"There was a lady once ('tis an old story), That would not be a queen, that would she not, For all the mud in Egypt :—Have you heard it?"
Thus did Shakespeare contrast Elizabeth's wanton mother with the noble woman whom Henry discarded for a toy. And some critics can only find a reason for the composition of the "Merry Wives of Windsor" and the "Sonnets" as an offering to the lewd queen. Nothing more did he owe to his time.
And Milton, who, though his father was a Catholic, was himself a rank Puritan, something of what we have said of Shakespeare may be said of him. At all events, all his cultivation and taste came from Italy. The poets of that really civilized country had polished his uncouth nature, as it were in spite of itself, and added to the depth of his wonderful genius the beauty and soft harmony of verse that ever flowed freely, and the strength of a nervous and sonorous prose.
Now comes the question: If the origin of Protestantism in England cannot be attributed to freedom and civilization, may it not, at least, be maintained that the natural result of Protestantism was the acquisition of true freedom and of a higher civilization? Is it not true that to-day Protestant nations are in advance of others in both these respects? And to what other cause can such advancement be ascribed than to the "reformed religion?" Is it not the freedom which has come to the human mind, after the rejection of the yoke of spiritual authority, and the proclamation of the rights of individual reason, that has brought about the present advanced state of affairs
We know all these fine-sounding phrases which are so continuously dinned into our ears, and republished day after day in a thousand forms. The question, we admit, is not so easy of solution as the first, and might, indeed, without suspicion of evasion, be discarded as not coming under the head of this chapter, which spoke of origin and not of consequences. Nevertheless, a few words may be devoted to the subject, to prove that the answer must still be in the negative.
The first result of Protestantism was undoubtedly to extinguish as completely as possible the remaining sparks of truly liberal thought promulgated in Europe by the Catholic doctors of the middle ages. Wherever the new doctrines spread, secular rulers were not only freed from pontifical control, but were themselves invested with supreme ecclesiastical power. The effective check which the paternal and bold voice issuing from the Vatican had exercised on kings and princes was in a moment taken away. In Germany, England, and Scandinavia, the kings and petty princes, and dukes even, became each so many popes in their own dominions. And this took place with the consent and frequently at the earnest request of the Reformers.
Even the European states which did not fall away from the old faith of Christendom took advantage, it might almost be said, of the difficult position in which the Holy Father found himself, to countenance new doctrines with respect to the limits of the authority of the Supreme Pontiff; and the new errors which so suddenly appeared in France and elsewhere, during the prevalence and at the extinction of the great schism, limiting the power of the Popes in many matters where it had been considered binding, broke out again, in France principally, under the lead of Protestant or Erastian parliamentarians and legists, under the name of Gallican liberties—pretended liberties, which would really make the Church a subordinate adjunct of the State, instead of what it is, a spiritual living body ruled exclusively by a spiritual head.
How could the cause of true liberty in Europe be promoted by such altered circumstances as these?—to say nothing of the disastrous imprudence with which those blind rulers and so- called theologians took away the key-stone of the European social edifice, which grew weaker from that day forth, until now we see it tottering to its fall.
The introduction of Protestantism, then, was one of the chief causes of the change by which a much greater personal power was transferred to the hands of the sovereign than he had ever before held, and it is no surprise to see the absolutism of emperors and kings, in Christian Europe, date from its coming.
As time passed on, the cause acting on a larger scale, embracing a wider circumference, and drawing within its circle vaster territories, the world saw absolute rule established in England, France, Spain, and Germany. Previous to the sixteenth century, the word 'absolutism' was unknown in Christendom, as was the doctrine of the "divine right of kings" understood and preached as it has since been in England.
But, to furnish details which should render these reflections more striking, would require an unravelling of the whole tangled skein of history during those times.
Nevertheless, we must come to consider the last refuge of Protestant liberalism. Did not the Reformation really emancipate modern nations, and gradually bring about the whole system of representative governments, which, starting from England, have now, in fact, become, more or less, general throughout Europe?
Our answer is, Yes and No. It may be granted that Protestantism did give rise to a certain kind of liberalism very prevalent in our days; but such liberalism is very far from bestowing on nations true liberty and stability; hence their constant agitation, and the perils of society which threaten all, even the specially favored Protestant nations themselves as much as any.
It was indeed the new doctrines which brought about the "Commonwealth" in England, and the subsequent Revolution of 1688; between which two events, however, great differences exist.
The destruction of monarchy under and in the person of Charles I. was the just retribution dealt by Providence to the English kings, who had been the first openly to shake off from a great nation the wise and beneficent yoke of Rome. At all events, one thing is certain, that under the "Protector," the child of the Revolution, as little as under the Protestant Tudors, could the English scarcely be regarded as freemen.
Cromwell banished from their hall the representatives of the people. He could scarcely find epithets opprobrious enough for Magna Charta, which the people considered, and rightly, as the palladium of English liberty. In his scornful order to "take away that bawble," though the "bawble" immediately referred to was the Speaker's mace, the word meant the freedom of the nation. He was as absolute a monarch as ever ruled England. The liberty enjoyed under his regime was as meaningless for every class as for the Catholics, whom he more immediately oppressed, and was ill compensated for by the material prosperity which his genius knew so well how to secure.
It was his despotic rule, in fact, and the fear of anarchy which affrighted the minds of the people at his death—the dread of a government of rival soldiers—which rendered so easy the triumphant restoration of the worthless Stuarts, in the person of the most worthless of them all, Charles II.
The true constitutional liberty of which England may fairly boast was the work of a long series of years subsequent to the Revolution of 1688. It was the work of the whole eighteenth century, in fact, and was grounded on the fragments of old Catholic doctrines and customs. In no sense can it be called the result of Protestantism, save as coming after it in point of time.
Whoever is acquainted with the state of religion and society in England, during the latter part of the seventeenth and the whole of the eighteenth century, needs not to be told that, among the ruling classes, faith in a revealed religion had ceased to exist. The yoke of Rome once shaken off, the human mind was quick to draw all the consequences of the principle of entire independence in religious matters. Tindal, Collins, Hobbes, Shaftesbury, and other philosophers, had openly denounced revelation, and that portion of the nation which esteemed itself enlightened embraced their new doctrines. It would be false to imagine that, in 1700 and afterward, the English were as firm believers in the Church of England's Thirty-nine Articles as they seemed to be at the beginning of this century. The whole of the last century was for all Europe, with the exception of the two peninsulas of Italy and Spain, a period of avowed disbelief.
Even Presbyterian Scotland did not escape the contagion, and some theologians and preachers of the Kirk at that time are now praised for their liberal views of religion, that is, for their want of real faith. The influence of Wesley and his fellow- workers on the English mind, and the dread of the spread of French infidelity and jacobinism, were more extensive and effectual than people are apt to imagine; and there is no doubt that, seventy years ago England was far more of a believing country than she had been for a hundred years before.
But, if even Scotch Presbyterian ministers and Church of England men, such as Laurence Sterne, were unworthy of the name of Christian, what are we to think of those who had to profess no outward faith in Christianity, because of ministerial offices? There is no doubt that, in the mass, they were almost completely void of any faith in revealed religion.
To such men as these is England indebted for the development of her constitution. If Protestantism had any share in it at all, it did not go beyond preparing the way for the destruction of Christianity in the mind and heart of the people; or, rather, constitutional liberty in England has no connection whatever with religion. The English, left to their own ingenuity and skill, displayed a vast amount of statesmanlike qualities in devising for themselves a system of check and counter-check, which protected the subject and defined the rights of the ruler; and this gave the nation an undoubted superiority over their neighbors on the Continent. But it cannot be attributed, except in a very remote manner, to the Protestant doctrine of the independence of the human mind.
Were we to examine the effect which the example of England produced on other nations, we should find that, instead of spreading liberty, it was the cause of the diffusion of an unbridled license under the name of liberalism.
In England itself; the lower orders of society having been kept in ignorance, and consequently in subjection to the ruling classes, and the latter finding it to their interest to preserve order and stability in the state, no frightful commotions could ensue to threaten the destruction of society.
