Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VI.: ireland before the eighteenth century. - A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. II
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CHAPTER VI.: ireland before the eighteenth century. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. II 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. II.
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ireland before the eighteenth century.
The history of Scotland in the eighteenth century furnishes us with one of the most remarkable instances on record of the efficacy of wise legislation in developing the prosperity and ameliorating the character of nations. In the history of Ireland, on the other hand, we may trace with singular clearness the perverting and degrading influence of great legislative injustices, and the manner in which they affect in turn every element of national well-being. This portion of the history of the empire has usually been treated by English historians in a very superficial and perfunctory manner, and it has been obscured by many contradictions, by much prejudice and misrepresentation. I propose in the present work to examine it at some length, and in doing so it will be my object, much less to describe individual characters or particular episodes, than to analyse the social and political conditions of the country, to trace historically the formation of the peculiar tendencies, affinities, and repulsions of the national intellect and character.
In order to accomplish this task it will be necessary to throw a brief glance over some of the earlier phases of Irish history. I leave it to professed antiquaries to discuss how far the measure of civilisation, which had undoubtedly been attained in Ireland before the English conquest, extended beyond the walls of the monasteries. That civilisation enabled Ireland to bear a great and noble part in the conversion of Europe to Christianity. It made it, in one of the darkest periods of the dark ages, a refuge of learning and of piety. It produced not a little in architecture, in illuminations, in metal-work, and in music, which, considering its early date, exhibits a high degree of originality and of beauty; but it was not sufficient to repress the disintegrating tendencies of the clan system, or to mould the country into one powerful and united whole. England owed a great part of her Christianity to Irish monks who laboured among her people before the arrival of Augustine, and Scotland, according to the best authorities, owed her name, her language, and a large proportion of her inhabitants to the long succession of Irish immigrations and conquests between the close of the fifth and ninth centuries,1 but at home the elements of disunion were powerful, and they were greatly aggravated by the Danish invasions. It was probably a misfortune that Ireland never passed, like the rest of Europe, under the subjection of the Romans, who bequeathed, wherever they ruled, the elements of Latin civilisation, and also those habits of national organisation in which they were pre-eminent. It was certainly a fatal calamity to Ireland that the Norman Conquest, which in England was effected completely and finally by a single battle, was in Ireland protracted over no less than 400 years. Strongbow found no resistance such as that which William had encountered at Hastings, but the native element speedily closed around the new colonists, and regained, in the greater part of the island, a complete ascendency. The Norman settlers scattered through distant parts of Ireland, intermixed with the natives, adopted their laws and their modes of life, and became in a few years, according to the proverb, more Irish than the Irish themselves. The English rule, as a living reality, was confined and concentrated in the narrow limits of the Pale. The hostile power planted in the heart of the nation destroyed all possibility of central government, while it was itself incapable of fulfilling that function. Like a spear-point embedded in a living body, it inflamed all around it and de-ranged every vital function. It prevented the gradual reduction of the island by some native Clovis, which would necessarily have taken place if the Anglo-Normans had not arrived, and, instead of that peaceful and almost silent amalgamation of races, customs, laws, and languages which took place in England, and which is the source of many of the best elements in English life and character, the two nations remained in Ireland for centuries in hostility.
Great allowance must be made for atrocities committed under such circumstances. The legal maxim that killing an Irishman is no felony, assumes, as has been truly said, a somewhat different aspect from that which partisan writers have given it, when it is understood that it means merely that the bulk of the Irish remained under their own Brehon jurisdiction, according to which the punishment for murder was not death, but fine.1 The edicts of more than one Plantagenet king show traces of a wisdom and a humanity beyond their age; and the Irish modes of life long continued to exercise an irresistible attraction over many of the colonists; but it was inevitable, in such a situation and at such a time, that those who resisted that attraction, and who formed the nucleus of the English power, should look upon the Irish as later colonists looked upon the Red Indians—as being, like wild beasts, beyond the pale of the moral law. Intermarriage with them was forbidden by stringent penalties, and many savage laws were made to maintain the distinction. ‘It was manifest,’ says Sir John Davis, ‘that such as had the government of Ireland under the crown of England did intend to make a perpetual separation and enmity between the English and Irish, pretending, no doubt, that the English should, in the end, root out the Irish.’2 A sentiment very common in the Pale was expressed by those martial monks who taught that it was no more sin to kill an Irishman than to kill a dog; and that whenever, as often happened, they killed an Irishman, they would not on that account refrain from celebrating mass even for a single day.1
It was not until the reign of Henry VIII. that the royal authority became in any degree a reality over the whole island, but its complete ascendency dates only from the great wars of Elizabeth, which broke the force of the semi-independent chieftains, crushed the native population to the dust, and established the complete ascendency of English law. The suppression of the native race, in the wars against Shane O'Neil, Desmond, and Tyrone, was carried on with a ferocity which surpassed that of Alva in the Netherlands, and was hardly exceeded by any page in the blood-stained annals of the Turks. Thus a deliberate attempt was made by a servant of the British Government to assassinate in time of peace the great Irish leader Shane O'Neil, by a present of poisoned wine; and although the attempt failed, and the assassin was detected and arrested, he was at once liberated by the Government. Essex accepted the hospitality of Sir Brien O'Neil. After a banquet, when the Irish chief had retired unsuspiciously to rest, the English general surrounded the house with soldiers, captured his host with his wife and brother, sent them all to Dublin for execution, and massacred the whole body of his friends and retainers. An English officer, a friend of the Viceroy, invited seventeen Irish gentlemen to supper, and when they rose from the table had them all stabbed. A Catholic archbishop named Hurley fell into the hands of the English authorities, and before they sent him to the gallows they tortured him to extort confession of treason by one of the most horrible torments human nature can endure—by roasting his feet with fire.2 But these isolated episodes, by diverting the mind from the broad features of the war, serve rather to diminish than to enhance its atrocity. The war, as conducted by Carew, by Gilbert, by Pelham, by Mountjoy, was literally a war of extermination. The slaughter of Irishmen was looked upon as literally the slaughter of wild beasts. Not only the men, but even the women and children who fell into the hands of the English, were deliberately and systematically butchered.1 Bands of soldiers traversed great tracts of country, slaying every living thing they met. The sword was not found sufficiently expeditious, but another method proved much more efficacious. Year after year, over a great part of Ireland, all means of human subsistence were destroyed, no quarter was given to prisoners who surrendered, and the whole population was skilfully and steadily starved to death. The pictures of the condition of Ireland at this time are as terrible as anything in human history. Thus Spenser, describing what he had seen in Munster, tells how, ‘out of every corner of the woods and glens, they came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs could not bear them. They looked like anatomies of death; they spoke like ghosts crying out of their graves; they did eat the dead carrion, happy when they could find them; yea, and one another soon after, inasmuch as the very carcases they spared not to scrape out of their graves.’2 The people, in the words of Holinshed, ‘were not only driven to eat horses, dogs, and dead carions, but also did devour the carcases of dead men, whereof there be sundry examples. … The land itself, which before these wars was populous, well inhabited, and rich in all the good blessings of God—being plenteous of corn, full of cattle, well stored with fish and other good commodities—is now become … so barren, both of man and beast, that whoever did travel from the one end of all Munster, even from Waterford to the head of Smeereweeke, which is about sixscore miles, he would not meet any man, woman, or child saving in towns and cities; nor yet see any beasts, but the very wolves, foxes, and other like ravening beasts, many of them laie dead, being famished, and the residue gone elsewhere.’1 ‘From Dingle to the Rock of Cashel,’ said an Irish annalist, ‘not the lowing of a cow nor the voice of the ploughman was that year to be heard.’2 The troops of Sir Richard Percie ‘left neither corne, nor horn, nor house unburnt between Kinsale and Ross.’3 The troops of Captain Harvie ‘did the like between Ross and Bantry.’4 The troops of Sir Charles Wilmot entered without resistance an Irish camp, where ‘they found nothing but hurt and sick men, whose pains and lives by the soldiers were both determined.’5 The Lord President, he himself assures us, having heard that the Munster fugitives were harboured in certain parts of that province, diverted his forces thither, ‘burnt all the houses and corn, taking great preys, … and, harassing the country, killed all mankind that were found therein.’ From thence he went to other parts, where ‘he did the like, not leaving behind him man or beast, corn or cattle, except such as had been conveyed into castles.’6 Long before the war had terminated, Elizabeth was assured that she had little left to reign over but ashes and carcases.7 It was boasted that in all the wide territory of Desmond not a town, castle, village, or farmhouse was unburnt; and a high English official, writing in 1582, computed that in six months, more than 30,000 people had been starved to death in Munster, besides those who were hung or who perished by the sword.8 Archbishop Usher afterwards described how women were accustomed to lie in wait for a passing rider, and to rush out like famished wolves to kill and to devour his horse.9 The slaughter of women as well as of men, of unresisting peasants as well as of armed rebels, was openly avowed by the English commanders.1 The Irish annalists told, with horrible detail, how the bands of Pelham and Ormond ‘killed blind and feeble men, women, boys and girls, sick persons, idiots, and old people;’2 how in Desmond's country, even after all resistance had ceased, soldiers forced men and women into old barns which were set on fire, and if any attempted to escape they were shot or stabbed; how soldiers were seen ‘to take up infants on the point of their spears, and to whirl them about in their agony;’ how women were found ‘hanging on trees with their children at their breasts, strangled with their mother's hair.’3
In Ulster, the war was conducted in a similar spirit. An English historian, who was an eye-witness of the subjugation of the province, tells us that ‘Lord Mountjoy never received any to mercy but such as had drawn the blood of some of their fellow rebels.’ Thus ‘McMahon and McArtmoyle offered to submit, but neither could be received without the other's head.’ The country was steadily subdued by starvation. ‘No spectacle was more frequent in the ditches of towns, and especially in wasted countries, than to see multitudes of these poor people dead, with their mouths all coloured green by eating nettles, docks, and all things they could rend above ground.’ In the single county of Tyrone 3,000 persons in a few months were starved. On one occasion Sir Arthur Chichester, with some other English officers, saw three small children—the eldest not above ten years old—feeding off the flesh of their starved mother. In the neighbourhood of Newry, famine produced a new and appalling crime. It was discovered that some old women were accustomed, by lighting fires, to attract children, whom they murdered and devoured.1 At last, hunger and the sword accomplished their work; Tyrone bowed his head before the storm, and the English ascendency was supreme.
It needs, indeed, the widest stretch of historic charity—it needs the fullest realisation of the manner in which, in the sixteenth century, civilised men were accustomed to look upon races they regarded as inferior—to judge this history with equity or moderation. A faint gleam of light falls across the dark and lurid picture in the humanity of Sir John Perrot. There were, no doubt, occasional vacillations and occasional pauses in the massacre. A general pardon was proclaimed in Munster after the suppression of the Desmond rebellion, and through the whole island after that of Tyrone. The cruelties were certainly not all on one side,2 and it must not be forgotten that a large proportion of the soldiers in the service of England were Irish Catholics.3 But, on the whole, the direction and the power of England were everywhere in the ascendant, and her policy was a policy of extermination. It is easy to imagine what feelings it must have planted in the minds of the survivors, and what a tone of ferocity it must have given to the intercourse of the races. But, although the circumstances of these wars were recorded by a remarkable concurrence of contemporary annalists, it is probable that their memory would have soon perished had they not coincided with the adoption by the English Government of a new line of policy, vitally affecting the permanent interests of the nation. The devastation of Ireland in the closing years of Elizabeth was probably not at all more savage, and was certainly much less protracted, than that which Scotland underwent in the long succession of English invasions which began in 1296 under Edward I. and continued at intervals through the whole of the fourteenth century. But in the first place, in this, as in most other respects, the calamities of Scotland terminated at a much earlier date than those of Ireland; and, in the next place, the English invasions were in the end unsuccessful, and did not permanently affect the internal government of the country. In Ireland the English ascendency brought with it two new and lasting consequences, the proscription of the Irish religion and the confiscation of the Irish soil.
It was a very unfortunate circumstance that the period when the English nation definitively adopted the principles of the Reformation should have nearly coincided with the events I have related; but at the same time religious zeal did not at first contribute at all essentially to the struggle. The Irish chiefs repeatedly showed great indifference to religious distinctions, and the English cared much more for the suppression of the Irish race than for the suppression of its religion. The Bible was not translated into Irish. All persons were ordered, indeed, under penalty of a small fine, to attend the Anglican service; but it was ordered that it should be celebrated only in English, or, if that language was not known, in Latin. The mass became illegal; the churches and the church revenues were taken from the priests, but the benefices were filled with adventurers without religious zeal and sometimes without common morality.1 Very naturally, under such circumstances, the Irish continued in their old faith. None of the causes that had produced Protestantism in England existed among them. The new religion, as represented by a Carew or an Essex, was far from prepossessing to their eyes; and the possibility of Catholic alliances against England began to dawn upon some minds. Some slight attempts were made by Irish chiefs to obtain the assistance of the Spaniards, and by the Spaniards to give the struggle the character of a war of religion; but these attempts had no result. A small expedition of Spaniards, with some English and Irish refugees, landed at Smerwicke in Kerry in 1579 to support the rebellion of Desmond, but they were besieged by the English, and after a hard struggle the survivors, numbering about 600, surrendered at discretion and were all put to death, as well as some women who were found with them in the fort. A larger expedition of about 3,500 men landed in Kinsale in 1601, and was joined by the followers of O'Donnell and Tyrone, but it was surprised and defeated by the English. The Spaniards were allowed to retire to their own country, and O'Donnell and many other Irish accompanied them, and planted in a happier soil families which in more than one instance produced noble fruit. From this time it was noticed that Irish exiles were scattered widely over the Continent. Great numbers of the old nobility of the land fought and fell under foreign flags, and ‘found their graves in strange places and unhereditary churches.’2 But on the whole, theological animosity is scarcely perceptible in this period of Irish history. The chief towns, though almost wholly Catholic, remained faithful to the English all through the Elizabethan wars; large numbers of Catholic Irish served under the English banner. There was little real religious persecution on the one side, and little real religious zeal on the other. At the same time the religious worship of the whole nation was proscribed by law, and although that law was in many districts little more than a dead letter, although it was nowhere rigorously and efficiently enforced, the apprehension of the extirpation of their religion hung as a new terror over the Irish people.1
The other cause which was called into action, and which in this stage of Irish history was much more important, was the confiscation of Irish land. The great impulse which the discovery of the New World and the religious changes of the sixteenth century had imparted to the intellect and character of Europe, was shown in England in an exuberance of many-sided activity equalled in no previous portion of her history. It produced among other consequences an extraordinary growth of the spirit of adventure, a distaste for routine, an extreme desire to discover new and rapid paths to wealth. This spirit showed itself in the immense development of maritime enterprise both in the form of discovery and in the form of piracy, and still more strongly in the passion for Irish land.1 The idea that it was possible to obtain, at a few hours' or days' journey from the English coasts, and at little or no cost, great tracts of fertile territory, and to amass in a few years gigantic fortunes, took hold upon the English mind with a fascination much like that which was exercised by the fables of the exhaustless riches of India in the days of Clive and of Hastings. The Government warmly encouraged it. They believed that the one effectual policy for making Ireland useful to England was, in the words of Sir John Davis, ‘to root out the Irish’ from the soil, to confiscate the property of the septs, and plant the country systematically with English tenants. There were chronic disturbances between the English Government and the Irish chiefs, who were in reality almost independent sovereigns, and these were made the pretexts for gigantic confiscations; and as the hunger for land became more intense, and the number of English adventurers increased, other methods were employed. A race of discoverers were called into existence who fabricated stories of plots, who scrutinised the titles of Irish chiefs with all the severity of English law, and who, before suborned or intimidated juries, and on the ground of technical flaws, obtained confiscations. Many Irish proprietors were executed on the most frivolous pretexts, and these methods of obtaining confiscations were so systematically and skilfully resorted to, that it soon became evident to chiefs and people that it was the settled policy of the English Government to deprive them of their land.2
Burke, who had studied Irish history with much care, and whose passing remarks on it always bear to an eminent degree the traces of his great genius, has noticed in a very remarkable passage, how entirely its real clue, during the period between the accession of Elizabeth and the accomplishment of the Revolution, is to be found in this feature of the English policy.1 The wars of Elizabeth were not wars of nationality. The Irish clans had never been fused into a single nation; the country was much in the condition of Gaul before the conquests of Clovis, and wherever the clan system exists the national spirit is very faint and the devotion of the clansman is almost restricted to his clan. They were not wars of races. Desmond, who was of the purest Norman blood, was supported by his Irish followers with as much passionate devotion as O'Neil; and in the long catalogue of Irish crimes given by the English writers of the time, outrages against old English naturalised landlords find no place. They were not to any considerable extent wars of religion. Tyrone, indeed, made ‘liberty of conscience’ one of his demands; but he was so far from being inspired by the spirit of a crusade against Protestantism that he had assisted the Government against Desmond, and would probably have never drawn the sword had he not perceived clearly that his estate was marked out for confiscation. The real motive that stirred the Irish population through the land was the conviction that they were to be driven from the soil. Under the clan system it may easily be conceived what passionate indignation must have been excited by the attempt to expel the old chiefs from their property, and to replace them by new owners who had no single object except to amass rapid fortunes, who had no single sympathy or interest in common with the natives. But this was not all. The Irish land customs of tanistry and gavelkind, as established by the Brehon laws, were still in full force among the Irish tribes. According to this system, the chief was not, like an English landlord, owner in fee of his land; he was elected, though only out of a single family, and the clan had a vested interest in the soil. The humblest clansman was a co-proprietor with his chief; he was subject, indeed, to many exactions in the form of tribute that were extremely burden-some and oppressive, but he could not be ejected, and he had large rights of inheritance of common land. His position was wholly different from, and in some respects very superior to, that of an English tenant. In the confiscations these rights were completely disregarded. It was assumed, in spite of immemorial usage, that the land was the absolute, hereditary property of the chiefs, and that no compensation was due to his tenants; and in this manner the confiscation of territory became a burning grievance to the humblest clansman.
If the object of the Government had been merely to replace the Irish land system by that of English law, such a measure might probably have been effected without exciting much lasting discontent. Great care would have indeed been needed in touching the complicated rights of chief and people, but there were on each side so many disabilities, restrictions, or burdens that a composition might without any insuperable difficulty have been attained. A very remarkable measure of this kind was actually carried in 1585, by Sir John Perrot, one of the ablest and most honourable men who, in the sixteenth century, presided over Irish affairs. An arrangement was made with ‘the nobilitie spiritual and temporal, and all the chieftains and Lords,’ of Connaught, to free them from ‘all uncertaine cesse, cuttings, and spendings,’ and at the same time to convert them into English proprietors. They agreed to surrender their titles and to hold their estates by patents of the Crown, paying to the Crown certain stipulated rents, and discharging certain stipulated military duties. In addition to the freedom from capricious and irregular taxation which they thus purchased they obtained an hereditary possession of their estates, and titles which appeared perfect beyond dispute. The common land was to remain common, but was no longer to be divided. The tribes lost their old right of election, but paragraphs were inserted in many of the indentures not only confirming the ‘mean freeholders and tenants’ in their possessions, but also freeing them from all their money and other obligations to their chiefs. They were placed directly under the Crown, and on payment to the Crown of 10s. for every quarter of land that bore ‘corn or horn,’ they were completely freed from rent and services to their former landlords, but this latter measure was not to come into effect until the death of the chiefs who were then living. The De Burgo's, who were prominent among the Connaught nobles, for a time resisted this arrangement by force, but they were soon compelled to yield; and the creation of a large peasant proprietary was probably one cause of the comparative tranquillity of Connaught during many years.1
But this composition of Connaught stands altogether apart from the ordinary policy of the Government. Their usual object was to obtain Irish land by confiscation and to plant it with English tenants. The system was begun on a large scale in Leinster in the reign of Mary, when the immense territories belonging to the O'Mores, the O'Connors, and the O'Dempseys were confiscated, planted with English colonies, and converted into two English counties. The names of the Queen's County and of the King's County, with their capitals Maryborough and Philipstown, are among the very few existing memorials of a reign which Englishmen would gladly forget. The confiscation, being carried out without any regard for the rights of the humbler members of the tribes, gave rise, as might have been expected, to a long and bloody guerilla warfare, between the new tenants and the old proprietors, which extended far into the reign of Elizabeth, and is especially famous in Irish memories for the treacherous murder by the new settlers of the Irish chiefs, who had with that object been invited to a peaceful conference at Mullaghamast. In Munster, after Desmond's rebellion, more than 574,000 acres were confiscated and passed into English hands. One of the conditions of the grants was that none of the native Irish should be admitted among the tenantry of the new proprietors.1 It was intended to sweep those who had survived the war completely from the whole of this enormous territory, or at least to permit them to remain only in the condition of day-labourers or ploughmen, with the alternative of flying to the mountains or the forests to die by starvation, or to live as savages or as robbers.
