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CHAPTER I: Review of the Government of Ireland. - John Millar, An Historical View of the English Government 
An Historical View of the English Government, From the Settlement of the Saxons in Britain to the Revolution in 1688, in four volumes, edited by Mark Salber Philips and Dale R. Smith, introduction by Mark Salber Philips (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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Review of the Government of Ireland.
The connection between England and Ireland, which has now subsisted for many centuries, is a circumstance of great importance in the history of these two countries, and cannot, with propriety, be overlooked in a political survey of Great Britain.
The first invasion of Ireland by the English proceeded from the rapacity of private adventurers; and had no other object but<2> the acquisition of possessions in that country. Though Henry II. under whom the first English settlement was made, claimed the whole island as an accession to his crown, and though he had been at the pains to procure a Papal bull, as a foundation for that claim, he appears to have done very little, either to ascertain and extend the conquest, or to civilize the inhabitants, and reduce them under a regular government. The subsequent monarchs of England were equally inattentive to those objects, or from peculiar embarrassments at home, were incapable of pursuing them; so that the private settlers, in that hitherto rude country, were left, by their own efforts, to maintain their possessions, and to guard against the attacks of the natives. In such a situation, it could not be expected that these two sets of people would live in good neighbourhood. The English were, in reality, a band of robbers, who had stripped the natives of a part of their property; and by means of recruits from England, were endeavouring to avail themselves of every opportunity of seizing on the whole. As the avowed purpose of<3> the former was to invade and plunder, so the provocation, suffered by the latter, must have united them, not only to defend their possessions, but to revenge the injuries they had sustained; and considering the uncultivated state of the one people, with the barbarous ferocity of the other, it is not surprising, that by a long course of mutual depredation, they contracted a bitter and rancorous animosity and hatred, and often conducted their hostilities in a manner equally inconsistent with the faith of treaties, and with the feelings of humanity.
The old and the new inhabitants were thus prevented from incorporating; and a line of separation between them was drawn by their mutual contention and hostile passions. The latter were called the Irish within the pale:1 the former the Irish without the pale. The Irish within the pale were accounted subjects of the crown of England; and entitled to receive such protection from the sovereign, as could conveniently be afforded them. The English government considered those without the<4> pale as aliens, from whom it indeed endeavoured to raise a tribute, but whom, in place of protecting, it never failed to treat as enemies, whenever disputes arose between them and the other inhabitants.
The Irish within the pale, from their primitive connection with England, as well as from the influence and authority of her monarchs, fell under a government similar, in every respect, to that of the mother country. They composed, in one view, a sort of English province, over which the sovereign claimed an executive power, and appointed, during pleasure, a governor. These appointments were begun by Henry II. and continued by his successors. The country was divided into districts, and committed to the care of sheriffs. Superior courts of justice were likewise formed, upon the same plan with those at Westminster-hall.
As the Irish inhabitants of the pale, however, were left, in a great measure, to struggle with the natives, and to follow such measures, for their safety and prosperity, as<5> were suggested by their peculiar circumstances, they required a great council to deliberate upon their affairs, and to regulate the conduct of their executive officers. For this purpose an assembly, after the example of the English parliament, was occasionally convened by the governor; but at what period this establishment was completed is uncertain. Sir John Davies thinks it had no place till the reign of Edward II. about an hundred and forty years after the first settlement; but the opinion of Leland is more probable, that its commencement reaches as high as the reign of Henry II. though it was much later before the institution attained a regular form.2
The Irish parliament was early composed of two houses, as in England; the Lords temporal and spiritual having a seat in the one; and the knights of shires, and burgesses, in the other: but for a long time the assembly was far from being numerous. Before the reign of Henry VIII. there were but twelve counties, besides the liberty of Tipperary, and thirty-four boroughs; so<6> that the numbers of the house of commons could not amount to an hundred.*
As this national assembly was called for the same purposes with that of England, it was wont to deliberate upon the same sort of business, and to exercise similar powers. Its interpositions having arisen from a total neglect, or inability, of the English parliament to regulate the government of Ireland, the members of that assembly appear to have early considered themselves, not as acting in any subordinate capacity, but as possessed of an independent authority. In conformity to this idea, we find the states of Ireland as far back as the reign of Edward III. asserting their privilege, according to the ancient custom of holding their own parliaments, and their exemption from the burden of electing and sending any persons to the parliaments, or councils held in England.* <7>
With respect to the native Irish, or to the inhabitants without the pale, they seem to be considered, by many writers, as disgraced by a greater portion of barbarity and ferocity, than the rude inhabitants of other countries. But for this opinion it is difficult to discover any real foundation. By their long continued quarrels and hostilities with the English invaders, they became doubtless, inured to bloodshed, and instead of making progress in refinements and the arts, were confirmed in all the vices natural to a people unacquainted with civility and regular government. It must at the same time be acknowledged, that, from the partiality and prejudices of English historians, those vices have been greatly exaggerated.
Before the reign of Henry II. Ireland had been less exposed to foreign invasion than most other European countries; and though the inhabitants had never attained that civilization, which the ancient Romans communicated to their conquered provinces, they had comparatively, for some centuries, enjoyed a degree of tranquillity, which was likely to become the source of improvement.<8> It appears, accordingly, that under the cloud of thick darkness, which hung over Europe in the seventh century, some faint rays of light were discovered in Ireland, where, under the protection of the Christian clergy, a number of schools had been established, and were then in a flourishing condition. We are informed by an historian, of no less authority than Bede,3 that, about this period, it was usual for persons of distinction, among the Anglo-Saxons, and from the continent of Europe, to retire to that island for the purposes of enjoying the comforts of a sequestered life, and for obtaining the benefit of religious instruction from the Irish clergy, who, at that time, it seems, were distinguished for the purity of their doctrines, and for the strictness of their discipline.
The customs which antiquaries and historians have pointed out and collected, as peculiar to the Irish, are such as indicate no uncommon degree of barbarism and ferocity; but, on the contrary, when compared with those of other nations, exhibit that striking resemblance of lines and features, which may be remarked in the inhabitants of every<9> country before the advancement of arts and civilization.4
The people were divided into septs,5 or tribes, in a great measure independent of one another. Each of these was under a chief, who conducted the members of his tribe in war, and who endeavoured to protect them, either from the attacks of their neighbours, or from the various acts of injustice arising among themselves. In this latter capacity, the chief, agreeably to the general practice of rude nations, committed the administration of justice to a deputy, who received the appellation of Brehon. The Brehons were the ordinary judges in all those parts of the country, where the authority of the English monarch, in judicial matters, had not been established. Their jurisdiction was of a similar nature, and origin, to that of the Stewarts, whom, in the countries under the feudal system, the barons authorised to distribute justice among their tenants and vassals.
Many different septs, inhabiting an extensive territory were frequently associated under a common leader, whose authority<10> over this larger division, though much inferior to that of each inferior chief over his own sept, was gradually, by length of time, as well as by occasional circumstances, confirmed and extended. By the confederation of smaller into larger societies, there had arisen five large provinces, into which the whole island was divided. Mention is even made by historians, that these provinces had been occasionally united under a king; but this union was probably so transient and slight as never to have bestowed much real influence upon the nominal sovereign.
