 1851-81," in F.S.L. Lyons and R.A.J. Hawkins, eds., Ireland under the Union: Varieties of Tension: Essays in Honour of T.W. Moody (Oxford, 1980), 191. For the estimated outlay by landlords on mortgage payments, see Erck, Note, 15.

(27) For the efforts of Irish landlords and British Conservatives to amend the Irish Land Bill of 1881, see the diary of Edward Gibson, MP for Dublin University (later 1st Baron Ashbourne), Aug. 1881 (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland [PRONI], Ashbourne MSS, A. 1/1). Among those who deplored the pending land bill and denounced the Land League in letters to the Times in April 1881 were Lords Dunraven (13, 16 April), Lansdowne (20 April), Lifford (22 April), the Hon. Robert Bourke (23 April), and Lords Pembroke and Mill-town (25 April).

(28) Donnelly, "Kenmare Estates, II," JKAHS, 79; Times, 10 Dec. 1884.

(29) Augusta, countess of Dartrey, to the earl of Dufferin, 3 Dec. 1881 (PRONI, Dufferin MSS, D1071B/F).

(30) As Hussey informed Wentworth Erck in 1883, "The commissioners, in taking off 20 per cent on the gross, are taking off about 40 per cent on the net" (quoted in Donnelly, Cork, 304).

(31) The average reduction for the "second-term" judicial rents fixed by the land courts up to 31 March 1916 came to 19 percent. See William F. Bailey, The Irish Land Acts: A Short sketch (Dublin, 19177), 19.

(32) See Freeman's Journal, 11, 15-18 Nov. 1881.

(33) As Donnelly points out in Cork, 302.

(34) Under section 1 of the Arrears Act of 1882 the arrears struck off came to 1.8 million [pounds sterling] (Vaughan, LTMVI, 209).

(35) Arthur M. Kavanagh to Edward Gibson, MP, 13 April 1880 (PRONI, Ashbourne MSS, B. 79/3).

(36) C.C. O'Brien, Parnell and His Party, 1880-90 (Oxford, 1957), 13-18, 150-53; F.S.L. Lyons, The Irish Parliamentary Party, 1880-1910 (London, 1951), 130-34, K.T. Hoppen, Elections, Politics, and Society in Ireland, 1832-1885 (Oxford, 1984), 336-39, Brian M. Walker, ed., Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801-1922 (Dublin, 1978). From 1885 to 1918 the Irish Home Rule party never failed to win less than 80 percent of the popular vote. The Irish gentry also suffered setbacks in local government elections and appointments after the 1870s (Dooley, Decline, 212-16). See also Patrick Buckland, Irish Unionism, One: The Anglo-Irish and the New Ireland, 1885-1922 (Dublin, 1972), 5; Donal McCartney, W.E.H. Lecky: Historian and Politician, 1838-1903 (Dublin, 1994), 162-75.

(37) Hoppen, Elections, Politics, and Society, 170.

(38) Trenchant studies of the land war may be found in Donnelly, Cork, 251-376; Samuel Clark, Social Origins of the Irish Land War (Princeton, 1979), 246-326; Paul Bew, Land and the National Question in Ireland, 1858-82 (Dublin, 1978), 69-97; Sally Warwick-Haller, William O'Brien and the Irish Land War (Dublin, 1990), passim; Moody, Davitt, 271-465; Donald Jordan, Land and Popular Politics in Ireland: County Mayo from the Plantation to the Land War (Cambridge, 1994), 157-96, 244-56; and J.W.H. Carter, The Land War and Its Leaders in Queen's County, 1879-82 (Portlaoise, 1994), passim.

(39) See William O'Brien's lecture, "The Lost Opportunities of the Irish Gentry," 8 Sept. 1887, 19 (NLI, O'Brien Papers).

(40) Dooley, "Landlords," in King, Famine, 102-21; Donnelly, Cork, 255-56, 263-64; Kirkpatrick, "Landed Estates," 29-72, 105-09, 197-99.

(41) On the Kerry estates of Trinity College, Dublin, where hefty arrears had long been tolerated, they soared to 58,800 [pounds sterling] on a rental of 49,400 [pounds sterling] in 1882 (Library of Trinity College, Dublin [hereafter cited as TCD], TCD Rentals, MUN/78/TCD). On 6 April 1882, the Times listed some 200 estates in twenty-one counties afflicted by no-rent campaigns. See also Carter, Land War, 86; Donnelly, Cork, 271-82.

(42) These are Vaughan's calculations in LTMVI, 255. He has estimated that "the value of production increased by 57 per cent between the early 1850s and 1877." For Griffith's valuation, see 45, 51, 54, 58-60, 251-55.

