George F. Adams delivers heart-felt address on rent system

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Jim Hornby
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Urges those at meeting: ‘we must take the matter into our own hands; we must trust to ourselves . . .’

The Islander, April 22

Brant and Wild Geese have been very plenty for the past ten days--thousands have passed over this City. On Saturday last, we learn that two individuals shot between thirty and forty Geese at Brackley Point.

The Vindicator, April 27

DIED. At Georgetown, on the 18th instant, of Inflammation of the liver, Mary Ann, the beloved wife of Sergeant James Heggs, Jailer in Georgetown, in the 49th year of her age. The deceased was a native of Donegal, Ireland, and resided for many years in this Colony.

Jim Hornby: Sgt. Heggs suffered further misfortune in the following month.

The Vindicator, April 27

A few weeks ago Mr. John McDonnell distrained on Owen Began of Lot 35, for rent, and, on the expected day of removal of cattle, &c., some sixty persons (tenants) attended to witness the proceedings, but the bailiffs, unaccountably, did not make their appearance. The query among the tenants is: what became of the bailiffs?

J.H.: Owen Beagan, teacher at Donagh School, was an active Tenant Leaguer.

Ross’s Weekly, April 28

The Ferry Steamer Ora commenced her trips for the season across the river between Southport and Charlottetown, on Thursday afternoon last.

 

Ross’s Weekly, April 28

ADDRESS DELIVERED BY GEORGE F. ADAMS, BEFORE A MEETING OF FREEHOLDERS IN LOT 49. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I do not think it necessary to inform any of you of the causes of our action in this matter, you all know it. You know that an absentee proprietory system, coupled with what is worse, the middle man or agent, is a ruinous system, that it is retarding the progress of the Colony; depressing men’s energies; driving the young, active men from our Colony; draining away what little cash our surplus produce leaves us. I will not dwell on the curses of our rent system, it is patent to the most casual observer, but submit to it any longer we will not.

We have been promised a settlement of this question by one party and by another party, over and over again; and how have these promises been fulfilled? Ah! my friends, hundreds of starving, destitute families can best answer this question. And are we forever to go on in this way? are we always to be satisfied with promises--promises made and never intended to be fulfilled--promises made by party after party to gain their own ends? I say No! we will wait no longer; we must take the matter into our own hands; we must trust to ourselves; we must now put our shoulders to the wheel.

We are willing to buy our land and pay more than Selkirk, Worrell, Montgomery and others got for theirs; we are willing to do anything an impartial judge could ask us, except pay rent; that is finished; this organization pledges itself to pay no more.

Another feature in connection with this league I view with pleasure is this: that the people throughout the length and breadth of the Island are daily and hourly becoming alive to the fact that all religious and political differences tend to defeat their attaining any object which their united efforts would be sure of securing. They see they have interests in common with their neighbors; they see there are times and places when these [differences] must be all thrown aside, when they must depend on one another and say, “whatever is for the benefit of my fellow man is for my benefit.” This alone will soften many of the asperities that have grown up in this Island under the fostering care of political and religious charlatans; it will let one man meet another with feelings less embittered than has heretofore been the case, which feelings have in a great measure tended to retard the prosperity of this Island. The object of the many meetings being held throughout the Island is to ensure unanimity of feeling throughout the entire population.

The ultimatum, or last resort of the Association, will be to the following effect: We will not pay rent, or arrears of rent; we will not buy things offered by sale for rent or arrears of rent; nor will we support, either directly or indirectly, any person who attempts to sell or purchase any effects offered for sale to liquidate any claims for rent; and in any country, more especially in this isolated Island, where we are all dependent one on another for a living, such resolutions, endorsed by a united, oppressed people, cannot be violated with impunity. The day is past when men believed that kings were made to rule and people made to obey. We believe in every man getting his rights, let him be the king or the peasant.

J.H.: At a later meeting, Adams described “the tenant — the man who has made a farm of the forest.” The enigma of Adams is how such a strong leader could arise from obscurity and return thereto so soon: Adams’ public career as the orator of the Tenant League lasted from early 1864 until late 1865.

Jim Hornby’s column, “1864: The Way We Were: gleanings from Charlottetown’s newspapers,” will be presented in The Guardian every Monday throughout 2014 (on holiday Mondays when there is no paper, it will appear on Tuesdays). It contains excerpts from various newspapers of that era, as well as Hornby’s comments on what he has found. To give feedback on this feature, which is presented in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown Conference, contact the author at hornby@pei.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: Owen Began of Lot 35, Donagh School, Tenant League

Geographic location: Georgetown, Charlottetown, Iceland Wild Geese Donegal Ireland Southport

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