The appropriation of land, that great step in the progress of agriculture, appears, among the ancient inhabitants of Ireland, not to have taken place universally, for long after the English invasion, they retained so much of the pastoral manners, as, without confining themselves to fixed residence, to wander, with their cattle, from place to place. This custom known by the name of boolying, supposes that large commons, or tracts of unappropriated land, were extended through all the divisions of the country; and that the waste grounds bore a great pro-<11>portion to those, which were employed in tillage. In all countries the acquisition of landed property has arisen from agriculture; for the cultivators of a particular spot become entitled to the immediate produce, as the fruit and reward of their labour; and, after a long course of cultivation, having meliorated the soil, were, upon the same principle, entitled to the future possession of the land itself, by which alone they could reap the advantages, derived from their past improvements. Those lands, therefore, in Ireland, which had been employed solely in pasturage, must have remained in an unappropriated state, open to the promiscuous use of the whole community.
The limited and imperfect state of the appropriation of land in Ireland, may be further illustrated from the Irish customs with relation to succession. It appears that property in land was vested in the chiefs only, or leaders of septs; and that the inferior people of the tribe were merely tenants at will. The estates of those chiefs, however, were not transmitted from father to son by hereditary descent, but, upon the death<12> of the proprietor, passed to the eldest of his male relations. This person, by his experience in war, having usually acquired the highest reputation for military skill, was the best qualified to be leader of the tribe, and the most capable of defending that estate, in which they had all a common concern. This is the custom, anciently distinguished, both in Ireland and in Scotland, by the name of Tanistry;6 a name said to be derived from the circumstance, that, in the life time of the predecessor, it was common to ascertain and acknowledge the right of his heir, who, in the Celtic language, received the appellation of the Tanist, that is, the second person in the tribe. Traces of this mode of succession are very universally to be found in the early history of mankind. In that situation where the inhabitants of a country are almost continually engaged in predatory expeditions, it may be expedient that the land, possessed by those little societies of kindred, who reside in the same neighbourhood, should remain undivided under the disposal of the chief; and that, in chusing this leader, more regard should be had to<13> his age, experience, and military qualities, than to his blood-relation with the person who formerly enjoyed that office. The plan of transmitting inheritances, by which children, and even families, in a state of infancy, succeed to estates according to such rules, as are suggested by the inclination of parents, can hardly be made effectual till mankind enjoy a degree of tranquillity, and are, without any exertion of their own, protected by the public, and secured from depredation. The establishment of such a plan therefore, supposes considerable advances in the social intercourse, and a degree of improvement in many of the arts of life.
The inferior tenants, or followers of the chief, appear to have held their lands during his pleasure; though probably these tenants were usually permitted to remain in possession during life; and upon their decease, their estates were divided among the eldest males of the sept.* This has improperly<14> been called, by some writers, succession by gavel-kind.7
In that simple age when landed property is, in some measure, retained in common by a whole tribe, there naturally subsists an intimate connection, and strong attachment among the members of that small society. They live much together, are separated from the rest of the world, and assist one another in all their important transactions. Their affections are strengthened by the habits of intimacy, and by their mutual exertions of kindness in promoting their common interest. The chief is commonly attended by a number of his kindred, and tenants, whom he entertains with rustic hospitality and magnificence, as in return, they are ambitious of displaying their attachment, and their own importance, by entertaining their leader. The custom of visiting his tenants, and of his being maintained, on those occasions, at their expence, to which historians have given the appellation of coshering,8 was probably supported likewise by political considerations; as by making frequent progresses through the territories<15> of his tribe, the chief of the sept was enabled to prevent disturbance among a disorderly people, and according to the demerits of his tenants to proportion the burden of his maintenance.
The members of every sept were not only subject to the burden of maintaining their chief, when he thought proper to visit them, but were also liable to contributions for defraying the expence of his maintenance when he was employed in defence of the community. Hence a foundation was laid for arbitrary exactions, distinguished by the names of coegite and livery, which were originally Irish, but were afterwards adopted by the English settlers, and became the source of great oppression.
The mutual attachment and confidence that subsisted between the chief and the members of his tribe, are most especially remarkable in the practice of what is called fostering. It was common for the chief to give out his children, not only to be suckled, but even to be brought up, in the family of some of his tenants. To maintain such children was not looked upon a burden,<16> but as a mark of distinction; it created a new species of relation with the leader of the tribe; and enabled such fosterers to acquire a peculiar interest in those persons, whom the whole society beheld with admiration and respect. The practice, at the same time, shews the general simplicity of manners, which had introduced no idea that the son of a chief required an education superior to what might be obtained in the house of his tenants.
With regard to the laws enforced by the Brehons in the distribution of justice, they were similar to those of the other early European nations. The weakness of government, in rude states, by disabling the injured party from procuring an adequate punishment, has generally produced a pecuniary compensation even for the most atrocious offences, and the same interested motives, which determined the private sufferer to accept of such compositions, have also rendered them agreeable to the public magistrate, who, on the part of the community, levied the fines drawn on those occasions. Such pecuniary punishments are said to have<17> been inflicted by the Brehons for murder, and for the greater part of crimes.
I had formerly occasion to notice that remarkable institution which took place in Ireland, by which the head of every sept was responsible for the conduct of all his followers, in the same manner as in England, a tything man might be called to account for the offences of every member of his tything. It has been supposed, that this law was copied from the English by the inhabitants of Ireland, but, in all probability, it proceeded independent of imitation, from the similarity of circumstances in both countries; and, in reality, it seems agreeable to the notions of justice and expediency suggested by a state of rudeness and barbarism.9 The estate under the management of a chief, belongs, in some measure, to the whole tribe, and when any member of that society commits a crime, to be expiated by a pecuniary composition, it is not inconsistent with justice, that this penalty should be paid out of the common funds, by the person who represents the community. It is, at the same time, highly expedient, that those who<18> suffer by the injustice of any obscure member of a tribe, should not be under the necessity of prosecuting the particular offenders, but should obtain redress from the person known and distinguished as the head of the community, who could be at no loss to discover the guilty persons, and procure from them an indemnity.
From the reign of Henry II. to the accession of the house of Tudor, the interpositions of the English crown, in the government of Ireland, were feeble and transitory; extending commonly little farther than to the nomination of the chief executive officers. The distresses of King John, and of Henry III.; the schemes of Edward I. for the conquest of Scotland, and for the annexation of that kingdom to his English dominions; the wars carried on by the subsequent princes in France; with the great expence, and the numerous embarrassments of which those imprudent measures were productive; and lastly, the long contention between the rival houses of York and Lancaster, by which England itself became a field of blood, and a continued scene of<19> anarchy and confusion; all this train of vexation, enterprize, disappointment, and disaster, prevented the English monarchs from supporting their authority in Ireland, or taking any vigorous measures for the reduction of that country.*
As the primitive settlers from England derived little or no assistance from the government, they were, on the other hand, subject to no limitation with respect to the extent of their acquisitions. They found no difficulty in obtaining grants of those lands of which they had seized the possession, and even of such territories beyond the pale, as they had formed the project of acquiring. Immense donations were thus<20> nominally made to a few individuals, in so much that while in reality no more than a third part was in possession of the English, the whole kingdom is said to have been parcelled among ten proprietors. Nothing could be more adverse to the cultivation of the country, and the civilization of the inhabitants, than this prodigious extent of property bestowed upon those who had already the chief power in their hands. These great lords not only were incapable of managing the vast estates already in their possession, but were interested to prevent the remainder from being given either to the native Irish, or to such new English planters as might be willing to improve it. In consequence of these grants there came to be in Ireland, at one time, no less than eight counties palatine, each of which was governed by a sort of independent sovereign.*
Notwithstanding these obstacles many desperate English adventurers, at different times, obtained from the crown particular grants of territories beyond the pale, and endeavoured to maintain by force what they had occupied under the colour of a legal<21> sanction. The families of these people, after a long course of war and rapine, degenerated by degrees from the English customs, and by mutual intercourse, were at length so incorporated with their neighbours as to be no longer distinguishable, by any marks of greater civilization. Upon the whole it is observable, that the native Irish, by their power and by their numbers, had more influence in changing the manners of the new inhabitants than the latter, in communicating their improvements to the former; and that the people of English race, whether within or without the pale, were in the course of some centuries, apparently declining to a state of rudeness and barbarism.
