UPON the death of Elizabeth, in 1603, the son of the unfortunate Mary Stuart was called to the throne of England, and for the first time in their history the Irish people accepted English rule, gave their willing submission to an English dynasty, and afterward displayed as great devotedness in supporting the falling cause of their new monarchs, as in defending their religion and nationality.
This feeling of allegiance, born so suddenly and strangely in the Irish breast, cherished so ardently and at the price of so many sacrifices, finally raising the nation to the highest pitch of heroism, is worth studying and investigating its true cause.
What ought to have been the natural effect produced on the Irish people by the arrival of the news that James of Scotland had succeeded to Elizabeth? The first feeling must have been one of deep relief that the hateful tyranny of the Tudors had passed away, to he supplanted by the rule of their kinsmen the Stuartskinsmen, because the Scottish line of kings was directly descended from that Dal Riada colony which Ireland had sent so long ago to the shores of Albania, to a branch of which Columbkill belonged.
For those who were not sufficiently versed in antiquarian genealogy to trace his descent so far back, the thought that James was the son of Mary Stuart was sufficient. If any people could sympathize with the ill-starred Queen of Scots, that people was the Irish. It could not enter into their ideas that the son of the murdered Catholic queen should have feelings uncongenial to their own. It is easy, then, to understand how, when the news of Elizabeth’s death and of the accession of James arrived, the sanguine Irish heart leaped with a new hope and joyful expectation.
As for the real disposition of that strangest of monarchs, James I., writers are at variance. Matthew O’Connor, the elder, who had in his hands the books and manuscripts of Charles O’Connor of Bellingary, is very positive in his assertions on his side of the question :
“James was a determined and implacable enemy to the Catholic religion ; he alienated his professors from all attachment to his government by the virulence of his antipathy. One of his first gracious proclamations imported a general jail-delivery, except for ‘murderers and papists.’ By another proclamation he pledged himself ‘ never to grant any toleration to the Catholics,’ and entailed a curse on his posterity if they granted any.”
Turning now to Dr. Madden’s “History of the Penal Laws,” we shall feel disposed to modify so positive an opinion. There we read :
“It is very evident that his zeal for the Protestant Church had more to do with a hatred of the Puritans than of popery, and that he had a hankering, after all, for the old religion which his mother belonged to, and for which she had been persecuted by the fanatics of Scotland.”
Hume seems to support this judgment of Dr. Madden when he says that “the principles of James would have led him to earnestly desire a unity of faith of the Churches which had been separated.”
Both opinions, however, agree in the long-run, since Dr. Madden is obliged to confess that “new measures of severity, as the bigotry of the times became urgent, were wrung from the timid king. He had neither moral nor political courage.”
Still, on the day of his coronation, the Irish could little imagine what was in store for them at the hands of the son of Mary Stuart ; hence their great rejoicing, till the first stroke of bitter disappointment came to open their eyes, and awaken them to the hard reality. This was the flight of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, which had been brought about by treachery and low cunning. These chieftains were, as they deserved to be, the idols of the nation. They were compelled to fly because, as Dr. Anderson, a Protestant minister, says, ” artful Cecil had employed one St. Lawrence to entrap the Earls of Tyrone and Tyr-Connell, the Lord of Devlin, and other Irish chiefs, into a sham plot which had no evidence but his.”
The real cause of their flight was that adventurers and “undertakers” desired to “plant” Ulster, though the final treaty with Mountjoy had left both earls in possession of their lands. That treaty yielded not an acre of plunder, and was consequently in English eyes a failure. The long, bloody, and promising wars of Elizabeth’s reign had ended, after all, in forcing coronets on the brows of O’Neill and O’Donnell, with a royal deed added, securing to them their lands, and freedom of worship to all the north.
James was met by the importunate demand for land. O’Neill, O’Donnell, and several other Irish chieftains, were sacrificed to meet this demand; they were compelled to fly; and they had scarcely gone when millions of acres in Ulster were declared to be forfeited to the crown, and thrown open for ” planting.”
And here a new feature in confiscation presents itself, which was introduced by the first of the Stuart dynasty, and proved far more gaffing to Irishmen than any thing they had yet encountered in this shape.
In the invasion led by Strongbow, in the absorption of the Kildare estates by Henry VIII., in the annexation of King’s and Queen’s Counties under Philip and Mary, even in the last ” plantation” of Munster by Elizabeth’s myrmidons at the end of the Desmond war, the land had been immediately distributed among the chief officers of the victorious armies. The conquered knew that such would be the law of war ; the great generals and courtiers who came into possession scarcely disturbed the tenants. A. few of the great native and Anglo-Irish families suffered sorely from the spoliation ; the people at large scarcely felt it, except by the destruction of clanship and the introduction of feudal grievances. Moreover, the new proprietors were interested in making their tenants happy, and not unfrequently identified themselves with the peoplebecoming in course of time true Irishmen.
But, with the accession of the first of the Stuarts to the English throne, a great alteration took place in the disposal of the land throughout Ireland.
The Tyrone war had ended five years before, and those who had taken part in the conflict had already received their portion ; the vanquished, of misfortunethe conquerors, of gain. James brought in with him from Scotland a host of greedy followers ; and all, from first to last, expected to rise with their king into wealth and honor. England was not wide enough to hold them, nor rich enough to satiate their appetites. The puzzled but crafty king saw a way out of his difficulties in Ireland. He no longer limited the distribution of land in that country to soldiers and officers of rank chiefly. He gave it to Scotch adventurers, to London trades companies. He settled it on Protestant colonies whose first use of their power was to evict the former tenants or clansmen, and thus effect a complete change in the social aspect of the north.
Well did they accomplish the task assigned them. Ulster became a Protestant colony, and the soil of that province has ever since remained in the hands of a people alien to the country.
Yet the Ulstermen had been led to believe that James par-posed securing them in their possessions ; for, according to Mr. Prendergast, in his Introduction to the ” Cromwellian settlement :”
” On the 17th of July, 1607, Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy, accompanied by Sir John Davies and other commissioners, proceeded to Ulster, with powers to inquire what land each man held. There appeared before them, in each county they visited, the chief lords and Irish gentlemen, the heads of creaghts, and the common people, the Brehons and Shanachies, who knew all the septs and families, and took upon themselves to tell what quantity of land every man ought to have. They thus ascertained and booked their several lands, and the Lord-Deputy promised them estates in them. ‘He thus,’ says Sir John Davies, `made it a year of jubilee to the poor inhabitants, because every man was to return to his own house, and be restored to his ancient possessions, and they all went home rejoicing.’
“Notwithstanding these promises, the king, in the following year, issued his scheme for the plantation of Ulster, urged to it, it would seem, by Sir Arthur Chichester, who so largely profited by it.. . It could not be said that the flight of the earls gave occasion for this change, inasmuch as the king, immediately after, issued a proclamationwhich he renewed on taking possession of both earls’ territoriesassuring the inhabitants that they should be protected and preserved in their estates.”
It looks, indeed, as though the whole transaction, including the promises and the call for ascertaining the quantity of land occupied by each inhabitant, as also the sham plot into which the earls were inveigled, was but a cunning device to bring about the plantation, in which manors of one thousand, fifteen hundred, and three thousand acres, were offered to such English and Scotch as should undertake to plant their lots with British Protestants, and engage that no Irish should dwell upon them. Meanwhile, all who had been in arms during Tyrone’s war were to be transplanted with their families, cattle, and followers, to waste places in Munster and Connaught, and there set down at a distance from one another.
Over and above this, the Irish were indebted to James for a new projecta most ingenious invention for successful plunder. He was the real author of the celebrated ” Commission for the investigation of defective titles.”
It would seem that the province of Ulster was too small for the rapacity of those who were constantly urging upon the king a greater thoroughness in his plans. It was clear, moreover, that the English occupation of the other three provinces had hitherto proved a failure. The island had failed to become Anglicised, and it was necessary to begin the work anew.
The new commission was presented to the Irish people in a most alluring guise. That political hypocrisy, which today stands for statesmanship, is not a growth of our own times. The intention of James confined itself to putting an end to all uncertainty on the subject of titles, and bestowing on each land-owner one which, for the future, should be unimpeachable. But the result went beyond his intention. This measure became, in fact, an engine of universal spoliation. It failed to secure even those who succeeded in retaining a portion of their former estates in possession, as Strafford made manifest, who, despite all the unimpeachable titles conferred by James, managed to confiscate to his own profit the greater part of the province of Connaught.
It is fitting to give a few details of this new measure of James, in order to show the gratitude which the Irish owed the Stuarts, if on that account only. In “Ireland under English Rule,” the Rev. A. Perraud justly remarks : ” Most Irish families held possession of their lands but by tradition, and their rights could not be proved by regular title-deeds. By royal command, a general inquiry was instituted, and whoever could not prove his right to the seat of his ancestors, by authentic documents, was mercilessly but juridically despoiled of it ; the pen of the lawyer thus making as many conquests as the blade of the mercenary.”
The advisers of Jamesthose who aided him in this scheme were fully alive to its efficiency in serving their ends. A few years previously, Arthur Chichester and Sir John Davies had only to consult the Brehon lawyers and the chroniclers of the tribes, whose duty it was to become thoroughly acquainted with the limits of the various territories, and keep the records in their memory, in order to procure from the Ulster men the proofs of their rights to property. Up to that time the word of those who were authorized, by custom, to pronounce on such subjects, was law to every Irishman. And, indeed, the verdict of these was all-sufficient, inasmuch as the task was not overtaxing to the memory of even an ordinary man, since it consisted in remembering, not the landed property of each individual, but the limits of the territory of each clan.