(43) For Hussey's management practices, see Dun, Landlords and Tenants, 65-78. Hussey testified before the Parnell tribunal on 30 November 1888. See Report of the Special Commission to Inquire into Charges and Allegations against Certain Members of Parliament and others, 1888, C. 5891, Vol. I (London, 1890), 469-80 (hereafter cited as SC).

(44) In County Cork civil-bill decrees and writs for ejectment rose from 1,000 in 1880 to 2,700 in 1881 Donnelly summarizes the responses of Cork landlords to the refusal of their tenants to pay the old rent (Cork, 27s-82). According to Kirkpatrick, evictions were "largely responsible for the escalation" of anti-landlord activism in mid-Ulster. And he found a strong correlation between eviction and agrarian crime, especially in counties Cavan and Donegal during the years 1880-82 ("Landed Estates," 142-51).

(45) Donnelly, Cork, 261-62.

(46) L. Fogarty, James Fintan Lalor--Patriot and Political Essayist (Dublin, 1919), 75-77.

(47) Vaughan, LTMVI, 210.

(48) See Kirkpatrick, "Landed Estates," passim.

(49) Dooley, "Landlords," in King, Famine, Carter, Land War, 84-87.

(50) Bew, Land and National Question, 121-26, 156-61, 170-83,188-90, 217-25. Lord Lucan blamed the land agitation on "communism alone. " See also Jordan, Land and Popular Politics, 232; Carter, Land War, 85-86.

(51) For Davitt's role in launching the New Departure and transforming the Land League of Mayo into the Irish National Land League, see Moody, Davitt 248-67, 271-381. For a small landlord's lament about the impact of the League, see the letter of Edward M. Richards of Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, to the Times, published 17 Oct. 1881.

(52) Staples to Lord Castletown, 23 Dec. 1880 (quoted in Carter, Land War, 92).

(53) Lord Ormonde to James O'Connell, 30 Aug. 1880 (NLI, Ormonde MS 23,578, ft. 899-900).

(54) For example, the rental on Colonel Edward King-Harman's estate around Rockingham and Boyle, Co. Roscommon (valued at 24,700 [pounds sterling]) came to roughly 22,000 [pounds sterling]. His tenants demanded a 25 percent reduction (Times, 4 Jan. 1881).

(55) Lord Arthur Butler to R. Donald, 15 Nov. 1879 (NLI, Ormonde MS 23,578, ff. 698-700).

(56) Lord Talbot de Malahide to Times, published on 28 April 1881. Boasting that his ancestors had resided in Ireland for seven hundred years, he pointed out that the Talbots had survived the Cromwellian and Willlamite confiscations but were unlikely to endure those carried out by the "soidisant Liberal government."

(57) Thus Sir Patrick O'Brien, MP, "the great political survivor," who owned 4,200 acres in King's County valued at 2,110 [pounds sterling], ran afoul of his home-rule supporters after denouncing the League in 1880. Gerard Moran, "Political Developments in King's County, 1868-1885," in William Nolan and Timothy P. O'Neill, eds., Offaly: History and Society (Dublin, 1998), 786-87.

(58) Vanghan discusses the ambiguities of eviction data in LTMV/, 20-43, 229-37. He points out that %ver 20 per cent" of all those evicted between 1849 and 1880 were readmitted either as caretakers or as tenants. According to a constabulary report, readmissions of evicted families fluctuated between 15 percent in 1878 and 10 percent in 1880. See Return by Provinces and Counties ... of Cases of Eviction ... in Each of the Years from 1849 to 1880 Inclusive, H.C. 1881 (185), lxvii, 725.

(59) Vaughan, LTMVI, 209.

(60) Times, 19 Jan. 1882.

(61) See the memorial signed by about fifty tenants and addressed to Evelyn Shirley of Lougb Fea, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, in May 1881, and tucked into the rental for Nov. 1880 (PRONI, Shirley MSS, D. 3531/R/7/70).

(62) See Hussey's letter in the Times, published on 9 Oct. 1880, and his testimony to the Parnell commission on 30 Nov. 1888 (SC, Vol. I, 469-80).

(63) For Dillon's speeches, see Times, 18, 25 Jan. 1881; F.S.L. Lyons, John Dillon: A Biography (London, 1968), 43-44.

(64) For these attacks on process servers, see Times, 4, 15 April, 2, 30, 31 May, 4, 9, 11, 16 June 1881, 9 Oct. 1883, 3 Oct. 1885.

