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OFFENCES DURING THE FAMINE.
"raw material" now, or our "singular inaptitude to comprehend the nature of moral agencies, or to be affected by them?"
Mr. L. C. Burgess, in his evidence before the Select Committee on Transportation, in April, 1861, speaking of the Irish convict in Australia, says, "Generally speaking, we find the Irish convicts, after a time, do better than the English convicts. The reason that the people prefer Irish convicts to the English, is their seldom being habitual criminals."
James MacArthur, Esq., stated before the same committee, "I have known instances [under the Insurrection Act] where the parties themselves assured me that they had done nothing more than stayed out too late on a visit to a neighbour, or looking for a cow; and from the character of the parties who told me this, I have no doubt they spoke the truth.”
The majority of the offences committed during the Irish famine, were not of such a character as to stamp a man as a thief or a robber. I have known
SHEEP-STEALING WINKED AT.
clergymen to wink at sheep-stealing, and a distinguished Member of Parliament to call a man a poltroon for allowing his wife and children to starve, while fat sheep were grazing in a neighbouring meadow.
"Is it a sin, sir," said a poor man to the parish priest, of "to stale a sheep? The wife and childer are very far gone. I don't think herself will hould out till the morning."
"Here's half-a-crown for you.
Go and buy
food for your family, and don't let them starve, at any rate."
"But the sheep, sir? Would it be wrong, your Ravarence, to."
"Get out, you cowardly scoundrel! You have not the spirit of a man. To let your wife and children starve while Get out of my sight.
I'm ashamed of you."
The next morning the priest missed a fat sheep. He was a good deal annoyed, for I believe it was his last; but he laughed heartily, and said, "These scoundrels would not have the spirit to steal from
OUR WORST OFFENDERS.
a rich man, or from one that would prosecute them."
I once saw a flock of sheep driven, at mid-day, from a rich man's grounds, by a number of poor hinds, who looked as hungry as famished wolves. But they had not the courage to kill them. A few of the police came up, and induced the people to relinquish their prey.
I confess, at the time, I was sorry for it; and thought these pseudo thieves no better than poltroons. I never till then imagined there could be any nobility in sheep-stealing.
These were the kind of men that filled our prisons from 1850 to 1860. For the reformation of such thieves and robbers, there is but little credit due to any man or any system.
Some of our worst offenders, but not our worst prisoners-are of the agrarian class, like the Levellers, the White-boys, the Steel-boys, the Peep-of-day-boys and the modern Three-year-olds and Four-year-olds. For the list of "killed," "maimed," and "badly fractured" among the
IRISH SIGNS OF THE TIMES.
latter, and of the number convicted and adjudged to penal servitude, from 1856 to 1862, we must refer the reader to the Pastoral Letter of Doctor Leahy, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel, published in November, 1862. The Three-yearold and Four-year-old factions sprung up in the county Tipperary, as the result of a dispute about the age of a bull. As they could not settle the knotty point by words or dates, they tried the effect of sticks and stones.
Men of the latter class are not esteemed dangerous to society in general.
"You have nothing to apprehend, sir," said an old Irish gentleman, "when they are breaking each others' heads. It is a good sign of the state of the country. But when you see them quiet, with their heads together, you may rest assured they are hatching mischief."
Members of secret and illegal societies make better prisoners than they do subjects.
One of this class, a regular Peep-of-day-boy, was told off to light my fire, clean my boots, and
A PEEP-OF-DAY BOY.
make up my room, on the officer's corridor of Spike Island Prison. It was in the winter, and as he entered my apartment-which I left unlocked for him-before the peep of day, and left before the dawn, it was some time before I got a proper look at his face I must acknowledge, I experienced a curious sensation, when half asleep and awake, to feel some one quietly poking about my bed in the dark.
"What do you want?"
"Your boots, sir."
I detained him one morning longer than usual, in order to see his face, and have a chat with him. He was a finely formed young man, about sixand-twenty, with a blue laughing eye, a wellshaped nose, and a good development of forehead.
"What part of the country are you from?" I inquired.
"What are you in for?"
"For shooting, sir."