The clan territories were as precisely marked off as in any European state to-day; and, if any change in frontier occurred, it was the result of war between the neighboring clans, and there-fore known to all. To suppose, then, under such a state of land tenure, that the territory of the Maguire clan, for instance, be-longed exclusively to Maguire, and that he could prove his title to the property by legal documents, was erroneousin fact, such a thing was impossible. Yet, such was the ground on which the king based his establishment of the odious commission.
The measure meant nothing less than the simple spoliation of all those who came under its provisions at the time. Matthew O’Connor has furnished some instances of its workings, which may bring into stronger light the enormity of such an attempt. ” The immense possessions of Bryan na Murtha O’Rourke nad been granted to his son Teige, by patent, in the first year of the king’s reign, and to the heirs male of his body. Teige died, leaving several sons ; their titles were clear ; no plots or conspiracies could be urged to invalidate them. By the medium of those inquisitions, they were found, one and all, to be bastards. The eldest son, Bryan O’Rourke, was put off with a miserable pension, and detained in England lest he should claim his inheritance. Yet, in this case, the title was actually in existence.
“In the county of Longford, three-fourths of nine hundred and ninety-nine cartrons, the property of the O’Farrells, were granted to adventurers, to the undoing and beggary of that princely family. Twenty-five of the septs were dispossessed of their all, and to the other septs were assigned mountainous and barren tracts about one-fourth of their former possessions.
” The O’Byrnes, of Wicklow, were robbed of their property by a conspiracy unparalleled even in the annals of those times ; fabricated charges of treason, perjury, and even legal murder, were employed ; and, though the innocence of those victims of rapacious oppression was established, yet they were never restored.”
With regard to the Anglo-Irish, and even such of the natives as had consented to accept titles from the English kings, those titles, some of which went back as far as Strongbow`s invasion, were brought under the ” inquiry” of the new commissionwith what result may be imagined. An astute legist can discover flaws in the best-drawn legal papers. In the eye of the law, the neglect of recording is fatal ; and it was proved that many proprietors, whose titles had been bestowed by Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, were not recorded, simply by bribing the clerks who were charged with the office of recording them.
This portion of our subject must present strange features to readers acquainted with the laws concerning property which obtain among civilized nations. In making the necessary studies for this most imperfect sketch, the writer has been surprised at finding that not one of the authors whom he has consulted has spoken of any thing beyond the cruelty of compelling Irish land-owners to exhibit title-deeds, which it was known they did not and could not possess. Not a single one has ever said a word of ” prescription ; ” yet, this alone was enough to arrest the proceedings of any English court, if it followed the rules of law which govern civilized communities.
Most of the estates, then declared to be escheated to the king, had been in possession of the families to which the holders belonged, for centuries; we may go so far, in the case of some Irish families and tribes, as to say for thousands of years. But to disturb property which has been held for even less than a century, would convulse any nation subjected to such a revolutionary process. No country in the world could stand such a test; it would loosen in a day all the bonds that hold society together.
If the commission set on foot by James did not go to the extreme lengths to which it was carried by those who came after him, he it was who established what bore the semblance of a legal precedent for the excesses of Strafford, under Charles I., which reached their utmost -limits in the hands of Cromwell’s parliamentary commissioners. James set the engine of destruction in action : they worked it to its end. The Irish might justly lay at his door all the woes which ensued to them from the principles emanating from him. Even during his reign they saw, with instinctive horror, the abyss which he had opened up to swallow all their inheritance. The first commission of James commenced its operations by reporting three hundred and eighty-five thousand acres in Leinster alone as ” discovered,” inasmuch as the titles ” were not such as ought ” (in their judgment) ” to stand in the way of his Majesty’s designs.”
Hence, long before the death of James, all the hopes which his accession had raised in the minds of the Irish had vanished; yet, strange to say, they were not cured of their love for the Stuart dynasty. They hailed the coming of Charles, the husband of a Catholic princess, with joy. His marriage took place a year previous to the death of his father ; and, to know that Henrietta of France was to be their queen, was enough to assure the Irish that, henceforth, they would enjoy the freedom of their religion. The same motive always awakes in them hope and joy. Men may smile at such an idea, but it is with a profound respect for the Irish character that such a sentence is written. Hope of religious freedom is the noblest sentiment which can move the breast of man ; and if there be reason for admiration in the motive which urges men to fight and die for their firesides and families, how much more so in that which causes them to set above all their altars and their God.
This time their hope seemed well-founded; for the treaty concluded between England and France conferred the right on the Catholic princess of educating her children by this marriage till the age of thirteen. And, in addition, conditions favorable to the English Catholics were inserted in the saine treaty.
But people were not then aware of the reason for the insertion of those conditions. Hume, later on, being better acquainted with what at the time was a secret, states in his history that “the court of England always pretended, even im the memorials to the French court, that all the conditions favorable to –he English Catholics were inserted in the marriage treaty merely to please the Pope, and that their strict execution was, by an agreement with France, secretly dispensed with.”
The Irish rejoiced, however; and Charles and his ministers encouraged their expectations. Lord Falkland, in the name of the king, promised that, if the Catholic lords should present Charles, who needed money, with a voluntary tribute, he would in return grant them certain immunities and protections, which acquired later on a great celebrity under the name of “graces.”
The chief of these wereto allow “recusants” to practise in the courts of law, and to sue out the livery of their land, merely on taking an act of civil allegiance instead of the oath of supremacy ; that the claims of the crown should be limited to the last sixty yearsa period long enough in all conscience ; and that the inhabitants of Connaught should be allowed to make a new enrolment of their estates, to be accepted by the king. A Parliament was promised to sit in a short time, in order to confirm all these “graces.”
The subsidy promised by the Irish lords amounted to the then enormous sum of forty thousand pounds sterling, to be paid annually for three years. Two-thirds of it was paid, according to Matthew O’Connor, but no one of the “graces” was forth-coming, the king finding he had promised more than he could perform.
Instead of enabling the land-owners of Connaught to obtain a new title by a new enrolment, Strafford, with the connivance of Charles, devised a project which would have enabled the king to dispose of the whole province to the enriching of his exchequer. This project consisted in throwing open the whole territory to the court of ” defective titles.” To legalize this spoliation, the parchment grant, five hundred years old, given to Roderic O’Connor and Richard de Burgo, by Henry II., was set up as rendering invalid the claims of immemorial possession by the Irish, although confirmed by recent compositions.
In the counties of Roscommon, Mayo, and Sligo, juries were found for the crown. The honesty and courageous resistance of a Galway jury prevented the carrying out of the measure in that county. Strafford resented this rebuff’ deeply ; and the brave Galway jurors were punished without mercy for their “contumacy,” for they had been told openly to find for the king. Compelled to appear in the Castle chamber, they were each fined four thousand pounds, their estates seized, and themselves imprisoned until their fines should be paid ; while the sheriff’, who was also fined to the same amount, not being able to pay, died in prison. Such were a few of the “graces” granted the Irish on the accession of Charles I.
Meanwhile, the king’s difficulties with his English subjects drove him to turn for hope to the Scotch, upon whom he had attempted to force Episcopalianism. The resistance of the Scotch, and the celebrated Covenant by which they bound themselves, are well known. Charles, finally, granted the Covenanters not only liberty of conscience, but even the religious supremacy of Presbyterianism, paying their army, moreover, for a portion of the time it passed under service in the rebellion against himself.
The example of the Scotch was certainly calculated to in-flame the Irish with ardor, and drive them likewise into rebel-lion. What was the oppression of Scotland compared to that under which Ireland had so long groaned? Surely the final attempt of the chief minister of Charles to rob them of the one province which had hitherto escaped, was enough to open their eyes, and convert their faith in the Stuart dynasty into hatred and determined opposition. Yet were they on the eve of carrying their devotion to this faithless and worthless line to the height of heroism. The generosity of the nature which is in them could find an excuse for Charles. ” He would have done us right,” they thought, ” had he been left free.” From the rebellion of his subjects, in England and Scotland, they could only draw one conclusionthat he was the victim of Puritan-ism, for which they could entertain no feeling but one of horror; and it is a telling fact that their attachment to their religion kept them faithful to the sovereign to whom they had sworn their allegiance, however unworthy he might be.
Thus in the famous rising of 1641, when in one night Ireland, with the exception of a few cities, freed herself from the oppressor (the failure of the plan in Dublin being the only thing which prevented a complete success ; the English of the Pale still refusing to combine with the Irish), the native Irish alone, left to their own resources, proclaimed emphatically in explicit terms their loyalty to the king, whom they credited with a just and tolerant disposition, if freed from the restraints imposed upon him by the Puritanical faction. A further fact stranger still, and still more calculated to shake their confidence in the monarch, occurred shortly after, which indeed raises the loyalty of the nation to a height inconceivable and impossible to any people, unless one whose conscience is swayed by the sense of stern duty.
When the Scottish Covenanters, whose rebellion had secured them in possession of all they demanded, heard of the Irish movement, they were at once seized with a fanatical zeal urging them to stamp out the Irish “Popish rebellion.” King Charles, who was then in Edinburgh, expressed his gratification at their proposal, and no time was lost in shipping a force of two thou-sand Scots across the Channel. They landed at Antrim, when they began those frightful massacres which opened by driving into the sea three thousand Irish inhabitants of the island Magee.
