Jenny Marx (1870) on landlords, repression and ‘agrarian outrages’ in Ireland

Jenny Marx with her mother Jenny von Westphalen

The following is an extract from one of the articles that Jenny Marx wrote about Ireland in February, March and April 1870.  She was one of the daughters of Karl Marx, the one who had the most to do with ‘the Irish Question’, for instance campaigning in support of the Fenian prisoners.  The full texts of the eight articles appear in Ireland and the Irish Question: a collection of writings by Karl Marx & Frederick Engels (New York, International Publishers, 1972), pp379-403.

In Ireland the plundering and even extermination of the tenant farmer and his family by the landlord is called the property right, whereas the desperate farmer’s revolt against his ruthless executioner is called an agrarian outrage. These agrarian outrages, which are actually very few in number but are multiplied and exaggerated out of all proportion by the kaleidoscope of the English press in accordance with orders received, have, as you will know, provided the excuse for reviving the regime of white terror in Ireland. On the other hand, this regime of terror makes it possible for the landowners to redouble their oppression with impunity.

I have already mentioned that the Land Bill consolidates landlordism under the pretext of giving aid to the tenant farmers. Nevertheless, in order to pull the wool over people’s eyes and clear his conscience, Gladstone was compelled to grant this new lease of life to landlord despotism subject to certain legal formalities. It should suffice to say that in the future as in the past the landlord’s word will become law if he succeeds in imposing on his tenants at will the most fantastic rents which are impossible to pay or, in the case of land tenure agreements, make his farmers sign contracts which will bind them to voluntary slavery.

And how the landlords are rejoicing! A Dublin newspaper, the Freeman, publishes a letter from Father P. Lavelle, the author of The Irish Landlord since the Revolution, in which he says:

“I have seen piles of letters addressed to tenants by their landlord, the brave captain, an “absentee” living in England, warning them that from now on their rents are to be raised by 25%. This is equivalent to an eviction notice! And this from a man who does nothing for the land except live off its produce!”

The Irishman on the other hand publishes the new tenure agreements dictated by Lord Dufferin, the member of Gladstone’s Cabinet who inspired the Land Bill and introduced the Coercion Bill in the House of Lords. Add the rapacious shrewdness of an expert moneylender and the despicable chicanery of the advocate to feudal insolence and you will have a rough idea of the new land tenure agreements invented by the noble Dufferin.

It is now easy to see that the rule of terror has arrived just in time to introduce the rule of the Land Bill! Let us suppose, for example, that in a certain Irish county the farmers refuse either to allow a 25% rent increase or to sign Dufferin’s land tenure agreements! The county’s landlords will then get their valets or the police to send them anonymous threatening letters, as they have in the past. This also counts as an “agrarian outrage.” The landlords inform the Viceroy, Lord Spencer, accordingly. Lord Spencer then declares that the district is subject to the provisions of the Coercion Act which is then applied by the same landlords, in their capacity as magistrates, against their own tenants!

Journalists who are imprudent enough to protest will not only be prosecuted for sedition, but their printing presses will be confiscated without the semblance of legal proceedings! . . .

Posted on August 15, 2018, in British state repression (general), Fenians, General revolutionary history, Historiography and historical texts, Ireland in 1800s, Jenny Marx, Republicanism pre-1900, Social conditions, Women in republican history. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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