The Story Of Ireland
by Emily Lawless
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

From Drogheda, the Lord-General turned south to Wexford. Here an equally energetic defence was followed by an equally successful assault, and this also by a similar drama of slaughter. "There was lost of the enemy," he himself writes, "not many less than two thousand; and, I believe, not twenty of yours from first to last." The soldiers, he goes on to say, "got a very good booty in this place." Of "the former inhabitants ... most of them are run away, and many of them killed in this service. It were to be wished that some honest people would come and plant here[12]."

[12] "Cromwell's Letters and Speeches"—Carlyle.

The grim candour of these despatches needs no comment. We see the whole situation with that vividness which only a relation at first hand ever gives. The effect of these two examples was instantaneous. Most of the other towns surrendered upon the first summons. The Irish army fell back in all directions. An attempt was made to save Kilkenny, but after a week's defence it was surrendered. The same thing happened at Clonmel, and within a few months of his arrival nearly every strong place, except Waterford and Limerick, were in the Lord-General's hands.

That Cromwell, from his own point of view, was justified in these proceedings, and that he held himself—even when slaughtering English Royalists in revenge for the acts of Irish rebels—a divinely-appointed agent sent to execute justice upon the ungodly, there can be little doubt. As regards ordinary justice his conduct was exemplary. Unlike most of the armies that had from time to time ravaged Ireland, he allowed no disorder. His soldiers were forbidden by proclamation to plunder, and were hanged, "in ropes of authentic hemp," as Carlyle remarks, when they did so. The merciless slaughter of two entire garrisons is a hideous deed, and a deed, too, which appeals with peculiar force to the popular imagination. As compared to many acts perpetrated from time to time in Ireland, it seems, if one examines it coolly, to fade into comparative whiteness, and may certainly be paralleled elsewhere. A far deeper and more ineffaceable stain rests—as will be seen in another chapter—upon Cromwell's rule in Ireland; one, moreover, not so readily justified by custom or any grim necessities of warfare.

The final steps by which the struggle was crushed out were comparatively tedious. Cromwell's men were attacked by that "country sickness" which seems at that time to have been inseparable from Irish campaigns. Writing from Ross in November, he says, "I scarce know one officer amongst us who has not been sick." His own presence, too, was urgently required in England, so that he was forced before long to set sail, leaving the completion of the campaign in the hands of others.

In the Royalist camp, the state of affairs was meanwhile absolutely desperate. The Munster colonists had gone over almost to a man to the enemy. The "panther Inchiquin" had taken another bound in the same direction. The quarrels between Ormond and the old Irish party had grown bitterer than ever The hatred of the extreme Catholic party towards him appears to have been if anything rather deeper than their hatred to Cromwell, and all the recent disasters were charged by them to his want of generalship. The young king had been announced at one moment to be upon the point of arriving in person in Ireland. "One must go and die there, for it is shameful to live elsewhere!" he is reported to have cried, with a depth of feeling very unlike his usual utterances. He got as far as Jersey, but there paused. Ireland under Cromwell's rule was not exactly a pleasant royal residence, and, on the whole, he appears to have thought it wiser to go no further.

His signature, a year later, of the Covenant, in return for the Scotch allegiance, brought about a final collapse of the always thinly cemented pact in Ireland. The old Catholic party thereupon broke wholly away from Ormond, and after a short struggle he was again driven into exile. From this time forward, there was no longer a royal party of any sort left in the country.

Under Hugh O'Neill, a cousin of Owen Roe, who—fortunately, perhaps, for himself—had died shortly after Cromwell's arrival, the struggle was carried on for some time longer. As in later times, Limerick was one of the last places to yield. Despite the evident hopelessness of the struggle, Hugh O'Neill and his half-starved men held it with a courage which awoke admiration even amongst the Cromwellians. When it was surrendered the Irish officers received permission to take service abroad. Galway, with a few other towns and castles, which still held out, now surrendered. The eight years' civil war was at last over, and nothing remained for the victors to do but to stamp out the last sparks, and call upon the survivors to pay the forfeit.



The total loss of life during-those weary eight years of war and anarchy has been estimated at no less than six hundred thousand lives, and there seems to be no reason to think that these figures are exaggerated. Whereas in 1641 the population of Ireland was nearly one and a half millions, at the end of 1649 it was considerably under one. More than a third, therefore, of the entire population had disappeared bodily.

Nor were the survivors left in peace to bind up their wounds and mourn their slain. In England, once the fighting was over, and the swords sheathed, there was little desire to carry the punishment further; and the vanquished were, for the most part, able to retire in more or less melancholy comfort to their homes. In Ireland the reverse was the case. There the struggle had been complicated by a bitterness unknown elsewhere, and had aroused a keen and determined thirst for vengeance, one which the cessation of hostilities only seemed to stimulate into greater vehemence.

The effect, especially amongst the Puritans, of the Ulster massacres, far from dying out, had grown fiercer and bitterer with every year. Now that the struggle was over, that Ireland lay like an inert thing in the hands of her victors, her punishment, it was resolved, should begin. Had that punishment fallen only on the heads of those who could be proved to have had any complicity in that deed of blood there would not have been a word to say. Sir Phelim O'Neill was dragged from the obscurity to which ever since the coming of Owen Roe he had been consigned, tried in Dublin, and hanged—with little regret even from his own side. Lord Mayo, who had taken a prominent part in the rising, and was held responsible for a horrible massacre perpetrated at Shrule Bridge, near Tuam, was shot in Connaught. Lord Muskerry was tried, and honourably acquitted. Other trials took place, chiefly by court-martial, and though some of these appear to have been unduly pressed, on the whole, considering the state of feelings that had been awakened, it may be allowed that so far stern justice had not outstepped her province.

It was very different with what was to follow. An enormous scheme of eviction had been planned by Cromwell which was to include all the native and nearly all the Anglo-Irish inhabitants of Ireland, with the exception of the humblest tillers of the soil, who were reserved as serfs or servants. This was a scheme of nothing less than the transportation of all the existing Catholic landowners of Ireland, who, at a certain date, were ordered to quit their homes, and depart in a body into Connaught, there to inhabit a narrow desolate tract, between the Shannon and the sea, destitute, for the most part, of houses or any accommodation for their reception; where they were to be debarred from entering any walled town, and where a cordon of soldiers was to be stationed to prevent their return. May 1, 1654, was the date fixed for this national exodus, and all who after that date were found east of the appointed line were to suffer the penalty of death.

The dismay awakened when the magnitude of this scheme burst upon the unhappy country may easily be conceived. Delicate ladies, high-born men and women, little children, the old, the sick, the suffering—all were included in this common disaster; all were to share alike in this vast and universal sentence of banishment. Resistance, too, was hopeless. Everything that could be done in the way of resistance had already been done, and the result was visible. The Irish Parliament had ceased to exist. A certain number of its Protestant members had been transferred by Cromwell to the English one,—thus anticipating the Union that was to come a century and a half later. The whole government of the country was at present centred in a board of commissioners, who sat in Dublin, and whose direct interest it was to hasten the exodus as much as possible.

For the new owners, who were to supplant those about to be ejected, were ready and waiting to step into their places. The Cromwellian soldiers who had served in the war had all received promises of grants of land, and their pay, now several years due, was also to be paid to them in the same coin. The intention was, that they were to be marched down regiment by regiment, and company by company, to ground already chosen for them by lot, then and there disbanded, and put into possession. A vast Protestant military colony was thus to be established over the whole of the eastern provinces. In addition to these an immense number of English speculators had advanced money upon Irish lands, and were now eagerly waiting to receive their equivalent.

As the day drew nearer, there arose all over Ireland a wild plea for time, for a little breathing time before being driven into exile. The first summons had gone out in the autumn, and had been proclaimed by beat of drum and blast of trumpet all over the country, and as the 1st of May began to approach the plea grew more and more urgent. So evident was the need for delay that some, even among the Parliamentarians, were moved to pity, and urged that a little more time might be granted. The command to "root out the heathen" was felt to be imperative, but even the heathen might be allowed a little time to collect his goods, and to provide some sort of a roof to shelter him in this new and forlorn home to which he was being sent.

It happened, too, that some of the first batches of exiles were ordered into North Clare, to a district known as the Burren, whose peculiarity is that what little soil is to be found there has collected into rifts below the surface, or accumulated into pockets of earth at the feet of the hills, leaving the rest of the surface sheer rock, the very streams, whose edges would otherwise be green, being mostly carried underground. The general appearance of the region has been vividly described by one of the commissioners engaged in carrying out this very act of transplantation, who, writing back to Dublin for further instructions, informs his superiors that the region in question did not possess "water enough to drown a man, trees enough to hang a man, or earth enough to bury a man." It may be conceived what an effect such a region, so described, must have had upon men fresh from the fertile and flourishing pasture-lands of Meath and Kildare. Many turned resolutely back, preferring rather to die than to attempt life under such new and hopeless conditions, and stern examples had to be made before the unwilling emigrants were at last fairly got underweigh.

Yet even such exile as this was better than the lot of some. The wives and families of the Irish officers and soldiers who had been allowed to go into foreign service, had, of necessity, been left behind, and a considerable number of these, the Government now proceeded to ship in batches to the West Indies to be sold as slaves. Several thousand women, ladies and others, were thus seized and sold by dealers, often without any individual warrant, and it was not until after the accidental seizure of some of the wives of the Cromwellian soldiers that the traffic was put under regulations. Cromwell's greatness needs no defence, but the slaughter of the garrisons of Drogheda and Wexford, reckoned amongst the worst blemishes upon that greatness, pales beside such an act as this; one which would show murkily even upon the blackened record of an Alva or a Pizarro.