When, according to M. O’Connor’s “Irish Catholics,” ” letters conveying the news of the intended invasion of the Scots were intercepted ; when the speeches of leading members in the English Commons, the declaration of the Irish Lord-Justices, and of the principal members of the DubIin Council, countenanced those rumors ; when Mr. Pym gave out that he would not leave a Papist in Ireland; when Sir William Parsons declared that within a twelvemonth not a Catholic should be seen in the whole country ; when Sir John Clotworthy affirmed that the conversion of the Papists was to be effected with the Bible in one hand and the sword in the other,” and the King all the while seemed to allow and consent to it, the Irish were not in the least dismayed by those rumors, but set about establishing in the convulsed island a sort of order in the name of God and the king !
Then for the first time did native and Anglo-Irish Catholics take common side in a common cause. This was the union which Archbishop Browne had foreseen, which had shown itself in symptoms from time to time, but which had oftener been broken by the old animosity. But, at last, convinced that the only party on which they could rely, and the party which truly supported the reigning dynasty, was that of the Ulster chiefs, the Catholic lords of the Pale threw themselves heart and soul into it, and, under the guidance of the Catholic bishops who then came forward, together they formed the celebrated ” Confederation of Kilkenny ” in 1642.
Had Charles even then possessed the courage, honesty, or wisdom to recognize and acknowledge his true friends, he might have been spared the fate which overtook him; but all he did was almost to break up the only coalition which stood up boldly in his favor.
A circumstance not yet touched upon meets us here. Protestantism was at this time effecting a complete change in the rules of judgment and conduct which men had hitherto followed. judgment place of the old principles of political morality which up to this period had regulated the actions of Christians, notions of independence, of subversion of existing governments, of revolutions in Church and state, were for the first time in Christian history scattered broadcast through the world, and beginning that series of catastrophes which has made European history since, and which is far from being exhausted yet. The Irish stood firm by the old principles, and, though they became victims to their fidelity, they never shrank from the consequences of what they knew to be their duty, and to those principles they remain faithful to-day.
To return from this short digression : The Irish hierarchy, the native Irish and the Anglo-Irish lords of the Pale, had combined together to form the “Confederation of Kilkenny,” in which confederation lay the germ of a truly great nation. Early in the struggle the Catholic hierarchy saw that it was for them to take the initiative in the movement, and they took it in right earnest. They could not be impassive spectators when the question at issue was the defence of the Catholic religion, joined this time with the rights of their monarch. They met in provincial synod at Kells, where, after mature deliberation, the cause of the confederates, ” God and the king,” freedom of worship and loyalty to the legitimate sovereign, was declared just and holy, and, after lifting a warning voice against the barbarities which had commenced on both sides, and ordaining the abolition and oblivion of all distinctions between native Irish and old English, they took measures for convoking a national synod at Kilkenny.
It met on the 10th of May, 1643. An oath of association bound all Catholics throughout the land. It was ordained that a general assembly comprising all the lords spiritual and temporal and the gentry should be held; that the assembly should select members from its body to represent the different provinces and principal cities, to be called the Supreme Council, which should sit from day to day, dispense justice, appoint to offices, and carry the executive government of the country.
Meanwhile the Irish abroad, the exiles, had beard of the movement, and several prominent chieftains came back to take part in the struggle ; while those who remained away helped the cause by gaining the aid of the Catholic sovereigns, and sending home all the funds and munitions of war they could procure. Among these, one of the most conspicuous was the learned Luke Wadding, then at Rome engaged in writing his celebrated works, who dispatched money and arms contributed by the Holy Father. John B. Rinuccini, Archbishop of Fermo, sent by the Pope as Nuncio, sailed in the same ship which conveyed those contributions to Ireland.
The Catholic prelates thus originated a free government with nothing revolutionary in its character, but combining some of the forms of the old Irish Feis with the chief features of modern parliamentary governments. Matthew O’Connor makes the following just observations on this subject in his ” Irish Catholics :”
” The duty of obedience to civil government was so deeply impressed on the Catholic mind, at this period, in Ireland, that it degenerated into passive submission. These impressions originated in religious zeal, and were fostered by persecution. The spiritual authority of the clergy was found requisite to soften those notions, and temper them with ideas of the constitutional, social, and Christian right of resistance in self-defence. The nobility and gentry fully concurred in those proceedings of the clergy, and the nation afterward ratified them in a general convention held at Kilkenny, in the subsequent month of October.
The national union seemed to be at last cemented by the wishes of all orders, and the interests of all parties.”
The fact is, the nation had been brought to life, and took its stand on a new footing. When the general assembly met, in October, eleven bishops and fourteen lay lords formed what may be called the Irish peerage ; two hundred and twenty-six commoners represented the large majority of the Irish constituencies ; a great lawyer of the day, Patrick Darcy, was elected chancellor ; and a Supreme Council of six members from each province constituted what may be called the Executive.
This government, which really ruled Ireland without any interference until Ormond succeeded in breaking it up, was obeyed and acknowledged throughout the land. It undertook and carried out all the functions of its high office, such as the coining of money, appointing circuit judges, sending ambassadors abroad, and commissioning officers to direct the operations of the national army. Among these latter, one name is sufficient to vouch for their efficiency : that of Owen Roe O’Neill, who had returned, with many others, from the Continent, in the July of that year, and formally assumed the command of the army of Ulster.
Owen Roe O’Neill was Grand-nephew to Hugh of Tyrone. Unknown, even now, to Europe, his name still lives in the memory of his countrymen. ” The head of the Hy-Niall race, the descendant of a hundred kings, the inheritor of their virtues, without a taint of their vices, he would have deserved a crown, and, on a larger theatre, would have acquired the title of a hero.”–(M. O’Connor.)
Had Charles recognized this government, which proclaimed him king, discharged from office the traitors, Borlase and Par-sons, who plotted against him, and not surrendered his authority to Ormond, Ireland would probably have been saved from the horrors impending, and Charles himself from the scaffold. What-ever the issue might have been, the fact remains that the Irish then proved they could establish a solid government of their own, and that it is an altogether erroneous idea to imagine them incapable of governing themselves.
It is impossible to enter here upon the details of the intricate complications which ensuedcomplications which were chiefly owing to the plots of Ormond ; but, it may be stated fearlessly that, the more the history of those times is studied, the more certainly is the “national” party, with the Nuncio Rinuccini for head and director, recognized as the one which, better than any other, could have saved Ireland. At least, no true Irishman will now pretend that the ” peace party,” headed by Ormond, which was pitted against the ” Nuncionists,” could bring good to the country; on the contrary, its subsequent misfortunes are to be ascribed directly to it.
To stigmatize it as it deserves, needs no more than to say that among its chief leaders were Ormond, its head and projector, and Murrough O’Brien, of Inchiquin, to this day justly known as Murrough of the burnings. These two men were the product of the “refined policy” of England to kill Catholicism in the higher classes by the operation of one of the laws that governed the oppressed nationwardship.
Both Inchiquin and Ormond were born of Catholic fathers, and all their relations, during their lives, remained Catholics. But, their fathers dying during the minority of both, the law took their education out of the hands of the nearest kin, to give it to English Protestant wardens, in the name of the king, who was supposed by the law to be their legitimate guardian. This was one of the fruits of feudalism. They were duly brought up by these wardens in the Protestant religion, and received a Protestant education. They grew up, fully impressed with the idea that the country which gave them birth was a barbarous country ; the parents to whom they owed their lives were idolaters ; and their fellow-countrymen a set of villains, only fitted to be-come, and forever remain, paupers and slaves.
There is no exaggeration in these expressions, as anybody must concede who has studied the opinions and prejudices entertained by the English with regard to the Irish, from that period down almost to our own days. At any rate, to one acquainted with the workings of the ” Court of Wards,” there is nothing surprising in the fact that Ormond, the descendant of so many illustrious men of the great Butler family—a family at all times so attached to the Catholic faith, and which afterward furnished so many victims to the transplantation schemes of Cromwellshould himself become an inveterate enemy to the religion of his own parents, and to those who professed it ; and that he should employ the great gifts which God had granted him, solely to scheme against this religion, and prevent his native countrymen from receiving even the scanty advantages which Charles at one time was willing to concede to them, through Lord Glanmorgan.
It was Ormond who prevented the execution of the treaty between that lord and the confederates, the provisions of which were
1. The Catholics of Ireland were to enjoy the free and public exercise of their religion.
2. They were to hold, and have secure for their use, all the Catholic churches not then in actual possession of Protestants.
3. They were to be exempt from the jurisdiction of the Protestant clergy.
But, thanks to his education, such provisions were too much for Orman 1, the son of a Catholic father, and whose mother, at the very time living a pious and excellent life, would have rejoiced to see those advantages secured to her Church and herself, in common with the rest of her countrymen and women.
In like manners, Murrough O’Brien, the Baron of Inchiquin, the descendant of so many Catholic kings and saints, whose name was a glory in itself, and so closely linked to the Catholic glories of the island, was converted, by the education which he had received, into a most cruel oppressor of the Church of his baptism. His expeditions, through the same country which his ancestors had ruled, were characterized by all the barbarities practised at the time by Munro, Coote, and all the parliamentary leaders of the Scotch Puritans, and would have fitted him as a worthy compeer of Cromwell and Ireton, who were soon to follow. The name of Cashel and its cathedral, where he murdered so many priests, women, and children, around the altar adorned by the great and good Cormac McCullinan, would alone suffice to hand his name down to the execration of posterity.
