Many eminent names figure in the long list of these "undertakers"; amongst them Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Christopher Hatton, Sir Wareham St. Leger, Edmund Spenser himself, Sir Thomas Norris, and others, all of whom received grants of different portions. But "the greater," says Leland, "their rank and consequence, the more were they emboldened to neglect the terms of their grant." Instead of completing their stipulated number of tenantry, the same persons often were admitted as tenants to different undertakers, and in the same seniory sometimes served at once as freeholder, leaseholder, and copyholder, so as to fill up the necessary number of each denomination.
The whole scheme of colonization proved, in short, a miserable failure. English farmers and labourers declined to come over in sufficient numbers. Those that did come left again in despair after a time. The dispossessed owners hung about, and raided the goods of the settlers whenever opportunity offered. The exasperation on both sides increased as years went on; the intruders becoming fewer and more tyrannical, the natives rapidly growing more numerous and more desperate. It was plain that the struggle would break out again at the first chance which offered itself.
That occasion arose not in Munster itself, but at the opposite end of the island. In Ulster the great southern rising had produced singularly little excitement. The chiefs for the most part had remained aloof, and to a great degree, loyal. The O'Donnells, who had been reinstated it will be remembered in their own territory by Sidney, kept the peace. Sir John Perrot, who after the departure of Grey became Lord-deputy, seems in spite of his severity to have won confidence. Old Tyrlough Luinagh who had been elected O'Neill at the death of Shane, seems even to have felt a personal attachment for him, which is humorously shown by his consenting on several occasions to appear at his court in English attire, habiliments which the Irish, like the the Scotch chiefs, objected to strongly as tending to make them ridiculous. "Prythee at least, my lord," he is reported to have said on one of these occasions, "let my chaplain attend me in his Irish mantle, that so your English rabble may be directed from my uncouth figure and laugh at him."
Perrot, however, had now fallen under the royal displeasure; had been recalled and sent to the Tower, a common enough climax in those days to years spent in the arduous Irish service. His place was taken in 1588 by Sir William Fitzwilliam, who had held it nearly thirty years earlier. Fitzwilliam was a man of very inferior calibre to Perrot. Avaricious by nature he had been highly dissatisfied with the poor rewards which his former services had obtained. Upon making some remonstrance to that effect he had been told that the "position of an Irish Lord-deputy was an honourable one and should challenge no reward." Upon this hint he seems now to have acted. Since the Lord-deputy was not to be better rewarded, the Lord-deputy, he apparently concluded, had better help himself. The Spanish Armada had been destroyed a few years back, and ships belonging to it had been strewed in dismal wreck all along the North, South, and West coasts of Ireland. It was believed that much gold had been hidden away by the wretched survivors, and fired with the hope of laying his own hands upon this treasure, Sir William first issued a permission for searching, and then started himself upon the search. He marched into Ulster in the dead of winter, at considerable cost to the State, and with absolutely no result. Either, as was most likely, there was no treasure, or the treasure had been well hidden. Furious at this disappointment he arrested two upon his own showing of the most loyal and law-abiding landowners in Ulster, Sir Owen McToole and Sir John O'Dogherty; dragged them back to Dublin with him, flung them into the castle, and demanded a large sum for their liberation.
This was a high-handed proceeding in all conscience, but there was worse to come; it seemed as if the new deputy had laid himself out for the task of inflaming Ulster to the highest possible pitch of exasperation, and so of once more awakening the scarce extinguished flames of civil war. McMahon, the chief of Monaghan, had surrendered his lands, held previously by tanistry, and had received a new grant of them under the broad seal of England, to himself and his heirs male, and failing such heirs to his brother Hugh. At his death Hugh went to Dublin and requested to be put into possession of his inheritance. This Fitzwilliam agreed to, and returned with him to Monaghan, apparently for the purpose. Hardly had he arrived there, however, before he trumped up an accusation to the effect that Hugh McMahon had collected rents two years previously by force—the only method, it may be said in passing, by which in those unsettled parts of the country rents ever were collected at all. It was not an offence by law being committed outside the shire, and he was therefore tried for it by court-martial. He was brought before a jury of private soldiers, condemned, and executed in two days. His estate was thereupon broken up, the greater part of it being divided between Sir Henry Bagnall, three or four English officers, and some Dublin lawyers, the Crown reserving for itself a quit rent. Little wonder if the other Ulster landowners felt that their turn would come next, and that no loyalty could assure a man's safety so long as he had anything to lose that was worth the taking.
At this time the natural leader of the province was not Tyrlough Luinagh, who though called the O'Neill was an old man and failing fast. The real leader was Hugh O'Neill, son of Matthew the first Baron of Dungannon, who had been killed, it will be remembered, by Shane O'Neill, by whose connivance Hugh's elder brother had also, it was believed, been made away with. Hugh had been educated in England, had been much at Court, and had found favour with Elizabeth, who had confirmed him in the title of Earl of Tyrone which had been originally granted to his grandfather.
Tyrone was the very antipodes of Shane, the last great O'Neill leader. He was much more, in fact, of an English politician and courtier than an Irish chieftain. He had served in the English army; had fought with credit under Grey in Munster, and was intimately acquainted with all the leading Englishmen of the day. Even his religion, unlike that of most Irish Catholics of the day, seems to have sat but lightly upon him. Captain Lee, an English officer, quartered in Ulster, in a very interesting letter to the queen written about this time, assures her confidentially that, although a Roman Catholic, he "is less dangerously or hurtfully so than some of the greatest in the English Pale," for that when he accompanied the Lord-deputy to church "he will stay and hear a sermon;" whereas they "when they have reached the church door depart as if they were wild cats." He adds, as a further recommendation, that by way of domestic chaplain he has at present but "one little cub of an English priest." Lord Essex in still plainer terms told Tyrone himself when he was posing as the champion of Catholicism: "Dost thou talk of a free exercise of religion! Why thou carest as little for religion as my horse."
Such a man was little likely to rush blindly into a rebellion in which he had much to lose and little to gain. He knew, as few Irishmen knew, the strength of England. He knew something also of Spain, and of what had come of trusting for help in that direction. Hitherto, therefore, his influence had been steadily thrown upon the side of order. He had more than once assisted the deputy to put down risings in the north, and, on the whole, had borne his part loyally as a dutiful subject of the queen.
Now, however, he had come to a point where the ways branched. He had to choose his future course, and there were many causes pushing him all but irresistibly into an attitude of rebellion. One of these was the arbitrary arrest of his brother-in-law Hugh O'Donnell, called Red Hugh, who had been induced to come on board a Government vessel by means of a friendly invitation, and had been then and there seized, flung under hatches, and carried off as a hostage to Dublin Castle, from which, after years of imprisonment, he had managed to escape by stealth in the dead of winter, and arrived half dead of cold and exposure in his own country, where his treatment had aroused the bitterest and most implacable hostility in the breast of all the clan. A more directly personal affair, and the one that probably more than any other single cause pushed Tyrone over the frontiers of rebellion, was the following. Upon the death of his wife he had fallen in love with Bagnall, the Lord-Marshall's, sister, and had asked for her hand. This Bagnall, for some reason, refused, whereupon Tyrone, having already won the lady's heart, carried her off, and they were married, an act which the marshall never forgave.
From that moment he became his implacable enemy, made use of his position to ply the queen and Council with accusations against his brother-in-law, and when Tyrone replied to those charges the answers were intercepted. It took some time to undermine Elizabeth's confidence in the earl, having previously had many proofs of his loyalty. It took some time, too, to induce Tyrone himself to go in the direction in which every event seemed now to be pushing him. Once, however, his mind was made up and his retreat cut off, he set to work at his preparations upon a scale which soon showed the Government that they had this time no fiery half-savage Shane, no incapable vacillating Desmond to deal with.