Slowly the long trains of exiles began now to pour out in all directions. Herds of cattle, horses laden with furniture, with food, with all the everyday necessities of such a multitude accompanied them. All across that wide limestone plain, which covers the centre of Ireland, innumerable family groups were to be seen slowly streaming west. There were few roads, and those few very bad. Hardly a wheeled conveyance of any sort existed in the country. Those who were too weak to walk or to ride had to be carried on men's backs or in horse litters. The confusion, the misery, the cold, the wretchedness may be conceived, and always behind, urging them on, rebuking the loiterers, came the armed escort sent to drive them into exile—Puritan seraphs, with drawn swords, set to see that none returned whence they came!

Nor was there even any marked satisfaction amongst those who inherited the lands and houses thus left vacant. Many of the private soldiers who had received bonds or debentures for their share of the land, had parted with them long since, either to their own officers or to the trafficers in such bonds, who had sprang up by hundreds, and who obtained them from the needy soldiers often for a mere trifle. Sharp-sighted speculators like Dr. Petty, by whom the well-known Survey of Ireland was made, acquired immense tracts of land at little or no outlay. Of those soldiers, too, who did receive grants of land many left after a while. Others, despite all regulations to the contrary, married Irish wives, and their children in the next generation were found to have not only become Roman Catholics, but to be actually unable to speak a word of English. Many, too, of the dispossessed proprietors, the younger ones especially, continued to hang about, and either harassed the new owners and stole their goods, or made friends with them, and managed after a while to slip back upon some excuse into their old homes. No sternness of the Puritan leaven availed to hinder the new settlers from being absorbed into the country, as other and earlier settlers had been absorbed before them; marrying its daughters, adopting its ways, and becoming themselves in time Irishmen. The bitter memory of that vast and wholesale act of eviction has remained, but the good which it was hoped would spring from it faded away almost within a generation.



Cromwell was now dead, and after a very short attempt at government his son Richard had relinquished the reins and retired into private life. Henry Cromwell, who had for several years been Lord-Lieutenant in Ireland, and had won no little liking by his mild and equable rule, also honourably resigned at the same time, and left. Coote, on the other hand, and Broghill, both of whom had acquired immense estates under the Cromwellian rule, were amongst the foremost to hail the Restoration, and to secure their own interests by being eager to welcome the king. Such secular vicars of Bray were not likely to suffer whatever king or government came uppermost.

To the exiled proprietors, who had fought for that king's father and for himself, it naturally seemed that the time had come for their sufferings and exile to end. Now that the king had been restored to his own again, they who had been punished for his sake should also, they thought, in fairness, again enjoy what had been theirs before the war.

Charles's position, it must be acknowledged, was a very difficult one. Late found as it was, the loyalty of Coote, Broghill, and others of their stamp had been eminently convenient, as without it the army in Ireland would hardly have returned to its allegiance. To deprive them of what they had acquired was felt to be out of the question, and the same argument applied, with no little force, to many of the other newly-made proprietors. The feeling, too, against the Irish Catholics was far from having died out in England, and anything like a wholesale ejection of the new Protestant settlers for their benefit, would have been very badly received there.

On the other hand, decency and the commonest sense of honour required that something should be done. Ormond, who had been made a duke, was at once reinstated in his own lands, with a handsome additional slice as a recompense for his services. A certain number of other great proprietors and lords of the Pale, a list of whom was rather capriciously made out, were also immediately reinstated. For the rest, more tardy and less satisfactory justice was to be meted.

A Court of Claims was set up in Dublin to try the cases of those who claimed, during the late war, to have been upon the king's side. Those who could prove their entire innocence of the original rebellion were to be at once reinstated; those, on the other hand, who were in arms before '49, or who had been at any time joined to the party of Rinucini, or had held any correspondence, even accidentally, with that party, were to be excluded, and if they had received lands in Connaught might stay there and be thankful.

A wearisome period of endless dispute, chicanery, and wrangling followed this decision. As the soldiers and adventurers were only to be dispossessed in case of a sufficiency of reserved lands being found to compensate them, it followed that the fewer of the original proprietors that could prove their loyalty the better for the Government. At the first sitting of the Court of Claims the vast majority of those whose cases were tried were able thus to prove their innocence; and as all these had a claim to be reinstated, great alarm was felt, and a clamour of indignation arose from the new proprietors, at which the Government, taking alarm, made short work of many of the remaining claims, whereupon a fresh, and certainly not less reasonable, clamour was raised upon the other side.

The end of the long-drawn struggle may be stated in a few words. The soldiers, adventures, and debenture holders agreed at length to accept two-thirds of their land, and to give up the other third, and on this arrangement, by slow degrees, the country settled down. As a net result of the whole settlement we find that, whereas before '41 the Irish Roman Catholics had held two-thirds of the good land and all the waste, after the Restoration they held only one-third in all, and this, too, after more than two millions of acres previously forfeited had been restored to them.



No class of the community suffered more severely from the effects of the Restoration than the Presbyterians of Ulster. The church party which had returned to Ireland upon the crest of the new wave signalized its return by a violent outburst of intolerance directed not so much against the Papists as the Nonconformists. Of the 300,000 Protestants, which was roughly speaking the number calculated to be at that time in Ireland, fully a third were Presbyterians, another 100,000 being made up of Puritans and other Nonconformists, leaving only one-third Churchmen. Against the two former, but especially against the Presbyterians, the terrors of the law were now put in force. A new Act of Uniformity was passed, and armed with this, the bishops with Bramhall, the Primate, at their head, insisted upon an acceptance of the Prayer-book being enforced upon all who were permitted to hold any benefice, or to teach or preach in any church or public place.

The result was that the Presbyterians were driven away in crowds from Ireland. Out of seventy ministers in Ulster, only eight accepted the terms and were ordained; all the remainder were expelled, and their flocks in many cases elected to follow them into exile.

This persecution was the more monstrous that no hint or pretext of disloyalty was urged against them. They had been planted in the country as a defence and breakwater against the Roman Catholics, and now the same intolerance which had, in a great measure forced the latter to rebel, was in its turn being brought to bear upon them.

The Roman Catholics, on the other hand, now found themselves indulged to a degree that they had not experienced for nearly a century. The penal laws at the special instance of the king were suspended in their favour. Many of the priests returned, and were allowed to establish themselves in their old churches. They could not do so, however, without violent alarm being awakened upon the other side. The Irish Protestants remonstrated angrily, and their indignation found a vehement echo in England. The '41 massacre was still as fresh in every Protestant's mind as if it had happened only the year before, and suspicion of Rome was a passion ready at any moment to rise to frenzy.

The heir to the Crown was a Papist, and Charles was himself strongly, and not unreasonably suspected of being secretly one also. His alliance with Louis XIV" was justifiably regarded with the utmost suspicion and dislike by all his Protestant subjects. It only wanted a spark to set this mass of smouldering irritation and suspicion into a flame.

That spark was afforded by the murder of Sir Edmondbury Godfrey, under circumstances which were at first believed to point to its having been committed by Papists. A crowd of perjured witnesses, with Titus Gates at their head, sprang like evil birds of the night into existence, ready to swear away the lives of any number of innocent men. The panic flew across the Channel. Irish Roman Catholics of all classes and ages were arrested and flung into prison. Priests who had ventured to return were ordered to quit the country at once. Men of stainless honour, whose only crime was their faith, were on no provocation seized and subjected to the most ignominious treatment, and in several instances put to death.

The case of Dr. Plunkett, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, a man whom even Protestants regarded with the utmost reverence, is the most notorious of these. Upon a ridiculous charge of being implicated in a wholly mythical French descent, he was dragged over to London, summarily sentenced, convicted, and hung, drawn, and quartered. Although the most eminent, he was only one, however, of the victims of this most insane of panics. Reason seemed to have been utterly lost. Blood and blood alone could satisfy the popular craving, and victim after victim was hurried, innocent but unpitied, to his doom.

At last the tide stayed. First slackened, then suddenly—in Ireland at least—reversed itself, and ran almost as recklessly and as violently as ever, only in the opposite direction. In 1685 Charles died, and James now king, resolved with hardly an attempt at further concealment to carry out his own long-cherished plans. From the beginning of his reign his private determination seems to have been to make Ireland a stronghold and refuge for his Roman Catholic subjects, in order that by their aid he might make himself independent both of England and the Parliament, and so carry out that despotism upon which his whole narrow, obstinate soul was inflexibly set.

His first step was to recall the Duke of Ormond, whom Charles had left as Viceroy, and to appoint in his place two Lords Justices, Lord Granard and the Primate Boyle, who were likely, he believed, to be more malleable. All tests were to be immediately done away with. Catholicism was no longer to be a disqualification for office, and Roman Catholics were to be appointed as judges. A more important change still, the army was to be entirely remodelled; Protestant officers were to be summarily dismissed, and Roman Catholic ones as summarily put in their places.