Fortunately it is easier to issue such injunctions than to execute them, and though the country was in a great degree planted from England not a few of the old inhabitants retained their hold upon the soil. Accustomed to live in wretched poverty, they could pay larger rents than the English; their local knowledge gave them great advantages; they were unmolested by the numerous robbers who had begun to swarm in the woods; and after the lapse of ten years from the commencement of the Settlement, Spenser complained that the new proprietors, ‘instead of keeping out the Irish, doe not only make the Irish their tenants in those lands and thrust out the English, but also some of them become mere Irish.’2 The confiscations left behind them many ‘wood kerns,’ or, as they were afterwards called, rapparees, who were active in agrarian outrage,3 and a vagrant, homeless, half-savage population of beggars; but the ‘better sort’ of the Irish were by no means entirely uncivilised. An English ‘undertaker’ named Robert Payne, who obtained, in conjunction with some others, an estate in Munster, published in 1589 a ‘Brief Description of Ireland,’ in which he drew a very favourable picture of their habits. ‘The better sorte,’ he says, ‘are very civill and honestly given; the most of them greatly inclined to husbandrie, although as yet unskillful, notwithstanding through their great travell many of them are rich in cattle . …. Although they did never see you before, they will make you the best cheare their country yeeldeth for two or three days and take not anything therefor. Most of them speake good English and bring up their children to learning. I saw in a grammar-school at Limbrick one hundred and threescore schollers, most of them speaking good and perfect English, for that they have used to construe the Latin into English.1 They keep their promise faithfully, and are more desirous of peace than our Englishmen, for that in time of warres they are more charged; and also they are fatter praies for the enemie who respecteth no person. They are quicke witted, and of good constitution of bodie: they reform themselves daylie more and more after the English manners. Nothing is more pleasing unto them than to hear of good justices placed amongst them. They have a common saying, which I am persuaded they speake unfeinedly, which is, “Defend me and spend me;” meaning from the oppression of the worser sort of our countriemen. They are obedient to the laws, so that you may travel through all the land without any danger or injurie offered of the very worst Irish, and be greatly releaved of the best.’ Payne strongly urges the duty of fulfilling the terms of the grants, and planting the land with English, but he at the same time fully explains, though he censures, the preference of some of the undertakers for Irishmen. ‘They find such profit from their Irish tenants, who give them the fourth sheafe of all their corne, and 16d. yearly for a beastes grass, beside divers other Irish accustomed dues. So that they care not, although they never place any Englishmen there.’1
It is no slight illustration of the amiable qualities of the Irish character that so large a measure of the charities of life as these passages indicate should have been found in Munster within four years after the great confiscations and after a war conducted by such methods as I have described. The system of tanistry, it must be remembered, did not exist on the estates of Desmond. A low level of comfort and much experience of the vicissitudes of civil war, helped to reconcile the survivors to their new lot, and a confiscation which in its plan was atrociously cruel, was somewhat mitigated in its execution. Still, feelings of fierce and lasting resentment must have rankled in many minds, and traditions were slowly forming which coloured the whole texture of Irish thought. In the north, Tyrone, by a timely submission, succeeded in saving his land; but soon after the accession of James I. a decision of the King's Bench, which had the force of law, pronounced the whole system of tanistry and gavelkind, which had grown out of the Brehon law, and which had hitherto been recognised in a great part of the island, to be illegal; and thus, without a struggle and without compensation, the proprietary rights of the natives were swept away. Then followed the great plantation of Ulster. Tyrone and Tyrconnel were accused of plots against the Government, whether falsely or truly is still disputed. There was no rebellion, but the earls, either conscious of guilt, or, quite as probably, distrusting tribunals which were systematically and notoriously partial, took flight, and no less than six counties were confiscated, and planted with English and Scotch. The plantation scheme was conducted with much ability, partly by the advice of Bacon. The great depopulation of the country in the last war rendered it comparatively easy, and Sir John Davis noticed that, for the first time in the history of the confiscations, some attention was paid to the interests of the natives, to whom a considerable proportion of the confiscated land, selected arbitrarily by the Government, was assigned.1 The proprietary rights, however, of the clans, in accordance with the recent decision, were entirely disregarded. Great numbers of the old proprietors, or head tenants, were driven from their land, and the large Presbyterian element now introduced into Ulster greatly increased the bitterness of theological animosity. The new colonists also, planted in the old Irish territory, though far surpassing the natives in industrial enterprise, were of a class very little fitted to raise the moral level of the province, to conciliate a people they despised, or to soften the shock of a great calamity. The picture drawn of their general character by Stewart, the son of one of the ministers who came over, is probably a little over-coloured, but there is no reason to doubt its substantial truth, and it does much to explain the ferocious character of the rebellion that followed. ‘From Scotland came many, and from England not a few, yet all of them generally the scum of both nations, who from debt, or breaking or fleeing from justice, or seeking shelter, came hither, hoping to be without fear of man's justice, in a land where there was nothing, or but little as yet, of the fear of God. … On all hands Atheism increased, and disregard of God; iniquity abounded, with contention, fighting, murder, adultery. … Going to Ireland was looked on as a miserable mark of a deplorable person; yea, it was turned into a proverb, and one of the worst expressions of disdain that could be invented was to tell a man that “Ireland would be his hinder end.”’ ‘Although among those whom Divine Providence did send to Ireland,’ says another Presbyterian writer, ‘there were several persons eminent for birth, education, and parts, yet the most part were such as either poverty, scandalous lives, or, at the best, adventurous seeking of better accommodation, had forced thither.’1
The aspect of Ireland, however, was at this time more encouraging than it had been for many years. In the social system, as in the physical body, the prostration of extreme illness is often followed, with a strange rapidity, by a sudden reflux of exuberant health. When a nation has been brought to the utmost extremities of anguish; when almost all the old, the sick, the feeble have been hurried to the grave; when the population has been suddenly and enormously reduced; when great masses of property have quickly changed hands; and when few except the most vigorous natures remain, it may reasonably be expected that the cessation of the calamity will be followed by a great outburst of prosperity. Such a rebound followed the Black Death, which in the fourteenth century swept away about a fourth part of the inhabitants of Europe; and a similar recovery, on a smaller scale, and due in part at least to the same cause, took place in Ireland after the Elizabethan and the Cromwellian wars, and after the great famine of the present century. Besides this a new and energetic element was introduced into Irish life. English law was extended through the island. The judges went their regular circuits, and it was hoped that the resentment produced by recent events would be compensated or allayed by the destruction of that clan system which had been the source of much disorder, by the abolition of the exactions of the Irish chiefs, and by the introduction of skilful husbandmen, and therefore of material prosperity, into a territory half of which lay absolutely waste, while the other half was only cultivated in the rudest manner.2 It was inevitable that the English and the Irish should look on the Plantation in very different ways. In the eyes of the latter it was a confiscation of the worst and most irritating description; for, whatever might have been the guilt of the banished earls, the clans, who, according to Irish notions, were the real owners of the soil, had given no provocation; and the measure by breaking up their oldest and most cherished customs and traditions, by banishing their ancient chiefs, by tearing them from their old homes, and by planting among them new masters of another race, and of a hostile creed, excited an intensity of bitterness which no purely political measure could possibly have produced. In the eyes of the English the measure was essential, if Ulster was to be brought fully under the dominion of English law, and if its resources were to be developed; and the assignment of a large part of the land to native owners distinguished it broadly and favourably from similar acts in previous times.1 It met with no serious resistance. Even the jury system was at once introduced, and although it was at first found that the clansmen would give no verdicts against one another, jurymen were speedily intimidated into submission by fines or imprisonment.2 In a few years the progress was so great that Sir John Davis, the able Attorney-General of King James, pronounced the strings of the Irish harp to be all in tune, and he expressed both surprise and admiration at the absence of crime among the natives, and at their complete submission to the law. ‘I dare affirm,’ he wrote, ‘that for the space of five years past there have not been found so many malefactors worthy of death in all the six circuits of this realm (which is now divided into thirty-two shires at large) as in one circuit of six shires, namely, the western circuit, in England. For the truth is that in time of peace the Irish are more fearful to offend the law than the English or any other nation whatsoever.’ ‘The nation,’ he predicted, ‘will gladly continue subjects, without adhering to any other lord or king, as long as they may be protected and justly governed, without oppression on the one side or impunity on the other. For there is no nation or people under the sun that doth love equal or indifferent justice better than the Irish; or will rest better satisfied with the execution thereof, although it be against themselves; so as they may have the protection and benefit of law when upon just cause they do desire it.’1
But yet it needed little knowledge of human nature to perceive that the country was in imminent danger of drifting steadily to a fearful catastrophe. The unspeakable horrors that accompanied the suppression of the Irish under Elizabeth, the enormous confiscations in three provinces, the abolition of the land customs most cherished by the people, the legal condemnation of their religion, the plantation among them of an alien and hostile population, ever anxious to root them from the soil—all these elements of bitterness, crowded into a few disastrous years of suffering, were now smouldering in deep resentment in the Irish mind. Mere political changes leave the great body of the community untouched, or touch them only feebly, indirectly or superficially; but changes which affect religious belief or the means and conditions of material subsistence are felt in their full intensity in the meanest hovel. Nothing in Irish history is more remarkable than the entire absence of outrage and violence that followed the Ulster Plantation, and for the present at least the people showed themselves eminently submissive, tractable, and amenable to the law. But the only possible means of securing a permanence of peace was by convincing them that justice would be administered with impartial firmness, and that for the future at least, under the shadow of English rule, their property and their religion, the fruits of their industry, and the worship of their God, would be scrupulously respected. Had such a spirit animated the Government of Ireland, all might yet have been well. But the greed for Irish land which had now become the dominating passion of English adventurers was still unsated, and during the whole of the reign of James a perpetual effort was made to deprive the Irish of the residue which remained to them. The concessions intended in the plantation scheme were most imperfectly carried out. ‘The commissioners,’ writes a temperate Protestant historian, ‘appointed to distribute the lands scandalously abused their trusts, and by fraud or violence deprived the natives of the possessions the king had reserved for them.’1 In the small county of Longford, twenty-five members of one sept were all deprived of their estates, without the least compensation, or any means of subsistence assigned to them.2 All over Ireland the trade of the Discoverer now rose into prominence. Under pretence of improving the king's revenue, these persons received commissions of inquiry into defective titles, and obtained confiscations, and grants at small rents for themselves. In a country which had but just emerged from barbarism, where English law had but recently become supreme, where most possession rested chiefly on immemorial custom, and where constant civil wars, many forfeitures, and a great and recent change in the tenure of land had all tended to confuse titles, it was totally impossible that the majority of the proprietors could satisfy the conditions that were required of them, and the proceedings in the law courts were soon an infamous mockery of justice. Grants made by Henry II. were revived to invalidate the undisturbed possessions of centuries. Much of the country had passed in the early Plantagenet period from Norman into Irish hands, as the circle of the Pale was contracted; and if the present proprietors could not establish their titles clearly and indisputably by documentary evidence, if, possessing such evidence, the smallest technical flaw could be discovered, the land, in the absence of any other claimant, was adjudged to the Crown. Everywhere, says Carte, discoverers were at work finding out flaws in men's titles to their estates. The old pipe-rolls were searched to find the old rents reserved and charged upon them; the patent rolls in the Tower of London were ransacked for the ancient grants.1 It was discovered that several ancient grants had reserved rents to the Crown, which had for generations been unpaid and undemanded. Acquittances were now demanded, and as they could not be produced, some of the best titles were in this manner invalidated. The Judges, who were removable at pleasure, warmly supported the Government in straining the law to the utmost limits. In general, the terrified proprietors saved themselves by paying composition, surrendering their titles, and receiving them back with increased rents to the Crown. Every man's enjoyment of his property became precarious, and the natives learnt with terror that law could be made in a time of perfect peace, and without any provocation being given, a not less terrible instrument than the sword for rooting them out of the soil.2 In a case which Carte records it was found impossible, by any legal chicanery, to deprive a family named O'Byrne, in the County Wicklow, of an estate which was coveted. But another method was more successful. Sir William Parsons and his accomplices trumped up a false criminal charge against the proprietor. They induced men of the most infamous characters to support it, and one witness who refused to give the evidence they required, was tortured into compliance by being placed on a burning gridiron.1 It was this sept which first rose to arms in Leinster in the insurrection of 1641.
One fraud of a more gigantic description was contemplated. It was hoped that Sir John Perrot's great measure of the composition of Connaught had at least placed the titles of that province beyond all dispute, and given them the fullest security of English law. The measure, however, had been taken before the scheme for seeking confiscations by legal quibbles had been devised, and it had been somewhat carelessly carried out. The lords and gentlemen of Connaught had surrendered their estates to the Crown, had complied with the conditions of the new tenure, and had paid their compositions to the Crown with an acknowledged punctuality; but they had very generally neglected to enrol their surrenders or to take out their patents. The defect, however, was supplied by King James, who in the thirteenth year of his reign issued a commission to legalise the surrenders of the estates, which were reconveyed by new and regular patents under the Great Seal of England. The fees for the enrolment of these patents, amounting in all to 3,000l., were fully paid; but it was found, at the very time when the enthusiasm for plantations was at its height, that by the neglect of the officers of the Court of Chancery the patents and the surrenders had not been duly enrolled in the Court of Chancery. On the ground of this technical flaw, which was due exclusively to the neglect of the Government officials, and for which the Connaught proprietors were in no degree responsible, the titles of all the estates in the province, though guaranteed under the King's broad seal, were pronounced invalid, and the estates were said to be still vested in the Crown. The project of making a plantation of Connaught similar to the Plantation of Ulster was devised and adopted. The terror produced by this prospect was extreme, and the conviction of the Connaught gentry that no real justice could be obtained was so strong that they offered to purchase a new confirmation of their patents by doubling their annual compositions, and by paying to the King what was at that time the very large sum of 10,000l. It was estimated that this was as much as the King would gain by a plantation, and it is probable that the sum would have been accepted, when the death of James interrupted the scheme.1
It is not surprising under these circumstances, that on the accession of Charles I. a feverish and ominous restlessness should have pervaded Irish life. The army was increased. Religious animosities became much more apparent than before. The security of property was shaken to the very foundation. The native proprietors began to feel themselves doomed to certain and speedy destruction. Universal distrust of English law had grown up, and the murmurs of discontent, like the first moanings of a coming storm, might be plainly heard. One more effort was made by the Irish gentry to persuade, or rather to bribe the Government to allow them to remain undisturbed in the possession of their property. They offered to raise by voluntary assessment the large sum of 120,000l., in three annual instalments of 40,000l., on condition of obtaining certain Graces from the King. These Graces, the Irish analogue of the Petition of Rights, were of the most moderate and equitable description. The most important were that undisturbed possession of sixty years should secure a landed proprietor from all older claims on the part of the Crown, that the inhabitants of Connaught should be secured from litigation by the enrolment of their patents, and that Popish recusants should be permitted, without taking the Oath of Supremacy, to sue for livery of their estates in the Court of Arches, and to practise in the courts of law. The terms were accepted. The promise of the King was given. The Graces were transmitted by way of instruction to the Lord Deputy and Council, and the Government also engaged, as a further security to all proprietors, that their estates should be formally confirmed to them and to their heirs by the next Parliament which should be held in Ireland.
The sequel forms one of the most shameful passages in the history of English government of Ireland. In distinct violation of the King's solemn promise, after the subsidies that were made on the faith of that promise had been duly obtained, without provocation or pretext or excuse, Wentworth, who now presided with stern despotism over the government of Ireland, announced the withdrawal of the two principal articles of the Graces, the limitation of Crown claims by a possession of sixty years and the legalisation of the Connaught titles. The object of this great and wicked man was to establish a despotism in Ireland as a step towards a despotism in England. If the King could command without control a powerful army and a large revenue in Ireland, he would have made a great stride towards emancipating himself from the Parliament of England. The Irish Parliament was no serious obstacle. It was too dependent, too intimidated, and a great ruler might safely defy it. ‘I can now say,’ wrote Wentworth, ‘that the King is as absolute here as any prince in the whole world can be.’1 It was necessary, however, to the scheme to increase to the utmost the King's revenue and to neglect no source from which it might be replenished. With this object Wentworth developed with great and commendable energy the material resources of the country, and, though he discouraged the woollen trade in the interests of English manufacturers, he was the real founder of the linen manufacture. With this object he compelled the new colonists at Londonderry to redeem their titles, which he impugned on account of a technical flaw in a covenant, by the payment of no less than 70,000l. With this object he induced the King to maintain his ancient claims, and he resolved, at once and on a large scale, to prosecute the plantation of Connaught. The means employed were hardly less infamous than the design. Inquisitions were made in every county in Connaught. In order to preserve the show of justice, juries were summoned, and were peremptorily ordered to bring in verdicts vesting all titles in the King. Every means was taken to insure compliance. Men such ‘as might give furtherance in finding a title for the King’ were carefully selected, and a grant of 4s. in the pound was given to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chief Baron out of the first yearly rent raised upon the commissions of defective titles, ‘which money,’ the Deputy somewhat cynically adds, ‘I find to be the best that was ever given. For now they do intend it with a care and diligence such as it were their own private; and most certainly the gaining to themselves every 4s. once paid, shall better your revenue ever after at least 5l.’ The sheriffs and the Judges were the creatures of the Government, and Wentworth was present to overcome all opposition. The juries were assured that the project was for the advantage of the King and of the country, that if they presumed to give unfavourable verdicts those verdicts would be set aside, and that ‘they might answer the King a round fine in the Castle Chamber in case they should prevaricate.’ In county after county terrified juries brought in the verdict that was required. In Galway alone the jury refused to do so, and the enraged Deputy at once imposed a fine of 1,000l. on the sheriff who had summoned them, and bound the recalcitrant jurors to appear in the Castle Chamber, where they were each sentenced to pay the enormous fine of 4,000l. and to lie in prison till it was paid.1
The titles of Connaught now lay at the feet of the Deputy, but at the last moment the scheme of plantation was deferred. It was plain that it would produce a rebellion in Ireland; and as the conflict between the King and the English Parliament was now rapidly moving to its crisis, it was thought advisable to postpone the change till a quieter time. From this date, however, the great insurrection had become inevitable. The policy of Wentworth was fully approved by his sovereign; he was made Earl of Strafford, and he soon after passed to England to encounter a dark and a terrible fate; but he left behind him in Ireland rage, and anguish, and despair. It had become clear beyond all doubt to the native population that the old scheme of ‘rooting them out’ from the soil was the settled policy of the Government; that the land which remained to them was marked as a prey by hungry adventurers, by the refuse of the population of England and Scotland, by men who cared no more for their rights or happiness than they did for the rights and happiness of the worms which were severed by their spades. It had become clear to them that no loyalty, no submission, no concession on the part of the people, and no promises or engagements on the part of the Government, would be of any avail to avert the doom which, withdrawn for a time but ever imminent, now hung in perpetual menace over the native race.
There was but one thing which they valued more than their land, and that also was in peril. By the legislation of Elizabeth the Act of Uniformity was established in Ireland; all religious worship except the Anglican was made illegal; all persons who were absent from church without sufficient excuse were liable for each Sunday to a fine of 1s., and all ecclesiastics and other officials were bound under severe penalties to take the Oath of Supremacy. It is clear, however, that this legislation neither was nor could have been enforced. The churches over a great part of the island were in ruins. Protestant ministers were very few. The overwhelming majority of the population within the old Pale, and nearly the whole population beyond its borders remained attached to the Catholic faith. Law was everywhere very feeble, and the Government was actuated much more by secular than by theological motives. In the towns and the more civilised districts, the churches and their revenues were taken from the Catholics, and in a very few cases the fines stipulated by law were imposed; but even the disqualification for civil offices was by no means generally enforced. In the troubles of this reign five Irish Catholic bishops perished either by execution or by the violence of soldiers, and the Catholic primate died a prisoner in the Tower of London; but in most, if not all, of these cases, political motives were probably at the root of the severity.1 The Mass, when it was driven from the churches, appears to have been celebrated without molestation in private houses; and it is probable that in a large part of the island the change in the legal religion was hardly perceived.
But on the accession of James I., religious antagonism on both bides became more apparent. Foreign ecclesiastics were fanning the devotion of the people, and their hopes on the accession of the new sovereign speedily rose. In Cork, Waterford, Cashel, Clonmel, and Limerick, the townspeople, with the support or connivance of the magistrates, violently took possession of the churches, ejected the reformed ministers, celebrated the mass, and erected crosses. It was found necessary to march troops into Munster. At Cork there was some slight opposition; a few lives were lost, and a few executions followed. To the remonstrance of the Deputy, the Cork authorities answered that ‘they only exercised now publicly what they had ever before been suffered to exercise privately; and as their public prayers gave testimony to their faithful hearts to the King, so they were tied to be no less careful to manifest their duties to God, in which they would never be dissembling temporisers. The disturbed districts, however, speedily submitted, and were quieted by an Act of indemnity and oblivion published by proclamation; but a petition was soon after presented to the King by the recusants of the Pale asking for open toleration; and it was followed by a royal proclamation announcing that no freedom of worship would be conceded, and ordering all Popish priests to leave the kingdom. Some of the magistrates and other leading inhabitants of Dublin were fined and imprisoned for not attending the Protestant service. The latter part of the sentence was entirely illegal, and the old English families of the Pale drew up a bold remonstrance against it. The Government replied by throwing their delegates into prison. The Act of Supremacy was also more widely and more severely enforced, but the Government soon relapsed into that modified tolerance which was almost essential in a country where probably ninety-nine out of every hundred inhabitants were attached to the proscribed religion. The strengthening of the Protestant interest in Ireland was, however, one great object of the Plantation of Ulster.1
The Government of Charles I. pursued a somewhat similar policy, but there were many new signs of an alarming animosity. It is open to anyone to maintain that the Irish Catholics would never have been content with any position short of ascendency; but whatever plausibility this theory may derive from the experience of other countries, there is no real evidence to support it in Irish history. The object of the Catholic population was merely to obtain security and open recognition for their religion, but it was plain that their zeal was steadily increasing. For some time after the Reformation Catholics in Ireland as in England had shown little scruple in attending, when required, the Anglican service; but their preachers now denounced such compliance as a deadly sin, and a Bull of Urban VIII. exhorted the people to suffer death rather than take the Oath of Supremacy. In a country where almost the whole proprietary of the country, both of English and Irish descent, remained attached to Catholicism, the practical administration of affairs was necessarily in favour of that religion. The Catholics were still a great political power. They were numerous among the Members of Parliament and the magistrates, in the corporations, and at the bar, though they were constantly liable to be called on to take the oath of supremacy, and were subject to a good deal of irritating and capricious tyranny.1 They formed the great majority of the freeholders. They included most of the great old English families, and they were no longer content with the mere toleration of connivance. On the other hand, the Protestant party in the spirit of that time were inflexibly opposed to a full toleration. An assembly of prelates, convened by Archbishop Usher in 1626, declared that ‘the religion of Papists is superstitious and idolatrous; their faith and doctrine erroneous and heretical; their Church, in respect to both, apostatical; to give them, therefore, a toleration, or to consent that they may freely exercise their religion and profess their faith and doctrine, is a grievous sin.’2 Usher and other prelates preached vehemently against toleration, and the English House of Commons supported them by a remonstrance to the King, complaining bitterly that ‘the Popish religion was publicly professed in every part of Ireland, and that monasteries and nunneries were there newly erected.’ In the same spirit, Falkland, who immediately preceded Wentworth as Deputy, and who was much inclined to tolerate Catholics, was compelled by the Puritanical party to issue a proclamation complaining of the growing insolence of the Popish ecclesiastics since the intermission of prosecutions, and peremptorily ordering them, ‘in his Majesty's name, to forbear the exercise of their Popish rites and ceremonies.’3 The site of the Purgatory of St. Patrick which was the object of deep reverence among the Irish Catholics was by order of the Government dug up and defaced. Trinity College had been founded by Elizabeth for the support of Protestantism, and as no students were admitted without taking the Oath of Supremacy, the Catholics had established an educational institution of their own. They had also boldly erected churches and monasteries in Dublin, and in one of them Carmelite monks officiated in their robes. The Archbishop of Dublin and the chief magistrate of the city invaded this church at the head of a party of soldiers, and tried to disperse the congregation, but an angry scuffle ensued, stones were thrown, and the Protestants were compelled to retire. The English Council at once issued an order confiscating for the King's use fifteen religious houses, and also the new college which the Catholics had founded, and handing over the latter to its Protestant rival.1 The negotiation about the Graces was chiefly carried on by Popish recusants, who paid the greater part of the voluntary subsidy to the Government, in the vain hope of obtaining security for their estates. Wentworth abstained from all direct interference with their religion, but he extorted additional subsidies from them by threatening, in case of their noncompliance with his demands, to enforce the laws against Popery, and it is probable that they understood that his project of planting Connaught with Protestant settlers would be the prelude to the suppression of their worship. That this, at least, was the intention of the Deputy we know by his own words. In one of his letters he expressly states that the suppression of every other religion than that established by law was one great aim of his policy; that he thought it wise to defer the execution of that policy till the confiscations in Connaught had been duly accomplished, and that he hoped by the new plantation to secure such a Protestant predominance as would enable him to accomplish his design.2
Meanwhile, from another quarter, new and terrible dangers were approaching. The Puritan party, inspired by the fiercest fanaticism against Popery, were rising rapidly into power. The Scotch rebellion had the double effect of furnishing the Irish Catholics with an example of a nation rising by arms to establish its religion, and of adding to the growing panic by placing at the head of Scotch affairs those who had sworn the Solemn League and Covenant, and from whom the Papists could look for nothing but extirpation. It was rumoured through Ireland that the covenanted army had threatened never to lay down arms till uniformity of religion was established through the whole kingdom; and a letter from Scotland was intercepted, stating that a covenanted army under General Lesly would soon come over to extirpate Catholicism in Ulster. In the English Parliament, one of the first and most vehement objects of the Puritan party was to put an end to all toleration of Popery. By an address from the House of Commons, all Roman Catholic officers were driven from the army. An application was made to the King to enforce the confiscation of two-thirds of the lands of the recusants, as well as the savage law which in England doomed all Catholic priests to the gallows. Some of them were arrested, but reprieved by the King, and this reprieve was made a prominent grievance by the Parliament. Seven priests were soon afterwards hung, at the request of the Parliament, for no other crime than that of celebrating the Mass; but before this, the explosion in Ireland had begun. Reports of the most alarming character, some of them false or exaggerated, flew rapidly among the Irish Catholics. It was said that Sir John Clotworthy had declared in Parliament that the conversion of the Irish Papists could only be effected with the Bible in one hand and the sword in the other; that Pym had boasted that the Parliament would not leave one priest in Ireland; that Sir William Parsons predicted at a public banquet that, within a twelvemonth not a Catholic would be seen in Ireland. Petitions were presented by the Irish Presbyterians to the English Parliament praying for the extirpation of prelacy and popery in Ireland.1 It was believed, with much reason, that there was a fixed design among the Puritan party, who were now becoming supreme, to suppress absolutely the Catholic worship in Ireland, and to ‘the publishing of this design’ Ormond ascribed the great extension of the rebellion which now broke out.1
The rebellion was not, however, due to any single cause, but represented the accumulated wrongs and animosities of two generations. The influence of the ejected proprietors, who were wandering impoverished among the people, or who returned from military service in Spain; the rage of the septs, who had been deprived of their proprietary rights and outraged in their most cherished customs; the animosity which very naturally had grown up between the native population and the alien colonists planted in their old dominions; the new fanaticism which was rising under the preaching of priests and friars; all the long train of agrarian wrongs, from the massacre of Mullaghamast to the latest inquisitions of Wentworth; all the long succession of religious wrongs, from the Act of Uniformity of Elizabeth to the confiscation of the Irish College under Charles—all these things, together with the opportunity caused by the difficulties of England, contributed to the result. Behind the people lay the maddening recollections of the wars of Elizabeth, when their parents had been starved by thousands to death, when unresisting peasants, when women, when children, had been deliberately massacred, and when no quarter had been given to the prisoners. Before them lay the gloomy and almost certain prospect of banishment from the land which remained to them, of the extirpation of the religion which was fast becoming the passion as well as the consolation of their lives, of the sentence of death directed against any priest who dared to pray beside their bed of death. To the most sober and unimpassioned judgment, these fears were reasonable; but the Irish were at this time as far as possible from sober and unimpassioned. The air was hot, feverish, charged with rumours. In this case there was no safety in quiet, and there was no power on which they could rely. The royal authority was manifestly tottering. Sir William Parsons, the most active of the Lords Justices, leaned strongly towards the Parliament; he was one of the most unprincipled and rapacious of the land-jobbers who had, during the last generation, been the curse of Ireland. He had been chief agent in the scandalous proceedings against the O'Byrnes, and if we may believe the account of Carte, who has described this period with far greater means of information than any other historian, Parsons ardently desired and purposely stimulated rebellion in order to reap a new crop of confiscations. Week after week, as the attitude of the English Parliament became more hostile, the panic in Ireland spread and deepened; and as the shadow of approaching calamity fell darkly over the imaginations of the people, strange stories of supernatural portents were readily believed. It was said that a sword bathed in blood had been seen suspended in the air, that a Spirit Form which had appeared before the great troubles of Tyrone was again stalking abroad, brandishing her mighty spear over the devoted land.1
I can only give the briefest sketch of the confused and horrible years that followed. The great Irish rebellion broke out in Ulster on the night of October 22, 1641. It had been noticed before, that a large concourse of strangers from distant parts of the kingdom had been thronging to Dublin, and on the evening before the outbreak in the North, the Lords Justices received intelligence, of undoubted weight, of a conspiracy to surprise Dublin Castle. Every precaution was taken to protect it, and for six weeks after the insurrection broke out in Ulster almost the whole of the other three provinces remained passive. On November 12, indeed, a furious popular and agrarian rising broke out in Wicklow1 in the territory of the O'Byrnes—who had been, as we have seen, so recently and so flagitiously robbed of their property—and all the English were plundered and expelled from the land which had been confiscated; but the Catholic gentry of Munster and Connaught stood firm to their allegiance, and although predatory bands appeared in a few parts of Leinster the general defection of the Pale did not take place till the beginning of December.2 Although there is no doubt that a few Leinster gentlemen were connected with the plot from the beginning, it is almost certain that the great body were at first completely loyal and were only driven into the rebellion most reluctantly. Carte has strongly maintained, and Leland fully supports his view, that the policy of the Lords Justices was directly responsible for their defection. It is certain that the Lords Justices, representing a powerful party in England, were keenly desirous of obtaining as large forfeitures as possible, and their policy was eminently fitted to drive the Catholic gentry to despair. They began by recalling the arms which they had entrusted to the nobles and inhabitants of the Pale. They then, at a time when the Wicklow rebellion and the multiplication of robbers made the position of unarmed men peculiarly dangerous in the country districts, issued a proclamation ordering all persons who were not ordinary inhabitants of Dublin to leave the city within twenty-four hours, and forbidding them to approach within two miles of it. By this measure the inhabitants of the neighbouring districts were forced into perpetual intercourse with the rebels, compelled to support them by contributions, and thus brought at once into the meshes of the law. The English Parliament recommended the offer of a pardon to such rebels as submitted, but the Lords Justices in their proclamation excluded Ulster, which was the chief seat of the rebellion, restricted their offers to Longford, Louth, Meath, and Westmeath, which had been slightly disturbed—and clogged their offers by such restrictions as made them almost nugatory. Above all, they prorogued the Irish Parliament, contrary to the strong remonstrances both of Ormond and of the Catholic gentry, at a time when its continuance was of vital importance to the country. It contained a large proportion of those who were subsequently leaders of the rebellion, but it showed itself strongly and unequivocally loyal; and at a time when the Puritan party were rising into the ascendant, and when there was a great and manifest disposition to involve as many landed proprietors as possible in the guilt of the rebellion, the Catholic gentry regarded this Parliament as their one means of attesting their loyalty beyond dispute, and protecting in some degree their properties and their religion.1
Whether these measures were really taken with the intention that has been alleged, or whether they were merely measures of precaution, has been much contested; and the question is, perhaps, not susceptible of any positive solution. One fact, however, concerning the defection of the Pale is not questionable. It is, that the rebellion only assumed its general character in consequence of the resolution of the English House of Commons which determined, in the beginning of December, that no toleration should be henceforth granted to the Catholic religion in Ireland. It was this policy, announced by the Parliament of England, that drove the Catholic gentry of Ireland very reluctantly into rebellion. In Wicklow, it is true, and in the adjoining county of Wexford, the rebellion, as I have said, assumed an agrarian character; and in many different parts of the country bands of simple robbers were soon called into existence. But in general the rebellion out of Ulster was a defensive religious war entered into for the purpose of securing a toleration, and ultimately an establishment, of the religion of the Irish people. Some of the Catholic gentry, and especially Lord Clanricarde, exhibited in this trying period a loyalty that could not be surpassed; and during all the tangled years of civil war that followed, the Catholic party showed themselves quite ready to be reconciled to the Government if they could only have obtained a security for their religion and their estates.1 In Ulster, however, the rebellion assumed a wholly distinct character, and was speedily disgraced by crimes which, though they have been grossly, absurdly, and mendaciously exaggerated, were both numerous and horrible. Hardly any page of history has been more misrepresented than that which we are now describing, and it is extremely difficult to distinguish truth from fiction; but without entering into very minute details it will be possible, I think, to establish a few plain facts which enable us to discern clearly the main outline of the events.