An alliance with the O'Donnells and the other chiefs of the north was his first step. He was by no means to be contented however with a merely provincial rising. He despatched messages to Connaught, and enlisted the Burkes in the affair; also the O'Connor of Sligo, the McDermot and other western chiefs. In Wicklow the O'Byrnes, always ready for a fray, agreed to join the revolt, with all that was left of the tribes of Leix and Offaly. These, with the Kavanaghs and others, united to form a solemn union, binding themselves to stand or fall together. To Spain Tyrone sent letters urging the necessity of an immediate despatch of troops. With the Pope he also put himself into communication, and the rising was openly and avowedly declared to be a Catholic one. Just at this juncture old Tyrlough Luinagh died, and Tyrone forthwith assumed the soul-stirring name of "The O'Neill" for himself. Let the Spanish allies only arrive in time and the rule of England it was confidently declared would shortly in Ireland be a thing of the past.
BATTLE OF THE YELLOW FORD.
The northern river Blackwater—there are at least three Blackwaters in Ireland—forms the southern boundary of the county Tyrone, which takes a succession of deep loops or elbows in order to follow its windings. At the end of the sixteenth century and for centuries previously it had marked the boundary of the territory of the chiefs or princes of Tyrone, and here, therefore, it was that the struggle between the earl and the queen's troops advancing from Dublin was necessarily fought out.
A good deal of desultory fighting took place at first, without any marked result upon either side. Tyrone got possession of the English fort which commanded the passage of the river, but it was in turn snatched from him by the lately arrived deputy, Lord Borough, who, however, was so severely wounded in the affray that he had to fall back upon Newry, where he not long afterwards died. Ireland was thus for the moment without a governor, and when after a temporary armistice, which Tyrone spun out as long as possible in hopes of his Spanish allies appearing, hostilities recommenced, the command devolved upon his brother-in-law and chief enemy, Sir Henry Bagnall.
Bagnall had between four and five thousand men under him, Tyrone having about the same number, or a little less. A few years previously a very small body of English troops had been able, as we have seen, to put to flight fully three times their own number of Irish. In the last dozen years circumstances however had in this respect very materially changed. The Desmond followers had been for the most part armed only with skeans and spears, much as their ancestors had been under Brian Boru. One English soldier armed with a gun could put to flight a dozen such assailants as easily as a sportsman a dozen wolves. Tyrone's men, on the other hand, were almost as well armed as their antagonists. Some of these arms had come from Spain, others had been purchased at high prices from the English soldiery, others again from dealers in Dublin and elsewhere. Man to man, and with equal arms, the Ulster men were fully equal to their assailants, as they were now about to prove.
In August, 1598, Bagnall advancing from the south found Tyrone engaged in a renewed attack upon the fort of Blackwater, which he had invested, and was endeavouring to reduce by famine. At the advance of Bagnall he withdrew however to a strong position a few miles from the fort, and there awaited attack.
The battle was not long delayed. The bitter personal hatred which animated the two leaders seems to have communicated itself to the men, and the struggle was unprecedentedly fierce and bloody. In the thick of the engagement Bagnall, lifting his beaver for a moment to get air, was shot through the forehead and fell. His fall was followed by the complete rout of his army. Fifteen hundred soldiers and thirteen officers were killed, thirty-four flags taken, and all the artillery, ammunition, and provisions fell into the victor's hands. The fort immediately surrendered, and the remains of the royal army fled in confusion to Armagh, which shortly abandoning, they again fled south, not attempting to reform until they took refuge at last in Dundalk.
Such an event as this could have but one result. All the waverers were decided, and all determined to throw in their lot with the victor. The talisman of success is of more vital importance to an Irish army than probably to any other, not because the courage of its soldiers is less, but because their imagination is greater, and more easily worked upon. A soldier is probably better without too much imagination. If the auguries are unfavourable he instinctively augments, and exaggerates them tenfold. Now, however, all the auguries were favourable. Hope stood high. The Catholic cause had never before showed so favourably. From Malin Head to Cape Clear all Ireland was in a wild buzz of excitement, and every fighting kern and galloglass clutched his pike with a sense of coming triumph.
THE ESSEX FAILURE.
Elizabeth was now nearly seventy years of age, and this was her third war in Ireland. Nevertheless, she and her Council girded themselves resolutely to the struggle. There could at least be no half-hearted measure now; no petty pleas of economy; no penurious doling out of men and money. No one, not even the queen herself, could reasonably question the gravity of the crisis.
The next person to appear upon the scene is Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, whose brilliant mercurial figure flashes for a moment across the wild and troubled stage of Ireland, only the next to vanish like some Will-o'-the-wisp into an abyss of darkness and disaster.
At that moment his fame as a soldier stood as high if not higher than that of any of his cotemporaries. If Raleigh or Sidney had more military genius, if his old rival, Sir Henry Norris, was a more capable general, the young earl had eclipsed all others in mere dash and brilliancy, and within the last few years had dazzled the eyes of the whole nation by the success of his famous feat in Spain, "The most brilliant exploit," says Lord Macaulay, "achieved by English arms upon the Continent, between Agincourt and Blenheim."
Essex was now summoned to the queen and given the supreme command in Ireland, with orders to proceed at once to the reduction of Tyrone. An army of 20,000 infantry and 1,300 horse were placed under him, and the title of Lord-Lieutenant conferred, which had not been granted to any one under royal blood for centuries. He started with a brilliant train, including a number of well-born volunteers, who gladly offered their services to the popular favourite, and landed in Dublin early in the month of April, 1599.
His disasters seem to have dated from the very moment of his setting foot on Irish soil. Contrary to orders, he had appointed his relative, the Earl of Southampton, to the command of the horse, an appointment which even after peremptory orders from the queen he declined to cancel. He went south when he was eagerly expected to go north. Spent a whole fortnight in taking the single castle of Cahir; lingered about the Limerick woods in pursuit of a nephew of the late Desmond, derisively known as the "Sugane Earl," or "Earl of Straw," who in the absence of the young heir had collected the remnants of the Desmond followers about him, and was in league with Tyrone. A few weeks later a party of English soldiers were surprised by the O'Byrnes in Wicklow, and fled shamefully; while almost at the same moment—by a misfortune which was certainly no fault of Essex's, but which went to swell the list of his disasters—Sir Conyers Clifford, the gallant governor of Connaught, was defeated by the O'Donnells in a skirmish among the Curlew mountains, and both he and Sir Alexander Ratcliffe, the second in command, left dead upon the field.
Essex's very virtues and better qualities, in fact, were all against him in this fatal service. His natural chivalrousness, his keen perception of injustice, a certain elevation of mind which debarred him from taking the stereotyped English official view of the intricate Irish problem; an independence of vulgar motives which made him prone to see two sides of a question—even where his own interests required that he should see but one—all these were against him; all tended to make him seem vacillating and ineffective; all helped to bring about that failure which has made his six months of command in Ireland the opprobrium ever since of historians.
Even when, after more than one furiously reproachful letter from the queen, and after his army had been recruited by an additional force of two thousand men, he at last started for the north, nothing of any importance happened. He and Tyrone held an amicable and unwitnessed conference at a ford of the little river Lagan, at which the enemies of the viceroy did not scruple afterwards to assert that treason had been concocted. What, at any rate, is certain is that Essex agreed to an armistice, which, with so overwhelming a force at his own disposal, naturally awakened no little anger and astonishment. Tyrone's personal courtesy evidently produced a strong effect upon the other earl. They were old acquaintances, and Tyrone was no doubt able to place his case in strong relief. Essex, too, had that generosity of mind which made him inconveniently open to expostulation, and he knew probably well enough that the wrongs of which Tyrone complained were far from imaginary ones.
Another and a yet more furious letter from the queen startled him for his own safety. Availing himself of a permission he had brought with him to return should occasion seem to require it, he left the command in the hands of subordinates, flew to Dublin, and embarked immediately for England. What befel him upon his arrival is familiar to every school child, and the relation of it must not be allowed to divert us from following the further course of events in Ireland.
END OF THE TYRONE REBELLION.
A very different man from the chivalrous and quixotic Essex now took the reins. Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, had expected to be sent to Ireland when Essex had suddenly been appointed with ampler powers and a more extended consequence, and the disappointment had caused him to follow the course of that ill-starred favourite with ill-concealed jealousy to its tragic end.
Mountjoy was himself a man of cold, clear-sighted, self-seeking temperament. In almost all English histories dealing with this period his steadiness and solid unshowy qualities are contrasted with Essex's flightiness and failure, to the natural disadvantage of the latter. This, however, is not perhaps quite the last word upon the matter, and it is only fair to Essex that this should be realized.
