Ireland and Her Story by Justin McCarthy - 1903

Table of Contents | Chapter I | Chapter II | Chapter III | Chapter IV | Chapter V | Chapter VI | Chapter VII | Chapter VIII | Chapter IX | Chapter X | Chapter XI | Chapter XII | Index




FOR a long time after Tyrone and Tyr­connel had gone into exile the Govern­ment of James I. had its own way in Ireland. The Irish nobles who stiil would fain have resisted the royal authority saw no chance of making a successful stand against it. The policy of confiscation went steadily on. Wherever it was possible an Irish owner was put out of his land and an English settler brought to fill his place. Old Irish customs were visited with new penalties, and the historic system of ancient Irish law had been by this time almost entirely eradicated. The policy of the Government was now more than ever for a thorough "plantation " of the country, the plantation of English settlers on the land in place of the evicted Irish. Now


began in good earnest the English occupa­tion of Ulster. It may seem surprising to readers of the present day that Ulster was the last of the territorial divisions to submit to English occupation. The later insurrec­tion of Tyrone and Tyrconnel supplied the most convenient excuse for applying to the northern province the policy of confiscation. Six of the Ulster counties were at one stroke proclaimed to be the property of the Crown, and the land was parcelled out among English and Scotch commercial and trading companies. Some of the successors to these companies still retain property in Ulster. The Irish who had owned the soil or worked upon it were forced to wander over the country in quest of a living, and were in many cases reduced to a lingering death by starvation. Many of those not actually pauperized found their way to the Continent, and there took arms in the service of some Sovereign hostile to England. From that time, for many generations, almost every great army on the Continent had in its ranks and in its higher positions Irish exiles, some of whom made their names famous on foreign battle-fields in war against England.

We are so accustomed now to regard Ulster as the division of Ireland most de­voted to English rule that we have to refresh our memories of history to realize that Ulster was the Irish province which held out longest


and most resolutely against English dominion. But the conquest of Ulster was practically accomplished when time and opportunity allowed it to be taken in hand. The disposal of the lands to English and Scotch companies secured every possible facility for a thorough replantation of the soil. Each of these com­panies brought over its own colony of traders, workers and business men, who settled down upon the land and made the very best of its resources, converting waste spaces into homes of thriving industry. There were many other settlers who had not the business capacity of the companies, and whose only object was to make all the money they could out of Ireland while the patronage of King James lasted. Many well authenticated tales are preserved of sudden fortunes made in this way, and of the means by which the work was accomplished. Some of these would make an exciting story-book, with adventures none the less interesting because of their utter audacity and unscrupulousness and their bewildering success. But, on the whole, the plantation of Ulster was conducted more nearly on business principles than any of the former attempts at the English colonization of Ireland. Efforts were made to establish manufactures in the province, and not to leave the means of men's living dependent merely on the produce of the soil.

King James died before he was able to


carry the plantation scheme much beyond the limits of Ulster. Then came Charles I., who was always in want of money, and wanted to get it more quickly than could be effected by the confiscation and redivision of estates which still remained outside the grasp of the Sovereign and his Council, Charles put into operation a new policy for the sale of religious liberty. The Irish Catholics were given to understand that they might purchase freedom of conscience and worship by making grants of money to the King. Charles soon found the most active and capable agent of his will in Thomas Went-worth, the famous Earl of Strafford, who was first Lord Deputy and afterwards Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. Strafford's was the policy which he himself called "thorough." He governed Ireland in the name of his master with despotic power and a total disregard for what were even then considered constitutional principles. He no doubt re­formed many abuses, extinguished much departmental corruption, and gave to many industries a new chance of development and prosperity. He was not, indeed, that " fault­less monster" which the world has very rarely seen, the beneficent despot; but he was not the mere wanton despot, the English version of a mediaeval Ottoman Pasha, his enemies afterwards tried to make him out. Gardiner, the historian, says in his defence


that " the choice for Ireland in the seven­teenth century did not lie between absolutism and Parliamentary control, but between absolutism and anarchy." Perhaps we may admit this position and yet hold that the absolutism practised by Strafford in Ireland was not in any sense a beneficent despotism. A beneficent despot might have so ruled Ireland, just then, as to open for her a fair way into national prosperity and content. But Strafford's absolutism only expressed the deliberate purpose to make of Ireland a convenient and unresisting source of supply for the wants of Strafford's master. What­ever may have been the effect of his rule upon Ireland, influences were already grow­ing up in England which could not long endure such a King and such a Minister.

