The harvests of 1879 were particularly poor, for the third year in a row. The specter of famine lurks once again in the Irish countryside. Thirty years earlier, it wiped out more than 1 million people, and forced countless poor people to emigrate to America. Despite some agrarian reforms, the situation of the peasants hardly improved in the English colony. They remain at the mercy of the Landlords, the powerful landowners who can evict farmers unable to repay their credits.
In County Mayo, in the far west of Ireland, eleven of them were served their eviction notices on September 22, 1880. Lord Erne, to whom they rented their land, had nothing wanted to know. Outside ! But it is not the name of the very rich aristocrat that posterity will remember. The bad role of history, it is he, Charles Cuningham Boycott, who will endorse it.
This 48-year-old former English officer, recruited by Lord Erne to administer his land and collect his rents, has retained a certain stiffness from his time in the British army. And his condition as settler of His majesty an arrogance to all manners, which makes him impervious to the social anger which is rumbling in this early autumn of 1880. “Communists”, he judges, disdainfully, against peasants who demand a reduction in rent to deal with the calamitous harvests.
Except that the political climate has changed. The eleven expelled, galvanized by the very popular Father O’Malley, rebel. Quickly, the whole country took up the cause for the ejected. As during the Parisian march on Versailles on October 5, 1789, it is the women who take matters into their own hands. They mobilize the surrounding farmers, then converge on Lough Mask House, the mansion where Charles Boycott and his wife Annie settled in 1873.
“Treat him like a plague”
Arrived on the property, the slingers take part in the servants and farm workers dedicated to the Boycott’s own lands. “Leave your service and leave this house,” they harangue, emboldened by their audacity… but not only. Because a few weeks earlier, the Irish deputy Charles Parnell, figurehead of independence and president of the Agrarian League, launched a curious slogan during a meeting: “When a man stoops to take lease a farm from which another has been evicted, do not do violence to him, but treat him like a plague. “
More or less spontaneously, the new mode of action is therefore inaugurated at Lough Mask House. On September 23, Boycott and his family find themselves alone in the deserted house. The following days, the farrier, the laundress, the postman also turned away. Then it is the shops of Ballinrobe, the small neighboring town, which refuse to serve them. No one is obeying the orders of the former infantry captain anymore.
He was forced to work in the fields himself. He gets up in the middle of the night to feed the animals, milk the cows and complete all the tasks that the maintenance requires to maintain his domain. His wife, from the aristocracy, had to wash her clothes, cook and dust her household.
The news item turns into a political crisis
He is so distraught that he confides his misfortunes to the press. His affair caused such a stir in public opinion that it ended up escaping him completely. For His Majesty’s government, it is not only the sacrosanct right to property that is being violated, but its legitimacy as a colonial power. The news story turned into a political crisis, so much so that the British authorities dispatched hundreds of soldiers and sent trains of anti-independence farm workers to harvest turnips and potatoes.
The battle of the fields will be won at the end of November, but not that of public opinion. Humiliated, ostracized, the Boycott decided on December 1 to return to England. Charles will live another fifteen years, the time to measure the growing success of a neologism appeared for the first time in the newspaper Inter Ocean of October 12, 1880, and to which he despite himself offered his name: “boycott”.
Sometimes formidable efficiency
This weapon did not wait for Mister Boycott to exist, even if it was in 1881, a few months after the Irish sling, that the word – we have long said boycott – landed in France. Some have remained famous, such as that of tea in 1773 by American colonists, a prelude to the independence of the United States. In 1930, Gandhi will organize the boycott on the salt taxes against the British Empire. The American Martin Luther King rides the buses in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 to protest racial discrimination.
Or, finally, the political and economic boycott that helped bring down the apartheid regime in South Africa in the early 1990s.
Every day, a call is launched to refuse to consume products of a company or a nation, to participate in an election, in the Olympic Games… The most daring took place twenty-four centuries ago in… the comedy by the Greek Aristophanes, Lysistrata, in which the women of Athens declared a sex strike to force these gentlemen to end the Peloponnesian war!
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr