Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER I.: RELIGIOUS WARS. - Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1
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CHAPTER I.: RELIGIOUS WARS. - Gustave de Beaumont, Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1 
Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, ed. W.C. Taylor (London: Richard Bentley, 1839). Vol. 1.
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What four hundred years could not effect, we shall see accomplished in a century—the complete conquest of Ireland. Henry VIII. commenced the work, Elizabeth and Cromwell finished it. Three despots of such a stamp were not likely to wish the same thing without effecting it, and each of them desired ardently, though for different reasons, the conquest of Ireland. It is not the achievement itself that deserves our attention, so much as the causes which produced it, and the consequences which followed. Until then, Ireland had only been to England an object of secondary consideration; how did it suddenly become the principal object of English policy? Elizabeth expended on its conquest all the treasures of England: Cromwell displayed in its reduction all the resources of his valour and intense will; and when the great reliligious and political drama, which, during the seventeenth century, so fearfully agitated England and the entire world, came to a close, Ireland was the theatre of the combat; the problem of English liberty or servitude was solved on the banks of the Boyne.
Ireland was conquered—all the Irish insurrections stifled; henceforth there is but a single law in Ireland, that of England; there is no more a Pale, no more Irish provinces distinct from the colony; all becomes English Ireland, and every inhabitant is equally subject to the English sovereign. How does it happen that this contest, instead of preparing a union between the conquerors and conquered, establishes between them a new and larger separation, renders hereafter a compact union impossible, and plants in the breasts of both parties germs of mutual hatred, which have only been further developed by the course of years and ages!
The solution of these questions is found in a single fact, which is, as it were, the soul of this entire period, and the key of all Irish miseries; I mean the opposition which was then established between the religious creed of the conquerors and the vanquished.
How, when England became Protestant, it must have desired that Ireland should become so likewise.
The philosophic and religious movement which, in the sixteenth century, terminated in the Reformation, and produced such an immense effect in England and Scotland, did not reach Ireland: whilst England and Scotland became protestant, Ireland remained catholic.
From the first moment of its appearance on the stage of the world, the doctrine of Luther had divided nations, and this separation was not accidental.
Although the theory of the innovators was very far from freedom, it had been forced, if not to give it birth, at least to invoke its name, and that was sufficient to ensure the Reformation a natural sympathy among populations in possession of free institutions, whilst the countries subject to despotism naturally rejected a worship sprung from free examination, and attached themselves more closely than ever to the ancient faith, which was based on authority.
This, united with several other causes not connected with my subject, explains why France and Spain continued linked to the court of Rome, whilst England and Scotland separated from it. The religious dispute of the sixteenth century was not merely a dispute of ideas and creeds, struggling with each other in the arena of intelligence and faith; it was a political war of nations; it was a solemn contest between the principle of authority represented by the immovable power of the court of Rome, and the liberty of which the Reformation was the symbol.
I have already said that England took the side of the Reformation; hence the chief cause of the misfortunes of Ireland during the period which occupies our attention. England having become protestant, must have wished that Ireland should become so likewise, and this was to wish an impossibility.
England must have wished it; and, in fact, the spirit of proselytism which then animated the christian world, was not less ardent with her than the other countries of Europe. Her reformers were as enthusiastic and intolerant as the Catholics whom they had conquered; and religious fanaticism by itself would have impelled the English to attempt the conversion of Ireland; but they had, in addition, an imperious political reason: if they did not impose the reformed faith on Ireland, they had reason to fear that Ireland would re-establish the Catholic church. Whilst they stigmatised the Romish creed with the names superstition and idolatry, the Catholics repulsed the reformed doctrine as heretical and impious. In this season of ardent faith, one church could only be preserved by the destruction of the other. In truth, Ireland in the sixteenth century was not formidable to England except on account of foreigners. Scarcely had the great quarrel between Protestantism and Catholicism burst forth in Europe, when Ireland became the aim of all the Catholic countries, eager to overthrow Protestantism in England. It was the hope of the court of Rome, and the centre to which the intrigues of the Papacy, Spain, and France, tended. From the very beginning of the Reformation, the sovereign pontiff indicated his reliance on Ireland, by circulating an old prophecy, intimating that the throne of St. Peter would not be shaken so long as Ireland remained Catholic.*
Thus, though England had been led, by intolerant passions, to combat the Catholic religion in Ireland, it would have been compelled to the effort by care for its own defence, and interest in its own liberties.
But I have said, that in wishing to render Ireland Protestant, England desired an impossibility, and this is easily demonstrated.†
Of the Causes that prevented Ireland from becoming Protestant.
After the long night of the middle ages, light had suddenly sprung up amongst all the nations of Europe, and society had made rapid progress everywhere, except in Ireland, where the civil strife of the conquest having been perpetuated, everything remained stationary.
In the midst of a political chaos and a moral anarchy, faith in the Catholic and Romish church had alone remained in the creed of the Irish people. This faith reigned in absolute sovereignty over their minds, without any other idea to divide its empire.* Whilst the successive efforts of a philosophical spirit prepared Europe for religious reform, Ireland, in a remote corner of the world, distant from every intellectual movement, was still safe from doubt; she had learned nothing of Wycliffe or Huss; she had not heard the mutterings that preceded the eruption of the volcano; she had seen none of the brilliant flashes which heralded the great conflagration of the sixteenth century.
Of all European countries, Ireland was consequently the most attached to its ancient creed, and the least capable of comprehending the new religion which the English wished to establish.
It must be added, that had these dispositions been different, the Reformation presented itself under such circumstances that it could not be accepted.
Who, in fact, brought to Ireland a creed which the country neither desired nor comprehended? It was brought by a people with whom the country had been at war for four hundred years, by a people whom it hated as a mortal foe, and from whose yoke it still hoped to escape. It might be said with confidence, that if the Irish were inclined to reform their faith, this attempt of England would have prevented them; under existing circumstances, it would only be an additional motive to combat an adversary, who not only wished to conquer the country, but to impose upon it a religion.
Besides, when the monarchs of England invited the Irish to shake off the yoke of Rome, they found themselves in a dilemna, which must have invited the Irish to resistance, if they had not been impelled by more serious motives. It was from the pope that the English monarch had originally received his rights; how then could he contest the power from which he held his sovereignty? how throw doubt on the spiritual authority of the pope, whose temporal power had not been contested when it was exerted to bestow a kingdom?
The enterprise of England was clearly impossible. Thus the despotism of the Tudors, which established the Anglican church in England, only revolted Ireland. Henry VIII. and Elizabeth seized all the monasteries, greedily confiscated all ecclesiastical wealth, commanded the use of the Anglican ritual in all the Catholic churches,* subjected to severe penalties those who absented themselves from church, and made the oath of supremacy necessary for sharing in all acts of social and political life. They had acted the same way in England, but the two countries were in a different position. After the sanguinary wars of the Roses, the English wished, at all hazards, to give their monarchs power, which indeed they were capable of taking by force. Religious supremacy could not be refused to Henry VIII. without diminishing his royal authority, of which it formed a part, and to this the English people had no inclination. It was quite the contrary with the Irish, who, far from seeking to strengthen the power of the English monarch, were eager to escape from it, and eagerly seized an additional reason for detesting it. Thus, while Henry VIII. and Elizabeth established the reformed faith in England, according to their will and pleasure, all their efforts to fix it in Ireland terminated in three or four insurrections against England, to which, without doubt, the national sentiment was no stranger, but which, nevertheless, were principally derived from the new source of hatred springing from religion.*
Ireland was, in truth, subdued by Elizabeth.† This princess, in less than ten years, spent three millions and a half of money, an immense sum for the sixteenth century; and lost an incalculable number of her bravest soldiers in effecting this conquest. But the result of the submission of Ireland was the cessation of the war, not the adoption of the Anglican worship. Perhaps it might have been foreseen that the Irish, whilst submitting to civil and political laws, would retain their religious creed and worship; for it is the natural disposition of man, when he undergoes physical violence, to take refuge in his soul, and proclaim himself free there, while his body is loaded with chains.
The first efforts of despotism had been vain; the Irish retained only the recollection of the tyranny; they remembered that, to conquer them and change their worship, Elizabeth had waged a cruel war, followed by frightful famine and destructive plague.*
The Stuarts ascended the throne of England; the English became more protestant, because they suspected that their rulers were not so. The Irish, on the contrary, believing the Stuarts Catholics, were encouraged to remain such. This is the reason why, after Charles I, the Irish, who hated the English, generally loved the king of England. The fear of fines, the dread of confiscation, the terror of imprisonment, often produced external conformity to the English worship in the towns; all those who executed any public, even a municipal office, were obliged under heavy penalties to comply with the English ritual;* finally, there was always a current of new comers from England, who were Protestants when they arrived, and remained what they were. Nevertheless, in consequence of political events, the English government which imposed this worship lost its power in Ireland; the English settlers, as well as the Irish natives, abandoned the Anglican church, and spontaneously returned to the Catholic religion. This happened after the death of Elizabeth, to whom James I. succeeded, a monarch believed in Ireland favourable to catholicism.† It was the same under Charles I. in 1642, when the population believed it possible to take up arms against the English parliament, and at the same time remain faithful to the king. Even during the periods of tranquillity and submission, observance of the Anglican worship was with difficulty obtained from the English inhabitants of the towns themselves. During Elizabeth’s reign, the greatest persecution of the Catholics was the prohibition of their own ritual; no serious efforts were made to enforce the adoption of that of England. James I. was more enterprising without being more fortunate. During his reign it once happened that the town of Galway could not find a mayor willing to take the oath of supremacy;* and Chichester, viceroy of Ireland,† giving an account of the vain efforts he had made to bring over some leading personages to the Anglican church, whose conversion was eagerly desired, depicted very accurately the state of the country when he declared that the atmosphere and even “the soil of Ireland were tainted with popery.”
Such was the state of affairs in Ireland, that the reformed religion could not be supported by a regular and durable persecution. Circumstances necessarily and suddenly led to a general war. In England it was a struggle of parties so nearly balanced, that one was ultimately the master of the other; in Ireland it was an entire Catholic population driven to revolt when its religion was assailed.
How England rendered Ireland Protestant—Protestant Colonisation—Elizabeth and James I.
It was impossible to convert Ireland to Protestantism, and yet it was necessary that Ireland should become Protestant.
This necessity was every day more imperious for England; for, besides its hatred against a religious and political principle hostile to its own, it feared Catholic Ireland, and the more, as its own liberties were disputed, and as the absolute governments of the continent formed many intrigues in Ireland to strike with the same blow the Protestant religion and the liberties of England.
The first means derived from persecution and war having failed, another was tried: wholesale confiscation; the expulsion of the Catholics from the Irish soil, and their immediate replacement by Protestant colonists. This violent and odious means had nothing repugnant to the manners of the times; for confiscation and death had been at the bottom of all the political and religious quarrels from the time of Henry VIII.; it could only be said, that when tried on so vast a scale it was of difficult execution; for how could an entire population be driven from its natal soil? What was to be done with the people torn from their dwellings? How could all be massacred? If not massacred, how were they to live when plundered? And further, how could an entire people be found ready to take their place? It is not so easy as people think to practise injustice. Still the obstacles did not daunt the projectors.
The first attempt of this kind was made in the reign of Elizabeth. The genius of this queen discovered the object to be attained, and her tyranny easily adopted the means. Desmond’s revolt was the opportunity.* Near six thousand acres in the province of Munster having been confiscated, proclamation was made in England, offering these lands to all who would take them on certain conditions, of which the first was, that not a single farmer or labourer of Irish birth should be employed on these lands.* About two hundred thousand acres were thus distributed to the new settlers of English descent. The old inhabitants of the soil, dispossessed of their domains, only found shelter in the depths of the forests, or on the uncultivated sides of the mountains.
The work begun by Elizabeth was continued by her successors.
In the reign of James I., the real or imaginary plot of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, and Sir Cahir O’Dogherty, having been detected, the six northern counties which belonged to them, (as suzerains,† ) Donegal, Tyrone, Derry, Fermanagh, Cavan, and Armagh, were confiscated to the crown; rather more than half a million of acres were thus placed at James’s disposal. As, after Elizabeth’s first confiscation, several of the English on whom lands had been bestowed had not entered on the possession, James permitted the Scots on this occasion to share with the English in the division of the confiscated estates, under the pretence that they were nearer Ireland, but in reality through partiality for his countrymen.
The regulation of this new colony was not precisely similar to that which had served as a base for the first.
In Elizabeth’s colony, the occupant of the soil should be an Englishman—in that of James I., it was necessary he should be a Protestant of the Anglican church.*
Experience had consequently shown a defect in the first colony, which an effort was made to avoid in the second.
“The original English adventurers,” says Leland, “on their first settlement in Ireland, were captivated by the fair appearance of the plain and open districts. Here they erected their castles and habitations, and forced the old natives into the woods and mountains, their natural fortresses: thither they drove their preys—there they kept themselves unknown, living by the milk of their kine, without husbandry or tillage—there they increased to infinite numbers by promiscuous generation, and there they held their assemblies, and formed their conspiracies without discovery.” (Lel. vol. ii. p. 431.)
To escape this peril, quite a different plan was adopted for the second plantation; the confiscated lands were given to the new settlers, on condition of their residing in the woody and mountainous part of the country, whilst the dispossessed natives were left free in the plains, where they would be more easily watched. A still more important innovation was made—the Irish whose lands were confiscated, and the new English settlers who had been intermingled in Elizabeth’s plan, were settled in distinct and separate districts.* It is from this colonisation that the city of Londonderry, founded by the corporation of London, arose; from it also dates the Scotch and Presbyterian settlement in Ireland; and this starting point of puritanism in Ireland is too important not to be demonstrated.†
James I. had made great advances in his iniquitous work, and he was so proud of his success that he had nothing more at heart than its continuance. The difficulty in his view was not to dislodge the natives and replace them by new settlers, for his wisdom had solved all the difficulties of execution; the obstacle was, that there were no more lands to confiscate; and though nothing was easier than to expel the Irish from their houses and estates, it was necessary to assign a motive for such conduct. The subtle spirit of James was not long at fault. This monarch, who, according to Sully, was “the wisest fool in Europe,” this pedantic spirit waged war against Ireland like a pettifogging attorney.