In Continental countries, the middle and even the lowest classes were more readily caught by doctrines which, when kept within due bounds, may be promotive of exterior prosperity, but which, pushed to their extremes and logical consequences, may embroil the whole nation in revolution and calamities.
Such has been the case in our own days, and in days immediately preceding our own; and England is now experiencing the recoil of those convulsions, and seems on the eve of being convulsed herself more terribly, perhaps, than any other nation has yet been.
These few reflections must suffice, as to extend them would go beyond our present scope. But now comes the question, Why was Ireland unprepared for the reception of Protestantism? Why did she reject it absolutely and permanently?
According to the theorists who attribute the success of Protestantism in the North of Europe to a higher civilization and a more ardent love of freedom, the contrary characteristics should distinguish those nations which remained faithful to the Church, and particularly the Irish. Was the lack of a higher civilization and more ardent love for freedom really the cause, then, for Ireland's undergoing so many fearful sacrifices merely for the sake of her religion?
We should not dread entering upon a comparison of the Scandinavian and Celtic races in these two articular points, as they existed at the time of the Tudors. We are confident that a detailed survey of both would result in a glorious vindication of the Irish character, although, owing to six hundred years of cruel wars with Dane and Anglo-Norman, the actual prosperity of the country was far inferior to that of England. But the outline of so vast a subject must content us here.
In judging of the elevation of a nation's sentiments, the first thing that strikes us is the motive assigned by the Irish representatives for refusing to pass the bill of supremacy. "Five or six changes of religion in twelve years were too much for conscientious people." Such was the answer sent back to Elizabeth, and spoken as though easy of comprehension. Had they deemed that their language could have been misunderstood, they would undoubtedly have expressed themselves in stronger terms.
Strange that such an obvious and common-sense remark had never occurred to the intelligent and highly-civilized members of the English Parliament—those ardent lovers of freedom—when applied to by a new English monarch to acknowledge and confirm, as law, the religious system he had determined to establish!
Apparently, then, at this time, Ireland possessed a conscience which England either laid no claim on, or made no pretensions to; and it might not be too much to lay this down as the first reason why Ireland remained faithful to her religion. In fact, the whole history of the period bears out this general observation. The subserviency of the proud English aristocracy, of those pretended statesmen and legislators, in matters so intimately connected with the soul, its convictions and its morality, shows conclusively that the word "conscience" had no meaning for them, or that, if they were aware of the existence of such a thing, they made so little account of it that they were ready at all times to barter it for position, what they considered honor, and wealth.
On the other hand, the constant, unshaken, and emphatic refusal of the Irish to renounce their religion for the novel "speculations" of pretended theologians— in reality, heretical teachers —at the beck of king or queen; their willingness to submit to all the rigor of extreme penal laws rather than disobey their sense of right, proves too well that they possessed a conscience, knew what it meant, and resolved to follow it. There is not a single fact of their, history, general or particular, taking them collectively as a nation, when, by their actions, they spoke as one people or individually, when priest and friar, great man or mean man, chose to lose position, property, name—life itself—rather than be false to their religion and God—which does not prove that they owned a conscience and obeyed its voice.
Can a nation, deprived of this, be esteemed really free and truly civilized? and can a nation which possesses it be considered barbarous? The answer cannot be doubtful, and is of itself a sufficient solution of the question under examination.
But, to come to more special details. The Irish idea of civilization was certainly of a very different character from that of the English; but was it the less true? From the landing of the first invasion, the Norman nobles and prelates looked down on the invaded people as barbarous and uncouth, as they previously looked down upon the Anglo-Saxons. Later on, they spoke of the Irish customs as "lewd;" and, later still, the majority of them adopted those "lewd customs."
If the question be merely one of refinement of outward manners, and aquaintance with the artificial code established by a society with which the Irish, up to that time, had never come in contact, the Normans may be granted whatever benefit may accrue to them from such, though, even here, the Irish chieftains might later on compare favorably with their foes. For instance, if is doubtful whether Hugh O'Donnell and O'Sullivan Beare, one of whom went to Spain, and the other to Portugal—and the second, Philip II. commanded to be treated as a Spanish grandee —were not as courteous and dignified as Cecil or Walsingham, or Essex or Raleigh, at the court of Elizabeth. And, if we take the case of the descendants of Strongbow's warriors, who became "more Irish than the Irish," there is no reason why we should not prefer the manners and bearing of young Gerald Desmond, when, after leaving Rome, he appeared at the court of Tuscany, to those of the young lords who danced at Windsor, under the eyes of Henry, with Anne Boleyn. But, treating the subject seriously, and examining it more closely, we may find a necessity for reversing the opinion which is too commonly entertained.
Civilization does not consist only, or chiefly, in refinement of manners, but in all things which exalt a nation; and, after the "conscience" of which we have spoken, nothing is so important in making a nation civilized as the institutions under which it lives.
The laws are the great index of a people's civilization, chiefly as regards their execution. Nothing can be more indicative of it than the criminal code of a people.
The law of England at that time compares poorly with the Irish compilation known as the "Senchus Mor," which scholars have only recently been able to study, and which is being printed as we write, and to be illustrated with learned notes. From all accounts given by competent reviewers, it is clear that wisdom, sound judgment, equity, and Christian feeling, constitute the essence of those laws which Edmund Campian found the young Irishmen of his day studying under such strange circumstances and with such ardor and application as to spend sixteen or eighteen years at it.
And in what manner were those very Christian enactments which lay at the foundation of the English legislation executed at the same period? What, for instance, were the features of its criminal code? It is unnecessary to depict what all the world knows.
In extenuation of the barbarous blood-thirstiness which characterized it, it may be said that torture, cruel punishments, and fearful chastisement for slight offences, formed the general features of the criminal code of most Christian nations. They had been handed down by barbarous ancestors, the relics of Scandinavian cruelty for the most part, added to the Roman slave penalties, which were the remnants of pagan inhumanity. This answer would be insufficient when comparing the English with the Brehon law, but it does not hold good even with reference to other Continental nations. In no country at that time was punishment so pitiless as in England. The details, now well known, can only be published for exceptional readers; to find a comparison for them Dr. Madden says:
"We must come down to the reign of terror in France, to the massacres of September, to the wholesale executions of conventional times; to find the mob insulting the victims, and the executioner himself adding personal affront to the disgusting fulfilment of his horrible office."
Passing from the laws to the usages of warfare, and chiefy to domestic strife, here the most vulnerable point in the Irish character shows itself. The constant feuds resulting from the clan system furnish a never-failing theme to those who accuse the Irish of barbarism. Yet is there no parallel to them in the horrors of those dynastic revolutions which preceded the Tudors in England, and which the Tudors only put an end to by the completest despotism, and by shedding the best blood of the country in torrents? The Irish feuds never depopulated the country. It is even admitted by most reliable historians that, while those dissensions were rifest, the land was really teeming with a happy people, and rich in every thing which an agricultural country can enjoy. The great battles of the various clans resulted often in the killing of a few dozen warriors. Such, in fact, was the manner in which chroniclers estimated the gains or losses of each of those victories or defeats.
But, in the Wars of the Roses, England lost a great part of her adult population; so much so, that she was altogether incapacitated from waging war with any external nation. She could not even afford to send any reenforcements to the English Pale in Ireland—not even a few hundred which at times would have proved so serviceable. It was in fact high time and almost a happy thing for England that the crushing despotism of the Tudors came in to save the nation from total ruin.
Finally, can it be said that the Irish were inferior in civilization to the English by reason of their social habits, when Danes, Anglo-Saxons and Normans, in turn, invariably adopted Irish manners in preference to their own, after living a sufficient time in the country to be able to appreciate the difference between the one and the other?
The writers of whom we speak ascribe the spread of Protestantism not only to a higher civilization, or at least a special aptness and fitness for it, but also say that it was due to the greater love for freedom which possessed those who accepted it; whereas the Irish, as they allege, have been forever priest-ridden and cowered under the lash.
