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The Tithe War (Irish: Cogadh na nDeachúna) was a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience, punctuated by sporadic violent episodes, in Ireland between 1830-36 in reaction to the enforcement of Tithes, a tax payable by subsistence farmers for the upkeep of the Anglican protestant Church of Ireland irrespective of an individual's religion.

Contents

Background

Tithe payment was a obligation on those working the land to pay ten per cent of the value of certain types of agricultural produce for the upkeep of the Christian Church. After the Reformation in Ireland, tithe payments were directed to the established state church, the Anglican protestant Church of Ireland. This church was not supported by the majority of the population, seventy five percent of whom remained nominally Roman Catholic.

Emancipation for Catholics was a core promise during the campaign for implementation of the Act of Union in 1801 but it was not until 1829 that the Wellington government finally succeeded in passing the Catholic Emancipation Act, despite defiant royal opposition. However, the obligation to pay tithes remained, causing much resentment. Roman Catholic clerical establishments in Ireland had refused government offers of tithe sharing with the established church, fearing U.K. government regulation and control. [1]

The tithe burden lay directly on the shoulders of on tenant farmers. More often than not, tithes were paid in the form of produce or livestock. In 1830, given the system of benefices in the Anglican system including the Church of Ireland, almost half the clergy were not resident in their assigned rectories and parishes. These issues, more often than not, were inflamed by the senior Irish Roman Catholic clergy who were now dependent on the voluntary contributions of dues paying adherents since the discontinuation of the Maynooth grant. Incensed farmers vehemently resisted paying for the support of two Irish clerical establishments. Aided and abetted by many of the Roman Catholic bishops and clergy they began a program of non-payment.

After Emancipation, an organized campaign of resistance to collection began. It was sufficiently successful to have a serious financial effect on the welfare of established church clergy. In 1831 the government compiled lists of defaulters and issued collection orders for the seizure of goods and chattels (mostly stock). Spasmodic violence broke out in various parts of Ireland , particularly in counties Kilkenny, Tipperary and Wexford. The Irish Constabulary, established in 1822, attempted to enforce the orders of seizures, often taking stock and produce at markets and fairs, where goods could be identified and often encountering violent resistance.

The "War" 1831-36

The first clash of the Tithe War took place on 3 March 1831 in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny when a force of 120 yeomanry tried to enforce seizure orders on cattle belonging to a Roman Catholic priest. Encouraged by his bishop, he had organised people to resist Tithe collection by placing their stock under his ownership prior to sale. The revolt soon spread. Shortly afterward, in Bunclody (Newtownbarry), County Wexford, people resisting the seizure of cattle were fired upon by the Irish Constabulary who killed twelve and wounded twenty. This massacre caused objectors to organise and use warnings such as church bells to signal the community to round up the cattle and stock. On 14 December, 1831, resisters used such warnings to ambush a detachment of 40 the Constabulary at Carrickshock in County Kilkenny. Twelve constables, including the Chief Constable, were killed and more wounded.

The authorities reinforced selected army barracks fearing an escalation. Taking stock of the continuing resistance, in 1831 the authorities recorded 242 homicides, 1,179 robberies, 401 burglaries, 568 burnings, 280 cases of cattle-maiming, 161 assaults, 203 riots and 723 attacks on property directly attributed to seizure order enforcement. In 1835 the conflict came to a head at Rathcormac, County Cork, when armed Irish Constabulary and military reportedly killed 17 and wounded 30, in the course of enforcing a tithe order reputedly for 40 shillings.

Outcome

The U.K. government was alarmed by several aspects of this massacre. The order to fire was reportedly given by a clergyman. Many people were killed to collect a pittance. Ordinary people withstood several volleys and at least one charge by the troops. Finding and collecting livestock chattels and the associated mayhem created public outrage and proved increasing strain on police relations. The government suspended collections. One official lamented that “it cost a shilling to collect tuppence”. [1].

In 1839 parliament introduced the Tithe Commutation Act. This reduced the amount payable by about a quarter and made the remainder payable in rent to landlords. They in turn would pass payment to the authorities. Tithes were thus effectively added to a tenant's rent payment. This partial relief and elimination of the confrontational collections ended the conflict. Roman Catholics, were finally relived of payment of tithes after the disestablishement of the Church of Ireland by the Gladstone government in 1869.

See also

References

  1. ^ Stewart, Jay Brown (2001). The National Churches of England, Ireland and Scotland, 1801-46. Dublin: Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0199242356.  
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