T. 33] 175
THE LAND LEAGUE
DEVOY arrived in Ireland about January 1879. He was soon joined by Davitt, who had preceded him across the Atlantic. No one played a more important part in Irish politics at this crisis than Michael Davitt. He was still a Fenian. He was even yet a member of the supreme council of the I. E. B. He possessed the confidence of the Fenians in America. He was in touch with Parnell. In a word, he was the connecting-link between the American Eevolutionists and the extreme wing of the constitutional party; the very pivot on which the ' new departure' turned.
The time was ripe for the plans of the Neo-Fenians. The land agitation had already commenced, ' Tenants' Defence Associations' had been formed in various parts of the country, and public attention was fixed on the subject.. Distress accompanied discontent, and both causes combined to excite and influence the peasantry. Eents could not be paid, and non-payment of rent was followed by eviction. Landlords were unreasonable, tenants were exasperated, and soon the flame of agitation was fanned in every part of the country. I have already said that the Land Act of 1870 had proved a failure. It had been passed to prevent arbitrary evic-