The connection between English Protestantism and freedom has been sufficiently touched upon. But in Ireland the whole resistance of the Irish people to the change of religion is the most conspicuous proof which could be advanced of their inherent love for freedom.
What is the meaning of this word "priest-ridden?" If, as attached to the Irish, it means that they have remained faithfully devoted to their spiritual guides, and protected them at cost of life and limb against the execution of barbarous laws, this epithet which is flung at them as a reproach is a glory to them, and a true one.
Are they to be accused of cowardice because they were never bold enough to demolish a single Catholic chapel—a favorite amusement of the English mobs from Elizabeth's reign to Victoria's—or because they could not find the courage in their hearts to mock a martyr at the stake, or imbrue their hands in his blood, as did the nation of a higher civilization and a more ardent love for freedom?
The Irish cower under the lash! It could never be applied, until calculating treachery had first rendered them naked and defenceless, and removed from their reach every weapon of defence. And the man who in such a case receives the lash is a coward, while he who safely applies it is a hero!
Our observations so far have cleared the ground for the right solution and understanding of the present question. It may now be said that the Irish were not prepared for the reception of Protestantism, and remained firm in their faith because—
1. They possessed a conscience.
2. There had existed no religious abuses, worthy of the name, in their country which called for reform. Such abuses had in England and Germany furnished the pretext for a change of religion. It was a mere pretext, for the alleged abuses might all be remedied without intrenching on the domain of faith, and unsettling the religious convictions of the whole nation. There is no greater crime possible than to introduce among people enjoying all the benefits resulting from a firm belief in holy truth a simple doubt, a simple hesitating surmise, calculated to make them waver in the least in what had previously been a solid and well-grounded faith. But to consider that crime carried to the extent of so sapping the foundation of Christian belief as to bring about the inevitable consequence of opening under nations the fearful abyss of atheism and despair—there is no word sufficiently strong to express the indignation which such a course of action must naturally excite. And that the ultimate result of the new heresy was to carry men to the very brink of the abyss is plain enough to-day, and was foreseen by Luther himself. In all probability he had a clear perception of it, since the latter half of his life was devoted to propping up the crumbling walls of his hastily-erected edifice by whatever supports he could steal from the old faith, and fighting hard against all those who had already drawn the ultimate conclusions of his own principles.
For those, then, who in the sixteenth century set in motion the chaos which threatens to overwhelm us to-day, the religious abuses existing at the time can offer no excuse for their destruction of Religion, because stains happened to sully the purity of her outward garment.
But in Ireland no such abuses existed; and consequently there was there not even a pretext for the introduction of Protestantism, and by the very reason of their sense of good and right the Irish were unprepared for heresy.
3. Even had it entered into their minds to wish for a reformation of some kind, they were certainly unprepared for the one offered them. The first reform of the new order was to close the religious houses which the people loved, which were the seats of learning, holiness, and education. Their Catholic ancestors had founded those religious houses; they themselves enjoyed the spiritual and even temporal advantages attached to them, for they constituted in fact the only important and useful establishments which their country possessed; they had been consecrated by the lives and deaths of a thousand saints within their walls; and they suddenly beheld pretended ministers of a new religion of which they knew nothing, backed by ferocious Walloon or English troopers, turn out or slay their inmates, close them, set them on fire, pillage them, or convert them into private dwellings for the convenience of an imported aristocracy. This was the first act of the "introduction " of the "Reformation " into Ireland. The people were enabled to judge of the sanctity of the new creed at its first appearance among them. And this alone, apart from their firm adherence to the faith of their fathers, was quite enough to justify them in their resistance to such a substitute.
But, above all, when they beheld how the inmates of those holy- houses were treated, when they saw them cast out into the world, penniless, reduced to penury and want, persecuted, declared outcasts, hunted down, insulted by the soldiery, arrested, cruelly beaten, bound hand and foot, and hung up either before the door of their burning monastery, or even in the church itself before the altar—what wonder that they were unprepared to receive the new religion?
The barbarity displayed throughout England and Ireland toward Catholicism was specially fiendish when directed against religious of both sexes; and, as in Ireland no class of persons was more justly and dearly loved, what wonder that the Irish literally hated the religion that came to them from beyond the sea?
Without going over the other aspects of the religious question of the time, and comparing article with article of the new and old beliefs, this single feature of the case alone is sufficient. The process might be carried out with advantage, but is not necessary.
4. The new order of things, in one word, resolved itself into rapacity and wanton bloodshed. And, despite whatever may be said of Irish outrages by those who are never tired of alluding to them, Irish nature is opposed to such excesses. If they are ever guilty of such, it is only when they have previously been outraged themselves, and in such cases they are the first to repent of their action in their cooler moments. On the other hand, the men who first set all these outrages going never find reason to accuse themselves of any thing, are even perfectly satisfied with and convinced of their own perfection; and, as from the first they acted coolly and systematically, their self- equanimity is never disturbed, they continue unshaken in the calm conviction that they have always been in the right, whatever may have been the consequences of the initiative movement and its steady continuance.
But we repeat advisedly—the Irish nature is opposed to rapacity and wanton shedding of blood, and this formed another strong reason for their opposition to the religious revolution which immersed them in so bloody a baptism.
5. Yet perhaps the most radical and real cause of their persistent refusal to embrace Protestantism lies in their traditional spirit, of which we have previously spoken. There is no rationalistic tendency in their character.
And all the points well considered, which, after all, is the better, the simply traditional or strictly rationalistic nature? What has been the result of those philosophical speculations from which Protestantism sprang? Whither are men tending to-day in consequence of it? Would it not have been better for mankind to have stood by the time-honored traditions of former ages, independently of the strong and convincing claims which Catholicity offers to all? This is said without in the least attributing the fault to sound philosophy, without casting the slightest slur on those truly great and illustrious men who have widened the limits of the human intellect, and deserved well of mankind by the solid truths they have opened up in their works for the benefit and instruction of minds less gifted than their own.
THE IRISH AND THE STUARTS.—LOYALTY AND CONFISCATION.
Upon the death of Elizabeth, in 1603, the son of the unfortunate Mary Stuart was called to the throne of England, and for the first time in their history the Irish people accepted English rule, gave their willing submission to an English dynasty, and afterward displayed as great devotedness in supporting the falling cause of their new monarchs, as in defending their religion and nationality.
This feeling of allegiance, born so suddenly and strangely in the Irish breast, cherished so ardently and at the price of so many sacrifices, finally raising the nation to the highest pitch of heroism, is worth studying and investigating its true cause.
What ought to have been the natural effect produced on the Irish people by the arrival of the news that James of Scotland had succeeded to Elizabeth? The first feeling must have been one of deep relief that the hateful tyranny of the Tudors had passed away, to be supplanted by the rule of their kinsmen the Stuarts— kinsmen, because the Scottish line of kings was directly descended from that Dal Riada colony which Ireland had sent so long ago to the shores of Albania, to a branch of which Columbkill belonged.
For those who were not sufficiently versed in antiquarian genealogy to trace his descent so far back, the thought that James was the son of Mary Stuart was sufficient. If any people could sympathize with the ill-starred Queen of Scots, that people was the Irish. It could not enter into their ideas that the son of the murdered Catholic queen, should have feelings uncongenial to their own. It is easy, then, to understand how, when the news of Elizabeth's death and of the accession of James arrived, the sanguine Irish heart leaped with a new hope and joyful expectation.
As for the real disposition of that strangest of monarchs, James I,, writers are at variance. Matthew O'Connor, the elder, who had in his hands the books and manuscripts of Charles O'Connor of Bellingary, is very positive in his assertions on his side of the question:
"James was a determined and implacable enemy to the Catholic religion; he alienated his professors from all attachment to his government by the virulence of his antipathy. One of his first gracious proclamations imported a general jail-delivery, except for 'murderers and papists.' By another proclamation he pledged himself 'never to grant any toleration to the Catholics,' and entailed a curse on his posterity if they granted any."