No master hand has as yet made this special portion of Irish history his own. When he does so—if the keen edge of his perceptions, that is to say, has not been dimmed by too strong an earlier prepossession—we shall perhaps learn that the admitted failure of Essex, so disastrous to himself, was more honourable than the admitted and the well-rewarded success of Mountjoy. The situation, as every English leader soon found, was one that admitted of no possible fellowship between two alternatives, success and pity; between the commonest and most elementary dictates of humanity, and the approval of the queen and her Council. There was but one method by which a success could be assured, and this was the method which Mountjoy now pushed relentlessly, and from which Essex's more sensitively attuned nature evidently shrank. The enemies it was necessary to annihilate were not so much Tyrone's soldiers, as the poor, the feeble, the helpless, the old, the women, and the little children. Famine—oddly called by Edward III. the "gentlest of war's hand-maids"—was here the only certain, perhaps the only possible agent. By it, and by it alone, the germs of insurrection could be stamped out and blighted as it were at their very birth.
There was no further shrinking either from its application. Mountjoy established military stations at different points in the north, and proceeded to demolish everything that lay between them. With a deliberation which left little to be desired he made his soldiers destroy every living speck of green that was to be seen, burn every roof, and slaughter every beast which could not be conveniently driven into camp. With the aid of Sir George Carew, who enthusiastically endorsed his policy, and has left us a minute account of their proceedings, they swept the country before them. The English columns moved steadily from point to point, establishing themselves wherever they went, in strongly fortified outposts, from which points flying detachments were sent to ravage all the intermediate districts. The ground was burnt to the very sod; all harvest utterly cleared away; starvation in its most grisly forms again began to stalk the land; the people perished by tens of thousands, and the tales told by eye-witnesses of what they themselves had seen at this time are too sickening to be allowed needlessly to blacken these pages.
As a policy nothing, however, could be more brilliantly successful. At the arrival of Mountjoy the English power in Ireland was at about the lowest ebb it ever reached under the Tudors. Ormond, the Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, had recently been taken captive by the O'Mores in Leinster, by whom he was held for an enormous ransom. Success, with all its glittering train, seemed to have gone bodily over to Tyrone. There was hardly a town in the whole island that remained in the hands of the Deputy. Before Mountjoy left all this was simply reversed. Not only had the royal power regained everything that had been snatched from it, but from sea to sea it stood upon a far firmer and stronger basis than it had ever done before.
Gradually, as the area over which the power of the Deputy and his able assistant grew wider and wider, that of the Tyrone fell away and faded. "The consequence of an Irish chieftain above all others," observes Leland most weightily, "depended upon opinion." A true success, that is to say, of which the gleaming plumes and trophies were not immediately visible, would have been far more disastrous than a real failure which could have been gilded over with a little delusive gleam of triumph. There was no gleams, real or imaginary, now. Tyrone was fast coming to the end of his resources. Surrender or starvation were staring him with ugly insistence in the face.
The war, in fact, was on the point of dying out from sheer exhaustion, when a new element came to infuse momentary courage into the breasts of the insurgents. Fifty Spanish ships, with Don Juan d'Aguilar and three thousand soldiers on board, sailed into Kinsale harbour, where they proceeded to disembark and to occupy the town.
The instant the news of this landing reached Mountjoy, he, with characteristic vigour, hurried south with every soldier he could collect, so as to cut off the new arrivals before their allies had time to appear. Not a moment was lost. The Spaniards had landed on the 20th of September, 1601, and by the 23rd the first English soldiers appeared before the town, and before the end of the month Mountjoy and Carew had concentrated every man they had in Ireland around Kinsale.
Tyrone and O'Donnell also hurried south, but their progress was slower, and when they arrived they found their allies closely besieged on all sides. Taking advantage of a frost, which had made the bogs passable, O'Donnell stole round the English forces and joined another party of Spaniards who had just effected a landing at Castlehaven. All Kerry was now up in arms, under two local chiefs, O'Sullivan Beare and O'Driscoll. The struggle had resolved itself into the question which side could hold out longest. The English had the command of the sea, but were the Spanish fleet to return their position would become to the last degree perilous. The game for Tyrone to play was clearly a waiting one. The Spaniards in Kinsale were weary however of their position, and urged him to try and surprise the English camp. Reluctantly, and against his own judgment, he consented. The surprise failed utterly. Information of it had already reached Carew. The English were under arms, and after a short struggle Tyrone's men gave way. Twelve hundred were killed, and the rest fled in disorder. The Spaniards thereupon surrendered Kinsale, and were allowed to re-embark for Spain; many of the Irish, including O'Donnell, accompanying them.
This was practically the end. Tyrone retreated to the north, collecting the remnants of his army as he went. Carew went south to wreak a summary vengeance upon O'Sullivan Beare, and the other Kerry insurgents, while Mountjoy, following in the wake of Tyrone, hemmed him gradually further and further north, repeating at the same time that wasting process which had already been only too brilliantly successful.
Tyrone had wit enough to see that the game was played out. On the other hand, Mountjoy was eager to bring the war to an end before the queen's death, now hourly expected. Terms were accordingly come to. The earl made his submission, and agreed to relinquish the title of O'Neill, and to abjure for ever all alliances with foreign powers or with any of the enemies of the Crown. In return he was to receive a full pardon for himself and his followers, and all his titles and lands were to be confirmed to him.
Two days after this the queen's death was announced. We are told that Tyrone, upon hearing of it, burst into a flood of tears. As he had been in arms against her up to a week before, it can scarcely have been a source of very poignant anguish. Probably he felt that had he guessed the imminence of the event he might have made better terms.
THE FLIGHT OF THE EARLS.
This was the last serious attempt on the part of any individual Irish chieftain to rise against the power of England. The next rebellion of which we shall hear arose from perfectly different causes, and was general rather than individual, grew indeed before its conclusion to the larger and more imposing dimensions of a civil war.
In one respect this six years' struggle was less productive of results than either of the two previous ones. At the end of it, Tyrone was still Tyrone; still the first of Irish subjects; his earldom and his ancestral possessions were still his. Nay, on crossing a few months later to England, and presenting himself to the English Court, he was graciously received by the new king, and seemed at first to stand in all respects as if no rebellion had been planned by him, or so nearly carried to a successful issue.
This state of things was a source, as may readily be conceived, of boundless rage to every English officer and official who had taken part in the late campaign. To see "that damnable rebel Tyrone" apparently in high honour caused them to rage and gnash their teeth. "How did I labour," cries one of them, "for that knave's destruction! I adventured perils by sea and land; went near to starving; eat horse-flesh in Munster, and all to quell that man, who now smileth in peace at those who did hazard their lives to destroy him!"
Sheriffs, judges, commissioners, all the new officials who now began to hurry to the north, shared in this sentiment, and all had their eyes set in wrathful animosity upon Tyrone, all were bent in finding him out in some new treason. That after all that had happened he should end his days in peace and honour was not inconceivable merely, but revolting. He himself complained about this time that he could not "drink a full carouse of sack but the State in a few hours was advertised thereof." It was, in fact, an impossible situation. Tyrone was now sixty-two, and would have been willing enough therefore, in all probability, to rest and be thankful. It was impossible, he found, for him to do so. He was harassed by spies, plunged into litigation with regard to his seignorial rights, and whatever case was tried the lawyers invariably found for his antagonists. Rory O'Donnell, a brother of Red Hugh, who had been created Earl of Tyrconnel by James, was in a like case. Both were regarded with detestation by every official in Ireland; both had not long before had a price set on their heads; both, it was resolved by all in authority, would, sooner or later, therefore, begin to rebel again.
Whether they did so or not has never been satisfactorily decided. The evidence on the whole goes to prove that they did not. The air, however, was thick just then with plots, and in 1607, a mysterious and anonymous document, of which Lord Howth was reported to be the author, was found in the Dublin Council Chamber, which hinted darkly at conspiracies and perils of various kinds to the State, in which conspiracies Tyrone, it was equally darkly hinted, was in some manner or other involved.