The accession of Henry VII. as it restored peace and tranquillity to England, so it enabled the sovereign to plan and execute more effectual measures for the administration of his Irish dominions. It produced, at the same time, an exaltation of the prerogative, the effect of which was distinctly felt in both countries. In Ireland, two objects appear to have been immediately in the view of the crown; to extend a regular policy over the country; and to render the<22> Irish government subordinate to that of England.
To promote the former of these purposes, under the direction of Sir Edward Poynings, the lord-deputy, it was provided by an act of the Irish parliament, that all the statutes lately made in England, of a public nature, should be held effectual and valid in Ireland.10 An extensive improvement was thus introduced at once into the latter country, by assimilating its political system to that of England. It has been justly observed, however, by a late historian, that this adoption of English laws, by the Irish parliament, was not unprecedented, and that in particular, another instance of it occurs in the reign of Edward IV. though it is highly probable that it had proved ineffectual. It has, at the same time, been erroneously supposed by some writers, that this act extended to the whole code of English statutes; whereas, in reality, it refers only to a certain number, which, however inaccurately specified, were under the eye of the Irish legislature.
From this regulation, it may fairly be concluded that the Irish parliament was, at this time, understood to possess an indepen-<23>dent legislative authority. If that assembly was capable of adopting the laws of England, it must have had the power also of rejecting them. And as this act of the legislature sufficiently testifies the exertion of independence upon the part of Ireland, so the assent of the governor, upon the part of the king, leaves no room to doubt of his majesty’s approbation and concurrence.
To secure the dependence of the Irish parliament upon the crown, Henry endeavoured to acquire a negative before debate upon all their determinations. For this purpose he procured from that assembly a regulation, that no parliament should be held in Ireland until the lord-deputy and his council should certify to the king and council in England, the causes for which the meeting was to be called, and the bills which were therein to be enacted; and that unless the king’s leave were previously obtained, the transactions of any future parliament should be void in law.
The interest of the crown required that all debates in parliament, which might inflame the minds of the people, should be suppressed, and that the king should not be<24> put to the disagreeable necessity of rejecting a bill, which, by a previous discussion, had become a popular measure. Even in England such discussions were often attended with troublesome consequences; and they were likely to be more so in Ireland, where from the distance of the sovereign, his private influence could not be so speedily exerted.
In the reign of Queen Mary an extension was made of this law, by requiring that not only the acts in contemplation at the calling of parliament, but those also which might be proposed after the meeting of that assembly, should, in like manner, be certified to the king and council in England, and previously to their becoming the subject of deliberation should obtain the royal approbation.
From the progress of an independent spirit at a later period, an expedient for avoiding this law was easily suggested. Though parliament, without the concurrence of the sovereign, could not introduce a bill for a new law, it was thought they were not restrained from deliberating in any case,<25> whether a proposal for such a bill should be certified to the king and council; and, in this view, under the colour of heads of a bill to be proposed in future, every argument that could be advanced in supporting or in opposing the bill itself, might be introduced and considered. By such a preliminary debate, the public attention to the measure proposed might be excited no less effectually, and their opinions and sentiments with regard to it might be discovered no less clearly, than if the bill, after undergoing all the necessary ceremonials, had been regularly presented to the two houses for their determination.
The religious reformation in the reign of Henry VIII. became the source of new animosities in Ireland, more bitter and rancorous than those which had formerly subsisted. In that country, literature had made too little progress to create a spirit of liberty in matters of religion, and a disposition to pull down that edifice, which, in a course of ages, had been reared by ignorance and superstition. The people content to be guided implicitly by their religious teachers, had no disposition to pry into mysteries, or to<26> call in question the ceremonies and observances which a designing priesthood had established among their forefathers. Warmly attached to the ancient system of religion, they were taught to believe that nothing could be more meritorious than to hazard their lives in its defence. The political circumstances at the same time, which, in some other parts of Europe, had begun to promote the freedom and independence of the great body of the people, had hitherto no place in Ireland. Arts and manufactures had not there made such progress as to produce a degree of luxury, and to multiply tradesmen and artificers. Men of great property had not, by an increase in the expence of living, been induced to discard their idle retainers, and with a view of obtaining an advancement of rent, to grant long leases to their tenants. The peasantry were still absolutely dependent upon their masters; the members of every great family, or sept, were invariably attached to their chief. The great wealth in the possession of churchmen, by which, like the temporal lords, they were enabled to maintain a number of dependents, was not squandered in procur-<27>ing luxuries, but expended, the greater part of it, in acts of hospitality and charity, which commanded universal respect and veneration. Their jurisdiction and authority, as barons, not having as yet suffered any diminution, continued to operate in addition to the influence arising from the reputed piety of their lives, the sacred functions committed to them, and their situation as members of that great system of ecclesiastical power, which the Roman pontiff had established. Thus, in Ireland, the religious reformation might be regarded as an exotic, for which the soil, at that time, was totally unprepared, and which could only be raised by artificial and violent means. If, by the utmost care and culture, it had been made to take root, there was reason to fear that, when left to itself, it would immediately decay, and be overgrown and choked up by the native weeds of the country.
The authority, and the violent temper of Henry VIII. were indeed successful in procuring, from the Irish parliament, a renunciation of the papal jurisdiction, an acknowledgment of the King’s supremacy, and the<28> suppression of religious houses. But, notwithstanding these compliances with the humour of the king, the people in general, and even a great proportion of both houses of parliament, were zealously attached to the ancient faith. These Roman Catholics, it may easily be supposed, were highly enraged at the late innovations, dissatisfied with every measure of a government so hostile to their religion, and ready to embrace every opportunity of creating disturbances. The emissaries of Rome, in the mean time, were not idle, and spared no pains to cherish and inflame these dispositions. To the inhabitants of English race, it was observed, that their title to settle in the country, was entirely founded upon a donation from the pope. To sooth the vanity, and to excite the superstitious and bigoted zeal of the native Irish, this was represented as the favourite island of his holiness; the peculiar seat of the pure catholic religion, upon the fidelity and steadiness of which, according to ancient prophesies, depended the glory and prosperity of the Christian church. That the enemies of the late innovations, however numerous<29> and hostile to each other, might act in concert, the agents of Rome maintained a regular correspondence with the different septs, opened a channel of communication through the remotest parts of the country, and exhorted the leading people to lay aside their private jealousies, and to unite in one great cause, the defence of their common religion.