Turning now to Dr. Madden's "History of the Penal Laws," we shall feel disposed to modify so positive an opinion. There we read:
"It is very evident that his zeal for the Protestant Church had more to do with a hatred of the Puritans than of popery, and that he had a hankering, after all, for the old religion which his mother belonged to, and for which she had been persecuted by the fanatics of Scotland."
Hume seems to support this judgment of Dr. Madden when he says that "the principles of James would have led him to earnestly desire a unity of faith of the Churches which had been separated."
Both opinions, however, agree in the long-run, since Dr. Madden is obliged to confess that "new measures of severity, as the bigotry of the times became urgent, were wrung from the timid king. He had neither moral nor political courage."
Still, on the day of his coronation, the Irish could little imagine what was in store for them at the hands of the son of Mary Stuart; hence their great rejoicing, till the first stroke of bitter disappointment came to open their eyes, and awaken them to the hard reality. This was the flight of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, which had been brought about by treachery and low cunning. These chieftains were, as they deserved to be, the idols of the nation. They were compelled to fly because, as Dr. Anderson, a Protestant minister, says, "artful Cecil had employed one St. Lawrence to entrap the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, the Lord of Devlin, and other Irish chiefs, into a sham plot which had no evidence but his."
The real cause of their flight was that adventurers and "undertakers" desired to "plant" Ulster, though the final treaty with Mountjoy had left both earls in possession of their lands. That treaty yielded not an acre of plunder, and was consequently in English eyes a failure. The long, bloody, and promising wars of Elizabeth's reign had ended, after all, in forcing coronets on the brows of O'Neill and O'Donnell, with a royal deed added, securing to them their lands, and freedom of worship to all the north.
James was met by the importunate demand for land. O'Neill, O'Donnell, and several other Irish chieftains, were sacrificed to meet this demand; they were compelled to fly; and they had scarcely gone when millions of acres in Ulster were declared to be forfeited to the crown, and thrown open for "planting."
And here a new feature in confiscation presents itself, which was introduced by the first of the Stuart dynasty, and proved far more galling to Irishmen than any thing they had yet encountered in this shape.
In the invasion led by Strongbow, in the absorption of the Kildare estates by Henry VIII., in the annexation of King's and Queen's Counties under Philip and Mary, even in the last "plantation" of Munster by Elizabeth's myrmidons at the end of the Desmond war, the land had been immediately distributed among the chief officers of the victorious armies. The conquered knew that such would be the law of war; the great generals and courtiers who came into possession scarcely disturbed the tenants. A few of the great native and Anglo-Irish families suffered sorely from the spoliation; the people at large scarcely felt it, except by the destruction of clanship and the introduction of feudal grievances. Moreover, the new proprietors were interested in making their tenants happy, and not unfrequently identified themselves with the people—becoming in course of time true Irishmen.
But, with the accession of the first of the Stuarts to the English throne, a great alteration took place in the disposal of the land throughout Ireland.
The Tyrone war had ended five years before, and those who had taken part in the conflict had already received their portion; the vanquished, of misfortune—the conquerors, of gain. James brought in with him from Scotland a host of greedy followers; and all, from first to last, expected to rise with their king into wealth and honor. England was not wide enough to hold them, nor rich enough to satiate their appetites. The puzzled but crafty king saw a way out of his difficulties in Ireland. He no longer limited the distribution of land in that country to soldiers and officers of rank chiefly. He gave it to Scotch adventurers, to London trades companies. He settled it on Protestant colonies whose first use of their power was to evict the former tenants or clansmen, and thus effect a complete change in the social aspect of the north.
Well did they accomplish the task assigned them. Ulster became a Protestant colony, and the soil of that province has ever since remained in the hands of a people alien to the country.
Yet the Ulstermen had been led to believe that James purposed securing them in their possessions; for, according to Mr. Prendergast, in his Introduction to the "Cromwellian settlement:"
"On the 17th of July, 1607, Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy, accompanied by Sir John Davies and other commissioners, proceeded to Ulster, with powers to inquire what land each man held. There appeared before them, in each county they visited, the chief lords and Irish gentlemen, the heads of creaghts, and the common people, the Brehons and Shanachies, who knew all the septs and families, and took upon themselves to tell what quantity of land every man ought to have. They thus ascertained and booked their several lands, and the Lord-Deputy promised them estates in them. 'He thus,' says Sir John Davies, 'made it a year of jubilee to the poor inhabitants, because every man was to return to his own house, and be restored to his ancient possessions, and they all went home rejoicing.'
"Notwithstanding these promises, the king, in the following year, issued his scheme for the plantation of Ulster, urged to it, it would seem, by Sir Arthur Chichester, who so largely profited by it. . . . It could not be said that the flight of the earls gave occasion for this change, inasmuch as the king, immediately after, issued a proclamation—which he renewed on taking possession of both earls' territories—assuring the inhabitants that they should be protected and preserved in their estates."
It looks, indeed, as though the whole transaction, including the promises and the call for ascertaining the quantity of land occupied by each inhabitant, as also the sham plot into which the earls were inveigled, was but a cunning device to bring about the plantation, in which manors of one thousand, fifteen hundred, and three thousand acres, were offered to such English and Scotch as should undertake to plant their lots with British Protestants, and engage that no Irish should dwell upon them. Meanwhile, all who had been in arms during Tyrone's war were to be transplanted with their families, cattle, and followers, to waste places in Munster and Connaught, and there set down at a distance from one another.
Over and above this, the Irish were indebted to James for a new project—a most ingenious invention for successful plunder. He was the real author of the celebrated "Commission for the investigation of defective titles."
It would seem that the province of Ulster was too small for the rapacity of those who were constantly urging upon the king a greater thoroughness in his plans. It was clear, moreover, that the English occupation of the other three provinces had hitherto proved a failure. The island had failed to become Anglicised, and it was necessary to begin the work anew.
The new commission was presented to the Irish people in a most alluring guise. That political hypocrisy, which to-day stands for statesmanship, is not a growth of our own times. The intention of James confined itself to putting an end to all uncertainty on the subject of titles, and bestowing on each land- owner one which, for the future, should be unimpeachable. But the result went beyond his intention. This measure became, in fact, an engine of universal spoliation. It failed to secure even those who succeeded in retaining a portion of their former estates in possession, as Strafford made manifest, who, despite all the unimpeachable titles conferred by James, managed to confiscate to his own profit the greater part of the province of Connaught.
It is fitting to give a few details of this new measure of James, in order to show the gratitude which the Irish owed the Stuarts, if on that account only. In "Ireland under English Rule," the Rev. A. Perraud justly remarks: "Most Irish families held possession of their lands but by tradition, and their rights could not be proved by regular title-deeds. By royal command, a general inquiry was instituted, and whoever could not prove his right to the seat of his ancestors, by authentic documents, was mercilessly but juridically despoiled of it; the pen of the lawyer thus making as many conquests as the blade of the mercenary."
The advisers of James—those who aided him in this scheme —were fully alive to its efficiency in serving their ends. A few years previously, Arthur Chichester and Sir John Davies had only to consult the Brehon lawyers and the chroniclers of the tribes, whose duty it was to become thoroughly acquainted with the limits of the various territories, and keep the records in their memory, in order to procure from the Ulster men the proofs of their rights to property. Up to that time the word of those who were authorized, by custom, to pronounce on such subjects, was law to every Irishman. And, indeed, the verdict of these was all- sufficient, inasmuch as the task was not overtaxing to the memory of even an ordinary man, since it consisted in remembering, not the landed property of each individual, but the limits of the territory of each clan.
The clan territories were as precisely marked off as in any European state to-day; and, if any change in frontier occurred, it was the result of war between the neighboring clans, and therefore known to all. To suppose, then, under such a state of land tenure, that the territory of the Maguire clan, for instance, belonged exclusively to Maguire, and that he could prove his title to the property by legal documents, was erroneous—in fact, such a thing was impossible. Yet, such was the ground on which the king based his establishment of the odious commission.
