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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

But there were anti tithe demonstrations got up


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and the military and police.

It was certain that the soldiers and the policemen would not bid for the cattle, and probably {209} could not pay for them, and the population of the district would have made the place very uncomfortable for any of the clergymen's friends who showed an anxiety to buy up the impounded beasts. In some cases when cattle were sold by public auction no bidder ventured to come forward but the farmer himself who owned the cattle, and they had to be knocked down to him at a purely nominal price because there was no possible competitor. The farmer drove home his beasts amid the exultation of the whole neighborhood, and the clergymen was as far off his tithes as ever. The passive resistance in fact was harder to deal with, as far as practical results went, than even the resistance that was active. Summon together by lawful authority a number of soldiers and police, and it is easy to shoot down a few unarmed peasants, and to dispose for the hour of popular resistance in this prompt and peremptory way. But what is to be done when the resistance takes the form of a resolute organized refusal to pay up the amounts claimed or to offer any price for the cattle seized in default of payment? There were in every district numbers of quiet Catholic parishioners who would much rather have paid their share of the tithes to the Protestant clergymen than become drawn into quarrels and local disturbances and confusion. But such men soon found that if they paid their tithes they put themselves in
direct antagonism to the whole mass of their Catholic neighbors. Intimidation of the most serious kind was sometimes brought to bear upon them, and in any case there was that very powerful kind of intimidation which consists in making the offender feel that he has brought on himself the contempt and the hatred of nearly all his fellow-parishioners and his fellow-religionists. In those days it was not lawful to hold a public political meeting in Ireland, but there were anti-tithe demonstrations got up, nevertheless, over three parts of Ireland. These demonstrations took the outward form of what were called hurling matches, great rivalries of combatants, in a peculiar Irish game of ball. Each of these demonstrations was made to be, and was known to be, a practical protest against the collection of the tithes. {210} Whenever it became certain that the recusant farmer's cattle were to be seized, a great hurling match was announced to be held in the immediate vicinity, and the local magistrates, who perhaps had at their disposal only a few handfuls of police or soldiery, were not much inclined to order the seizure in the presence of such a cloud of witnesses. Nor would any Catholic parishioner who had quietly paid up his tithes without resistance have felt very comfortable if he had happened to come near the hurling field that day, and to hear the loudly expressed comments of his neighbors on his line of conduct. To make the troubles still deeper, it often happened that the claimant of the tithes was an absentee--the incumbent of many a parish in Ireland left his curate to look after his flock and his tithes alike--and the absentee was almost as much hated in Ireland as the tithe-collector.


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