Such sweeping changes could not, even James found, be carried out all at once. The Lords Justices were next dismissed, and his own brother-in-law, Lord Clarendon, sent over as Lord-Lieutenant. He in turn proving too timid, or too constitutional, his place was before long filled by Richard Talbot, a fervent Catholic, but a man of indifferent public honour and more than indifferent private character. Talbot was created Earl of Tyrconnel, and arrived in 1686 avowedly to carry out the new policy.

From this point the stream ran fast and strong. The recent innovations, especially the re-organization of the army, had naturally caused immense alarm amongst the whole Protestant colony. A petition drawn out by the former proprietors and forwarded to the king against the Act of Settlement had made them tremble also for their estates, and now this new appointment came to put a climax to their dismay. What might not be expected they asked in terror, under a man so unscrupulous and so bigoted, with an army, too, composed mainly of Roman Catholics at his back to enforce his orders? The departure of Clarendon was thus the signal for a new Protestant exodus. Wild reports of a general massacre, one which was to surpass the massacre of '41, flew through the land. Terrified people flocked to the sea-coast and embarked in any boat they could find for England. Those that remained behind drew themselves together for their own defence within barricaded houses, and in the towns in the north, especially in Enniskillen and Londonderry, the Protestant inhabitants closed their gates and made ready to withstand a siege.

Meanwhile in Dublin sentences of outlawry were fast being reversed, and the estates of the Protestants being restored in all directions to their former proprietors. The charters of the corporate towns were next revoked, and new (by preference Catholic) aldermen and mayors appointed by the viceroy. All Protestants were ordered to give up their arms by a certain day, and to those who did not, "their lives and goods," it was announced, "should be at the mercy and discretion of the soldiers." These soldiers, now almost exclusively Catholic, lived at free quarters upon the farms and estates of the Protestants. "Tories," lately out "upon their keeping," with prices upon their heads, were now officers in the king's service. The property of Protestants was seized all over the country, their houses taken possession of, their sheep and cattle slaughtered by hundreds of thousands. All who could manage to escape made for the north, where the best Protestant manhood of the country had now gathered together, and was standing resolutely in an attitude of self-defence.

In England, William of Orange had meanwhile landed in Torbay, and James had fled precipitately to France. Tyrconnel, who seems to have been unprepared for this event, hesitated at first, undecided what to do or how matters would eventually shape themselves. He even wrote to William, professing to be rather favourable than otherwise to his cause, a profession which the king, who was as yet anything but firm in his own seat, seems to have listened to with some belief, and General Richard Hamilton was sent over by him to negotiate matters with the viceroy.

The passions awakened on both sides were far too strong however, for any such temporizing. Louis XIV. had received James upon his flight with high honour, and his return to the throne was believed by his own adherents to be imminent. In England, especially in London, the excitement against the Irish Catholics was prodigious, and had been increased by the crowd of Protestant refugees who had recently poured in. The Irish regiments brought to England by James had been insultingly disbanded, and their officers put under arrest. "Lilibullero," the anti-Catholic street song, was sung by thousands of excited lips. Lord Jefferies, who embodied in his own person all that the popular hatred most detested in his master's rule, had been dragged to prison amid the threatening howls of the populace. The "Irish night," during which—though without the faintest shadow of reason—the London citizens had fully believed an Irish mob to be in the act of marching upon the town, with the set purpose of massacring every Protestant man, woman, and child in it, had worked both town and nation to the highest possible pitch of excitement. In Ireland too the stream had gone too far and too fast to turn back. The minority and the majority stood facing one another like a pair of pugilists. The Protestants, whose property had been either seized or wasted, were fast concentrating themselves behind Lough Foyle. Thither Tyrconnel sent Richard Hamilton—who, deserting William, had thrown himself upon the other side—with orders to reduce Londonderry before aid could arrive from England. To James himself Tyrconnel wrote, urging him to start for Ireland without delay. Though unprepared at present to furnish soldiers, Louis was munificent in other respects. A fleet of fourteen men-of-war, with nine smaller vessels, was provided. Arms, ammunition, and money without stint were placed at the command of the exile, and a hundred French officers with the Count d'Avaux, one of the king's most trusted officials, as envoy, were sent to accompany the expedition. On March 12, 1689, James II. landed at Kinsale.



James's appearance in Ireland was hailed with a little deserved burst of enthusiasm. As a king, as a Catholic, and as a man in deep misfortune, he had a triple claim upon the kindly feeling of a race never slow to respond to such appeals. All along the road from Cork to Dublin the people ran out out in crowds to greet him with tears, blessings, and cries of welcome. Women thronged the banks along the roadsides, and held up their children to see him go by. Flowers—as to the poor quality of which it was hardly worth Lord Macaulay's while, by the way, to speak so disparagingly—were offered for his acceptance, or strewn under his feet. Every mark of devotion which a desperately poor country could show was shown without stint. Accompanied by the French ambassador, amid a group of English exiles, and advancing under a waving roof of flags and festoons, hastily improvised in his honour, the least worthy of the Stuarts arrived in Dublin, and took up his residence at the castle.

His sojourn there was certainly no royal bed of roses! The dissensions between his English and his Irish followers were not only deep, but ineffaceable. By each the situation was regarded solely from the standpoint of his own country. Was James to remain in Ireland and to be an Irish king? or was he merely to use Ireland as a stepping-stone to England? Between two such utterly diverse views no point of union was discoverable.

In the interests of his own master, D'Avaux, the French envoy, strongly supported Tyrconnel and the Irish leaders. The game of France was less to replace James on the English throne than to make of Ireland a permanent thorn in the side of England. With this view he urged James to remain in Dublin, where he would necessarily be more under the direct control of the parliament. James, however declined this advice, and persisted in going north, where he would be within a few hours' sail of Great Britain. Once Londonderry had fallen (and it was agreed upon all hands that Londonderry could not hold out much longer), he could at any moment cross to Scotland, where it was believed that his friends would at once rally around him.

But Londonderry showed no symptoms of yielding. In April, 1689, James appeared before its walls, believing that he had only to do so to receive its submission. He soon found his mistake. Lundy, its governor, was ready indeed to surrender it into his hands, but the townsfolk declined the bargain, and shut their gates resolutely in the king's face. Lundy escaped for his life over the walls, and James, in disgust, returned to Dublin, leaving the conduct of the siege in the hands of Richard Hamilton, who was afterwards superseded in the command by De Rosen, a Muscovite in the pay of France, who prosecuted it with a barbarity unknown to the annals of civilized warfare.

The tale of that heroic defence has been so told that it need assuredly never, while the world lasts, be told again. Suffice it then that despite the falseness of its governor, the weakness of its walls, the lack of any military training on the part of its defenders; despite the treacherous dismissal of the first ships sent to its assistance; despite the long agony of seeing other ships containing provisions hanging inertly at the mouth of the bay; despite shot and shell without, and famine in its most grisly forms within—despite all this the little garrison held gallantly on to the "last ounce of horse-flesh and the last pinch of corn." At length, upon the 105th day of the siege, three ships, under Kirke's command, broke through the boom in the channel, and brought their freights in safety to the starved and ghastly defenders, gathered like ghosts, rather than human beings, upon the quay. Three days later De Rosen broke up his camp, and moved off in disgust, leaving behind him the little city, exhausted but triumphant, having saved the honour of its walls, and won itself imperishable fame.

While all this was going on in the north, James, in Dublin, had been busily employed in deluging the country with base money to supply his own necessities, with the natural result of ruining all who were forced to accept it. At the same time the Parliament under his nominal superintendence had settled down to the congenial task of reversing most of the earlier Acts, and putting everything upon an entirely new footing. It was a Parliament composed, as was natural, almost wholly of Roman Catholics, only six Protestants having been returned. Its first task was to repeal Poynings Act, the Act, which, it will be remembered, was passed in Henry VII.'s reign, binding it independence upon the English Parliament. Its next to establish freedom of worship, giving the Roman Catholic tithes to the priests. So far no objections could reasonably be raised. Next, however, followed the question of forfeitures. The hated Act of Settlement, upon which all property in Ireland was now based, was set aside, and it was setted that all lands should revert to their former proprietors. Then followed the punishment of the political adversaries. "The hugest Bill of attainder," says Mr. Green, "the world has seen," was hastily drawn up and passed. By its provisions over 2,240 persons were attained, and everything that they possessed vested in the king. Many so attained were either women or young children, indeed a large proportion of the names seem to have been inserted at haphazard or from some merely momentary feeling of anger or vindictiveness.

These Acts were perhaps only what is called natural, but it must be owned that they were also terribly unfortunate. Up to that date those directly penal laws against Catholics which afterwards disfigured the statute book were practically unknown. A Catholic could sit in either Irish House of Parliament; he could inherit lands, and bequeath them to whom he would; he could educate his children how and where he liked. The terror planted in the breast of the Protestant colony by that inoperative piece of legislation found its voice in the equally violent, but unfortunately not equally inoperative, passed Acts by them in the hour of their triumph. Acts, by means of which it was fondly hoped that their enemies would be thrown into such a position of dependence and humiliation that they could never again rise up to be a peril.

In the north a brilliant little victory had meanwhile been won by the Enniskillen troops under Colonel Wolseley, at Newtown Butler, where they attacked a much larger force of the enemy and defeated them, killing a large number and driving the rest back in confusion. William was still detained in England, but had despatched the Duke of Schomberg with a considerable force. Schomberg's men, were mostly raw recruits, and the climate tried them severely. He arrived in the autumn, but not venturing to take the field, established himself at Dundalk, where his men misbehaved and all but mutinied, and where, a pestilence shortly afterwards breaking out, swept them away in multitudes.

