Page images
PDF
EPUB

bing and stealing: for by 50th Edw. IV. c. 2. (A. D. 1465) it was enacted, that it should be lawful to all manner of men that found any thieves robbing dy day or by night, or going or coming to rob or steal, in or out, going or coming, having no faithful man of good name and fame in their company in English apparel, upon any of the liege people of the.king, to take and kill those and to cut off their heads, without any impeachment of our sovereign lord the king, his heirs, officers or ministers, or of any others; and of any head so cut in the county of Meath, that the cutter of the said head, and his ayders there to him, cause the said head so cut to be brought to the portreeve of the town of Trim, and the portreeve to put it upon a stake or spear upon the castle of Trim, and that the said portreeve should give him his writing under the seal of the said town, testifying the bringing of the said head to him. And that it should be lawful for the bringer of the said head and his ayders to the same; to distrein and levy with their own hands of every man having one ploughland in the barony where the thief was so taken, twopence; half a ploughland, one penny; and every man having a house and goods to the value of 40s. one penny; and of every other cottier having house and smoak, one halfpenny And if the portreeve should refuse such certificate, he was to forfeit 10l. recoverable by action. In passing an opinion upon this statute, it ought not only to be tried by the absolute and immutable rules of moral equity, but by the relative feelings and prepossessions of the Irish, whose Brehon institutions allowed all crimes, even murder itself, to be expiated by fine or eric.

Although the printed statutes of Ireland go not to so early a date, yet Sir John Davies quotes the famous statutes of Kil. kenny, which are preserved in the castle at Dublin : they were passed in the 40th year of King Edw. III. (A. D. 1366) and although they were chiefly intended to correct the degeneracy of the English, yet had they the strongest tendency to aggravate the rancorous animosity of the two nations. In the 40th year of his reign“ King Edward held that famous parliament at “ Kilkenny, wherein many notable lawes were enacted, which “ doo shew and lay open (for the lawe doth best discover enora “ mities) how much the English colonies were corrupted at “that time, and doo infallibly prove that which is laide downé “ before: that they were wholly degenerate and faln away from “their obedience. For first it appeareth by the preamble of “these lawes, that the English of this realme, before the “coming over of Lionel Duke of Clarence, were at that time " become meere Irish in their language, names, apparell, and “ all their manner of living, and had rejected the English lawes " and submitted themselves to the Irish, with whom they had made

many marriages and alliances, which tended to the utter ruine

" and destruction of the commonwealth.

Therefore alliaunce by marriage, nurture of infants, and gossipred with the Irish s are by this statute made high treason. Again, if anie man of “ English race should use an Irish name, Irish language, or Irish apparell, or any other guize or fashion of the Irish, if he “had lands or tenements, the same should be seized, till he had

given security to the Chancery, to conform himself in all points

to the English manner of living. And if he had no lands, “his bodie was to be taken and imprisoned, till he found sures ties as aforesaid.”

Imagination can scarcely devise an extreme of antipathy, hatred, and revenge to which this code of aggravation was not calculated to provoke both nations. One thing alone was left to fill the measure of calamity on one side, and oppression on the other. It was a system so grievous in its nature, that had it been confined to that disastrous period of the Irish history, I should have spoken of it with the same freedom I have used in narrating other barbarous usages, which civilization and political liberality had long entombed: but recent revivals of this system of inhumanity render it prudent for a modern writer to use others rather than his own language in retailing these ancient enormities. *« But the most wicked and mischievous cus“ tome of all others was that of Coygne and Livery, often before "mentioned: which consisted in taking of mans-meate, horsemeate and money

of all the inhabitants of the country at the " will and pleasure of the soldier, who, as the phrase of Scrip

ture is, did eate up the people as it were bread, for that he had

no other entertainment. This extortion was originally Irish, "s for they used to lay bonaghtt upon their people, and never

gave their soldier any other pay. But when the English had “ learned it, they used it with more insolency and made it more “ intollerable ; for this oppression was not temporary, or limited “ either to place or time: but because there was every where a “continuall warre either offensive or defensive, and every lord “ of a countrie, and everie marcher made warre and peace

at s his pleasure, it became universal and perpetuall: and was “indeede the most heavy oppression that ever was used in anie “ Christian or Heathen kingdom. And therefore vox oppresso

rum, this crying sinne did drawe down as great or greater " plagues upon Ireland, than the oppression of the Israelites “ did draw upon the land of Egypt. For the plagues of Egypt

though they were grievous, were of a short continuance: but “the plagues of Ireland lasted 400 years together. This ex" tortion of Coygne and Livery did produce two notorious effects,

• Dav. Disc, 174, &c.

Free quarters seems to be the modern appellation of this mischievous system of oppression; but unfortunately for Ireland, the reality has long survived ils ancient appellation.