It has been asserted by numerous writers, and is still generally believed, that the Ulster rebellion began with a general and indiscriminate massacre of the Protestants, who were living without suspicion among the Catholics, resembling the massacre of the Danes by the English, the massacre of the French in the Sicilian Vespers, or the massacre of the Huguenots at St. Bartholomew. Clarendon has asserted that ‘there were 40,000 or 50,000 of the English Protestants murdered before they suspected themselves to be in any danger, or could provide for their defence’;1 and other writers have estimated the victims within the first two months of the rebellion at 150,000, at 200,000, and even at 300,000. It may be boldly asserted that this statement of a sudden surprise, immediately followed by a general and organised massacre, is utterly and absolutely untrue. As is almost always the case in a great popular rising, there were, in the first outbreak of the rebellion, some murders, but they were very few; and there was at this time nothing whatever of the nature of a massacre.2 The first intelligence of the outbreak appears to have been given by Lord Chichester, who wrote to the King from Belfast on October 24, describing the proceedings of the rebels and the measures he was taking for the defence of Carrickfergus. ‘The Irish,’ he wrote, ‘in the northern parts of your Majesty's kingdom of Ireland, two nights last past, did rise with force, and have taken Charlimont, Dongannon, Tonragee, and the Newry, with your Majesty's stores there—townes all of good consequence, the farthest within forty miles of this place, and have slain only one man, and they are advancing near to these parts.’1 Their leader, Sir Phelim O'Neil, had the reputation much more of a weak and incapable, than of a deliberately cruel man;2 and it is a remarkable fact that on the 24th he issued a proclamation from Dungannon declaring that his rising was in no wise intended against the King, or ‘for the hurt of any of his subjects, either of the English or Scotch nation; but only for the defence and liberty of ourselves and the Irish natives of this kingdom.’ He at the same time ordered all persons, under pain of death, to return to their houses, promised that what damage had been done to them should be repaired, and denounced the penalty of death against any who committed outrages.3
It is impossible to say with confidence whether this proclamation represented the real sentiments of the leader, but it is at least certain that it did not represent those of the Irish in Ulster. The rebellion broke out in the counties which had so recently been confiscated, and before the first week elapsed, the English were everywhere driven from their homes, and their expulsion was soon accompanied by horrible barbarities. The Scotch, however, who formed the great majority of the Protestants in Ulster, were at first entirely unmolested. Partly because the rebels feared to attack them, and partly through hopes of a future alliance, it was agreed to pass them by; and during the weeks in which the power of the rebels in Ulster was most uncontrolled, this agreement seems to have been faithfully observed.1 But the English in the open country were deprived at once of all they possessed. The season was unusually inclement. The wretched fugitives often found every door closed against them, and perished in multitudes along the roads. Probably by far the greater number of those who were represented as massacred died in this manner from cold, and want, and hardship. The aspect in which the insurrection appeared to Protestants who were living in the midst of it appears very vividly in the ‘Life of Bishop Bedell’ by his son-in-law Clogy—a little book which ought to be read by all who desire to form a reasonable judgment on the subject. Clogy, though he uses much vague but highly-coloured language, about the bloody and ferocious character of the rebellion, speaks of no murders within his own knowledge, but he informs us that Bedell was the only Englishman in the whole county of Cavan who was not driven from his home, and that the corn, cattle, and other provisions were seized by the rebels. ‘There was no people under heaven,’ he writes, ‘lived in a more flourishing state and condition for peace, and plenty of all things desirable in this life, when on a sudden we were turned out of house and hold, and stript of all outward enjoyments, and left naked and bare in the winter, and on the Sabbath day put to flight that had no place to flee to for refuge. The land that a little before was like the garden of Eden was speedily turned into a desolate wilderness.’1 At the same time there appears to have been no general attempt to destroy the fugitives, and in this county, at least, the Irish systematically gave quarter even to those who resisted them. The rebels were commanded by O'Reilly, and, as far as his influence extended, he showed a remarkable humanity and good faith. Belturbet was compelled to surrender, and O'Reilly took ‘1,500 persons out of the town, and sent them with their goods towards Dublin under a convoy, which took care to plunder them by the way.’ Robert Baily delivered up his castle, and all the Protestants under his command, on a capitulation which was faithfully observed. The Castles of Balanenagh, of Keilagh, and of Crohan were compelled to surrender on honourable terms, which were scrupulously fulfilled. Such of the Protestants as placed themselves under the protection of O'Reilly were safely convoyed into the English quarters, and those who were stripped and in necessity were fed and clothed.1 Bedell, when the whole county was in the hands of the rebels, was suffered to receive and shelter multitudes of poor Protestants, among others, the rector of Belturbet—who after the Restoration was made Bishop of Elphin—in the rooms and outhouses of his castle, and in his church.2 The fugitives were, indeed, after a time obliged to leave him; but though they passed through the midst of the rebels, not one miscarried, and not a thread of their garments was touched.3 After living for eight months in a country wholly occupied by the rebels, the family of Bedell, and among its members his biographer, were escorted, together with about 1,200 English who had been compelled by want of provisions to surrender, to the English garrison at Drogheda. The escort consisted of 2,000 rebels. The journey lasted seven days. ‘The rebels,’ says Clogy, ‘offered us no violence—save in the night, when our men were weary with continual watching, they would steal away a good horse, and run off—but were very civil to us all the way, and many of them wept at our parting from them, that had lived so long and peaceably amongst them, as if we had been one people with them.’4
All this took place in Ulster at the time when the rebellion was at its height, and when the power of the rebels was most unbroken. The county of Cavan was, however, a very favourable specimen. It is said to have been freer from murder than any other county in Ulster,1 and it is also the county about which we know the most. It appears, however, to me at least, quite certain that in the other counties in Ulster, the dominant character of the rebellion was plunder and not massacre, and that the chief object of the rebels was only to expel the English from the houses and territory they had occupied. In carrying out this enterprise, great numbers were brutally murdered, but great numbers also were suffered to escape. In Fermanagh 6,000 women and children were saved by Captain Mervyn.2 Numbers of Protestants were sheltered by the mother of Sir Phelim O'Neil. From Armagh and the surrounding country many hundreds of plundered English were sent under Irish convoy to Dublin.3 Thousands of fugitives, we are told, thronged the city, and great numbers of others found a refuge in Derry, Coleraine, Carrickfergus, and Belfast.4 Of the earliest depositions, a large proportion recount the hardships and losses of Englishmen who were either plundered or kept for long periods prisoners by the rebels, in a manner which would be perfectly unintelligible if the usual fate of Englishmen at Irish hands was death. Carte, basing his narrative on the manuscript journal of a Protestant officer who was in the service in the beginning of the rebellion, describes with some minuteness the proceedings of the rebels for nearly a month after the rebellion broke out, in the counties of Antrim, Derry, and Down. There is not a trace in this narrative of the massacre of Englishmen who were not engaged in combat, though it is clear that those who lived in the country districts were driven from their homes, and that the Irish on three different occasions acted with much perfidy to prisoners. The rebels were evidently an undisciplined and almost unarmed rabble, and when they came in contact with the regular troops who formed the galrisons of the strong towns, they were often slaughtered almost without resistance. In the first week of the rebellion, near Dromore, Colonel Crawford with his troop ‘killed about 300 of them without the loss of one man on their own side.’ Next day, Colonel Maxwell, hearing that a party had planted themselves in an ambuscade among the bushes near the same town, issued forth, and ‘starting them like so many hares out of their forms, killed about 150 of them.’ On November 8, the Protestants at Lisnegarvy repulsed Sir Phelim O'Neil and his forces ‘with the slaughter of 88 of their number and without the loss of a man of their own in the skirmish.’ The rebels, however, had some successes, and on November 15, we are told, those in Down, after a fortnight's siege, ‘reduced the Castle of Loargan—Sir William Bromley, after a stout defence, surrendering it upon terms of marching out with his family and goods; but such was the unworthy disposition of the rebels that they kept him, his lady, and children, prisoners, rifled his house, plundered, stripped, and killed most of his servants, and treated all the townsmen in the same manner.’ ‘This,’ our informant adds, ‘was the first breach of faith which the rebels were guilty of (at least in these parts), in regard to articles of capitulation; for when Mr. Conway, on November 5, surrendered his castle of Bally Aghie, in the county of Derry, to them, they kept the terms for which he stipulated, and allowed him to march out with his men, and carry away trunks with plate and money in them to Antrim.’1 Two cases of aggravated barbarity occurred in the county of Fermanagh, where the rebels took the small castles of Lisgold and Tullagh, and massacred the defendants after they had surrendered upon composition.2
The letters of the Lords Justices, written during the first panic of the rebellion and intended to paint it in the blackest colours, describe it, no doubt with perfect truth, as accompanied by many acts of atrocious barbarity, but they always dwell chiefly upon the plunder, and their language is certainly not that which would have been employed in describing a general massacre. Thus on November 5, when there was ample time to have obtained full intelligence of the massacre if it had taken place, the Lords Justices inform the Privy Council that the rebels ‘have seized the houses and estates of almost all the English in the counties of Monaghan, Cavan, Fermanagh, Armagh, Tyrone, Donegal, Leitrim, Longford, and a great part of the county of Down, some of which are houses of good strength, and dispossessed the English of their arms, and some of the English gentlemen whose houses they seized (even without any resistance, in regard to the suddenness of their surprise), the rebels most barbarously not only murdered, but, as we are informed, hewed some of them to pieces. …. In these their assaults of the English they have slain many, robbed and spoiled thousands, reduced men of good estates in land, who lived plentifully and well, to such a condition as they left them not so much as a shirt to cover their nakedness.’1 In another letter of the same date, intended to be read before the House of Commons, they state that ‘no age had produced in this kingdom an example of so much mischief done in so short a time, as now we find acted here in less than a fortnight's space by killing and destroying so many English and Protestants in several parts, by robbing and spoiling of them and many thousands more of His Majesty's good subjects, by seizing so many castles, houses, and places of strength in several parts of the kingdom, by threatening the English to depart or otherwise they will destroy them utterly, and all their wickedness acted against the English and Protestants with so much inhumanity and cruelty as cannot be imagined to come from Christians even towards infidels.’2 On November 25, they wrote: ‘The Ulster rebels are grown so strong as they have sufficient men to leave behind them in the places they have gotten northwards and to lay siege to some not yet taken, as Enniskillen in Fermanagh and Agher in Tyrone, and yet to come many thousands to besiege Drogheda. … They have already taken Mellifont the Lord Moor's house, though with a loss of about 120 men of theirs, and there in cold blood they murdered ten of those that manfully defended that place.’3
It is, to me at least, entirely incredible that the writers of this despatch should have dwelt so particularly on the enormity of the slaughter of ten soldiers, under circumstances that might have occurred in any modern war, if the rebels had been guilty during the three preceding weeks of a general massacre of unresisting men in the least resembling the Sicilian Vespers or St. Bartholomew. In the numerous letters extending over the first months of the rebellion, preserved in the memoirs of Lord Clanricarde, though the rebellion in the North is constantly referred to, there is not a trace of such a general massacre as has been alleged. The gentry of Cavan, when taking arms, addressed a remarkable paper justifying their conduct, to the Lords Justices. It is now known that this paper was drawn up by Bedell, who was at that time their prisoner, and the Lords Justices thought it deserving of an elaborate reply. That reply is dated November 10, nearly three weeks after the rebellion had broken out.1 It does not contain the faintest allusion to a massacre, though it is perfectly inconceivable that such a topic should have been omitted in such a document if it had really taken place. On November 30, a full month after the rebellion is said to have assumed its most atrocious form, Ormond wrote to Charles I. describing it. He confesses that he had ‘little good intelligence,’ but still it is extremely remarkable that he makes no mention of murders, and dwells mainly on the wholesale robberies that were committed. ‘The rebels,’ he says, ‘are in great numbers, for the most part very meanly armed with such weapons as would rather show them to be a tumultuary rabble than anything like an army. Yet such is our present want of men, arms, and money that though we look with grief upon the miseries the English suffer, by robbing of them in a most barbarous manner, yet we are in no wise able to help them.’2 Ulster was at this time very thinly inhabited, and it was estimated that its whole Protestant population consisted only of about 100,000 Scotch and 20,000 English.3 There is much reason to believe that very few of the former perished except in open war. In the ten days or a fortnight which followed the first week of the rebellion, during which the massacre was said to be at its height, they were, as we have seen, unmolested.1 They were quite formidable enough in arms and discipline to overawe a mere ‘tumultuary rabble.’2 In their first collisions with the Irish it is almost certain that they were the assailants,3 and, as we have seen, they slew great numbers with scarcely any loss. It is true that after these encounters the Irish turned their fury against them as against the English, but they had by this time all over Ulster abandoned the open country, betaken themselves to strongholds, and organised their forces for regular combat.4
These considerations restrict the pretended massacre to narrow limits, and are sufficient to show that it has been exaggerated in popular histories almost beyond any other tragedy on record. It has, unfortunately, long since passed into the repertory of religious controversy, and although more than 230 years have elapsed since it occurred, this page of Irish history is still the favourite field of writers who desire to excite sectarian or national animosity. English historians have commonly bestowed only the most casual and superficial attention upon Irish history, and Irish writers have very often injured their cause by overstatement, either absurdly denying the misdeeds of their countrymen, or adopting the dishonest and disingenuous method of recounting only the crimes of their enemies. There can, however, be no real question that the rebellion in Ulster was extremely horrible, and was accompanied by great numbers of atrocious murders. There was an unbounded opportunity for private vengeance in a country where a recent and gigantic confiscation, a recent mixture of bitterly hostile races, and a recent civil war conducted with singular ferocity, had made private animosities peculiarly savage and tenacious. Only a few years had elapsed since the confiscations of James I., and ever since they had taken place the alien race had been steadily encroaching by force or fraud upon the old inhabitants. Under such circumstances a popular and undisciplined rising of men in a very low stage of civilisation could hardly fail to be extremely ferocious. The whole English population in the open country were driven from their holdings and spoiled of all, or almost all, that they possessed. Great numbers were killed in defending their homes from pillage. Many were turned adrift into the winter air, stripped to the very skin; many were murdered in their flight, and although a great part of the horrible details that were afterwards accumulated were probably false, it is certain that in many cases the murders were accompanied by circumstances of atrocious barbarity, and quite possible that in some parishes or districts they may have assumed the magnitude of a general massacre. Rage and fear, all the motives of religious and agrarian animosity, were combined. In great districts bands of plundering ruffians were complete masters, and the ejected Irish could do their worst on those who had so lately driven them from their homes. By two commissions, one dated December 23, 1641, and the other January 18 following, Henry Jones, the Dean of Kilmore, and several other clergymen in Dublin, were authorised by the Government to receive evidence on oath and to make full inquiries into the robberies and murders that had taken place, in order ‘to keep up the memory of the outrages committed by the Irish to posterity,’ and their report, with the accompanying depositions, furnishes a very painful and a very authentic picture of the crimes that were committed.1
No one, I think, who reads this report with candour can doubt that the popular story of a general, organised, and premeditated massacre is entirely untrue. But it is equally impossible to doubt that murders occurred on a large scale, with appalling frequency, and often with atrocious circumstances of aggravation. At least eighty persons of both sexes were precipitated into the river from the bridge of Portadown,2 and perhaps as many at Corbridge in the county of Armagh.1 Two cases are told of houses crowded with English or Scotch which—probably as the result of a siege—were burnt, and all, or nearly all, within them reduced to ashes.2 A Presbyterian minister, who was carried a prisoner by the rebels, relates how, though his own life was spared, he saw not less than twenty-five murders committed in a single night. A ghastly story is told of forty or fifty Protestants in Fermanagh who were persuaded to apostatise and then all murdered. One witness from the county Monaghan had seen ‘fourteen or fifteen killed by the Irish as he passed in the county.’ A gentleman from the same county, who was for three weeks a prisoner of the rebels, had seen ‘thirty persons hung or otherwise killed in one day at Clonisse.’ Another in the same county, who for twenty-eight days was a prisoner, relates how the sept of the O'Hughes killed twelve whole families in a night, and seven families the night following. He had heard that above twenty families were slain between Kinnard and Armagh by the rebels, and that after the repulse of Lisnegarvy ‘Shane M'Canna murdered a great number of British Protestants.’ A fourth witness from ‘Clounish,’ in the same county, stated that, of his own knowledge, the rebels, when marching through the county Monaghan, had murdered at least eighty Protestants, that by their own relation they had robbed, stripped naked, killed and drowned forty-five of the Scots at one time, and that the same band had murdered two Protestant preachers in the county Tyrone and one missionary in the county Armagh. A yeoman in the parish of Leagne Caffry, in the county of Fermanagh, ‘had heard that the rebels murdered about threescore English Protestants that lived in good manner within the said parish.’ Another from Newtown, in the same county, ‘had heard that Captain Rory, and some other of his company, had murdered of the said parishioners to the number of forty, or thereabouts.’ In the parish of Levileglish in the Co. Armagh ‘divers Englishmen were most cruelly murdered, some twice, some thrice hanged up.’ The county Cavan appears to have been by no means entirely free from the atrocities that were so common in Monaghan, Fermanagh, and Armagh, for the deposition of a witness from Slonosy, in that county, states that, though he himself was only robbed by the rebels, he had seen ‘thirty persons, or thereabouts,’ barbarously murdered, and ‘about 150 more cruelly wounded.’ I have spoken of the honourable humanity of O'Reilly at Belturbet, but there is some, though only hearsay, evidence that, at a later period, Belturbet was the scene of a dreadful tragedy. Margaret Stoaks, of the county Fermanagh, relates how, in her flight to Dublin, she heard ‘that handicraftsmen and tradesmen and others of the English that were remaining at Belturbet were killed and murdered by the rebels about the last of January past, and the rebels hanged the men and drowned the women and children.’ The rector of a parish near Dungannon, in the county Tyrone, tells how, on the very first day of the rebellion, the Protestant minister of Donaghmore was murdered, and how, not long after, two other Protestant clergymen, as well as eight other persons, underwent the same fate. Two widows of other Protestant clergymen gave evidence of the brutal murder of their husbands before their eyes, and six or seven cases are related in these depositions of the murders of women or of children, sometimes with circumstances of extreme ferocity. One Scotchman, who had prosecuted an Irishman for some cause before the rebellion, was, with a rare refinement of malice, taken by his enemy from the gaol to a publichouse, where he was made drunk, and in that condition hung, and there are a few other cases of the isolated murders of individuals. The miserable condition of the fugitives, and the perils they encountered in their flight, are described in the Report in moving but not exaggerated terms. ‘The city of Dublin is the common receptacle of these miserable sufferers. Here are many thousands of poor people, sometimes of good respects and estates, now in want and sickness, whereof many daily die, notwithstanding the great care of those tender-hearted Christians (whom God bless); without whom all of them had before now perished … We, with such other of our brethren, ours and their wives and children coming on foot hither through ways tedious and full of peril, being every minute assaulted, the end of one but leading to the next danger, one quite stripping off what others had in pity left. So that in nakedness we have recovered this our City of Refuge, where we live in all extremity of want, not having wherewithall to subsist, or to put bread in our mouths. Of those of our brethren who have perished on the way hither, some of their wives and children do yet remain. The children also of some of them are wholly deprived of their parents and left for deserted orphans.’
I have thought it advisable—omitting the numerous depositions which relate only to acts of robbery or violence—to give a full abstract of those which describe acts of murder, for the document I am citing is by far the most trustworthy we possess on the subject to which it refers. It forms as complete a catalogue as the Government Commissioners in Dublin were able to make, of the crimes perpetrated by the Irish in Ulster for four months after the rebellion broke out, and those four months include the surprise of the English and the whole period during which, with the exception of a few fortified towns, the rebels were undisputed masters of the province. Several depositions contain only hearsay evidence, flying rumours caught up and repeated by ignorant and panic-stricken fugitives. It is very difficult to distinguish in them the cases of those who were murdered in cold blood from the cases of those who perished in fight; and it must also be remembered that during the latter part of this time the English had been waging what was little less than a war of extermination against the Irish.1 On the other hand, it is no doubt perfectly true, as the commissioners allege, that great numbers of murders took place of which no evidence was obtained. In the case of a fierce popular rising against colonists who were scattered thinly over a very wide extent of country, this was almost necessarily the case; and no impartial writer will deny that the rebellion in Ulster was extremely savage and bloody, though it is certainly not true that its barbarities were either unparalleled or unprovoked. They were for the most part the unpremeditated acts of a half-savage populace, and, with the exception of Sir Phelim O'Neil and his brother, it is probable that none of the leaders of the rebellion were concerned in them. The accounts which Temple has given of the atrocities committed by these chiefs, or by the ferocious rabble that followed them, are on the whole believed by Carte, and they are in part corroborated by the confessions of Sir Phelim himself.2 In the earlier stages of the rebellion he appears to have spared the lives of his prisoners; but as the struggle grew more fierce, and especially when the Irish had met with some bloody reverses, this forbearance ceased, and ‘rivers of blood were inhumanly shed.’ We are told that, on any ill-success, he would, in a fury, order his prisoners to be murdered, or some other act of barbarous and senseless cruelty to be perpetrated; that when several of his sept had been killed in an unsuccessful attack on the Castle of Augher, he ordered all the English and Scotch in three parishes to be killed; that on the taking of Newry, in the beginning of May 1642, he hastened to Armagh, and, in breach of a solemn promise he had made at the capitulation, murdered 100 persons in the place, burnt the town and cathedral, fired all the villages and houses in the neighbourhood, and murdered many of all ages and of both sexes, both in the town and in the surrounding country, while his followers exercised every kind of barbarity on those who fell into their hands.1 It is probable that these crimes were exaggerated, and it is a remarkable and significant fact that when Owen Roe O'Neil assumed the command, in July 1642, he found English prisoners alive in the camp;1 but there is no doubt that crimes of the most hideous description were committed, and that all the hatred of race and creed was let loose. It is said that the fury of the Irish extended even to the cattle of the English, and that great numbers of these were killed or brutally mutilated. The rebels may have remembered the days when, over great districts, Mountjoy and Carew left ‘not a horn or corn’ remaining, and when their parents had been starved by thousands to death.2
It was natural that these crimes should have been inordinately exaggerated in England. The accounts came almost exclusively from one side, and they were mainly derived from the reports of ruined, panic-stricken, uneducated fugitives. A single crime was continually repeated. Reports grew and darkened as they passed from lip to lip, and it is not surprising that when the whole English plantation had vanished from the soil it should have been assumed that all had been murdered. Yet it is certain that Dublin and all the walled towns in Ulster were thronged with fugitives who had passed through a country wholly occupied by rebels. The minds of men were in no condition for forming a careful judgment,1 and a ruling caste never admits any parity or comparison between the slaughter of its own members and the slaughter of a subject race. What is called in one case a murder is called in the other an execution, and a few deaths on the one side make a greater impression than many thousands on the other. The most savage national and religious hatred predisposed the English to exaggerate to the utmost the crimes of their enemies, and other influences of a more deliberate character were at work. The rebels in Ulster had tried to identify their cause with that of Charles I. by a forged commission from the King, and by this course they at once irritated the Royalists to the utmost, and gave the Puritans the strongest motives to magnify the crimes that were committed. As the civil war went on, there was a large party in Ireland who were fighting solely for the royal cause, and another party who had taken arms in order to secure their religion; and it became an object of the first political importance to the Puritan party, and especially to the English Parliament, to envelop both in a cloud of infamy, to prevent the reconciliation of the King with the Catholics, and to excite the English people to a war of extermination against the Irish. Besides this, the Lords Justices, and crowds of hungry adventurers, saw with keen delight the opportunity of obtaining that general confiscation of Irish lands at which they had been so long and so flagitiously aiming, and of carving out fortunes on a larger scale than in any previous period. Lord Castlehaven assures us it was a common saying among them that ‘the more were in the rebellion, the more lands should be forfeited to them.’1 No less an authority than Carte accuses the Lords Justices of deliberately abstaining with this view from taking measures that would have restricted the area of the rebellion; and although this accusation may perhaps be unjust, it is tolerably certain that the constant fear lest the Catholics, by coming to terms with the Government, should save their estates from confiscation, lay at the root of an immense part of the exaggerated and fantastic accounts of Irish crimes that were invented and diffused.2 Adventurers of the worst description filled high offices in Ireland,1 and they had brought the art of collecting false testimony to great perfection. It was the plain interest of all such persons to represent the whole Irish people as guilty of such crimes that it would be impossible to restore their estates.