The policy of Strafford might have gone on long enough in Ireland without check from the public opinion of England and Scotland if the conduct of Strafford's master had not already begun to light the flame of rebellion, not only in Scotland, but even in England. The fate of Strafford was soon involved in the rising movement against despotic government and perfidious statecraft, and before long the revolution had set in which sent Strafford first and Charles after­wards to the scaffold. The semblance of religious equality which Strafford introduced into his government of Ireland had much to


do with creating that feeling of almost per­verse loyalty to the Stuart cause which long prevailed in Ireland. It was asserted on behalf of Strafford that, while he endeavoured to draw Ireland into conformity of religion with England, "no hair of any man's head was touched for the free exercise of his con­science." The practical interpretation of this statement is that it was open to any man in Ireland who had money to secure the right of following the religion of the Church of Rome so long as he made it worth the King's while. But even this peculiar form of con­cession to the principle of religious liberty had its attractions for the Irish Catholic of that time. During the rule of former De­puties since the Norman conquest of Ireland there had been religious equality only until the Reformation set up two Christian Churches in Ireland, as in England, instead of one. From the time of the Reformation the Faith dear to the hearts of the Irish Catholics had been treated as a crime. Men had been deprived of their property for worshipping according to their ancestral Faith-had been imprisoned, banished, tortured, and put to death for it. It was therefore with a keen sense of relief that the Irish people in general welcomed a policy which, under any con­ditions, made it possible for an Irish Catholic to practise his religion without being treated as a felon. In this sense we can understand


the extravagant hopes aroused in the breasts of so many Irish Catholics by the rule of Strafford in Ireland, and their sentiment of loyal devotion to the memory of Charles I.

The new order of things which was for a while established in England was therefore met at its opening by a feeling of almost universal antagonism among the native popu­lations of Ireland. It might have seemed impossible that any influence could arise to widen the breach between the Irish and the ruling power in England, but it is certain that the establishment of the Commonwealth brought a new element of disunion and antagonism. The national temperament of Ireland had, up to this time, been animated by a peculiar spirit of loyalty to the hereditary principle in systems of government. The Irishman found it congenial with his instincts that chieftainship should prevail in the ruling of a State as well as in the ruling of a family. He found it natural to look up to the head of a house, and to take it for granted that the chief of each generation should be chosen from the family itself. In this theory there was a certain blending of the hereditary and the republican principle ; for while the Irish tradition was that the family should continue to rule, the chieftainship need not necessarily descend from father to son, but at each generation might be awarded by the Sept so long as the choice was kept within the


family. At the heart of the theory was the sentiment of loyalty to established authority as opposed to the republican principle of elective government. An additional antago­nism between the two races was created by the fanaticism which displayed itself in all the actions of the Cromwellian leaders. The intensity of religious faith and the suffusion of religious zeal into the commonest business of life, which so markedly characterized the Cromwellian era in England and Scotland, were to a great extent the inevitable reaction against the decay of principle and of religious faith which had shown itself in England during the reigns of James I. and Charles I. But that intensity of faith, in itself so admir­able, became by no means a quality of mercy when it crystallized into the conviction that other beliefs ought to be put down by penal law.

