In the impoverished Ireland of the mid 19th century the rate collectors job was never easy. The famine making it almost impossible and extremely distasteful. The introduction of out door relief added an enormous burden to the already strained finances of the unions. Many rate payers became paupers and went into the workhouse.
Rate collectors had been unpopular since the introduction of the Poor Law Act. As the plight of the people worsened during the famine, the attitude of the authorities became even more severe. Charles Wood, an Irish Poor Law Commissioner, instructed Clarendon, the Lord Lieutenant in 1847, to "arrest, remand, do anything you can, send horse, foot and dragoon, all the world will applaud you, and I should not be at all squeamish as to what I did, to the verge of the law, and a little beyond."
The law empowered the rate collectors to seize goods in lieu of rate. Those with holdings rated at £5 or more were themselves liable for rate. Rate payers stripped the small farmers of any crops they had managed to raise, that is if the landlord had not already seized the crops for rent. So relentless was the severity of rate collection, that in the six months from June 1847 to December 1847, £961,356 was collected from a people not yet recovered from two outbreaks of famine.
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