Ormond and Murrough being the two chiefs of the “peace party,” what wonder that the prelates, who had so earnestly bored at the formation of the Kilkenny Confederation, and the Nuncio at their head, refused to have aught to do with projects in which such men were concerned, when it is borne in mind also that several provisions of that “peace treaty” were directly opposed to the oath taken by the Confederates ? But, unfortunately, Ormond was a skilful diplomat, had been dispatched by the king, and was supposed to be carrying out the ideas suggested to him by the unhappy monarch. His representations, therefore, could not fail to carry weight, principally with the Anglo-Irish lords of the Pale, many of whom, influenced by his courtly manners and address, declared openly for the proposed “peace.”
Thus did the peace sow the germs of division and even war among the Irish. The unity among the Catholics, so full of promise. was soon broken up ; and those who had met each other in such a brotherly spirit in the day when the native chiefs and Anglo-Irish lords assembled together at Tara, who swore then that the division of centuries should exist no longer, began to look upon each other again as enemies. Without going at length into the vicissitudes of those various contentions, it is enough to say that in the end war broke out between those who had so recently taken the oath of confederation together. Owen Roe O’Neill, the victor of Benburb, and the only man who could direct the Irish armies, was attacked by Preston and other lords of the Pale, and died, as some historians allege, of poison administered to him by one of them.
This was the result of the intrigues of Ormond; nevertheless, Charles continued to place confidence in him, and though he had been twice obliged to resign his lieutenancy, and once to fly the country, the infatuated sovereign sent him back once more.
It was only at the end of the struggle, when the ill-fated king was at length in the hands of his enemies, that Ormond could be brought to consent to conditions acceptable to the national party. But then it was too late; the parliamentary forces had carried every thing before them in England ; England was already republican to the core ; and the armies which had been employed against the Cavaliers, once the efforts of the latter had ceased with the death of the king, were at liberty to leave the country, now submissive to parliamentary rule, and cross over to Ireland, with Cromwell at their head, to crush out the nation almost, and concentrate on that fated soil, within the short space of nine months, all the horrors of past centuries.
By the death of Owen Roe O’Neill just at that time, Ireland was left without a leader fit to cope with the great republican general. The country had already been devastated by Coote, Munro, St. Leger, and other Scotch and English Puritans ; but the massacres which, until the coming of Cromwell, had been, at least, only local and checked by the troops of Owen Roe, soon extended throughout the island, unarrested by any forces in the field. The Cromwellian soldiers, not content with the character of warriors, came as ” avengers of the Lord,” to destroy an “idolatrous people.”
That their real design was to exterminate the nation, and use the opportunity which then presented itself for that purpose, there can be no doubt. It was only after a fair trial that the project was found to be impossible, and that other expedients were devised. Coote had previously acted with this design in view, as is now an ascertained fact, and had been encouraged in the course he pursued by the Dublin government.’ The same might be shown of St. Leger, in Munster, toward the beginning of the insurrection. At all events, all doubt in the matter, if any existed, ceased with the landing of Cromwell in 1649, when the real object of the war at once showed itself everywhere.
The result of this man’s policy has been painted by Ville-main, in his “Histoire de Cromwell,” in a sentence : ‘Ireland became a desert which the few remaining inhabitants described by the mournful saying, ‘ There was not water enough to drown a man, not wood enough to hang him, not earth enough to bury him.’ ”
The French writer attributes to the whole island what was said of only a part of it. To this day, the name of Cromwell is justly execrated in Ireland, and “the curse of Cromwell” is one of the bitterest which can be invoked upon a person’s head. But, at present, the fidelity of the Irish to the Stuarts concerns us, and a few reflections will put it in a strong but true light before us.
Ever since the restoration of Charles IL, many Englishmen have professed great reverence for the memory of the “martyr-king.” Even the subsequent Revolution of 1688 left the monument erected to him untouched. Many British families continued steady in their devotion to the Scotch line, and the name of Jacobite was for them a title of honor. Yet what were their sufferings for the cause of the king during his struggle with the Parliament, and after his execution ? A few noblemen lost their lives and estates ; some went into exile and followed the fortunes of the Pretenders who tried to gain possession of the throne. But the bulk of the nationEnglandmay be said to have suffered nothing by the great revolution which led to the Common-wealth. On the contrary, it is acknowledged that the administration of Cromwell at least brought peace to the country, and raised the power of Great Britain to a higher eminence in Europe than it had ever known before. As usual, the English made great profession of loyalty, but, as a rule, were particularly careful that no great inconvenience should come to them from it.
Treated with contempt and distrust by Charles and his advisers, so insulted in every thing that was dear to her that it is still a question for historians if, in many instances, the king and the royalists did not betray her, Ireland alone, after having taken her stand for a whole decade of years for God and the king, resolved to face destruction unflinchingly in support of what she imagined to be a noble cause.
After the landing of Cromwell, when to any sensible man there no longer remained hope of serving the cause of the king, when the desire which is natural to every human heart, of saving what can be saved, might, not only without dishonor, but with justice and right, have dictated the necessity of cowing to terms with the parliamentarians, and of abandoning a cause which was hopeless, ” on the 4th of December, 1649, Eber McMahon, Bishop of Clogher, a mere Irishman by name, by descent, by enthusiastic attachment to his country, exerted his great abilities to rouse his countrymen to a persevering resistance to Cromwell, and to unite all hearts and hands in the support of Ormond’s administration. . All the bishops concurred in his views, and subscribed a solemn declaration that they would, to the utmost of their power, forward his Majesty’s rights, and the good of the nation. . Ormond, at last, either sensible that no reliance could be placed on them, or that the treachery of Inchiquin’s troops was, at least, on the part of the Irish, a fair ground of distrust and suspicion of the remainder, consented to their removal.”(” Irish Catholics.”)
At last ! ” will be the reader’s exclamation, while he wonders if another people could be found forbearing enough to wait eight years for the adoption of such a necessary measure.
And the only reward for their fidelity to King Charles I. could under the circumstances be destruction. They waited with resignation for the impending gloom to overshadow them. Terrible moment for a nation, when despair itself fails to nerve it for further resistance and possible success! Such was the position of the Irish at the death of Charles.
Who shall describe that loyalty? After Ormond had met with the defeat he deserved in the field ; after the cities had fallen one after another into the hands of the destroyer, who seldom thought himself bound to observe the conditions of surrender ; after the chiefs, who might have protracted the struggle, had disappeared either by death or exile, the doom of the nation was sealed; yet it shrank not from the consequences.
The barbarities of Cromwell and his soldiers had depopulated large tracts of territory to such an extent that the troops marching through them were compelled to carry provisions as through a desert. The cattle, the only resource of an agricultural country, had been all consumed in a ten years’ war. It was reported that, after every successful engagement, the republican general ordered all the men from the age of sixteen to sixty to be slaughtered without mercy, all the boys from six to sixteen to be deprived of sight, and the women to have a red-hot iron thrust through their breasts. Rumors such as these, exaggerated though they may be, testify at least to the terror which Cromwell inspired. As for the captured cities, there can be no doubt of the wholesale massacres carried out therein by his orders. Of the entire population of Tredagh only thirty persons survived, and they were condemned to the labor of slaves. Hugh Peters, the chaplain of Fairfax, wrote after this barbarous execution : ” We are masters of Tredagh ; no enemy was spared ; I just come from the church where I had gone to thank the Lord.”
The same fate awaited Wexford, and, later on, Drogheda. Cromwell, when narrating those bloody massacres, concluded by saying, ” People blame me, but it was the will of God.”
The Bible, the holy word of God, misread and misunderstood by those fanatics, persuaded them that it would be a crime not to exterminate the Irish, as the Lord punished Saul for having spared Agag and the chief of the Amalekites. Whoever wishes for further details of these sickening atrocities, committed in the name of God, may find them in a multitude of histories of the time, but chiefly in the “Threnodia” of Friar Morrison.
Certain modern Irish historians would seem not to understand the heroism of their own countrymen. “Bitterly,” says A. M. O’SulIivan, “did the Irish people pay for their loyalty to an English sovereign. Unhappily for their worldly fortunes, if not for their fame, they were high-spirited and unfearing, where pusillanimity would certainly have been safety, and might have been only prudence.”
But the verdict of posterity, always a just one, calls such a high-spirited and unfearing attitude true heroism, and spurns pusillanimity even when it insures safety and may be called prudence, if its result is the surrender of holy faith and Christian truth. Safety and prudence characterized the conduct of the English nation under the iron rule of Cromwell, as under the tyranny of the Tudors. Can the reader of history admire the nation on that account ? Who shall affirm that the result of the craven spirit of the English was the prosperity which ensued, and that of Irish heroism destruction and gloom? The history of either nation is far from ended yet ; and bold would be the man who dare assert that the prosperity of England is everlasting, and the humiliation of Ireland never to know an end.
However that may be, this at least is undeniable : the opinion current of the Irish character is demonstrated to be altogether an erroneous one by the incontrovertible facts cursorily narrated above. Determination of purpose, adherence to conscience and principle, consistency of conduct, are terms all too weak to convey an idea of the magnanimity displayed by the people, and of their heroic bearing throughout those stirring events.