Under circumstances that have never been very clearly ascertained, an immense mass of depositions were collected which form thirty-two folio volumes of manuscript, in Trinity College, at Dublin, and which have formed the materials from which Rushworth, Temple, and Borlase derived those long and sickening catalogues of horrors which made a lasting impression on the English mind. No one, I think, can compare the pages of these writers with the pictures of the rebellion furnished in the narrative of Clogy, in the correspondence of Ormond, Clanricarde, and the Lords Justices, and in the report and depositions of the earlier commission I have cited, without perceiving the enormous, palpable exaggerations they display, and the absolute incredibility of many of their narratives. Hearsay evidence of the loosest kind was freely admitted. Twenty or thirty depositions often relate to a single crime.2 Supernatural incidents are related without a question; the depositions are almost always undated, and the immense number of the murders they speak of staggers all belief, especially when it is remembered that all the writers who speak of a general massacre place it in the first weeks of the rebellion, concerning which we have so much detailed evidence.1 Ormond, who had, probably, beyond all other men the best means of knowing the truth on this matter, appears to have thought very lightly of them. At the time of the Act of Settlement, when the claims of the ‘innocents’ were canvassed, the House of Commons, which consisted mainly of Puritan adventurers and desired to restrict as much as possible the estates that were restored, proposed that none of those whose names, were found in this collection of depositions might be accepted; and it is a very significant fact that Ormond, who was then Lord Lieutenant, positively refused the proposal.2 ‘His Grace, adds the best historian of the rebellion, who had himself carefully examined these documents, ‘it is probable, knew too much of those examinations and the methods used in procuring them to give them such a stamp of authority; or otherwise it would have been the clearest and shortest proof of the guilt of such as were named in them.’3 Carte, who examined this period with the assistance of private papers of the most valuable description, emphatically recorded his distrust of these documents.4 The authority of Lord Castlehaven is of less value, for he was a Catholic, and a commander of the rebels, but there is no reason to doubt that he was a man of truth, humanity, and honour; and his testimony is that of a contemporary. While admitting fully that great atrocities were committed by his co-religionists during the rebellion, he denounces in indignant language the monstrous exaggerations that were current, and positively asserts that Sir John Temple, in the catalogue of horrors he extracted from the depositions I am referring to, speaks of many hundreds as then murdered who at the time the book was published were alive and well.1 The work of Sir John Temple, derived chiefly from this source, is the origin of the most extravagant accounts of the rebellion, and it would be certainly difficult to speak too strongly of the horrors it relates. He asserts that within the first two months of the rebellion more than 150,000 Protestants had been massacred, and that in two years ‘above 300,000 Protestants were murdered in cold blood, or destroyed in some other way, or expelled from their houses.’ The latter number exceeds by nearly a third the estimated number of Protestants in the whole island, and it was computed that it was more than ten times the number of Protestants who were living outside walled towns, where no massacre took place. The writers, who paint the conduct of the Irish in the blackest colours, can say with truth that Temple held no less a position than that of Master of the Rolls in Ireland, and that being present in Dublin he was an eyewitness of much of what he related, but they have usually concealed, in a manner which it is more easy to explain than to justify, some facts that throw the gravest doubt upon his veracity. He was for a time completely ruined by the rebellion,2 but was afterwards compensated with confiscated property, and he was animated by the bitterest feelings of revenge, and was also one of the keenest and most unscrupulous speculators in the events of that disastrous time. He obtained the direction of the mills at Kilmainham when the former landlord was accused of participation in the rebellion, but he was soon removed from the post, the commissioners who were appointed to inquire into the grievances of the army having reported that he had made a prodigious and illegitimate gain by taking a toll of the corn ground for the soldiers, to the great prejudice of the army.1 He was one of the most vehement opponents in Ireland of the Cessation, or truce with the Irish, which took place in 1643; and by order of the king he was imprisoned in Dublin for circulating false representations of the state of Ireland, for taking and publishing scandalous examinations intended to make it appear that the King had authorised the rebellion, and for betraying his oath as a privy councillor.2 His book was published for the purpose of preventing the subsequent peace by representing the whole Irish nation as so infamous that any attempt to make terms with them was criminal. It was a party pamphlet, by an exceedingly unscrupulous man, who had the strongest interest in exaggerating to the utmost the crimes that were committed. It fell in, however, with the dominant Puritan spirit and policy, and although the Irish from the first protested against it, their protests were but little regarded.3 In their remonstrance, dated March 1642, Lord Gormanstown and the other Catholic nobility and gentry vainly begged that the murders committed on both sides should be strictly examined, and the authors of them punished with the utmost severity of the law.1 In 1643, when the Cessation, or first peace with the King, was agreed upon, the whole body of the Catholic nobility and gentry, by their agents at Oxford, urgently petitioned the sovereign ‘that all murders committed on both sides in this war might be examined in a future parliament, and the actors of them exempted out of all the Acts of indemnity and oblivion.’2 In the peace of 1648 they again expressly excepted from pardon those of their party that had committed murders or other outrages.3 An impartial examination, however, of the crimes on both sides they never could obtain, and the writings on the Catholic side were burnt by order of the Parliament.4
In this way a rebellion that was in truth accompanied by many horrors was misrepresented and exaggerated to an extraordinary degree. At the time of the Act of Settlement it was a matter of vital importance to a large proportion of the new proprietors to magnify to the utmost the crimes of the Irish in order to maintain, under the Government of the Restoration, the confiscations of Cromwell; and religious and national animosity sustained their efforts. The readiness with which the most odious and most baseless calumnies against Catholics were accepted in England, even when no difference of nationality existed, is sufficiently attested by the inscription on the Monument, publicly branding the Catholics as the authors of the Fire of London; and, in a later and much more tolerant age, the Legislature did not hesitate, in the preamble of a solemn statute, formally to describe the rebellion of 1715 as intended ‘for the dethroning and murdering his Most Sacred Majesty … for the destruction of the Protestant religion, and the cruel murdering and massacring its professors.’1 If such language could be employed about the troubles that followed the accession of George I., it is not surprising that the Ulster rebellion of 1641 should have been magnified to the dimensions of St. Bartholomew. These exaggerations were connected with the title-deeds of property, and as Catholicism, for a long period, was almost unrepresented in English historical literature, it was left to the justice of writers strongly opposed to the rebellion and to Catholicism to give the true proportions to the events of the time. The writings of Carte were, in this respect, of capital importance; and in the middle of the eighteenth century Dr. Warner, in his very valuable history, discussed the subject with great candour and fulness. Warner was a clergyman, a Fellow of Trinity College, and so decided a Protestant that he strongly censured the liberty accorded to the Catholics under Charles I., and intimated very clearly his disapproval of those relaxations of the penal code which had taken place in his own day.2 He was, however, a very honest, moderate, and painstaking writer, and his estimate is probably more correct than that of any of his predecessors. He examined with great care the depositions at Trinity College, and his opinion of them was very similar to that of Ormond and Carte. Much of them he describes as ‘incredible,’ ‘ridiculous,’ and ‘contradictory;’ and he adds, ‘The reason why so many idle, silly tales were registered of what this body heard another body say, as to swell the collection to two-and-thirty volumes in folio closely written, it is easier to conjecture than it is to commend.’1 At the same time he believed that it was possible, by carefully sifting the evidence, to arrive at some general conclusion; and the result of his inquiries may be given in his own words. ‘The number of people,’ he says, ‘killed, upon positive evidence collected in two years after the insurrection broke out, adding them all together, amounts only to 2,109; on the report of other Protestants 1,619 more, and on the report of some of the rebels a further number of 300, the whole making 4,028. Besides these murders there is, in the same collection, evidence on the report of others, of 8,000 killed by ill-usage; and if we should allow that the cruelties of the Irish out of war extended to these numbers—which, considering the nature of several of the depositions, I think in my conscience we cannot—yet, to be impartial, we must allow that there is no pretence for laying a greater number to their charge.’ ‘This account,’ he adds, ‘is also corroborated by a letter which I copied out of the council books at Dublin, written May 5, 1652—ten years after the beginning of the rebellion—from the Parliament Commissioners in Ireland to the English Parliament. After exciting them to further severity against the Irish as being afraid “their behaviour towards this people may never sufficiently avenge their murders and massacres, and lest the Parliament might shortly be in pursuance of a speedy settlement of this nation, and thereby some tender concessions might be concluded,” the Commissioners tell them that it appears “besides 848 families, there were killed, hanged, burned, and drowned 6,062.”’ Warner adds that Father Walshe, ‘who is allowed to have been honest and loyal, hath affirmed that, after a regular and exact computation, the number of murdered might be about 8,000.’1
The total at the smallest is very horrible, but it differs widely from the accounts which Temple, Clarendon, Hume, and a number of other writers have given. It is, I believe, quite impossible to speak with any precision on the subject. Attempts have been lately made by polemical writers to show that Warner has considerably understated the tragedies which took place, and one of his assertions on a matter of fact has been impugned. He had carefully examined the depositions in the library of Trinity College, and was extremely impressed with their untrustworthy character, but he was of opinion that a contemporary abridgment of them which exists, containing selections from the depositions, was of more value. Speaking of the former depositions, he states, among other things, that ‘though all the examinations signed by the Commissioners are said to be upon oath, yet in infinitely the greatest number of them the words “being duly sworn” have the pen drawn through them with the same ink with which the examinations are written.’2 This statement has been denied by a modern Presbyterian historian,3 who has examined a portion of the depositions and who asserts that it is only in the abridged or selected edition that the evidence of the oath is usually wanting.
I cannot undertake to pronounce upon the question,4 and shall be content if I have conveyed to the reader my own firm conviction that the common assertion that the rebellion of 1641 began with a general massacre of Protestants is entirely untrue, although, in the course of the long and savage struggle that ensued, great numbers of Englishmen were undoubtedly murdered. The number of the victims, however, though very great, has been enormously and often deliberately exaggerated. The horrors of the struggle were much less exceptional than has been supposed. The worst crimes were the unpremeditated and isolated acts of a half-savage population, and it is very far from clear upon which side the balance of cruelty rests. ‘The truth is,’ as Warner truly says, ‘the soldiers and common people were very savage on both sides;’ and nothing can be more scandalously disingenuous than the method of those writers who have employed themselves in elaborating in ghastly pictures the crimes that were committed on one side while they have at the same time systematically concealed those which were committed on the other. From the very beginning the English Parliament did the utmost in its power to give the contest the character of a war of extermination. One of its first acts was to vote that no toleration of the Romish religion should be henceforth permitted in Ireland, and it thus at once extended the range of the rebellion and gave it the character of a war of religion.1 In the following February, when but few men of any considerable estate were engaged in the rebellion, the Parliament enacted that 2,500,000 acres of profitable land in Ireland, besides bogs, woods, and barren mountains, should be assigned to English adventurers in consideration of small sums of money which they raised for the subjugation of Ireland.2 It thus gave the war a desperate agrarian character, furnished immense numbers of persons in England with the strongest motive to oppose any reconciliation with the Irish, and convinced the whole body of the Irish proprietary that their land was marked out for confiscation. In order that the King's prerogative of pardon might not interfere with the design of a general confiscation, the King was first petitioned not to alienate any of the lands which might be escheated in consequence of the rebellion, and a clause was afterwards introduced into the Act raising the loan by which all grants of rebel lands made by the Crown and all pardons granted to the rebels before attainder and without the assent of both houses were declared null and void.3 The Irish Parliament, which was the only organ by which the Irish gentry could express their loyalty to the sovereign in a way that could not be misrepresented or denied, was prorogued. Not content with denouncing vengeance against murderers or even against districts where murders were committed, the Parliaments, both in England and Scotland, passed ordinances in 1644 that no quarter should be given to Irish who came to England to the King's aid. These ordinances were rigidly executed, and great numbers of Irish soldiers being taken prisoners in Scotland were deliberately butchered in the field or in the prisons.4 Irishmen taken at sea were tied back to back and thrown in multitudes into the water. In one day eighty women and children in Scotland were flung over a high bridge into the water, solely because they were the wives and children of Irish soldiers.1
If this was the spirit in which the war was conducted in Great Britain, it may easily be conceived how it was conducted in Ireland. In Leinster, where assuredly no massacre had been committed, the orders issued to the soldiers were not only ‘to kill and destroy rebels and their adherents and relievers,’ but ‘to burn, waste, consume, and demolish all the places, towns, and houses where they had been relieved and harboured, with all the corn and hay therein; and also to kill and destroy all the men there inhabiting capable to bear arms.’2 But, horrible as were these instructions, they but faintly foreshadowed the manner in which the war was actually conducted. I shall not attempt to go through the long catalogue of horrors that have been too often paraded; it is sufficient to say that the soldiers of Sir Charles Coote, of St. Leger, of Sir Frederick Hamilton, and of others, rivalled the worst crimes that were perpetrated in the days of Carew and of Mountjoy. ‘The soldiers,’ says Carte, ‘in executing the orders of the justices, murdered all persons promiscuously, not sparing (as they themselves tell the Commissioners for Irish Affairs in the letter of June 7, 1642) the women, and sometimes not children.’3 Whole villages as well as the houses of the gentry were remorselessly burnt even when not an enemy was seen.4 In Wicklow, in the words of Leland, Coote committed ‘such unprovoked, such ruthless and indiscriminate carnage in the town, as rivalled the utmost extravagance of the Northerns.’5 The saying, ‘Nits will make lice,’ which was constantly employed to justify the murder of Irish children, then came into use.1 ‘Sir William Parsons,’ writes Sir Maurice Eustace to Ormond at a later stage of the rebellion, ‘has, by late letters, advised the Governor to the burning of corn, and to put man, woman, and child to the sword; and Sir Arthur Loftus hath written in the same strain.’2 The Catholic nobles of the Pale, when they at length took arms, solemnly accused the English soldiers of ‘the inhuman murdering of old decrepit people in their beds, women in the straw, and children of eight days old; burning of houses, and robbing of all kinds of persons without distinction of friend or foe.’3 In order to discover evidence or to extort confessions, many of the leading Catholic gentry were, by order of the Lords Justices, tortured upon the rack.4 Lord Castlehaven accuses the men in power in Ireland of having ‘by cruel massacring, hanging, and torturing, been the slaughter of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, better subjects than themselves; and he states that orders were issued ‘to the parties sent into every quarter to spare neither man, woman, nor child.’1 ‘Scarce a day passes,’ writes Lord Clanricarde from Galway, ‘without great complaints of both the captains of the fort and ship sallying out with their soldiers and trumpet and troop of horse, burning and breaking open houses, taking away goods, preying of the cattle with ruin and spoil rather than supply themselves; not only upon those that were protected but upon those that were most forward to relieve and assist them … killing and robbing poor people that came to market, burning their fishing-boats and not suffering them to go out, and no punishment inflicted on any that commit outrages.’2 He describes how, on one occasion, under his own eyes, ‘four or five poor innocent creatures, women and children, were inhumanly killed’ by the soldiers of Lord Forbes.3 General Preston speaks of the soldiers ‘destroying by fire and sword men, women, and children without regard had to age or sex.’4 Munster appears to have been perfectly quiet, except a few small predatory bands, until the savage and promiscuous slaughter which took place under the direction of St. Leger, who boasted that he would avenge in Munster the crimes that had been committed in Ulster, forced the province most reluctantly into revolt.1 Near Newry we read of Munroe and his soldiers ‘killing in one day 700 country-people—men, women, and children—who were driving away their cattle;’ while the parties he sent into Westmeath and Longford ‘burnt the country and put to the sword all the country-people that they met.’2 In the island of Maggee thirty families were butchered in their beds by the Scotch garrison of Carrickfergus.3 The scenes of horror that took place over Ireland almost defy description, and crime naturally engendered crime. Thus a party of English prisoners were waylaid near Naas, and many of them were murdered. The English at once resolved upon the destruction of the whole population of the district. ‘Sir Arthur Loftus,’ writes the brother of Lord Castlehaven, ‘with a party of horse and dragoons, came to the place where the murder had been committed, killing such of the Irish as they met. But the most considerable slaughter was in a great strength of furze seated on a hill, where the people of several villages (taking the alarm) had sheltered themselves. Now Sir Arthur, having invested the hill, set the furze on fire on all sides, when the people (being a considerable number) were all burnt or killed—men, women, and children. I saw the bodies and furze still burning.’4 When Sir Henry Tichborne drove O'Neil from Dundalk, the slaughter of the Irish was such that for some weeks after ‘there was neither man nor beast to be found in sixteen miles between the two towns of Drogheda and Dundalk; nor on the other side of Dundalk, in the county of Monaghan, nearer than Carrickmacross—a strong pile twelve miles distant.’5 The soldiers were accustomed to spread themselves out over the country in long, thin lines, burning every cabin and every cornfield in their way.6 Sir William Cole thus burnt completely thirteen miles about him in the north.1 Ormond himself burnt the Pale for seventeen miles in length and twenty-five in breadth. He would have gladly saved the houses of at least those gentlemen who came to offer their submissions, but he was peremptorily ordered by the Lords Justices to make no exceptions, and he was rebuked in a strain of no little arrogance by Sir J. Temple for the hesitation he had shown.2 As in the wars of Elizabeth, famine was even more terrible than the sword. We can hardly have a shorter or more graphic picture of the manner in which the war was conducted than is furnished by one of the items of Sir William Cole's own catalogue of the services performed by his regiment in Ulster: ‘Starved and famished of the vulgar sort, whose goods were seized on by this regiment, 7,000.’3
Those who will be at the pains of studying the collections of facts that have been made by Catholic writers in Ireland will find that the above enumeration might be very largely extended. I have made no use whatever of the long catalogue of the crimes of the English,4 made by order of the confederate army, and have restricted myself to a few testimonies taken from the very best authorities. What I have written will be sufficient to enable the reader to form his own judgment of those writers who, by the systematic suppression of incontestable facts, have represented the insurrection of 1641 as nothing more than an exhibition of the unprovoked and unparalleled ferocity of the Irish people. The truth is that the struggle on both sides was very savage. The quarter the rebels at first undoubtedly gave to their prisoners in Ulster seems very seldom to have been reciprocated, the Lords Justices gave strict orders to their officers to refuse it,1 and a large proportion of the atrocities committed by the rebels were committed after the wholesale and promiscuous slaughter I have described.2
It is certain, however, that the Irish leaders in most cases did their utmost to restrict the horrors of the war, and it is also certain that in a great measure they were successful. Even in Ulster, Philip O'Reilly, as we have seen, was animated from the first by this spirit, and when, in July 1642, Owen Roe O'Neil took the command, which had dropped from the feeble hands of Sir Phelim O'Neil, he at once expressed, in the most emphatic manner, to his predecessor his horror of the crimes that had been tolerated. He sent all the English who were prisoners in his army safe to Dundalk. He burnt many houses at Kinnard, as a punishment for murders which had been committed on the English. He openly declared that he would rather join the English than permit such outrages to be unpunished. He enforced a strict discipline among his riotous followers, and showed himself, during the whole of his too brief career, an eminently able and honourable man.3 In Connaught, where there were very few Protestants, Lord Clanricarde, who, though a Catholic, exhibited under most difficult circumstances an eminent loyalty to his sovereign, succeeded for a long time in preventing insurrection, and all the leading gentry, both English and Irish, co-operated strenuously in preventing devastation.4 One horrible and well-authenticated tragedy, however, took place in this province, in February 1641–2, when a party of about 100 English were attacked at Shrule bridge, and almost all of them inhumanly murdered;5 but with this very grave exception the insurrection does not appear to have been characterised in Connaught by any special ferocity, though in the midst of a very wild population there was naturally much plunder. When Galway fell into the hands of the rebels, the Protestant bishops of Tuam and Killala, with about 400 English, were in the city, and they were allowed to depart, with their effects, ‘the great care taken for the security thereof, as well as of their persons, by the chief inhabitants, being acknowledged by them in a certificate which they drew up and signed for that purpose.’1 When Waterford was taken by Colonel Edmund Butler, when Clonmel, Carrick-Magriffyd, and Dungarvan were surprised by Mr. Richard Butler, there was not only no massacre but also no plunder.2 Birr surrendered to General Preston, and the garrison and inhabitants, numbering 800 men, were suffered to depart in perfect safety.3 Callan and Gowran were captured by the followers of Lord Mountgarret; but in these cases, though there was no bloodshed, some cattle were plundered.4 Lord Mountgarret took up arms in Munster very reluctantly, after the cruelties of St. Leger had driven the people to desperation; and one of his very first acts was to issue a proclamation, strictly enjoining his followers to abstain from all injury to the peaceful inhabitants of the county, in body and goods. ‘He succeeded,’ says Carte, ‘so far in his design for their preservation that there was not the least act of bloodshed committed. But it was not possible for him to prevent the vulgar sort who flocked after him from plundering both English and Irish, Papist and Protestant, without distinction. He used his authority, but in vain, to put a stop to this violence; till, seeing one of the rank of a gentleman, Mr. Richard Cantwell, transgressing his orders and plundering in his presence, he shot him dead with his pistol.’ The gentlemen of Munster, adds the same historian, ‘were exceeding careful to prevent bloodshed and to preserve the English from being plundered.’ Four officers in this part were hung by them for not having prevented some murders,1 and Lord Muskerry and his wife were conspicuous for the humanity with which, during the height of the rebellion, they relieved numbers of English fugitives who had been plundered or expelled from their habitations.2 The testimony of Lord Clanricarde is of great value, for he was not only a man of the most stainless and sensitive honour, but was also peculiarly fitted to judge impartially between the opposing parties, for he was at once a sincere Roman Catholic and a devoted servant of the English Government. He speaks of the crimes that had been committed in Ulster with the utmost abhorrence, and adds, ‘I believe it is the desire of the whole nation that the actors of these crying sins should in the highest degree be made examples of to all posterity; yet God forbid that fire, sword, and famine, which move apace here, and might be easily prevented, should run on to destroy mankind, and put the innocent and the guilty into one miserable condition.’3 In May 1742, long after the English Parliament had decreed the absolute extirpation of Catholicism in Ireland, a general synod of the Roman Catholic bishops and clergy of Ireland was held at Kilkenny, in which they unanimously declared the war against the English Parliament, for the defence of the Catholic religion, and for the maintenance of the royal prerogative, to be just and lawful. They resolved to send ambassadors to the Pope and the Kings of France and Spain; and they took active measures to organise their party. They at the same time expressed, in the most formal and emphatic terms, their detestation of the robberies, burnings, and murders which had been committed in Ulster, and they solemnly ex-communicated all Catholics who should for the future be guilty of such acts.4 The original instructions they issued to General Preston are still preserved, and they are well worthy of perusal, as evincing the spirit in which they undertook the war. They ordered that strict martial law should be preserved; that all rapes and insults to women should be promptly and severely punished; that the whole army should take the Sacrament once a month, and always before battle; ‘that you shall take special care in your march and camp to preserve the husbandmen, victuallers, and all other of his Majesty's subjects from the extortions, pressures, violences, and abuses of your soldiers.’1 In Wicklow and the adjoining county of Wexford the struggle assumed an agrarian character. Predatory bands traversed the country in many directions, and a war such as I have described was naturally attended on both sides by many crimes; but it is certain that in three provinces from the beginning of the rebellion, and in the fouath province after the accession to power of Owen Roe O'Neil, the Irish chiefs laboured earnestly to give a character of humanity to the war; and it is, I think, equally certain that in three provinces out of four the actual conduct of the Irish compares in this respect very favourably with that of their enemies.2
There is one other question connected with this subject on which it is necessary to dwell. I mean the part which religious fanaticism bore in the rebellion. It is, I believe, perfectly impossible to examine with any candour the evidence on the subject without arriving at the conclusion that the fear of the extirpation of Catholicism by the Puritan Parliament was one cause of the rebellion in Ulster, and the chief cause of the defection of the Pale. Even before the famous vote by which the Parliament decreed the absolute suppression of the religion of the Irish people, this fear was very reasonable. Ormond, as we have seen, expressly attributes to it the extension of the rebellion. It appears again and again in the depositions of the witnesses who gave evidence before the commission of Dean Jones.1 It was alleged as a chief motive of the rebellion in all the papers of justification put out by the rebels,2 and it appears quite as clearly in their private and confidential correspondence.3 From the beginning of the rebellion there is no doubt that priests were connected with it; they exerted all their spiritual influence in its favour, and they were sometimes associated with its worst crimes. Among the depositions taken in 1642 there is a very curious but unfortunately a very brief account of a great meeting of the heads of the Romish clergy and of some of the leading laymen of their faction, which is said to have been held in October 1641, in the abbey of Mullifarvan, in the county of Westmeath. Dean Jones himself was the deponent, and he states that he received his information from a Franciscan friar, ‘a guardian of the Order,’ who was present. According to his account, the question discussed at this meeting was the course that should be taken with the Protestants. One party contended for ‘their banishment, without attempting their lives,’ arguing that a more sanguinary course would draw down the curse of Heaven upon the nation, and would provoke the English to a war of extermination. Another party maintained that a general massacre was the only measure which would be decisive and efficacious. ‘In which diversity of opinions, howsoever,’ says the deponent, ‘the first prevailed with some, for which the Franciscans (saith this friar, one of their guardians) did stand, yet others inclined to the second; some again leaning to a middle way, neither to dismiss nor kill.’1 Nothing is said about the conclusion arrived at, but the event showed clearly that the complete expulsion of the English from at least the confiscated lands in Ulster was the great object of the insurgents. Macmahon, the titular bishop of Down, is accused of having instigated the worst cruelties of Sir Phelim O'Neil.2 A priest named Maguire is said to have been the leading agent in the treacherous murder of forty Protestants, to which I have already referred, who had abjured their faith. The Bible was sometimes torn and trampled on by the infuriated mob; Protestant churches were occasionally wrecked, and several Protestant ministers were murdered.1 Priests undoubtedly supported the rebellion from the pulpit, and even by the sentence of excommunication; and they were accused, though on much more doubtful authority, of forbidding any Catholics to give shelter to the fugitives.2
It was inevitable that they should throw themselves vehemently into the conflict, for their religion was in imminent danger of annihilation, and the Lords Justices gave express orders that all priests who fell into the hands of the soldiers should be put to death.3 It was equally inevitable that in the Puritan accounts of the rebellion, and in the report of a Commission consisting exclusively of Protestant clergymen everything should be done to magnify the part played by the Catholic priests. But on the whole I think a candid reader will rather wonder that it was not larger, and will be struck with the small amount of real religious fanaticism displayed by the Irish in the contest. Carte asserts that not more than two or three priests appear to have known of the conspiracy from the first; and the respect and admiration which the saintly character of Bedell extorted from the rebels in the heart of Ulster, and in the fiercest period of the rebellion is quite incompatible with the theory of a religious war. Though Bedell had been the warm friend of Sarpi and of De Dominis, who were of all men the most obnoxious to the Pope, though he was the first Irish bishop who engaged actively in proselytism, one of the most conspicuous and uncompromising opponents then living of the Catholic faith, he was treated by the rebels, into whose hands he fell, with uniform deference. He was allowed for nearly two months after the rebellion had broken out to remain unmolested in his own house, to celebrate his religious worship, and to protect his neighbours; and though he was afterwards subjected for about three weeks to an easy confinement in a castle on Lough Erne, he ended his days in almost absolute liberty. During the short period of his captivity, as his biographer informs us, he and his companions had perfect liberty ‘to use divine exercises of God's worship, as to pray, read, preach, and sing the songs of Zion in a strange land, as the Three Children; though in the next room the priest was acting his Babylonish mass.’ He died in February 1642–3, while his diocese was still in the full possession of the rebels, and his dying wish to be buried beside his wife, in the churchyard of the cathedral, was conceded by the Catholic bishop. A guard of honour attended his body to the grave. The Irish fired a volley over it, crying, as they lowered the coffin into the tomb, ‘Requiescat in pace ultimus Anglorum!’ and a priest who stood among the mourners is said to have exclaimed, with a loud voice, ‘Would to God that my soul were with Bedell!’1
This episode, which is related with the fullest detail by an eye-witness who was animated by a furious hostility to Catholicism, took place in Ulster in the midst of a rebellion which is constantly compared to the massacre of St. Bartholomew. In the other provinces there are several instances of Catholic priests exhibiting a singular humanity in restraining excesses. In Cashel, where a fierce popular rising broke out, several priests distinguished themselves by their humanity in saving the English. Two Franciscan monks hid some of them in their chapel and even under the altar, and the prisoners were afterwards conducted in safety to Cork by a convoy of the Irish inhabitants of Cashel, who acted with such good faith that several of them were wounded while defending their prisoners from the violence of a rabble who waylaid and attacked them in the mountains.2 It is worthy of notice that about six years later near twenty priests were slaughtered by the Puritans within the walls of the Cathedral of Cashel.3 De Burgo, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, exerted himself to the utmost to restrain the excesses of his co-religionists. A priest named Daly is said to have been obliged to fly from the rebels on account of his denunciations of their excesses.1 Father Higgins, a Franciscan, who officiated at Naas, saved numbers from plunder and slaughter and relieved many who had been robbed. He appears to have taken no part whatever in the rebellion, but having fallen into the hands of Sir C. Coote, he was speedily hung.2 Ormond expressed strong indignation at this execution, but the Lords Justices fully approved of it.3 I have already noticed the excommunication which the Council of Kilkenny promulgated against all rebels who were guilty of murder or plunder. In the latter stages of the rebellion the Pope's nuncio exercised a great and very mischievous influence in dividing the Irish and retarding their reconciliation with the King, and in this, as in all similar struggles, every passion was appealed to, but the ferocity displayed appears to have been very much more due to the recollection of former contests, to hostility of race, and especially to agrarian motives, than to religious passions. In the beginning of the rebellion, the Irish, as we have seen, showed a strong disposition to ally themselves with the Scotch, who of all the settlers were the most hostile to their religion. In Ulster, where the worst crimes took place, the war was the outbreak of a dispossessed race against those who had recently confiscated and occupied their land. In Leinster the rebellion first broke out, and it appears to have assumed its worst form in the counties of Wicklow and Wexford, where the O'Byrnes and some neighbouring septs had been lately driven, with circumstances of the most scandalous injustice, from their homes. The judgment which Clogy has pronounced upon the northern rebellion is almost decisive when we remember that he lived for months among the rebels, and that he was a Protestant clergyman disposed to magnify to the utmost the misdeeds of Roman Catholics. ‘The Irish hatred,’ he says, ‘was greater against the English nation than against their religion,’ and he adds ‘that the English and Scotch Papists suffered with the others, and that the Irish sword knew no difference between a Catholic and a heretic.’1
I have dwelt at some length upon these aspects of the rebellion, for they have been grossly and malignantly misrepresented, and they have an important bearing on later Irish history. It is not necessary to follow with the same minuteness the sequel of the history. The picture, indeed, is a strangely confused one, the lines of division of Irish and English, of Catholic and Protestant, of Royalist and Republican, crossing and intermingling. In the north the rebellion was chiefly an agrarian war and a war of race. The confederation of the Catholic rebels in the other provinces comprised a large proportion of the English families of the Pale, and they drew the sword for the purpose of defending their religion from the destruction with which it was threatened and obtaining for it a full legal recognition. Though actually in arms against the Government, they disclaimed from the first the title of rebels, asserted their allegiance to the King, and were quite ready to be reconciled with him if they could only secure their religion and their estates. A third party, headed by Ormond and Clanricarde, remained firm through every temptation in their allegiance to the King, and before long a new and terrible party representing the Puritan Parliament rose to the ascendant.