On both sides, indeed, the disorganization of the armies was great. Fresh reinforcements had arrived for James, under the Comte de Lauzan, in return for which an equal number of Irish soldiers under Colonel Macarthy had been drafted for service to France. In June, 1690, William himself landed at Carrickfergus with an army of 35,000 men, composed of nearly every nationality in Europe—Swedes, Dutch, Swiss, Batavians, French Huguenots, Finns, with about 15,000 English soldiers. He came up to James's army upon the banks of the Boyne, about twenty miles from Dublin, and here it was that the turning battle of the campaign was fought.

This battle James watched at a discreet distance from the hill of Donore. The Irish foot, upon whom the brunt of the action fell, were untrained, indifferently armed, and had never before been in action; their opponents were veterans trained in European wars. They were driven back, fled, and a considerable number of them slaughtered. The Irish cavalry stood firm, but their valour was powerless to turn the day. Schomberg was killed, but William remained absolute and undisputed master of the field.

At the first shock of reverse James flew down the hill and betook himself to Dublin. He arrived there foaming and almost convulsed with rage. "Madam, your countrymen have run away!" was his gracious address to Lady Tyrconnel. "If they have, sire, your Majesty seems to have won the race," was that lady's ready retort.

The king's flight was without reason or measure. As before in England, so now, he seemed to pass in a moment from insane self-confidence to an equally insane panic. He fled south, ordering the bridges to be broken down behind him; took boat at Waterford, and never rested until he found himself once more safe upon French soil.

His flight at least left the field clear for better men. Patrick Sarsfield now took the principal command, and prosecuted the campaign with a vigour of which it had hitherto shown no symptoms. Sarsfield is the one redeeming figure upon the Jacobite side. His gallant presence sheds a ray of chivalric light upon this otherwise gloomiest and least attractive of campaigns. He could not turn defeat to victory, but he could, and did succeed in snatching honour out of that pit into which the other leaders, and especially his master, had let it drop. Brave, honourable, upright, "a gentleman of eminent merit," is praise which even those least inclined to favour his side of the quarrel bestow upon him without stint.

William, now established in Dublin, issued a proclamation offering full and free pardon to all who would lay down their arms. He was genuinely anxious to avoid pushing the struggle to the bitter end, and to hinder further bloodshed. Though deserted by their king, and fresh from overwhelming defeat, the Irish troops showed no disposition, however, of yielding. Athlone, Galway, Cork, Kinsale, and Limerick still held out, and behind the walls of the last named the remains of James's broken army was now chiefly collected. Those walls, however, were miserably weak, and the French generals utterly scouted the possibility of their being held. Tyrconnel, too, advised a capitulation, but Sarsfield insisted upon holding the town, and the Irish soldiers—burning to wipe out the shame of the Boyne—supported him like one man. William was known, to be moving south to the attack, and accordingly Lauzan and Tyrconnel, with the rest of the French troops moved hastily away to Galway, leaving Sarsfield to defend Limerick as he could.

They had hardly left before William's army appeared in sight with the king himself at their head, and drew up before the walls. A formidable siege train, sent after him from Dublin, was to follow in a day or two. Had it arrived it would have finished the siege at once. Sarsfield accordingly slipped out of the town under cover of night, fell upon it while it was on its way through the Silvermine Hills in Tipperary, killed some sixty of the men who were in charge, and filling the cannons with powder, burst them with an explosion which startled the country round for miles, and the roar of which is said to have reached William in his camp before Limerick.

This brilliant little feat delayed the siege. Nevertheless it was pressed on with great vigour. Two more guns were obtained, several of the outworks carried, and a breach began to show in the ramparts. It was now autumn, the rainy season was setting in, and William's presence was urgently wanted in England. After another violent attempt, therefore, to take the town, which was resisted with the most desperate valour, the very women joining in the fight, and remaining under the hottest fire, the besiegers drew off, and William shortly afterwards sailed for England, leaving the command in the hands of Ginkel, the ablest of his Dutch generals.

This first siege of Limerick is in many respects a very remarkable one, and bears a close analogy to the yet more famous siege of Londonderry. To give the parallel in Lord Macaulay's words—"The southern city," he says "was, like the northern city, the last asylum of a Church and of a nation. Both places were crowded by fugitives from all parts of Ireland. Both places appeared to men who had made a regular study of the art of war incapable of resisting an enemy.... In both cases, religious and patriotic enthusiasm struggled unassisted against great odds; in both cases, religious and patriotic enthusiasm did what veteran warriors had pronounced it absurd to attempt."

In Galway, meanwhile, violent quarrels had broken out. The French troops were sick, naturally enough, of the campaign, and not long afterwards sailed for France. Their places were taken later on by another body of French soldiers under General St. Ruth. St. Ruth was a man of cold, disdainful temperament, but a good officer. He at once set to work at the task of restoring order and getting the army into a condition to take the field. Early in the spring Ginkel had collected his army in Mullingar ready to march to the assault of Athlone, the ancient Norman fortress, upon the bank of the Shannon, which was here spanned by a single bridge. Upon Ginkel's advance this bridge was broken down, and the besieged and besiegers were separated therefore by the breadth of the river. After an unsuccessful attempt to repair the breach the Dutch general resolved to ford the latter. As it happened the water was unusually low, and although St. Ruth with a large force was at the time only a mile away, he, unaccountably, made no attempt to defend the ford. A party of Ginkel's men waded or swam across in the dark, caught the broken end of the bridge, and held it till it was repaired. This done, the whole English army poured across the river.

The struggle was now narrowing fast. Leaving Athlone Ginkel advanced to Ballinasloe, so well-known now from its annual sheep fairs. The country here is all but a dead flat, but the French general took advantage of some rising ground on the slope of which stood the ruined castle of Aughrim. Here the Irish were posted by him in force, one of those deep brown bogs which cover so much of the surface of Galway lying at their feet and surrounding them upon two sides.

The battle which broke at five o'clock the next morning was a desperate one. Roused at last from his coldness St. Ruth appealed in the most moving terms to the officers and men to fight for their religion, their liberties, their honour. His appeal was gallantly responded to. A low stone breast-work had been raised upon the hillside in front of the Irish, and against this Ginkel's veterans again and again advanced to the attack, and again and again were beaten back, broken and, in one instance, chased down the hill on to the plain. St. Ruth broke into vehement enthusiasm. "The day," he cried, waving his hat in the air, "is ours, gentlemen!" A party of Huguenot cavalry, however, were presently seen to be advancing across the bog so as to turn the flank of the Irish army. It seemed to be impossible that they could get through, but the ground was firmer than at first appeared, and some hurdles thrown down in front of them formed a sort of rude causeway. St. Ruth flew to the point of danger. On his way he was struck by a cannon ball which carried off his head, and the army was thus left without a general. Sarsfield was at some distance with the reserve. There was no one to give any orders. The breast-work was carried. The Irish fought doggedly, retreating slowly from enclosure to enclosure. At last, left to themselves, with no one to direct or support them, they broke and fled down the hill. Then followed a hideous butchery. Few or no prisoners were taken, and the number of the slain is stated to have been "in proportion to the number engaged greater than in any other battle of that age." An eye-witness who looked from the hill the next day said that the country for miles around was whitened with the naked bodies of the slain. It looked, he remarked with grim vividness, like an immense pasture covered with flocks of sheep!



Nothing was now left but Limerick. Galway had yielded immediately after the day of Aughrim, its garrison claiming and obtaining the right of marching out with all the honours of war. Tyrconnel was dying, and had long lost, too, what little reputation he had ever had as a soldier. Sarsfield, however, stood firm to the last. Fresh reinforcements were hoped for from France, but none came until too late to be of any use. The town was again invested and besieged. An English fleet held the mouth of the Shannon so as to prevent any relief from coming to its aid. From the middle of August to the end of September the siege went on, and the walls, always weak, were riddled with shot and shell. Still it showed no symptoms of submission. Ginkel, who was in command of William's army, dreaded the approach of autumn, and had instructions from his master to finish the campaign as rapidly as possible, and with this end in view to offer good and honourable terms to the Irish. An armistice accordingly was agreed to for three days, and before the three days ended the famous "Articles of Limerick" were drawn up and signed by Sarsfield on the one hand, and the Lords Justices, who had just arrived in camp from Dublin, on the other.

The exact purport of these articles, and the extent to which they were afterwards mutilated and perverted from their original meaning has been hotly disputed, and is too large and complicated a question to enter into here at any length. Suffice it to say, that they engaged that the Roman Catholics of Ireland should enjoy the same privileges as they had previously enjoyed in the reign of Charles II.; that they should be free to follow the same trades and professions as before the war, and that all who were in arms, having a direct commission from King James, "with all such as were under their protection" should have a free pardon and be left in undisputed ownership of their lands and other possessions.

It is over the clause placed in italics that controversy has waxed fiercest. That it was in the first draft is admitted; that it was not in the document itself is equally certain. Had it been intentionally or accidentally excluded? is the question. William's own words were that it had been "casually omitted by the writer." The evidence seems clear, yet historians, who on other matters would hardly question his accuracy, seem to think that in this instance he was mistaken. That his own mind was clear on the point there can be little doubt, seeing that he made the most honourable efforts to get the clause in question carried into effect. In this he failed. Public opinion in England ran furiously against the Irish Catholics, and the Parliament absolutely refused to ratify it. The essential clause was accordingly struck out, and the whole treaty soon became an absolute dead letter.