It was rather a poor plot, still it served its turn. Tyrone received warning from his friends abroad that he was about to be arrested, and so serious was the peril deemed that a vessel was specially sent by them to bring him away in safety. He at once communicated with Tyrconnel, and after a short consultation the two Earls with their families resolved to take advantage of the opportunity and depart at once. This at the time, and indeed generally, has been construed into a proof of their guilt. It may have been so, but, on the other hand, it may just as well not have been. Had their innocence been purer than alabaster or whiter than the driven snow they were probably well advised under existing circumstances in not remaining to take their trial.
Right or wrong, with good reason or without good reason, they went, and after various wanderings reached Rome, where they were received with no little honour. Neither, however, long survived their exile. Tyrconnel died the following year, and Tyrone some eight years later, a sad, blind, broken-hearted man.
Nothing could have been more convenient for the Government than this departure. Under the circumstances, it meant, of course, a forfeiture of all their estates. Had the extent of territory which personally belonged to the two exiles alone been confiscated, the proceeding, no doubt, would have been perfectly legitimate. Whatever had led to it, the fact of their flight and consequent renouncement of allegiance was undeniable, and the loss of their estates followed almost as a matter of course. A far more sweeping measure than this, however, was resolved upon. The lawyers, under the direction of the Dublin Government, so contrived matters as to make the area forfeited by the two earls cover no less a space than six entire counties, all of which were escheated to the Crown, regardless of the rights of a vast number of smaller tenants and sub-proprietors against whom no plea of rebellion, recently at all events could be urged; a piece of injustice destined, as will be seen, to bear tragic fruit a generation later.
The plan upon which this new plantation was carried out was projected with the utmost care by the lawyers, the Irish Government, and the king himself. The former plantations in Munster were an acknowledged failure, the reason assigned being the huge size of the grants made to the undertakers. Many of these resided in England, and merely drew their rents, allowing Irish tenants to occupy the land. This mistake was now to be avoided. Only tracts that could be managed by a resident owner were to be granted, and from these the natives were to be entirely drawn. "As well," it was gravely stated, "for their greater security, as to preserve the purity of the English language."
The better to ensure this important result marriages were strictly forbidden between the native Irish and the settlers, and in order to avoid that ever-formidable danger the former were ordered to remove themselves and their belongings bodily into certain reserved lands set apart for them.
The person who took the most prominent part in this undertaking was the well-known Sir John Davis, a distinguished lawyer and writer, who has himself left us a minute account of his own and his colleagues' proceedings. That those proceedings should have aroused some slight excitement and dismay amongst the dispossessed owners was not, perhaps, astonishing, even to those engaged in it. In some instances, the proprietors even went the length of bringing lawyers from Dublin, to prove that their estates could not legally be forfeited through the attainder of the earls, and to plead, moreover, the king's recent proclamation which undertook to secure to the inhabitants their possessions. In reply to this, Sir John Davis and the other commissioners issued another proclamation. "We published," he says, "by proclamation in each county, what lands were to be granted to British undertakers, what to servitors, and what to natives, to the end that the natives should remove from the precincts allotted to the Britons, whereupon a clear plantation is to be made of English and Scottish without Irish." With regard to the rights of the king he is still more emphatic. "Not only," he says, "his Majesty may take this course lawfully, but he is bound in conscience to do so."
These arguments, and probably still more the evident uselessness of any resistance, seem to have had their effect. The discomfited owners submitted sullenly, and withdrew to the tracts allotted to them. In Sir John Davis' own neat and incisive words, "The natives seemed not unsatisfied in reason, though they remained in their passions discontented, being grieved to leave their possessions to strangers, which they had so long after their manner enjoyed."
THE FIRST CONTESTED ELECTION.
In 1613, it was resolved by the Government to summon an Irish Parliament, for the purpose of giving legality to their recent proceedings in Ulster, and also to pass an Act of formal attainder upon the two exiled earls.
The great difficulty felt by the executive was how to secure an adequate Protestant majority. Even after the recent large introduction of Protestants the great mass of the freeholders, and nearly all the burgesses in the towns were still Roman Catholics. In the Upper House, indeed, the nineteen Protestant bishops and five temporal lords who were Protestant, made matters safe. The House of Commons, therefore, was the rub. Carew and Sir John Davis set their wits energetically to this problem. The new towns, or rather agricultural forts, in Ulster were all converted into Corporations, and each given the power of returning two members. The Pale and the Leinster towns, though loyal, were nearly all Catholic. In the west, except at Athlone, there was "no hope," the president reported, "of any Protestants." From some of the other garrison towns better things were hoped for, still there was not a little alarm on the part of the Government that the numbers might still come short.
On the other side the Catholics were equally alive to the situation, and equally keen to secure a triumph. A belief prevailed, too, all over Ireland, that the object of summoning this Parliament was to carry out some sweeping act of confiscation, and this naturally added to the excitement. For the first time in Irish history a genuinely contested election took place. Both parties strained every nerve, both felt their future interests to depend upon the struggle. When at last all the members were collected it was found that the Government had a majority, though a narrow one, of twenty-four. Barely, however, had Parliament assembled, before a violent quarrel broke out over the election of a speaker; the Catholic party denouncing the irregularity by means of which many of the elections had been carried, and refusing therefore to consider themselves bound by the decision of the majority. Sir John Davis had been elected speaker by the supporters of the Government, but, during the absence of the latter in the division lobby, the recusants placed their own man, Sir John Everard, in the chair, and upon the return of the others a hot scuffle ensued between the supporters of the two Sir Johns, each side vehemently supporting the claims of its own candidate. In the end, "Mr. Treasurer and Mr. Marshall, two gentlemen of the best quality," according to a "Protestant declaration" sent to England of the whole occurrence, "took Sir John Davis by the arms, and lifting him from the ground, placed him in the chair upon Sir John Everard's lap, requiring the latter to come forth of the chair; which, he obstinately refusing, Mr. Treasurer, the Master of the Ordinance, and others, whose places were next the chair, laid their hands gently upon him, and removed him out of the chair, and placed Sir John Davis therein."
The gravity with which we are assured of the gentleness of these proceedings is delightful. The recusants, with Sir John Everard at their head, departed we are further told "in most contentious manner" out of the House. Being asked why they did not return, they replied that "Those within the House are no House, and the Speaker is no Speaker; but we are the House, and Sir John Everard is our Speaker."
 Lodges, "Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica," pp. 410-411.
Not being able to be otherwise settled, the quarrel was at last referred to the king, and representatives of both sides went to England to plead their cause. In the end twelve of the new elections were found to have been so illegally carried that they had perforce to be cancelled, but Sir John Davis was at the same time confirmed in the Speakership.
After this delay the House at last got to work. A formal Act of attainder was passed upon Tyrone, Tyrconnel, and some of the other Ulster landowners. Every portion of Ireland was next made into shireland, and the last remnants of the Brehon law abolished. Upon the other hand, the statutes of Kilkenny was at length and finally repealed. Henceforth English and Irish were alike to be admitted to plead their own cause in the courts of law.
OLD AND NEW OWNERS.
The zeal for Irish colonization had by no means subsided after the Ulster settlement had been established; on the contrary, it was the favourite panacea of the hour, especially in the eyes of the king himself. After one such resounding success, why, it was asked, not extend so evident a blessing to the rest of Ireland? "A commission to inquire into defective titles" was set on foot, whose duty it was to collect evidence as to the condition of estates, and to inquire into the titles of owners. The pipe rolls in Dublin and the patents, kept in the Tower of London were alike eagerly ransacked, and title flaws found to be discoverable with the most delightful facility. There was a strong feeling too about this time in England that something good was to be made of Ireland. When tens of thousands of acres were to be had almost for the asking, who could be so slow or so mean-spirited as to hang back from doing so.