In spite of the vehement efforts of the Lords Justices, of Temple, and of the other members of the Puritan party, a truce was signed between the King and the confederate Catholics in September 1643, but the complete reconciliation of the great body of the Irish and of the Loyalists was only effected by successive stages in 1646, 1648, and 1649. But rebel and royalist sank alike under the sword of Cromwell. It should always be remembered to his honour that one of his first acts on going to Ireland was to prohibit the plunderings and other outrages the soldiers had been accustomed to practise, and that he established a severe discipline in his army. The sieges of Drogheda and Wexford, however, and the massacres that accompanied them, deserve to rank in horror with the most atrocious exploits of Tilly, or Wallenstein, and they made the name of Cromwell eternally hated in Ireland. At Drogheda there had been no pretence of a massacre, and a large proportion of the garrison were English. According to Carte the officers of Cromwell's army promised quarter to such as would lay down their arms, but when they had done so, and the place was in their power, Cromwell gave orders that no quarter should be given.1 Ormond wrote that ‘the cruelties exercised there for five days after the town was taken would make as many several pictures of inhumanity as are to be found in the “Book of Martyrs,” or in the relation of Amboyna.’2 This description comes from an enemy, and, though it has never been refuted, it may perhaps be exaggerated. In the letters of Cromwell we have a curious picture of the semi-religious spirit which was manifested or at least professed by the victors. It is noticed as a special instance of Divine Providence that the Catholics having on the previous Sunday celebrated mass in the great church of St. Peter, ‘in this very place near 1,000 of them were put to the sword, fleeing thither for safety,’ and he adds that ‘all their friars were knocked on the head promiscuously but two,’ who were taken prisoners and killed. ‘And now,’ he continues, ‘give me leave to say how it comes to pass that this work is wrought. It was set upon some of our hearts that a great thing should be done, not by power or might, but by the Spirit of God. And is it not so clearly? That which caused your men to storm so courageously, it was the Spirit of God, which gave your men courage and took it away again, and therefore it is good that God alone have all the glory.’ ‘I wish that all honest hearts may give the glory of this to God alone, to whom indeed the praise of this mercy belongs.’1 Among the English soldiers who were present at this siege was the brother of Anthony Wood, the well-known historian of Oxford, and the vivid and most authentic glimpse of this episode of Puritan warfare which that accurate and painstaking writer has given us in his autobiography, furnishes the best commentary on the language of Cromwell. He relates how his brother ‘would tell them of the most terrible assaulting and storming of Tredagh, where he himself had been engaged. He told them that 3,000 at least, besides some women and children, were, after the assailants had taken part and afterwards all the town, put to the sword on September 11 and 12, 1649, at which time Sir Arthur Aston, the governor, had his brains beat out and his body hacked to pieces. He told them that when they were to make their way up to the lofts and galleries of the church and up to the tower where the enemy had fled, each of the assailants would take up a child and use it as a buckler of defence when they ascended the steps, to keep themselves from being shot or brained. After they had killed all in the church, they went into the vaults underneath, where all the flower and choicest of the women and ladies had hid themselves. One of these, a most handsome virgin arraid in costly and gorgeous apparel, kneeled down to Thomas Wood with tears and prayers to save her life, and, being stricken with a profound pitie, he took her under his arm, went with her out of the church with intentions to put her over the works to shift for herself, but a soldier perceiving his intentions he ran his sword through her. … whereupon Mr. Wood, seeing her gasping, took away her money, jewels, &c., and flung her down over the works.’1
It is possible, as its latest eulogist has argued, that this massacre may have had some effect in accelerating a submission which in the exhausted state of Ireland could in no case have been long delayed, but it left behind it one of those memories that are the most fatal obstacles to the reconciliation of nations and of creeds. The name of Cromwell even now acts as a spell upon the Irish mind, and has a powerful and living influence in sustaining the hatred both of England and Protestantism. The massacre of Drogheda acquired a deeper horror and a special significance from the saintly professions and the religious phraseology of its perpetrators, and the town where it took place is to the present day distinguished in Ireland for the vehemence of its Catholicism.
The war ended at last in 1652. According to the calculation of Sir W. Petty, out of a population of 1,466,000, 616,000 had in eleven years perished by the sword, by plague, or by famine artificially produced. 504,000, according to this estimate, were Irish, 112,000 of English extraction. A third part of the population had been thus blotted out, and Petty tells us that according to some calculations the number of the victims was much greater. Human food had been so successfully destroyed that Ireland, which had been one of the great pasture countries of Europe, was obliged to import cattle from Wales for consumption in Dublin. The stock, which at the beginning of the war was valued at four millions, had sunk to an eighth of that value, while the price of corn had risen from 12s. to 50s. a bushel. Famine and the sword had so done their work that in some districts the traveller rode twenty or thirty miles without seeing one trace of human life, and fierce wolves—rendered doubly savage by feeding on human flesh—multiplied with startling rapidity through the deserted land, and might be seen prowling in numbers within a few miles of Dublin. Liberty was given to able-bodied men to abandon the country and enlist in foreign service, and from 30,000 to 40,000 availed themselves of the permission. Slave-dealers were let loose upon the land, and many hundreds of boys and of marriageable girls, guilty of no offence whatever, were torn away from their country, shipped to Barbadoes, and sold as slaves to the planters. Merchants from Bristol entered keenly into the traffic. The victims appear to have been for the most part the children or the young widows of those who were killed or starved, but the dealers began at length to decoy even Englishmen to their ships, and the abuses became such that the Puritan Government, which had for some time cordially supported the system, made vain efforts to stop it. How many of the unhappy captives became the prey of the sharks, how many became the victims of the planters' lusts, it is impossible to say. The worship which was that of almost the whole native population was absolutely suppressed. Priests continued, it is true, with an admirable courage, to move disguised among the raud cottages of the poor and to hold up the crucifix before their dying eyes, but a large reward was offered for their apprehension, and those who were taken were usually transported to Barbadoes or confined in one of the Arran Isles. Above all, the great end at which the English adventurers had been steadily aiming since the reign of Elizabeth, was accomplished. All the land of the Irish in the three largest and richest provinces was confiscated, and divided among those adventurers who had lent money to the Parliament, and among the Puritan soldiers, whose pay was greatly in arrear. ‘Innocent Papists,’ who could prove that they had taken no part whatever in the struggle, were assigned land in Connaught, and that province, which rock and morass have doomed to a perpetual poverty, and which was at this time almost desolated by famine and by massacre, was assigned as the home of the Irish race. The ploughmen and labourers who were necessary for the cultivation of the soil were suffered to remain, but all the old proprietors, all the best and greatest names in Ireland were compelled to abandon their old possessions, to seek a home in Connaught, or in some happier land beyond the sea. A very large proportion of them had committed no crime whatever, and it is probable that not a sword would have been drawn in Ireland in rebellion if those who ruled it had suffered the natives to enjoy their lands and their religion in peace.1
The Cromwellian settlement is the foundation of that deep and lasting division between the proprietary and the tenants which is the chief cause of the political and social evils of Ireland. At the Restoration, it is true, the hearts of the Irish beat fast and high. Many had never rebelled against the sovereign; and of those who had taken arms, when the English Parliament announced its intention of extirpating Catholicism, by far the greater part had submitted to the King in 1648, had received his full pardon, and had supported his cause to the end. Those who had committed murders or other inhuman crimes were to be tried by a Commission appointed jointly by the contracting parties, but it had been expressly provided, in the treaty, that all other Roman Catholics who submitted to the articles should be ‘restored to their respective possessions and hereditaments,’ and that all treasons and other offences committed since the beginning of the rebellion should be covered by an ‘Act of Oblivion.’2 The Catholics had thus a clear title to restoration, and Charles II., in a letter from Breda, in the beginning of 1650, emphatically stated his intention to observe the engagements of his father.3 But the land was for the most part actually in the possession of English settlers, who had obtained it under a parliamentary security, in consequence of the sums they had lent in the beginning of the rebellion, and the Act which raised this money had been sanctioned by the sovereign. Much of it had also been given to soldiers instead of pay, and their claims could hardly be overlooked.
The agents of the Irish Catholics proposed that a general Act of indemnity should be passed, that the Irish should be at once restored to their estates, but that a third part of the produce of those estates should be applied for a term of years to satisfying those adventurers or soldiers who had valid claims. They proposed that this deduction should be made for two years where the owners had served the King beyond the seas, for five years in all other cases; and they desired that a parliament should be summoned to raise a revenue for the Crown.Bieda1 But the political objections to this plan were overwhelming. English public opinion would never tolerate the overthrow of the Protestant interest in Ireland after the expenditure of so much blood and money, or the general restitution of those who were associated in the English mind with the most horrible accounts of massacre. The sum proposed to be raised would be wholly insufficient to compensate the adventurers and the soldiers who had received land instead of pay, and the position of the sovereign and the security of the Government would be greatly lowered by the change. If the Irish were restored to their estates, they must hold them on the old tenure. The King would lose the quit-rents paid by the adventurers and soldiers, and those quit-rents formed an annual revenue of about 60,000l., entirely independent of parliamentary control. Such a revenue went far to defray the civil and military expenses of the country, and it was a great security to the English rule.
Another compromise was accordingly adopted, which, it was supposed, would satisfy all claims. A general indemnity was withheld, and the King issued a declaration in November 1660 enumerating the arrangements that were decided, and this declaration was made the basis of the first Act of Settlement.1 He in the first place confirmed to the adventurers all lands possessed by them on May 7, 1659, and allotted to them under the Acts of Parliament that have been mentioned. He confirmed, with a few specified exceptions, the lands allotted to soldiers instead of pay, and provided that officers who had served before June 5, 1649, and had not yet received lands, should receive them to the value of rather more than half of what was due to them. Protestants, however, whose estates had been given to adventurers or soldiers, were to be at once restored, unless they had been in rebellion before the Cessation, or had taken out decrees for lands in Connaught and Clare, and the adventurers or soldiers who were displaced were to be reprised.
The next class to be dealt with were those who were termed ‘innocent Papists.’ The rules defining this class were more than rigorous. No one was to be esteemed an ‘innocent Papist’ who before the Cessation of September 15, 1643, was of the rebels' party, or who enjoyed his estate real and personal in the rebels' quarters (except the inhabitants of Cork and Youghal, who were driven into these quarters by force), or who had entered into the Roman Catholic confederacy before the Peace of 1648, or who had at any time adhered to the nuncio's party against the sovereign, or who had inherited his property from those who were guilty of those crimes, or who had sat in any of the confederate assemblies or councils, or acted upon any commissions or powers derived from them. All Catholics, therefore, who had taken arms when the English Parliament passed a resolution for the extirpation of their religion were excluded from the category, though they had no possible connection with the crimes that were perpetrated in Ulster. These, however, it might be truly said, had been at least technically rebels; but there were great numbers of Catholics well affected to the King, and much opposed to the rebellion, who had lived quietly in their homes in districts occupied by the rebels. Many of them at the beginning of the rebellion had taken refuge in Dublin, but a proclamation of the Lords Justices had obliged them, under pain of death, to leave the city and return to their own homes in the country, where they could not help falling into the hands of the rebels. All these persons, if they had been left unmolested by the rebels, and although they had committed no act of hostility to the Government, were excluded from the class of innocent Papists, because they had unavoidably lived in their own homes during the rebellion, and had not been plundered by the rebels.1
Such were the rules restricting the class of innocent Papists. Those who could establish their claim, if they had taken lands in Connaught, were to be restored to their estates by May 2, 1661, but if they had sold the Connaught lands, they were to satisfy the purchaser for the price he had paid, and the necessary repairs and improvements he had made, and the adventurers and soldiers who were removed were at once to be reprised. One significant restriction, however, was imposed upon the restoration of innocent Papists. If their properties had been within corporations, and had in consequence carried with them considerable political weight, the old owners were not to be restored, unless the King specially determined it, but were to be compensated with land in the neighbourhood.
The next class consisted of those who had been in the rebellion, but who had submitted, and constantly adhered to the Peace of 1648. If they had stayed at home, and accepted lands in Connaught, they were to be bound by this arrangement, and not restored to their former properties. If they had served under his Majesty abroad, and sued out no decrees in Connaught or Clare, in compensation for their former estates, they were to be restored, but this restitution was to be postponed until reprisals had been made for the adventurers and soldiers who had got possession of their estates, and also until the other restitutions had been accomplished. Thirty-six persons, some of them perfectly innocent, and others constant adherents to the peace, were restored at once by special favour.
Great allowance must be made for the extreme difficulties of the Government, compelled to take a course among conflicting claims and bitterly hostile interests; but the general bias of the declaration can be scarcely missed. It is evident that the political influence of the adventurers was in the ascendant, and when a Parliament was summoned in Ireland it was found that they returned the overwhelming majority in the House of Commons, while the Catholics were almost absolutely unrepresented. It was found, too, as might easily have been guessed, that the available land was utterly insufficient to satisfy the conflicting claims. Nor was any serious attempt made to economise it. Vast estates were granted to Ormond and to the Duke of York, and several other persons—among others, Sir W. Petty,1 —had irregularly obtained large grants. Ormond expressed the simple truth when he wrote: ‘If the adventurers and soldiers must be satisfied to the extent of what they suppose intended them by the declaration; and if all that accepted and constantly adhered to the Peace in 1648 be restored, as the same declaration seems also to intend, and as was partly declared to be intended at the last debate, there must be new discoveries made of a new Ireland, for the old will not serve to satisfy these engagements. It remains, then, to determine which party must suffer in the default of means to satisfy all.’2
The answer could hardly be doubtful. The corporations of Ireland had been filled with Protestants by Cromwell, and the Irish House of Commons, at the Restoration, was purely Protestant. In England, all those who had power were of the same religion. The new settlers had obtained a firm grasp upon the soil, and they were a strong, compact, armed body, quite capable of defending their position in the field. The Irish, on the other hand, were actually dispossessed. They were poor, broken, miserable, and friendless. They were aliens in nationality and Papists in religion, and they managed their cause with little skill. Everything that could be done to discredit them by false rumours of plots, by extravagant exaggerations of the crimes which had undoubtedly been committed by the peasants in Ulster, was done, and great sums were distributed by the agents of the adventurers among the most influential persons in England. It is not surprising that these measures were successful. The Irish had very foolishly quarrelled with Ormond while the Parliament in Dublin voted him a gift of 30,000l. Clarendon used his great influence against them. All the other competing interests in Ireland we are told were united ‘in their implacable malice to the Irish and in their desire that they might gain nothing by the King's return.1 English public opinion was strongly on the same side, and the King, after some hesitation, declared ‘that he was for an English interest to be established in Ireland which,’ it was truly said, ‘showed the Irish plainly enough who were likely to be the sufferers.’2 The motives of the Government can hardly be better stated than by the biographer of the statesman who had the largest share in determining the event. ‘The King,’ writes Carte, ‘seemed one while favourable to the Irish, and expressed himself as if he intended the Peace of 1648 should be made good to them; but their agents effaced this disposition in him by insisting perpetually on the obligation of the articles of it in all their strictness, and inculcating to him that he was obliged in honour and justice to make them good. Kings do not care to be taught their duty in such a manner, and it sounded harsh to his Majesty. …. The King considered the settlement of Ireland as an affair rather of policy than justice. …. When he had made his declaration he was misled to think there were lands enough to reprise such of the adventurers and soldiers as were to be dispossessed to make way for restorable persons; but now that he was sensible of that mistake, and it appeared that one interest or other must suffer for want of reprises, he thought it most for the good of the kingdom, advantage of the Crown, and security of his government, that the loss should fall on the Irish. This was the opinion of his council; and a contrary conduct would have been matter of discontent to the Parliament of England, which he desired to preserve in good humour, for the advantage of his affairs and the ease of his government.’1 The Irish were accordingly sacrificed with little reluctance. The negotiations that followed were long and tedious, and it will be sufficient here to relate the general result. All attempts to carry out in their integrity the articles of the Peace of 1648, by which the confederate Irish had been reconciled to the King, were completely abandoned, but a Court of English Commissioners was appointed to hear the claims of innocent Papists. 4,000 Irish Catholics demanded restitution as ‘innocents.’ About 600 claims were heard, and, to the great indignation of the Protestant party, in the large majority of cases, the Catholics established their claims. The Commissioners, who could have no possible bias in favour of the Irish, appear to have acted with great justice. Those who had the strongest claims were naturally the most eager to be tried. The lapse of time and the confusion of affairs destroyed many proofs of guilt, and it is probable that false testimony was on both sides largely employed. The anger and panic of the English knew no bounds. It was alleged that there would be no sufficient funds to reprise the Protestant adventurers who were removed.2 Parliament was loud in its complaints. A formidable plot was discovered. There was much fear of a great Protestant insurrection in Ireland, and English public opinion was very hostile to all concessions to Catholics. A new Bill of Settlement, or, as it was termed, of explanation, was accordingly brought in and passed. It provided that the adventurers and soldiers should give up one-third of their grants to be applied to the purpose of increasing the fund for reprisals; that the Connaught purchasers should retain two-thirds of the lands they possessed in September 1663; that in all cases of competition between the Protestants and the Roman Catholics every ambiguity should be interpreted in favour of the former, that twenty more of the Irish should be restored by special favour, but that all the other Catholics whose claims had hitherto, for want of time, not been decided by the Commissioners, should be treated as disqualified. Upwards of 3,000 old proprietors were thus, without a trial, excluded for ever from the inheritance of their fathers.1 The estimates of the change that was effected are somewhat various. Walsh, with a great and manifest exaggeration, stated that, before the rebellion, nineteen parts in twenty of the lands of the kingdom were still in the possession of Catholics. Colonel Lawrence, a Cromwellian soldier in Ireland, who wrote an account of this time, computed that the Irish had owned ten acres to one that was possessed by the English. According to Petty, of that portion of Ireland which was good ground capable of cultivation, about two-thirds, before 1641, had been possessed by Catholics. After the Act of Settlement, the Protestants possessed, according to the estimate of Lawrence, four-fifths of the whole kingdom; according to that of Petty, rather more than two-thirds of the good land.1 Of the Protestant landowners in 1689, two-thirds, according to Archbishop King, held their estates under the Act of Settlement.2
The downfall of the old race was now all but accomplished. The years that followed the Restoration, however, were years of peace, of mild government, and of great religious toleration, and although the wrong done by the Act of Settlement rankled bitterly in the minds of the Irish, the prosperity of the country gradually revived, and with it some spirit of loyalty to the Government. But the Revolution soon came to cloud the prospect. It was inevitable that in that struggle the Irish should have adopted the cause of their legitimate sovereign, whose too ardent Catholicism was the chief cause of his deposition. It was equally inevitable that they should have availed themselves of the period of their ascendency to endeavour to overthrow the land settlement which had been made. James landed at Kin-sale on March 12, 1689. One of his first acts was to issue a proclamation summoning all Irish absentees upon their allegiance to return to assist their sovereign in his struggle, and by another proclamation a Parliament was summoned for May 7. It consisted almost wholly of Catholics. The corporations appear to have been much tampered with by Tyrconnel, and most of the more important Protestant landlords had either gone over to the Prince of Orange or fled to England, or at least resolved to withdraw themselves from public affairs till the result of the struggle was determined. In the Lower House there are said to have been only six Protestant members. In the Upper House the Protestant interest was represented by from four to six bishops,3 and by four or five temporal peers. The Catholic Bishops were not called to the House of Lords, and only five new peers were made,1 one of them being the Chancellor and another the Chief Justice, but the outlawry which had deprived a large proportion of the Catholic peerage of their honours was reversed; fifteen Catholic peers were thus restored to their seats, and they appear to have formed nearly half of the active members of the House of Lords. The members of the House of Commons were almost all new men, completely inexperienced in public business and animated by the resentment of the bitterest wrongs. Many of them were sons of some of the 3,000 proprietors who without trial and without compensation had been deprived by the Act of Settlement of the estates of their ancestors.2 To all of them the confiscations of Ulster, the fraud of Strafford, the long train of calamities that followed were recent and vivid events. Old men were still living who might have remembered them all, and there was probably scarcely a man in the Irish Parliament of 1689 who had not been deeply injured by them in his fortunes or his family.
It will hardly appear surprising to candid men that a Parliament so constituted and called together amid the excitement of a civil war, should have displayed much violence, much disregard for vested interests. Its measures, indeed, were not all criminal. By one Act which was far in advance of the age, it established perfect religious liberty in Ireland, and although this measure was, no doubt, mainly due to motives of policy, its enactment in such a moment of excitement and passion reflects no small credit on the Catholic Parliament. By another Act, repealing Poyning's law, and asserting its own legislative independence, it anticipated the doctrine of Molyneux, Swift, and Grattan, and claimed a position which, if it could have been maintained, would have saved Ireland from at least a portion of those commercial restrictions which a few years later reduced it to a condition of the most abject wretchedness. A third measure abolished the payments to Protestant clergy in the corporate towns, while a fourth ordered that the Catholics throughout Ireland should henceforth pay their tithes and other ecclesiastical dues to their own priests and not to the Protestant clergy. The Protestants were still to pay their tithes to their own clergy, but as the Catholics formed the immense majority of the Irish people, almost the whole religious property of the country was by these measures transferred from the Church of the small minority to that of the bulk of the nation. No compensation was made for existing vested interests, and the measure was, therefore, according to modern notions, very unjust, but the Irish Parliament can hardly be blamed without great anachronism on this ground. The principle of compensation was as yet wholly unknown.1 No compensation had been granted when at the Reformation the Church property was transferred to the clergy of an infinitesimal fraction of the nation. No compensation had been granted in any of the transfers of Church property in England. The really distinctive feature of the Irish legislation on this subject was that the spoliated clergy were not reduced to the category of criminals, but were guaranteed full liberty of professing, practising, and teaching their religion. Several other measures—most of them now only known by their titles—were passed for developing the resources of the country or remedying some great abuse. Among them were acts for encouraging strangers to plant in Ireland, for the relief of distressed debtors, for the removal of the incapacities of the native Irish, for the recovery of waste lands, for the improvement of trade, shipping and navigation, and for establishing free schools.1
If these had been the only measures of the Irish Parliament it would have left an eminently honourable reputation. But, unfortunately, one of its main objects was to re-establish at all costs the descendants of the old proprietors in their land, and to annul by measures of sweeping violence the grievous wrongs and spoliations their fathers and their grandfathers had undergone. The first and most important measure with this object was the repeal of the Acts of Settlement and Explanation. The nature of this Act is almost universally misunderstood on account of the extreme inaccuracy or imperfection of the description of it in the brilliant narrative of Lord Macaulay. The preamble2 asserts that the outbreak of 1641 had been solely due to the intolerable oppression and to the disloyal conduct of the Lords Justices and Puritan party, that the Catholics of Ireland before the struggle had concluded had been fully reconciled to the sovereign, that they had received from the sovereign a full and formal pardon, and that the royal word had been in consequence pledged to the restitution of their properties. This pledge by the Act of Settlement had been to a great extent broken, and the Irish legislators maintained that the twenty-four years which had elapsed since that Act had not annulled the rights of the old proprietors or their descendants. They maintained that these claims were not only valid but were prior to all others, and they accordingly enacted that the heirs of all persons who had possessed landed property in Ireland on October 22, 1641, and who had been deprived of their inheritance by the Act of Settlement, should enter at once into possession of their old properties. The owners who were to be displaced were of two kinds. Some of them were the adventurers or soldiers of Cromwell, and these were to be dispossessed absolutely and without compensation. No inquiry was to be made into the particular charges alleged against the original proprietor at the time of the confiscation. No regard was to be paid to the fact that the adventurers had obtained their land in compensation for sums of money lent on that condition to the Government, under Act of Parliament. No allowance was to be made for the large sums which in innumerable cases the adventurers had expended in buildings or in other improvements. At the time of the Act of Settlement, when it was found impossible to satisfy the just claims of both parties, the Irish were invariably sacrificed, and by the Irish Parliament this rule was reversed. The confiscation, it maintained, was from the first fraudulent, the claims of the old proprietors must override all others, and a wrongful enjoyment for twenty-four years was a sufficient compensation to the adventurers for the money they had lent.
