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emergency of the occasion. To him the government was committed. But, unfortunately for the country, he did not live to fulfil the expectations raised by the firm and vigorous commencement of bis administration. He died in the beginning of the year 1356, and left the reputation of being “so just a man, that he spared not his own relations when they were criminal."* No small eulogium in such a time.
Desmond died in the castle of Dublin, and was interred in the church of the friars' preachery of Tralee.t · He was thrice married; by his third wife, daughter to the lord of Kerry, he left a successor, Gerald, the fourth earl of Desmond. I
Sir Robert Savage.
FLOURISHED A. D. 1953.
It is perhaps the peculiar character of this period of our biography, that while it has more than the ordinary proportion of names, rendered eminent by rapid rise, great actions, and weighty importance in their generation, there is comparatively little or no personal record of the illustrious persons who bore them; stat nominis umbra, might be taken for their common motto. To have a history, even in the most vague and general acceptation of the term, it was necessary not only to be famous in their day, but to be so identified with the whole of the tissue of our national history, that the events of the age may be stated as the life of the individual. Hence it is that, while numerous names are rendered eminent by the circumstances of a long descent, and wide-branching families which can trace their fortunes to the valour and wisdom of ancestors who lived in this period, we are yet obliged to confine our notices to a small selection of names mostly within a few great families. The history of Ireland for many centuries, is, in fact, little more than a history of the Geraldines and Butlers, of the De Burgos, Birminghams, and other illustrious settlers. But of the great Irish chiefs so renowned in their day—the O'Nialls, M.Carthys, O'Briens, O'Donnels, and O'Conors—it has been with some difficulty that we have been enabled to connect some scattered notices to diversify our pages. Lives constructed regularly according to the rigid notion of biography, strictly personal in their main details, have been quite impossible even in those cases in which the materials are the most favourable. These reflections may be received as a preface not inappropriate to the following scanty notice of Sir Robert Savage. The incident it contains is highly characteristic of the age in which it occurred, and will afford the reader one of those occasional gleams of the moral and civil state of that period, which should not be lost.
“ About this time," writes Cox, lived Sir Robert Savage, a very considerable gentleman in Ulster, who began to fortifie his dwelling with strong walls and bulwarks; but his son derided the father's providence and caution, affirming that a castle of bones was better than a castle of stones, and thereupon the old gentleman put a stop to his
building.” Some of the neighbouring Irish had made a plundering excursion into the territories of this stout old knight of Ulster; he promptly assembled his own people, and collected assistance from his neighbours, with the intent of chastising the affront, and perhaps repairing the losses he must have sustained. But with a cool deliberation worthy of the warrior who deemed that his valour needed no bulwarks, he thought it would be paying too serious a compliment to an enemy he despised, 'to go without his supper on their account, and gave orders to have a plentiful supper prepared for himself and his companions at their return from the fatigues of the day. One of the company, not without reason, surprised at this premature provision for a moment of which his fears suggested the extreme uncertainty, observed that it was not unlikely that his hospitable forethought might turn out to be for the advantage of the enemy. Sir Robert replied in the true spirit of Hibernian wit, bravery, and hospitality, that he had better hopes from their courage; but that he should feel ashamed if his enemies even were to find his house inhospitable and devoid of cheer. His valour was crowned on this occasion with a complete and decisive victory, sufficient even to fulfil his son's architectural project; as by the historian's account his party slew three thousand of the Irish near Antrim, and “returned joyfully to supper.”
The story is probable enough, though the numbers of the slain are likely to be exaggerated; for unless some unusual accident operated in his favour, this particular either implies a larger force than a person of less than the highest authority could well have commanded; or the revolting supposition that Sir Robert and his friends exercised their valour upon a defenceless crowd, whom it should have been sufficient to repulse with the loss of a few prominent ringleaders. It is pretty evident, that such slaughters rarely took place in the many encounters we have had from time to time to notice; yet in these the chief leaders of the English were engaged with large bodies of the Irish, whose skill in retreat was hardly less than the skill and discipline of the English in the attack. It must be observed, that such a result should have found a more distinguished place in the history of the time.