On the other hand, the military one, which was drawn up at the same time and signed by the two generals, was carried honourably into effect. By its terms it was agreed that such Irish officers and soldiers as desired to go to France should be conveyed there, and in the meantime should remain under the command of their own officers. Ginkel made strenuous efforts to enlist the Irish troops in his master's service. Few, however, agreed to accept his offer. A day was fixed for the election to be made, and the Irish troops were passed in review. All who would take service with William were directed to file off at a particular spot; all who passed it were held to have thrown in their lot with France. The long procession was watched with keen interest by the group of generals looking on, but the decision was not long delayed. The vast majority unhesitatingly elected exile, only about a thousand agreeing to take service with William.

The most piteous part of the story remains. Sarsfield, with the soldiers under him who had elected to go to France, withdrew into Limerick, and the next day proceeded to Cork, where they were to embark. The news had, in the meanwhile, spread, and the roads were covered with women rushing to see the last of husbands, brothers, sons. Wives, mothers, and children followed the departing exiles to the water's edge, imploring with cries of agony not to be left behind. In the extremity of his pity Sarsfield proclaimed that his soldiers might take their wives and families with them to France. It was found utterly impossible, however, to do so, since no transport could be provided for such a multitude. Room was found for a few families, but the beach was still crowded with those who had perforce to be left behind. As the boats pushed off the women clung desperately to them, and several, refusing to let go, were dragged out of their depth and drowned. A wild cry went up as the ships began to move. The crowd rushed frantically along the shore from headland to headland, following them with their eyes as long as they remained in sight. When the last ship had dropped below the horizon, and the dull autumn dusk had settled down over sea and shore, they dispersed slowly to their desolate homes. Night and desolation must indeed have seemed to have settled down for good upon Ireland.



We are now upon the brink of a century as full of strange fortunes for Ireland as any that had preceded it, but in which those fortunes were destined to take a widely different turn. In the two preceding ones revolts and risings had, as we have seen, been the rule rather than the exception. In this one from the beginning down to within a couple of years of its close when a rebellion—which, in most impartial historians' opinion, might with a little care have been averted—broke the peace of the century, hardly a symptom of any disposition to appeal to arms is discoverable. Two great Jacobite risings convulsed England; the American revolt, so fraught with momentous consequences, was fought and carried, but Ireland never stirred. The fighting element was gone. It was in France, in Spain, in the Low Countries—scattered over half the battlefields of Europe. The country which gave birth to these fighters was quiet; a graveyard quiet, it may be said, but still significant, if only by contrast with what had gone before.

One advantage which the student of this century has over others is that it has been made the subject of a work which enables us to thread our way through its mazes with what, in comparison to other periods may be called ease. In his "History of the Eighteenth Century" Mr. Lecky has done for the Ireland of one century what it is much to be desired some one would hasten to do for the Ireland of all. He has broken down a barrier of prejudice so solid and of such long standing that it seemed to be invulnerable, and has proved that it is actually possible to be just in two directions at once—a feat no previous historian of Ireland can be said to have even attempted. This work, the final volume of which has not yet appeared, so completely covers the whole ground that it seems to afford an excuse for an even more hasty scamper over the same area than the exigencies of space have elsewhere made inevitable.

The task to which both the English and the Irish Parliaments now energetically addressed themselves was—firstly, the undoing of the Acts passed in the late reign; secondly, the forfeiture of the estates of those who had taken the losing side in the late campaign; thirdly, the passing of a series of Acts the aim of which was as far as possible to stamp out the Roman Catholic religion altogether, and in any case to deprive it of any shadow or semblance of future political importance.

To describe at length the various Acts which make up what is known as the Penal code—"a code impossible," as Mr. Lecky observed in an earlier work, "for any Irish Protestant whose mind is not wholly perverted by religious bigotry, to look back at without shame and indignation," would take too long. It will be enough, therefore, if I describe its general purport, and how it affected the political and social life of that century upon which we are now entering.

In several respects it not a little resembled what is nowadays known as "boycotting," only it was boycotting inflicted by the State itself. As compared with some of the enactments passed against Protestants in Catholic countries, it was not, it must be said, sanguinary, but its aim seemed to be to make life itself intolerable; to reduce the whole Catholic population to the condition of pariahs and outcasts. No Papist might possess a horse of the value of over L5; no Papist might carry arms; no Papist might dispose as he chose of his own property; no Papist might acquire any landed freehold; no Papist might practise in any of the liberal professions; no Papist might educate his sons at home, neither might he send them to be educated abroad. Deeper wrong, more biting and terrible injury even than these, it sowed bitter strife between father and son, and brother and brother. Any member of a family, by simply turning Protestant, could dispossess the rest of that family of the bulk of the estate to his own advantage. Socially, too, a Papist, no matter what his rank, stood below, and at the mercy of, his Protestant neighbours. He was treated by the executive as a being devoid, not merely of all political, but of all social rights, and only the numerical superiority of the members of the persecuted creed can have enabled them to carry on existence under such circumstances at all.

For it must be remembered (and this is one of its worst features) that those placed under this monstrous ban constituted the vast majority of the whole country. In Burke's memorable words, "This system of penalty and incapacity has for its object no small sect or obscure party, but a very numerous body of men, a body which comprehends at least two-thirds of the whole nation; it amounts to two million eight hundred thousand souls—a number sufficient for the constituents of a great people[13]." "The happiness or misery of multitudes," he adds in another place, "can never be a thing indifferent. A law against the majority of the people is in substance a law against the people itself; its extent determines its invalidity; it even changes its character as it enlarges its operation; it is not particular injustice, but general oppression, and can no longer be considered as a private hardship which might be borne, but spreads and grows up into the unfortunate importance of a national calamity."

[13] "Tracts on the Popery Laws."

As was natural under the circumstances, many feigned conversions took place, that being the only way to avoid been utterly cut adrift from public life. For by a succession of enactments, not only were the higher offices and the professions debarred to Roman Catholics, but they were even prohibited—to so absurd a length can panic go—from being sheriffs, jurymen, constables, or even gamekeepers. "Every barrister, clerk, attorney, or solicitor," to quote again Burke, "is obliged to take a solemn oath not to employ persons of that persuasion; no, not as hackney clerks, at the miserable salary of seven shillings a week." It was loudly complained of many years later, that men used to qualify for taking the oaths required upon being admitted as barristers or attorneys by attending church and receiving a sacramental certificate on their road to Dublin. Others, to save their property from confiscation, sacrificed their inclinations, often what they held to be their hopes of salvation, to the exigencies of the situation, and nominally embraced Protestantism. Old Lady Thomond, for instance, upon being reproached by some stricter co-religionist for thus imperilling her soul, asked with quick scorn whether it was not better that one old woman should burn than that the Thomonds should lose their own. The head of the house would thus often present himself or herself at the parish church, while the other members of the family kept to the old faith, and the chaplain, under the name of the tutor or secretary, celebrated mass in the harness-room or the servants' hall.

To the credit of Irish Protestants it may be said that, once the first violence of fanaticism had died out, there was little attempt to enforce the legal enactments in all their hideous atrocity. According to the strict letter of the law, no Roman Catholic bishop, archbishop, or other dignitary; no monk, nun, or member of any religious fraternity, could set foot in Ireland; and any one who harboured them was liable at the third offence to confiscation of all his goods. A list of parish priests was also drawn up and certified, and their names entered, and when these had died no others were by law allowed to come, any so doing being liable to the penalties of high treason. As a matter of fact, however, they came with very little hindrance, and the succession was steadily kept up from the Continent. The attempt to stamp out a religion by force proved to be the most absolute of failures, although, as no rule is without its exception, it must be added that in England, where exactly the same penal laws were in force, and where the number of Roman Catholics was at the beginning of the century considerable, they dwindled by the end of it almost to the point of extinction. In Ireland the reverse was the case. The number of Roman Catholics, according to the most trustworthy statistics, increased rather than diminished under the Penal code, and there were many more conversions from Protestantism to Catholicism than there were the other way.

This, no doubt, was in great measure due to the neglect with which the scattered Protestant communities were treated, especially in the south and west. The number of Protestant clergymen was extremely small, as many as six, seven, and even ten livings being frequently held by a single individual, and of these many were absentees, and their place filled by a curate. Thus—isolated in a vast Roman Catholic community, often with no church of their own within reach—the few Protestants drifted by a natural law to the faith of their neighbours. On the emphatic and angry testimony of Archbishop Boulter, we know that conversions from Protestantism to Catholicism were in his time extremely common amongst the lower orders. By law, too, no marriage between a Protestant and Catholic was recognizable, yet there were many such, and the children in most cases seem to have reverted to the elder faith.