(65) Diary of Edward Gibson, 1st Baron Ashbourne, 3 Jan. 1881 (PRONI, Ashbourne MSS, A. 1/1).

(66) Quoted in Times, 6 Oct. 1881. Redpath was the special correspondent of the New York Tribune in Ireland. See also Moody, Davitt, 367, 396, 419, 575.

(67) Graphic 22 (20 Nov. 1880), 512-13. I am grateful to the John Hay Library, Brown University, for permission to reproduce this and subsequent illustrations from the Graphic.

(68) In areas dominated by the Land League these courts proliferated after 1880. See, for example, Times, 16 Dec. 1880. Captain Owen R. Slacke, divisional magistrate of the RIC, testified in 1888 that at least 215 of these courts held sessions in 1885 in eight counties in the Midlands and Southeast, and that in 1886 there were 221 similar sessions (SC, Vol. II, 2).

(69) For the earl of Cork's generous concession, see Times, 21 April 1881. Lord De Vesci admitted to having evicted "the purported leaders" of a rent strike in 1882. See De Vesci to Gladstone, 20 Feb. 1886 (British Library [BL], Gladstone MS 44,495, ff. 3-4). Clark alludes to League courts in Land War, 313-16. For tensions on the King-Harman estate around Boyle in County Roscommon, see Times, 4 Jan. 1881.

(70) For this outrage on the night of z Nov. "881, see Donnelly, "Kenmare Estates, II," JKAHS, 77-78; Times, 1, 3, 6, 7 Dec. 1881.

(71) Times, 28 Jan. 1882. The bailiff and his nephew had gone into the dangerous area known as Joyce's Country to serve writs and never returned.

(72) For the disruption of fox-hunting in the early 1880s, see L.P. Curtis, Jr., "Stopping the Hunt, 1881-2: An Aspect of the Irish Land War," in C.H.E. Philpin, ed., Nationalism and Popular Protest in Ireland (Cambridge, 1987), 349-401. Carter describes the campaign against hunting in Queen's County in Land War, 223-33.

(73) Quoted in Times, 22 Aug. 1887.

(74) According to Vaughan, 35 percent of the victims of agrarian crimes were landlords, agents, or bailiffs, even though they constituted less than 5 percent of the tenant population (LTMVI, 161).

(75) In the view of one official only four landlords were the victims of "purely agrarian or Land League" murder. The other 53 victims of homicide included 25 farmers or their sons, to laborers or herdsmen, and 11 landless people. By comparison, the targets of attempted murder ranged from 62 farmers to 19 laborers, 22 bailiffs or process servers, and 10 landlords (Hugh Arnold-Forster, quoted in Times, 16 Feb. 1883). See also Vaughan, LTMVI, 142-50.

(76) A donkey belonging to Mrs. Blake of Renvyle House, Co. Galway, had its ears cut off (Somerville-Large, ICH, 313). A similar fate befell the favorite donkey of Lord Lansdowne's children at Derreen, Kenmare, Co. Kerry (Times, 31 Dec. 1880). See also Samuel M. Hussey, The Reminiscences of an Irish Land Agent (London, 1904), 220. On Arran Island some 22 sheep were driven over a 200-foot cliff and into the sea (Times, 19 Feb. 1880.

(77) For the murder of William, sth Viscount Mountmorres, see Times and Freeman's Journal, 27-30 Sept., 1-5, 13, 19 Oct., 31 Dec. 1880, and 18 Jan., 29 March 1881 Years later, Lady Mountmorres testified at the Parnell commission about her persecution following her husband's murder.

(78) For the fates of Mrs. Smythe, who lived at 33 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin, and her alleged murderers, see Times and Freeman's Journal, 3-5, 7-9, 12, 23 April 1882, and 8, 18, 19, 23 April, 10 June 1884. See also Dudley W. Bahlman, ed., The Diary of Sir Edward Hamilton (Oxford, 1972), Vol. I, 246.

(79) Among the victims were George Shaen Carter of Pickle Point House, Belmullet, Co. Mayo, Richard Studdert of Hazlewood, Co. Clare, and Samuel N. Hutchins of Ardnagashel House, near Bantry, Co. Cork. The young son of a land agent and crown solicitor, Thomas Boyd, died of injuries suffered from an ambush while riding in an open car with his father near New Ross, Co. Wexford, on 8 August 1880. A land agent named Studdart of Hazlewood, Co. Clare, survived at least three attempts on his life (Times, 10, 16, 24 Aug., 1 Sept. 1880, 9 Dec. 1881).

