From an email I received today:
Where did the term boycott originate? One of the first examples (although there were boycotts earlier; they just weren’t called boycotts yet) involved Charles Cunningham Boycott (March 12, 1832 – June 19, 1897). Boycott was an English land agent who was ignored and ostracized by his Mayo Irish community in Ireland after treating them badly. In fact, he was so bad that they named the action after him.(A message from our sponsor:)All donations to The Resistance will be matched 10x by Charles Boycott himself! Okay…maybe not, but we need your help to keep The Resistance going. Help our work with a donation of $20.18 today >>After Boycott retired from the British Army, he worked as a land agent for Lord Erne, a major landowner in the Lough Mask area of County Mayo who lived off the exorbitant rents he charged tenants. Evictions by Boycott were many, and bloody. In 1880, Boycott’s opponents Charles Stewart Parnell and the Land League campaigned for the Three Fs (fair rent, fixity of tenure, and free sale) and in opposition to evictions. When Boycott set about evicting 11 tenants, the Mayo branch of the Irish Land League urged Boycott’s employees to withdraw their labor, and began a campaign of isolation against Boycott in the local community. The nearby shops in Ballinrobe refused to serve him, people quit working for him, and Boycott found himself a marked man. Boycott was furious and made a crucial mistake: he complained to the London media. If he had kept his mouth shut he might have been fine, but now it was a story, and the boycott campaign became a YUGE issue. Here is his complaint:“Sir, The following detail may be interesting to your readers as exemplifying the power of the Land League. On the 22nd September a process-server, escorted by a police force of seventeen men, retreated to my house for protection, followed by a howling mob of people, who yelled and hooted at the members of my family.“On the ensuing day, September 23rd, the people collected in crowds upon my farm, and some hundred or so came up to my house and ordered off, under threats of ulterior consequences, all my farm labourers, workmen, and stablemen, commanding them never to work for me again.“My blacksmith has received a letter threatening him with murder if he does any more work for me, and my laundress has also been ordered to give up my washing…The shopkeepers have been warned to stop all supplies to my house, and I have just received a message from the postmistress to say that the telegraph messenger was stopped and threatened on the road when bringing out a message to me and that she does not think it safe to send any telegrams…I can get no workmen to do anything, and my ruin is openly avowed as the object of the Land League unless I throw up everything and leave the country. I say nothing about the danger to my own life, which is apparent to anybody who knows the country.”The story exploded in the media. About 50 Ulster Loyalists volunteered to come to Boycott’s aid and bring in his crops. Then it went international. The Brooklyn Eagle reported on November 9, 1880:“Four troops of Hussars were dispatched hence for Ballinrobe by special trains at 2 o’clock this morning. Four hundred infantry have just arrived at Ballinrobe and will encamp near Lough Mask.“These precautions are taken in view of the intention of the Northern Orangemen to send laborers to harvest the crops of Mr. Boycott, Lord Erne’s agent, for whom the local peasantry, at the instigation of the Land League, refuse to work. The Government will protect a moderate force of laborers, but refuse to furnish anything approaching armed demonstrations, which would certainly provoke a collision.”All of this led to a ridiculous scene. Dozens of reporters rushed to the West of Ireland to report on 50 men harvesting crops surrounded by a regiment of the 19th Royal Hussars and more than 1,000 men of the Royal Irish Constabulary.Cost to guard harvesters: £10,000Profit from harvest: £500The fact that an armed thug for a greedy landowner is ostracized to the point that the “boycott” is named after him: PricelessCharles Boycott got out of town, clearly an unwelcome member of the community. He left Ireland on December 1, 1880, in disgrace, his name forever attached to a campaign to bring down tyrants. In 1886, Boycott became a land agent for Hugh Adair’s Flixton estate in Suffolk. He died at the age of 65 on June 19, 1897, in his home in Flixton, after an illness earlier that year. His name lives on, in infamy, forever.The practice of boycotting spread and gave the peasants bargaining power. By the end of 1880, Irish peasants were boycotting all over Ireland, as the Land League implemented one of the most successful non-violent actions against unfair conditions and oppressive landowners in the world’s history.Boycotting is effective. It is easy to feel powerless when we are under the rule of tyrants, but we will not be subjugated. As Resisters, it is our duty to use every tool at our disposal so that when the history is written we will have shown that we fought back, we would not lay down, we would not capitulate.