These dispositions of the Irish gave rise to various combinations and attempts against the government, which, according to circumstances, were more or less formidable; but were uniformly succeeded by forfeitures, calculated to gratify the friends and connections of the ruling party. The reign of Elizabeth produced in Ireland no less than three rebellions; which might be attributed almost entirely to the state of religious differences. The first was excited by John O’Neale, chief of the powerful tribe of that name, who exercised a sort of sovereign power in Ulster.11 This rebellion was suppressed by the vigour and dexterity of Sir Henry Sidney, the lord-deputy;12 and, though it occasioned a public declaration of many forfeitures, these were not carried<30> into execution, but suffered to fall into oblivion. Another insurrection, soon after, was produced in the southern part of the island, by the Earl of Desmond,13 the head of the great family of Fitz-Gerald, a nobleman, whose ancestors had long possessed an authority too great for a subject. The King of Spain, thinking this a proper opportunity for retaliating the assistance given by Queen Elizabeth to his rebellious subjects in the Netherlands, sent a military force to act in concert with the Irish insurgents; but, fortunately, the abilities of Desmond were not equal to such an undertaking, and, after a series of miscarriages, he was deserted by his followers, and lost his life, without the credit of distinguishing himself by any brilliant action. The suppression of this rebellion was attended with forfeitures to a great extent, and drew from England a large colony to settle in Munster. Estates were offered to the settlers at the small rent of three-pence, and, in some cases, of two pence the acre; each purchaser being bound to plant a certain number of families within his domain. Sir Walter<31> Raleigh, Sir Christopher Hatton,14 and many other persons of distinction, obtained grants of estates upon such terms; but, though they occupied the lands, they were not very scrupulous in fulfilling the conditions.
The last rebellion in this reign, and by far the most formidable, was that conducted by Hugh, another branch of the family of O’Neale, who, together with the chief-ship, had now obtained his father’s title, that of Earl of Tirone.15 This leader, in abilities and education, was much superior to the other chiefs of the mere Irish. He had served in the English army; and, as he had become acquainted with the customs of the English, was equally capable of recommending himself to them, and to his own countrymen, by assuming occasionally the manners and deportment of either. With an insinuating address, joined to the most profound dissimulation, he gained the confidence of the English governors, and even of the Queen herself; while, by secret practices, he inflamed the discontents of his countrymen, and prepared them for an insurrection. Even, after he had recourse to<32> arms, he, by various excuses, by affected complaints of injustice, and by repeated pretences of submission, found means to amuse the government, and to procure the delays necessary for bringing his plans to maturity. The King of Spain sent once more a body of troops to support the rebels;16 which gave such encouragement to the malcontents, as to render the insurrection almost universal. An army of twenty thousand men from England was thought necessary to support the government; and even over this force the rebels gained many advantages. At length, however, by the activity and judicious conduct of Lord Mountjoy,17 the governor, their force was broken, and they were completely defeated. Tirone submitted at a very critical period, when the death of Elizabeth was known to the Irish administration, but was still kept a secret from the rest of the inhabitants. Thus the prosperous reign of that princess was terminated by an event of the utmost importance to her subjects, the restoration of peace and tranquillity of Ireland, and the establishment, over all her dominions, of a<33> degree of religious liberty, to which, for many centuries, they had been altogether strangers.
The accession of James I. produced an era no less remarkable, in the history of Ireland, than in that of England and Scotland. By the union of the English and Scottish crowns, by the cordial acquiescence of the whole nation in the title of their new sovereign, and, above all, by the entire subjection of the Irish chiefs in the late reign, James found himself in a better condition than any of his predecessors, for communicating the English jurisprudence to Ireland, and for extending the advantages of regular government and civilized manners to that hitherto uncultivated and intractable part of his dominions.
The first step, in the course of these improvements, was to reduce the whole country under tribunals modelled upon the English plan. The authority of the Brehons had still continued in force, in most parts of the kingdom; and their decisions, as might be expected, were agreeable to the ancient Irish customs. To these judges,<34> and to their peculiar forms of procedure, the people were zealously attached, and every attempt to overturn this early institution was treated as a dangerous innovation. So late as the reign of Elizabeth, when Fitz-William,18 the governor, informed Mac-Guire, the chieftain of Fermanaugh, that he intended to send a sheriff into his territories, the chief replied, without hesitation, “Your sheriff shall be welcome, but let me know his erie, that, if my people should cut off his head, I may levy it upon the country.” The whole country was now divided into thirty-two counties, which were put under the superintendence of sheriffs, and subjected to the jurisdiction of itinerant courts. By this reformation, people of the lower ranks were protected from those numerous exactions, which their superiors had formerly imposed upon them, and began to taste, in some measure, the blessings of security and freedom. The inhabitants were thus comforted for the loss of their barbarous usages, by the evident advantages resulting from the new regulations; and if they were denied the privilege of plunder-<35>ing their neighbours, had, in return, the satisfaction of being less exposed to theft and robbery, or to personal injury. The change at first, was possibly not relished; but it could not fail in time to become palatable. It resembled the transition from poverty to riches; from hunger and hard fare, to plenty and delicacy.
Another great object, essential to the future tranquillity of Ireland, was the settlement of landed property. From the frequency of rebellions and disorders many forfeitures had occurred; and the same estates had passed through a number of different families. In such a situation, there came to be much room for dispute, concerning the property of estates; while, in some cases, the validity of the forfeitures was called in question; in some, the pretended grants from the crown were liable to challenge; and, in others, the right of the present possessor was confirmed by such a length of time, as might appear to supply the defects of the original titles. For putting an end to the numberless controversies that might arise in such cases, certain com-<36>missioners were appointed by the crown to examine defective titles of such persons as held lands by the English forms; and the possessors were invited to surrender their estates into the hands of the governor, in order to obtain a new and more legal grant. The governor was likewise empowered to accept surrenders from those Irish lords, who held their estates by the ancient precarious tenure usual in Ireland, and, under certain precautions and regulations, to re-invest the possessor according to the common law of England, with a full and complete right of property. Care was taken, at the same time, to limit the new grants to the actual possessions of the claimants; as also to secure the inferior tenants, and to convert their former uncertain services and duties into a fixed pecuniary payment. The old custom of tanistry was thus abolished, and, according to the new grants, estates became universally transmissible to heirs.
A regulation, somewhat similar to this, had been attempted, by an act of parliament in the reign of Elizabeth; but, from the circumstances of the nation at that period,<37> it could not be made effectual.* The extensive disposal of property, which it now occasioned, and the proportionable influence, which it bestowed upon the crown, may easily be conceived. The determination of the commissioners could so little be subjected to any general rules, that every person must have considered himself as indebted to government, for the estate, which he was allowed to obtain or to preserve, and felt himself under the necessity of yielding an implicit submission to such terms as the executive power thought proper to demand.
In this state of the country, Tirone, and his principal adherents, who had formerly submitted to government, were alarmed by the suspicion of some new insurrection, and fled to the Continent; upon which their immense possessions were confiscated. There fell thus into the hands of the crown an extent of territory, in the six northern counties, amounting to about 500,000 acres, in the settlement of which more moderate portions were assigned to individuals, and<38> more effectual precautions were taken to avoid abuses, than had occurred on former occasions.
The city of London became undertakers in this new settlement, and obtained large grants in the county of Derry. Upon pretence of protecting this infant plantation, though, in reality, with a view of raising money, the King instituted the order of Irish baronets, or knights of Ulster, from each of whom, as was then done in Scotland, with respect to the knights of Nova Scotia,19 he exacted a certain sum, in consideration of the dignity to be conferred.