Something like a regular stampede of men ambitious to call themselves undertakers, began to cross over from the larger to the smaller island. Nor was the Government anxious to check this spirited impulse. In Wexford alone over 60,000 acres had been discovered by the lawyers to belong to the king, and of these a large portion were now settled with English undertakers. In Longford, Leitrim, Wicklow, and many other parts of Leinster, it was the same. Even where the older proprietors were not dispossessed heavy fines were levied in return for fresh grants. No proof of recent surrender or former agreement was allowed to count, and so ingeniously was the whole scheme carried out, and so inextricable was the jungle of legal technicalities in which it was involved, that what in reality was often sheer confiscations sounded like the most equitable of judicial arrangements.
The case of the Connaught landowners is particularly characteristic, and as space dwindles rapidly, may serve as an example of the rest. Nearly all the Connaught gentry, native and Norman alike, had surrendered their estates either to Elizabeth or to her father, and had received them back again upon new terms. Legal transfer, however, was so little understood, and the times were so rough and wild, that few had received patents, and title-deeds were all but unknown. In James I.'s reign this omission was rectified and patents duly made out, for which the landowners paid a sum little short of L30,000, equal to nearly L300,000 at the present day. These new patents, however, by an oversight of the clerks in Chancery, were neglected to be enrolled, and upon this plea fresh ones were called for, and fresh fees had to be paid by the landowners. Further it was announced that owing to the omission—one over which the owners, it is clear, had no control—all the titles had become defective, and all the lands had lapsed to the Crown. The other three provinces having by this time received plantations, the Connaught landowners were naturally not slow to perceive the use that might be made of so awkward a technical flaw. To appeal against the manifest injustice of the decision was of little avail, but a good round sum of money into the king's own hands was known to rarely come amiss. They agreed accordingly to offer him the same sum that would have fallen to his share had the plantations been carried out This was accepted and another L10,000 paid, and the evil day thus for a while, but only, as will be seen, for a while averted.
Charles's accession awakened a good many hopes in Ireland, the Catholic party especially flattering themselves that a king who was himself married to one of their faith would be likely to show some favour to his Catholic subjects. In this they found their mistake, and an attempt to open a Catholic college in Dublin was speedily put down by force. In other directions a certain amount of leniency was, however, extended to recusants, and Lord Falkland, who a few years before had succeeded Sir Oliver St. John as deputy, was a man of conspicuous moderation and tolerance. In 1629, however, he resigned, worn out like so many others before and after him by the difficulties with which he had to contend, and not long afterwards a man of very different temperament and widely different theories of government came to assume the reins.
In 1632, Wentworth—better known as Strafford—arrived in Ireland, prepared to carry out his motto of "Thorough." Only three years before, he had been one of the foremost orators in the struggle for the Petition of Right. The dagger of Fenton had turned him from an impassioned patriot and constitutionalist into a vehement upholder of absolutism. His revolt had been little more than a mask for his hostility to the hated favourite Buckingham, and when Buckingham's murder cleared the path to his ambition, Wentworth passed, apparently without a struggle, from the zealous champion of liberty to the yet more zealous champion of despotic rule.
He arrived in Ireland as to a conquered country, and proceeded promptly to act upon that understanding. His chief aim was to show that a parliament, properly managed, could be made not a menace, but a tool in the hand of the king. With this end he summoned an Irish one immediately upon his arrival, and so managed the elections that Protestants and Catholics should nearly equally balance one another. Upon its assembling, he ordered peremptorily that a subsidy of L100,000, to cover the debts to the Crown, should be voted. There would, he announced, be a second session, during which certain long-deferred "graces" and other demands would be considered. The sum was obediently voted, but the second session never came. The parliament was abruptly dissolved by the deputy, and did not meet again for nearly four years.
The Connaught landlords were the next whom he took in hand. We have seen in the last chapter that they had recently paid a large sum to the Crown, in order to ward off the dangers of a plantation. This did not satisfy Wentworth. Their titles were again called into question. He swept down in person into the province, with the commissioners of plantations at his heels; discovered, to his own complete satisfaction, that all the titles of all the five western counties were defective, and that, as a natural consequence, all lapsed to the Crown. The juries of Mayo, Sligo, and Roscommon were overawed into submission, but the Galway jury were obstinate, and refused to dispossess the proprietors. Wentworth thereupon took them back with him to Dublin, summoned them before the Court of the Castle Chamber, where they were sentenced to pay a fine of L4,000 each, and the sheriff L1000, and to remain in prison until they had done so. The unfortunate sheriff died in prison. Lord Clanricarde, the principal Galway landlord, died also shortly afterwards, of anxiety and mortification. The others submitted, and were let off by the triumphant deputy with the surrender, in some cases, of large portions of their estates, in others of heavy fines.
By these means, and others too long to enter into here, he contrived to raise the annual Irish revenue to a surplus of L60,000, with part of which he proceeded to set on foot and equip an army for the king of 10,000 foot and 1,000 horse, ready to be marched at a moment's notice. This part of the programme was intended as a menace less against Ireland than England. Charles was to be absolute in both islands, and, to be so, his Irish subjects were to help him to coerce his English ones.
Let us, however, be just. Strafford was a born tyrant—worse, he was the champion of an absolutism of the most odious type conceivable, one which, if successful, would have been a death-blow to English liberty. But he was also a born ruler. No petty tyrants flourished under his sway. His hand was like iron upon the plunderers, the pluralists, the fraudulent officials, gorged with their ill-gotten booty. What he did, too, he did well. If he struck, he could also protect. He ruthlessly suppressed the infant woollen trade, believing that it might in time come to be a rival to the English one, but he was the founder of the linen trade, and imported Flemish weavers to teach it, and the best flax-seed to sow in the fields. He cleared the sea of the pirates who swarmed along the coasts, and had recently burnt the houses and carried off the inhabitants of several villages. The king's authority once secured he was anxious to secure to the mass of the people, Catholic as well as Protestant, a just and impartial administration of the law. No one in Ireland, he was resolved, should tyrannize except himself.
He and Laud, the primate, were close allies, and both were bent upon bringing the Church of Ireland to an absolute uniformity with that of England, and, with this object, Wentworth set a Court of High Commission to work to root out the Presbyterian ministers and to suppress, as far as possible, dissent. The Irish bishops and episcopalian clergy were, with hardly an exception, Low Churchmen, with a leaning to Calvinism, and, upon these also his hand was heavy. His regard for the Church by no means stood in his way either in his dealings with individual churchmen. He treated the Primate Ussher—one of the most venerated names in all Irish history—with marked contempt; he rated the Bishop of Killaloe upon one occasion like a dog, and told him that "he deserved to have his rochet pulled over his ears;" boasting afterwards, to his correspondent, of how effectually he had "warmed his old sides."
In another letter to Laud, we get a graphic and rather entertaining account of his dealings with Convocation. The Lower House, it seems, had appointed a select committee, which had drawn up a book of canons upon the lines of what were known as the "Nine Articles of Lambeth." Wentworth was furious. "Instantly," he says, "I sent for Dean Andrews, that reverend clerk, who sat, forsooth, in the chair at this committee, and required him to bring along the aforesaid book of canons; this he obeyed, ... but when I came to open the book, I confess I was not so much moved since I came into Ireland. I told him certainly not a Dean of Limerick, but an Ananias had sat in the chair at that committee, and sure I was that Ananias had been there in spirit if not in body."
 Earl of Stratford's "Letters and Despatches," vol. i. p. 342.
The unhappy Ananias naturally submitted at once to the terrible deputy, and, although Archbishop Ussher and most of the bishops defended the attacked canons, Wentworth carried his point by a sheer exercise of power. Throwing the list of canons already drawn out aside, he drew up another of his own composition, and forced the Convocation to accept it. "There were some hot spirits, sons of thunder, amongst them," he tells Laud boastfully, "who moved that they should petition me for a free synod, but, in fine, they could not agree among themselves who should put the bell about the cat's neck, and so this likewise vanished." The cat, in truth, was a terrible one to bell!