At last, after a bloody struggle with Cromwell and Ireton, on May 12, 1652, ” the Leinster army of the Irish surrendered at Kilkenny on terms which were successively adopted by the other principal bodies of troops, between that time and the September following, when the Ulster forces came last to composition.” Then began the real woes of Ireland. Never was the ingenuity of man so taxed to destroy a whole nation as in the measures adopted by the Protector for that purpose. It is necessary to pre-sent a brief sketch of them, since all that the Irish suffered was designed to punish them for their attachment to their religion, and, be it borne in minci, their devotion to the lawful dynasty of the Stuarts.
First, then, to render easy of execution the stern and cruel resolve of the new government, the defenders of the nation were not only to be disarmed, but put out of the wary. Bence Cromwell was gracious enough to consent that they be permitted to leave the country and take service in the armies of the foreign powers then at peace with the Commonwealth. Forty thousand men, officers and soldiers, adopted this desperate resolution.
” Soon agents from the King of Spain, the King of Poland, and the Prince de Condé, were contending for the service of the Irish troops. Don Ricardo White, in May, 1652, shipped seven thousand in batches from Waterford, Kinsale, Galway, Limerick, and Bantry, for the King of Spain. Colonel Christopher Mayo got liberty in September to beat his drums, to raise three thou-sand more for the same destination. Lord Muskerry took with him five thousand to the King of Poland. In July, 1654, three thousand five hundred went to serve the Prince de Condé. Sir Walter Dungan and others got liberty to beat their drums in different garrisons for various destinations.”(Prendergast.)
To prove that the desperate resolution of leaving their country did not originate with the Irish, notwithstanding what some have written to the contrary, it is enough to remark that their expatriation was made a necessary condition of their surrender by the new government. For instance, Lord Clanrickard, according to Matthew O’Connor, ” deserted and surrounded, could obtain no terms for the nation, nor indeed for himself and his troops, except with the sad liberty of transportation to any other country in amity with the Commonwealth.”
To prove, if necessary, still further that the expatriation of the Irish troops was part of a scheme already resolved upon, it is enough to remember the indisputable fact that from the surrender at Kilkenny in 1652, until the open announcement in the September of 1653, that the Parliament had assigned Con-naught for the dwelling-place of the Irish nation, whither they were to be ” transplanted” before the 1st of May, 1654, the various garrisons and small armies which had fought so gallantly for Ireland and the Stuarts were successively urged (and urged by Cromwell meant compelled) to leave the country ; and it was only when the last of the Irish regiments had departed that the doom of the nation was boldly and clearly announced.
But these forced exiles were not restricted to the warrior class. ” The Lord Protector,” says Prendergast, ” applied to the Lord Henry Cromwell, then major-general of the forces of Ireland, to engage soldiers . . . . and to secure a thousand young Irish girls to be shipped to Jamaica. Henry Cromwell answered that there would be no difficulty, only that force must be used in taking them ; and he suggested the addition of fifteen hundred or two thousand boys of from twelve to fourteen years of age. . The numbers finally fixed were one thousand boys and one thousand girls.”
The total number of children disposed of in the same way, from 1652 to 1655, has been variously estimated at from twenty thousand to one hundred thousand. The British Government at last was compelled to interfere and put a stop to the infamous traffic, when, the mere Irish proving too scarce, the agents were not sufficiently discriminating in their choice, but shipped off English children also to the Tobacco Islands.
At last the island was left utterly without defenders, and sufficiently depopulated. It is calculated that, when the last great measure was announced and put into execution, only half a mill-ion of Irish people remained in the country, the rest of the resident population being composed of the Scotch and English, introduced by James I., and the soldiers and adventurers let in by Cromwell.
The main features of the celebrated ” act of settlement” are known to all. It was an act intended to dispose quietly of half a million of human beings, destined certainly in the minds of its projectors to disappear in due time, without any great violenceto die offand leave the whole island in the possession of the godly.”
Connaught is famed as being the wildest and most barren province of Ireland. At the best, it can support but a scanty population. At this time it had been completely devastated by a ten years’ war and by the excesses of the parliamentary forces. This province then was mercifully granted to the unhappy Irish race; it was set apart as a paradise for the wretched remnant to dwell inall Connaught, except a strip four miles wide along the sea, and a like strip along the right bank of the Shannon. This latter judicious provision was undoubtedly intended to prevent them from dwelling by the ocean, whence they might derive subsistence or assistance, or means of escape in the event of their ever rising again ; and, on the other hand, from crossing the Shan-non, on the east side of which their homes might still be seen. This cordon of four miles’ width was drawn all around what was the Irish nation, and filled with the fiercest zealots of the ” army of the Lord ” to keep guard over the devoted victims.
Surely the doom of the race was at last sealed.
But let all justice be done to the Protector. The act was to the effect that, on the first day of May, 1654, all who, through-out the war, had not displayed a constant good affection to the Parliament of England in opposition to Charles I., were to be removed with their families and servants to the wilds of a poor and desolated province, where certain lands were to be given them in return for their own estates. But, who of the Irish could prove that they had displayed a ” constant good affection” to the English Parliament during a ten years’ war ? The act was nothing less than a proscription of the whole nation. The English of the Pale were included among the old natives, and even a few Protestant royalists, who had taken up the cause of the fallen Stuarts. The only exception made was in favor of “husbandmen, ploughmen, laborers, artificers, and others of the inferior sort.” The English and Scotchconstituted by this act of settlement lords and masters of the three richest provinces of Ireland–could not condescend to till the soil with their own hands and attend to the mechanical arts required in civil society. Those duties were reserved for the Irish poor. It was hoped that, deprived of their nobility and clergy, they might be turned to any account by their new masters, and either become good Protestants or perish as slaves. Herein mentita est iniquitas The heart-rending details of this outrage on humanity may be seen in Mr. Prendergast’s ” Cromwellian Settlement.’ There all who read may form some idea of the extent of Ireland’s misfortunes.
It is a wonder which cannot fail to strike the reader, how, after so many precautions had been taken, not only against the further increase of the race, but for its speedy demolition, how, reduced to a bare half million, penned off on a barren tract of land, left utterly at the mercy of its persecutors, without priests, without organization of any kind, it not only failed to perish, but, from that time, has gone on, steadily increasing, until to-day it spreads out wide and far, not only on the island of its birth, but on the broad face of two vast continents.
In the space at our disposal, it is impossible to satisfy the curiosity of the reader on this very curious and interesting topic. A few remarks, however, may serve to broadly indicate the chief causes of this astonishing fact, taken apart from the miraculous intervention of God in their favor.
First, then, Connaught became more Irish than ever, and a powerful instrument, later on, to assist in the resurrection of the nation. In fact, as will soon be seen, it preserved life to it. Again, the outcasts, who were allowed to remain in the other three provinces as servants, or slaves, rather, were not found manageable on the score of religion ; and, although new acts of Parliament forbade any bishop or priest to remain in the island, many did remain, some of them coming back from the Continent, whither they had been exported, to aid their unfortunate countrymen in this their direst calamity.
As Matthew O’Connor rightly says : “The ardent zeal, the fortitude and calm resignation of the Catholic clergy during this direful persecution, might stand a comparison with the constancy of Christians during the first ages of the Church. In the season of prosperity they may have pushed their pretensions too far “this is M. O’Connor’s private opinion of the Confederation of Kilkenny” but, in the hour of trial, they rose superior to human infirmities. . . . Sooner than abandon their socks altogether, they fled from the communion of men, concealed themselves in woods and caverns, from whence they issued, whenever the pursuit of their enemies abated, to preach to the people, to comfort them in their afflictions, to encourage them in their trials ; .. . their haunts were objects of indefatigable search ; bloodhounds, the last device of human cruelty, were employed for the purpose, and the same price was set on the head of a priest as on that of a wolf.”(Irish. Catholics.)
But, the expectation that the Irish of the lower classes, bereft of their pastors as well as of the guidance of their chieftains, would fall a prey to proselytizing ministers, and lose at once their nationality and their religion, was doomed to meet with disappointment.
Perhaps the cause more effective than all others in preserving the Irish nation from disappearing totally, came from a quarter least expected, or rather the most improbable and wonderful.
No device seemed better calculated to succeed in Protestantizing Ireland than the decree of Parliament which set forth that not only the officers, but even the common soldiers of the parliamentary army should be paid for their services, not in money, but in land; and that the estates of the old owners should he parcelled out and distributed among them in payment, as well as among those who, in England, had furnished funds for the prosecution of the war. Although many soldiers objected to this mode of compensation, some selling for a trifle the land allotted to them and returning to their own country, the great majority was compelled to rest satisfied with the government offer, and so resolved to settle down in Ireland and turn farmers. But a serious difficulty met them : women could not be induced to abandon their own country and go to dwell in the sister isle, while the Irish girls, being all Catholics, a decree of Parliament forbade the soldiers to marry them, unless they first succeeded in converting them to Protestantism. After many vain attempts, doubtless, the Cromwellian soldiers soon found the impossibility of bringing the ” refractory ” daughters of Erin to their way of thinking, and could find only one mode of bridging over the difficultyto marry them first, without requiring them to apostatize, and secure their prize after by swearing that their wives were the most excellent of Protestants. Thus while perjury became an every-day occurrence, the victorious army began to be itself vanquished by a powerful enemy which it had scarcely calculated upon, and was utterly unprepared to meet, and finally resting from its labors, enjoyed the sweets of peace an l the fat of the land.