The regulations, for the security of landed possessions, introduced at this period, and those for the extension of law and regular government, were followed, in Ireland, by the enjoyment of peace and tranquillity for near forty years, during which, considerable advances were made in agriculture and even in manufactures. In the reign of Charles I. the vigorous, though somewhat oppressive administration of Sir Thomas Wentworth, contributed much to the progress of these improvements. By his imme-<39>diate encouragement, and even by his example, the linen manufacture was introduced, and has ever since, though with some interruptions, continued in a state of advancement.
The great object of this able but iniquitous governor, was the improvement of the revenue. As the forfeiture of Desmond had given rise to an extensive English settlement in the southern, and that of Tirone and his adherents in the northern part of Ireland, it was now thought expedient that a similar plantation should be effected in Connaught. For this purpose, the validity of titles to estates, in that part of the island, was called in question; various objections to the right of many individuals were started; and these being referred to the commissioners appointed for the trial of such cases, were very generally sustained. Where the juries employed in trying the facts shewed reluctance, recourse was had to promises, threats, and even to severe punishments, for procuring a verdict in favour of the crown. The arbitrary and tyrannical measures of the governor, on these occasions, were car-<40>ried to such a pitch, as excited the highest indignation; but, at the same time, they were prosecuted with such impetuosity and steadiness as bore down all opposition, and, in the counties of this western division, brought an extensive territory under the disposal of government.
In the disputes between Charles I. and his people, the Irish parliament took party with the latter, and entered into similar measures with those pursued in England, for preventing the arbitrary exertions of prerogative. In the year 1640, the commons in Ireland refused the subsidies demanded by government, objected to the modes of taxation hitherto practised, and presented to the lord-deputy a remonstrance, complaining of grievances.
Although the inhabitants of Ireland had not, at this period, carried their improvements in trade and manufactures to such a height, as could raise the great body of the people to the same condition of independence as in England, yet the planters of English race, those adventurers, who, by the favour of government, had obtained<41> estates in Ireland, and had been willing to encounter the hazards of settling in that country, amid the rage and resentment of the former possessors, were in general, we may suppose, men of a bold spirit and of independent principles. These were the people, who, by their opulence, and by their powerful connections in England, possessed the chief influence over the determinations of the Irish legislature; and who, as they had caught the enthusiastic love of freedom, which now pervaded the English nation, were chiefly instrumental in diffusing the same sentiments through the sister kingdom.
The same difference of opinion in religious matters, which had arisen in England, and in Scotland, found their way also into Ireland, and contributed to influence their political sentiments. Among those of the protestant persuasion, the two great sects of Presbyterians and Independents, whom their adversaries distinguished by the contemptuous appellation of Puritans, and of whom, the latter rejected all ecclesiastical authority, the former, all subordination of<42> ranks among churchmen, formed a natural alliance with the friends of civil freedom; and their tenets in religion were even adopted by a great part of those individuals, who obtained an ascendency in parliament.
On the other hand, the supporters of the hierarchy, the Roman Catholics, and the members of the established church, who, though differing in many religious tenets, agreed in their ardent zeal for promoting the power of churchmen, and for placing the management and controul of that power in the hands of a single person; all these, by the tenor of their ecclesiastical system, were hostile to the designs of parliament, and willing to exalt the prerogative. As the King could not fail to discover these dispositions, which prevailed among the different classes of the people, he could hardly avoid shewing favour to such as were subservient to his views; and, in particular, affording protection and relief to the Roman Catholics from the hardships of those penal statutes, to which, by their non-conformity, they were exposed. This partiality, naturally became the source of jealousy and<43> disgust in the one party, of gratitude and attachment in the other.
* Such, in both countries, was the state of the two great political parties; but, in Ireland, there was better ground than in England for entertaining an apprehension and jealousy of the Roman Catholics, as, compared with them, the Protestants, though, in some degree, masters of the government, were no more than a handful of people. Their distance from the chief seat of the executive power, and the subor-<44>dinate authority possessed by a lord-deputy, rendered, at the same time, the prevailing party in parliament, less capable of enforcing their determinations, or of keeping their enemies in subjection.
While the popish recusants in Ireland, were so formidable by their numbers, they were highly provoked and irritated against the ruling party. Many of them had been unjustly deprived of their possessions, to make way for the needy favourites of administration; and even those, who had been allowed to retain their estates, were, in return, subjected to such regulations and conditions, as curtailed their ancient privileges, and rendered them dependent upon government. For continuing to profess the religion of their forefathers, they were exposed to endless prosecution, and reduced under the dominion of heretics, whom they abhorred, and whose damnable errors they detested. Those hardships they imputed, not to the King, whose disposition to relieve them was abundantly manifest; but to that governing party, in the English and Irish<45> parliaments, which opposed and frustrated his benevolent purposes.
From such views and circumstances proceeded, soon after, the Irish rebellion, planned by the abilities of Roger Moore, in which the rage of disappointed bigotry, under the guidance of a senseless barbarian, Sir Phelim O’Neale, perpetrated that horrid massacre, so disgraceful to the annals of Ireland.20 The disorders of England, at that time, were such as to prevent the interference of government for suppressing this alarming insurrection. The chief executive power had been committed to two justices, Borlace and Parsons,21 men totally destitute of the capacity and firmness requisite in the present emergency. There was no military force to stop the progress of the insurgents; who had leisure to collect their whole strength, and to form a regular association over the whole kingdom. Their clergy held a general synod, in which they framed a variety of acts, and declarations, calculated to unite the whole Roman Catholic interest both at home and abroad. They were joined by the nobility and gentry, in con-<46>stituting a permanent national assembly, for the regulation and superintendence of their future concerns.
At the first insurrection, O’Neale pretended, that he was acting by the authority of Charles; and, to gain belief, produced, in writing, an express commission from the King. But the forgery of this deed seems now to be universally admitted. Whether any secret encouragement, however, had been given to this insurrection, by Charles, or by his Queen, a zealous Roman Catholic, it seems more difficult to determine. It is certain, that, in the course of the civil war, the insurgents uniformly professed their intention to support the interest of the crown; and that Charles regarded them as friends, from whom, in his utmost extremity, relief and assistance might be expected. In this view, he employed the Earl of Antrim to raise troops in Ireland; and that nobleman, having taken the oath prescribed by the confederated rebels, procured a body of 3000 men, who were transported into Britain for the King’s service. A commission from Charles, at a later period, was<47> granted to the Earl of Ormond,22 the lord-deputy, with discretionary powers for entering into a treaty with the Irish rebels, that, in return for the privileges to be bestowed upon them by the crown, they should send into Britain a body of 10,000 troops, to be employed in the royal cause. But that the nature of this transaction might be kept more secret, the King soon after employed the Earl of Glamorgan,23 a zealous Roman Catholic, to treat with those confederates, promising, upon the word of a king, to ratify and perform whatever terms that nobleman should think proper to grant. The treaty which took place, in consequence of this commission, had been concealed with care, and having been discovered, by an unforeseen accident, was found to contain such concessions to the Roman Catholics, as afforded great scandal to the friends of Charles. Glamorgan was accused of having exceeded his powers, and thrown into prison. But an accusation so improbable was not likely to remove the impression, which the public received from the whole circumstances of the transaction.<48>
The reduction of Ireland, by Oliver Cromwell,24 and the officers whom he employed, for that purpose, gave rise to new forfeitures, and to a new distribution of lands among English adventurers. By the arrangements attempted on this occasion, it was in view to separate the English from the Irish proprietors; and to confine the latter to the province of Connaught.
