Word Origins: Capt. Charles C. Boycott and Boycotts Part 2

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

People Who Became Words

Thus it was that Lord Erne's estates, so conveniently close by, were selected as a test case. His tenants got together and fixed a new rent well below what Erne had prescribed, then offered their terms to Boycott. Now the captain's position was clear: He could not, as an agent, do anything other than uphold his employer's legal rights. He therefore refused the reduction. The tenants stood their ground, and Boycott promptly sat down and wrote out ejectments against them.

Just 3 days after Parnell's speech, a process-server attempting to deliver the ejectments was stopped by a band of hostile peasants before he reached the 1st tenant's cottage. He was forced to retreat precipitately to the captain. The next day, the peasants advanced to Boycott's house and ordered all the servants to leave, which they promptly did. Within a few hours, Captain Boycott's neat, orderly world had become a nightmare. Suddenly there were no farm laborers to gather the harvest, no stablemen to care for the horses, no cook to prepare dinner nor maid to serve it. The local shopkeepers were forbidden to serve Boycott when he entered their stores; the blacksmith was not to shoe his horse nor the laundress to wash his clothes, and even the postboy was warned against carrying Boycott's letters. "You must show him," Charles Parnell had said, "by leaving him severely alone!"

In the end, it took no less than 50 men imported from Ulster and guarded by British soldiers to harvest Lord Erne's crops on the shores of Lough Mask. As the pressure increased, Captain Boycott and his wife were forced to seek refuge for some time in a barn, where at considerable personal risk they were succored by friends from the village. The following year, the Boycotts left Ireland. Parnell was the victor in more ways than one, for in 1881 the "Magna Carta" of the Irish farmer was passed. This Land Act recognized the "3 Fs" and set up a land commission to fix a "fair rent."

One might assume that Charles Boycott would have shunned Ireland forever after, but that was not the case. He revisited it some years later while on holiday, was recognized at a public gathering in Dublin, and was generously cheered; the Irish attributed his former behavior to his army-trained sense of duty and bore him no grudge.

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