THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Marquis of Downshire urges tenants to raise a ‘bold resistance’ to rate aid

From the News Letter, March 9, 1849

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 6:00 am
Guards at Hillsborough Castle. NLI Ref.: L_ROY_08060. Picture: National Library of Ireland
Guards at Hillsborough Castle. NLI Ref.: L_ROY_08060. Picture: National Library of Ireland

A “large and influential” meeting of the tenantry of the Marquis of Downshire, residing in and around Hillsborough met together in the town’s courthouse to protest against ‘rate aid’, reported the News Letter.

There was much anger directed towards Lord Russell’s government with regards to the tax which they regarded as unjust which was to be levied on local industry to support “an idle and improvident population” in other parts of Ireland.

During the meeting a letter from the Marquis of Downshire was read to the audience.

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It declared his support for his tenants’ opposition to ‘rate aid’ and he said that the Government had no right to impose such a tax since there was only two representatives from Ulster on the committee that decided to collect “rate aid”, while there were five from Munster, four from Connaught, five from Leinster and England and Scotland eight.

Downshire declared: “We must raise a bold and determined resistance in Ulster and show the minister that. . . we will not quietly submit to have the profits of our industry, which that peace and good order have secured to us (and which this very Government has so often done their best to destroy), take from us.”

He added: “The edge of the wedge once introduced, every year will drive it in more firmly, and we shall have the satisfaction of paying for the districts of the country which the Government has demoralised, after it had tried, but failed, to demoralise us.”

Besides, he concluded: “Remember that it is one thing to strike a rate and another to collect it.”