(80) During the first six months of *880 an aggregate total of 173 RIC officers and 6,000 constables were assigned to protect bailiffs alone. See Return of the Number of Police Employed in Protecting Process-Servers from 1st January 1880 to 20th June 2880, H.C. 1880 (280), lx, 451.

(81) See the reports of threatening letters sent to Lord Kenmare, Robert Hamilton Stubber, Captain Boycott, and Sir Erasmus Dixon Borrowes (Times, 11, 16, 18, 27 Nov. 1880).

(82) Ibid., 19 Jan. 1882.

(83) Ibid., 4, 11 Dec. 1879.

(84) One nationalist paper called Lord Kenmare a tyrant and a despot descended "from the original land thief who was a special pet of the Virgin Queen Bess" (quoted in Somerville-Large, ICH, 313). Hussey contended that Lord Kenmare granted abatements and allowances amounting to 33,600 [pounds sterling] from 1878 to 1881, and spent 67,100 [pounds sterling] on improvements during the 1870s (Hussey, Reminiscences, 221. Queen Victoria's comment about Kenmare appears in James H. Murphy, Abject Loyalty: Nationalism and Monarchy in Ireland during the Reign of Queen Victoria (Cork, 2001), 218. For a probing account of the turmoil on the Kenmare estate, see Donnelly, "Kenmare Estates, II,"JKAHS, 22, esp. 72-73. Late in 1880 the queen appointed Kenmare her lord chamberlain--a post that required his attendance at the royal residences. Before leaving Killarney, he dismissed between 300 and 400 indoor and outdoor servants, many of whom were later rehired after a public outcry (Times, 15, 31 Dec. 1880, 4 Jan. 1881). Dun described Kenmare as "a kind and considerate landowner, united to his people by strong ties of race and creed" (Landlords and Tenants, 76).

(85) Times, 30 July, 29 Oct. 1880. Considered by some an improving landlord, Cloncurry blamed the "anarchy" in Ireland on the folly of the Liberal government (Dun, Landlords and Tenants, 25-26).

(86) Somerville-Large, ICH, 316; Dooley, Decline, 216-17.

(87) Times, 12 Oct. 1881; Lord Annesley to William Shaw, n Aug. 1881 (PRONI, Annesley MS D. 1854, folio VIII, 12-13; Times, 9 Oct. 1880.

(88) NLI, Ormonde MS 23,578, f. 694; Journal of Sir Charles Wheeler Denny Cuffe (Lyrath MSS, Kilkenny).

(89) Lord Inchiquin to Robert Vere O'Brien, 17 July 1882 (TCD, Florence Vere O'Brien MSS).

(90) Graphic 23 (1 Jan. 1881), 1

(91) Graphic 23 (5 Feb. 1881), 121.

(92) Graphic 26 (8 July 1882), 25

(93) Hussey, Reminiscences, 212-55. The Hussey and Townsend land-agency firm managed estates in Cork, Kerry, and Limerick with an annual rental of almost 250,000 [pounds sterling] (Times, 4 Jan. 1881). Three policemen were sleeping inside the house when the bomb exploded (Freeman's Journal, 29 Nov., 1 Dec. 1884; Donnelly, "Kenmare Estates, II," JKAHS, 93).

(94) Somerville-Large, ICH, 312.

(95) This ambush took place in broad daylight only forty yards from a police barracks. Riding with the general were Mr. and Mrs. Fetherston Lowry; all of them escaped injury (Freeman's Journal, 15 Nov. 1881).

(96) Times, 28 Sept. 1881.

(97) Times, 20 Feb. 1882, 30 July, 27 Oct. 1883. Evictions on Lord Cloncurry's Limerick estate caused much bitterness, especially after the Property Defence Association bought or took control of twenty-eight evicted holdings.

(98) For tensions on the Annesley estate and for the owner's fears about staying on, see Lord Annesley to William Shaw (his agent), 11 Aug., 8 Dec. 1881 (PRONI, Annesley MS, folio VIII, 12-13); Annesley to William Moore, 12,18 May 1882 (ibid., MS D. 1854/6/8). See also Times, 21 Oct. 1881.

(99) See Lord De Vesci to Gladstone, 20 Feb. 1886 (BL, Gladstone MS 44,498, ff. 3-4). Significantly, all the rentals and accounts as well as the agent's correspondence during the land war are missing from the De Vesci papers at Abbeyleix.

(100) Dictionary of National Biography: Supplement, Vol. I (New York, 1901), 243-44; Interview with Captain Boycott, Pall Mall Gazette, 20 Oct. 1888. When Boycott and his wife arrived in Dublin in November 1880 en route to England, the proprietor of Hamman's Hotel turned them away for fear of reprisals. Boycott gave evidence to the Parnell or special commission on 12 Dec. 1888. After falling ill while on a trip to the Mediterranean, he died at his Suffolk home on 19 June 1897 at the age of 65. See Joyce Marlow, Captain Boycott and the Irish (New York, 1973), 268-75.