The Cromwellian settlers in Ireland found themselves brought into collision with a people who possessed a faith as intense as their own, and utterly resisted every effort at repression and every exertion of force. The Irish Catholics showed that they could live on terms of unbroken harmony and friendship with their Protestant neighbours, Irish or English, and some of the most loved and honoured leaders of the Irish national move­ment were Protestants. But the unqualified fanaticism of the Cromwellian leaders and


their hatred for the Catholic faith made it impossible that a pacification of Ireland could be accomplished under their rule except by the complete extinction of the Irish. Besides, Cromwell was very unsparing as a conqueror. His system of warfare in Ireland was merci­less. He carried his policy of destruction to extremes which were unusual even in the fierce warfare of those days. When he captured Drogheda and Wexford he was not satisfied with the destruction of all the fight­ing men, but he put to the sword the priests and any of the other non-combatants. Under Cromwell's iron rule new confiscations were always taking place. Some of the most famous ruins seen by the traveller in Ireland to-day are castles and fortresses which be­longed to Irish families, but were captured by the English during Cromwell's wars and given by Cromwell as a reward to some of his most useful followers. No one who visits the south of Ireland is likely to miss the chance of seeing the famous Blarney Castle, and the peasant on the road-side could tell him that it belonged to an ancient Irish family, but was captured by the English during Cromwell's invasion, and given with its estates to the head of an English family. No period during the preceding years had done so much to intensify the national hatred of the Irish for English rule as the short season of Cromwell's Protectorate. Cromwell


had many of the qualities which make a great conqueror, but he never was a conqueror of hearts. It did not take him long to stamp out the Irish rebellion which he had come from England to suppress, but the echoes of his conquering tread were the omens of new rebellions to come. The rule of Cromwell did probably more than anything else to make the Irish for many generations devoted to the Stuart cause.

The division of the re-conquered country was carried oat after the most systematic fashion. Several counties, Dublin and Kil­dare among the rest, were parcelled out among favourites and followers who did not belong to the army. A large number of these divisions was decided by a lottery, conducted in Grocers' Hall, London, during the July of 1653. There was still a great fear in the minds of the rulers lest their new settlers might be disturbed and harassed by incursions of the dis­possessed Irish. To obviate this danger some of the counties were divided between military and trading settlers, so that the civilians might have the protection of their military partners.

Most readers know what is meant by " reservation" lands when the phrase is applied to the dealings of the United States Government with the Red Indians. There are certain wide spaces set apart for the survivors of the Red Indian tribes, where

"TO HELL OR CONNAUGHT" 87 they are secured enough land to enable them to make a living so long as they do not extend their activity outside the limits assigned to them. The Cromwellian settle­ment provided, in its own sterner and more imperious way, the province of Connaught as the sole domain of the Irish who still desired to have a home in their native country. English settlers already holding land in Connaught were authorized to ex­change their possessions for an extent of soil of equal value in some other part of the country. The phrase which described the Irish population as driven " to hell or Con­naught " is still preserved among historical allusions. So far as they could be got at, the Irish were driven into Connaught and compelled to stay there. Their limits were strictly assigned to them, and a sort of pass­port system was established. Any native of the country endeavouring to go beyond his reservation was liable to be put to death without trial, and this practice of penal disci­pline was rigorously carried out. Irishmen of rank who still wished to abide on the land had to wear a distinctive mark upon their dress, under pain of being put to death; and persons of humble station had to bear each a black mark on the right cheek, or run the risk of being branded or sent to the gibbet. Many Irish historians tell us with pride that even these rigorous ordinances could not


protect the followers and even the soldiers of Cromwell against what was then con­sidered the detestable malaria of Irish in­fluence. Within less than half a century there were to be found in Ireland descendants of Cromwellian Ironsides who had lost the use of the English language; and carried on the business of their daily lives in the tongue of the native population. The cultivation of the penal settlement, Connaught, did not go on very prosperously. The province was barren enough when this enforced settlement began, and the inmates to whom it was made a prison ground had not much heart for the culture of the soil, which was not to be theirs in any real sense. Some of the settlers -or, as they might be called, the transported convicts-proved hard to manage, even by all the forces at the disposal of the rulers. Schemes were devised for exporting un­manageable Irish to the West Indian planta­tions. Official encouragement was given to Continental Sovereigns in friendly relations with England to send their recruiting officers into Ireland to enlist as many as possible of the wild Irish in some foreign service which would relieve loyal English settlers from the necessity of further dealings with them. Many of the towns were even more syste­matically cleared of their native inhabitants in order to secure a quiet field of industry for English and Scotch merchants and traders.