Of more importance is the view which such incidents afford of the dreadful state of the country, where a slaughter, considerable enough to warrant such an exaggeration (if such it be), can be mentioned as a cursory incident, insufficient to call for any detail. The true horror of a state in which there seems to have been an unrestrained licence of private war on every scale, according to the means or objects of the individual, is not easily placed in the deep shade of enormity and terror which its real character demands. It was a fearful field for the exercise of all the worst and most terrific excesses of human vice and passion, and must have led to all the disorders incidental to a disorganized state of society. The power to encroach and usurp, to trample and to tyrannize, will seldom remain long unused, or be wanting in full and sufficient excuse for the perpetration of enormities without bound, but that which must limit all human exertions. Unfortunately for the more numerous and less civilized elasses who are the eventual sufferers from such collisions, they have too easily, even in more civilized eras, VOL. I.
been led to provoke inflictions which have the plea of justice and the fury of resentment. The warrior who considered bones as a safer bulwark than stones, could not in this disordered state of things long remain without a trial of his maxim, likely to be fatal to himself or his assailants. We do not hazard these reflections for the purpose of a ridiculous censure on deeds so wholly unlike the events of modern times. It is easy, were it to any purpose, to find excuses in man's nature, the manners of the time, and the existing circumstances—both for the aggressions of the Irish and the sanguinary retaliations of the English. It is their excuse that they were ungoverned by law, the sole preserver of civil order. The crime was that of an age in which invasion and robbery in every form and upon every scale, seems to have been sanctioned by opinion, and scarcely condemned by law. The Irish septs, if they could not justly complain, might fairly retaliate; the history of the time is composed of such sanguinary retaliations: in these, it would be hard to trace the wrong to its source; the process does not belong to justice. When on the other hand, the settlers were not protected in their rights, they can scarcely be blamed if they protected themselves by violence which could not fail to be stimulated by fear, anger, party animosity, and all the bitter and inflaming instincts, which soon add force to human strife from whatever cause. Power is a fatal trust to human breasts, whether lodged with the many, with the few, or with one; and hence the high perfection of that state in which the power resides in the law alone. Such a state in its perfection is of course ideal; but it is the consummation of the true principles of civil government, and only ideal because perfection does not belong to human things. Ireland appears to have presented a frightful exemplification of every social evil which can befall a nation; they told upon her with awful effect, and have left traces never yet effaced by the firm, equal, and resistless force of constitutional civil control.
Had the English been supported, fully established, and at the same time controlled, by the monarchs who even in the pale possessed little more than a nominal power, all would have proceeded with a demonstrably progressive course, hand in hand with the English monarchy, toward the same high perfection of civil order. Instead of the English settlers having sunk into the barbarism which ages of disorganization had caused in this island, the Irish chiefs would have rapidly risen to the level of the English civilization of the period, and the country would have become what unfortunately it is not yet-a province of Great Britain, having not only the same laws, but what is as essential to its civilization and prosperity, the same religion, manners, and national feelings. Leland, indeed, has ventured an affirmation which he has not succeeded in maintaining, and been followed as rashly by others, to whom it seems not to have occurred in writing Irish history, to look into the contemporary history of England, before they ventured comparative assertions. Leland dwells with a strong pencil on the disorders of the social frame of England, in the reign of Edward III., and having described the slavery of the mass, the power and tyranny of the barons, the oppressions and exactions of the monarch, he somewhat loosely ob
serves, that “the whole picture both of the English and the native inhabitants of Ireland, is exactly delineated.” Looking only at the broad features of this delineation, no very decided objection lies against the comparison; but its merit is certainly not exactness. The disorders already described in this and every preceding period of Irish history, find no exact parallel for frequency, duration, magnitude, or actual character, until we look back to the Saxon heptarchy, when petty robbers, under the name of kings and chiefs, contended with the sea pirates of the north, in inflicting all conceivable oppressions on a savage population. The crimes and contentions of the Irish chiefs of either race (we include the Norman with the Irish and Danish) which form the substance of our narrations, may, it is true, be paralleled for violence, for flagitiousness, and for their more immediate consequences, with those which darken the page of Anglo-Norman history. When the great oppress the feeble, when armed provinces or fellow-citizens meet in the field, or scatter waste and devastation through provinces, the sufferings and evils are nearly the same, whatever may be the spirit and occasion. But it is widely different when the after consequences are to be deduced. Then, the institutions and the mind of a nation is to be looked into with minute and critical scrutiny, and the political frame of the country must be examined, not merely with regard to its grosser effects, but with respect to its direction and tendencies. The political springs of the English disorders were different, the social frame on and from which they operated wholly so, the spirit of the people different, that of the barons different, that of the monarchy a distinct and peculiar principle. The state of manners, knowledge, and the arts of life too, was widely dissimilar, and exercising an hourly influence on the whole system, not to be appreciated distinctly without much close study. We must, to avoid lengthened dissertation here, take a shorter course. The following main differences lie on the surface.
