Grievances of the United Irishmen of Ballynahinch, Co. Down

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Grievances of the United Irishmen of Ballynahinch, Co. Down


This manifesto by a United Irish society about fourteen miles south of Belfast reflects an amalgam of traditional agrarian grievances and the newer radicalism fostered by the French Revolution.

SEE ALSO Eighteenth-Century Politics: 1795 to 1800—Repression, Rebellion, and Union; Neilson, Samuel; Tandy, James Napper; Tone, Theobald Wolfe; United Irish Societies from 1791 to 1803

What evils will be removed and what advantages gained by a reform in Parliament.

1st. Tithes will be abolished and every man will pay his own clergy.

2nd. Hearth-money—that abominable badge of slavery and oppression to the poor—will cease.

3rd. We will not thereafter be taxed to pay pensioners and sinecure placemen to vote against us. The consequence of this will be that tobacco for which we now pay 10d. per lb. will then be had for 4d.—Aye for 4d.—and every other article of imported goods cheap in proportion.

4th. We shall have no excise laws: the merchant and shopkeeper will get to leave to carry on his business quietly, without the intrusion of plundering revenue officers.

5th. The expense and tediousness of the law will give place to prompt and equal justice—Gratis.

6th. County cesses would not be squandered in jobs among the parasites of agents; and 23 gentlemen sitting in a Grand Jury room, would cease to impose £10 or 12 thousand per annum, upon the inhabitants of a county without their consent. Is it not astonishing that Irishmen patiently suffer themselves to be assessed annually to the amount of £400,000 by 750 esquires nominated by an officer of the Crown? If this abuse was reformed we would have good roads and low cesses.

7th. Church cesses would be no more for every profession would support its own houses of worship as well as its own clergy.

8th. Custom at fairs would be abolished and a free passage to and from them would be had without having the sanctity of an oath profaned by scoundrel bailiffs.

9th. The press would be unshackled and a man might publish his sentiments without the terror of a Bastille; every man would have an opportunity of knowing his rights for a newspaper which now costs 2d. would then be sold for a half-penny.

10th. The honest farmer would be protected in the enjoyment of all his appurtenances against the intrusions of moss-bailiffs and bog-trotters, the present ridiculous idea of obligation to a landlord would be done away and the contract would then appear as it really is mutual.

Irishmen are these objects of any importance? perhaps not. Here one single consequence then worth ten thousand of them all. THE LAWS will be made by YOURSELVES, or in other words YOU WILL BE FREE—unite then, associate, resolve and carry your resolve into execution.

A.D. 1795

Signed, Thos. Smyth

True Copy

Endorsement: Thomas Smyth who signed the within was secretary to a committee of United Irishmen near Ballynahinch. He was arrested in his own house by the Rev. Mr. Clewlow and Captain Price where 70 or 80 copies of the within were found all signed by him. He is now in Down Jail. 29 January 1797.

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Roden MSS, Mic. 147/9, pp. 57–60; reprinted in Aspects of Irish Social History, 1750–1800, edited by W. H. Crawford and B. Trainor (1969), pp. 181–182.

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Grievances of the United Irishmen of Ballynahinch, Co. Down

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