After ages of civil war and anarchy, there necessarily existed great uncertainty and confusion in the titles to estates in Ireland; no doubt many usurpations had been committed, but the chief defect in the titles was irregularity. Taking advantage of this irregularity, a trick well worthy his limited understanding, James resolved to deprive of their lands all whose titles were not strictly regular, and seize them for the crown. In consequence, a crowd of lawyers, interested in the plunder by the hope of sharing the booty,* pounced upon Ireland like a flock of harpies, shook the dust from old parchments; and by their chicanery, their ingenuity in discovering flaws and errors of form, and their diligence in hunting out defects, real or imaginary, succeeded so well, that there was not a proprietor who enjoyed the shadow of security; the king obtained a vast number of estates, and was able to stock them with Protestant colonists in place of the Catholic proprietors so cleverly ruined.
Protestant Colonisation—Charles I.
James had discovered a tyrannical expedient, of which his successor, Charles I., did not fail to take advantage.
There was in Ireland one province which had hitherto escaped every attempt at colonisation, that of Connaught. The viceroy, Wentworth, afterwards Earl of Strafford, resolved to dispossess all the inhabitants of this vast country, and confiscate it to the king, who might afterwards dispose of it at his pleasure. To accomplish this enterprise, he took with him judges and soldiers, the first to falsify the law,* the second to violate it.† Both agents admirably answered his expectations. The lawyers suddenly discovered that all the grants made by preceding kings to the actual proprietors or their ancestors were null and void, and that Connaught had no lawful proprietors but the king. It was not sufficient to discover the defect of titles, it was further necessary that the proprietors should recognise it, and withdraw; if they did not go of their own accord, they should be constrained to abandon their estates by force, and this was the business of the soldiers. Preceded by an imposing army, Strafford traversed the country, spreading terror everywhere, and receiving everywhere the most servile submission. Still, when he reached the county of Galway, Strafford was stopped in his progress by the resistance of the inhabitants: in this county, though bent under severe despotism, there were still certain legal forms inherent in the government and the manners of the conquerors. A jury was empannelled in Galway to decide between the crown and the occupants of the land. Strafford spared no pains to obtain a verdict for the king.* Still the jurors found for the defendants.† This fact alone would be sufficient to prove that there are guarantees and protection in a jury, which will triumph over the chicanery of fraud and the menaces of force. When Strafford heard the verdict he flew into a passion—on his own authority he fined Darcy the sheriff 1,000l. for empannelling an improper jury—he arrested the jurors themselves, and brought them before the Court of Star-chamber in Dublin, where each of them was sentenced to pay a fine of 4,000l., and to acknowledge himself guilty of perjury on his knees. All had the courage to refuse this humiliating proposition. Some time after, Strafford wrote to Wandesford, another servant of Charles, and Strafford’s successor in the government of Ireland—
“I hope that I shall not be refused the life of Sheriff Darcy; my arrows are cruel that wound so mortally, but it is necessary that the king should keep his rights.”
Darcy was not executed, but he died of severe treatment in prison. A new jury was summoned, which, under the salutary influence of terror, found that in all time the county of Galway, like the rest of Connaught, belonged to the king; and this sentence placed all the proprietors at the mercy of the king.* Trial by jury, though one of the most vital institutions, does not save a country from the insolence of despotism, when despotism is established; still a jury defends the citizens better than any other tribunal. If it yields to corruption, it surprises the people, who believed it independent; if it resists, and fails in its resistance, it does not save those whom it wished to protect; but, associated with their misfortunes, it renders their cause more popular, and the oppression which weighs upon them more striking. In either case it sets tyranny in bolder relief.
If we consult the sentence pronounced against Strafford by the parliament of England, we are led to believe that the violence offered to the Galway jury was not the only nor the worst outrage of the kind committed by Strafford in Ireland. One of the reasons assigned for his condemnation was, “Considering that juries who had given their verdict according to their consciences have been censured in the court of Star-chamber, severely fined, sometimes exposed in the pillory, have had their ears cut off, their tongues pierced, their foreheads branded,” &c.*
Too happy to be able to please his English parliament by exercising his royal prerogative, Charles I. would have gladly plundered all the Catholics of Ireland, and bestowed their estates upon English Protestants, but even his tyranny in Ireland could not procure him pardon for his arbitrary government of England. To such a degree was popular indignation excited, that the tyranny towards Ireland was actually made a ground of complaint against Strafford. The royal authority was already greatly shaken (ad 1640); the king then suddenly ceased from oppressing the Irish, whose support he was anxious to secure in case of a reverse. The entire project of colonisation was abandoned; the Irish were assured that there never was a thought of plundering them. When you see a Stuart just towards Ireland, be well assured that his authority is tottering in England.
Civil War—The Republic—Cromwell.
It may be said that from the moment when Charles I. no longer persecuted Ireland, and abandoned the great project of the time, to make it protestant at all hazards, he was no longer king of England.
Thenceforward the true sovereign was the parliament; it was no longer an English king nor his delegate that was at war with Ireland,—it was England herself, puritan and protestant England, no longer restrained in its hatred by a prince less the enemy of the Catholics than of the Puritans. England henceforth enters into close contact with Ireland, which had become more free in its hostility to England, since the king, who favoured the Catholics in combating the Puritans, lost his power.
Two terrible cries of destruction were raised; one in England, “War against the Catholics of Ireland!” The other in Ireland, “War against the Protestants of England!” It is difficult to say which of these clamours was first raised, just as when two armies meet eager to engage, it is often impossible to decide which has begun the battle.
The day in which Scotch puritanism became master of the king and of England, Catholic Ireland was at once menaced with extermination. It did not wait for aggression to commence its defence, and in the month of October 1641 a terrible insurrection burst forth. All the Irish of Ulster whom James had so ingeniously expelled from their habitations and lands, to put English and Scotch in their places, rose in masses and fell on the Protestant settlers. In a few days, O’Neill, the Irish leader, was at the head of thirty thousand soldiers.
In this awful moment, when all the passions of the Irish were at work, we may judge which passion was predominant in their souls; and it is remarkable that in the first moment not a single Scotchman was killed; their vengeance in the beginning was directed against the English. Was not this because the national sentiment was still superior to religious passions? The Scotch, from their puritanism, were the most terrible enemies of Catholic Ireland; but they were new enemies, whilst their inveterate enemies, the enemies of five centuries, were the English, the English of Henry II., the first invader, the English of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, the last conquerors, the English of James I., protestant and plundering settlers.
In the execution of this terrible vengeance, in which so many ancient resentments were united, cruelties were committed which will scarcely bear recital.
The insurrection was at first regular; the insurgents limited themselves to resuming the property of which they had been deprived, without committing any useless violence. Their rapid success, at first undisputed, gave them the generosity of strength, and their first triumphs having been followed by some reverses, their violence knew no bounds; they became sanguinary and murderous; they vowed not to leave an Englishman alive.
It was then that a civil and religious war displayed itself in all its horrors.
Leland, speaking of the treatment which the prisoners received, says, “Their miserable prisoners, confined in different quarters, were brought out, under pretence of being conducted to the English settlements. Their guards goaded them forward like beasts, exulting in their sufferings, and determined on the destruction of those who had not already sunk under their tortures. Sometimes they enclosed them in some house or castle, which they set on fire, with a brutal indifference to their cries, and a hellish triumph over their agonies. Sometimes the captive English were plunged into the first river to which they had been driven by their tormentors. One hundred and ninety were at once precipitated from the bridge of Portadown. Irish ecclesiastics were seen encouraging the carnage. The women forgot the tenderness of their sex; pursued the English with execrations, and embrued their hands in blood; even children in their feeble malice lifted the dagger against the helpless prisoners.” (Leland, vol. iii. p.127).