The intense vitality of the Irish race cannot be more strikingly illustrated than by the fact that it still managed to keep a hold on its native soil despite the unrelaxing machinery for its extirpation. The Cromwellian settle­ment of Ireland was carried out as unsparingly as merciless power could effect it. Perhaps the best defence of Cromwell's policy is that made by Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, in his able and interesting " Life of Oliver Cromwell." He shows no sympathy with the spirit of Cromwell's policy towards Ireland, but he points out that the measures employed by Cromwell were not any worse than many other English rulers tried before and after his day in their dealings with the Irish. - The Protectorate and the Commonwealth soon passed away, and the inevitable wave of reaction set in, bringing on its crest the monarchy of Charles II. The majority of the Irish, especially among the higher orders, had by this time worked themselves into the belief that the Stuarts were their best or only friends in England, The sufferings inflicted by Strafford for the benefit of the selfish and insincere Charles I. had already been almost forgotten, and the Irish people were thinking only of the hardships more lately inflicted on them by Cromwell. There was expectation all over the island that the return of the Stuarts would bring a new


and happy era. These gladdening hopes were doomed to complete disappointment. Charles II., the " Merry Monarch," was not disposed to sacrifice any of the time devoted to his merriment, or any of the personal advantages belonging to his monarchy, for the sake of doing justice to Ireland. The settlers from England and Scotland who had been made landholders during Cromwell's rule were only too willing to secure the con­tinued ownership of their possessions by accepting the principles of the Restoration, and the Government of King Charles found the support of such men much more useful than any the dispossessed Irish nobles could have given if they were restored to their estates. Some of the appointments made to public office under Charles II. were deserving of sterner condemnation than any made during the Commonwealth. Freedom of religious worship was denied to the Irish Catholics just as effectively under the Restoration as under the Commonwealth. It is not likely that Charles II. himself had much sympathy with religious intolerance, or that he felt any strong desire for the conversion of Ireland to the Protestant faith. But at that time there was a wild alarm prevailing in England with regard to all manner of "Popish'' plots against English monarchy, and the repre­sentatives of the Crown in Ireland as well as in England believed that they could not better


show their loyalty than by putting in force every possible penalty against the religion to which the great majority of the Irish people were devoted.

When James II. came to the throne there was some mitigation in the treatment of the Irish • Catholics. James appointed to the office of Lord Lieutenant a man who after­wards played a conspicuous part in the history of his time, James Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnel. Tyrconnel was the first Catholic who had been entrusted with the Viceroyalty since the establishment of the Protestant Church in these islands. His devotion to the Stuart cause was much quickened by the fact that in his boyhood he had been in Drogheda while it was besieged by Cromwell. The horrors of the slaughter which closed the siege had filled him with an abiding hatred of the Commonwealth and its partisans. Tyrconnel did all he could to mitigate the severity of the penal laws which oppressed the Catholics, and thus incurred the enmity and detestation of all in England or Ireland who regarded the religion of the Roman Church as a pest to be stamped out. To understand the devotion with which so many Irishmen followed the fortunes of James II. it is necessary to put ourselves in the place of the Irish Catholics who associated his name with the first relaxation of the penal laws against Catholicism known in their time.


When James II. had rendered his rule intolerable in England, and William of Orange had come over to make himself King, the Irish Catholics threw themselves heart and soul into the sinking cause of the Stuarts. Once again Irish fighting men were rallying under the leadership of a Tyrconnel. James made some efforts to endear himself to his Irish followers by hasty and, as it proved, futile concessions to the Irish, national sentiment. Poynings' law, the act which declared that no measure could be introduced into an Irish Parliament without the approval of the King and his Council, was formally repealed; but as events turned out it was no more in the power of James II. to carry the repeal into effect than It was to keep Eng­land's crown upon his head. France sent over a large force to Ireland for the support of King James, under the command of a gallant and picturesque soldier, General St. Ruth, a man who, whatever his personal courage, was poorly qualified to contest the field against some of William's commanders. The ruin of James's cause was accomplished in Ireland. Ginckel, the ablest of William's commanders, won victory after victory. He made himself master of Athlone, and defeated the French and Irish troops at Aughrin, where St. Ruth was killed. Then Ginckel laid siege to the city of Limerick, and the siege proved one of the most famous events


