1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Boycott

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BOYCOTT, the refusal and incitement to refusal to have commercial or social dealings with any one on whom it is wished to bring pressure. As merely a form of “sending to Coventry” or (in W. E. Gladstone’s phrase) “exclusive dealing,” boycotting may be, from a legal point of view, unassailable, and as such has frequently been justified by its original political inventors. But in practice it has usually taken the form of what is undoubtedly an illegal conspiracy to injure the person, property or business of another by unwarrantably putting pressure on all and sundry to withdraw from him their social or business intercourse. The word was first used in Ireland, and was derived from the name of Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott (1832–1897), agent for the estates of the earl of Erne in Co. Mayo. For refusing in 1880 to receive rents at figures fixed by the tenants, Captain Boycott had his life threatened, his servants compelled to leave him, his fences torn down, his letters intercepted and his food supplies interfered with. It took a force of 900 soldiers to protect the Ulster Orangemen (“Emergency Men”) who succeeded finally in getting in his crops. He was hooted and mobbed in the streets, and hanged and burnt in effigy. The system of boycotting was an essential part of the Irish Nationalist “Plan of Campaign,” and was dealt with under the Crimes Act of 1887. The term soon came into common English use, and was speedily adopted by the French, Germans, Dutch and Russians. In the United States this method of “persuasion” was taken up by the trade unions about 1886, an employer who refused their demands being brought to terms by a combination to refuse to buy his product or do his work, or to deal with any who did. Various cases have occurred in America in which labour organizations have pronounced such a boycott against a firm; and its illegal nature has been established in the law-courts, notably in the case of the Bucks Stove Company v. The American Federation of Labor (1907) in the Supreme Court of the district of Columbia, and in a suit against the Hatters’ Union (February 1908) in the U.S. Supreme Court. A boycott has also been held by the U.S. Supreme Court to be a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust law.