In the reign of Charles II. and of James II. the apparent designs of the Monarch, in favour of the Roman Catholics, continued the old prepossession and prejudices among religious parties, and secured the great body of the Irish in the interest of these two princes. The effect of this attachment was evident from the difficulty, with which the nation was reduced under the government of William III.
When the government had been completely settled after the Revolution in 1688, it was to be expected that Ireland, as well as England, would reap the benefit of political freedom, and that it would experience a rapid advancement in the arts. Its advances, however, since that period, though<49> certainly very considerable, have been retarded by a variety of circumstances.
1. The inhabitants of Ireland have been more divided by mutual animosity and discord than those of most other countries. From the invasion of Henry II. to near the end of the last century, the natives were subject to continual depredation from the English government, and from those adventurers of the English race, who had such interest with the government, as enabled them, upon various pretences, to dispossess the ancient proprietors, and to seize their estates. The resentment occasioned by these acts of injustice and oppression, the revenge inflicted by the sufferers, whenever they had an opportunity, the remembrance of past injuries upon either side, and the constant apprehension of the future, could not fail to produce a rooted aversion between the two parties, and to excite the bitterest hatred and rancour.
The religious differences, from the time of Henry VIII. became a fresh ground of dissension, a new source of animosities, which flowed in the same channel with the<50> former. The ruling party in Ireland embraced the doctrines of the reformation. Those, who had little connection with government adhering to the religion of their ancestors, again found themselves, upon this account, oppressed and persecuted, by the same class of people to whom they imputed the loss of their possessions.
As the people, who had thus been subjected to oppression, both in temporal and spiritual matters, were by far the most numerous, they were able to stand their ground, and were always formidable to their adversaries. While the one party were supported by the civil magistrate, the other were superior by their natural strength; whence they maintained a constant struggle, by which their passions were kept awake, and their hopes and fears alternately excited. Their mutual apprehension and distrust, therefore, were too powerful to permit their uniting cordially in any common measures; and their mutual animosity and jealousy rendered them frequently more intent upon distressing and humbling each<51> other, than in prosecuting any scheme of national improvement.
The attention of the Irish was, in this manner, wholly engrossed by political and religious disputes; and their minds embraced those objects with a degree of ardour and vehemence unknown in other countries. The same ardent spirit raised by the continual ferment, which those interesting objects had excited, was, at the same time, diffused through the whole of their constitution, and gave a peculiar direction to the national character. A temper, ardent and vehement, a disposition open, forward, undesigning, and sincere, little corrected by culture, might be expected to produce incorrectness of thought and expression, with a tendency to such inaccuracies and blunders as proceed from speaking without due consideration, and from attempting to convey a first impression, without a full examination of particulars. After all, the strictures of the English upon the character and manners of their neighbours in Ireland, like all other observations tending to gratify national vanity and prejudice, must be<52> received with grains of allowance, and, if not restricted to the lower classes of the people, must be acknowledged, at least, more applicable to the inhabitants of the last century, than to those of the present.
2. At the time when Ireland came to be in a condition to push her trade and manufactures, she was checked by the mercantile regulations of the English government.
The mercantile system of all nations has been built upon the narrow basis of monopoly. Every company, or corporation of merchants or manufacturers, has endeavoured to exclude all their neighbours from their own branches of trade or manufacture. From their situation, living in towns, and capable, with ease, of combining together, they have commonly been enabled, by their own clamours and solicitations, to intimidate or to persuade the government to fall in with their designs, and to make regulations for supporting their interest. When Britain came to have colonies, she endeavoured, by authority, to engross their trade, and to hinder them from trading directly<53> with other nations. With respect to Ireland, she proceeded upon similar principles.
To prevent the Irish from interfering in the woollen manufacture, the great staple of England, the Irish were prohibited from exporting wool or woollen cloth. To the linen trade of Scotland the same attention was not paid, and the exportation of Irish linens was permitted to Britain and her colonies.
By what is called the Navigation Act, made in the reign of Charles II. and varied by subsequent statutes, it is provided, that no goods, except victuals, shall be shipped from Ireland for his Majesty’s plantations, and that no plantation-goods shall be carried to Ireland without being first landed in Britain. By a later statute, this prohibition, as to goods not enumerated, was removed.
3. To enforce regulations of so oppressive a nature, it was necessary that the Irish government should be rendered entirely subordinate to that of England; and accordingly, no efforts for that purpose were wanting. By what is called Poyning’s law, an attempt<54> was made to invest the crown with a power of controuling and directing the deliberations of the Irish parliament. In critical emergencies, however, the operation of this law, was, afterwards, occasionally suspended; and, at length, as has been formerly hinted, a method was divised of entirely evading its effect, by the practice of debating upon the heads of such bills, as were to be transmitted to England for obtaining the consent of the king and council.
How far the inhabitants of Ireland were bound by the acts of the British legislature, was a question, which, from the time of the revolution, came to be much agitated by lawyers and politicians. Those, who maintained the affirmative, among whom we may reckon almost all the English lawyers, appear to have rested their opinion chiefly on what is called the right of conquest. By virtue of his conquest of Ireland, Henry II. and his successors, acquired a dominion over that country, and a right of subjecting its government to that of his own kingdom. Such, in fact, was understood to be<55> the nature of the Irish government. Though the nation was allowed to hold parliaments of its own, the English parliament exercised over those assemblies a permanent authority, and claimed the privilege of making statutes for Ireland. Instances, indeed, in early times, of English statutes being extended expressly to Ireland, are not very frequent; but a few such instances occur upon record; and from the year 1641, their number was much encreased. By long custom, the intention of the charters granted to Ireland, and the form of government in that country, are to be explained, and if we rely upon this most infallible interpreter of the meaning of parties, we must conclude that the Irish legislature was, from the beginning, subordinate to that of England.
The friends of Irish independence argued very differently, and with more solidity. The right of conquest, they considered as a right, which has no existence, it being impossible that superior force can ever of itself bestow any right. On the contrary, the employment of force, unless in support of a previous right, is an injury, which<56> becomes the proper object of punishment. If Henry II. had no previous right to invade Ireland, and to settle in that island, he certainly could acquire none by attacking the inhabitants, and stripping them of their property, but rather merited punishment for the crimes, which he committed against them. It is unnecessary to mention that even this right of conquest, supposing it well founded, would not be applicable to a great part of the inhabitants of Ireland, those, at least, who obtained the greatest wealth, and had the principle share in the legislature; for they, instead of being the conquered people, were his English subjects, who had assisted in the conquest, and derived the chief benefit from it.
The nature of the Irish constitution, therefore, is to be inferred, not from the force used by England, but from the acquiescence of the people after this force was withdrawn, and when they could be supposed to have a free choice. At what period the people came to be in those circumstances, it is not very easy to determine. There are<57> here two particulars, which may seem worthy of notice.
