Word Origins: Capt. Charles C. Boycott and Boycotts Part 1

About the Captain Charles C. Boycott history and information of the namesake of the term boycott.

People Who Became Words

BOYCOTT (boi 'kot') tr.v. To abstain from using, buying, or dealing with, as a protest or means of coercion. --n. The act or an instance of boycotting.

Capt. Charles C. Boycott did not invent, propose, or practice the policy that bears his name. An impulsive but dignified, almost austere Englishman, he would surely have lived and died in obscurity had not his life--to his own misfortune--crossed that of the great Irish nationalist leader Charles Parnell. Boycotting, at that time a nameless political tactic, was one of Parnell's foremost weapons in the battle for Irish independence, and Captain Boycott was its 1st victim.

Charles Cunningham Boycott had been trained as a soldier but had resigned his commission on his marriage and had gone with his wife to farm a wild estate on Achill Island off the western coast of Ireland. Though reasonably successful in their endeavor, the Boycotts soon returned to the mainland so that the captain could accept an appointment as the earl of Erne's agent on the earl's estates at Connaught in County Mayo.

Ireland in the 1870s was an unhappy country of poverty-stricken peasants governed by absentee landlords. Yet an increasingly restive and articulate nationalistic feeling among the people was crystallizing into the Home Rule movement. Land was the crucial issue, and the people had long been united in demanding the "3Fs"--fair rent, fixity of tenure, and freedom of sale. Under the Land Act of 1870, the tenant could become proprietor of his land, but when Boycott 1st came to County Mayo 3 years later, he found the countryside in the grip of an agricultural depression which was to continue for the next 2 decades.

In 1880, agrarian agitation took a new turn. Charles Parnell, member of Parliament and president of the Irish National Land League, had just returned from the U.S., where, as the darling of Irish-Americans from Boston to Baltimore, he had raised Pond70,000 for the Irish cause. Determined to take the initiative, Parnell decided on a new tactic: ostracism. Either the tenant or the landlord might be ostracized--the tenant if he attempted to buy land from which another tenant had been evicted; the landlord if he failed to accept a reduced rent fixed by the tenants themselves.

"Now what are you to do to a tenant who bids for a farm from which his neighbor has been evicted?" asked Parnell of his wildly cheering supporters in a town near Connaught on September 19, 1880. "You must show him on the roadside when you meet him, you must show him in the streets of the town, you must show him at the shop counter, you must show him in the fair and in the marketplace, and even in the house of worship, by leaving him severely alone!"

You Are Here: Trivia-Library Home » Word Origins: People Who Became Words » Word Origins: Capt. Charles C. Boycott and Boycotts Part 1
« Word Origins: Dr. Thomas Bowdler and BowderlizeWord Origins: Capt. Charles C. Boycott and Boycotts Part 2 »
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ - By printing, downloading, or using you agree to our full terms. Review the full terms at the following URL: /disclaimer.htm