In a short time more than twelve thousand Protestants, Anglicans or Presbyterians, were massacred.* Those not deprived of life were driven from their lands and houses, which were resumed by the old possessors.
The impulsive and determining cause of this sanguinary insurrection has long been disputed by historians. Inveterate hatred of England,—the desire of recovering the property of which they had been plundered—religious animosity—emulation of the Scots, who had forced a presbyterian covenant from the king, leading the Irish to hope for success in extorting a catholic covenant—fear of being exterminated by the Protestants—the intrigues of the Catholic powers on the continent, have been all assigned as motives by different writers. Is it necessary to choose amongst these causes, and declare any single one the real cause! I think not: it seems to me more just and true to say, that all these motives, and all these passions, have more or less concurred in a single result, which doubtless would have been produced without their union.
Whether the Irish were the aggressors or the attacked in this bloody tragedy remains undecided; still it is very certain that the English Protestants and Scotch Presbyterians accepted with a sort of joy the struggle of extermination which was offered.
It is a generally accredited opinion, that the lords justices of Ireland could have destroyed the insurrection in its bud, and that, instead of doing so, they endeavoured to render it more terrible and extensive.* One of these lords justices, Sir Wm. Parsons, whose name deserves to be recorded that it may be branded with infamy, fomented the revolt, hoping to enrich himself by the confiscations of the insurgents; and the plan of this ruler and his colleagues was to engage as many as possible in the outbreak, in order that, by augmenting the number of the culpable, the harvest of confiscations, after the conclusion of the war, should be increased.*
I have no doubt that sordid passions played their part at the epoch of which I write; for never are sordid passions more abundant than when they are shaded by great passions; but what I more firmly believe is, that it was not in the power of any of the governors of Ireland to prevent a sanguinary conflict between implacable enemies, when an opportunity of battle was offered.†
Remark—that the combatants were Protestant England and Catholic Ireland.
The English nation then declared by its parliament that it would no longer tolerate popery in Ireland, (Dec. 8th, 1641;) all England then cried out with one voice, Catholic Ireland must be destroyed; Protestantism must be established in Ireland; the last Irishman must be exterminated, rather than allow Catholicism in the country.
To sustain the expense of this merciless war, parliament borrowed an immense sum of money, for the payment of which it mortgaged beforehand the properties of the Catholics of Ireland. Two million five hundred thousand acres were thus pledged to the fanatic lenders. This war of destruction was to be waged against the Irish wherever they were found; an ordinance of parliament prescribed “that no quarter should be given to any Irishman, or Papist born in Ireland, that should be taken in hostility against the parliament, either upon the sea or in England.” A captain of a parliamentary frigate, named Swanly, having seized a ship with seventy Irishmen on board, tied them back to back, and threw them into the sea. After the battles of Philiphaugh and Corbie’s Dale, the Scotch shot all their Irish prisoners without mercy. It is wondrous to see how faithfully laws are observed when they are executed by the passions.*
It seemed, at this moment, as if the whole life and power of England were directed against Ireland: all the puritan passions which had been so impetuous in England, rushed with far different force on catholic Ireland. These passions were assuaged in England by the sympathy they met, but in Ireland they found a barrier which irritated them and rendered them violent. It was no longer the fanatic puritanism which made an irruption from Scotland into England in the midst of an army of saints; the puritanism that invaded Ireland rushed like a bird of prey to its quarry, bringing in its train some generous emotions, but many ignoble calculations and mercenary desires.
England sent to Ireland an army of fifty thousand English and Scotch Presbyterians and Independents, more desirous of vengeance than justice, more greedy of blood than truth, more desirous of adventures and riches than of religious success.*
Scarcely had the insurrection commenced, even before orders could be received from the English government, when the English army in Ireland gave a specimen of its zeal and sanguinary passions by the cruel manner in which it treated the revolted country. Among other deeds of extraordinary barbarity, it is recorded that, five or six days after the outbreak, Colonel Matthew massacred a hundred and fifty peasants, “starting them like hares out of the bushes.” The lords justices, the deputies of the English parliament, at the same time gave the most sanguinary instructions to the Earl of Ormond, the commander of the Anglo-Irish army.
He was directed not only to kill and destroy “rebels, and their adherents and relievers,” but also “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 there, and also to kill and destroy all the male inhabitants capable of bearing arms.’”
One example will suffice to show how these instructions were fulfilled.
The Scottish soldiers who had reinforced the garrison of Carricfergus were possessed with an habitual hatred of popery, and inflamed to an implacable detestation of the Irish by multiplied accounts of their cruelties, horrible in themselves, and exaggerated, not only by the sufferers, but by those who boasted and magnified their barbarities. In one fatal night they issued from Carricfergus into an adjacent district called Island Magee, where a number of the poorer Irish resided, unoffending and untainted by the rebellion. If we may believe one of the leaders of this party, thirty families were assailed by them in their beds, and massacred with calm and deliberate cruelty.
But it was especially when the English republic was established, and when the head of Charles I. fell on the scaffold, that the irruption of the English into Ireland became more fierce and irresistible; then the predominant sentiment of England was no longer concealed, the desire for the destruction of Ireland was openly avowed; the English generals landing in Ireland brought with them carnage, pillage, conflagration. Treaties made with the insurgents were openly violated.* Ireland must perish, and, to attain this object, what matters it that moral law should be outraged? It is no longer a question about reducing the people to subjection; their extermination is required; it is even advantageous that they should resist—let them fight that they may be annihilated. Everything is consequently done to exasperate Ireland; the sacred places are profaned; tombs are robbed; Catholic churches are changed into barracks: the very graves are searched for plunder, and insulted by impious fanaticism.
“Ireland must be destroyed” is the cry of England, and extermination has selected its most formidable instrument. Cromwell is named general of the English army. This occurred in 1649. Nearly two centuries afterwards, I passed through the country traversed by Cromwell, and found it still full of the terror of his name.* The bloody traces of his passage are effaced from the soil, but they remain fixed in the minds of men. Cromwell met but two instances of firm resistance in Ireland, and let us see how he overcame them. The town of Drogeda refused to open its gates; he employed two weapons of a very different nature for its reduction. At the moment of assault, he offered life to those who capitulated. The town surrendered at discretion. Cromwell then, with great coolness, ordered that the garrison should be put to the sword.
“His soldiers, many of them with reluctance, butchered their prisoners. The governor and all the gallant officers, betrayed to slaughter by the cowardice of some of their troops, were massacred without mercy. For five days this hideous execution was continued with every circumstance of horror. A number of ecclesiastics was found within the walls, and Cromwell, as if commissioned to execute divine vengeance on these ministers of idolatry, ordered his soldiers to plunge their weapons into the helpless wretches. Some few of the garrison contrived to escape in disguise. Thirty persons only remained unslaughtered by an enemy glutted and oppressed by carnage, and these were immediately transported as slaves to Barbadoes.”
Wexford likewise closed its gates against Cromwell, and his soldiers proceeded to put all to the sword, who were found in arms, with an execution as horribly deliberate as that of Drogheda.
The memory of Cromwell continues sullied with these horrors; but all the infamy must not be attributed to him. He had only his share; even the initiative does not belong to him. Two years before, one of these indiscriminate massacres had been perpetrated by the parliamentary army in Ireland, under the command of Colonel Jones, when three or four thousand Irish prisoners were mercilessly put to the sword, after the victory at Danganhill.
