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he may have appeared to have receired at our hands, in the two preceeding memoirs; but in truth we have little if any thing to add to these casual notices. M.Carthy's title to notice is more due to station and circumstance, than to any personal distinction. We shall as briefly as possible offer a summary of all that we find any account of in his history.
When the earl of Tyrone visited Munster to organize the rebellion in that quarter, it was at the pressing instance of this Florence M-Carthy, who had his own interests in view. The M Carthys of Desmond had at the time, raised Donald, an illegitimate son of the earl of Clancare, to the title of VI Carthy More. Tyrone displaced him, and without opposition set up his friend Florence in his room. The speciousness of this hollow intriguer, had in like manner already won him the favour of tbe English government; and he made use of the importance thus obtained to court the favour of the Irish chief. His first demonstration was not, it is true, altogether consistent with the trimming and shufiling caution for which his subsequent career is so remarkable; but he was for a little while imposed upon by appearances, which were beyond his sagacity to penetrate. The slackness and remissness of the English court in providing against the growing storm and the increasing power of the Irish insurgents, while thus inadequately opposed, gave a universal impulse to Irish disaffection. Nor can the charge be confined to Florence M.Carthy, which seems at the time to have amounted to a national characteristic, of taking part with the strongest. At the period of Carew's first arrival in Munster, all seemed to favour the cause of the insurrection; and M Carthy, like many others, rushed forward under a press of sail before the prosperous wind.
It was in the latter end of April, that he contrived an ambuscade, at a ford between Cork and Kinsale, to intercept a party of English which had been detached into Carbery, under captains Flower and Bostock. Fortunately the ambush was detected in time, as the English party were advancing without the least apprehension of an enemy, scarcely in order, and having but a few matches burning, it happened that captain Bostock who rode before espied the glancing sunbeam from some of the steel morions of the soldiers, who were lurking in the low glen towards which he was riding; he instantly turned back, but without any appearance of haste or alarm, and gave the word to the soldiers to be ready: the time was not quite sufficient for preparation, when the rebels perceiving themselves to be discovered, sprung up with a shout from the neighbouring stones and brushwood, and came on with great impetuosity. The English were for a few minutes overwhelmed, both by the violence of the charge and the numbers of the enemy. But the real strength of the steady English was then, as now, the firmness of nerve, that resists the impulse of a first disorder, and renders them capable of that most difficult of efforts—a rally from the shock that overpowers resistance. In despite of the surprize, the broken rank, and the overbearing torrent of enemies, they stood sternly to their arms, and made fight until the impetus of their foes began to waste itself away. The skill of their leaders was thus brought into action, and the enemy were fairly caught in their own device. Commanding
lieutenant Lane to lie down in an old ditch behind them, with a strong company of musketeers, captain Flower directed a retreat. The enemy led by Carbery O'Conor, confidently pressed in their rear, until he came on the line of the flank fire from Lane's party, when a volley from the ditch arrested their advance, and slew their leader with many other officers as well as soldiers. Sudden amazement suspended their steps, and while they hesitated the battle was lost. A charge from the English horse, at this critical moment, scattered them like chaff, and in a moment the party they had been pursuing was in the midst of them, slaughtering right and left without resistance: 98 fell on the spot, and multitudes went off with mortal wounds.
M‘Carthy, not long after, entered into a treaty with Carew. There was at the time a favourable disposition towards him among the English lords ; but the president of Munster was still more actuated by the state of the country in his desire to draw M‘Carthy from the rebels. It was to be apprehended that the English force, which was far below the demand of the occasion, must otherwise require to be further weakened by the division and extension of its operations which a war with this chief would render necessary; nor was the infirmity of purpose or the uncertainty of conduct, which soon appeared to neutralize his hostility, yet fully understood. A conference was therefore appointed, to which M‘Carthy came, was reproved in the severe manner of Carew, pardoned, and swore allegiance and future obedience and duty on his knees. In his account of this scene, the writer of the Pacata Hibernia mentions, “ These speeches being finished, the president bade him to stand up, when as both he and the earl of Thomond, Sir Nicholas Welsh, and John Fitz-Edmund, did every one of them very feelingly preach obedience to him.” After this pretty schooling, M.Carthy made an eloquent answer, in which he probably showed himself a better orator at least than his advisers, using such general terms as to pledge him to nothing, while he delivered himself with so much appearance of warmth and good feeling, that even Carew could not help thinking him a very loyal man. After a repetition of the same comic drama on the following day, he was desired to send his eldest son as a pledge. At this critical demand his speciousness was a little shaken aside. He pleaded the difficulties in which such a pledge must involve him, as he would thus be deprived of the power of keeping appearances with Desmond and his own people; “adding, moreover, that it was needless in them to exact any such thing at his hands, who was in his soule so wholly addicted and devoted to her majestie's service.”* These absurd subterfuges were necessarily ineffectual. Other conditions were next proposed by M.Carthy and rejected; and the conference ended in a promise to preserve a strict neutrality, and that he would from time to time send intelligence of the rebels' proceedings to the president, and “ doe him the best underhand service he possibly could.” It is needless to observe that such a promise, whether sincere or insincere, equally betrays the unprincipled character of this unworthy descendant of an illustrious race. With this promise Carew was satisfied, for he only desired to keep him
quiet for a time, until the war with Desmond should be brought to an end.
Afterwards, when the army of the sugan earl was dispersed and himself a fugitive in Kerry, M'Carthy followed the example of others; and having through the war contrived to amuse both parties and keep himself out of danger's way, he came to the president's camp, “ in the midst of his troope, (like the great Turke among his janissaries,) drew towards the house like Saul, higher by the head and shoulders than any of his followers." He was courteously received by the lord-president, and gave pledges, which he desired to have received for the O'Sullivans, the O'Donoghes, the O’Crowlies, and O'Mahon Carbery. This was of course rejected ; Carew wished to cut the links between him and these dependent chiefs, and intended to compel them to put in hostages for themselves.
At this period it was that a violent and deadly feud took place among the M-Carthys of Muskerry and Carbery, in which some leading persons were slain. The lord of Muskerry, grieved at the slaughter of the O’Learies his followers, applied to the council for leave to make war on Carbery; but the application was not acceded to.
We have already had occasion to exemplify and illustrate the conduct and character of Florence M‘Carthy in our memoir of the sugan earl. The correspondence which was intercepted exposes the weakness and duplicity of his character by the testimony of his own hand. It is therefore unnecessary to glean further the scanty materials before us. We have already mentioned his fate; he was in the end sent a captive into England, thus meeting the reward of a course of conduct which rendered him an object of distrust.
We have only to add a remark which has often pressed itself upon us in the course of this work. The conduct of every distinguished person who figures in the political proceedings of the period of which we have been writing, indicates so very loose and defective a system of political morality, that when we have been by any chance led to take an unfavourable view of any person of illustrious name and descent, we have ever done so with some consciousness of a disagreeable nature, and an indication to recoil, like fear in Collins' ode, “even from the sound itself hath made.” We have felt the injustice of making any one an unhappy example of the sins of all. The best and wisest men who came forward on that tragic stage, seem to have been ignorant of the higher principles of truth, honour, and justice, which the meanest and basest who seek mob-favour in our own day, think it essential to swear by. And again, when we look on the practice of our own refined age, and see many who are honourable gentlemen, 'and most estimable in every relation of private life, so false, hollow, and perjured in their public capacities, we are inclined to the charitable conclusion, that there is something in the game itself which none but the very noblest hearts and heads can resist; and that there is some arcanum in state affairs, which causes a temporary transformation, so that the same person may be a man of honour in the hall and field, while he is a knave malgré soi on the hustings and in the senate. We have therefore assuredly no right to affect a stern elevation of public principle, when we look back on the ways of persons whom we call unenlightened, because they did not play their game as knowingly as the gamesters of our own day, who have the wisdom to know that they are wrong, and the hardihood to act in defiance of the principles to which they pretend. Florence M-Carthy deceived with all the dignity of virtue, because he thought it all fair ; and Sir G. Carew did not know much better. The president thought it not amiss to bargain with those who sought his favour, to murder one another; it may be said perhaps that he knew his men; but the person who employed them for such purposes, must have forgotten the spirit of the proud chivalry of England in the very day of Sidney
With this weak apology we must take our leave of M-Carthy: he lived in an evil day, and defended himself by the only weapon of which prudence warranted the use by an Irish chief. And if it can be truly asserted that the only alternative was submission, we are inclined to suspect that the mind of his own time may rather have applauded his persevering spirit, than condemned the hollow manœuvring by which he persevered. Unhappily history, with all its boasted impartiality, can hardly try its great delinquents by their peers. We cannot guess from their public statements and letters what would Fitz-William say—what would Perrot say–what would Carew say; but must look to their policy and their acts, and with one who knew something of men, denounce the great “unwhipped of justice.”
Cormack M'Carthy, Lord of Muskerry.
FLOURISHED A.D. 1601.
DURING the events which we have largely detailed in our memoirs of Hugh, earl of Tyrone, and of the sugan earl, there appear occasional glimpses of persons whose names are amongst the stars of Irish history, but whose part in the events of their generation was but sufficient to give them a doubtful title to our notice. Among these was Cormack M‘Dermond M‘Carthy, lord of Muskerry, a branch of the same illustrious parent stem from which was also descended the subject of our last previous memoir.
We shall here briefly relate such passages of his life as have sufficient interest to demand such notice.
Before the lord-deputy Mountjoy marched to the siege of Kinsale, orders had been issued by Sir G. Carew, to the cities and towns of Munster, to send their contingents of force to join the queen's army; and the Irish chiefs who were at the time understood to be loyally affected, were generally apprized that they were expected in like manner to prove their profession by their actions. Among the chief of those who came forward on the occasion, was the lord of Muskerry. He was immediately employed by lord Mountjoy to make an attack on the Spanish trenches, in order to let them see that the English were supported in the war by the principal Irish lords. The Irish made a stout assault, but were repelled; but the lord-deputy was prepared for this, and the attack was followed up by one from his own troop of horse, which drove the Spaniards from the position which they had begun to entrench. Not long after, a near relative of his, Feague M Cormack M*Carthy, with whom he had been for some time at variance on a question of property, had been induced to desert from the lord-president's troop; but finding the rebel cause unprosperous, he sought a reconciliation by giving information of the private correspondence between the lord of Muskerry and the Spaniards. He excused his desertion on the ground that it was not “malicious,” “but in the hope to recover against my cosen M.Dermody, some means to maintain my decayed estate, and still likely to be suppressed by his greatness, who will by no means give me a portion of land to live upon.” His excuse was considered insufficient by Carew, to whom his letter was addressed, and he was given to understand that his reconciliation was only to be looked for by some signal service. On which, having sought and obtained a safe conduct, he came to the president and gave him information that the lord of Muskerry was carrying on a private negotiation with the Spaniards; that he received letters from the king of Spain, and from some foreign bishop; that he had held a secret conference with the rebel Owen Mac Eggan, who had given him 800 ducats, for which he had agreed to yield Blarney castle, his chief castle, within two miles of Cork, into the hands of the Spanish. The information tallied but too well with several other informations and grounds of suspicion.
The lord-president immediately gave order to the judge of session, for the apprehension and commitment to prison of M-Carthy, and at the same time sent Sir Charles Wilmot and captain Harvie to obtain possession of Blarney castle. This castle is described as being at the time one of the strongest in that part of Ireland, as it consisted of four piles of building contained within one strong wall of eighteen feet in thickness, and built upon a rock, which made it alike proof against the mine and battery. The president therefore directed that they should proceed by stratagem, and try to gain admission on the pretext of buck-hunting in the neighbourhood. But the warders were on their guard, and the stratagem failed.
The prisoner was soon after brought up for trial; and as he pleaded his innocence, it was proposed to him to maintain his plea, by giving up his castles to be held by the queen, on the condition that they should be safely returned when his innocence should be confirmed by the failure of the proof against him. M*Carthy consented, and his castles of Blarney and Kilcrea were on these conditions, placed in the lord-president's hands. An army was at the same time sent against Macroome, as it lay in the very wildest and most dangerous part of Muskerry, and was not likely to be surrendered on the order of MCarthy.
While these transactions were in their course, the lord-president received secret intimation that contrivances were going on for the escape of his prisoner. He likewise was informed, that O’Healy, a servant of M‘Carthy, was prepared to embark for England, to steal away young M.Carthy from the University of Oxford, and take him into Spain. O’Healy was allowed to embark, and then suddenly seized, but contrived to throw his letters into the sea, so that nothing against his master was thus elicited. The president in the mean time was warned by the bishop of Cork, and by Sarsfield, the queen's attorney for