The measure meant nothing less than the simple spoliation of all those who came under its provisions at the time. Matthew O'Connor has furnished some instances of its workings, which may bring into stronger light the enormity of such an attempt.
"The immense possessions of Bryan na Murtha O'Rourke had been granted to his son Teige, by patent; in the first year of the king's reign, and to the heirs male of his body. Teige died, leaving several sons; their titles were clear; no plots or conspiracies could be urged to invalidate them. By the medium of those inquisitions, they were found, one and all, to be bastards. The eldest son, Bryan O'Rourke, vas put off with a miserable pension, and detained in England lest he should claim his inheritance. Yet, in this case, the title was actually in existence.
"In the county of Longford, three-fourths of nine hundred and ninety-nine cartrons, the property of the O'Farrells, were granted to adventurers, to the undoing and beggary of that princely family. Twenty-five of the septs were dispossessed of their all, and to the other septs were assigned mountainous and barren tracts about one-fourth of their former possessions.
"The O'Byrnes, of Wicklow, were robbed of their property by a conspiracy unparalleled even in the annals of those times; fabricated charges of treason, perjury, and even legal murder, were employed; and, though the innocence of those victims of rapacious oppression was established, yet they were never restored."
With regard to the Anglo-Irish, and even such of the natives as had consented to accept titles from the English kings, those titles, some of which went back as far as Strongbow's invasion, were brought under the "inquiry" of the new commission—with what result may be imagined. An astute legist can discover flaws in the best-drawn legal papers. In the eye of the law, the neglect of recording is fatal; and it was proved that many proprietors, whose titles had been bestowed by Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, were not recorded, simply by bribing the clerks who were charged with the office of recording them.
This portion of our subject must present strange features to readers acquainted with the laws concerning property which obtain among civilized nations. In making the necessary studies for this most imperfect sketch, the writer has been surprised at finding that not one of the authors whom he has consulted has spoken of any thing beyond the cruelty of compelling Irish landowners to exhibit title-deeds, which it was known they did not and could not possess. Not a single one has ever said a word of "prescription;" yet, this alone was enough to arrest the proceedings of any English court, if it followed the rules of law which govern civilized communities.
Most of the estates, then declared to be escheated to the king, had been in possession of the families to which the holders belonged, for centuries; we may go so far, in the case of some Irish families and tribes, as to say for thousands of years. But, to disturb property which has been held for even less than a century, would convulse any nation subjected to such a revolutionary process. No country in the world could stand such a test; it would loosen in a day all the bonds that hold society together.
If the commission set on foot by James did not go to the extreme lengths to which it was carried by those who came after him, he it was who established what bore the semblance of a legal precedent for the excesses of Strafford, under Charles I., which reached their utmost limits in the hands of Cromwell's parliamentary commissioners. James set the engine of destruction in action: they worked it to its end. The Irish might justly lay at his door all the woes which ensued to them from the principles emanating from him. Even during his reign they saw, with instinctive horror, the abyss which he had opened up to swallow all their inheritance. The first commission of James commenced its operations by reporting three hundred and eighty- five thousand acres in Leinster alone as "discovered," inasmuch as the titles "were not such as ought " (in their judgment) "to stand in the way of his-Majesty's designs."
Hence, long before the death of James, all the hopes which his accession had raised in the minds of the Irish had vanished; yet, strange to say, they were not cured of their love for the Stuart dynasty. They hailed the coming of Charles, the husband of a Catholic princess, with joy. His marriage took place a year previous to the death of his father; and, to know that Henrietta of France was to be their queen, was enough to assure the Irish that, henceforth, they would enjoy the freedom of their religion. The same motive always awakes in them hope and joy. Men may smile at such an idea, but it is with a profound respect for the Irish character that such a sentence is written. Hope of religious freedom is the noblest sentiment which can move the breast of man; and if there be reason for admiration in the motive which urges men to fight and die for their firesides and families, how much more so in that which causes them to set above all their altars and their God!
This time their hope seemed well-founded; for the treaty concluded between England and France conferred the right on the Catholic princess of educating her children by this marriage till the age of thirteen. And, in addition, conditions favorable to the English Catholics were inserted in the same treaty.
But people were not then aware of the reason for the insertion of those conditions. Hume, later on, being better acquainted with what at the time was a secret, states in his history that "the court of England always pretended, even in the memorials to the French court, that all the conditions favorable to the English Catholics were inserted in the marriage treaty merely to please the Pope, and that their strict execution was, by an agreement with France, secretly dispensed with."
The Irish rejoiced, however; and Charles and his ministers encouraged their expectations. Lord Falkland, in the name of the king, promised that, if the Catholic lords should present Charles, who needed money, with a voluntary tribute, he would in return grant them certain immunities and protections, which acquired later on a great celebrity under the name of "graces."
The chief of these were—to allow "recusants" to practise in the courts of law, and to sue out the livery of their land, merely on taking an act of civil allegiance instead of the oath of supremacy; that the claims of the crown should be limited to the last sixty years—a period long enough in all conscience; and that the inhabitants of Connaught should be allowed to make a new enrolment of their estates, to be accepted by the king. A Parliament was promised to sit in a short time, in order to confirm all these "graces."
The subsidy promised by the Irish lords amounted to the then enormous sum of forty thousand pounds sterling, to be paid annually for three years. Two-thirds of it was paid, according to Matthew O'Connor, but no one of the "graces" was forthcoming, the king finding he had promised more than he could perform.
Instead of enabling the land-owners of Connaught to obtain a new title by a new enrolment, Strafford, with the connivance of Charles, devised a project which would have enabled the king to dispose of the whole province to the enriching of his exchequer. This project consisted in throwing open the whole territory to the court of "defective titles." To legalize this spoliation, the parchment grant, five hundred years old, given to Roderic O'Connor and Richard de Burgo, by Henry II., was set up as rendering invalid the claims of immemorial possession by the Irish, although confirmed by recent compositions.
In the counties of Roscommon, Mayo, and Sligo, juries were found for the crown. The honesty and courageous resistance of a Galway jury prevented the carrying out of the measure in that county. Strafford resented this rebuff deeply; and the brave Galway jurors were punished without mercy for their "contumacy," for they had been told openly to find for the king. Compelled to appear in the Castle chamber, they were each fined four thousand pounds, their estates seized, and themselves imprisoned until their fines should be paid; while the sheriff, who was also fined to the same amount, not being able to pay, died in prison. Such were a few of the "graces" granted the Irish on the accession of Charles I.
Meanwhile, the king's difficulties with his English subjects drove him to turn for hope to the Scotch, upon whom he had attempted to force Episcopalianism. The resistance of the Scotch, and the celebrated Covenant by which they bound themselves, are well known. Charles, finally, granted the Covenanters not only liberty of conscience, but even the religious supremacy of Presbyterianism, paying their army, moreover, for a portion of the time it passed under service in the rebellion against himself.
The example of the Scotch was certainly calculated to inflame the Irish with ardor, and drive them likewise into rebellion. What was the oppression of Scotland compared to that under which Ireland had so long groaned? Surely the final attempt of the chief minister of Charles to rob them of the one province which had hitherto escaped, was enough to open their eyes, and convert their faith in the Stuart dynasty into hatred and determined opposition. Yet were they on the eve of carrying their devotion to this faithless and worthless line to the height of heroism. The generosity of the nature which is in them could find an excuse for Charles. "He would have done us right," they thought, "had he been left free." From the rebellion of his subjects, in England and Scotland, they could only draw one conclusion—that he was the victim of Puritanism, for which they could entertain no feeling but one of horror; and it is a telling fact that their attachment to their religion kept them faithful to the sovereign to whom they had sworn their allegiance, however unworthy he might be.