A large proportion, however, of the confiscated land had been sold after the Act of Settlement, and had passed into the hands of men who could not without the greatest injustice be despoiled. They were not military adventurers who had obtained their land when they were in rebellion against their Sovereign, and who had kept it at the Restoration, in a great degree because the Government feared to displace them. They were in many cases peaceable and loyal men who had taken no part in politics, who had no special interest in Ireland, who had invested all the savings of honest and laborious lives in the purchase of land under the security of an Act of Parliament passed when the royal authority was fully restored. English law knew no more secure title, and in law and in equity it was equally invincible.
The Act of the Irish Parliament has been described as if it completely disregarded it, and swept away the property of these purchasers without compensation. But whatever may have been the faults of the Irish Parliament of 1689, this charge, at least, is grossly calumnious. The Irish legislators maintained, indeed, that the sales which had been effected could not invalidate the claims of the old proprietors to re-enter into the property of which they had been unjustly deprived; but they admitted in clear and express terms the right of the purchasers to full compensation. The statute notices that some persons who were strangers to those to whom some of the confiscated lands were distributed had come into possession of the same after the Act of Settlement, ‘for good and valuable consideration, and not considerations of blood, affinity or marriage,’ and it declares that these persons ‘are hereby intended to be reprised for such their purchases in the manner hereafter to be expressed.’1 From what source, then, was this compensation to be derived? We have seen that the long succession of confiscations of Irish land which had taken place from the days of Mary to the Act of Settlement had been mainly based upon real or pretended plots of the owners of the soil, which enabled the Government, on the plea of high treason, to appropriate the land which they desired. In 1689 the great bulk of the English proprietors of Irish soil, were in actual correspondence with William, and were therefore legally guilty of high treason. The Irish legislators now proceeded to follow the example of the British Governments, and by a clause of extreme severity they pronounced the real estates of all Irish proprietors who dwelt in any part of the three kingdoms which did not acknowledge King James, or who aided, abetted or corresponded with the rebels, to be forfeited and vested in the Crown,2 and from this source they proposed to compensate the purchasers under the Act of Settlement. In the words of the statute, ‘Every reprisable person or persons, his heirs, executors, or administrators, who shall be removed from any of the lands, tenements, and hereditaments, which are hereby to be restored to the ancient proprietor thereof, as hereinbefore expressed, shall be reprised and have other lands, tenements, &c., of equal value granted unto him out of the said forfeited lands hereby vested in your Majesty.’ ‘For the more speedy and effectual granting of the said reprisals,’ commissioners were to be appointed to hear the evidence both of those who claimed as heirs of the old proprietors, and of those who were purchasers under the Act of Settlement.1
These are the most important provisions of this famous law, for it is not necessary to enter into the complicated arrangements that were made in the case of those who had obtained estates in Connaught. The Act must be judged in the light of the antecedent events of Irish history, and with a due allowance for the passions of a civil war, for the peculiar position of the legislators, and for the extreme difficulty of all legislation on this subject. An inquisition into titles limited to thirty-eight years could hardly appear extraordinary in a country where such inquisitions had very recently extended over centuries, or to men whose fathers had vainly asked that sixty years of undisturbed possession should secure them in the enjoyment of their estates. Much would have depended upon the manner in which the clause relating to confiscations and the clauses relating to reprisals were actually carried out.1 The former, if strictly interpreted, would have led to scandalous and monstrous injustice, but it might also be construed in such a manner as to apply only to those who were distinctly committed to the side of the Prince of Orange.
The measure of repeal, however, was speedily followed by another Act of much more sweeping and violent injustice. The Act of Attainder, which was introduced in the latter part of June, aimed at nothing less than a complete overthrow of the existing land system in Ireland.
A list divided into several groups, but containing in all more than 2,000 names, was drawn up of landowners who were to be attainted of high treason. One group comprised persons who were said to be notoriously and actively engaged in the rebellion against the King, and who were at this time in Ireland, and these were to become liable to all the penalties and forfeitures of high treason unless they voluntarily delivered themselves up to take their trial before August 10. Another group consisted of those who had left the kingdom after November 5, 1688, and who had disobeyed the royal proclamation of March 25, summoning them to Ireland to take part in the defence of the King. Unless they appeared before an Irish Judge before September 1 to justify themselves from any charge that might be brought against them, these also were to be esteemed guilty of high treason. A third group consisted of those who had left Ireland before November 5, 1688, who were living in England, Scotland, or the Isle of Man, and who had likewise disobeyed the proclamation. They were given till October 1 to appear before an Irish judge, and if they failed to do so, they became liable to the penalties of high treason, unless in the meantime the King had gone over to England or Scotland, and had there received from the absentees satisfactory evidence of their loyalty. In the meantime, and until the return and acquittal of the persons comprised in these groups, their lands were to be vested in the King. The Act then proceeded to state that whereas ‘several persons are, and for some time past have been, absent out of this kingdom, and by reason of sickness, nonage, infirmities, or other disabilities, may for some time further be obliged so to stay out of this kingdom, or be disabled to return thereunto, nevertheless, it being much to the weakening and impoverishing of this realm that any of the rents or profits of the lands, &c., therein should be sent into or spent in any other place beyond the seas, but that the same should be kept and employed within the realm for the better support and defence thereof,’ it was expedient that the lands belonging to those persons also, should be provisionally vested in the King. If, however, these persons or their heirs, having hitherto ‘behaved themselves loyally and faithfully,’ should at any future period return to the country, they might be restored to their properties by applying before the close of the law term following their return to the Commissioners, if they were then sitting, or else to the Courts of Chancery or Exchequer.1 Many clauses were devoted to the difficult questions relating to remainders, mortgages, or incumbrances which would necessarily arise in cases of confiscation. The King's pardon before November 1 following was sufficient to discharge any attainted person from all the penalties of the Act; but it was provided that no pardon should have any validity which was not enrolled in the Court of Chancery before the last day of November, and to this great invasion and limitation of the highest prerogative of the Crown James gave his consent.
Few persons will question the tyranny of an Act which in this manner made a very large proportion of the Irish landlords liable to the penalties of high treason, unless they could prove their innocence, even though the only crime that could be alleged against them was that of living out of Ireland in a time of civil war. The clauses vesting the landed property of attainted persons provisionally in the Crown, before any evidence had been given against the owners, were not only iniquitous in themselves, but also gave the utmost facilities to fraud, and their true explanation is probably to be found in the almost absolute impossibility of raising in Ireland by any regular means a sufficient sum to carry on the war. The Act was passed in a panic, and its extreme clumsiness as a piece of legislation shows the utter inexpertness of the legislators. Each member gave in the names of those of his neighbours whom he believed to be disloyal, and the lists were so carelessly drawn that some of the most conspicuous partisans of William were omitted, while among those who were attainted were Edmund Keating the nephew of the Chief Justice, who was then actually serving in the army of James before Derry; Dodwell, one of the most vehement writers against the principles of the Revolution, and Lord Mountjoy, who was at this time a prisoner in the Bastille. Nagle, the Speaker, in presenting the Bill to James, is reported to have said, ‘that many were attainted in that Act upon such evidence as satisfied the House, and the rest of them upon common fame.’ Such were the grounds upon which the Irish Parliament made large classes liable to the severest penalty known to the law. Nor was this all. If we may believe the assertion of King, the extreme injustice was committed of not publishing the lists of attainted persons till after the period of grace had expired. This assertion, however, can only be accepted with much suspicion and qualification. It is scarcely possible that a measure which must have passed three times through each House of Parliament could, even in this time of confusion and chaos, have been a secret. Nor are we left on this matter to conjecture. In the ‘London Gazette’ of July 1 to 4, 1689, when the Act had barely passed, we find an announcement that the Irish Parliament had carried ‘an Act of Attainder of several thousand persons by name.’ It is clear, therefore, that the Act and its general character were known and known at once; and it is most probable that the classes who were attainted and the periods before which the members of those classes were required to appear, were no secrets, even if the specific names were not published. The Act of Attainder remains, and it is sufficient to show the great injustice with which the Irish Parliament acted; but our knowledge of the circumstances under which it passed is of the most scanty and of the most suspicious description. The two short, anonymous, and nonoffcial summaries of the proceedings of the Parliament, reprinted in the Somers Tracts, extend only to June 13,1 and at that date the Bill of Attainder had not been brought in or apparently mentioned. There exists, however, another contemporary journal, giving a very brief account of the proceedings of the House of Lords until the 20th, and of the House of Commons till the 29th of June.2 Unfortunately it tells us little more than that the debate on the Attainder Bill began on the 25th, that it continued during the four following days, that the names of the attainted persons were discussed according to the districts to which they belonged, and that there was a violent wrangle over one of the names. For further particulars we are reduced to the narrative of King, and that narrative is not only written with the vehemence of the most ardent partisan, it was drawn up expressly in the interests of the new Government, for the purpose of injuring as much as possible the cause of Jacobitism, by painting in the blackest possible colours the conduct of its professors. It is also the work of a writer who, having himself at one time professed in the strongest terms the doctrine of the absolute sinfulness of resistance, desired to justify his own conduct in going over to the new Government, and who had just received high ecclesiastical rewards as the price of his services to the Revolution. After his elevation to the episcopacy, King exhibited some high qualities, and I should hesitate much to attribute to him deliberate falsehood; but still a work written under such circumstances and in such a spirit cannot be accepted as a fair and unvarnished history. Lesley, in his reply, brought against it specific charges of inveracity of the gravest kind, to which King never replied, and he has thrown much doubt upon the whole narrative;1 but Lesley is concerned only with the defence of the King, and he pays very little attention to the Irish Parliament, and throws no light upon the motives of its members.
For these reasons we can, I think, only accept with much hesitation the common accounts about this Act. Its injustice, however, cannot reasonably be denied, and it forms the great blot on the reputation of the short Parliament of 1689, though a few things may be truly said to palliate and explain it. There is no ground for the assertion that it was of the nature of a religious proscription. It was inevitable that Protestant landlords should have usually taken the side of William, and Catholic landlords the side of James; but religion is not even mentioned in the Act, and among the attainted persons a few were Catholics. Nor is it probable that it was ever intended to put in force the more sanguinary part of the sentence. It is not alleged that a single person was executed under the Act; and though the common soldiers on the side of William, and the rapparees on the side of James, were guilty of much violence, it cannot be said that the leaders on either side showed in their actions any disposition to add unnecessarily to the tragedy of the struggle. If the Irish Act of Attainder was almost unparalleled in its magnitude, it was at least free from one of the worst faults of this description of legislation, for it did not undertake to supersede the action of the law courts. It was a conditional attainder, launched in the midst of a civil war, against men who having recently disregarded the summons of their sovereign, were beyond the range of the law, in case they refused to appear during an assigned interval before the law courts for trial. The real aim of the Act was confiscation; and, in this respect at least, it was by no means unexampled. Every political trouble in Ireland had long been followed by a confiscation of Irish soil. The limitation of the sovereign prerogative of pardon was probably suggested by the address of the English Parliament of 1641, calling upon the King not to alienate any of the escheated land which fell to the Crown by conceding pardon to Irish rebels, and by the clause of the subsequent Act, making all pardons before attainder, without the assent of both Houses, null and void.1 The clause making residence in districts subject to William a sufficient proof of treason may have arisen from the clause in the Act of Settlement by which all Catholics who resided unmolested on land occupied by rebels, were excluded from the category of ‘innocent Papists.’ If more than 2,000 persons were conditionally attainted by the Irish Parliament in 1689, more than 3,000 had been absolutely deprived of their possessions without trial by the Parliament of 1665; and the Parliament which committed the one injustice consisted mainly of the sons of the men who had suffered by the other. Reasonable judges, while censuring the Act of the Irish Parliament, will not forget the effect of the events of the last few generations in shaking all sense of the sanctity of property, the exigencies of civil war which made it imperative to find some resources by which to carry on the struggle, the violence with which in that age every contest was conducted. It is, indeed, a curious illustration of the carelessness or partiality with which Irish history is written, that no popular historian has noticed that five days before this Act, which has been described as ‘without a parallel in the history of civilised countries,’ was introduced into the Irish Parliament, a Bill which appears, in its essential characteristics, to have been precisely similar was introduced into the Parliament of England; that it passed the English House of Commons; that it passed, with slight amendments, the English House of Lords; and that it was only lost, in its last stage, by a prorogation. On June 20, 1689, we read in the ‘English Commons Journals,’ that leave was ‘given to bring in a Bill to attaint of high treason certain persons who were now in Ireland, or any other parts beyond the seas, adhering to their Majesty's enemies, and shall not return into England by a certain day.’ The Bill was at once read a first time. It was read a second time, and committed on June 22, with an instruction to the committee ‘that they insert into the Bill such other of the persons who were this day named in the House, as they shall find cause.’ On the 24th it was ‘ordered, that it be an instruction to the committee, to whom the Bill for attainting certain persons is referred, that they prepare and bring in a clause for the immediate seizing the estates of such persons who are, or shall be proved to be, in arms with the late King James in Ireland, or in his service in France.’ On the 29th there was another instruction to ‘prepare and bring in a clause that the estates of the persons who are now in rebellion in Ireland, be applied to the relief of the Irish Protestants fled into this realm, and also to declare all the proceedings of the pretended Parliament and courts of justice now held in Ireland to be null and void;’ and the committee were directed ‘to sit de die in diem till the Bill be finished.’ New names were added to the list of attainted persons on the 9th of July; on the 11th the Bill passed the Commons, and on the 24th the Commons sent a message to the Lords urging the despatch of the Bill. It is evident, however, that the measure there encountered serious opposition. On August 2 a conference was held, and the Lords required to know on what evidence the attainted persons were shown to be in Ireland, ‘for upon their best inquiry they say they cannot trace some of them to have been there—they instanced Lord Hunsden.’ The answer which was laid before the House of Commons on the 3rd and communicated to the Lords on the 5th of August is curious, for it shows the extremely small amount of testimony which was thought necessary to support the attainder. ‘The names of those who gave evidence at the bar of the House, touching the persons who are named in the Bill of Attainder being in Ireland, were Bazil Purefoy and William Dalton; and those at the committee to whom the Bill was referred were William Watts and Matthew Gun.’ On August 20 the Lords returned the Bill, with some amendments, leaving out Lord Hunsden and several other names, and inserting a few more; but on that day Parliament was prorogued, and the House of Commons had no opportunity of considering the amendments of the Lords.1
These facts will show how far the Irish Act of Attainder was from having the unique character that has been ascribed to it. It is not possible to say how that Act would have been executed, for the days of Jacobite ascendency were now few and evil. The Parliament was prorogued on the 20th of July, one of its last Acts being to vest in the King the property of those who were still absentees.2 The heroic defence of Londonderry had already turned the scale in favour of William, and the disaster of the Boyne and the surrender of Limerick destroyed the last hopes of the Catholics. They secured, as they vainly imagined, by the treaty of Limerick, their religious liberty; but the bulk of the Catholic army passed into the service of France, and the great confiscations that followed the Revolution completed the ruin of the old race. When the eighteenth century dawned, the great majority of the former leaders of the people were either sunk in abject poverty or scattered as exiles over Europe; the last spasm of resistance had ceased, and the long period of unbroken Protestant ascendency had begun.
See Reeye's edition of Adamnan's Life of St. Columba.
The murder of an Englishman by an Irishman was, however, felony. According to Sir John Davis: ‘For the space of 200 years at least, after the arrival of Henry II. in Ireland, the Irish would gladly have embraced the laws of England, and did earnestly desire the benefit and protection thereof; which, being denied them, did of necessity cause a continual bordering war between the English and Irish.’—Discovery of the true causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued.
Davis, ‘Discovery,’ pp. 86, 87.
See Richey's Lectures on Irish History (2nd series), p. 69.
These cases (which are chiefly derived from the Carew manuscripts) are all duly related in Mr. Froude's Hist. of England. Mr. Froude's English in Ireland is intended to collect and aggravate everything that can be said against the Irish people, and accordingly the atrocities on the English side are reduced in that book to the smallest proportions. The victims of the well-known massacre by Norris at the Isle of Rathlin were Scotch.
See, e.g., Holinshed, vi. 427–430.
Spenser's State of Ireland.
Holinshed, vi. 459.
Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 1582.
Pacata Hibernia (ed. 1820), p. 645.
Ibid, p. 646.
Ibid, p. 659.
Pacata Hibernia, pp. 189, 190.
Leland, Hist. of Ireland, ii. 287.
Froude's Hist. of England, x. p. 603.
Bernard's Life of Usher (1656), p. 67.
See a great deal of evidence of this in Froude's Hist. of England, vol. x.
Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 1580.
Peter Lombard, Comment. de Regno Hibern. Lombard was afterwards appointed Roman Catholic Primate of Ireland. He wrote at Rome from the reports of the Irish priests, who very possibly exaggerated; but the substantial truth of the description is unfortunately only too fully corroborated.
Fynes Moryson. Hist. of Ireland, Bk. i. c. ii., Bk. iii. c. i. Leland has collected some striking statistics of prices showing the severity of the famine which raged through the country. Even in Dublin, in 1602 wheat had risen from 36s. to 9l. the quarter; oats from 3s. 4d. to 20s. the barrel; beef from 26s. 8d. to 8l. the carcass; mutton from 3s. to 26s. the carcass.—Leland's Hist. of Ireland, ii. 410.
In the Carew MSS, there is a letter from Sir Henry Sydney (April 20, 1567), giving a horrible description of the devastations by Desmond in Munster. ‘Such horrible and lamentable spectacles there are to behold, as the burning of villages, the ruin of churches, the wasting of such as have been good towns and castles; yea, the view of the bones and skulls of your dead subjects, who, partly by murder, partly by famine, have died in the fields, as in troth, hardly any Christian with dry eyes could behold. Not long before my arrival there, it was credibly reported that a principal servant of the Earl of Desmonde, after that he had burnt sundry villages and destroyed a great piece of a country, there were certain poor women sought to have been rescued, but too late; yet so soon after the horrible fact committed, as their children were felt and seen to stir in the bodies of their dead mothers; and yet did the same earl lodge and banquet in the house of the same murderer, his servant, after the fact committed.’—Richey's Lectures on Irish History (2nd series), p. 319.
See some curious statistics on this point in Curry's Review of the Civil Wars of Ireland, vol. i.
The reader will find abundant evidence of this in the ecclesiastical histories of Killen, Mant, and Brennan. The first is Presbyterian, the second Anglican, and the third Catholic. De Burgo's Hibernia Dominicana contains evidence on this period from a Catholic point of view. See too Leland, ii. 381, 382.
Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 1602.
The part which the religious element bore in the wars of Elizabeth has been very variously estimated. Thus, Mr. Froude, in his History of England, says. ‘The suppression of the Catholic services, enforced whereever the English had power, and hanging before the people as a calamity sure to follow as the limits of that power were extended, created a weight of animosity which no other measure could have produced, and alone, perhaps, made the problem of Irish administration hopelessly insoluble.’ ‘The language of the Archbishop of Cashel to Cardinal Alciati shows that before the Government attempted to force a religion upon them which had not a single honest advocate in the whole nation, there was no incurable disloyalty. If they were left with their own lands, their own laws, and their own creed, the chiefs were willing to acknowledge the English sovereign;’ and Mr. Froude adds, with great energy: ‘The Irish were not to be blamed if they looked to the Pope, to Spain, to France, to any friend in earth or heaven to deliver them from a power which discharged no single duty that rulers owe to subjects.’ (Vol. x. Cabinet Ed. pp. 222, 223, 262, 263, 298). In his English in Ireland, which is intended to blacken to the utmost the character of the Irish people, and especially of the Irish Catholics, the same writer represents the same rebellions as the unprovoked manifestations of an incurable ingratitude. ‘Elizabeth forbade her viceroys to meddle with religion, and she had to encounter three bloody insurrections.’ ‘In no Catholic country in the world had so much toleration been shown to Protestants as had been shown to Catholics in Ireland … the bloody rebellions of Shan O'Neill, of the Earl of Desmond, and of the Earl of Tyrone … were the rewards of forbearance.’—Vol. i. pp. 211, 364.
See Carte's Life of Ormond, i. 27.
The atrocious acts of injustice perpetrated with this object are related in a memorial presented to Elizabeth by Captain Lee, called a brief declaration of the Government of Ireland (1594). Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica, vol. i. Some extracts from this very valuable paper will be found in Hallam's Const. Hist. iii. p. 370, and others in O'Connell's Memoir of Ireland.
‘If we read Baron Finglas, Spenser, and Sir John Davis, we cannot miss the true genius and policy of the English Government there, before the Revolution, as well as during the whole reign of Queen Elizabeth. … The original scheme was never deviated from for a single hour. Unheard of confiscations were made in the Northern parts, upon grounds of plots and conspiracies never proved, upon their supposed authors. The war of chicane succeeded to the war of arms and of hostile statutes, and a regular series of operations were carried on, particularly from Chichester's time, in the ordinary courts of justice, and by special commissions and inquisitions: first under pretence of tenures, and then of titles in the Crown, for the purpose of the total extirpation of the interests of the natives in their own soil—until this species of subtle ravage being carried to the last excess of oppression and insolence under Lord Strafford, it kindled the flames of that rebellion which broke out in 1641. By the issue of that war, by the turn which the Earl of Clarendon gave to things at the Restoration, and by the total reduction of the kingdom of Ireland in 1691, the ruin of the native Irish, and in a great measure too of the first races of the English, was completely accomplished.’—Burke's Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe.
Sigerson's Hist. of Land Tenures in Ireland, pp. 26–31. Leland, ii. 300–302. Strafford's Letters, i. 455–466.
View of the State of Ireland.
Derrick, in his most curious poem called ‘The Image of Irelande,’ written in 1578, gives a horrible description of these kerns. He says—
It is curious that the magpie, though now very common in Ireland, was unknown there till the beginning of the eighteenth century. See a note to Tracts Relating to Ireland, published by the Archæological Society, vol. i. p. 26. Chief Justice Dixie, in a letter (Jan. 1597) in the Carew MSS., noticed the frequent murder and robbery of English settlers living in detached houses and the necessity of concentrating the new colonists in groups of not less than twenty households. See Richey's Lectures on Irish History (2nd series), p. 388.
Henry VIII. had ordered free schools for teaching English in every parish.
Tracts Relating to Ireland, published by the Irish Archæological Society (vol. i.). I am indebted for my knowledge of this pamphlet to Dr. Sigerson's History of Land Tenures in Ireland—a very valuable, and at the same time unpretending, little book, from which I have derived much assistance. One other passage from Payne's book I may quote: ‘As touching their government [that of the native Irish] in their corporations where they beare rule is doon with such wisdome, equity, and justice as demerits worthy commendations. For I myself divers times have seen in severall places within their jurisdictions well near twenty causes decided at one sitting, with such indifferencie that for the most part both plaintiff and defendant hath departed contented. Yet many that make shewe of peace, and desireth to live by blood, doe utterly mislike this or any good thing that the poor Irishman dothe.’—Ibid.
Davis's Tracts. Carte' Ormond, i. 16.
Reid's Hist. of the Irish Presbyterians, i. pp. 97, 98.
Sir John Davis's Letter to the Earl of Salisbury concerning the State of Ireland.
This ‘Plantation of the natives is made by his Majesty rather like a father than like a lord or monarch. The Romans transplanted whole nations out of Germany into France. The Spaniards lately removed all the Moors out of Grenada into Barbary, without providing them any new seats there; when the English Pale was first planted, all the natives were clearly expelled, so as not one Irish family had so much as an acre of freehold in all the five counties of the Pale; and now within these four years past, the Greames were removed from the borders of Scotland to this kingdom, and had not one foot of land allotted unto them here; but these natives of Cavan have competent portions of land assigned unto them, many of them in the same barony where they dwelt before, and such as are removed are planted in the same county, so as his Majesty doth in this imitate the skilful husbandman who doth remove his fruit trees, not with a purpose to extirpate and destroy them, but that they may bring better and sweeter fruit after the transplantation.’ — Sir J. Davis's second Letter to the Earl of Salisbury.
Ibid. first Letter to the Earl of Salisbury.
Discovery of the True Causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued, pp. 200, 201, 213.
Leland, ii. 467. See several instances of the gross injustice perpetrated, in Carte's Ormond, i. 24, 25.
Carte, i. 25. See, too, Prendergast's Crommellian Settlement, pp. 45–47.
Carte's Ormond, i. 27. Carte elsewhere says: ‘Ireland had long been a prey to projectors and greedy courtiers who procured grants of conceded lands, and by setting up the king's title forced the right owners of them, to avoid the plague and expense of a litigation, to compound with them on what terms they pleased.’ This traffic, he adds, ‘alienated the minds of the people from the Government, and raised continual clamours and uneasiness in every part of the kingdom.’—Ibid. p. 60.
Ibid. i. 25–28. Leland, ii. 465–470.
Carte's Ormond, i. 27–32.
Leland, ii. 477, 478. Carte's Ormond, vol. i. 47, 48.
Strafford's Letters, i. 344.
Strafford's Letters, i. 310–352, 442, 443, 451, 454; ii. 41. Carte's Ormand, i. 80, 84. Leland, Hist. of Ireland, iii. 30–37. Hallam's Const. Hist. iii. 385–390. Rushworth's Trial of the Earl of Strafford.
Unfortunately this subject has fallen almost entirely into the hands of theologians, and it is obscured by a vast amount of falsehood or exaggeration. The reader may find the Catholic story in its extreme form in Brennan's Ecclesiastical Hist, of Ireland, while everything that can be said to minimise the persecution has been said by Killen, the able Presbyterian historian.
Leland, ii. 411–423.
Carte's Ormond, i. 43, 44. Strafford's Letters, i. 454.
Bernard's Life of Usher (1656), pp. 60–61
Leland, iii. 5. Mant, i. 413–433.
‘It will be ever far forth of my heart to conceive that a conformity in religion is not above all other things principally to be intended. For, undoubtedly, till we be brought all under one form of Divine service the Crown is never safe on this side. … It were too much at once to distemper them by bringing plantations upon them and disturbing them in the exercise of their religion, so long as it be without scandal; and so, indeed, very inconsiderate, as I conceive, to move in this latter, till that former be fully settled, and by that means the Protestant party become by much the stronger, which in truth I do not yet conceive it to be.’—Strafford's Letters, ii. 39. See too Carte's Ormand, i. 212.
Carte's Ormond, i. 160, 182, 199, 200, 235, 236. Nalson's Collections, ii. 536. Lord Castlehaven's Memoirs, p. 10. See, too, the excellent summary in the remonstrance of Lord Gormanstown and the other confederate Catholics, presented to His Majesty's Commissioners, March 17, 1642.—Curry's Civil Wars in Ireland, ii. pp. 333–346. According to Walker, ‘The Independents in the Parliament insisted openly to have the Papists of Ireland rooted out and their lands sold to adventurers.’—Walker's Hist, of Independency, p. 200.