But woman, once she feels her power, is exacting, and in course of time the Cromwellian soldiers found that further sacrifices still were required of them, which they had never counted upon. Their wives could, by no persuasion, be induced to speak English, so that, however it might go against the grain, the husbands were compelled to learn Irish and speak it habitually as best they might. Their difficulties began to multiply with their children, when they found them learning Irish in the cradle, irresistible in their Irish wit and humor, and lisping the prayers and reverencing the faith they had learned at their mothers’ knees. So that, from that time to this, the posterity of Cromwell’s “Ironsides,” of such of them at least as remained in Ireland, have been devoted Catholics and ardent Irishmen.
The case was otherwise with the chief officers of the parliamentary army, who had received large estates and could easily obtain wives from England. They remained stanch Protestants, and their children have continued in the religion received with the estates which came to them from this wholesale confiscation. But the bulk of the army, instead of helping to form a Protestant middle class and a Protestant yeomanry, has really helped to perpetuate the sway of the Catholic religion in Ireland, and the feeling of nationality so marked to-day. This very remarkable fact has been well established and very plainly set forth, a few years ago, by eminent English reviewers.
Meanwhile, Ireland was a prey to all the evils which can afflict a nation. Pestilence was added to the ravages of war and the woes of transplantation, and it raged alike among the conquerors and the conquered. Friar Morrisson’s “Threnodia” reads to-day like an exaggerated lament, the burden of which was drawn from a vivid imagination. Yet can there be little doubt that it scarcely presented the whole truth ; an exact reproduction of all the heart-rending scenes then daily enacted in the unfortunate island would prove a tale as moving as ever harrowed the pitying heart of a reader.
And all this suffering was the direct consequence of two thingsthe attachment of the Irish to the Catholic religion, and their devotion to the Stuart dynasty. Modern historians, in considering all the circumstances, express themselves unable to understand the constancy of this people’s affection for a line of kings from whom they had invariably experienced, not only neglect, but positive opposition, if not treachery. In their opinion, only the strangest obliquity of judgment can explain such infatuation. Some call it stupidity ; but the Irish people have never been taxed with that. Even in the humblest ranks of life among them, there exists, not only humor, but a keenness of perception, and at times an extraordinary good sense, which is quick to detect motives, and find out what is uppermost in the minds of others.
There is but one reading of the riddle, consistent with the whole character of the people : they clung to the Stuarts because they were obedient to the precepts and duties of religion, and labored under the belief, however mistaken, that from the Stu-arts alone could they hope for any thing like freedom. Their spiritual rulers had insisted on the duty of sustaining at a hazard the legitimate authority of the king, and they were firmly convinced that they could expect from no other a relaxation of the religious penal statutes imposed on them by their enemies. The more frequent grew their disappointments in the measures adopted by the sovereigns on whom they had set their hopes, the more firmly were they convinced that their intentions were good, but rendered futile by the men who surrounded and coerced them.
Religion can alone explain this singular affection of the Irish people for a race which, in reality, has caused the greatest of their misfortunes.
The subsequent events of this strange history are in perfect keeping with those preceding. A few words will suffice to sketch them.
On the death of Oliver Cromwell, his son Richard, being unable and indeed unwilling to remain at the head of the English state, the nation, tired of the iron rule of the Protector, fearful certainly of anarchy, and preferring the conservative measures of monarchy to the ever-changing revolutions of a commonwealth, recalled the son of Charles I. to the throne.
But a kind of bargain had been struck by him with those who disposed of the crown; and he undertook and promised to disturb as little as possible the vested interests created by the revolution, that is to say, he pledged himself to let the settlement of property remain as he found it. In England that promise was productive of little mischief to the nation at large, though fatal to the not very numerous families who had been deprived of their estates by the Parliament. But, in Ireland, it was a very different matter ; for there the interests of the whole nation were ousted to make room for these ” vested interests” of proprietors of scarcely ten years’ standing.
The Irish nobility and gentry, at first unaware of the existence of this bargain, were in joyful expectation that right would at last be done them, as it was for loyalty to the father of the new king that they had been robbed of all their possessions. They were soon undeceived. To their surprise, they learned that the speculators, army-officers, and soldiers already in possession of their estates, were not to be disturbed, short as the possession had been ; and that only such. lands as were yet unappropriated should be returned to their rightful owners, provided only they were not papists, or could prove that they had been ” innocent papists.”
The consequences of this bargain are clear. The Irish of the old native race who had been, as now appeared, so foolishly ardent in their loyalty to the throne, were to be abandoned to the fate to which Cromwell had consigned them, and could expect to recover nothing of what they had so nobly lost. So flagrantly unjust was the whole proceeding, that after a time many Englishmen even saw the injustice of the decision, and lifted up their voices in defence of the Irish Catholics who alone could hope for nothing from the restoration of royalty. To put a stop to this, the infamous ” Oates” fabrication was brought forward, which destroyed a number of English Catholic families and stifled the voice of humanity in its efforts to befriend the Irish race ; and so sudden, universal, and lasting, was the effect of this. plot in closing the eyes of all to the claims of the Irish, that when its chief promoter, Shaftesbury, was dragged to the Tower and there imprisoned as a miscreant, and Oates himself suffered a punishment too mild for his villany, nevertheless no one thought of again taking up the cause of the Irish natives.
It is almost impossible in these days to realize what has occupied our attention in this chapter. The unparalleled act of spoliation by which four-fifths of the Irish nation were deprived of their property by Cromwell because of their devotion to Charles I., for the alleged reason that they could not prove a constant good affection for the English regicide Parliament, that spoliation was ratified by the son of Charles within a few years after the rightful owners, who had sacrificed their property for the sake of his father, had been dispossessed, while the parliamentarians, who by force of arms had broken down the power of Charles and enabled the members of the Long Parliament to try their king and bring him to the block, those very soldiers and officers were left in possession of their ill-gotten plunder, at a time when many of the owners were only a few miles away in Connaught, or even inhabiting the out-houses of their own mansions, and tilling the soil as menial servants of Cromwell’s troopers.
The case, apparently similar, which occurred in after-years, of the French emigrant nobility, cannot be compared with the result of this strange concession of Charles II. In fact, it may be said that the spoliations of 1792-’93 in France would probably never have taken place but for the successful example held up to the eyes of the legislators of the French Republic by the English Revolution.
As for the share which Charles II. himself bore in the measure, it is best told by the fact that the work of spoliation was carried on so vigorously during the reign of the ” merry monarch,” that when a few years later William of Orange came to the throne there was no land left for him to dispose of among his followers save the last million of acres. All the rest had been portioned off. Well might Dr. Madden say : ” The whole of Ire-land has been so thoroughly confiscated that the only exception was that of five or six families of English blood, some of whom had been attainted in the reign of Henry VIII., but recovered their possessions before Tyrone’s rebellion, and had the good for tune to escape the pillage of the English republic inflicted by Cromwell ; and no inconsiderable portion of the island has been confiscated twice, or perhaps thrice, in the course of a century. The situation, therefore, of the Irish nation at the revolution, stands unparalleled in the history of the inhabited world.”
A few words will suffice to show what the Irish owe to the Stuarts. James I. established a colony on Irish soil, which had nothing in common with the native inhabitants, and which, owing to the altered state of affairs in the island, could never hope to coalesce with them. All races of men, which had landed on the island and endeavored to conquer it, had gradually yielded to the sociability of the Irish nature and ended by adopting the native manners, disposition, and language. The Protestant colony of Ulster has never showed the least inclination to follow these repeated examples, except partially and for a short time at the end of the last century, on the occasion of the insurrection of 1798. But soon after, with a few honorable exceptions, the same colony became more bitter than ever against every thin Irish, boasted of being only Irish-Scotch, and, under the name of Orangemen, adopted the most revolting principles against the other inhabitants of the common soil.
At all times, except during the brief interval of the civil war of ’98, the Ulster colony has looked to England for its support against its “enemies,” the Catholics; and, in order to gain that support, it has surrendered every prerogative dear to the lovers of freedom; as far as possible it subjected the Irish Parliament, as long as such existed, to that of England; by packing juries, it has contributed to render that so much-vaunted free institution, the British jury, a mockery; it has helped materially to cripple native trade and industry, and ruined the country commercially to please England ; in all which it may be said to have proved itself more English than the English.
Such are a few of the blessings imported into the unfortunate country with the colony of James I. ; so that what the Plantagenets and Lancasters could never effect, what the Tudors did not even attempt, that did the Stuarts; they divided the island into two permanent camps opposed among themselves, always at war more or less, and altogether irreconcilable even after many generations have been born, passed away, and died, in contact one with the other.
The effect of that long and seemingly eternal division is certainly far more deplorable than were ever the insane feuds of the clans, with all their petty warfare and bloody conflicts.
But to come to the grand spoliation, which throws all previous ones into the shade, and is enough in itself to set the English nation under Cromwell on a par with the most devastating hordes that ever set sail on a voyage of piracy under the sea-kongs of old. The measure had the merit at least of being radical and thorough. By a single act of Parliament three whole provinces, the richest in the island, were confiscated at once and without more ado ; and, if the poorest and most desolate province was still left to the Irish, it was evidently in the minds of the humane legislators intended as a temporary expedient to get rid of a wretched half-million of people. It threw a show of humanity over the measure. They might have driven them at once into the sea; but it looked better to pen them off like so many cattle on a bleak land, to encircle them with a cordon of bitter foes, and, in the devout hope that so it would speedily come to pass, there let them starve and die out at their ease.