Thus in the famous rising of 1641, when in one night Ireland, with the exception of a few cities, freed herself from the oppressor (the failure of the plan in Dublin being the only thing which prevented a complete success; the English of the Pale still refusing to combine with the Irish), the native Irish alone, left to their own resources, proclaimed emphatically in explicit terms their loyalty to the king, whom they credited with a just and tolerant disposition, if freed from the restraints imposed upon him by the Puritanical faction. A further fact stranger still, and still more calculated to shake their confidence in the monarch, occurred shortly after, which indeed raises the loyalty of the nation to a height inconceivable and impossible to any people, unless one whose conscience is swayed by the sense of stern duty.
When the Scottish Covenanters, whose rebellion had secured them in possession of all they demanded, heard of the Irish movement, they were at once seized with a fanatical zeal urging them to stamp out the Irish "Popish rebellion." King Charles, who was then in Edinburgh, expressed his gratification at their proposal, and no time was lost in shipping a force of two thousand Scots across the Channel. They landed at Antrim, when they began those frightful massacres which opened by driving into the sea three thousand Irish inhabitants of the island Magee.
When, according to M. O'Connor's "Irish Catholics," "letters conveying the news of the intended invasion of the Scots were intercepted; when the speeches of leading members in the English Commons, the declaration of the Irish Lord-Justices, and of the principal members of the Dublin Council, countenanced those rumors; when Mr. Pym gave out that he would not leave a Papist in Ireland; when Sir Parsons declared that within a twelvemonth not a Catholic should be seen in the whole country; when Sir John Clotworthy affirmed that the conversion of the Papists was to be effected with the Bible in one hand and the sword in the other," and the King all the while seemed to allow and consent to it, the Irish were not in the least dismayed by those rumors, but set about establishing in the convulsed island a sort of order in the name of God and the king!
Then for the first time did native and Anglo-Irish Catholics take common side in a common cause. This was the union which Archbishop Browne had foreseen, which had shown itself in symptoms from time to time, but which had oftener been broken by the old animosity. But, at last, convinced that the only party on which they could rely, and the party which truly supported the reigning dynasty, was that of the Ulster chiefs, the Catholic lords of the Pale threw themselves heart and soul into it, and, under the guidance of the Catholic bishops who then came forward, together they formed the celebrated "Confederation of Kilkenny" in 1642.
Had Charles even then possessed the courage, honesty, or wisdom to recognize and acknowledge his true friends, he might have been spared the fate which overtook him; but all he did was almost to break up the only coalition which stood up boldly in his favor.
A circumstance not yet touched upon meets us here. Protestantism was at this time effecting a complete change in the rules of judgment and conduct which men had hitherto followed. In place of the old principles of political morality which up to this period had regulated the actions of Christians, notions of independence, of subversion of existing governments, of revolutions in Church and state, were for the first time in Christian history scattered broadcast through the world, and beginning that series of catastrophes which has made European history since, and which is far from being exhausted yet. The Irish stood firm by the old principles, and, though they became victims to their fidelity, they never shrank from the consequences of what they knew to be their duty, and to those principles they remain faithful to-day.
To return from this short digression: The Irish hierarchy, the native Irish and the Anglo-Irish lords of the Pale, had combined together to form the "Confederation of Kilkenny," in which confederation lay the germ of a truly great nation. Early in the struggle the Catholic hierarchy saw that it was for them to take the initiative in the movement, and they took it in right earnest. They could not be impassive spectators when the question at issue was the defence of the Catholic religion, joined this time with the rights of their monarch. They met in provincial synod at Kells, where, after mature deliberation, the cause of the confederates, "God and the king," freedom of worship and loyalty to the legitimate sovereign, was declared just and holy, and, after lifting a warning voice against the barbarities which had commenced on both sides, and ordaining the abolition and oblivion of all distinctions between native Irish and old English, they took measures for convoking a national synod at Kilkenny.
It met on the 10th of May, 1643. An oath of association bound all Catholics throughout the land. It was ordained that a general assembly comprising all the lords spiritual and temporal and the gentry should be held; that the assembly should select members from its body to represent the different provinces and principal cities, to be called the Supreme Council, which should sit from day to day, dispense justice, appoint to offices, and carry on the executive government of the country.
Meanwhile the Irish abroad, the exiles, had heard of the movement, and several prominent chieftains came back to take part in the struggle; while those who remained away helped the cause by gaining the aid of the Catholic sovereigns, and sending home all the funds and munitions of war they could procure. Among these, one of the most conspicuous was the learned Luke Wadding, then at Rome engaged in writing his celebrated works, who dispatched money and arms contributed by the Holy Father. John B. Rinuccini, Archbishop of Fermo, sent by the Pope as Nuncio, sailed in the same ship which conveyed those contributions to Ireland.
The Catholic prelates thus originated a free government with nothing revolutionary in its character, but combining some of the forms of the old Irish Feis with the chief features of modern Parliamentary governments. Matthew O'Connor makes the following just observations on this subject in his "Irish Catholics:"
"The duty of obedience to civil government was so deeply impressed on the Catholic mind, at this period, in Ireland, that it degenerated into passive submission. These impressions originated in religious zeal, and were fostered by persecution. The spiritual authority of the clergy was found requisite to soften those notions, and temper them with ideas of the constitutional, social, and Christian right of resistance in self-defence. The nobility and gentry fully concurred in those proceedings of the clergy, and the nation afterward ratified them in a general convention held at Kilkenny, in the subsequent month of October. The national union seemed to be at last cemented by the wishes of all orders, and the interests of all parties."
The fact is, the nation had been brought to life, and took its stand on a new footing. When the general assembly met, in October, eleven bishops and fourteen lay lords formed what may be called the Irish peerage; two hundred and twenty-six commoners represented the large majority of the Irish constituencies; a great lawyer of the day, Patrick Darcy, was elected chancellor; and a Supreme Council of six members from each province constituted what may be called the Executive.
This government, which really ruled Ireland without any interference until Ormond succeeded in breaking it up, was obeyed and acknowledged throughout the land. It undertook and carried out all the functions of its high office, such as the coining of money, appointing circuit-judges, sending ambassadors abroad, and commissioning officers to direct the operations of the national army. Among these latter, one name is sufficient to vouch for their efficiency: that of Owen Roe O'Neill, who had returned, with many others, from the Continent, in the July of that year, and formally, assumed the command of the army of Ulster.
Owen Roe O'Neill was grand-nephew to Hugh of Tyrone. Unknown, even now, to Europe, his name still lives in the memory of his countrymen. "The head of the Hy-Niall race, the descendant of a hundred kings, the inheritor of their virtues, without a taint of their vices, he would have deserved a crown, and, on a larger theatre, would have acquired the title of a hero."—(M. O'Connor.)
Had Charles recognized this government, which proclaimed him king, discharged from office the traitors, Borlase and Parsons, who plotted against him, and not surrendered his authority to Ormond, Ireland would probably have been saved from the horrors impending, and Charles himself from the scaffold. Whatever the issue might have been, the fact remains that the Irish then proved they could establish a solid government of their own, and that it is an altogether erroneous idea to imagine them incapable of governing themselves.
It is impossible to enter here upon the details of the intricate complications which ensued—complications which were chiefly owing to the plots of Ormond; but, it may be stated fearlessly that, the more the history of those times is studied, the more certainly is the "national" party, with the Nuncio Rinuccini for head and director, recognized as the one which, better than any other, could have saved Ireland. At least, no true Irishman will now pretend that the "peace party," headed by Ormond, which was pitted against the "Nuncionists," could bring good to the country; on the contrary, its subsequent misfortunes are to be ascribed directly to it.
To stigmatize it as it deserves, needs no more than to say that among its chief leaders were Ormond, its head and projector, and Murrough O'Brien, of Inchiquin, to this day justly known as Murrough of the burnings. These two men were the product of the "refined policy" of England to kill Catholicism in the higher classes by the operation of one of the laws that governed the oppressed nation—wardship.
Both Inchiquin and Ormond were born of Catholic fathers, and all their relations, during their lives, remained Catholics. But, their fathers dying during the minority of both, the law took their education out of the hands of the nearest kin, to give it to English Protestant wardens, in the name of the king, who was supposed by the law to be their legitimate guardian. This was one of the fruits of feudalism. They were duly brought up by these wardens in the Protestant religion, and received a Protestant education. They grew up, fully impressed with the idea that the country which gave them birth was a barbarous country; the parents to whom they owed their lives were idolaters; and their fellow-countrymen a set of villains, only fitted to become, and forever remain, paupers and slaves.
