Check out Chapter One of Slaves to Freedom by Kathy Tilghman . . .
Clonaugh, Ireland — Winter, 1848
Lord Hargrove Bromwell puffed on his cigar as he stared out his floor-to-ceiling, second-story window onto the rolling, verdant hills of his English estate, which sat in the village of Clonaugh, Ireland. When he looked at his landscape, dotted with thatched roofs atop white stone cottages in various states of near collapse, stacked stone fences around lifeless potato plots, and the hovels of his Irish tenant farmers, he longed to sail across the Irish Sea and return to his home in London.
A few bare-limbed trees sat beside scrub brush, rocks, and boulders that jutted out of the ground. He could barely distinguish the few men who shuffled along the dirt roads and carried shovels to dig for potatoes.
The last rays of sunlight filtered across the glass of wine he gripped in his hand. A lone horse and wagon lumbered past the black iron gate at the entrance to his property. His land agent, Killiam Barnes, had arrived. He called to his servant to meet Barnes at the door and escort him upstairs.
“Come in, Barnes. Share a glass of wine with me? We’ve got business to discuss.”
Killiam looked around the landlord’s office at the black brocade divan, large mahogany desk, and feather pen on a piece of paper. He knew this wouldn’t take long. Bromwell only pulled him into his affairs when there was dirty work to be done.
“I’ve got to get my land in Clonaugh looking like this again,” he said as he pointed to the acres of lush, grassy expanse that sprawled for miles. “Blackened potatoes have ruined it, and it might never grow anything again. Now it can’t feed my tenants or anything else. The sooner we prune them, the better. Rearing cattle and sheep can turn quite a profit, and I’m sure you’d much rather manage herds than force rents from those paupers. Much more profit in the meat and wool businesses. The Irish can go to the workhouse. That’s their lot anyway. And if that doesn’t suit them, then they’ll go to America.”
Barnes stared at his employer’s perfectly coiffed gray hair and manicured sideburns, which extended down his jowls; at his deep red ascot gracing his stark white shirt; at the black pants and dinner jacket. He knew Bromwell was entertaining guests in a few hours.
“I’m going to go bankrupt soon if I don’t do something about the farmers that owe me rent,” Bromwell continued. “I’ve waited three months and that’s long enough, especially since I know they are no closer with coming up with my due than the day I granted them an extension. I’m not running a charity. Land is made to turn a profit, and if the Irish can’t do that, well, it’s none of my affair.”
“But sir,” Barnes interjected. “With all due respect, you know as well as I that they’re penniless and far too many of them for you to pay their way to America. You need to preserve your capital, not send a dying people overseas.”
“Ah, I appreciate you always looking out for my interests, but I’ll have to take the loss, Barnes. It’s the only way I’ll be rid of them if they won’t agree to go to the workhouse. I can’t waste any more time. I’ve got to save my property, Irish be dammed. Every time I ride through Clonaugh, I’m sickened by the condition of my land and the dirty, filthy hovels that sit on it. I won’t be humiliated by putting it up for sale to the highest bidder.”
“What do you want me to do, sir?”
“You’re a good man, Barnes, and you’ve made pronouncements like this before. Hang another eviction notice on St. Mary’s Church gate so they’ll see it coming out of mass on Sunday. Then Monday morning, get some Irish boys together and tumble the houses. Once they’re burned, tell them they have two choices: the workhouses or money to go to America. Anybody that wants to go to the workhouse, take them. Anybody that wants the money, give it to them and send them on their way. Make sure you keep your boys around you in case anyone thinks about pummeling you for the money. I can’t afford any uprising from ignorant Irish.”
Read the next chapter here: Chapter Two