Strange to say, this spoliation must be laid altogether at the door of the Stuarts. Every writer on Irish history has been careful to note how many hundreds of thousands or millions of acres were successively confiscated by Henry VIII., Edward VI., Mary, Elizabeth, James I., and afterward William of Orange. But no one has ever been able to ascertain how much Cromwell appropriated except by coming to the decisions of the Court of Claims under Charles II. So that this monarch has literally kept the books for the robbing firm, Cromwell and Parliament, and given the only legal title accompanied with vouchers, which the Cromwellian adventurers and ” undertakers” ever received.
It is said, in a general way, that the Protector took three en-tire provinces, and this statement is certainly true in the main. But, until the establishment of the Court of Claims at the Restoration, there was really nothing sure and finally settled, so that many of the decisions of the Loughrea commissioners and Ath-lone judges of claims, under the Commonwealth, might have been reversed, and were expected to be reversed by the new Court of Claims established by Charles II., although that monarch had pledged himself to disturb as little as possible the “vested interests” created by the revolution.
The Protector’s reign lasted only nine years, and the legal and judicial operations required by the Cromwellian act of settlement began several years subsequently to his taking in his hands the reins of government, thus supposing many years of investigation, discussion, and hearing of cases, with the possibility of appeal and reversal of judgment, before a final decision could be arrived at. So that the Restoration came about while a multitude of those questions were still pending, and it was only natural to expect that, with the new order, many of them might have been stopped, many decisions reversed, since they had been invariably given in favor of a revolution now reprobated.
Had Charles II. only felt the slightest inclination to serve his peal friends and the defenders of his father, the Irish, bow many of those Cromwellian measures would have remained? Let a skilful and cautious lawyer, gifted with ready pen and glib tongue, and accustomed to such intricate questions, respond. Even granting that the king had been compelled to promise not to disturb the ” vested interests,” such promise could only be held to refer to vested interests which stood well-grounded, fixed, decided, clear, and without any doubt or counter-claim of what-ever description. With a little trouble, and a judicious use of the royal prerogative, it is very safe to assert that the Cromwellian act of settlement would have been reduced to slender pro-portions, and assumed a very different aspect from that which it now assumes in history.
For, to come to the point, in the enumeration of the various confiscations in Ireland, given by Dr. Madden, in his ” Connection,” etc., that of Cromwell is laid entirely at the door of Charles II., under the following heading : ” Set out by the Court of Claims at the Restoration, seven million eight hundred thousand acres.” Thus, nearly eight million acres of Irish soil have actuallythat is to say, legally and without hope of reversal of sentencepassed from the hands of the rightful owners into those of foreign adventurers and robbers under the reign of the second Charles Stuart. And, as the whole island contains only about eleven million five hundred thousand acres, it is clear that the three entire provinces were included in that act of spoliation.
In his speech on the ” Union,” which he so strongly advocated in 1800, Lord Clare puts the case in the strongest and clearest light : “I wish gentlemen, who call themselves the dignified and independent Irish nation, to know that seven million eight hundred thousand acres of land were set out, under the authority of this actpassed under Charles II.to a motley crew of English adventurers, civil and military, nearly to the total exclusion of the old inhabitants of the island, many of whom, who were innocent of the rebellion, lost their inheritance, as well for the difficulties imposed upon them by the Court of Claims, in the proofs required of their innocency, as for a deficiency in the fund to English adventurers, arising principally from a profuse grant made by the crown to the Duke of York,” afterward James II.
Charles II., therefore, took upon himself to be, in his own person, the executor of the Cromwellian settlement, and we have seen how far his duties extended. In the last revolution, of 1688, William of Orange had only left a poor fragment of a million of acres wherewith to complete the extensive operations of James I. and Charles II.
And still, even at the death of this last-mentioned monarch, the Irish displayed toward his brother, James II., an affection to the extent of resolving to perish with the dynasty to which he belonged. This time, however, their attachment cannot be said to have been altogether misplaced, as far as the sentiments and designs of the new king in their regard went. James had the honest desire of granting to them, as to all his subjects, real liberty of conscience. He was the first of the English monarchs to proclaim what in modern times is called ” religious freedom,” and he lost his crown merely because the majority of his subjects were determined to preserve intact to themselves the preponderance they had gained over the Catholics, and the right they had already made such good use of for so long a time, of oppressing them at will.
Few pages of Irish history are so full of interest as the three years’ war which ended with the surrender of Limerick. Ath-lone, Aughrim, Limerick, even the Boyne, are glorious fields for the Irish race, though they culminated in defeat. Often was it the sheer courage of despair which filled the heart and nerved the arm of those heroic Irish warriors. To describe the vicissitudes of that short but gigantic struggle would be to overstep our limits. A general remark, however, which seems to have escaped the observation of many writers, is pertinent to the subject in hand. At the Boyne, where the campaign began, the Irish army found itself in the midst of the country which had been stripped of its native inhabitants by Cromwell and, it may be said, by Charles II. Therefore was the contest short, because, after the first reverse, no resistance could come from the sur-rounding districts. This was doubtless the reason why many officers advised James, at the opening of the campaign, to fall back on the line of the Shannon.
It was when James gave up the contest and fled to France, that the war really began with the siege of Athlone, before whose walls the victors of the Boyne suffered a repulse. After this, the entire war was confined to the frontiers of Connaught from north to south ; for there was the Irish nation enclosed and packed together. If Louis XIV., in place of sending officers and a few troops, had dispatched arms and munitions of war in quantity sufficient, it is now evident that a hundred thousand men would have straightway started up from the wilds of desolate Connaught to save Ireland to James, and, in all probability, England also, at the time dissatisfied with the uncouth manners of the usurper and the greed of his Dutch followers.
One thing only is certain : James may have failed to persevere a sufficient time at the head of his Irish subjects ; Louis may have failed to see and avail himself of the right moment of success ; but the Irish, all that was left of them, failed in none of the heroic qualities of the soldier, and in falling then forever, to all seeming, they fell as soldiers care to fall when struggle is useless, with honor saved and duty nobly done.
Even then their resistance would have been prolonged to the last had not honorable and fair conditions been tendered them at Limerick, only to be shamefully violated when the capitulation was effected.
The conditions of that surrender were, that they should obtain for themselves and their countrymen the great boon of religious liberty, security for all who had served King James, by merely taking an oath of future allegiance to William and Mary, and the privilege to every nobleman and gentleman en-gaged in the war to possess and carry arms for the protection of their persons.
Allured by these solemn engagements of the enemy, believing in the promise and plighted word of a king and a soldier, the Irish consented to surrender their last stronghold. The world knows how faithfully the solemn engagement, the royal promise, the soldier’s word, was kept. Sarsfield sailed away with the newly-arrived French fleet, containing nearly twenty thousand men, and the Irish were left completely at the mercy of their masters. Then began the century of gloom which will be described in the next chapter.
But, before closing the present, the reader will pardon a few reflections on the strange fascination which the Stuart name possessed for the Irish, the spell it held over them, a spell which lasted until the surrender of Limerick, where it was at last broken, never to weave its magic meshes again between them and the person or the cause of any British king or government. Irish faith in English honor of any shape or form fell with Limerick, never to be built up again.
It is a mistake to pretend, with Dr. Madden, that Queen Anne, the last of the throned Stuarts, enjoyed the allegiance of her Irish subjects. The frightful penal laws enacted during her reign were scarcely calculated to evoke such a feeling, and, if they did not organize for open resistance to such tyranny just then, it was owing to the sheer impossibility and despair of the success of such a movement. Bereft of all means whereby a nation can manifest its will, there appeared to be no will left to them, beyond the abject submission and apathetic resignation of the Eastern slave. Numerous secret societies soon began to spring up among them, however, showing clearly enough that the native determination never to yield was as strong in them as ever ; but the illusion, which had so long borne them up, that in the Stuart line lay their last hope as a nation, was gone forever, and no longer inspired them with that heroic feeling which had ennobled their last struggle.
We hope that the reader has seen with us that the secret of that heroism was their religion. All who have written on this eventful period seem to have failed to take into sufficient account this feeling, which is always uppermost in the Irish heart, and confess themselves unable to explain this singular hallucination.
But, as we have seen, too cursorily perhaps, it was the remembrance of his Catholic mother, Mary of Scotland, which gave rise to their chief reason for hope on the accession of James I.; it was the supposed good disposition of his son Charles, and, further still, the knowledge of the Catholic piety of that monarch’s queen, Henrietta, which revived those hopes when James died. Then the Confederation of Kilkenny, headed by their bishops and a nuncio of the Holy See, induced them to continue firm in their allegiance to the king. Under Charles II. they suffered; they had no cause to fight for him, though, had there been, it is certain that they would have embraced it, as under his rule they really enjoyed a kind of religious liberty, in spite of existing laws. But for James II. their feeling rose into enthusiasm. In him they beheld a sincere Catholic, suffering for his religion as they themselves suffered ; and this fact alone explains their wonderful attachment to his cause, and the invincible determination to fall with him or rise again with the rising of his power.