First, with respect to the form of government, to which, from long custom, the nation is understood to have consented, this must be determined from the general usage, not from a few singular exertions made upon extraordinary emergencies. In every rude nation, persons invested with authority, are apt to lay hold of opportunities of indulging themselves in arbitrary proceedings; and these irregular acts frequently pass without animadversion or punishment. But, from such abuses, we must not reason concerning what, in the common apprehensions of the people, is legal and constitutional. What is merely overlooked, or is found too troublesome to redress, we must not suppose to be approved. Thus, while the parliament of Ireland was acknowledged to possess a legislative power, and was applied to by the crown in every branch of legislation concerning that country, it is of little moment, that, in some few cases, we also meet with regulations extending to<58> Ireland, enacted by the English parliament. The independence of the Irish legislature, is to be inferred from the general tenor of proceedings; and it would be absurd to draw an opposite conclusion from a few instances of usurpation or inadvertency.
In the second place, it is to be observed, that the effect of old usage must be limited by considerations of public utility, and that the most universal submission of a people, however long continued, will not give sanction to measures incompatible with the great interests of society. Had the Irish parliament, by general practice, been rendered entirely subordinate to that of England, the pernicious tendency of such a constitution, with respect to Ireland, must appear of such magnitude, as to shock our feelings of justice, and, at any distance of time, to justify the inhabitants in asserting their natural rights.
But this point was not to be determined by abstract reasonings, or by general considerations on the principles of justice. The interest of the more powerful country, as commonly happens, was held a sufficient reason for asserting and extending its authority<59> over the weaker, and the system of regulating the trade of Ireland, in subserviency to the views of the mercantile people in England, rendered that interest more obvious and conspicuous. To accomplish this purpose, it was requisite that England should possess a power of controuling the Irish courts of justice. Without this she might command, but had no power to execute; her acts of legislation could be made effectual only by her indirect influence over the Irish judges.
In the year 1719, a private law-suit in Ireland,* gave rise to a controversy whether there lay an appeal from the Irish tribunals to the house of lords in Britain, and this was followed by an act of the British parliament; calculated for the express purpose of securing the dependency of Ireland, upon the crown of Great Britain; and declaring first, “that the King’s majesty, by and with the consent of the lords, spiritual and temporal, and the commons of Great Britain, in parliament assembled, had, hath, and of<60> right ought to have full power and authority to make statutes, of sufficient force, and validity, to bind the people and kingdom of Ireland.”
Secondly, “that the house of lords of Ireland, have not, nor of right ought to have, any jurisdiction to judge of, affirm or reverse, any judgment, sentence, or decree, given or made in any court within the said kingdom.”†
While Britain was thus eager to oppress her sister kingdom, she could not with-hold from this, and from other parts of her empire, that free spirit, which the example of her own constitution, and the general advancement of commerce and manufactures contributed to inspire. The leading men of Ireland saw, with indignation, this narrow-minded policy, and the invidious marks of bondage with which their country was branded. They complained with bitterness of the hard regulations, by which the Irish nation, while they= profusely shed their blood in the quarrels of Great Britain, were<61> not only excluded from the commerce of the British colonies, but even denied the privilege of trading with foreign nations. They remonstrated with warmth against the injustice, by which they had been deprived of their national rights, in order to rob them of the fruits of their industry, and by which poverty was entailed upon them as an appendage of that slavery, which they were made to inherit.
In one particular the legislature of Ireland had preserved its independence, the article of taxation. It does not appear that the British parliament ever claimed the privilege of imposing taxes upon that country; and as soon as the Irish began to enjoy the advantages of peace, we find their parliaments discovering a jealousy of this branch of authority, and maintaining it with proper spirit. In the year 1690, the commons of Ireland rejected a money bill, because it had not taken its rise in their house. In 1709, a money bill was returned from England with alterations; upon which account it was rejected by the commons. Another instance<62> of a similar exertion occurs in the year 1768.
The exertions of the Irish nation, in favour of liberty and independence, were frequently counteracted and frustrated by the indirect influence of the crown; and nothing contributed more to this abuse, than the duration of their parliament.
According to the early constitution of those assemblies, both in England, and in Ireland, they might be dissolved at the pleasure of the king; but independent of a dissolution by this authority, they remained during the king’s life. The first alteration, in this respect, was made in England, in the reign of King William III. when, from the nation having become jealous of the crown-influence over parliaments, their duration was limited to three years; a period, which, in the reign of George I. was extended to seven. But no such limitation had been introduced in Ireland, and parliaments, according to the ancient plan, continued to endure for the king’s life. In the year 1768, the voice of the nation demanding a reform, in this particular, became irresistible;<63> and a bill for limiting the duration of parliament to eight years, passed the two houses, and obtained the royal assent. The octennial parliaments of Ireland, in place of the septennial parliaments of England, were preferred at the suggestion of the English ministry, and were probably recommended to them from the view of preventing the inconvenience to government of attending, at the same time, to the new elections of both countries. This reform was the forerunner of others, yet more decisive, in the cause of liberty. The members of the house of commons became now, in some measure, dependent upon their constituents; and their determinations were, of course, more affected by the general feelings of the people.
Britain was involved in great difficulties, and reduced to the utmost perplexity, by the war with her North American colonies;25 in the prosecution of which Ireland had cheerfully contributed her assistance. Towards the end of that unsuccessful struggle, the interposition of France had exposed the British empire, at home, to the danger of insult and invasion; and afforded to the<64> Irish a plausible pretence for undertaking the defence of their own country. Volunteers, therefore, in the different parts of the kingdom were associated and embodied for this purpose; and to this exertion, apparently so generous and public spirited, the countenance and approbation of government could not well be refused. In a short time, their number became so great, they acquired so much the confidence of the people, and were animated by such resolution, that they could be neither suppressed nor controuled. Some attempts were made by government to obtain an authority over them, but these were easily discovered and evaded. Thus, while Britain was exhausted by a ruinous war, Ireland had procured an armed force, which nothing could resist, commanded by her own citizens, and firmly determined to procure the redress of her grievances. The consequences were such as might be expected. In 1778, a bill had been brought into the British parliament for the removal of all those restraints, which had been imposed upon the trade of Ireland, but the alarm excited in the trading, and<65> manufacturing towns of Britain rendered the measure unsuccessful. The Irish, however, conscious of their internal strength, were not disheartened. In their address to the throne, they declared, “it is not by temporary expedients, but by a free trade only, that the nation is to be saved from impending ruin.” To guard against a prorogation before they should obtain redress, they refused to grant the supply for the usual term of two years, but passed a short money bill, to which the royal assent was obtained. In the English house of commons, the minister, pressed by the difficulties attending his present critical situation, proposed to repeal the restrictive statutes complained of, and to grant the Irish a free trade to the British colonies, as well as to foreign countries. The propositions which he brought into parliament for that purpose were very readily adopted, and obtained the sanction of the legislature.
The joy of the whole people of Ireland, excited by this decisive and important victory, may easily be conceived. It did<66> not, however, prevent them from following the tide of their success, and bearing down every remaining obstacle to their complete independence. They had still the mortifying reflection that they owed this relief to the favour of an English ministry; that it had been procured by the necessity of the times; and that, afterwards, from an alteration of circumstances, it might, very probably, be withdrawn. To secure the permanent enjoyment of present advantages, it was necessary they should depend upon themselves. The volunteers, conscious of having power in their hands, were not negligent in using it to the best advantage. By choosing delegates from different quarters, as a sort of representatives of the whole body, by assembling these delegates on different occasions to act in concert with one another, by publishing resolutions and remonstrances expressing their unalterable purpose to assert their liberties, they spread an universal panic over Great Britain, and a belief that it would be in vain to oppose their demands. In this situation a change of the British<67> ministry took place; and the Marquis of Rockingham,26 who came to the head of administration, found himself at liberty to comply with his own inclination, and that of his party, by removing those oppressive regulations, which rendered the Irish government subordinate to the British. With this view there passed an act of the British legislature, containing a repeal of Poyning’s law; and also a repeal of the statute, by which the parliament of Great Britain is declared to have a power of making laws to bind the Irish nation, and of reviewing the sentences of the Irish tribunals.