It must be frankly confessed that these crimes belong less to the men than the time and the frightful passions of the epoch. They have been charged on a single man, because this man, more extraordinary than the rest, drew all attention to himself. Cromwell in Ireland was an agent rather than a mover; he made the most energetic use of the English hatred against Ireland, but he did not create it. If his army had not conquered Ireland, one of double or triple the force would have been sent. Constant mistakes are made respecting the power of a man; it is always set down too low or too high.
I could refute several other prejudices existing against Cromwell; and if this were the proper place, I could show that his was the first English army in Ireland that ever observed strict discipline, respected the inoffensive inhabitants, scrupulously paid for every article supplied on its march, and showed itself an instrument of order as well as of terror. The very same man who had so coolly commanded the massacres of Wexford and Drogeda, hanged two of his own soldiers for having stolen a couple of chickens from an Irish cabin. I might say, if I had leisure, that Cromwell was the first man before our time who had appreciated the future destiny of Ireland—its union with England; he realised not only the political but the parliamentary union, for in his time Ireland sent thirty members to the English parliament. Finally, I might add that his son, Henry Cromwell, was the most honest governor that Ireland had hitherto possessed: so disinterested was his administration, that at its close he had not money to defray the expenses of his passage to England.
Besides, Cromwell had not the omnipotence, even in Ireland, usually attributed to great actors on the stage of life. The conqueror of Marston Moor and Naseby was stopped in his march before the little town of Clonmel, in the attack of which he began by losing two thousand soldiers, and which he did not take until after a siege of two months. The destructive fanaticism of which Cromwell was the instrument and the guide, had encountered in Ireland a more pure and noble fanaticism,—that of a country defending its religious worship, and of religion defending a country. During the siege of Clonmel, the (Catholic) bishop of Ross, who had displayed great zeal in raising an army to relieve the besieged place, was made prisoner by Lord Broghill, who had become an auxiliary of Cromwell. He had been too distinguished in the war against the parliament to hope for mercy. Still Broghill promised the prelate his life, on condition that he would use his spiritual authority with the garrison of a fort near the field of battle, and persuade it to capitulate. The bishop of Ross allowed himself to be led to the front of the fort, so that the garrison could hear his words. The holy man then raising his voice, without losing for a moment his calmness and serenity, strenuously exhorted the soldiers to hold out against the enemies of their religion and their country. He then came back, and resigned himself to his fate.*
Individual and indiscriminate executions greatly advanced the work of destruction; but three circumstances impeded it; first, the recal of Cromwell to England; secondly, the disgust for blood which indulgence produces in the most sanguinary; and finally, the terror caused by these murders, which, leading the insurgents to submission, gave some respite to the wearied cruelty of the conquerors. After the exterminations of war came those of peace—that is to say, judicial executions. These were few, if we consider the time. There were not more than two hundred, on the severest inquisition, condemned to death. The tribunal by which the sentences of death were pronounced, has kept the name of Cromwell’s slaughter-house. We must add to this number several priests who were subsequently hanged for the mere fact of remaining in the country. Means were adopted to drive the Catholic proprietors and soldiers of Ireland into exile, but, after all, the Catholics remained in the proportion of eight to one to the Protestants.* It must be confessed that persecution is an ungrateful task, and that the extirpation of an entire people is very difficult, in spite of the assistance derived from massacres and proscriptions—in spite of the most murderous scourges.
Death and exile not having accomplished all that was expected of them, recourse was had to a last expedient, less violent, but not less iniquitous. It was resolved at all hazards to separate the English Protestants from the Irish Catholics; for the fate of the settlers sent by James I. was remembered, massacred by those whom they had plundered, and in the midst of whom they had the imprudence to live. The following expedient was adopted when it was found impossible to expel all Irishmen from Ireland. It was resolved to people three out of the four provinces, of which Ireland is composed, exclusively with Protestants, and to admit Catholics only into the fourth; not that even this was to be without Protestants, but that it was the only one in which Irish Catholics should be permitted to reside. This province, the last refuge of the Irish Catholics, was the province of Connaught, to which was added the county of Clare. All that war had ruined, all that poverty had protected from hatred or persecution—in a word, all the misery of Ireland, fled or was driven, into Connaught. But this wretched population was still the most noble in Ireland; it bore with it the faith of its ancestors and the love of its country. The whole future of Ireland was there. Having once entered Connaught, the Catholics were penned there like sheep; they were forbidden under pain of death to pass the borders. Their southern boundary was the right bank of the Shannon, and every Irishman found on the left bank could be slain with impunity. This right bank, where Ireland was sentenced to perpetual imprisonment, was the famous county of Clare, which ten years ago sent the first Catholic member to parliament. Singular expiations often arise from great iniquities.
Thus, when the poor Irish, in the excess of their distress, dying with hunger, themselves, their wives, and their children, lifted their hands to heaven and implored mercy from their persecutors, Cromwell and his saints replied, “Go to hell or Connaught!”
I have said that Connaught was the only province in which Catholics were received, though it ceased not to be occupied by Protestants. It may easily be imagined how dangerous to their neighbours such an agglomeration of enemies, exasperated by their misery, must have proved, if they had not been restrained by some power in the midst of them. This power was that of the cities, which it was resolved to make Protestant, leaving only the rural districts to the Catholics. This was a more delicate task than the other, because the cities were almost exclusively inhabited by Catholics of English origin, who seemed to excite more interest than the native Irish. This, however, proved no obstacle. The English Catholics were expelled from their houses in the town, as the Irish had been from their cabins in the country. English or Scotch Protestants were immediately put in their place; the municipal offices were supplied from the army; captains became mayors, and sergeants aldermen. Sir Charles Coote, the republican general and president of Connaught, charged with the expulsion of Catholics from the town of Galway, called it “clearing the town.” In his report of his mission to the government, he says, that he had only left in Galway some persons of such advanced age and delicate health, that he could not drive them out on account of the severity of the season. The council of state approved the exception, but only on condition of his “taking care that the few so dispensed with should be removed as soon as the season would permit.”
We have already seen that the English, on their first landing, expelled all of Irish descent from the towns. We now see the English Protestants similarly banish all Catholics from these same towns; these Catholics were the descendants who, some centuries before, under the pretext of right of conquest, exercised towards the Irish the same violence which now in the name of religion was practised on themselves.
All these means having been employed, death, transportation, voluntary exile, and finally the removal from one part of Ireland to another, three fourths of the country were nearly vacant, and nothing remained but to take possession. This was the hideous moment of the civil war, when the division of the confiscated lands was made; it was the moment when cupidity showed itself more odious than even the sanguinary excesses of fanaticism; it was the moment when virtues, hitherto unassailable, were corrupted by the chance of wealth. Two classes of people especially profited by the rich spoils; Cromwell’s soldiers, that is, those who had served in the army since his landing in 1649; and the speculators or adventurers who had advanced money to the English government on the security of the soil of this unhappy country devoted to destruction.
Thus the sentence of extermination pronounced by England was executed. The Irish Catholics were driven from the soil; they were expelled from the cities; property and commerce had passed into the hands of Protestants; the Irish were struck with death or isolation.
The Restoration of Charles II.
The restoration of Charles II. proved how inevitable was the destruction of the Irish Catholics by English Protestantism.
Never was so favourable an opportunity offered to the Catholics of Ireland as on the day when the English nation, weary of revolutions, reverted to the fundamental principles of the constitution, and restored the Stuarts to the throne of England.