But the career of the master of Ireland was nearing its end. By the beginning of 1640 the Scotch were up in arms, and about to descend in force upon England. The English Puritans, too, were assuming a hostile attitude. Civil war was upon the point of breaking out. Charles summoned Wentworth over in hot haste from Ireland, and it was decided between them that the newly-organized Irish forces were to be promptly employed against the Scotch rebels. With this purpose Wentworth—now with the long-desired titles of Earl of Strafford and Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland—hurried back to make the final arrangements. Fresh subsidies were obtained from the ever-subservient Irish parliament; more recruits were hastily summoned, and came in readily; the army was put under the command of the young Earl of Ormond, and Stratford once more returned to England. He did so only to find all his calculations upset. A treaty had been made in his absence with the Scots; the Long Parliament had assembled, and the fast-gathering storm was about to break in thunder over his own head. He was impeached. Witness after witness poured over from Ireland, all eager to give their evidence. Representatives even of the much-aggrieved Connaught landlords—though their wrongs did not perhaps count for much in the great total—were there to swell the tide. He was tried for high treason, condemned and executed. In England the collapse of so great and so menacing a figure was a momentous event. In Ireland it must have seemed as the very fall of Lucifer himself!
Stafford's fall and death would alone have rendered this year, 1641, a memorable one in Irish history. Unhappily it was destined to be made yet more so; few years, indeed, in that long, dark bead-roll are perhaps as memorable, both from what it brought forth at the time, and, still more, from what was afterwards to follow from it.
The whole country, it must be remembered, was in a state of the wildest and most irrepressible excitement. The fall of such a ruler as Strafford—one under whose iron will it had for years lain as in a vice—would alone have produced a considerable amount of upheaval and confusion. The army collected by him, and mainly recruited by Catholics, was regarded with strong disfavour both by Irish Protestants and by the English Parliament, and Charles, much against his will, had been forced to disband it, and the arms had been stored in Dublin Castle. The men, however, remained, and among the leading Irish as well as English royalists there was a strong desire that they should be kept together, so as to serve if required in the fast nearing struggle.
Nor was this all. Stafford's persecution of the Presbyterians had done its work, and the feeling between them and the Irish Church party had been greatly embittered. Amongst the Catholics, too, the most loyal even of the gentry had been terror-stricken by his confiscations. No one knew how long his property would remain his own, or upon what pretence it might not next be taken from him. Add to these the long-gathering passion of the dispossessed clans in the north, and that floating element of disaffection always ready to stir, and it will be seen that the materials for a rebellion were ready laid, and needed only a spark to ignite them.
As usually happens in rebellions the plans of the more prudent were thwarted by the impetuosity of the more violent spirits. While Ormond, Antrim, and the barons of the Pale were communicating with the king, and considering what were the best steps to take, a plot had been formed without them, and was now upon the point of exploding.
Two men, Rory or Roger O'Moore, one of the O'Moores of Leix, and Sir Phelim O'Neill, a connection of the Tyrones, were its main movers, and were joined by Lord Maguire, a youth of about twenty-two, Hugh McMahon, the Bishop of Clogher, and a few other gentlemen, belonging chiefly to the septs of the north. The plan was a very comprehensive one. They were to seize Dublin Castle, which was known to be weakly defended; get out the arms and powder, and redistribute them to the disbanded troops; at the same time, seize all the forts and garrison towns in the north; turn all the Protestant settlers adrift—though it was at first stipulated without killing or otherwise injuring them—take possession of all the country houses, and make all who declined to join in the rising prisoners.
Never, too, was plot more nearly successful. October the 23rd was the day fixed, and up to the very evening before no hint of what was intended had reached the Lords Justices. By the merest chance, and by an almost inconceivable piece of carelessness on the part of the conspirators, it was divulged to a man called Conolly, a Presbyterian convert, who went straight and reported it to Sir William Parsons. The latter at first declined to believe in it, but, Conolly persisting in his story, steps were taken to strengthen the defences. The guard was doubled; Lord Maguire and Hugh McMahon were arrested at daybreak next morning; the rest, finding that their stroke had missed, fled with their followers.
If this part of the rising failed, the other portions, unhappily, were only too successful. The same day the Protestant settlers in Armagh and Tyrone, unsuspicious of any danger, were suddenly set upon by a horde of armed or half-armed men, dragged out of their houses, stripped to the skin, and driven, naked and defenceless, into the cold. No one dared to take them in, every door was shut in their faces, and though at first no actual massacre seems to have been intended, hundreds perished within the first few days of exposure, or fell dead by the roadside of famine and exhaustion.
Sir Phelim O'Neill—a drunken ruffian for whom even the most patriotic historian finds it hard to say a redeeming word—was here the ringleader. On the same day—the 23rd of October—he got possession of the fort of Charlemont, the strongest position in the new plantation, by inviting himself to dinner with Lord Caulfield, the governor, and suddenly seizing him prisoner. Dungannon, Mountjoy, and several of the other forts, were also surprised and taken. Enniskillen, however, was saved by its governor, Sir William Cole, and Derry, Coleraine, and Carrickfergus, had also time fortunately to shut their gates, and into these as many of the terrified settlers as could reach them crowded.
These were few, however, compared to those who could find no such haven of refuge. Sir Phelim O'Neill, mad with excitement, and intoxicated with the sudden sense of power, hounded on his excited and undisciplined followers to commit every conceivable act of cruelty and atrocity. Disappointed by the failure of the more important part of the rising, and furious at the unsuccess of his attempts to capture the defended towns, he turned like a bloodhound upon those unfortunates who were within his grasp. Old Lord Caulfield was murdered in Sir Phelim's house by Sir Phelim's own foster-brother; Mr. Blaney, the member for Monaghan, was hanged; and some hundreds of the inhabitants of Armagh, who had surrendered on promise of their lives, were massacred in cold blood. As for the more irregular murders committed in the open field upon helpless, terrified creatures, powerless to defend themselves, they are too numerous to relate, and there is happily no purpose to be gained in repeating the harrowing details. The effect produced by the condition of the survivors upon those who saw them arrive in Dublin and elsewhere—spent, worn out, frozen with cold, creeping along on hands and knees, and all but at the point of death—was evidently ineffaceable, and communicates itself vividly to us as we read their descriptions.
The effect of cruelty, too, is to produce more cruelty; of horrors like these to breed more horrors; till the very earth seems covered with the hideous brood, and the most elementary instincts of humanity die away under their poisonous breath. So it was now in Ireland. The atrocities committed upon one side were almost equalled, though not upon so large a scale by the other. One of the first actions performed by a Scotch force, sent over to Carrickfergus by the king, was to sally out like demons and mercilessly slaughter some thirty Irish families living in Island Magee, who had nothing whatever to say to the rising. In Wicklow, too, Sir Charles Coote, sent to suppress a disturbance amongst the O'Byrnes and O'Tooles, perpetrated atrocities the memory of which still survives in the region, and which, for cold-blooded, deliberate horror almost surpass those committed in the north. The spearing by his soldiery of infants which had hardly left the breast he himself openly avowed, and excused upon the plea that if allowed to survive they would grow up to be men and women, and that his object was to extirpate the entire brood.
Here and there a faint gleam falls upon the blackened page. Bedell, the Bishop of Kilmore, who had won the reverence even of his fiercest opponents, was allowed to remain free and undisturbed in the midst of the worst scenes of carnage and outrage; and when a few months later he died, was followed weeping to the grave by many who had been foremost in the work of horror. As to the number of those who actually perished, either from exposure, or by the hands of assassins, it has been so variously estimated that it seems to be all but impossible to arrive at anything like exact statistics. The tale was black enough as it really stood, but it was made blacker still by rumour and exaggeration. The real number of the victims grew to tenfold in the telling. Four thousand murdered swelled to forty thousand; and eight thousand who died of exposure, to eighty thousand. Even now every fresh historian sets the sum total down at a different figure. Take it, however, at the very lowest, it is still a horrible one. Let us shut our eyes and pass on. The history of those days remains in Carlyle's words, "Not a picture, but a huge blot: an indiscriminate blackness, one which the human memory cannot willingly charge itself with!"
THE WATERS SPREAD.
So far the rising had been merely local. It was now to assume larger dimensions. Although shocked at the massacre, and professing an eager desire to march in person to punish its perpetrators, Charles' chief aim was really that terms should be made with the leaders, in order that their troops might be made available for service in England.