‘There is too much reason to think that, as the Lords Justices really wished the rebellion to spread, and more gentlemen of estates to be involved in it, that the forfeitures might be the greater, and a general plantation be carried on by a new set of English Protestants all over the kingdom, to the ruin and expulsion of all the old English and natives that were Roman Catholics; so, to promote what they wished, they gave out speeches upon occasions, insinuating such a design, and that in a short time there would not be a Roman Catholic left in the kingdom. It is no small confirmation of this notion that the Earl of Ormond, in his letters of Jan. 27 and February 25, 1641, to Sir W. St. Leger, imputes the general revolt of the nation, then far advanced, to the publishing of such design … After acknowledging the receipt of those two letters, St. Leger useth these words: ‘The undue promulgation of that severe determination to extirpate the Irish and Papacy out of this kingdom, your Lordship rightly apprehends to be too unseasonably published; albeit I cannot conceive that any such rigorous way of forcing conscience and men's religion would ever have been attempted or enterprised, but upon such an occasion of a general revolt of the Irish.’—Carte's Ormond, i. 263.
See the depositions collected by the commission of Dean Jones, &c. A Remonstrance of divers remarkable passages concerning the Church and Kingdom of Ireland, presented by Henry Jones, D.D., and agent for the Ministers of the Gospel in that Kingdom, to the Honourable House of Commons in England (pp. 41, 53). (London 1642).
Carte's Ormond, i. p. 210.
Ibid. i. 242.
Leland, iii. 138–144. Lord Castlehaven has some remarks on the subject of the prorogation which are well worthy of attention. He says: ‘To say these Members were all along concerned in the rebellion or engaged with the first contrivers of it, is to make them not only the greatest knaves but the veriest fools on earth, since otherwise they could not have been so earnest for the continuance of the Parliament, whilst sitting in the Castle and under the Lords Justices’ guards, who upon the least intelligence, which could not long be wanting, had no more to do than to shut the gates and make them all prisoners, without any possibility of escape or hope of redemption.’—Lord Castlehaven's Memoirs, pp. 33, 34. See too Carte, i. 225–230, Warner's Hist, of the Rebellion, pp. 121–128. The conduct of the Lords Justices is defended by Temple, and Hallam (whose account of this time, however, is very inaccurate and imperfect) adopts the defence.
Hallam says with great truth: ‘The primary causes of the rebellion are not to be found in the supineness or misconduct of the Lords Justices, but in the two great sins of the English Government, in the penal laws as to religion, which pressed on almost the whole people, and in the systematic iniquity which despoiled them of their possessions.’—Const. Hist. ii. p. 390. The long series of encroachments on the landed rights and on the religion of the people, which made it at last abundantly plain to the Irish Catholics that it was a fixed design of the governing classes to root them from the soil, and that under the Puritan ascendency their religion would be almost certainly proscribed, have been treated in detail by Carte in his Life of Ormond, and his account is fully corroborated by the letters of Strafford, by the uniform attitude of the English Parliament towards Catholicism, by the private correspondence as well as by the published declarations of the rebels, and by numerous depositions which exhibit in the strongest light the panic under which the rebellion began. The causes are summed up with great fairness in Lord Castlehaven's Memoirs. It may, indeed, be safely asserted that there is no rebellion in history of which the causes were more abundantly attested, and more irresistible. The reader must form his own judgment of the writer who, with a full knowledge of these facts, has published the following as a true account of the rebellion of 1641: ‘The Catholics were indulged to the uttermost and therefore rebelled!’—Froude's English in Ireland, i. p. 89.
History of the Rebellion, book iv.
Carte says: ‘There were not many murders (considering the nature of such an affair) committed in the first week of the insurrection. The main and strong view of the Irish was plunder.’—Life of Ormond, i. 175. Temple, who is the main source of the more extravagant accounts of the rebellion, confesses that ‘the Irish at the very first, for some few days after their breaking out, did not in most places murder many of them.’—Irish Rebellion, p. 44. A very careful examination of the evidence of murders in the first week of the rebellion will be found in Warner's Hist, of the Irish Rebellion, pp. 71, 72. This writer says very truly: ‘Whatever cruelties are to be charged upon the Irish in the prosecution of their undertaking—and they are numerous and horrid—yet their first intention went no further than to strip the English and the Protestants of their power and possessions, and, unless forced to it by opposition, not to shed any blood’ (p. 47).
Domestic Papers, Ireland. English Record Office.
Carte's Ormond, i. 176.
MSS., English Record Office. As Sir Phelim O'Neil was the commander of the Irish, his proceedings are especially important as illustrating the character of the rebellion. We have, however, some evidence of the nature of the rebellion in another part, in a letter written by the Lords of the Council to the Lord Lieutenant, Oct. 25. ‘On Saturday, twelve of the clock at night, Lord Blaney came to town and brought us the ill news of the rebels seizing, with 200 men, his house at Castleblaney, in the co. of Monaghan, as also a house of the Earl of Essex, called Carrickmacross, with 200 men, and a house of Sir Henry Spotwood's in the same county, with 200 men; where, there being a little plantation of British, they plundered the town and burnt divers houses; and since it appears that they burnt divers other villages, robbed and spoiled many English, and none but Protestants, leaving the English Papists untouched, as well as the Irish. On Sunday morning at 3 of the clock we had intelligence from Sir Arthur Ternngham that the Irish in the town had that day also broken up the king's store of munition at Newry, where the store of arms hath been ever since the peace … and plundered the English there and disarmed the garrison. And this, though too much, is all that we yet hear is done by them.’ Nalson's Collections, ii. 516. In this letter no mention whatever is made of any murders. No doubt, such might easily have happened without intelligence having yet come either to Dublin or to Belfast, yet this is not the kind of language that would have been used if the outbreak had begun, as a multitude of English historians allege, by a general massacre.
Carte says. ‘They [the Scotch] were so very powerful therein [in the six counties] that the Irish, out of fear of their numbers or for some other politick reason, spared those of that nation (making proclamation, on pain of death, that no Scotchman should be molested in body, goods, or lands), whilst they raged with so much cruelty against the English.’—Carte's Ormond, i. 178. According to Clogy: ‘For a whole month's time or thereabouts they meddled not with the Scots, though they had driven out all the English that were in the fields or in unwalled villages, that had no resting-place; as thinking it too hazardous to engage two such potent nations at once.’—Life of Bedell, p. 173. Col. Mervyn fully corroborates this fact: ‘In the infancy of the rebellion the rebels made open proclamations, upon pain of death, that no Scotchman should be stirred in body, goods, or lands, and that they should to this purpose write over the lyntels of their doors that they were Scotchmen, and so destruction might pass over their families; nay, I read a letter that was sent by two of the rebels, titulary colonels, Col. Nugent and Col. O'Gallagher, a quarter of an hour before my Col. Sir Ralph Gore, encountered with their forces at Ballyshannon, and there slew outright 180 of their men, without [loss of] one man on our side (praised be God), which was directed to “Our honourable friends the gentlemen of the never conquered Scotch nation.”’—An Exact Relation of the Occurrences in the Counties of Donegall, Londonderry, Tyrone, and Fermanagh, presented to the House of Commons of England, by Col. Audeley Mervyn, June 4, 1642. This fact is of capital importance in estimating the extent of the massacre, as the Scotch formed the great majority of the Protestants in Ulster. Nothing can be more grossly inaccurate than the statement of Hallam: ‘The rebellion broke out, as is well known, by a sudden massacre of the Scots and English in Ulster.’—Const. Hist. iii. 391. The rebellion certainly did not begin with a massacre, and when its atrocities began the Scotch were not involved in it.
Clogy's Life of Bedell, p. 161.
See all these cases in Carte, i. 173, 174.
Clogy's Life of Bedell, pp. 180–181.
The rector's letter to Bedell announcing this fact is preserved in the Carte Papers. See Prendergast's Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, pp. 62, 63.
Clogy, pp. 241–243.
‘Whether it was owing to this manner of their assembling, which put the common Irish immediately under a regular command, or to the particular humanity of Philip Reilly, it is certain that there were fewer cruelties committed in this (scarce any being murdered) than in any of the other counties of Ulster.’—Carte, i. 174. In Clogy, as I have noticed in the text, there is no evidence of murders in this county. Borlase, on the other hand, speaking of the Cavan rebels, says. ‘None were more treacherous and fierce than they, as great inhumanity and cruelty being acted by those of Cavan as of any other place.’—Hist. of the Rebellion (ed. 1680), p. 31. This statement is either one of the many evidences of the untrustworthiness of Borlase, or it shows that the atrocities generally committed were immeasurably less than has been alleged. In Bedell's diocese, comprising the whole county, more than ten to one of the inhabitants were Catholics.
An Exact Relation of the Occurrences in Donegall, Londonderry, Tyrone, and Fermanagh, p. 7.
Warner, p. 83. Carte, i. 178.
Thus Clogy speaks of the ‘thousands’ who escaped to Dublin ‘from all parts of the kingdom’ (p. 168). Dean Jones describes the fugitives in Dublin as ‘many thousands.’—Jones's Remonstrance, p. 11. Carte says, ‘many thousands of despoiled English’ fled to Dublin ‘for the north.’ Life of Ormond, i. 194. The Lords Justices say that ‘several thousands’ got safe to Dublin. Carte, i. 178. Temple speaks of the pestilence which broke out at Carrickfergus, on account of the multitude of the fugitives.
Carte, i. 186–189. Carte adds ‘Whether the slaughter made by a party from Carrickfergus, in the territory of Maggee, a long narrow island, running from that town up to Olderfleet (in which it is affirmed that near 3,000 harmless Irish men, women, and children, were cruelly massacred), happened before the surrender of Loargan is hard to be determined, the relations published of facts in those times being very indistinct and uncertain with regard to the time they were committed, though it is confidently asserted that the said massacre happened in this month of November.’ A similar assertion has been made by Clarendon, and in the catalogue of cruelties committed by the English, published by the Irish; but Leland has shown from the MS. ‘depositions in Trinity College that this massacre did not take place till the beginning of January, and that the victims were only thirty families. See Leland's Hist. of Ireland, iii. 128, 129, and, on the other side, Curry's Civil Wars, i. pp. 195–205. It is quite incredible if the massacre of the island Maggee had taken place as early as November, and had been of the dimensions that are alleged, that it should never have been mentioned by the rebels in any of the papers they put forth to justify their conduct. The question who first shed blood has been much discussed, but there is no doubt that some murders—though they were few and isolated—took place in the first week of the rebellion. As I have already shown, however, the Scotch appear to have been unmolested till they attacked the rebels. It is certain that there was nothing resembling a massacre committed by the rebels in the first few days of the rebellion. It is equally certain that before a week had passed the troops slaughtered numbers of the rebels without the loss of one man on their own side. Considering how strongly anti-Irish were the sympathies of Petty, his conclusion is very remarkable: ‘As for the bloodshed in the contest, God best knows who did occasion it!’—Polit. Anatomy of Ireland, ch. iv.
Carte, i. 189.
Nalson, ii. pp. 889–890.
Ibid. p. 893.
Ibid. pp. 900–901.
MSS. English Record office.
Carte's Ormond. ‘Letters on State Affairs,’ xli. (I have modernised the spelling, which is very bad).
This is the estimate of Carte, i. 177, 178. It appears from a Government Survey that in the confiscated counties alone there were, in 1633, 13,092 men capable of bearing arms. Prendergast's Cromwellian Settlement, p. 55.
See p. 130, note.
Lord Clanricarde wrote to his brother, the Earl of Essex ‘For my expressions concerning the Scots, I did and do still beheve it may be worthy your consideration there, that they, when this rebellion began, were above 40,000 well armed, in the north of this kingdom, and might easily have broken it in the beginning; but they have stayed a time of more advantage, to have pay and arms out of England, strong fortresses delivered them there, and more forfeitures of estates. This I relate as the observations of knowing, discreet persons, and no conceptions of mine.’—Carte's Ormond. ‘Letters on State Affairs,’ lxxxiv.
As early as Nov. 5, 1641, the Lords Justices wrote to Clanricarde: ‘We have intelligence that 5,000 Scots are risen in arms against the rebels, and those Scots lie now at Newry, where they have slain many of the rebels and dispersed them from thence, saving a few environed in a castle, which cannot hold out against the Scots.’—Clanricarde's Memoirs, p. 11 (folio ed.). On the 14th, Parsons wrote to Clanricarde: ‘The Northern rebels are still as they were, having no English among them. The Scots do hold them hard to it and have killed some of them. We hear that some forces are landed there out of Scotland, and more are coming, who, I hope, will help to curb these saucy rebels.’—Ibid. pp. 19, 20.
On Nov. 13, the Lords Justices write: ‘Such of the Scots and few English as were not surprised on the sudden by these rebels, but had tyme to make any defence, are now upon their guard.’—English Record Office. Clogy, after noticing a skirmish of Col. Kiltach with the English, the date of which is not given, adds: ‘The Scots then, throughout all the province of Ulster, where they were the most numerous, betook themselves to holds, leaving all the open country to the enemy, for the first attempt of Col. Kiltach had so frighted them that they thought no man was able to stand before that son of Anak’ (p. 175) There is a curious letter in the Record Office, from Turlough O'Neil, the brother of Sir Phelim, dated Nov 22, to Sir Robert Stuart, a Scotch gentleman. He laments ‘the ill-favoured massacre near Augher,’ declares that his correspondent's brother is as well provided for as the writer's wife, and protests that no Scotchman should be touched by any of the gentry. In a letter to Charles I., dated Dec. 12, 1641, Sir J. Temple says: ‘The whole province of Ulster is entirely in the possession of the rebels, except that part which is possessed by your subjects of the Scottish nation who stand upon their guard only, and for want of arms and commanders dare not adventure to attempt anything of moment against the rebels.’ English Record Office. There are a good many cases in the depositions in which Scotchmen were slaughtered, but it is probable that these occurred chiefly in, or after a regular combat, though, no doubt, in the anarchy that was prevailing, there were some simple murders.
A Remonstrance of Divers Remarkable Passages concerning the Church and Kingdom of Ireland, presented to the House of Commons in England, by Dr Henry Jones, agent for the Protestant clergy of that kingdom (1642). It is very remarkable that the first of these commissions was only to take an account of losses, and it was only in the second (that of Jan. 18) that it was amended to include murders. It has been argued, I think very justly, that it is perfectly incredible that this should have been the case if murders in the beginning of the rebellion had been as numerous or as conspicuous as has been alleged. See Mr. Prendergast's very able work, The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland p. 60.
There are three depositions in the report on the subject of this drowning. According to one, ‘Near fourscore English were drowned.’ According to another, eighty persons; according to a third, 196. In the depositions, which were afterwards published in England by Rushworth, under the authority of the Puritan Government, for the purpose of exciting England against Ireland, the numbers had largely grown, and we read of ‘Protestants in multitudes forced over the bridge of Portnadown, whereby at several times there were drowned above 1,000.’ Temple, who based his history on the depositions in Trinity College, asserts that ‘Hundreds of the ghosts of Protestants that were drowned by the rebels at Portnadown bridge, were seen in the river bolt upright, and were heard to cry out for revenge on these rebels. One of these ghosts was seen with hands lifted up, and standing in that posture from the 29th of December to the latter part of the following Lent.’ It is said that they ‘were sometimes seen by day and night walking upon the river, sometimes brandishing their naked swords, sometimes singing psalms, and at other times shrieking in a most fearful and hideous manner.’—Temple's Hist. of the Rebellion, pp. 116–123 On the whole, there is no real doubt about these murders, but it is impossible to speak with confidence about the number of the victims.
In Jones's report there are several depositions about the drowning at Corbridge. The number of the victims is variously stated at thirty-eight, forty, sixty-two, and a hundred and twenty. A gentleman named Creighton, who was one of those who escaped, gives evidence which shows how the massacre occurred. He and many others had been imprisoned fourteen days in Glaslocke Castle, and fourteen more in Monaghan gaol. They were then sent under an escort to Corbridge, where another party attacked the escort, seized the prisoners, killed sixteen at once, and next morning murdered forty-six more at Corbridge. Mervyn asserts that 200 persons were drowned at one time in the Co. Tyrone. (An Exact Relation of the Occurrences in Donegall, &c.).
Lisgoole and Tullin, Jones's Report, pp. 36, 70. Of the two deponents who speak of this episode, one says that Lisgoole contained ‘a matter of fifty souls,’ and that two persons only (who were drawn out of the window) received quarter, and that in Tullin there were thirty or forty Scots. The other deponent speaks of Lisgoole only, but says that it contained ‘seven-score persons, men, women, and children, and that one only escaped. Both deponents derived their information from the rebels. As we have already seen, these massacres are noticed by Carte. Mervyn says they were committed the day after the surrender. Neither he nor Carte speak of the burning. (An Exact Relation of the Occurrences in Donegall, &c., p. 8.)
‘The Lords Justices,’ says Ormond, ‘were at first in great fear and temporised, but when some regiments of Englishmen were landed in Dublin [in Dec. 1641], and others of Scotch in Ulster, they took heart and instigated the officers and soldiers to all cruelty imaginable.’—‘Memorial on the Affairs of Ireland,’ in the Carte papers quoted by Prendergast, Cromwellian Settlement (p. 56). Mr. Prendergast has gathered in the following pages some striking particulars of these instances of cruelty (pp. 57, 58).
In his last moments he declared that ‘the several outrages committed by his officers and soldiers in that war, contrary to his intention, then pressed his conscience very much.’—Dean Ker's testimony, Nalson's Hist. Collections, ii. 529. The account given of the last hours of Sir Phelim O'Neil is very remarkable. Dean Ker, who was present at the trial and death of O'Neil, positively asserts that the Puritan judges offered him his life, and even his liberty and estate, if he could bring any material proof that he had a commission from Charles I. O'Neil answered that the outrages committed by his aiders and abettors, contrary to his intention, now pressed his conscience very much, and that he could not in conscience add to them the unjust calumniating the king, though he had been frequently solicited to it by fair promises and great rewards when he was in prison. The offer was renewed at the gallows, but was again indignantly declined. If Sir Phelim was as atrocious a criminal as he has been represented, it is almost equally wonderful that such an offer should have been made and that it should have been declined. One charge which has been frequently brought against Sir Phelim—that of having murdered Lord Caulfield—has been completely refuted. It has been shown that the murder was perpetrated in his absence, and without his knowledge, and that he took strenuous measures to punish the criminals. Prendergast s Cromnelhan Settlement, p. 63. See too Russell and Prendergast's report on the Carte papers, pp. 118–122.
Carte's Ormond, i. 176, 177. If we may believe one of the depositions in Temple, ‘Sir Phelim began his massacres after his flight from Dundalk’ (Captain Parkin's deposition). This flight took place at the end of March 1642. (Carte's Ormond, i. 290, 291). It appears, however, from General Monroe's report, that the tragedy at Armagh took place about May 6 or 7. Monroe writes ‘Friday, May 6, having settled the garrison, I resolved to march towards the enemy to Ardmach, and having sent forth one strong party of horse and dragoneers towards their army, they, thinking the whole army were marching, retired back on Ardmach and burnt the town, putting all the British to the sword, and retired to the straits of Tyrone.’—‘A Relation of the Proceedings of the Scottish Army in Ireland,’ in the Report of General Monroe to General Leslie (London, 1642). Monroe mentions just before, that on May 1 he had hung or shot two priests and sixty other prisoners at Newry. We shall presently see how his soldiers treated the Irish women in that town. The burning of the pale by Ormond had taken place in April, and the Lords Justices had already given strict orders that all rebels taken in arms and also all men capable of bearing arms, in places where the rebels had been relieved and harboured, should be put to death. Carte's Ormond. Letters on State Affairs, IX Borlase, p 264.
Carte's Ormond, i 349. Carte says the prisoners were few, but the fact that there were any shows that Sir Phelim O'Neil's massacres were not as indiscriminating as is alleged. In General Monroe's Report, and in two journals describing the proceedings in Ulster, in May and June 1642, there are several incidental notices of prisoners in the hands of the rebels. In one case Monroe abstained from burning a castle because the English prisoners would perish in the flames. At the taking of Newry in the beginning of May Lord Conway and Sir H. Tichborne released some prisoners of note who had been there since the rebellion began. In other cases information was derived from prisoners who escaped. These are slight indications, but they show clearly that at the worst period of O'Neil's alleged excesses in Ulster the Irish were accustomed to give quarter.
See the horrible description of the mutilation of English cattle by the Irish, in Carte, 1. 177. Some of the accounts given are very difficult to believe. Thus Thomas Johnson, vicar, of the county of Mayo, swore that ‘the rebels in the baronies of Costelloe and Gallen, in mere hatred and derision of the English … did ordinarily and commonly prefer bills of indictment, and bring the English breed of cattle to be tried upon juries, and having, in their fashion, arraigned those cattle, then their scornful judge sitting amongst them would say “They look as if they could speak English, give them the book and see if they can read,” pronouncing the words legit an non? to the jury; and then because they stood mute, and could not read, he would and did pronounce judgment and sentence of death against them, and they were committed and put to slaughtering.’—Irish Archoeological Society's Tracts (1843), vol. ii. p. 43. Probably the foundation of many of these stories is simply that the rebels destroyed everything that could furnish food to their enemies. In a letter to the Lord Lieutenant, Nov. 13, 1641, the Lords Justices urge the necessity of sending provisions to the seat of war, because ‘the country must be wasted and spoiled on all sides, not only by the rebels to keep relief from us, but by us to leave no relief for them.’—MSS. English Record Office.
Perhaps the strongest statement, outside Temple, of the number of massacred, given by any good authority, is that of Col. Audley Mervyn, who said in a report to the English House of Commons: ‘I can confidently affirm that out of the county of Fermanagh, one of the best planted counties with English, I could never give an account of twenty men escaped, except, which is most improbable, they should fly to Dublin; as for the chiefest (my own estate meering upon the marches of that county), having inquired for prisoners by name, such and such, they have informed me that they were all massacred.’— An Exaet Relation of Occurrences in the Counties of Donegall, Londonderry, Tyrone, and Fermanagh (London, 1642). It is certain from Jones's Report that there were many horrible murders in Fermanagh; but it is evident that impressions like that of Mervyn, in a county where the whole English population had admittedly been obliged to fly from their homes, are of no very great value. Several facts in Meivyn's own narrative negative the supposition of a general massacre He speaks of ‘the conflux of thousands of plundered families,’ in the baronies of Boylagh, Bannagh, and Tirhurgh, which had been wasted by the rebels. He mentions the places to which the inhabitants of other baronies fled, and he states that in Fermanagh itself, his troops ‘relieved 6,000 women and children, which otherwise had perished.’ It appears from his account that the troops with whom he acted killed several thousands of the rebels, losing themselves less than a hundred men.
Lord Castlehaven's Memoirs, p. 28. See too Nalson, 11 538.
Leland says: ‘Whatever were the professions of the chief governors, the only danger they really apprehended was that of a too speedy suppression of the rebels Extensive forfeitures were their favourite object, and that of their friends.’ — Hist. of Ireland, iii. pp. 160. 161. Carte expressly says: ‘The Lords Justices had set their hearts on the extirpation, not only of the mere Irish, but likewise of all the old English families that were Roman Catholics, and the making of a new plantation all over the kingdom, in which they could not fail to have a principal share, so all their reasonings upon all occasions were calculated and intended to promote that, their favourite scheme’ (1. p. 293). See too pp. 259, 260.
I quote one passage from Carte in addition to the evidence I have already given. ‘It was an ordinary and pretty sure way of raising a fortune for an Englishman who wanted one in his own country, to transplant himself thither [to Ireland], and by some way or other of making interest to get into some post of authority (which it was not difficult to do, the salaries of the best not being considerable, and the arts of improving the profit of them not well known in England, or, if they were, not very fit to be matters of choice), and from thence at last into the Privy Council, making in every part of his progress all the advantages which the measure of his power could enable him to take, under pretence of concealed rights of the Crown, forfeited recognisances, penal statutes, unperformed conditions, fraudulent grants and defective titles, in a country where the prerogative was irresistible and unlimited, and in an age when it was even ridiculous to have any scruple about the manner of getting into possession of Irish lands. Too many of the council, constantly resident in Dublin, and thereby having the chief management of affairs, were of this sort of men and … were possibly the less concerned at the progress of the rebellion and the increase of forfeitures, in which they at the helm could not fail to have a share, and were likely to make the most advantage.’—Carte's Ormond, i. 221.
Carte's Ormond, i. 177.
Clarendon, as we have seen, describes the massacre as a sudden surprise of an unsuspecting and peaceful people, which would imply that it took place the first day of the rebellion, a statement that is most certainly untrue. Temple speaks of the worst horrors as having taken place within two months, and May. within one month of the breaking out of the rebellion. Borlase says. ‘The greatest and most horrid massacres were acted before the Parliament could possibly know there was a rebellion, for after that the plot was detected the rebels somewhat slackened their first cruelties.’—Hist. of the Rebellion, p. 50. According to Warner, the commission under which the MSS. depositions were taken was issued in June 1642, so that many months had already elapsed since what was said to be the most sanguinary period of the revolt.—Hist. of the Rebellion, p. 294.
Carte's Ormond, ii. 263–5.
Warner's Hist. of the Rebellion, p. 298.
He says: ‘Anybody that considers the methods used in the time of Sir W. Parsons to get indictments founded upon slight or no grounds, and without adhering to the usual methods of law, or the violence of the Commissioners of Claims in Oliver's time, or who has ever read the examinations and depositions here referred to, which were generally given upon hearsay, and contradicting one another, would think it very hard upon the Irish to have all these, without distinction or examination, admitted as evidence.’—Carte's Ormond, li. 263. See too i. 177, and on the great facility of obtaining false evidence in Ireland, ii. 223. Cont. of the Life of Clarendon, p. 122.
Lord Castlehaven's Memoirs. At the same time Lord Castlehaven says, ‘Nevertheless, it is very certain that there have been great cruelties committed upon the English, though I believe not a twentieth part of what is generally reported.’
He writes, ‘My own private fortune you know is wholly ruined, and such are our necessities here, as admit of no thought of a present reparation of any private loss.’—April 25, 1642. English Record Office.
Carte's Ormond, i. 442.
See Carte, i. 441–443. Letters on State Affairs, cxcvil. Prendergast, pp. 66–67. See, too, on the great unveracity of Temple, Warner, pp. 65, 71, 296.
The Government, however, appears to have looked with disfavour on this book after the Restoration. In 1674 we find Lord Essex, who was then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, writing to the Secretary Coventry: ‘I am to acknowledge the receipt’ of yours of the 22nd of December, wherein you mention a book that was newly published concerning the cruelties committed in Ireland at the beginning of the late war. Upon further inquiry I find Sir J. Temple, Master of the Rolls here, author of that book, was last year sent to by several stationers of London to have his consent to the printing thereof; but he assures me that he utterly denied it, and whoever printed it did it without his knowledge. This much I thought fit to add to what I formerly said upon this occasion, that I might do this gentleman right in case it were suspected he had any share in publishing this new edition.’—Essex's Letters, pp. 2, 3.