There was not assuredly a Catholic in Ireland who, seeing Charles II. restored to the throne of his ancestors, did not believe that he was about to recover the plenitude of his political and religious rights. On the other hand, the actual possessors, most of them soldiers of Cromwell, and rigid republicans, or adventurous speculators, who had lent their money to wage war on “popish Ireland,” trembled at a restoration, whose first result would be, as they believed, the restitution of their estates to the ancient proprietors. All were deceived; the first in their hopes, the second in their fears.
Charles II. proscribed the Catholic worship in Ireland, as his predecessors had done; he ordered that the penal laws should be executed against Catholics in Ireland; he suspended individual liberty; for fear that the Irish should come to demand justice in England, he forbade them to leave Ireland; he imprisoned as factious those who came to London to make complaint; and as a great number of the Irish had not waited for his permission to resume the possession of their properties, the king proclaimed them rebels, ordered them to be apprehended and brought to trial, and decreed, on his own royal authority, that all the actual possessors of land in Ireland, English and Scotch adventurers, Cromwellian soldiers, or others, should not be troubled in the possession of their lands, with the exception of those who occupied church property, or who had taken a personal share in the trial and execution of Charles I. Still it was said that the king did not refuse justice to his Irish subjects; he recognised that many of them had been unjustly dispossessed. Means were appointed for their redress; it was to establish their innocence before the court of claims. Those whose innocence should be recognised were to resume their lands and houses, but with the following restriction: the lands of these Catholics were occupied by Protestants, to whom, above all things, it was resolved that no injury should be done; it was, therefore, well understood that in all cases even acquitted Catholics should not enter on their estates until the Protestant possessors had been reprised with equivalent properties.
In the eyes of every Irishman there was gross injustice in this royal proclamation. All those whose properties had been confiscated in England at once entered again on their ancient rights when the king resumed his crown, though the properties thus recovered had been sold after their confiscation, and fairly purchased by those who were now dispossessed. But in Ireland the spoliators were assured possession of property for which none, except the London speculators, had paid a farthing. Thus the Scotch Puritan, or English Independent, on whom the republic had bestowed the lands of the Irish royalists, found favour with the king, whilst the Irish Catholic, crushed by the republic for his devotion to the royal cause, was declared a rebel! It was indeed said that he might obtain justice; but what form of justice was offered? He was proclaimed culpable, and required to prove his innocence.
Still there was a great number of Irishmen whom such justice and such a mode of administration did not discourage, and they presented themselves, at all hazards, before the court of claims. This tribunal was composed of judges hostile to the Catholics; still it so happened that a great number of claimants obtained decrees of innocence. This spread alarm among the Protestant proprietors, some of whom were forced to quit, and establish themselves elsewhere. It was calculated, from the number already pronounced innocent, that if the tribunal continued thus to act, lands would be wanting to indemnify the Protestants whose places would be taken by the acquitted Catholics, and the spirit of justice assuredly could not resist such a consequence. The cry of popery was raised; it was thought that if any one should be sacrificed in such a conjuncture, it should be a Catholic rather than a Protestant. Consequently the court of claims was suddenly ordered to suspend its labours; and in one day three thousand Irishmen, who aspired to no other favour than being permitted to establish their innocence, were told that their case would not even be taken into consideration.
The king of England believed it necessary that all these measures should be sanctioned by an Irish parliament, which was convoked for the purpose. This parliament was full of Protestants, which may easily be conceived, as the Protestants provisionally held the confiscated estates. Still, for fear that any dissident should step into the House of Commons, the assembly itself decreed that no member should be permitted to take his seat who had not first taken the oath of supremacy; and the House of Lords, on its side, ordained that each of its members should be obliged to receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper from the Archbishop of Armagh.
I have said that these acts were the consecration of gross iniquity; but the Irish must not attribute the blame entirely to Charles II.
It is certain that this prince, on ascending the throne of England, was resolved, if not to establish Catholicism as a legal, obligatory worship, at least to render its exercise as free as that of the Anglican and Presbyterian forms. One of his first acts was to promise this toleration; but he promised what he could not perform. He owed his crown to a political re-action; the two parties whose coalition had placed him on the throne, were royalists and Presbyterians, leagued against the independents and anarchists. Now the royalists, who for the most part belonged to the Church of England, were not less enemies of the Catholics than the Presbyterians. The prince whom they had raised to the throne could not, at a time when religion and politics were intimately connected, preserve his royal power, save on the condition of not opposing the religious passions of his subjects, and he would have offended them violently by the toleration of Catholicism. At the restoration, Anglican episcopacy was re-established, almost of itself, as a fundamental law of the kingdom existing before the revolution. Hatred against the Catholic religion was thus completely renewed; popery was still the common enemy, the bugbear for frightening women and children, whose very name was sufficient to rouse all the passions. The toleration of Catholicism was the most dangerous act of hostility which could be committed against the public spirit of the times. It was, moreover, a violation of the laws of the kingdom; for these laws prescribed uniformity of religious worship according to the rites of the Anglican church, and inflicted penalties on those who worshipped God with any other forms.
Charles II. was thus condemned by the laws and passions of the country to act contrary to his inclinations. It is but just to say that he did everything in his power to pass the limits of his royal authority. When blamed for continuing papists in public employments, he justified himself by whimsical excuses. “One,” he said, “was an amateur of cock-fighting, another skilled in hunting, a third kept good fox-hounds,” &c. He made use of other tortuous expedients: not being able openly to tolerate Catholicism, he wished at least to exempt the Catholics from the penalties of nonconformity; but a dispensation with these laws was manifestly a violation of them. This was clearly demonstrated by the ministers of the Anglican church, who hitherto, it is true, had professed the doctrine of passive obedience, but who, when the king wished to employ his power in favour of the Catholics, suddenly discovered that obedience was only due to the sovereign within the limits of the law and constitution. He was therefore obliged to renounce his bias in favour of the Catholics; he made, however, some other efforts which had no better success; and in order to reign, he was compelled to become the persecutor of those whom he had undertaken to defend.
When Plunket, Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, one of the victims of the pretended popish plot, was condemned to death, Essex, who had been viceroy of Ireland, solicited his pardon from Charles II., avowing that the charges were, to his knowledge, utterly false and unfounded. “Well, my lord,” said the king, “his blood be upon your conscience; you could have saved him if you pleased; I cannot pardon him, because I dare not.”*
I well believe that the persecution of the Irish cost Charles less pain than that of the English Catholics, because at all times the destiny of Ireland and its people was little regarded by the English sovereigns, except when they had need of them; and Charles, being forced to persecute Catholics, hoped, by severity to the Catholics of Ireland, to obtain milder treatment for the Catholics of England.† Thus Ireland was always a resource for the Stuarts; in their days of distress, they employed the money of Ireland against England, and promised eternal friendship for a little money and soldiers; when their fortune changed—when they again ascended the throne, they endeavoured to obtain pardon for their despotism in England by crushing Ireland with more grievous tyranny.
