The Ulster Land War of 1770



The following are a few of the addresses of presbyteries of the presbyterian church, condemning the actions of the members of their religious persuasion, with some others.

The different presbyteries met and issued “serious addresses and admonitions” to their people. This was to be expected. They all deplored and lamented the “heavy oppression” the tenants endured, but implored them to give up “lawlessness.” What effect these had it is hard to say most probably very little, so exasperated were the people.

The presbytery of Dromore puts it thus in regard to the presbyterians around that part of county Down:–
“With the utmost concern we have of late observed in our bounds a dissolute and licentious spirit, productive of numberless disorders. Is not this astonishing in a country formerly remarkable for good order, sobriety, and a veneration of the laws. With grief we find that many persons notoriously associate, travel from house to house, extort arms and ammunition by the most dreadful threats from the peaceable inhabitants; administer unlawful oaths; burn and otherwise destroy houses, compel men to sign leases at what valuation they please, and assume to themselves power of courts of justice, consulting and decreeing in all causes referred to them, and putting their determinations in force by the most violent means, etc.”
–N. L., 13th March, 1772.

The presbytery of Strabane puts it thus to the hearts of steel, “many of whom, to our great regret, we find to be of our religious persuasion.”

“It is with deep concern that we have heard of the riotous proceedings which for some time past have disturbed the peace of several of the neighbouring counties. Indeed it is utterly impossible that any man interested in the public welfare, and not destitute of all the feelings of humanity, can see the laws of his country set at open defiance, all order, decency, and justice treated with contempt, without being inspired with the strongest sentiments of abhorrence and indignation; and yet you know such of late has been the conduct of these deluded people, some of whom have called themselves hearts of steel, and others of them hearts of oak. What species of iniquity have not these men, many of whom, to our great regret, we find to be of our religious persuasion, been guilty of. Why, under pretence of redressing grievances, they have burned houses, destroyed corn, hay; they have put the harmless, inoffensive cattle to agonising tortures; they have plundered individuals of their money, and in some instances committed murder; they have extorted unlawful oaths, which have led to perjury those who were under the hard necessity of taking them, and been the authors of a variety of other illegal acts and shocking barbarities.
Hugh Young, Moderator.
Andrew Walsh,
Jos. Osborne.
Jos. Scott.
Robt. Nelson.
Jas. Turbitt.
Jos. Coulter.
Wm. Craford.
Resolved that the above address be read publickly to our several congregations, and printed in the Freeman’s Journal and Belfast News Letter.”
“Strabane, 16th March, 1772.”
–N. L., 24th March, 1772.

Many other presbyteries followed on similar lines.

“We, the inhabitants” of the townlands of Ballylinny, Ballyhowne, Ballywalter, Ballycalket, and Lisnalinchy, lying between Carnmoney and Ballynure, issued a notice. These townlands put forth more active opposition to Donegalls middlemen than any others. The whole of this district was seething with revolt. We don’t think there was a single subscriber to that notice who, if not an active “moonlighter,” was not fully aware of the details of every “outrage,” its origin, and its perpetrators. Each could have earned his own reward, with that of his friends, neighbours, and sympathisers but he did not. Such proclamations were drawn up by landlords, magistrates, and agents, and then hawked round for signature by those in authority, often with a military accompaniment. None dared to refuse his name, or he was a marked man. The whole thing was then freely advertised in the local press, which was thus heavily subsidised for years, and so was by no means unfriendly to the powers that were.

The inhabitants of the parish of Bangor issued their notice, as did those of Ballyeaston parish, and those of Ballynure and Templepatrick. Others appeared from Ahoghill, county Derry, old dissenting congregation of Antrim, Island Magee, Newtonlimavady, Tamlaght, Lisburn, Ballykeel, Ballynahinch, presbyterian congregation of Moneyrea (a very high faluting production), Ballymoney, Larne, KUwaughter, Ralloo, BaUyhalbert, Killead, Tamlaght O’Crilly, and many other places.

We have gone through the 275 names subscribed to the Templepatrick proclamation. It contains most of the names in the parish, men and boys. It was worked from “the office.” No one dared refuse to sign, and they did sign, every one of them, and went home with their tongues in their cheeks. Many of the most active sympathisers and supporters of the hearts of steel have their names added, there is no doubt of this; but they paid no fine nor tendered any information; no “evil disposed person” suffered through them.

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