in the story of Ireland. Limerick was de­fended by Patrick Sarsfield, an Irish Catholic of rank, one of the bravest and best soldiers of his day. The odds were heavily against him, but he held out to the last, and every hour's resistance made it more important for William that the victory should be secured at any cost, or that the besieging army should be set free on any terms to carry on his wars in other fields.

William had just then more important work to engage his attention. He saw that a struggle against the increasing power of France would have to be undertaken by England before long, and that the army with which Ginckel was then surrounding Limerick would have to take an important share in it. The victory of William's forces in Ireland had already been virtually accom­plished. The defeat of James II. at the Boyne had made it certain that the Stuart cause had no chance of success. While the siege of Limerick was going on, it was already becoming clear to William and his ad­visers that it meant the absorption of a large English force in a campaign which, however it ended, could make no real difference in the fortunes of the war. Ginckel made an energetic effort to enter into terms with Sarsfield for the surrender of the city. Sarsfield and those around him would listen to no proposals for surrender which did not


contain a pledge of civil and religious liberty for the Irish people. Ginckel saw no alter­native but to accept the conditions demanded. He accepted a treaty which contained an article providing that the Catholics of Ireland should enjoy such privileges in the exercise of their religion as had been conceded to them before the struggle set in between James II. and William of Orange. Also, that a Parliament was to be summoned in Ireland by King William to procure for the Irish Catholics all such security as might be necessary to guarantee them against further penalties on account of their Faith.

These were the principal conditions of the famous Treaty of Limerick. " The Treaty-Stone "-the stone on which the document was placed while it was signed by the two Generals-is still preserved in Limerick. Limerick to this day is often described in Ireland as the city of the violated treaty, for the treaty, was violated. When the agree­ment ""had been formally arranged, the de­fenders evacuated the city, and the besieging forces took possession. But the provisions of the treaty were never carried out with regard to religious liberty, and the Parliaments which were summoned shortly after, both in England and in Ireland, declared that the besieging General had no right to make such terms, and that the laws affecting Roman Catholics must remain exactly as they were. The


penal enactments against the Roman Catholics in Ireland were made more severe in the reign of William III. than they had been under Charles II. and James II. Many English historians have endeavoured to justify the violation of the Limerick Treaty on the ground that General Ginckel could not have had any authority to enter into such an agree­ment, and that the Irish commander ought to have known this.

It may be admitted that Ginckel exceeded his powers when he accepted the terms laid down by Sarsfield, but the defenders of Limerick could not know that he was com­mitting so grave an indiscretion, and they were quite justified in believing that he was acting in good faith and with full authority. No treaty for a cessation of war ever could be entered into on a battlefield if it were admis­sible that one of the parties might be free, after the laying down of arms on both sides, to withdraw from his part of the agreement on the ground that he had made it with no authority to carry it out. If Ginckel had no authority to make the terms for which Sars­field stipulated, he ought to have maintained the siege to the bitter end, or have abandoned it altogether, and taken his army where his master thought it might be employed to better purpose. " The perverted ingenuity of man " could find no justification for the policy which accepted all the advantages secured by the


treaty, and afterwards refused to carry out its most important stipulation.

Sarsfield and his principal companions-in­arms left their native country after the sur­render of Limerick, and went into exile on the Continent. Most of them took service under foreign Princes, and engaged in wars against England. Sarsfield himself died on a Conti­nental battlefield, fighting in a French army against an English army. For many genera­tions that followed there never was a foreign Sovereign engaged in war against England who did not have Irish officers and soldiers to serve him.

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