(101) Thus the rent receipts on Colonel Robert A.G. Cosby's estate around Stradbally in Queen's County fell slightly from an average of 7,700 [pounds sterling] (1873-76) to 7,000 [pounds sterling] (1879-82) and then rose to 7,200 [pounds sterling] (1884-87). For the decade 1883-93 they averaged 6,600 [pounds sterling] (Rentals and Accounts, Cosby MSS, Stradbally). I am grateful to the late Colonel Erroll Cosby and Adrian Cosby for permission to use the family records.

(102) See, for example, the rentals and accounts of Lord Downshire's Blessington estate in County Wicklow from 1878 to 1903 (PRONI, Downshire MSS, D. 671/R2/ 108-28); Out-Letter Book of Lord Howth's Agent, William Rochfort (1 May 1879), 33 (Howth MSS, Howth Castle, Co. Dublin).

(103) For the vicissitudes of the countess of Kingston and the famous "siege" of the castle, see Donnelly, Cork, 70, 113, 255, 278-82.

(104) Graphic 34 (23 Oct. 1886), 428.

(105) Vaughan, LTMVI, 163.

(106) Freeman's Journal, 31 Oct. 1881.

(107) Norman D. Palmer, Chap. II, "The Landlords' Defense," The Irish Land League Crisis (New Haven, 1940), 218-31. Palmer devoted twice as many pages to the Land Act of 1881 as to the landlords' combinations.

(108) Bew, Land and National Question, 155-55; Clark, Land War, 307-8.

(109) The Cork Defence Union was founded in September 1885. See Donnelly, Cork, 275-76, 325, 329-30,

(110) Dooley, Decline, esp. 217-21.

(111) Carter, Land War, 119-22, 132, 199-202.

(112) Excluded from this survey are county bodies like the Waterford Landlords' Association, led by Sir Robert J. Paul (Times, 6 Aug. 1888) and the Anti-Plan of Campaign Association (APCA), mentioned briefly by Laurence M. Gear,/in The Plan of Campaign, 1886-1891 (Cork, 1986), 103-4, 206. Little is known about the APCA except that it was founded in July 1887 and helped to sustain The O'Grady in his fight against the Plan around Bruff, Co. Limerick. I have also omitted the Cultivation of Derelict Land (Ireland) Trust, founded by Lord Massereene on his Louth and Meath properties in April 1889 to combat the Plan of Campaign.

(113) "If the landlords had been half as careful in discharging their duties as they were rigorous in exacting what they called their 'rights,' it is admitted on all hands that there could have been no Land League, and that there would be no coercion" (Freeman's Journal, 31 Oct. 1881).

(114) The ILC's executive committee also included Henry Bruen, Robert Fowler, J. Townsend Trench, and Colonel Thomas Taylor. Between June 1880 and February 1882 the ILC published at least fourteen six-penny pamphlets with such titles as "Confiscation or Contract?", "Arrested Progress," and "The Anarchy in Ireland." See also Palmer, Land League Crisis, 219--21, and the report of an ILC meeting in Dublin, in Times, 3 Dec. 1880. For a good example of partisanship, see the pamphlet written by the Kerry land agent George F. Trench, Are the Landlords Worth Preserving? (Dublin, 1881); Trench estimates the total expenditure on land improvement since the famine at "twenty millions sterling" (60). Both Lords Salisbury and Longford gave modest sums to the ILC's legal-defense fund. See Lord Salisbury to Sir Stafford Northcote, 13 Dee. 1881 (BL, Iddesleigh MS 41,436); Arthur M. Kavanagh to earl of Longford, 31 March 1882 (Pakenham MSS, Tullynally, Castlepollard, Co. Longford). I am grateful to Thomas Pakenham for permission to consult the papers of Lord Longford at Tullynally.

(115) The eccentric Charlemont hoped that Orangemen "would rise against the Fenians soon. If they don't, there is always the danger of their joining" (quoted in Kirkpatrick, "Landed Estates," 180).

(116) Ibid., 171-90.

(117) For the OEC's origins, see Times, 4, 16, 24, 30, 31 Dec. 1880; Palmer, Land League Crisis, 226-28.

(118) A brief sketch of the OEC's operations may be found in Athol Dudgeon's report (4 Nov. 1882) contained in the Annual Report of the Property Defence Association (1882), 15-24 (available in the NLI). See also Irish Times, 18 July 881; Times, 21 March, 22 Sept. 1881.