Lord Castlehaven's Memoirs, p. 21, Borlase, p. 58.
Walshe's Remonstrance, see Curry, i. 221.
Carte, ii. 52.
Prendergast, pp. 70–71. Mr. Prendergast gives some curious extracts from one of the very few Irish pamphlets that have survived.
1 George I. 2, c. 55.
He says in his preface. ‘I do not presume to arraign the lenity of our governors in Church and State for a very astonishing and unexampled connivance at the increase of Popery; but as such swarms of Jesuits, it is said, and I believe truly, have lately filled these kingdoms, whom other States have wisely banished, and who are the known enemies of our spiritual and political constitution, it appeared very seasonable to produce a history fraught with the dire effects of their religion and their practices in a former age. A liberty of conscience to all those who have been born and educated here in that religion is one thing, and God forbid it should be retrenched; but to permit an army of foreign priests to invade us and to corrupt the minds of Protestant subjects is another, and our laws prohibit it very wisely. … It is much, perhaps, to be doubted whether anything will awaken our superiors from their lethargy; but a lover of his country cannot see this state of things with an eye of indifference, and the greater the danger the more he will exert himself to preserve it’ (p. xv.). In the same spirit Warner endeavours to minimise to the utmost the grievances that produced the rebellion. I mention these facts because Hallam has made (Const. Hist. lil. 352) what appears to me an extremely unjustifiable attack upon Curry, for having described Warner as ‘a writer highly prejudiced against the insurgents.’ It is a simple fact that in the judgment of Warner Catholics should always be kept under the restriction of severe penal laws; that he esteemed any attempt on their part to obtain religious equality, or even (in the modern acceptation of the word) religious liberty, a crime; and that he has grossly underrated the provocations under which they laboured.
Warner, p. 297.
Ibid. p. 295.
Reid's Hist. of the Irish Presbyterians. This statement is reproduced in Killen's Ecclesiastical History. Dr. Reid and Dr. Killen are both Presbyterian ministers. Their histories exhibit much research, and they have shown their honesty by relating many facts that are not consistent with the general tenor of their works; but their books are purely polemical and written under the strongest theological animus, with a view to glorifying as much as possible the Irish Presbyterians, and aggravating as much as possible the misdeeds of those of their fellow-countrymen who are unfortunate enough to be Anglicans or Roman Catholics. Dr. Reid is, as far I know, the only modern writer of any credit who believes in the genuineness of the forged commission of the king to Sir Phelim O'Neil, and the writer on the rebellion whom he quotes with most approbation is Mrs. Macaulay.
Mr. Froude, who does not appear himself to have examined these depositions, says of them: ‘Already in Sir John Temple's time the Catholics had begun to declaim against “these evidences of their cruelty and lively attestations given in to perpetuate the memory of them to their eternal infamy.”—Temple, preface. Dr. Curry dismisses “the enormous heap of malignity and nonsense,” as he calls it, on the ground of a supposed discovery that in “infinitely the greater number” of the depositions the Commissioners’ attestation of them as “being duly sworn” “is struck through by the pen, thus reducing their value to random statements.”—Review of the Civil War in Ireland, p. 176. No doubt these volumes of evidence were justly painful to Dr. Curry. An examination of the originals, however, shows that the erasures, so far from being found in “infinitely the greater number,” are found in relatively very few. Compare Reid's Hist. of the Presbyterians in Ireland.’—English in Ireland, 1. p. 101. It is simple justice to notice that Curry, in the passage which Mr. Froude cites, is avowedly quoting the words of Dr. Warner, and that Dr. Reid, in the passage to which Mr. Froude refers, is avowedly attempting to refute Dr. Warner. By suppressing absolutely the name of the original Protestant authority, by substituting for it that of a Catholic copyist, who never pretended to have himself examined the original depositions, and by coupling this substitution with an attack upon Catholicism, an impression is given which is (to use the mildest term) misleading.
Dec. 8, 1641. Borlase, Hist. of the Irish Rebellion, p. 34. So again, at the time of the truce between the king and the Irish, in 1643, the Parliament protested against any peace with the rebels, among other reasons, because the Papists ‘under pretexts of civil contracts would continue their antichristian idolatry.’—Ibid. p. 129.
Carte, i. 301–302. Lord Castlehaven's Memoirs, pp. 32, 33.
Leland, iii. 161. Carte, i. 301–2.
See much evidence of this in Prendergast, pp. 67, 68; Curry, i. p. 306.
Napier's Life of Montrose, pp. 391, 392.
Warner, p. 165. Feb. 23, 1641–42. Carte, i. 283. Letters on State Affairs, lx.
Carte, i. 323.
Ibid. i. 290.
Hist. of Ireland, iii. p. 146. Carte says of this county: ‘Hard was the case of the country people at this time, when, not being able to hinder parties of robbers and rebels breaking into their houses and taking refreshments there, this should be deemed a treasonable act and sufficient to authorise a massacre This, following so soon after the executions which Sir C. Coote (who, in revenge of his own losses and the barbarities of the Ulster Irish, certainly carried matters to such extremities as nobody can excuse) had ordered in the county Wicklow, amongst which, when a soldier was carrying about a poor babe on the end of his pike, he was charged with saying that he liked such frolics, made it presently be imagined that it was determined to proceed against all suspected persons in the same undistinguishing way of cruelty.’—Life of Ormond, 1. 244, 245. See too 259. Lords Fingall. Gormanstown, and the other Lords of the Pale wrote to the Lords Justices: ‘We have received certain advertisements that Sir Charles Coote, Knight, at the Council Board hath offered some speeches tending to a purpose and resolution to execute upon those of our religion a general massacre.’—Borlase, pp. 40, 41. He was immediately after made Governor of Dublin, and the appointment showed the Catholics clearly the spirit of the Government. See Warner, pp. 135, 136. Borlase gives a striking picture of the manner in which Coote was idolised by the English (p. 79).
Nalson assures us ‘that the severities of the provost-marshals and the barbarism of the soldiers to the Irish were then such that he heard a relation of his own, who was a captain in that service, relate that no manner of compassion or discrimination was shown either to age or sex, but that the little children were promiscuous sufferers with the guilty; and that if any who had some grains of compassion reprehended the soldiers for this unchristian inhumanity they would scornfully reply, “Why, nits will be lice,” and so would dispatch them.’ Nalson's Collections, 11. Introd. See, too, some curious evidence on this subject in Prendergast, pp. 58, 59.
Ormond's Letters, ii. 350. (Oct. 1647.)
Curry, i. 273.
Carte's Ormond, i. 293–296.
Memoirs, p. 21.
Letters on State Affairs. Carte's Ormond, xcix.
Ibid. cx. I have found two honourable instances of English officers setting their faces against these crimes. In A Letter sent by Roger Pike from Carrickfergus to Mr. Tobias Siedgewicke, living in London, June 8, 1642, we have an account day by day, apparently by an eye-witness, of the proceedings of the army, written from a strong English point of view. In the beginning of May, 1642, it states, at Newry, ‘The common soldiers, without direction from the General-Major, took some eighteen of the Irish women of the town, and stript them naked and threw them into the river and drowned them, shooting some in the water; more had suffered so, but that some of the common soldiers were made examples of and punished’ (p. 5). In another contemporary journal of the northern campaign, it is stated that on May 10, (1642): ‘A lieutenant was shot to death with us for killing a woman.’—Diurnal of the Most Remarkable Passages in Ireland, from the 5th of May to the 2nd of June, by C. J, an eye-witness of them (London, 1642).
See Warner. Lord Upper Ossory wrote to Ormond (Dec. 23, 1641): ‘The Lord President of Munster is so cruell and merciless that he caused honest men and women to be most execrably executed; and amongst the rest caused a woman, great with child, to be ript up, and take three babes together out of her womb, and then to thrust every one of the babes with weapons through their little bodies.’—Letters on State Affairs. Carte's Ormond, 1.
Carte, i. 264–266.
Ibid. i. pp. 311, 495.
Lord Castlehaven's Memoirs, p. 38.
Carte, i. 126.
See the description in A letter by Roger Pike from Carrickfergus to Mr. Tobias Siedgenwicke (London, 1642).
A New Remonstrance of Ireland, or Durnal of the Most Remarkable Passages, from the 5th of May to the 2nd of June, 1642, by C. J., an eyewitness (London, 1642)
Carte, i. 283–290. Letters on State Affairs, lxiv.
Borlase, p. 87.
They will be found in the appendix to Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion, and in Curry's Hist. Much striking evidence from contemporary pamphlets, &c., of the almost inconceivable atrocity with which the rebellion was suppressed, will be found in Mr. Prendergast's Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, pp. 56–71. See too The Memoirs of George Leyburn (1722), p. xi.
Borlase, p. 264.
See Prendergast, p. 57.
Carte's Ormond, i. 349. Warner, p. 226.
Carte's Ormond i. pp. 212, 215, 216.
Lord Clanricarde's Memoirs, pp. 72–74. The Bishop of Killala, who was one of the company, and a few others, were saved by the efforts of Mr. Ulick Burke of Castle Hacket. The murderers are said to have come from the county Mayo.
Carte, i. 323. Thus Lord Clanricarde writes to the Lords Justices (May 18, 1642): ‘I have, from the very beginning of the distempers of this kingdom, employed my utmost industry for the safety and preservation of the English inhabitants of this county [Galway] and such as came for refuge hither, and though I could not possibly prevent the spoiling of many in their goods and stocks for want of a troop of horse … yet, I thank God, none have miscarried in this county that I can hear of but two or three in Galway by a tumult. … and two that were killed in Clarke's ship.’—Memoirs (p. 141).
Carte's Ormond, i. 268.
Ibid. i. 381.
Ibid. i. 268.
Carte, i. 267–270.
See, on this and several other instances of humanity on the part of the rebels, Nalson's Historical Collections, ii. 634–636. Carte, i. 157, 270.
Lord Clanricarde's Memoirs, p. 146.
Warner, pp. 201, 202. Carte, i. 316–317.
MSS. English Record Office.
Carto expressly says that ‘in Munster and Leinster very few murders were committed.’—Life of Ormond, i. 177. But, of course, in a war lasting for ten years and in which the Lords Justices had ordered that no quarter should be given there must have been many acts of savage retaliation. In March 1641–2 Sir Henry Stradling writes from Kinsale: ‘There is very little quarter given on either side.’—Irish Papers, English Record Office. In a letter dated Nov. 25, 1641, the Lords Justices describe the savage agrarian outburst in the territory of the O'Byrnes in the counties of Wicklow and Wexford. ‘In both of these counties all the cattle and horses of the English, with all their substance, are coroe into the hands of the rebels, and the English themselves, with their wives and children, stripped naked, and banished thence by their fury and rage.’—Ibid. Cromwell apologised for his massacre at Wexford by alleging two horrible instances of massacre in that city, with which he had ‘lately been acquainted,’ but as far as I know there is no other evidence of these tragedies. See Carlyle's Cromwell, pt. v.
Jones's Remonstrance, pp. 18, 26, 34, 35, 42, 43, 45, 46.
Thus the Ulster rebels on taking arms, alleged ‘that the Parliament of England … gave them reason to apprehend by some Acts they were about to pass concerning religion, and by threats of sending over the Scotch army with sword and Bible in hand into Ireland, that their whole and studied design was not only to extinguish religion (by which they lived altogether happy) but likewise to supplant them, and rase the name of Catholic Irish out of the whole kingdom.’—Carte's Ormond, i 182. The Catholics of the Pale, in their very able remonstrance (March 1742, Curry, ii. 333–346), dwelt upon the same fact, as a leading cause of their insurrection. On Nov. 10, 1641, some of the rebels sent to Lord Dillon a list of their grievances and of their demands The former were (1) that the Papists are severely punished (though they be loyal subjects to His Majesty) in the neighbouring counties, which serve them as beacons to look unto their own countrie,’ (2) the incapacity, of Papists to hold office; (3) the Act of Uniformity; (4) ‘that their lands and liberties are taken from them by quirks and quiddities of law, without reflecting upon the king's royal intention;’ (5) that ‘the mere Irish’ are not allowed to purchase land in the escheated counties.—Irish MSS. English Record Office. The remonstrance of the gentry in Cavan (which Bedell consented to draw up) says: ‘We find ourselves of late threatened either with captivity of our consciences, or utter expulsion from our native seats.’ See, too, on the effect of the English measures against Catholicism in producing the Irish rebellion. Nalson, ii. 536.
See several of their letters in Lord Clanricarde's Memoirs, especially pp. 67, 104, 105.
Dr. Jones's Remonstrance, pp. 32, 33. These are the only words in the deposition relating to the division of opinion. The reader may compare them with Mr. Froude's version. The italics are my own. ‘At the beginning of October the leading Catholic clergy and laity met at a Franciscan abbey in Westmeath, to discuss a question on which their opinions were divided—the course to be taken with the Protestant settlers who were scattered over the country. That they must be dispossessed was a matter of course—it was the price of the co-operation of the Celts; but whether by death or banishment was undecided. According to the priests, heretics mere disentitled to mercy. The less violent party considered that massacres were ugly things, and left an ill name behind them.’—English in Ireland, i. 95.
Carte's Ormond, i. 176.
See Jones's Remonstrance.
Borlase, Hist. of the Irish Rebellion, pp. 264–265.
Clogy's Life of Bedell. It was very characteristic of Bedell that he duly celebrated the service for the 5th of November, while a prisoner in the hands of the rebels.
Carte's Ormond, i. 266–267.
Ibid. ii. 9.
Killen, Ecclesiastical Hist. ii. 50.
Carte's Ormond, ii. 278, 279.
Borlase, p. 265.
Clogy, pp. 174, 175. The narrative of Clogy is one of the most important documents relating to the insurrection of 1641. It has been again and again quoted, and as it furnished the chief materials for the Life of Bedell, by Burnet, it was familiar to all students of the period before the original manuscript was printed in 1862. It proves conclusively that the rebellion had not the universally ferocious character, or the religious character which many writers, and pre-eminently Mr. Froude, have assigned to it. Mr. Froude has dealt with it in his usual manner—suppressing the evidence - and no trace of it will be found in his history. In the same way, while admitting in general terms that the leading Catholic nobles ‘had no sympathy with murder and pillage,’ he has suppressed every particular instance of humanity on the part of the rebels,—all the evidence which shows that over the greater part of Ireland, and in some instances even in Ulster, they acted with remarkable humanity and self-restraint. He has suppressed all evidence of the savage spirit in which the soldiers carried on the struggle, though the horrors they committed from the very first undoubtedly contributed largely to give a character of general ferocity to the contest. He has suppressed all the reasons stated in the text which throw a great doubt upon the depositions in Trinity College and upon the veracity of Temple. He has reduced to the smallest possible proportions the intolerable provocation which produced the rebellion, asserting, as we have seen in one place, that the rebellion was merely a consequence of the indulgence of the Protestants. His narrative consists chiefly of a collection of the most hideous crimes narrated by Temple—many of them, on Temples own showing, resting upon the loosest hearsay evidence—and these crimes are represented as if they were at once unquestionable, unprovoked, and unparalleled. The object is to represent the Irish people, and especially the Irish Catholics, in the most hateful light, and, accordingly, everything that could mitagate or alter this impression is carefully suppressed. Such a method of manipulating the facts of history when employed by an eminently skilful writer, is, no doubt, very effective for the purpose for which it is intended. How far a writer who pursues it is deserving of respect or confidence as an historian, is another question.
Life of Anthony Wood prefixed to the Athenæ Oxonienses.
See that most admirable work of Mr. Prendergast, The Cromnellian Settlement of Ireland—a book which ought to be carefully studied by everyone who desires to understand the course of later Irish history.
Articles of Peace (1649) § 4,18.
Carte's Ormond, ii. 129.
Carte's Ormond, ii. 214.
Carte's Ormond, ii. 216–217. Irish Stat. 14. 15 Charles ii. c. 2.
Carte, ii. 220–221.
Carte, ii. 259. Petty was very active at this period and was accused of having boasted that he had ‘witnesses who would swear through a three inch board’ (ib. 393). He was accused before the Court of Claims of suborning withnesses, but the case was brought before the Irish House of Commons which acquitted him. Commons Journal, ii. 613, 653.
Carte's Ormond, ii. 240.
Continuation of the Life of Clarendon, p. 66.
Carte's Ormond, ii. 236.
Ibid. 241, 242.
The extreme indignation which this produced among the adventurers may be traced in the often quoted assertion of Petty—one of the most prominent of the class—that not one of twenty who were adjudged innocent were really so. Clarendon fully confirms what has been said about the high character of the Commissioners, but adds, ‘There was experience in the prosecution of this affair of such forgeries and perjuries as have not been heard of amongst Christians; in which to our shame the English were not behindhand with the Irish’ (Continuation of the Life of Clarendon, folio ed.), p. 114. See too pp. 125–127. Mr. Froude says, ‘The working of an act so vaguely worded depended wholly on the temper of the juries before whom the cases came,’ and he speaks of ‘the tendency of the juries to favour the native Catholics’ (English in Ireland, i. 150, 152). It was expressly provided that there should be no juries in the case, and that the Commissioners (who were all English Protestants) should give the verdict as well as conduct the trials. In the words of Clarendon, ‘They were therefore trusted with an aibitrary power, because it was foreseen that juries were not like to be entire’ (Continuation of the Life of Clarendon, p. 127). The only case in which juries were admitted was when there was a dispute as to whether particular lands were profitable or unprofitable (14 & 15 Charles II. c. 2 § 6). Carte says: ‘The Act by which the Commissioners were to judge had been framed and passed without the advice or concurrence of one Irishman or Roman Catholic. The rules by which they were to proceed were expressed in that Act, and the Commissioners chosen by the King were Englishmen, Protestants, men of good reputation for parts and integrity, without any relation to Ireland or Irishmen’ (ii. 311).
17, 18 Charles ii. c. 2. Craw-furd's Hist. of Ireland, ii. 141–142. Carte's Ormond, ii. Leland, iii. 440.
Petty's Political Anatomy. Craw-furd's Hist. ii. 142. Hallam's Const. Hist.
King's State of the Protestants in Ireland, p. 161.
According to King seven bishops remained in the kingdom. Four reeived writs and were ordered to attend. The other three were excused, on the ground of age or sickness, but two of these (the Primate and the Bishop of Waterford) signed by proxy the protest in the Lords against the repeal of the Act of Settlement. King, p. 169. Somers' Tracts, xi. 410.
King says four, but he omits Col. Bourke, who was made Baron Boffeen in April. A list of honours conferred by James II. MSS. Irish State Paper Office.
King says, ‘The generality of the Houses consisted of the sons and descendants of the forfeiting persons in 1641.’—State of the Protestants in Ireland, p. 172.
There is, however, a very remarkable letter from the Catholic Bishop Molowny to Bishop Tyrrell which was found among the papers of the latter, sketching what Molowny thought the true principles of settling Ireland. He desired that the adventurers who had displaced the old proprietors by the Act of Settlement should be all removed and the former proprietors restored, subject to a compensation for those who had purchased from the adventurers. In the case of the church benefices he wished also that the Catholics should be restored, but ‘that a competent pension should be allowed to the Protestant possessoi during his life; for he can pretend no longer lease of it; or that he should give the Catholick bishop or incumbent a competent pension, if it were thought fitter to let him enjoy his possession during life.’ King's State of the Protestants of Ireland, Ap., 17. King says, what is probably very true, that the Protestant clergy had much practical difficulty in recovering the tithes that remained to them, and that they were often treated with great violence and injustice by their Catholic neighbours.
A list of the Members and of the Acts of the Parliament of 1689 was printed in London in that year. In 1690 copies of several of the Acts and a list of attainted persons were printed in London by R. Clavell. There is also a list of Acts printed in Dublin. The official records were destroyed when the Revolution was accomplished. 7 Will. III. c. 3 (Irish).
By far the best and fullest account of this Parliament with which I am acquainted is to be found in a series of papers upon it (which have unfortunately never been reprinted) by Thos. Davis, in the Dublin Magazine, of 1843. In these papers the Acts of Repeal and of Attainder are printed at length, and the extant evidence relating to them is collected and sifted with an industry and a skill that leave little to be desired. I must take this opportunity of expressing my grateful thanks to Sir Charles Gavan Duffy for having called my attention to these most valuable, but now almost forgotten papers.
The words of the Act are very loose. They enacted that all the real property ‘which on the 1st day of August 1688, or at any time since, belonged or appertained to any person or persons whatsoever, who on the said 1st day of August 1688, or at any time since, was in rebellion or in arms against your most sacred Majesty, either in this kingdom, or in the kingdom of England or Scotland, or who corresponded or kept intelligence with, or went, contrary to their allegiance, to dwell or stay among the said rebels, or any of them, be and are henceforth forfeited unto, and vested in your Majesty’ (§ 10). These words if strictly construed would comprehend all Irish proprietors who were living peacefully in England, or who had written on private business to anyone who was living in any part of the kingdom which acknowledged William. It is, however, quite possible, and in my judgment much more probable that they were intended only to include those who had taken some active step in favour of William, or had formally acknowledged his authority. The Act of Attainder, as we shall see, confiscated conditionally the land of absentees, unless they returned by a particular date. Such a provision could have hardly passed if the Irish Parliament had meant just before to pass an Act confiscating these lands absolutely and without resource.
Lord Macaulay, in his description of this Act, has devoted pages of brilliant rhetoric to setting forth in the strongest possible terms the iniquity of despoiling the purchaser who had invested his savings in Irish land, but he has made no mention whatever of the compensation that was to be assigned to him. Yet surely this is not an immaterial element in judging the law. What would be thought of a writer who, in opposing, on the ground of justice, a bill for appropriating private property for railways or some other public purpose, kept absolutely out of sight the fact that it was intended to compensate the owner for his loss? The memorial drawn up by Judge Keating against the Act, from which Macaulay has drawn most of his arguments, dismisses the proposed reprisals in the most cursory manner (append. to King), but this memorial was drawn up before the Bill had passed, and when it was still uncertain what course the Irish legislature would pursue.
Dopping, the Bishop of Meath, who was in this Parliament, delivered a remarkable speech against the Bill for repealing the Act of Settlement (which is given in the appendix to King). In it he deals at length with the question of reprisals. His objections on this ground were (1) that the purchasers under the Act of Settlement were compelled to make the exchange, (2) that the Commissioners, and not they themselves, were to decide whether the compensation was of equal value to what was taken away; (3) that the purchasers were to be deprived first, and might have to wait for their compensation, and (4) that by a clause which the House of Lords introduced into the Bill, in the forfeited estates ‘the remainders expectant on estates for lives’ were saved, so that, in the opinion of the bishop, ‘most of the reprisable persons must part with an inheritance to them and their heirs, and get only in lieu of it an estate for life.’ It is obvious that this last objection is much the most serious. It appears that the Commons insisted that ‘the remainders should be forfeited and vested in the king,’ but after a conference with the House of Lords they yielded about this particular class of remainders. Somers' Tracts, xi 410. A True Account of the Proceedings of the Parliament of Ireland to the 29tth of June. The provisions about the different kinds of remainders in the Act of repeal are various and extremely intricate, and I cannot undertake to pronounce upon their merits. Keating, alluding to the project of giving reprisals, questions whether the rebels' properties were sufficient to furnish them. It is plain that he, at least, did not consider that the Act of Repeal was meant to confiscate the estates of mere absentees. King tries to represent the compensation clause as nugatory by an argument which appears to me entirely frivolous and disingenuous. He quotes the very innocent clause of the Act which enabled the King to ‘gratify meriting persons, and to order the Commissioners to set forth reprisals, and likewise to appoint and ascertain where and what lands should be set out to them,’ and he argues that whenever a Protestant was to be reprised ‘a meriting Papist’ would petition for that land.
Lord Macaulay says of this Act: ‘If a proscribed person failed to appear by the appointed day, he was to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, without trial, and his property was to be confiscated. It might be physically impossible for him to deliver himself up within the time fixed by the Act. He might be bedridden. He might be in the West Indies. He might be in prison. Indeed, there were notoriously such cases. Among the attainted Lords was Mountjoy … He had been thrown into the Bastille—he was still lying there; and the Irish Parliament was not ashamed to enact that unless he eould, within a few weeks, make his escape from his cell and present himself at Dublin, he should be put to death.’—Hist, of England, ch. xii. This may have been the effect of the Act, but I do not believe that it was the intention of the legislators. It will be seen from the text that the Act expressly provided for the case of many persons who were prevented through unavoidable causes from presenting themselves at the appointed time, and established a simple process by which they could, if innocent, recover their property. It is true that the Parliament undertook to draw up a list of those who were thus incapacitated, and the clause in question, therefore, only included strictly the persons in that list; but the intention of the legislature was clearly shown, and it seems to me incredible in the face of this clause that the plea of physical incapacity would not have been admitted, if proved in other cases. Lesley says, ‘When any application was made on behalf of absentees and any tolerable reason given for their not returning, there was not only no advantage taken of their not coming in on the time limited in King James's proclamations, but they had time sine die given them to come in when they could, and in the meantime their goods were preserved.’—Answer to Ring, p. 147. He says, however, that this was solely due to James and was unpopular with the Irish.
Somers' Tracts, vol. xi. 406–410. 426, 427.
A True Account of the Proceedings of the Parliament in Ireland beginning March 25, 1689, and ending June 29 following London printed by R. Clavell, 1689.
He says: ‘I can't say that I have examined into every single matter of fact which this author [King] relates; I could not have the opportunity; but I am sure I have looked into the most material, and by these you will easily judge of his sincerity in the rest. But this I can say, that there is not one I have inquired into but I have found it false in the whole or in part, aggravated or misrepresented so as to alter the whole face of the story, and give it perfectly another air and turn; insomuch, that though many things he says are true, yet he has hardly spoken a true word, that is, told it truly and nakedly without a warp.’—Answer to King.
16 Charles I. c. 33.
Commons' Journals. I think the reader will agree with me that it is very surprising that Macaulay, who has dwelt with so much emphasis and indignation upon the Irish Act of Attainder, and who has related with extreme minuteness most of the proceedings of the English Parliament, which was prorogued on August 20, has kept an absolute silence about this episode. There is not an allusion to it in his history. The bill was again brought in on the 30th of Oct., 1689, and similar bills were introduced on the 4th of April and on the 22nd of October, 1690, but they were not carried, though the last bill passed the Commons, Dec. 23, 1690.
See King, Appendix 24. It appears from King that the object of this law was to put an end to the plunder of absentee property which had been going on through the country. The personal property of absentees in Dublin was for the most part sent to England, without molestation, by agents of the absentees.