« First, it made the land waste : next, it made the people ydle. “ For when the husbandman had laboured all the yeare, the “soldier in one night did consume the fruites of all his labour,

longique perit labor irritus anni. Had hee reason then to “ manure the lande for the next yeare, or rather might he not “ complayne as the sheperd in Virgil:

Impius hæc tam culta novalia miles habebit?
Barbarus has segetes ? En quo discordia cives

Perduxit miseros ? En queis consevimus agros? “And hereupon of necessity came depopulation, banishment, “ and extirpation of the better sort of subjects, and such as “ remained became ydle and lookers on, expecting the event

of those miseries and evill times: so as this extream extortion " and oppression hath been the true cause of idlenesse in this “ Irish nation ; and that rather the vulgar sort have chosen to be

beggars in forraign countries than to manure their own fruitful “ land at home. Lastly, this oppression did of force and neces“ sitie make the Irish a crafty people; for such as are oppressed " and live in slavery are ever put to their shifts, ingenium mala

semper movent."* And in another place, this same author has spoken still more strongly upon this monstrous excess of inhumanity and impolicy. tú In the time of King Edward II. “Maurice Fitz-Thomas, of Desmond, being chief commander of the army against the Scots, began that wicked'extortion of

Coygne and Livery and Pay, that is: he and his army tooke " horsemeate and mansmeate and money at their pleasure, without

any
ticket or any

other satisfaction. And this was after " that time, the general fault of all the governours and com

manders of the army in this lande.” And I" By this it " appeareth, why the extortion of Coygne and Livery is called " in the old statutes of Ireland a damnable custome, and the

imposing and taking thereof made high treason. And it is

said in an ancient discourse of the decay of Ireland, that though " it were first invented in Hell, yet if it had been used and prac

tized there, as it hath been in Ireland, it had long since destroyed the very kingdome of Belzebub."

Doctor Leland, in our own days, speaks in the same spirit of that infamous and pernicious practice. 9 “ The compendious

• Sir John Davies here further remarks, that the common people have a whyning tune or accent in their speech, as if they did still smart or suffer some oppression : and that this idleness, together with the fear of imminent mischiefes, which did continually hang over their heads, have tended to make the Irisia the most inquisitive people after news of any in the world. One might bare supposed Sir John Davies had seen at the close of the 18th century groups of idlers in the streets of Dublin, listening to and brooding over Saunders's journal.

† Dav. Disc. p. 30, 31, # Ibid. p. 33. Lel. Hist. 1 vol. p. 280.

“ Irish method of quartering the soldiers on the inhabitants, " and leaving them to support themselves by arbitrary exactions, “ seemed to have been pointed out by the urgent occasion, was

adopted with alacrity and executed with rigor. Riot, rapine, “ massacre, and all the tremendous effects of anarchy were the natural consequences.

Every inconsiderable party, who, under the pretence of loyalty, received the king's commission

to repel the adversary in some particular district, became pes“ tilent enemies to the inhabitants. Their properties, their lives, “the chastity of their families were all exposed to barbarians “ who sought only to glut their brutal passions; and by their “ horrible excesses purchased the curse of God and man.

Without passing in review the successive scenes of dissension, insurrection, perfidy, oppression, massacre, distress, and calamity which blackened the reigns of all our monarchs from the invasion to the reformation, certain it is, that this long space of nearly 400 years was (except in the moments of impotency produced by excessive violence on each side, and the delusive hours of actual perfidy or meditated treachery) one uninterrupted scene of discord, warfare, and wretchedness. This illfated people seems to have been devoted to the extreme tension of human misery. Every appearance of advantage was alternately taken by the English and the Irish to extend or contract the pale : success was various; though ravage, desolation, and famine invariably marked the progress of the conqueror. The most trifling differences and frivolous pretexts were greedily seized by the factious and irascible chieftains, whose passions more than interests kept their septs in continual wars with each other. Proud of independence, inflated with self-consequence, they seldom agreed with their neighbours, and never coalesced, but through weakness for protection, or through resentment to cxecute vengeance the more forcibly on their enemy. Private discord equally distracted the English cantonments or districts, as the old Irish septs. Every appearance, report, or even suspicion of dissension, weakness, or disorder within the pale, was the signal for the septs to fly to arms, and harass the English, of whom their hatred was truly implacable.* Every defeat of the English was followed up by an inundation of more formida

* In proportion as national prejudice, antipathy, and hatred may be deeply rooted, is it important to consider the grounds from which they spring: and as, I presume, that it cannot be deemed unfair to trace them in the instance of Ireland, to that studied system of oppression and disunion into which England was betrayed; by the false representations of interested individuals, for the space of time comprised in this chapter, I refer my reader to that remonstrance of grievances set forth by the Irish, (App. III.) which certainly is the strongest picture of inveterate national hatred that has been handed down to poste. rity. It demonstrates, that difference of religion did not produce these evils, and that Union alone is the effectual security against their repetition.

ble forces : the submission of the Irish was often abject, always precarious and occasional: it never lasted longer than the English forces commanded a decided superiority. Famine, pestilence, and wars frequently brought this wretched people to the desperate necessity of feeding on grass, leaves, and the flesh of their fellow creatures. Such were the unceasing calamities, to which that unfortunate country was doomed, during the reigns of sixteen of our monarchs,* who held the British sceptre, from the invasion under Henry the Second to the reformation under Henry the Eighth; calamities evidently arising out of the in"ternal divisions and national disunion and oppression of that kingdom.

• Viz. Henry II. Richard I. John. Henry III. Edward I. Edward II. Edward III. Richard II. Henry IV. Henry V. Henry VI. Edward IV. Edward V. Richard III. Henry VII. Henry VIII.

« PreviousContinue »