(119) Thoroughly reported in the press, the trials and tribulations of Captain Boycott have been chronicled in Marlow's biography, Jordan's Land and Popular Polities, 184-93, and Michael Davitt's The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland, or the Story of the Land League Revolution (London, 1904), 266-79.

(120) Times, 8 Jan., 22 Aug., 28 Sept., 13 Oct. 1881, 12 Jan. 1884. See also the OEC pamphlet in the John Johnson Collection, Ireland, Box 2 (Bodleian Library, Oxford).

(121) "The objects of the association are to uphold the rights of property against organised combination and to defend and maintain freedom of contract and liberty of action" (Times, 12 Jan., 1 Feb. 1881). Maxwell (1849-1900) succeeded as the 10th Baron Farnham in 1596 and died four years later of a throat infection.

(122) These figures derive from an analysis of the membership of the General Committee. See Annual Reports of the Property Defence Association, 1881-88 (NLI). Irish peers active in the PDA included Lords Annally, Ardilaun, Ashbrook, Bandon, Carysfort, Clarina, Cloncurry, Dunalley, De Ros, Donoughmore, Enniskillen, Egmont, Farnham, the Hon. Bernard Fitzpatrick (later Lord Castletown), Fitzwilliam, Hamilton, Headfort, Inchiquin, Leitrim, Listowel, Meath, Ormonde, Posse, Rossmore, Talbot de Malahide, and Wicklow. By 1882 the PDA had moved to 4 Henrietta Street, where it remained until at least 1914. In 1886, Captain Edward Hamilton succeeded Maxwell as executive director and then two years later yielded this post to Edward Macartney-Filgate. Lord Courtown used both the Irish Times and the Times of London to promote the PDA's agenda. See Times, 1 Nov., 31 Dec. 1881.

(123) Times, 2 Dec. 1881; PDA, Annual Reports 1881-88 (NLI).

(124) "To Encumbrancers on Landed Property" and "Charges for Services Rendered/ These leaflets were sent out by Peter Marshall, secretary of the PDA, from the head office at 8 Westmoreland Street, Dublin, on 30 June and 13 August 1881, respectively (PDA, Annual Reports, 1881-82 [NLI]). See also Times, 18 Oct. 1881.

(125) Donnelly, Cork, 276.

(126) Freeman's Journal, 31 Oct. 1881. For the landlords' inability to mobilize quickly against the League, see E. Cant-Wall, Ireland under the Land Act (London, 1882), 17-20, 48.

(127) Times, 31 Oct. 1881; Freeman's Journal 1 Nov. 1881; Carter, Land War, esp. 199-202.

(128) Irish Times, 22, 25 Oct., 2, 21 Nov., 10, 20, 21, 29 Dec. 1881; Times, 1 Dec.1881.

(129) For further information about the PDA, see Irish Times, 7, 20, 13 July, 2, 13, 24 Sept., 2, 10, 14, 21 Dec. 1881, 17, 20 Jan., 8 Feb., 16 March 1882; Times, 12 Jan., 1, 15 Feb., 12 Sept. 31 Oct., 1, 15 Nov., 2, 9-11, 14, 15, 19, 24, 26, 30 Dec. 1881, 2, 21 Jan., 29 April 1882.

(130) The PDA's origins and activities in Galway are briefly chronicled in Lord Clonbrock's Minute Book, esp. 9, 14, 23, 30 Nov. 1881, 4 Jan. 1882 (NLI, Clonbrock MS 19,678).

(131) Among the leading contributors were the duke of Abercorn and Lords Ardilaun, Ashbrook, Bandon, Bantry, Carysfort, Courtown, De Vesci, Donoughmore, Farnham, Headfort, Leconfield, Longford, Meath, O'Neill, Ormonde, Rathdonnell, Sligo, Rosse, and Waterford. Other donors ranged from Sir George Colthurst and Samuel Hussey to Sir William Gregory, W.E.H. Lecky, and the Board of Trinity College, "Anti-Land-Leaguer," and "Admirer of Law and Order." See PDA, Annual Reports, 1881-82 (NLI).

(132) Lord Salisbury to Sir Stafford Northcote, 13 Dec. 1881 (BL, Iddesleigh MS 41,436).

(133) Apparently, Chief Secretary William Forster opposed the Mansion House scheme on the grounds that the Irish landlords should finance their own campaign and that it would set England against Ireland. See Lord Spencer to Joseph Chamberlain, MP, 21 Dec. 1881 (Birmingham University Library, Chamberlain MSS, JC 8/9/3/4).