The best side of all this for the Catholics showed itself in that feeling of devotion and fealty to their own faith which persecution rarely fails to awaken, and for which the Roman Catholics of Ireland, high and low alike, have always been honourably distinguished. The worst was that this sense of being under an immoveable ban sapped at all the roots of manliness and honourable ambition. Amongst the well-to-do classes the more spirited of the young men went abroad and enlisted under foreign banners. The rest stayed at home, and fell into an idle, aimless, often disreputable, fashion of existence. The sense of being of no account, mere valueless items in the social hive, is no doubt answerable for a good deal of all this. Swift assures us that in his time the Catholic manhood of Ireland were of no more importance than its women and children; of no more importance, he adds in another place, than so many trees. With a patience pathetic in so essentially impatient a race, both priests and people seem to have settled down after awhile into a sort of desperate acceptance of the inevitable. So complete indeed was their submission that towards the close of the century we find the English executive, harassed and set at nought by its own Protestant colonists, turning by a curious nemesis to the members of this persecuted creed, whose patience and loyalty three quarters of a century of unexampled endurance seemed to have gone far to prove.



All power, place, and authority had thus once more swung round into the hands of the Protestant colony—"The Protestant Ascendency," as it came after a while to be called. They alone had seats in Parliament, they alone, until near the end of the century, were competent to vote. Taxes were collected over the whole island, but only Protestants had a voice in their disposal. All the parliamentary struggles of this century, it must clearly be understood, were struggles between Protestants and Protestants, and the different political parties, "patriotic" and others, were parties formed exclusively amongst the Protestants themselves. Protestantism was not only the privileged, but it was also the polite, creed; the creed of the upper classes, as distinguished from the creed of the potato-diggers and the turf-cutters; a view of the matter of which distinct traces may even yet be discovered in Ireland.

If Protestants, as compared with their Roman Catholic brethren, were happy, the Protestant colony was very far from being allowed its own way, or permitted to govern itself as it thought fit. Although avowedly kept as her garrison, and to preserve her own power in Ireland, England had no notion of allowing it equal advantages with herself, or of running the smallest risk of its ever coming to stand upon any dangerous footing of equality. The fatal theory that it was the advantage of the one country that the other should be kept poor, had by this time firmly taken root in the minds of English statesmen, and to it, and to the unreasonable jealousy of a certain number of English traders, the disasters now to be recorded were mainly due.

Cromwell had placed English and Irish commerce upon an equal footing. Early in Charles II.'s reign an Act had however been passed to hinder the importation of Irish cattle into England, one which had struck a disastrous, not to say fatal, blow at Irish agricultural interests. Then as now cattle was its chief wealth, and such a prohibition meant nothing short of ruin to the landowners, and through them to all who depended upon them. So far Irish ports were open, however, to foreign countries, and when the cattle trade ceased to be profitable, much of the land had been turned by its owners into sheepwalks. There was a large and an increasing demand for Irish wool upon the Continent, in addition to which a considerable number of manufacturers had of late started factories, and an energetic manufacture of woollen goods was going on, and rapidly becoming the principal form of Irish industry. The English traders, struck by this fact, were suddenly smitten with panic. The Irish competition, they declared, were reducing their gains, and they cried loudly, therefore, for legislative protection. Their prayer was granted. In 1699, the last year of the century, an Act was passed forbidding the export of Irish woollen goods, not to England alone, but to all other countries.

The effect of this Act was instantaneous and startling. The manufacturers, who had come over in large numbers, left the country for the most part within six months, never to return again. A whole population was suddenly thrown out of employment Emigration set in, but, in spite of the multitude that left, famine laid hold of many of those who remained. The resources of the poorest classes are always so low in Ireland that a much less sweeping blow than this would at any time have sufficed to bring them over the verge of starvation.

Another important result was that smuggling immediately began on an enormous scale. Wool was now a drug in the legitimate market, and woollen goods had practically no market. A vast contraband trade sprang swiftly up upon the ruins of the legitimate one. Wool, which at home was worth only 5d. or 6d. a lb., in France fetched half-a-crown. The whole population, from the highest to the lowest, flung themselves energetically on the side of the smugglers. The coast-line was long and intricate; the excise practically powerless. Wool was packed in caves all along the south and south-west coast, and carried off as opportunity served by the French vessels which came to seek it. What was meant by nature and Providence to have been the honest and open trade of the country was thus forced to be carried on by stealth and converted into a crime. It alleviated to some degree the distress, but it made Law seem more than ever a mockery, more than ever the one archenemy against which every man's hand might legitimately be raised.

Even this, if bad enough, was not the worst. The worst was that this arbitrary Act—directed, it must be repeated, by England, not against the Irish natives, but against her own colonists—done, too, without there being an opportunity for the country to be heard in its own defence—struck at the very root of all enterprise, and produced a widespread feeling of hopelessness and despair. Since this was the acknowledged result of too successful rivalry with England, of what use, it was openly asked, to attempt any new enterprise, or what was to hinder the same fate from befalling it in its turn? The whole relationship of the two islands, even where no division of blood or creed existed, grew thus to be strained and embittered to the last degree; the sense of hostility and indignation being hardly less strong in the latest arrived colonist than in the longest established. "There was scarce an Englishman," says a writer of the time, "who had been seven years in the country, and meant to remain there, who did not become averse to England, and grow into something of an Irishman." All this must be taken into account before those puzzling contradictions and anomalies which make up the history of this century can ever be properly realized.



The early half of the eighteenth century is such a very dreary period of Irish history that there is little temptation to linger over it. Two men, however, stand out conspicuously against this melancholy background, neither of whom must be passed over without a few words.

The first of these was William Molyneux, the "Ingenious Molyneux," as he was called by his contemporaries, a distinguished philosopher, whose life was almost exclusively devoted to scientific pursuits. Molyneux is, or ought to be, a very interesting figure to any one who cares, even slightly, about Ireland. He was one of the chief founders of the Philosophical Association in Dublin, which was the parent both of the present Dublin Society and of the Royal Irish Academy. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a friend of John Locke, with whom he constantly corresponded. Both his letters, and those of his brother, Dr. Thomas Molyneux, show the most vivid and constant interest in everything connected with the natural history of Ireland. Now it is a moving bog, which has scared the natives in its neighbourhood out of their senses; now, again, some great find of Irish elks, or some tooth of a mammoth which has been unearthed, and it is gravely discussed how such a "large-bodied beast" could have been transported over seas, especially to a country where the "Greeks and Romans never had a footing," and where therefore the learned Mr. Camden's theory, that the elephants' bones found in England were the remains of those "brought over by the Emperor Claudius," necessarily falls to the ground. Both the brothers Molyneux belong to a band of Irish naturalists whose numbers are, unfortunately, remarkably limited. Why it should be so is not easily explained, but so it is. When Irish archaeology is mentioned, the names of Petrie, of Wilde, of Todd, of Graves, and, last but not least, of Miss Margaret Stokes spring to the mind. Irish geologists, with Sir Richard Griffiths at their head, show as good a record as those of any other country, but the number of Irish naturalists whose fame has reached beyond a very narrow area is small indeed. This is the less accountable as, though scanty as regards the number of its species, the natural history of Ireland is full of interest, abounding in problems not even yet fully solved: the very scantiness of its fauna being in one sense, an incentive and stimulus to its study, for the same reason that a language which is on the point of dying out is often of more interest to a philologist than one that is in full life and vigour.

This, however, is a digression, and as such must be forgiven. Returning to the arena of politics, Molyneux's chief claim to remembrance rests upon a work published by him in favour of the rights of the Irish Parliament in the last year but one of the seventeenth century, only seven years therefore after the treaty of Limerick.

As one of the members of the Dublin University he had every opportunity of judging how the grasp which the English Parliament maintained by means of the obsolete machinery of Poynings' Act was steadily throttling and benumbing all Irish enterprise. In 1698 his famous remonstrance, known as "The Case of Ireland being bound by Act of Parliament made in England," appeared, with a dedication to King William. It at once created an immense sensation, was fiercely condemned as seditious and libellous by the English Parliament, by whom, as a mark of its utter abhorrence, it was condemned to be burned by the common hangman.

Few things will give a clearer idea of the extraordinarily exasperated state of politics at the time than to read the remonstrance which produced so tremendous a storm. Take, for example, the words with which the earlier portion of it closes, and which are worth studying, if only for the impressive dignity of their style, which not a little foreshadows Burke's majestic prose:—

"To conclude, I think it highly inconvenient for England to assume this authority over the kingdom of Ireland, I believe there will need no great arguments to convince the wise assembly of English senators how inconvenient it may be to England to do that which may make the lords and the people of Ireland think that they are not well used, and may drive them to discontent. The laws and liberties of England were granted above five hundred years ago to the people of Ireland, upon their submission to the Crown of England, with a design to keep them in the allegiance of the king of England. How consistent it may be with true policy to do that which the people of Ireland may think an invasion of their rights and liberties, I do most humbly submit to the Parliament of England to consider. They are men of great wisdom, honour, and justice, and know how to prevent all future inconveniences. We have heard great outcries, and deservedly, on breaking the edict of Nantes, and other stipulations. How far the breaking our constitution, which has been of five hundred years standing exceeded these, I leave the world to judge."

In another place Molyneux vindicates the dignity of a Parliament in words of singular force and moderation:—

"The rights of Parliament should be preserved sacred and inviolable wherever they are found. This kind of government, once so universal all over Europe, is now almost vanished amongst the nations thereof. Our king's dominions are the only supporters of this most noble Gothic constitution, save only what little remains may be found thereof in Poland. We should not therefore make so light of that sort of legislature, and, as it were, abolish it in one kingdom of the three wherein it appears, but rather cherish and encourage it wherever we meet it[14]."