At a subsequent period, during the administration of Lord Shelburn,27 it was suggested, that the repeal of the obnoxious statutes above-mentioned was insufficient, and the British parliament was prevailed upon to renounce the principle upon which they had proceeded, by relinquishing, on the part of Great Britain, all similar claims for the future. The former concession was necessary for the security of Ireland; the latter was merely the effect of popular<68> clamour, which produced a juvenile, though, perhaps, a pardonable degree of triumph and exultation.
By these alterations Ireland became an independent kingdom, connected by a federal union with Britain, but possessing within itself a supreme legislative assembly, and supreme courts for the distribution of justice.<69>
[1. ]“Within the pale” referred to the region around Dublin, and the name reflected its character as a fortified area of English rule. After 1400 it was broadened to include the lowland region and the medieval counties of Dublin, Meath, Louth, and Kildare.
[2. ]Sir John Davies (1569–1626): English poet and politician; attorney general for Ireland 1606–19; author of A Discovery of the True Causes Why Ireland Was Never Entirely Subdued; Thomas Leland (1722–85): historian and vicar of St. Anne’s, Dublin; author of the History of Ireland from the Invasion of Henry II., with a Preliminary Discourse on the Antient State of That Kingdom (1773).
[* ]See Sir John Davies’s speech to the House of Commons, in 1613.
[* ]See the curious record, entitled Memoranda de Hibernia Veriment, referred to by Dr. Leland, and published in the Calendar of Ancient Charters.
[3. ]Bede (673–735), often known as the Venerable Bede: English priest and author of the Historia Ecclesiastica, finished in 731.
[4. ]Advancement of arts and civilization: The stadial view of the development of society—an important feature of Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence and Ferguson’s Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767), as well as of the Distinction of Ranks—is deployed here to correct the anti-Irish bias of English historiography.
[5. ]A term used by English and Anglo-Irish writers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for the extended ruling families of Gaelic Ireland.
[6. ]English writers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries used the term to mean the whole system of hereditary succession in Ireland.
[* ]See Davies’s Discovery, 1747. p. 169.
[7. ]Legal term used to describe the regionally varied forms of partible inheritance in Ireland before these were abolished in 1606.
[8. ]A custom whereby tenants had to entertain the lord and retinue to a feast periodically throughout the year. Possibly derived from a pre-Norman custom.
[9. ]For Smith’s views on the collective character of justice in rude nations, see for example LJ, 201.
[* ]So little were the Irish apprehensive of incurring the displeasure of England, that when Richard, Duke of York, with his followers, had been declared rebels, and attainted by the English parliament, they were treated in Ireland with the utmost hospitality; by an express act of parliament, they were taken under the public protection; and some of them being attached, in consequence of the English attainder, the person, who had ventured to execute the king’s writ, was condemned and put to death. The same parliament afterwards declared, that Ireland is governed by its own legislature only; and that the inhabitants of that country are not subject to the jurisdiction of any foreign tribunal.—See Leland’s History of Ireland.
[* ]See John Davies’s Discovery.
[10. ]Sir Edward Poynings (1459–1521): As lord deputy of Ireland (1494–95), he passed numerous acts restricting Irish independence, especially what became known as Poynings’s Law, which required the permission of the lord deputy to summon an Irish parliament.
[11. ]Shane O’Neill (ca. 1530–67): Ulster leader of clan O’Neill and leader of the 1562–67 rebellion.
[12. ]Sir Henry Sidney (1529–86): lord deputy from 1566, he put down the O’Neill rebellion.
[13. ]Rebellions under the fourteenth earl of Desmond (ca. 1533–83) took place 1569–73 and again 1579–83.
[14. ]Sir Christopher Hatton (1540–91): lord chancellor 1587–91.
[15. ]Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone (ca. 1550–1616), son of Matthew O’Neill, who was murdered by his rival Shane in 1558. Tyrone’s Rebellion was part of the Nine Years’ War (1593–1603).
[16. ]Phillip II sent Spanish ships with arms and munitions to county Donegal in September 1596; and the “second armada” set sail in October 1597, only to be dispersed by gales four days later.
[17. ]Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy (1563–1606), put down Tyrone’s Rebellion; he was made lord deputy in 1600.
[18. ]Sir William Fitzwilliam (1526–99), lord deputy of Ireland (1571–75; 1588–94), recalled in 1594 after he sparked the Nine Years’ War/Tyrone’s Rebellion by sending a sheriff into Fermanaugh County.
[19. ]The Canadian province of Nova Scotia originated as a chartered colony in 1621. James I offered baronetcies to reputable investors, as he later did to investors in Ulster.
[* ]It was the object of Charles to remove, by degrees, the differences that subsisted between the system of the established church and that of the Roman Catholics, and to bestow upon the former that authority, and that influence over the people, which were enjoyed by the latter. For this purpose, with the advice and assistance of Laud, he had introduced in England a new set of ecclesiastical canons, intended to new-model the discipline of the church; and a new liturgy, calculated, by a number of external ceremonies, to impress the multitude with superstitious awe and veneration, and to produce a blind submission to their spiritual guides. The same innovations were extended to Ireland, with a few variations accommodated to the circumstances of the country; and, to render the King absolute in ecclesiastical matters, the convocation was armed with the same powers as in England.
[20. ]Sir Phelim O’Neill (ca. 1604–53), member of Parliament for Dungannon, was executed as a traitor in 1653. Irish risings took place 1641–53, with “massacres” of Protestants at Portadwonown Bridge and Armagh in 1641, as well as Drogheda in 1649; Rory O’More (d. ca. 1652–53).
[21. ]Sir John Borlase (1576–1648), lord justice of Ireland (1640–44); Sir William Parsons (1570–1650), lord justice in partnership with Borlase (1640–43). In conjunction, they virtually ruled Ireland after the departure of Strafford in 1640.
[22. ]James Butler, twelfth earl of Ormonde (1610–88), Protestant loyalist and three times the lord lieutenant of Ireland.
[23. ]Edward Somerset, earl of Glamorgan (1601–67), Catholic royalist who from 1644 worked in Ireland on behalf of Charles I, and independently from Ormonde. He was arrested by Ormonde in 1645 and fled to France in 1648.
[24. ]In 1649–50, Cromwell crushed the Catholic and royalist forces in Ireland with the capture of Drogheda, a fortified town on the mouth of the Boyne River.
[* ]Between Sherlock and Annesly.
[† ]6 Geo. I. chap. 5.
[25. ]The American War of Independence took place 1775–83.
[26. ]Charles Watson-Wentworth, second marquis of Rockingham (1730–82): opposition Whig statesman, briefly a member of a coalition ministry (1765–66), and prime minister in 1782. He supported American independence and internal autonomy for Ireland.
[27. ]Sir William Petty, second earl of Shelburne (1737–1805), led a ministry from July 1782 to April 1783.