There is no exaggeration in these expressions, as anybody must concede who has studied the opinions and prejudices entertained by the English with regard to the Irish, from that period down almost to our own days. At any rate, to one acquainted with the workings of the "Court of Wards," there is nothing surprising in the fact that Ormond, the descendant of so many illustrious men of the great Butler family—a family at all times so attached to the Catholic faith, and which afterward furnished so many victims to the transplantation schemes of Cromwell—should himself become an inveterate enemy to the religion of his own parents, and to those who professed it; and that he should employ the great gifts which God had granted him, solely to scheme against this religion, and prevent his native countrymen from receiving even the scanty advantages which Charles at one time was willing to concede to them, through Lord Glanmorgan.
It was Ormond who prevented the execution of the treaty between that lord and the confederates, the provisions of which were—
1. The Catholics of Ireland were to enjoy the free and public exercise of their religion.
2. They were to hold, and have secure for their use, all the Catholic churches not then in actual possession of Protestants.
3. They were to be exempt from the jurisdiction of the Protestant clergy.
But, thanks to his education, such provisions were too much for Ormond, the son of a Catholic father, and whose mother, at the very time living a pious and excellent life, would have rejoiced to see those advantages secured to her Church and herself, in common with the rest of her countrymen and women.
In like manner, Murrough O'Brien, the Baron of Inchiquin, the descendant of so many Catholic kings and saints, whose name was a glory in itself, and so closely linked to the Catholic glories of the island, was converted, by the education which he had received, into a most cruel oppressor of the Church of his baptism. His expeditions, through the same country which his ancestors had ruled, were characterized by all the barbarities practised at the time by Munro, Coote, and all the parliamentary leaders of the Scotch Puritans, and would have fitted him as a worthy compeer of Cromwell and Ireton, who were soon to follow. The name of Cashel and its cathedral, where he murdered so many priests, women, and children, around the altar adorned by the great and good Cormac McCullinan, would alone suffice to hand his name down to the execration of posterity.
Ormond and Murrough being the two chiefs of the "peace party," what wonder that the prelates, who had so earnestly labored at the formation of the Kilkenny Confederation, and the Nuncio at their head, refused to have aught to do with projects in which such men were concerned, when it is borne in mind also that several provisions of that "peace treaty" were directly opposed to the oath taken by the Confederates? But, unfortunately, Ormond was a skilful diplomat, had been dispatched by the king, and was supposed to be carrying out the ideas suggested to him by the unhappy monarch. His representations, therefore, could not fail to carry weight, principally with the Anglo-Irish lords of the Pale, many of whom, influenced by his courtly manners and address, declared openly for the proposed peace.
Thus did the peace sow the germs of division and even war among the Irish. The unity among the Catholics, so full of promise, was soon broken up; and those who had met each other in such a brotherly spirit in the day when the native chiefs and Anglo- Irish lords assembled together at Tara, who swore then that the division of centuries should exist no longer, began to look upon each other again as enemies. Without going at length into the vicissitudes of those various contentions, it is enough to say that in the end war broke out between those who had so recently taken the oath of confederation together. Owen Roe O'Neill, the victor of Benburb, and the only man who could direct the Irish armies, was attacked by Preston and other lords of the Pale, and died, as some historians allege, of poison administered to him by one of them.
This was the result of the intrigues of Ormond; nevertheless, Charles continued to place confidence in him, and though he had been twice obliged to resign his lieutenancy, and once to fly the country, the infatuated sovereign sent him back once more.
If was only at the end of the struggle, when the ill-fated king was at length in the hands of his enemies, that Ormond could be brought to consent to conditions acceptable to the national party. But then it was too late; the parliamentary forces had carried every thing before them in England; England was already republican to the core; and the armies which had been employed against the Cavaliers, once the efforts of the latter had ceased with the death of the king, were at liberty to leave the country, now submissive to parliamentary rule, and cross over to Ireland, with Cromwell at their head, to crush out the nation almost, and concentrate on that fated soil, within the short space of nine months, all the horrors of past centuries.
By the death of Owen Roe O'Neill just at that time, Ireland was left without a leader fit to cope with the great republican general. The country had already been devastated by Coote, Munro, St. Leger, and other Scotch and English Puritans; but the massacres which, until the coming of Cromwell, had been, at least, only local and checked by the troops of Owen Roe, soon extended throughout the island, unarrested by any forces in the field. The Cromwellian soldiers, not content with the character of warriors, came as "avengers of the Lord," to destroy an "idolatrous people."
That their real design was to exterminate the nation, and use the opportunity which then presented itself for that purpose, there can by no doubt. It was only after a fair trial that the project was found to be impossible, and that other expedients were devised. Coote had previously acted with this design in view, as is now an ascertained fact, and had been encouraged in the course he pursued by the Dublin government. 1 (1 See Matthew O'Connor's "Irish Catholics.") The same might be shown of St. Leger, in Munster, toward the beginning of the insurrection. At all events, all doubt in the matter, if any existed, ceased with the landing of Cromwell in 1649, when the real object of the war at once showed itself everywhere.
The result of this man's policy has been painted by Villemain, in his "Histoire de Cromwell," in a sentence: "Ireland became a desert which the few remaining inhabitants described by the mournful saying, 'There was not water enough to drown a man, not wood enough to hang him, not earth enough to bury him.'"
The French writer attributes to the whole island what was said of only a part of it. To this day, the name of Cromwell is justly execrated in Ireland, and "the curse of Cromwell " is one of the bitterest which can be invoked upon a person's head. But, at present, the fidelity of the Irish to the Stuarts concerns us, and a few reflections will put it in a strong but true light before us.
Ever since the restoration of Charles II., many Englishmen have professed great reverence for the memory of the "martyr-king." Even the subsequent Revolution of 1658 left the monument erected to him untouched. Many British families continued steady in their devotion to the Scotch line, and the name of Jacobite was for them a title of honor. Yet what were their sufferings for the cause of the king during his struggle with the Parliament, and after his execution? A few noblemen lost their lives and estates; some went into exile and followed the fortunes of the Pretenders who tried to gain possession of the throne. But the bulk of the nation—England—may be said to have suffered nothing by the great revolution which led to the Commonwealth. On the contrary, it is acknowledged that the administration of Cromwell at least brought peace to the country, and raised the power of Great Britain to a higher eminence in Europe than it had ever known before. As usual, the English made great profession of loyalty, but, as a rule, were particularly careful that no great inconvenience should come to them from it.
Treated with contempt and distrust by Charles and his advisers, so insulted in every thing that was dear to her that it is still a question for historians if, in many instances, the king and the royalists did not betray her, Ireland alone, after having taken her stand for a whole decade of years for God and the king, resolved to face destruction unflinchingly in support of what she imagined to be a noble cause.
After the landing of Cromwell, when to any sensible man there no longer remained hope of serving the cause of the king, when the desire which is natural to every human heart, of saving what can be saved, might, not only without dishonor, but with justice and right, have dictated the necessity of coming to terms with the parliamentarians, and of abandoning a cause which was hopeless, "on the 4th of December, 1649, Eber McMahon, Bishop of Clogher, a mere Irishman by name, by descent, by enthusiastic attachment to his country, exerted his great abilities to rouse his countrymen to a persevering resistance to Cromwell, and to unite all hearts and hands in the support of Ormond's administration. . . . All the bishops concurred in his views, and subscribed a solemn declaration that they would, to the utmost of their power, forward his Majesty's rights, and the good of the nation. . . . Ormond, at last, either sensible that no reliance could be placed on them, or that the treachery of Inchiquin's troops was, at least, on the part of the Irish, a fair ground of distrust and suspicion of the remainder, consented to their removal."— ("Irish Catholics.")