In Ireland, all the contests were those of individuals contending for their several purposesto acquire territory- to revenge insult or wrong—to rob, murder, or protect and defend. The chief and the baron were to all intents so many bandit leaders, each looking to preserve his own domain of spoliation inviolate. There was no general constitution contemplated, no abstract element recognised, no principle contended for. The chiefs did not unite to repel the Norman barons, the Norman barons did not (with some exceptions in extreme cases) combine to maintain or to control the usurpations of a higher power. We find no proud vindication of the laws of the realm, expressing the sense of an assembled estate, no field of Runnymede, or spirited and virtuous remonstrance, nolumus leges Angliæ mutari, to show that, although the English barons tyrannized in their several spheres (as men will ever when they can), yet there was a corporate sense, a public feeling, and a common cause; that, in a word, principles were at work. At that age, the people, in the present sense of the word, had scarcely existence in either country. But already in England, this third element of society was infused into the spirit of the mass, and corporate interests began to form, and become the centres of a growing constitutional force. If there was oppression, it was
the result, not of mere licentious disorganization, but of a system, the best that could have existed at the time; and there is a wide difference between a vicious order of things, and the total absence of any order. The people were slaves, and were fit to be slaves; but there were processes at work which were to raise their condition both morally and politically by co-ordinate steps. A systematic contest between the monarch and his barons for power, had the necessary effect of raising a third, and after them a fourth class into importance.
The growth of wealth, the development of finance, as well as the struggles between the throne and aristocracy, were permanent principles essentially pervading the entire working of the British nation from the beginning of the monarchy perhaps, certainly of the Norman race of monarchs. These worked uniformly and progressively, and produced permanent and diffusive effects. They were aided by every occasional cause. The wars of the contested succession between the families of York and Lancaster, and the contentions between the kings and the Roman see, can easily be shown to have operated in accelerating the main tendencies of the nation, toward the political balance so peculiarly the character of its laws and institutions.
The disorders of society must in every state be marked with similar characters, the same low instincts, passions, appetites, and agents are being brought into leading action in all. When it comes to blows, the moral and intellectual capacities of man are quickly thrown aside; when crowds are put in motion, the most perfect military discipline is insufficient to suppress the temper that leads to the utmost atrocity. It is needless to refine on this fact of human nature. But it does not require any subtilty of refinement to perceive the wide difference between the worst results of military oppression, and the movements of perfect anarchy, of violence ungoverned by any principle, and having no object but those very oppressions which were the accidents of British civil wars.
Richard de Burgo, Earl of Wlster.
A. D. 1326.
RICHARD, the second earl of Ulster (called, from his complexion, the red earl*), was educated in the court of Henry III. He was the most powerful subject in Ireland. In 1273, he pursued the Scots into Scotland, and in return for a most destructive incursion in which they effected great devastation in this island, he killed many men and spoiled many places. For this exploit he was made general of the Irish forces in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Gascoigne.f He made many wars in Ireland, raising and depressing at his pleasure the native chiefs of Connaught and Ulster. He gradually attained to such an eminence, that his name was mentioned in all commissions and parliamentary rolls before that of the lord lieutenant. He attended on the king in all his expeditions into Scotland.