(134) Among the leading lights of the Mansion House Committee were the dukes of Buckingham and Chandos, Sutherland, and Westminster along with Lords Claud Hamilton and Powerscourt. The Liberal politician and millionaire businessman Walter Morrison, MP, also backed the cause. Serving as lord mayor in 1881-82, Sir John Whittaker Ellis (1st baronet) was the fifth son of a hotel proprietor in Surrey and a Conservative MP from 1884 to 1892. See Times, 20, 23, 24, 26, 28 Dec. 1881, 7, 21 Jan., 29 April 1882. Ellis explained his role in the campaign to counter "the baneful effects of the Land League" and to defeat the fumes of "anarchy and lawlessness" in a pamphlet, The Irish Land Question Considered Historically and Economically (Kingston, 1886), available in the Bodleian Library, John Johnson Collection, Ireland, Box 4.

(135) See Sarah L. Steele, Arthur Macmorrough Kavanagh: A Biography (London, 1891; Donald McCormick, The Incredible Mr. Kavanagh (London, 1960); William H. Hurlbert, Ireland under Coercion: The Diary of an American (Boston, 1888), 301-4, 307-12, 318.

(136) PDA, Annual Reports, 1884-85 (NLI). For permission to reproduce this map I am grateful to the National Library of Ireland. H. Jones's map (c. 1885) reveals that the PDA was managing around 132 boycotted farms, only 10 of which lay in Sligo, Mayo, Galway, and Clare. For the PDA's rescue of a boycotted owner of 1,500 acres in Tipperary, see the letter of John Tram of Doyen, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, to the Times, published on 5 Jan. 1882.

(137) PDA, Annual Report for the year ending 31 Dec. 1887 (NLI).

(138) Times, 9 Feb. 1894, 17 Feb. 1896, 19 March 1906.

(139) Times, 25 Jan., 4 March, 1 Nov. 1881.

(140) Lord Courtown to Times, published 1 Nov. 1881; PDA, Annual Report, 7 Dec. 1881, 3 (NLI).

(144) Irish Defence Union, In Aid of Persons Suffering from Illegal Coercion in Ireland (n.d.), available in Bodleian Library, John Johnson Collection, Box 2, Ireland. See also Steele, Kavanagh, 220; L.E Curtis, Jr., Coercion and Conciliation in Ireland, 1880-1892: A Study in Conservative Unionism (Princeton, 1963), 56-57; Times, 4, 25 June 1888.

(142) Donnelly, Cork, esp. 325, 329-30, 351, 357, 361-62, See the pamphlet, Boycotting in the County of Cork (Cork, 1886), which lists 101 cases of boycotting. The CDU shared offices with the Cork Landowners' Association at 69 South Mall in Cork city. See also Times, 25 June, 3 Dec. 1888. According to Ian d'Alton, the CDU was "the most efficient landlord combination" in Ireland during the 1880s. He overlooks the PDA's activities, however. See "Keeping Faith: An Evocation of the Cork Protestant Character, 1820-1920," in Patrick O'Flanagan and Cornelius Buttimer, eds., Cork: History and Society (Dublin, 1993), 771-75.

(143) For a revealing interview with Kavanagh at Borris House in 1888 by the Harvard-educated writer William H. Hurlbert, see his Ireland under Coercion, 301-18.

(144) The Times published Kavanagh's letter on 24 June 1882. See also the nearly identical letter sent to wealthy landlords on 31 March 1882, along with a three-page pamphlet about his scheme (Kavanagh to earl of Longford, Pakenham MSS, Tullynally). See also Kavanagh to The O'Conor Don, 26 June, 1 July 1882 (O'Conor MSS, 9.4. HE 205, Clonalis, Co. Roscommon). For Ranfurly's investment, see Rentals and Accounts (PRONI, Ranfurly MSS, D. 1932/4/16-22); and for Ormonde's purchases, see Rentals and Accounts, 1882-92 (NLI, Ormonde MS 23,801). Lord Crofton of Mote Park, Ballymurray, Co. Roscommon, bought two shares every year from 1882 to 1891 (NLI, Crofton MS 4093). See also Kavanagh's letter to the Times published on 24 June s88z. Exiled in Paris, the Irish separatist Patrick Egan denounced the Land Corporation as "daemonic, hideous, and damnable" and a declaration of "war to the death" (quoted in Times, 2, 30 June 1882). For further details of the LCI, see Hurlbert, Ireland under Coercion, 304-07; Steele, Kavanagh, 220-25; Geary, Plan of Campaign, 102-3.