[14] "The Case of Ireland being bound by Acts of Parliament made in England." By William Molyneux, Esq., Dublin.

For a remonstrance so dignified, couched in language so respectful, burning by the common hangman seems a hard lot. The disgrace, if such it was, does not appear to have very deeply penetrated its author, who pursued the even tenour of his way, and the same year paid a visit to his friend John Locke, on the return journey from which visit he unfortunately caught a chill, from the effects of which he died the following October. After his death the momentary stir which his eloquence had created died out, as the circles left by the falling of a stone die out upon some stagnant pool, until nearly a quarter of a century later a much more violent splash again aroused attention, and a far less pacific exponent of Irish abuses than Molyneux sprang fiercely into the turmoil.

Jonathan Swift had been eleven years Dean of St. Patrick's before he produced those famous letters which have left their mark so indelibly upon the course of Irish politics. Swift's part in this Stygian pool of the eighteenth century is rather a difficult one to explain. He was not in any sense an Irish champion, indeed, objected to being called an Irishman at all, and regarded his life in Ireland as one of all but unendurable banishment. He was a vehement High Churchman, and looked upon the existing penal proscription under which the Catholics lay as not merely desirable, but indispensable. At the same time it would be quite untrue to suppose, as is sometimes done, that he merely made a cat's-paw of Irish politics in order to bring himself back into public notice. He was a man of intense and even passionate sense of justice, and the state of affairs in the Ireland of his day, the tyranny and political dishonesty which stalked in high places, the degradation and steadily-increasing misery in which the mass of the people were sunk, were enough to lash far less scathing powers of sarcasm than he possessed to their highest possible pitch of expression.

The cause that drew forth the famous Drapier letters—why Swift chose to spell the word draper with an i no one has ever explained—appears at first sight hardly worthy of the occasion. Ireland wanted a copper coinage, and Walpole, who was then the Prime Minister, had given a patent for the purpose to a person called Wood, part of the profits of which patent were to go to the Duchess of Kendal, the king's mistress. There seems no reason to think that the pennies produced by Wood were in any way inferior to the existing English ones, and Sir Isaac Newton—who was at the time Master of the Mint—declared that, if anything, they were rather better. The real wrong, the real insult, was that the patent was granted by the Minister without reference to the Lord-Lieutenant, to the Irish Parliament, or to any single human being in Ireland. It was a proof the more of that total indifference with which the interests of Ireland were regarded, and it was upon this score that Swift's wrath exploded like a bomb.

The line he chose to take was to attack the patent, not as a monstrous job—which undoubtedly it was—but from the point of view of the value of the pennies. Assuming the character of a tradesman, he adjured all classes of the community, down to the very beggars, not to be induced to accept them. Assured them that for the benefit of Mr. Wood, "a mean man, a hardware dealer," every human being in Ireland was about to be deliberately robbed and ruined. His logic sounded unanswerable to the ignorant. His diatribes produced the most extraordinary effect. A terrific panic set in, and so overwhelming was the sensation that the Ministers in the end found it necessary to cancel the patent, and suspend the issue of Wood's halfpence. For the first time in Irish history public opinion, unsupported by arms, had carried its point: an epoch of vast importance in the history of every country.

That Swift knew perfectly well that the actual value of the copper coinage was not a matter of profound importance may be taken for granted, and so far his conduct is certainly not justifiable on any very strict rule of ethics. If the pennies were of small importance, however, there were other things that were of more. Little of a patriot as he was, little as he was supposed, or supposed himself, to care for Ireland or Irishmen, his wrath burnt fiercely at what he saw around him. He saw, too, his own wrongs, as others have done before and since, "writ large" in the wrongs of the country, and resented them as such. With his keen, practical knowledge of men, he knew, moreover, how thick was that medium, born of prejudice and ignorance, through which he had to pierce—a medium through which nothing less pointed than the forked lightnings of his own terrible wit could have found its way. Whatever his motives were, his success at least is indisputable. High Churchman as he was, vehement anti-papist as he was, he became from that moment, and remained to the hour of his death, beyond all question the most popular man in Ireland and his name was ever afterwards upon the lips of all who aspired to promote the best interests and prosperity of their country.



The forty years which follow maybe passed rapidly over. They were years of absolute tranquillity in Ireland, but beyond that rather negative praise little of good can be reported of them. Public opinion was to all practical purposes dead, and the functions of Parliament were little more than nominal. Unlike the English one, the Irish Parliament had by the nature of its constitution, no natural termination, save by a dissolution, or by the death of the sovereign. Thus George the Second's Irish Parliament sat for no less than thirty-three years, from the beginning to the end of his reign. The sessions, too, had gradually come to be, not annual as in England, but biennial, the Lord-Lieutenant spending as a rule only six months in every two years in Ireland. In his absence all power was vested in the hands of the Lords Justices, of whom the most conspicuous during this period were the three successive archbishops of Armagh, namely, Swift's opponent Boulter, Hoadly, and Stone, all three Englishmen, and devoted to what was known as the "English interest," who governed the country by the aid of a certain number of great

Delightful talk! to rear the tender thought, To teach the young idea how to shoot. To pour the fresh instruction o'er the mind, To breathe th' enlivening spirit and to fix The generous purpose in the glowing breast.



Irish borough-owners, or Undertakers, who "undertook" to carry on the king's business in consideration of receiving the lion's share of the patronage, which they distributed amongst their own adherents. Of these borough-owners Lord Shannon was the happy possessor of no less than sixteen seats, while others had eight, ten, twelve, or more, which were regularly and openly let out to hire to the Government. Efforts were from time to time made by the more independent members to curtail these abuses, and to recover some degree of independence for the Parliament, but for a long time their efforts were without avail, and owing to the nature of its constitution, it was all but impossible to bring public opinion to bear upon its proceedings, so that the only vestige of independence shown was when a collision occurred between the selfish interests of those in whose hands all power was thus concentrated.

About 1743 some stir began to be aroused by a succession of statements published by Charles Lucas, a Dublin apothecary, in the Freeman's Journal, a newspaper started by him, and in which he vehemently denounced the venality of Parliament, and loudly asserted the inherent right of Ireland to govern itself, a right of which it had only been formally deprived by the Declaratory Act of George I[15]. So unequivocal was his language that the grand jury of Dublin at last gave orders for his addresses to be burnt, and in 1749 a warrant was issued for his apprehension, whereupon he fled to England, and did not return until many years later, when he was at once elected member for Dublin. His speeches in the House of Commons seem never to have produced an effect at all comparable with that of his writings, but he gave a constant and important support to the patriotic party, which had now formed itself into a small but influential opposition under the leadership of Henry Flood.

[15] English Statutes, 6 Geo. c. 5.

Flood and Grattan are by far the two greatest of those orators and statesmen whose eloquence lit up the debates of the Irish House of Commons during its brief period of brilliancy, and as such will require, even in so hasty a sketch as this, to be dwelt upon at some length. Since a good deal of the same ground will have to be gone over in succeeding chapters, it seems best to explain here those points which affected them personally, and to show as far as possible in what relationship they stood one to the other.

Henry Flood was born near Kilkenny in 1732, and was the son of the Chief Justice of the King's Bench. At sixteen he went to Trinity College, Dublin, and afterwards to Oxford. In 1759 he entered the Irish Parliament as member for Kilkenny, and at once threw himself vehemently upon the popular side, his first speech being an attack upon the Primate Stone. As an orator his style appears to have been laboured, and his speeches brim over in all directions with forced illustrations and metaphors, but his powers of argument and debate were remarkably strong. For about ten years he waged a continual struggle against the Government, urging especially a limitation to the duration of Parliament and losing no opportunity of asserting its claims to independence, or of attacking the pension list, which under the system then prevailing grew steadily from year to year. Upon reform he also early fixed his attention, although, unlike Grattan, he was from the beginning to the end of his life steadily hostile to all proposals for giving the franchise to the Catholics.

During the viceroyalty of Lord Townshend, who became Lord-Lieutenant in 1767, an Octennial Bill was passed limiting the duration of Parliament to eight years, but this momentary gleam of better things was not sustained; on the contrary, corruption was, under his rule, carried even further than it had been before. Under the plea of breaking the power of the borough-owners, he set himself deliberately to make the whole Parliament subservient to Government, thus practically depriving it of what little vestige of independence it still possessed. A succession of struggles took place, chiefly over Money Bills, the more independent members, under Flood's leadership, claiming for the Irish House of Commons the complete control of the national purse, a claim as uniformly resisted by the Government. Though almost invariably defeated on a division in the end the opposition were to a great degree successful, and in 1773 the hated viceroy was recalled.

This was the moment at which Flood stood higher in his countrymen's estimation than was ever again the case. He was identified with all that was best in their aspirations, and no shadow of self-seeking had as yet dimmed the brightness of his fame. It was very different with his next step. Lord Townshend was succeeded by Lord Harcourt, whose administration at first promised to be a shade more liberal and less corrupt than that of his predecessors. Of this administration Flood, to his own misfortune, became a member. What his motives were it is rather difficult to say. He was a rich man, and therefore had no temptation to sell or stifle his opinions for place. Whatever they were, it is clear, from letters still extant, that he not only accepted but solicited office. He was made Vice-Treasurer, a post hitherto reserved for Englishmen, at a salary of L3,500 a year.