Charles might be pardoned for the wrongs which he committed from mere weakness of position; it is easy to see that he could do nothing for the Irish Catholics, since, in doing them justice, he must have acted harshly to the English Protestants; but what cannot be pardoned is, that he himself took a share in the confiscations. Ormond, his favourite, obtained land to the amount of 70,000l. annually; the Duke of York also obtained a large donation; and there was scarcely a person about the court, down to the wife of the king’s scullion, who did not get some share of the booty.*
Charles, while he persecuted the Irish, need not have stained himself with the spoils of the unhappy people. But I have already said that it was not in his power to avoid persecution. If he had wished to grant the Catholics toleration of their worship, that is, according to the presbyterian phrase, “to legalise blasphemy and idolatry,”—if he had attempted to release them from the penalties of nonconformity, and restore them to the privileges of civil and political life, he would have done exactly what James II. attempted, and for attempting which he was deprived of his throne.
It must be fully recognised, that in the seventeenth century every king of England was obliged to be unjust and inhuman to one portion of his subjects, to obtain the power of governing the rest.
Thus everything conspired to the destruction of the Catholics of Ireland, and to the violent plantation of Protestantism in the country—everything. Tudors, Stuarts, republic, monarchy, friends and enemies, because the dominant power in England for more than a century was but the instrument of a general movement, which might be moderated or accelerated by accidents and human passions, but which no person or thing could repress.
We have now reached the close of the second epoch, that included between the commencement of the Reformation in England, and the definitive establishment of the Reformation in Ireland. Having pointed out the great movement of the sixteenth century, I have endeavoured to show why England, a nation of free institutions, having adopted the reformed creed, must necessarily have wished that Ireland should do the same. I have related how she tried to convert the Irish to the new faith, who still remained, and must necessarily have remained, faithful to Catholicism. I have also shown that when England failed to convert the Irish, she must of necessity have employed terror and violence to render Ireland protestant. I have added that all that happened was inevitable. Am I then about to support the new school of philosophy, which bows before every popular movement, when these movements bear the impress of a certain fatality, which doubts not the sanctity of a cause when it is stamped with the seal of irresistible necessity? It would be a strange mistake to suppose that such was my belief.
When I see a man the prey of ardent or criminal passion,—when I see him, either from obliquity of intellect or hardness of heart, animated by an imperious thirst for vengeance, or an ardent sentiment of cupidity,—I can, estimating the consequence of such a depraved passion, declare that it will hurry the person on whom it has seized to crime; I may, seeing to what an extent it has subjugated his soul, foresee that it will necessarily hurry him to spoliation, or even murder. I do and can judge thus; but I do not proclaim the perpetrator of the crime innocent; I do not declare this necessity for crime just, which I deem inevitable. I say that when error or passion exists in a certain degree, crime must follow; the effect is predestined, but the cause is not so. It was in the power of him who has gone astray to avoid error; it was in the power of him who is enslaved by passion to refuse that passion access to his heart. I say that the robber, who through cupidity seizes another’s property, the murderer, who through vengeance slays his fellow, might both have resisted inclinations which, when once masters of their soul, became sovereign and irresistible.
The passions of a nation are like those of an individual. The passions which impelled England to destroy Ireland present the same character of fatality; these passions once admitted, Ireland must have perished, as fatally as the victim marked by the vengeance of an assassin—as necessarily as the weaker party in a mortal struggle. But what we want to appreciate is not the consequences of these passions, but the passions themselves,—not the fated effect, be it as necessary and inevitable as you please,—it is on the cause that we must pronounce sentence—the cause which was free, voluntary, and independent. Now, what was the cause? It was the spirit of religious intolerance; the false belief that truth must be imposed by force; the hatred of one creed towards another. Now these errors and these passions were inherently bad; they ought never to have existed; they do not, at least to such an extent, in our days. But if it be true that Ireland, delivered up to these errors and omnipotent passions, must have perished, was not such a destruction supremely unjust, and an imputation on the moral government of the universe? It might be replied that the murder of an innocent man attaches itself only to the assassin, and does not ascend to Providence; but here another consideration presents itself to our notice.
Assuredly the spite of England against Ireland in the seventeenth century has produced the most terrible and iniquitous acts of violence ever perpetrated by one people on another. But if we trace back the principle of the evil, has Ireland such a right to complain? Ireland itself was the first depository of that intolerant spirit of which it became the victim. Does any one believe that if the fortune of the two countries had been reversed, Ireland would not have massacred the English Protestants, just as England immolated the Irish Catholics? Let us not forget the dominant passion and fatal error of this unhappy period. Ireland was the persecuted instead of the persecutor—the victim instead of the assassin; and, in my opinion, hers was not the worse part. But these considerations, which should silence Ireland, do not acquit England; they merely show that Ireland, like England, misunderstood the essential principle of society, which is, that man is as free in his external worship of God as in his internal conscience. Both countries were guilty of this violation; the one in design, the other in deed. The stronger and the more fortunate in the struggle was the more criminal; but the victim herself was culpable. For my part, I find no reason to accuse the justice of God in these cruel wars and sanguinary controversies; I only see that forgetfulness of a single principle costs mankind much blood and much iniquity; and instead of lamenting it, I perceive in these frightful calamities the sanction of the great truths which are important to the happiness of nations; all that is most revolting in the violence of this dreadful epoch only serves to prove that there are certain principles which cannot be mistaken with impunity, and the violation of which entails the most fatal consequences. This is my interpretation of fatality.
From 1688 to 1755.
[*]Plowden, vol. i.
[†]The claim of England to supremacy over Ireland for four centuries rested on a papal grant, and that grant was conditional. This fact had been so repeatedly recognised by parliaments, ecclesiastical synods, and all other public authorities, that it was universally regarded as a first principle. By adopting the Reformed religion, England clearly voided the grant; and if Ireland remained Catholic, every Irishman acknowledged the pope’s right of resumption. England had, therefore, no alternative but to abandon the country, or to change the conditions of allegiance; which could not be done to all appearance at the time without subverting the ancient faith.—Tr.
[*]It must also be added, that the native Irish clergy won the affections of their flocks by frequently interfering to check the oppressions of the oligarchy; the Irish, therefore, valued their religious system as the only institution which afforded them any protection from the tyranny of the aristocracy.—Tr.
[*]It was a ridiculous but a very mischievous blunder of the English rulers, that they did not cause the Prayer-book to be translated into Irish; for to the mass of the people English was as much an unknown tongue as Latin. This violation of the very first principle of the Reformation, which required that prayers should be offered in a language understood by the people, excited hostility and ridicule. It was, of course, fair game for a satirist like Ward, and his attack on it is far the most pungent part of his Hudibrastic History of the Reformation.
[*]The Irish Juvenal, written in the beginning of the last century, but for some unknown reason never published, says,
[†]The semi-official history of the conquest was called Hibernia Pacata.—Tr.
[*]More than one half of the population perished by the sword, famine, or pestilence. “The country,” says Hollinshed, a cotemporary writer, “which was before rich, fertile, populous, abounding in pasturages, harvest-lands, and cattle, is now deserted and barren; no fruit or corn grows in its fields, no cattle is found in its pasturages; there are no birds in the air, no fish in the streams; in a word, the vengeance of Heaven is so heavy on the land, that it may be traversed from one end to the other almost without meeting man, woman, or child.”—Hol. 460. It was on this occasion that the principal woods of Ireland were destroyed, and several bogs formed by the decay of the falling timber and the stoppage of the mountain streams.—Tr.
[*]The Elizabethan Act of Uniformity (2 Eliz.) obliged all public functionaries, from the highest to the lowest, to take the oath of supremacy.
[†]James I. was obliged to issue a proclamation to disabuse his Irish subjects of the notion that he was disposed to grant liberty of conscience. The proclamation is too long for insertion, but is in its way a perfect curiosity.—Tr.