It is doubtful if, in the whole course of their history, they ever displayed a greater attachment to their religion than they did under the Stuarts. The fearful trials they were subjected to by Cromwell were as a fierce furnace-blast threatening to consume them utterly, but without eliciting from them a sign )f regret for having taken their stand boldly for God and the king, in the face of the extremities which they braved in consequence.
But it may be said that at this very time of the apparent destruction of all their hopes, God was preparing the way for the events which were to lead up to their future resurrection. The fact previously touched upon of the uprising of the true Irish nation, after the destruction of clanship, came more and more into prominence, and grew silently under the subsequent period of gloom. Day by day they became more united, more firm in their resolve never to coalesce with their persecutors, and never to relinquish their great distinctive badgethe faith. It parted them off from their oppressors by an impassable line; and, as their utter destruction was impossible, their existence as a nation, apart from those who deprived them of all that was theirs, grew more marked than ever, and was brought into stronger relief.
In their very attachment to the Stuarts lies a proof of this last remark. For there is in their support of that dynasty a fact which deserves to be set forth : the unanimity of the feeling which sprung up simultaneously in their hearts, which was only intensified by difficulties and misfortunes, which survived even the Cromwellian calamity, and which was extinguished in all, as suddenly, simultaneously, and unaccountably, as it rose.
Never before, as never after, did the Irish show a sign of true allegiance to the British crown ; but, treated as aliens and enemies, they felt themselves at liberty to acknowledge or not the English monarchs as they chose. On a sudden, a silent, spontaneous feeling rises through the whole nation in favor of a new line of British sovereigns. This feeling was as utterly unexpected as it was universal. It was emphatically what is now called public opinion. Yet no meetings of citizens had been convoked, no books or pamphlets written, no periodical reviews or newspapers had advocated it ; none of those means now used for the manufacture of public opinion were known or called into play at the time. Nevertheless, not only every one of the noble-men remaining in the country, every individual of the educated classes, as they are now calledand they were by no means few every well-to-do farmer and grazier, but even the humblest cottagers, the poorest artisans and laborers, are at once so captivated by the new feeling, that disappointment following disappointment, ingratitude succeeded by greater ingratitude, calamity heaped upon calamity, all possible obstacles and discouraging circumstances cannot dissipate the fatal illusion, and turn into other and worthier channels the heroic efforts of the people. Surely this is public opinion, if such a thing as public opinion exists.
But public opinion cannot exist without a nation from which to spring, and, in proportion as it is strong or weak, so is the nation compact and efficient or feeble. It is therefore an error to suppose that the Irish nation ended with the destruction of clanship. Not only did it subsist, but it really sprang from that destruction into new life and new activity, under Henry VIII. an activity and a life peculiar to the Irish people. There was nothing to compare with it in any other race. Nor was the fact exemplified only in the single instance now under consideration. It may be said that it has ever since formed a characteristic of them, and is still frequently manifested in the saine strange and unaccountable manner. Among other people, when a fact that calls forth general attention is reported, the opinions with regard to it differ with the individuals who discuss it, and the expressions of their opinions are as various almost as their faces , but among Irishmen, as a rule, the same fact, if of great importance, will be judged on alike by all ; all are unanimous to denounce or admire it ; there is no difference of opinion among them ; and yet, even to-day, they have, comparatively speaking, few newspapers and reviews whereby to form their opinions on men and things. They do not seem to require the common helps of ordinary people to think, reflect, judge, and pronounce a sort of electric current runs through the whole mass, and the first expression on the lips of any one of them on a subject of importance meets with an immediate response in the minds of all the rest, because all have been impressed by it in like manner.
Individual exceptions, of course, are to be found; cavillers might quote facts to prove that this view is unfounded ; nevertheless any one acquainted with this remarkable people will know that such is the case in general, and that few things are more remarkable among them, notwithstanding the universal reputation they enjoy for constant quarrelling and internal feuds.
The difficulty which may be raised by such cavillers can be satisfactorily explained. On matters of faith, of religion, the Irish are unanimous ; and this fact is rendered the more striking by the acknowledgment that in matters of minor importance in life, their feelings are as various and changeable as a most impulsive nature can make them.
With regard to the first point, no two opinions are to be found among them. What the humblest and rudest will express humorously, rudely if you will, the more refined will only echo in language better attuned to the educated ear.
This unanimity of feeling in the Irish people, as displayed in their attachment to the Stuart dynasty, wrought them up on one occasion at least to a pitch of real heroism, because religion, as was shown, lay at the bottom of it. The whole history of the nation bears out this solemn fact : that religion constitutes with them the strongest as the holiest feeling of all. What others fondly believe, they know to be a fact, that their religion is indestructible and must triumph in the long-run, and that the triumph of their nation is one with the triumph of their religion. Can a nobler motive than this fire the human heart ? Where the wonder, then, that souls, ever swayed by such ennobling emotions, can be lifted up to do deeds gigantic and heroic ?
One other circumstance still renders their unanimity on that occasion more remarkable and admirable. Their devotion was to the Stuarts, not to the English people ; to the dynasty, not to the nation over which it was set. Nevertheless, in bending to the yoke of the Stuarts, they bent to England also. They were perfectly conscious that it was to the kings of England that they tendered their true allegiance. They knew that, in accepting the dynasty, they accepted with it such English officials as Borlase, Parsons, and Ormond; that with the official government they would have to accept colonists who detested them, and that those colonists would be preferred before them ; that in the lower ranks they would have to bow to English judges, sheriffs, informers even and spies. Something has been said of the police which the genius of Elizabeth invented, and which has flourished ever since. Yet did they not refuse the accessory with the principal. Deluded men they may be called by many ; but people cannot ordinarily understand the high motives which move men swayed only by the twofold feeling of religion and nationality.
Nothing in our opinion could better prove that the Irish were really a nation, at the time we speak of, than the remarks just set forth. When all minds are so unanimous, the wills so ready, the arms so strong and well prepared to strike together, it must be admitted that in the whole exists a common feeling, a national will. Self-government may be wanting; it may have been suppressed by sheer force and kept under by the most unfavorable state of affairs, but the nation subsists and cannot fail ultimately to rise.
In those eventful times shone forth too that characteristic which has already been remarked upon of a true conservative spirit and instinctive hatred for every principle which in our days is called radical and revolutionary. Had there existed in the Irish disposition the least inclination toward those social and moral aberrations, productive to-day of so many and such wide-spread evils, surely the period of the English Revolution was the fitting time to call them forth, and turn them from their steady adherence to right and order into the new channels, toward which nations were being then hurried, and which would really have favored for the time being their own efforts for independence. Then would the Irish have presented to future historians as stirring an episode of excitement and activity as was furnished by the English and Scotch at that time, by the French later on, and which to-day most European nations offer.
The temptation was indeed great. They saw with what success rebellion was rewarded among the English and Scotch. They themselves were sure to be stamped as rebels whichever side they took ; and, as was seen, Charles II. allowed his commissioners in his act of settlement so to style them, and punish them for itfor supporting the cause of his father against the Parliament.
Would it not have been better for them to have become once, at least, rebels in true earnest, and reap the saine advantage from rebellion which all around them reaped? Yet did they stand proof against the demoralizing doctrines of Scotch Covenanter and English republican. Hume, who was openly adverse to every thing Irish, is compelled to describe this Catholic people as ” loyal from principle, attached to regal power from religious education, uniformly opposing popular frenzy, and zealous vindicators of royal prerogatives.”
All this was in perfect accord with their traditional spirit and historical recollections. Revolutionary doctrines have always been antagonistic to the Irish mind and heart. This will appear more fully when recent times come under notice, and it may be a surprise to some to find that, with the exception of a few individuals, who in nowise represent the nation, the latest and favorite theories of the world, not only on religion, science, and philosophy, but likewise on government and the social state, have never found open advocates among them. They, so far, constitute the only nation untouched, as yet, by the blight which is passing over and withering the life of modern society. Thus, it may be said that the exiled nobility still rules in Ireland by the recollection of the past, though there can no longer exist a hope of reconstructing an ancient order which has passed away forever. The prerogatives once granted to the aristocratic classes are now disowned and repudiated on all sides ; in Ireland they would be submitted to with joy to-morrow, could the actual descendants of the old families only make good their claims. It must not be forgotten that the Irish nobility, as a class, deserved well of their country, sacrificed themselves for it when the time of sacrifice came, and therefore it is fitting that they should live in the memory of the people that sees their traces but finds them not. The dream of finding rulers for the nation from among those who claim to be the descendants of the old chieftains, is a dream and nothing more ; but, even still to many Irishmen, it is within the compass of reality, so deeply ingrained is their conservative spirit, and so completely, in this instance, at least, are they free from the influx of modern ideas.
The Stuarts, then, were supported by the Irish, not merely from religious, but also from national motives, inasmuch as that family was descended from the line of Gaelic kings, and, how-ever unworthy they themselves may have been, their rights were upheld and acknowledged against all comers. But, the Stuarts gone, allegiance was flung to the winds.
The success of Cromwell and his republic was the doom of all prospects of the reunion of the two islands ; and the subsequent Revolution of 1688, which commenced so soon after the death of the Protector, left the Irish in the state in which the struggles of four hundred years with the Plantagenets and Tudors had placed and left them in relation to their connection with Englanda state of antagonism and mutual repulsion, wherein the Irish nation, the victim of might, was slowly educated by misfortune until the time should come for the open acknowledgm eut of right.