In Dublin courts-martial were being rapidly established. All Protestants were given arms; all strangers were ordered to quit the city on pain of death; Sir Francis Willoughby was given the command of the castle; Sir Charles Coote made military governor of the city. Ormond was anxious to take the field in the north before the insurrection spread further, before they had time, as he said, to "file their pikes." This the Lords Justices however refused to allow. They were waiting for orders from the English Parliament, with which they were in close alliance, and were perfectly willing to let the revolt spread so that the area of confiscated lands might be the greater.
None of the three southern provinces had as yet risen, in the Pale the Anglo-Norman families were warm in their expressions of loyalty, and appealed earnestly to the Lords Justices to summon a parliament, and to distribute arms for their protection. This last was refused, and although a parliament assembled it was instantly prorogued, and no measures were taken to provide for the safety of the well-disposed. Early in December of the same year Lords Fingal, Gormanstown, Dunsany, and others of the principal Pale peers, with a large number of the local gentry, met upon horseback, at Swords, in Meath, to discuss their future conduct. The opposition between the king and Parliament was daily growing fiercer. The Lords Justices were the nominees of Parliament; to revolt against them was not, therefore, it was argued, to revolt against the king. Upon December 17th they met again in yet larger numbers, upon the hill of Crofty, where they were met by some of the leaders of the north. Rory O'Moore,—a man of no little address, who was personally clear of the worst stain of the massacres, and who had lately issued a proclamation declaring that he and his followers were in arms, not against Charles, but the Parliament—was the principal speaker on this occasion, and his arguments appear to have decided the waverers. They agreed unanimously to throw in their lot with their co-religionists. From that moment the rising had become a national one. The whole island was soon in arms. Munster followed Leinster, and Connaught shortly afterwards followed Munster. Lords Thomond, Clanricarde, and a few others stood out, but by the end of the year, with the exception of Dublin, Drogheda, Cork, Galway, Enniskillen, Derry, and some few other towns, all Ireland was in the hands of the rebels.
Even then the Lords Justices seem to have but little realized the gravity of the crisis. They occupied their time chiefly in preparing indictments, and cheerfully calculating the fast-growing area of land open to confiscation. In vain Ormond entreated to be allowed to proceed against Sir Phelim O'Neill. They steadily declined to allow him to leave the neighbourhood of Dublin.
The northern rising had by this time nearly worn itself out by its own excesses. Sir Phelim's efforts to take Drogheda were ludicrously unavailing, and he had been forced to take his ragged rabble away without achieving anything. Regarded as an army it had one striking peculiarity—there was not a single military man in it! Sir Phelim himself had been bred to the law; Rory O'Moore was a self-taught insurgent who had never smelt powder. They had no arms, no officers, no discipline, no organization of any kind; what was more, the men were deserting in all directions. In the south there was no one either to take the command. The new levies were willing enough to fight, but there was no one to show them how. The insurrection seemed in a fair way of dying out from sheer want of leadership.
Suddenly reinforcements arrived in two directions almost at the same time. Owen O'Neill—better known as Owen Roe—an honourable and gallant man, who had served with much distinction upon the Continent, landed in Donegal, accompanied by about a hundred French-Irish officers. He instantly took the command of the disorganized and fast-dissolving northern levies; superseded the incompetent Sir Phelim, who from that moment fell away into contempt and impotence; suppressed all disorders, and punished, as far as possible, those who had been foremost in the work of blood, expressing at the same time his utter detestation of the horrors which had hitherto blackened the rising.
Almost at the same moment Colonel Preston, a brother of Lord Gormanstown, and an officer who had also served with credit in the European wars, landed in the south, bringing with him a store of ammunition and field artillery, and between four and five hundred exiled Irish officers. The two forces thereupon began to assume a comparatively organized appearance. Both, however, were so far perfectly independent of each other, and both openly and avowedly hostile to the king.
To effect a union between these northern and southern insurgents a meeting was summoned at Kilkenny in October, 1642, consisting of over two hundred Roman Catholic deputies, nearly all the Irish Roman Catholic bishops, many of the clergy, and some fourteen peers. A council was formed of which Lord Mountgarret was appointed President. Owen Roe O'Neill was at the same time confirmed in the command of the northern forces, and Colonel Preston in that of the southern. The war was declared to be a Catholic one, to be known henceforward as the Catholic Confederacy, and between old Irish and Anglo-Irish there was to be no difference.
Charles's great aim was now to persuade the Confederates to unite with one another in his support. The chief difficulty was a religious one. The Kilkenny Council stood out for the restoration of the Catholic Church in all its original privileges. This, for his own sake—especially in the then excited state of feeling in England—Charles dared not grant, neither would Ormond abet him in doing so. Between the latter and the Catholic peers there was, however, a complete understanding, while between him and the Dublin Lords Justices there was an all but complete breach.
The King decided upon a coup de main. He dismissed the Lords Justices, and ordered several of the more Puritan members of the Privy Council to be tried for treason. The result was a rapid exodus of nearly the whole governing body to England. Early in 1644 Ormond was made Lord-deputy, and a truce of a year was entered into with the Confederates. Only the extravagance of the latter's demands now stood in the way of a complete union.
The passionate excitement which the news of the Ulster massacre had awakened in England seems to have deepened, rather than diminished, as time went on, and the details became more known. Nothing that has happened within living memory can be even approximately compared to it, though, perhaps, those who are old enough to remember the sensations awakened by the news of the Indian Mutiny will be able most nearly to realize the wrath and passionate desire of revenge which filled every Protestant breast. That the circumstances of the case were not taken into consideration was almost inevitable. Looking back with calmer vision—though even now a good deal of fog and misconception seems to prevail upon the subject—we can see that some such outbreak was all but inevitable; might have been, indeed ought to have been, foreseen. A wildly-excitable population driven from the land which they and their fathers had held from time immemorial, confined to a narrow and, for the most part, a worthless tract; seeing others in possession of these "fat lands" which they still regarded as their own—exiled to make room for planters of another race and another faith—what, in the name of sense or reason, was to be expected except what happened? That the very instant protection was withdrawn the hour for retribution would be felt to have struck. The unhappy Protestant colonists were absolutely guiltless in the matter. They were simply the victims, as the earlier proprietors had been the victims before them. The wrongs that had been wrought thirty years earlier by Sir John Davis and the Dublin lawyers had been wiped out in their unoffending blood.
This point is so important to realize, and the whole rising has so often been described as a purely religious and fanatical one, that it is worth dwelling upon it a minute or two longer. It was a rising, unquestionably, of a native Roman Catholic community against an introduced Protestant one, and the religious element, no doubt, counted for something—though it is not easy to say for how much—in the matter. In any case it was the smallest least vital part of the long gathered fury which resulted in that deed of vengeance. The rising was essentially an agrarian one—as almost every Irish rising has been before and since—and the fact that the two rival creeds found themselves face to face was little more than a very unfortunate accident. Could the plantations of James the First's time have been formed exclusively of English or Scotch Roman Catholics, we have no reason, and certainly no right to conclude that the event would have been in any way different, or that the number of those slaughtered would have been reduced by even a single victim.
It was not, however, to be expected that the English Protestants of that day would realize this. It is not always fully realized even yet. The heat awakened by that ruthless slaughter, that merciless driving away of hundreds of innocent women and children, the natural pity for the youth and helplessness of many of the victims has lasted down to our own time. Even to us the outrage is a thousand-fold more vivid than the provocation which led to it. How much more then to the English Protestants of that day? To them it was simply a new massacre of St. Bartholomew; an atrocity which the very amplest and bloodiest vengeance would still come far short of expiating.
It is easy to see that any negotiation with those implicated in a deed which had produced so widespread a feeling of horror was a proceeding fraught with peril to the royal cause. Anger does not discriminate, and to the Protestants of England, North and South, old Irish, and Anglo-Irish, honourable gentlemen of the Pale, and red-handed rebels of Ulster, were all alike guilty. Nor was this Charles's only difficulty. The Confederates declined to abate a jot of their terms. The free exercise of the Catholic religion, an independent Irish parliament, a general pardon, and a reversal of all attainders were amongst their conditions, and they would not take less. These Ormond dared not agree to. Had he done so every Protestant in Ireland, down to his own soldiery, would have gone over in a body to the Parliament. He offered what he dared, but the Irish leaders would listen to no compromise. They knew the imminence of the situation as well as he did, and every fresh royal defeat, the news of which reached Ireland, only made them stand out the firmer.