"At last!" will be the reader's exclamation, while he wonders if another people could be found forbearing enough to wait eight years for the adoption of such a necessary measure.
And the only reward for their fidelity to King Charles I. could under the circumstances be destruction. They waited with resignation for the impending gloom to overshadow them. Terrible moment for a nation, when despair itself fails to nerve it for further resistance and possible success! Such was the position of the Irish at the death of Charles.
Who shall describe that loyalty? After Ormond had met with the defeat he deserved in the field; after the cities had fallen one after another into the hands of the destroyer, who seldom thought himself bound to observe the conditions of surrender; after the chiefs, who might have protracted the struggle, had disappeared either by death or exile, the doom of the nation was sealed; yet it shrank not from the consequences.
The barbarities of Cromwell and his soldiers had depopulated large tracts of territory to such an extent that the troops marching through them were compelled to carry provisions as through a desert. The cattle, the only resource of an agricultural country, had been all consumed in a ten years' war. It was reported that, after every successful engagement, the republican general ordered all the men from the age of sixteen to sixty to be slaughtered without mercy, all the boys from six to sixteen to be deprived of sight, and the women to have a red- hot iron thrust through their breasts. Rumors such as these, exaggerated though they may be, testify at least to the terror which Cromwell inspired. As for the captured cities, there can be no doubt of the wholesale massacres carried out therein by his orders. Of the entire population of Tredagh only thirty persons survived, and they were condemned to the labor of slaves. Hugh Peters, the chaplain of Fairfax, wrote after this barbarous execution: "We are masters of Tredagh; no enemy was spared; I just come from the church where I had gone to thank the Lord."
The same fate awaited Wexford, and, later on, Drogheda. Cromwell, when narrating those bloody massacres, concluded by saying, "People blame me, but it was the will of God."
The Bible, the holy word of God, misread and misunderstood by those fanatics, persuaded them that it would be a crime not to exterminate the Irish, as the Lord punished Saul for having spared Agag and the chief of the Amalekites. Whoever wishes for further details of these sickening atrocities, committed in the name of God, may find them in a multitude of histories of the time, but chiefly in the "Threnodia" of Friar Morrison.
Certain modern Irish historians would seem not to understand the heroism of their own countrymen. "Bitterly," says A. M. O'Sullivan, "did the Irish people pay for their loyalty to an English sovereign. Unhappily for their worldly fortunes, if not for their fame, they were high-spirited and unfearing, where pusillanimity would certainly have been safety, and might have been only prudence."
But the verdict of posterity, always a just one, calls such a high-spirited and unfearing attitude true heroism, and spurns pusillanimity even when it insures safety and may be called prudence, if its result is the surrender of holy faith and Christian truth. Safety and prudence characterized the conduct of the English nation under the iron rule of Cromwell, as under the tyranny of the Tudors. Can the reader of history admire the nation on that account? Who shall affirm that the result of the craven spirit of the English was the prosperity which ensued, and that of Irish heroism destruction and gloom? The history of either nation is far from ended yet; and bold would be the man who dare assert that the prosperity of England is everlasting, and the humiliation of Ireland never to know an end.
However that may be, this at least is undeniable: the opinion current of the Irish character is demonstrated to be altogether an erroneous one by the incontrovertible facts cursorily narrated above. Determination of purpose, adherence to conscience and principle, consistency of conduct, are terms all too weak to convey an idea of the magnanimity displayed by the people, and of their heroic bearing throughout those stirring events.
At last, after a bloody struggle with Cromwell and Ireton, on May 12, 1652, "the Leinster army of the Irish surrendered at Kilkenny on terms which were successively adopted by the other principal bodies of troops, between that time and the September following, when the Ulster forces came to composition." Then began the real woes of Ireland. Never was the ingenuity of man so taxed to destroy a whole nation as in the measures adopted by the Protector for that purpose. It is necessary to present a brief sketch of them, since all that the Irish suffered was designed to punish them for their attachment to their religion, and, be it borne in mind, their devotion to the lawful dynasty of the Stuarts.
First, then, to render easy of execution the stern and cruel resolve of the new government, the defenders of the nation were not only to be disarmed, but put out of the way. Hence Cromwell was gracious enough to consent that they be permitted to leave the country and take service in the armies of the foreign powers then at peace with the Commonwealth. Forty thousand men, officers and soldiers, adopted this desperate resolution.
"Soon agents from the King of Spain, the King of Poland, and the Prince de Conde, were contending for the service of the Irish troops. Don Ricardo White, in May, 1672, shipped seven thousand in batches from Waterford, Kinsale, Galway, Limerick, and Bantry, for the King of Spain. Colonel Christopher Mayo got liberty in September to beat his drums, to raise three thousand more for the same destination. Lord Muskerry took with him five thousand to the King of Poland. In July, 1654, three thousand five hundred went to serve the Prince de Conde. Sir Walter Dungan and others got liberty to beat their drums in different garrisons for various destinations."—(Prendergast.)
To prove that the desperate resolution of leaving their country did not originate with the Irish, notwithstanding what some have written to the contrary, it is enough to remark that their expatriation was made a necessary condition of their surrender by the new government. For instance, Lord Clanrickard, according to Matthew O'Connor, "deserted and surrounded, could obtain no terms for the nation, nor indeed for himself and his troops, except with the sad liberty of transportation to any other country in amity with the Commonwealth."
To prove, if necessary, still further that the expatriation of the Irish troops was part of a scheme already resolved upon, it is enough to remember the indisputable fact that from the surrender at Kilkenny in 1652, until the open announcement in the September of 1653, that the Parliament had assigned Connaught for the dwelling-place of the Irish nation, whither they were to be "transplanted" before the 1st of May, 1654, the various garrisons and small armies which had fought so gallantly for Ireland and the Stuarts were successively urged (and urged by Cromwell meant compelled) to leave the country; and it was only when the last of the Irish regiments had departed that the doom of the nation was boldly and clearly announced.
But these forced exiles were not restricted to the warrior class. "The Lord Protector," says Prendergast, "applied to the Lord Henry Cromwell, then major-general of the forces of Ireland, to engage soldiers . . . . and to secure a thousand young Irish girls to be shipped to Jamaica. Henry Cromwell answered that there would be no difficulty, only that force must be used in taking them; and he suggested the addition of fifteen hundred or two thousand boys of from twelve to fourteen years of age. . . . The numbers finally fixed were one thousand boys and one thousand girls."
The total number of children disposed of in the same way, from 1652 to 1655, has been variously estimated at from twenty thousand to one hundred thousand. The British Government at last was compelled to interfere and put a stop to the infamous traffic, when, the mere Irish proving too scarce, the agents were not sufficiently discriminating in their choice, but shipped off English children also to the Tobacco Islands.
At last the island was left utterly without defenders, and sufficiently depopulated. It is calculated that, when the last great measure was announced and put into execution, only half a million of Irish people remained in the country, the rest of the resident population being composed of the Scotch and English, introduced by James I., and the soldiers and adventurers let in by Cromwell.
The main features of the celebrated "act of settlement" are known to all. It was an act intended to dispose quietly of half a million human beings, destined certainly in the minds of its projectors to disappear in due time, without any great violence— to die off —and leave the whole island in the possession of the "godly."
Connaught is famed as being the wildest and most barren province of Ireland. At the best, it can support but a scanty population. At this time it had been completely devastated by a ten years' war and by the excesses of the parliamentary forces. This province then was mercifully granted to the unhappy Irish race; it was set apart as a paradise for the wretched remnant to dwell in all Connaught, except a strip four miles wide along the sea, and a like strip along the right bank of the Shannon. This latter judicious provision was undoubtedly intended to prevent them from dwelling by the ocean, whence they might derive subsistence or assistance, or means of escape in the event of their ever rising again; and, on the other hand, from crossing the Shannon, on the east side of which their homes might still be seen. This cordon of four miles' width was drawn all around what was the Irish nation, and filled with the fiercest zealots of the "army of the Lord" to keep guard over the devoted victims.