(145) Steele, Kavanagh, 224; Times, z8 Sept. 1887.

(146) Steele, Kavanagh, 226; Geary, Plan of Campaign, 103-5.

(147) Patrick Buckland, Irish Unionism, One, 1-3, 10-26; Dooley, Decline, 216-19; Irish Times, 16 Oct. 1885, 9 Jan. 1886; Times, 16 Jan. 1888.

(148) For the journalistic crusade in March 1887 called "Parnellism and Crime" and the eleven letters supposedly written by Parnell and Patrick Egan that were forged by Pigott and bought by Houston, who then sold them to the Times for 2,500 [pounds sterling], see Lyons, Parnell, 521-23, 526-3h 536-39; Leon 6 Broin, The Prime Informer: A Suppressed Scandal (London, 1970, 50-95; Frank Callanan, T.M. Healy (Cork, 1996), 207, 242; Curtis, Coercion and Conciliation, 286-87.

(149) For the ILPU, see Dooley, Decline, 217-20; Buckland, Irish Unionism, 1-4, 9, 12-16, 302-8.

(150) The Irish Unionist Alliance also organized a petition against the Home Rule Bill of 1893 containing over 127,000 signatures (Times, 8, 10 Feb. 1894).

(151) For the evolution of the ILIA into the Landowners' Convention, see Times, 27 Aug., 28 Sept., 15, 18 Oct. 1887, 16 Feb. 1888. In a letter to the Times (published 16 Feb. 1888), Richard Bagwell took exception to Erck's claim in the same paper (11 Feb.) that he was the sole "originator" of the Landowners' Convention as distinct from the ILIA. For further details of the Convention's origins, aims, structure, membership, and remits, see the two long articles in the Times, 28 Sept., 18 Oct. t887. The headquarters were located at 4 Kildare Street in Dublin. The duke of Abercorn was still president in 1914.

(152) In 1885 the agent J. Townsend Trench advised a more flexible or tolerant approach to tenants' mounting arrears: "This is much better economy ... than to smash them by overpressure and to have the lands left on our hands." See Trench's Reports to R.A.G. Cosby, 31 Dec. 1883, 31 Dec. 1884, 31 Dec. 1885 (Cosby MSS, Stradbally).

(153) Captain Cosby used these words in a letter addressed to two Dublin newspapers on 28 Aug. 1887. For the quotation, see J.W.H. Carter, "The Land War of 1879-82 in Queen's County," in Padraig G. Lane and William Nolan, eds., Laois: History and Society (Dublin, 9999), 560.

(154) For the anti-Plan syndicates and the collusion of Arthur Balfour, see Curtis, Coercion and Conciliation, 248-53; Geary, Plan o/Campaign, 110-14.

(155) For Parnell's anxiety about this drain on Land League resources, see Clark, Land War, 317.

(156) This sample is based on the rentals and accounts of the following estates: Courtown (TCD, MSS PIo/1-30); Crofton (NLI, MS S632); Downshire (2) (PRONI, MSS D. 671/R2/100-16); Gosford (PRONI, MSS D. 1606/7A/80-94); Headfort (NLI, MSS 25,408-10); Inchiquin (NLI, MSS 14546-60); Longford (Tullynally, Pakenham MSS); Manchester (PRONI, D. 1248/R/39-51; Meath (Kilruddery, Meath MSS); Ormonde (NLI, MSS 23,798-800); Ranfurly (PRONI, D. 1932/4/5-19); Mahon (NLI, MSS 23,343-48); Shirley (PRONI, D. 3531; Trinity College, Dublin (TCD, Mun. V/58/1-3).

(157) Habakkuk, Marriage, Debt, and Estates System, 358.

(158) See the letter from Lord Headfort's agent M.W. O'Connor to the Rev. John Aiken (moderator of the General Assembly), 30 Oct. 1886, complaining about Gentleman's strident language at Virginia, Co. Cavan, on the previous day (NLI, Headfort MS 24,429 (2), ft. 806-7).

L. PERRY CURTIS, JR., retired from Brown University in 2001, having taught Irish and British history there for more than twenty-five years. A former editor of the Journal of British Studies, he is the author of Coercion and Conciliation in Ireland (1963) and Apes and Angels (rev. ed., 1997 [1971]) as well as a number of essays on aspects of modern Irish history. At present he is working on literary and graphic images of eviction since the Great Famine and on the final phase of Anglo-Irish landlordism.
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Author:Curtis, L. Perry, Jr.
Publication:Eire-Ireland: a Journal of Irish Studies
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Date:Sep 22, 2003
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