[*]Hardiman’s Galway, pp. 212, 213.
[†]See his letters in the collection of State-papers. Chichester’s honesty may be doubted; he was anxious to make a fortune by trafficking in Irish confiscations, and the reconciliation of the Irish owners to the English church would have impeded his designs. He finally acquired immense estates in Ulster, and bequeathed to his posterity a princely fortune and a detested name.—Tr.
[*]Desmond was driven into rebellion by the subtle malignity of the Earl of Osmond and others, envious of his power and estates. He offered to surrender to Admiral Winter, on condition of being conveyed to England to plead his cause before the queen, but this was sternly refused. To take his trial in Ireland, was voluntarily to submit to ruin, for the political trials of that day, at least in Ireland, are edifying comments on the maxim, “It is quarrel and cause enough to bring a sheep that is fat to the shambles.”—Tr.
[*]Leland, vol. ii. p. 301.
[†]The Irish chiefs possessed the suzerainité but not the property of the soil: consequently the guilt of O’Donnell, though even so clearly proved, could not affect the right of their feudatories, who were not even accused of treason. The English law of forfeiture, in itself sufficiently unjust, never declared that the interests of innocent tenants should be sacrificed for the rebellion of the landlords; it only placed the king in the place of the person whose property had been forfeited, and left all the relations of the tenantry unaltered. Yet were all the actual holders of lands in these devoted districts dispossessed without even the shadow of a pretence; and this abominable wickedness is even at the present day eulogised by many as the consummation of political wisdom.—Tr.
[*]This rule was not enforced against the Scottish Presbyterians, who were just as unwilling to take the oath of supremacy as the Irish Catholica.—Tr.
[*]Leland, vol. ii. p. 431.
[†]Most of the Elizabethan settlers were attached to puritanism, as were also the Protestant clergymen sent over during her reign: hence the Irish church has been always more deeply tinged with Calvinistic principles than the church of England. The Elizabethan adventurers, particularly those who accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh and Richard Boyle, (afterwards Earl of Cork,) were chiefly the younger branches of noble and respectable families in Devonshire and the western counties of England; they were long remarkable for their steady adherence to Whig principles, and many of them so continue to the present day.—Tr.
[*]At the head of “The commission for the discovery of defective titles” was placed Sir William Parsons, an unprincipled adventurer, on whom craft and crime have conferred an unenviable notoriety. Through his exertions and those of his brother “discoverers,” half a million of acres was forfeited to the crown.—Tr.
[*]Strafford’s own letters contain the most minute accounts of this mystery of iniquity.—He tells his correspondent that “he obtained a grant of four shillings in the pound, out of the first year’s rent of every estate vested in the crown by these inquisitions, to the judges who presided at the trial.”—Tr.
[†]Strafford says, “He took with him to each town where an inquisition was held five hundred horsemen as good lookers on.”—Tr.
[*]Strafford himself says, that “he inquired out fit men to serve on juries.”—Tr.
[†]They took courage, because they hoped that they would be supported by the influence of the Earl of Clanricarde.—Tr.
[*]The narrative would not be complete unless it was added, that the Irish proprietors had actually paid one hundred thousand pounds to the king for the concession of certain graces, of which the security of property was one. Charles took the money, but, by Strafford’s advice, refused to perform the conditions.
[*]See Parliamentary History, and Hardiman’s Galway, 105.—Tr.
[*]It cannot be necessary to enter here into any examination of the very different statements given of the numbers slain at the first outbreak of the insurrection; they vary from five thousand to one hundred thousand; still less need we balance the account with the massacres perpetrated by the officers of government at Bantry and the Island Magee. Beaumont adopts Warner’s calculation, which, however, is higher than that of Cromwell’s commissioners, who estimated the number of Protestants not slain in fair fight throughout Ireland during the whole war at nine thousand.—Tr.
[*]Warner, 103—Leland, iii. 140—Hallam, v. 279. (See also the autobiography of Borlase, who was one of the lords justices.)
[*]Leland, vol. iii. pp. 160, 161.
[†]Hallam, vol. v. p. 276.
[*]Dr. Borlase, who wrote a history of what he is pleased to call the rebellion of 1641, professedly to vindicate the character of his near relative, the lord justice, boasts that Sir W. Cole’s regiment killed two thousand five hundred rebels in several engagements, and adds, with horrid complacency, “there were starved and famished of the vulgar sort, whose goods were seized by this regiment, seven thousand.”—Tr.
[*]The army which Cromwell led to Ireland was composed chiefly of the Levellers, fanatics so called from their opposition to every rational form of government, and who were intent on establishing a species of theocracy, which they denominated “the dominion of the Lord and his saints.” The future Protector feared these wild visionaries, and resolved to avert their opposition to his meditated scheme of invasion, by sending them to Ireland. When the army assembled at Bristol, the object of the selection could not be concealed; the soldiers mutinied and refused to embark. But Cromwell’s personal influence produced obedience; at the same time their preachers worked upon the spiritual pride of these stern enthusiasts. They compared them to the Israelites proceeding to exterminate the idolatrous inhabitants of Canaan, and declared that they were a people chosen to inherit a land of promise, and purge it of idolatry and superstition. The baser motives described by M. de Beaumont arose from the belief that they were about to conquer a land which “the Lord had granted as an inheritance to his saints.”—Tr.
[*]For instance, the capitulation of Galway.—See Hardiman, p. 133.
[*]One of the most bitter execrations in the mouth of an Irish peasant is, “The curse of Cromwell be on you.”—Tr.
[*]“His enemies,” says Leland, “could discover nothing in this conduct but insolence and obstinacy, for he was a papist and prelate.”
[*]Sir William Petty calculates that more than half a million of Irish perished by the sword, pestilence, famine, or exile, between 1641 and 1652.
[*]Royalist historians have frequently brought forward this anecdote to extenuate the iniquity of Charles in consenting to the execution of an innocent man. But assuredly the same excuse is equally valid for the Earl of Essex; in the moral madness which had then seized the people of England, the character of “a stifler of the plot” was scarcely less dangerous than that of an actual participation. Plunket’s execution, moreover, was not merely a violation of substantial justice, but of legal forms; and it had at least this good effect, that it was one of the first circumstances which led the English people to suspect the monstrous artifices of which they had been the dupes, and to doubt the “thousand and one tales” of Oates and his associates.—Tr.
[†]Down to the very close of the reign of Charles II., the penal laws against Catholics were executed far more rigorously in Ireland than in England.—Tr.
[*]The profitable lands forfeited in Ireland amounted to 7,708,236 statute acres, leaving undisturbed 8,500,000 acres belonging to the Protestants, the constant-good-affection men of the Irish, the church, and the crown, besides some lands never seized or surveyed. The forfeited estates were thus distributed:—
The forty-nine officers are those who claimed arrears for service under the king before 1649, (when Cromwell landed in Ireland;) the Duke of York received a grant of all the lands held by regicides who had been attainted; provisors were persons in whose favour provisoes had been made in the Acts of Settlement and Explanation; nominees were the Catholics named by the king to be restored to their mansion-houses, and two thousand acres contiguous; transplantation refers to the Catholics whom Cromwell forced from their own lands, and settled in Connaught.
There remained 824,391 acres which were still unappropriated; these were parts of towns, or possessed by English or Irish without title, or, on account of some doubts, had never been set out.—Tr.