Charles cut the knot in his own fashion. Tired of Ormond's discretion and Ormond's inconvenient sense of honour, he secretly sent over Edward Somerset, Earl of Glamorgan, to make terms with the Confederates, who, excited at finding themselves the last hope and mainstay of an embarrassed king stood out for higher and higher conditions. The Plantation lands were to be given back: full and free pardon was to be granted to all; Mass was to be said in all the churches. To these terms and everything else required, Glamorgan agreed, and the Confederates, thereupon, agreed to despatch a large force, when called upon to do so, to England, and in the meantime to make sham terms with Ormond, keeping him in the dark as to this secret compact.
It was not long a secret Ormond seems to have had some suspicions of it from the beginning, and an incident which presently occurred made suspicion certainty. The town of Sligo had been captured by the parliamentary troops under Coote, and in October, 1645, an attempt was made to recapture it by a party of Irish under a fighting prelate, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam. In the struggle which ensued the Archbishop was killed, and upon his body was found a copy of the secret treaty which was straightway despatched by Coote to London.
It awakened a sensation hardly less than that with which the news of the massacre itself had been received. It was tie one thing still wanting to damage the royal cause. Charles, it is true, denied it stoutly, and the English royalists tried to accept the denial. The Irish ones knew better. Ormond, whose own honour was untouched, did what he could to save his king's. The Confederates, however, admitted it openly, and Glamorgan, after suffering a short and purely fictitious imprisonment, remained in Ireland to carry out his master's orders.
The already crowded confusion of the scene there had lately been added to by a new actor. Rinucini, Archbishop of Fermo, had been despatched by Pope Innocent X. as his nuncio, and at once threw himself into the struggle. To him it narrowed itself to one point. The moment, he felt, had now come for the re-establishment of the Catholic religion in Ireland, and if possible for its union with one of the Catholic Powers of Europe, and in order to achieve this object, his great aim was to hinder, if possible, anything like a reconciliation between the Catholic insurgents and the king.
Meanwhile, peace had been made in England. Charles was a prisoner, and the final acts of that drama in which he plays so strangely mixed a part were shortly to be enacted. In Ireland there was no pretence at peace. On the contrary, it was only then that hostilities seem really to have been carried on with vigour. At a battle fought upon June 4, 1646, near Benturb, Owen O'Neill had defeated Munroe and his Scottish forces with great slaughter, and from that moment the whole north was in his power. In the south Rinucini was rushing from town to town and pulpit to pulpit, fiercely arousing all the Catholic animosity of the country against both English parties alike. In this he was supported by Owen O'Neill, who, with his victorious army, hastened south to meet him. Together the chief and the legate marched in September of the same year into Kilkenny; took possession of the Council Chamber; flung the Moderates assembled there, including old Lord Mountgarret and the rest of the Council, into prison. Ormond was in Dublin, helpless to meet this new combination. No orders came from England. The royal cause seemed to be hopelessly lost. All Ireland was swarming with the troops of the insurgents. Lord Inchiquin, who had for a while declared for the king, had now gone over to the Parliament. O'Neill and the legate's army was daily gathering strength. It needed but a little more energy on their part and Dublin itself, with all its helpless crowd of fugitives, must fall into their hands.
In this dilemma Ormond came to a resolution. To throw in his lot with Rinucini and the rebels of the north, stained as the latter were in his eyes with innocent blood, was impossible. Even had they been disposed to combine heartily with him for the royal cause he could hardly have done so; as it was there was barely a pretence of any such intention. If Charles could effect his escape and would put himself in their hands, then, indeed, they said they would support him. In that case, however, it would have been as king of Ireland rather than England. Ormond could not and would not stoop to any such negotiations. He wrote to the English Parliament offering to surrender Dublin into their hands, and to leave the country. The offer was accepted, and a month later he had relinquished the impossible post, and joined the other escaped Royalists in France.
THE CONFUSION DEEPENS.
The indescribable confusion of aims and parties in Ireland begins at this point to take even more rapid and perplexing turns. That "poor panther Inchiquin," as one of his opponents derisively calls him, who had already made one bound from king to Parliament, now, upon some fresh offence, bounded back again, and made overtures to Preston and the Moderates. Rinucini, whose only policy was to hinder any union between the Catholics and Royalists, thereupon fled to O'Neill, and together they opposed the Moderates tooth and nail. The latter were now seriously anxious to make terms with the Royalists. The king's trial was beginning, and his peril served to consolidate all but the most extreme. Ormond himself returned late in 1648 from France; Prince Rupert arrived early the following year with a small fleet of ships off Kinsale, and every day brought crowds of loyal gentlemen to Ireland as to a final vantage ground upon which to try a last desperate throw for the royal cause.
In Dublin the command, upon Ormond's surrender, had been given by the Parliament to Colonel Michael Jones, a Puritan officer, who had greatly distinguished himself in the late war. The almost ludicrously involved state into which things had got is seen by the fact that Jones, though himself the leader of the Parliamentary forces, struck up at this juncture a temporary alliance with O'Neill, and instructed Monk who was in the north, to support him. The king's death brought all the Royalists, and most of the more moderate rebels into line at last. Rinucini, feeling that whatever happened, his project of a separate Ireland had become impossible, fled to Italy. Even O'Neill, finding that his alliance with Jones was not prospering, and that the stricter Puritans declined with horror the bare idea of holding any communication with him or his forces, gave in his adhesion. Old Irish and Anglo-Irish, Protestant and Catholic, North and South, all at last were in arms for the king.
The struggle had thus narrowed itself. It was now practically between Dublin, commanded by Jones, the Parliamentary general, upon one side, and all Ireland under Ormond and the now united Confederates on the other. Cromwell, it was known, was preparing for a descent upon Ireland, and had issued liberal offers of the forfeited Irish lands to all who would aid him in the enterprise. He had first, however, to land, and there was nowhere that he could do so excepting at Dublin or Londonderry. All the efforts therefore of the Royalists were concentrated upon taking the capital before it became the starting-point of a new campaign. Marching hastily from Kilkenny, Ormond established himself at a place called Baggotrath, near Rathmines, and close to the walls of the town. Two nights after his arrival he sent forward a body of men under Colonel Purcell to try and effect a surprise. Jones, however, was on the alert; drove Purcell back, and, following him with all the men at his command, fell upon Ormond's camp, where no proper watch was being kept. The surprise was thus completely reversed. Six thousand of the confederate troops were killed or forced to surrender, and Ormond, with the remainder, had to fall back upon Kilkenny.
The battle of Baggotrath does not figure amongst the more famous battles of this period, but it was certainly the turning-point of the Irish campaign. With his crippled forces, Ormond was unable again to take the field, and Jones was therefore left in undisputed possession of Dublin. A week later, in August, 1649, Cromwell had landed there with 12,000 troops at his back.
CROMWELL IN IRELAND.
Cromwell had hardly set foot upon Irish soil before he took complete control of the situation. The enterprise, in his own eyes and in those of many who accompanied him, wore all the sacred hue of a crusade. "We are come," he announced, solemnly, upon his arrival in Dublin, "to ask an account of the innocent blood that hath been shed, and to endeavour to bring to an account all who, by appearing in arms, shall justify the same."
Three thousand troops, the flower of the English cavaliers, with some of the Royalists of the Pale—none of whom, it may be said, had anything to say to the Ulster massacres—had been hastily thrown by Ormond into Drogheda, under Sir Arthur Ashton, a gallant Royalist officer; and to Drogheda, accordingly in September Cromwell marched. Summoned to yield, the garrison refused. They were attacked, and fought desperately, driving back their assailants at the first assault. At the second, a breach was made in the walls, and Ashton and his force were driven into the citadel. "Being thus entered," Cromwell's despatch to the Parliament runs, "we refused them quarter. I believe we put to the sword the whole number of the defendents. I do not think thirty escaped. Those that did are in safe custody for the Barbadoes.... I wish," he adds, a little later in the same despatch, "all honest hearts may give the glory of this to God alone."