Although, as Mr. Lecky has pointed out, no actual stain of dishonour attaches to Flood in consequence of this step, there can be no doubt that it was a grave error, and that he lived to repent it bitterly. For the next seven years not only was he forced to keep silence as regards all those points he had previously advocated so warmly, but, as a member of the Government, he actually helped to uphold some of the most damaging of the restraints laid upon Irish trade and prosperity. Upon the outbreak of the America war a two years' embargo was laid upon Ireland, and a force of 4,000 men raised and despatched to America at its expense. The state of defencelessness in which this left the country led, as will be seen in a succeeding chapter, to a great volunteer movement, in which all classes and creeds joined enthusiastically. Flood was unable to resist the contagion. His voice was once again heard upon the liberal side. He flung away the trammels of office, surrendered his large salary, and returned to his old friends. He never, however, regained his old place. A greater man had in the meanwhile risen to the front, and in Henry Grattan Irish aspiration had found its clearest and strongest voice.

This was a source of profound mortification to Flood, and led eventually to a bitter quarrel between these two men—patriots in the best sense both of them. Flood tried to outbid Grattan by pushing the concessions won from England in the moment of her difficulty yet further, and by making use of the volunteers as a lever to enforce his demands. This Grattan honourably, whether wisely or not, resisted, and the Parliament supported his resistance. After an unsuccessful attempt to carry a Reform Bill, Flood retired, to a great degree, from Irish public life, and not long afterwards succeeded in getting a seat in the English Parliament. His oratory there proved a failure. He was "an oak of the forest too great and old," as Grattan said, "to be transplanted at fifty." This failure was a fresh and a yet more mortifying disappointment, and his end was a gloomy and somewhat obscure one, but he will always be remembered with gratitude as one of the first who in the Irish Parliament lifted his voice against those restrictions under which the prosperity of the country lay shackled and all but dead.



"Great men," wrote Sydney Smith, sixty years ago in an article in The Edinburgh Review, "hallow a whole people, and lift up all who live in their time. What Irishman does not feel proud that he lived in the days of Grattan? Who has not turned to him for comfort from the false friends and open enemies of Ireland? Who did not remember him in the days of its burnings, wastings, and murders?"

Grattan is, indeed, pre-eminently the Irish politician to whom other Irish politicians—however diverse their views or convictions—turn unanimously with the common sense of admiration and homage. Two characteristics—usually supposed in Ireland to be inherently antagonistic—met harmoniously in him. He was consistently loyal and he was consistently patriotic. From the beginning to the end of his career his patriotism never hindered him either from risking his popularity whenever he considered duty or the necessities of the case required him to do so; a resolution which more than once brought him into sharp collision with his countrymen, on one occasion even at some little risk to himself.

In 1775 he entered Parliament—sixteen years, therefore, later than Flood—being brought in by his friend Lord Charlemont. The struggle with America was then beginning, and all Grattan's sympathies went with those colonists who were battling for their own independence. His eloquence from the moment it was first heard produced an extraordinary effect, and when the volunteer movement broke out he threw himself heartily into it, and availed himself of it to press in the Irish Parliament for those measures of free trade and self-government upon which his heart was set When the first of these measures was carried, he brought forward the famous Declaration of Rights, embodying the demand for independence, a demand which, in the first instance, he had to defend almost single-handed. Many of his best friends hung back, believing the time to be not yet ripe for such a proposal. Even Edmund Burke—the life-long and passionate friend of Ireland—cried out in alarm "Will no one speak to that madman? Will no one stop that madman Grattan?" The madman, however, went on undismayed. His words flew like wild-fire over the country. He was supported in his motion by eighteen counties, by addresses from the grand juries, and by resolutions from the volunteers. By 1782, the impulse had grown so strong that it could no longer be resisted. An address in favour of Grattan's Declaration of Rights was carried enthusiastically in April by the Irish Parliament, and so impressed was the Government by the determined attitude of the country that, by the 27th of May the Viceroy was empowered to announce the concurrence of the English legislature. The Declaratory Act of George I. was then repealed by the English Parliament. Bills were immediately afterwards passed by the Irish one embodying the Declaration of Rights, also a biennial Mutiny Act, and an Act validating the marriage of Dissenters, while, above all, Poynings' Act, which had so long fettered its free action, was once for all repealed.

This was the happiest moment of Grattan's life. The country, with a burst of spontaneous gratitude, voted him a grant of L100,000. This sum he declined, but in the end was persuaded, with some reluctance, to take half. A period of brief, but while it lasted unquestionable prosperity spread over the country. In Dublin, public buildings sprang up in all directions; a bright little society flourished and enjoyed itself; trade too prospered to a degree never hitherto known. Between England and Ireland, however, the commercial restrictions were still in force. The condition of the Irish Catholics, though latterly to some degree alleviated, was still one of all but unendurable oppression. Reform, too, was as far off as ever, and corruption had increased rather than diminished, owing to the greatly increased importance of the Parliament. In 1789 an unfortunate quarrel sprang up between the two legislatures over the appointment of a Regent, rendered necessary by the temporary insanity of George III., and this difference was afterwards used as an argument in favour of a legislative Union. In 1793 a measure of half-emancipation was granted, Roman Catholics being admitted to vote, though not to sit in Parliament, an anomalous distinction giving power to the ignorant, yet still keeping the fittest men out of public life. Upon the arrival of Lord Fitzwilliam as Viceroy in 1795, it was fervently believed that full emancipation was at last about to be granted, and Grattan brought in a Bill to that effect. These hopes, as will presently be seen, were destined to be bitterly disappointed. Lord Fitzwilliam was recalled, and from that moment Grattan was doomed to stand helplessly by and watch the destruction of that edifice which he had spent his whole life to erect and strengthen. The country grew more and more restless, and it was plain to all who could read the signs of the times that, unless discontent was in some way allayed, a rebellion was sure to break out. In 1798 this long foreseen calamity occurred, but before it did so, Grattan had retired heart-broken and despairing into private life.

He re-emerged to plead, vehemently but fruitlessly, against the Union which was passed the following spring. As will be seen, when we reach that period the fashion in which that act was carried made it difficult for an honourable man, however loyal—and no man, it must be repeated, was more steadily loyal than Henry Grattan—to give it his support. He believed too firmly that Ireland could work out its own destiny best by the aid of a separate Parliament, and to this opinion he throughout his life clung. In his own words, "The two countries from their size must stand together—united quoad nature—distinct quoad legislation."

In 1805 he became a member of the English Parliament, where unlike Flood, his eloquence had almost as much effect as in Ireland, and where he was regarded by all parties with the deepest respect and regard. His heart, however, remained firmly anchored to its old home, and all his recollections in his old age centred around these earlier struggles. He died in 1820, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. One more quotation from Sydney Smith sums up the man for us in a few words: "The highest attainments of human genius were within his reach, but he thought the noblest occupation of a man was to make other men happy and free, and in that straight line he kept for fifty years, without one side-look, one yielding thought, one motive in his heart which might not have laid open to the view of God or man." A generation which produced two such men as Henry Grattan and Edmund Burke might well be looked back to by any country in the world as the flower and crown of its national life. There have not been many greater or better in the whole chequered history of the human race.



The revolt of the English Colonies in America, although it evoked no disloyalty, had a strong and unforeseen influence upon the equally English colony in Ireland. It would have been strange had it not done so. The circumstances of the two colonies—looking at Ireland merely in that light—were in many respects all but identical. If England could tax America without the consent of its representatives, then, equally it could tax Ireland, in which case the long struggles lately waged by Flood, Grattan, and others in the Irish Parliament over Money Bills would be definitely decided against it. Compared to Ireland, America indeed had little to complain of. The restrictions which held back Irish commerce still existed in almost all their pristine force. The woollen trade, save for some very trifling home consumption, was practically dead; even the linen trade, which had been promised encouragement, had hitherto hardly received any. Bounties had been offered, on the contrary, to English woollen manufacturers, and duties levied on Irish sail-cloth, which had effectually put a stop to that important branch of the trade. Another cause had also affected commerce seriously. The manufacturers of the north, were almost to a man Presbyterian, and the laws against Presbyterians had been pressed with almost as much severity as against Catholics. Under the rule of Archbishops Boulter, Hoadly, and Stone, who had in succession governed the country, the Test Act had been employed with a suicidal severity, which had driven thousands of industrious men to join their brethren in America, where they could worship in peace, and where their presence was before long destined to produce a formidable effect upon the impending struggle.

The whole condition of the country was miserable in the extreme. Agriculture was at the lowest possible ebb. The Irish farmers, excluded from the English and all foreign markets, were reduced to destitution. Land was offered at fourteen and twelve years' purchase, and even at those prices found no buyers. Many of the principal landowners were absentees, and though the rents themselves do not seem as a rule to have been high, the middlemen, by whom the land was commonly taken, ground the wretched peasants under them to powder with their exactions. While everything else was thus steadily shrinking, the pension list was swelling until it stood not far short of L100,000. The additional troops recently raised in Ireland had been sent to America, and their absence had left the country all but defenceless. In 1779, an attempt was made to carry out a levy of militia, in which Prostestants only were to be enrolled, and an Act passed for the purpose. It failed utterly, for so miserably bankrupt was the condition of the Irish Government, that it was found impossible to collect money to pay the men, and the scheme in consequence had to be given up.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse