« PreviousContinue »
"For these grievances I myself will call the deputy unto me, and set down such orders in this time of vacation, as these abuses shall be redressed and clear taken away. And if any such disorder be suffered hereafter, it shall be only for fault of complaining: and because the meaner sort will perhaps fear to complain, I would have such gentlemen of the country, as are of best credit, to present complaints, which they may do in such manner as the parties who prefer the complaints may not be known.
"There is a double cause, why I should be careful of the welfare of that people. First, as king of England, by reason of the long possession the crown of England hath had of that land; and also as king of Scotland: for the ancient kings of Scotland are descended of the kings of Ireland; so as I have an old title as king of Scotland, therefore you shall not doubt to be relieved when you complain so as you will proceed without clamour.
"Moreover my care hath been, that no acts should be preferred that should be grievous to that people; and to that end I perused them all except one, that I saw not till of late, that is now out of door; for I protest I have been more careful for the bills to be past in that parliament, then in the parliament of England.
"Lastly, for imputations that may seem to touch the deputy, I have found nothing done by him but what is fit for an honourable gentleman to do in his place, which he hath discharged as well as any deputy did, and divers of you have confessed so to me; and I find your complaints against him and the state, to be but causeless expostulations.
"To conclude, my sentence is, that in the matter of parliament, you have carried yourselves tumultuarily and undutifully; and that your proceedings have been rude, disorderly, and inexcusable, and worthy of severe punishment; which by reason of your submission I do forbear, but not remit, till I see your dutiful carriage in this parliament, where by your obedience to the deputy and state, and your future good behaviour, you may redeem your bye-past miscarriage, and then you may deserve not only pardon but favour and cherishing."
The delegates were dismissed with this characteristic reprimand. Sir A. Chichester's triumph was completed by the fulness and publicity of their exposure: he received in addition a peerage, and the grant of the estates of Sir Cahir O'Doherty. Returning home, he now without delay, called together the parliament. All parties were by this convinced, some of the danger, some of the impolicy of further opposition to government, and became emulous in their subserviency. The parliament met with this favourable disposition, and the following enactments passed without any remarkable opposition.
"An act of recognition, reciting that Ireland, which before his majesty's access to the crown, had been subject to continual rebellions, rapines, and oppressions, was by his majesty's most gracious government reduced to better order; and that he has established his government in the hearts of his people, by the proclamation of oblivion, and suppressing petitions for trespasses done in the war between subject and subject, at his first coming, by his special charters of pardon, by name freely granted to many thousands; by remitting many great debts, arrears of rent, and forfeitures, and by strengthening defective titles, and regranting the lands to them on surrenders; by erecting court-houses, and enlarging the number of the judges; and by setting a civil plantation in the forfeited parts of Ulster, (formerly the nest of rebellion,) to the great security of the commonwealth.
2d. An act that all crimes committed on the sea, within the jurisdiction of the admiralty, shall be tried in any county, according to the rules of the common law, by commission to the admiral or his deputy, and three or four more, or any four of them.
3d. An act for taking away benefit of clergy in certain cases.
4th. An act for attainder of the earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, Sir Cahir O'Dogherty, and several others.
5th. An act to repeal some former acts prohibiting trade or commerce, with the Irish enemies, or to marry or foster with them, and commanding to seize them as spies.
6th. An act of repeal of a former statute against bringing in, retaining, or marrying with Scots.
7th. An act for repairing and mending highways and causeways, &c.
8th. An act for avoiding private and secret outlawry's.
9th. An act of oblivion and general pardon.
10th. An act for one subsidy, which amounted to no more than £26,042, and yet the Irish complained of it as a heavy tax, though they did not pay above two-thirds of it at most.
And so the parliament was by proclamation dissolved in October, 1615.
The. long series of civil workings which followed the demise of James I., and during the reign of his successor, demand a wider scope than we can here afford. The period is more involved in the difficulties caused by conflicting statements, than any other, perhaps within the whole range of history. The concurrent truth of opposite statements is not unlikely to be the most just conclusion, as the two main classes of writers who are opposed to each other, rather vary by the suppression of true facts than by advancing falsehoods. It may, however, even thus appear to those, who look fairly on all that must be admitted, that the most comprehensive view is likely to be also the most distinct: for whatever importance may be attributed to any class of alleged facts, it cannot fail to be observed that a few great, prominent, and governing influences were necessarily at work; and lead to inferences independent of all partial, transient, or local causes. There is, also, nothing plainer to the reflecting student of history than the distinction of Polybius which is cited by Temple, between the causae suasorits and the causae justificae—the motives and the justifications of action. There is no course of political conduct which has ever been pursued, which has not been urged upon the public mind, upon some equitable ground of principle; or has any public crime been ever perpetrated which has not been justified by reasons and causes not unfounded in reality, and by facts which, when looked on superficially, will afford a seeming excuse. To apprehend this general principle is easy enough; but it is another thing to follow it out in the wide-spread mazes of detail we have now before us.
The historians of 1641 are divided into two opposite classes, who
VOL. II. z
disagree more or less in all their statements. But it is, however, worthy of notice, that this disagreement cannot be said to reach farther back than comparatively recent times. The views of political parties change, and statements are boldly put forth by the leading men of one generation, which their successors in the next find necessary to explain away or contradict. Under such circumstances, the fairest and most satisfactory course to be pursued, in a work which aims to avoid all controversial views, will be to give the most explicit statement to the allegations on every side, so far as they have any just or specious pretence to a foundation in fact. Such is the course we shall follow when we come to the details of this eventful period. We must here confine ourselves to some general observations.
A multitude of causes, not easily disentangled from each other, contributed from the very beginning of the settlement of king James, as already described, to cause discontent and disaffection. If the general condition of the kingdom was improved, many were deprived of real or imaginary rights; of many the prospects were depressed, and none who conceived themselves in any way the losers, whether rightfully or otherwise, were likely to acquiesce contentedly in the new order of things. Among these classes, if they must be admitted to have been numerous who had ground for just complaint, it can be seen that there were far more whose grievances were either pretended or fanciful. But there were many whose conduct was actuated by the mere love of disorder and thirst for spoil and slaughter—many whom the zeal of party inflamed—and many who, combined by a deeper and further-sighted will and energy, acted from a sense of stern and uncompromising duty, which was directly opposed to the policy, and government of England.
All of these, though differently actuated, and widely different in the scale of moral or intellectual estimation, were inevitably combined by the strong connexion of a common purpose and a common enemy; and as the course of a few years brought together and matured for them a system of concerted action, they assumed the form which all such aggregations will ever assume. The views of the most enlightened or influential of the sections of which they consist will give a specious and consistent stamp to their entire conduct: they become one in pretence. All that is glaringly unjust, all that admits of no high construction is suppressed and merges in the pretended claim and complaint of conscience or justice.
From the grievances justly complained of, there is also a very considerable deduction to be made for the absolute necessity of a strong and peremptory maintenance of the law against the numerous oppositions and difficulties arising from an unsettled state of things. Rather an undue stress is laid upon arbitrary decisions which not unfrequently appeared to set the law aside. They were quite consonant with the constitutional knowledge of the age; and if they were not, the operation of law as then subsisting, was inadequate to the condition of the country. These injustices, which must be among the results of arbitrary power when transfused through subordinate jurisdictions, have met enough of our notice. The extortions of an undisciplined, irregular, and ill-paid soldiery committed to the command of the proprietors of castles and territories, could not fail to excite a very justifiable discontent, and to swell the murmur of complaint; the same must be said of the severities and of the corrupt administration of ecclesiastical courts. There was also a preference, to some extent mistaken, in favour of new persons, to the neglect of a large, influential, and necessarily proud and aspiring aristocracy of the country, and a spirit of bitterness was thus excited and nourished, which tended to raise opposition, when all opposition must have swelled the mass which fermented slowly, but surely, into the fierce amalgam of rebellion.
But in the frank admission of the numerous causes of complaint which existed, and tended to give a pretext and colouring to this rebellion, it would be an absurd illusion, for a moment to attribute to them an effect which mere discontents and grievances could not have produced. To organize a nation, in the feeling of a common cause, whether for good or evil, just or unjust, demands something more than the murmurs of factious grievance, or the irregular ebullitions of popular malcontent, A profounder and more pervading machinery of organized and organizing intelligence, method, and unity of purpose, are demanded to call up the stormy energies of a nation. A more expanded survey of the events of the reign of Charles I. will exhibit the visible operation of two several trains of circumstance tending to a common result. The civil agencies which we have partially observed, were trivial and transient in effect, compared with the cross current, to the tumultuous rush of whose course they were in due time to add the impetus of their power. The court of Rome, which had at no time acquiesced in so large a blank in the map of her ecclesiastic dominion, was on the watch with a sleepless eye that lost no moment of advantage: she was cemented in the bond of common creed and mutual interest with the discontented at home and abroad: the sons of the O'Neils and the O'Moores had grown up in the credit and discipline of foreign courts and armies, and were waiting for the ripeness of the time. And to this all, both of good or evil, were destined to lead the way.
Through the interval between the plantations of James I. and the rebellion, a very complex combination of causes was at work. The process of civil growth was intermixed with disorderly workings of various efficacy. A vast and sudden revolution of estate, which totally altered the condition of the people, could not with the same celerity change their moral state: the adjustment between the institutions and the people was necessarily imperfect. The people were not civilized to the level they had attained; the lords did not understand their precise rights or their subordinate obligations, and clung to ancient privileges. The government, however zealous for the good of the country, did not itself comprehend the progress and direction of the civil movements which were the great characteristic of that period: wise in their main designs, their intelligence was confined within narrow limits, and the result was not always either fortunate or just. To coerce the rude masses, they found it necessary to exercise powers inconsistent .with the rights of the civilized aristocracy of the English pale: and in their most just resistance to the interference of a foreign influence, they mistook the means, and enormous evils were the result. Thus were measures of needful control mixed inseparably with acts of an oppressive tendency; and as the popular ideas of right were in that period rather undefined, real oppressions were accompanied by numerous acts of seeming injustice. So that, like some cases of family litigation, reciprocal aggravations and mutual misunderstandings form a tissue of vexations not to be unravelled by any human skill. It was, indeed, evident, that the control of some impartial and peremptory hand was wanting to subdue the troubled elements which were at work, when king Charles I. succeeded to a revolutionary throne. His position was one replete with vast and untried dangers; the commoners of England had grown to adolescence, while he held them by the bonds of childhood. Not perhaps inferior in wisdom or virtue to the ablest monarchs of his period, he had neither wisdom, firmness, nor political virtue equal to the new emergency of his situation. In the emergency of his position in England, he regarded Ireland in no other relation than as it might be subservient to the difficulties of his new and critical position. With regard to this country, the policy pursued in the first years of his reign, inclined to relaxation: while it was adapted to conciliate the fears and discontents which troubled the nation, it had also the effect of awakening false hopes, and exciting the insolence of faction. Those whom it was only designed to relieve or to conciliate, with that unmeasured impulse so natural to Irish enthusiasm, felt all concession as the triumph of their party, and conducted themselves with arrogant overbearing and exacting defiance.
To this large and powerful party, the weakness and necessity of Charles compelled him to sell the true interests of the country, and the duties of his crown: without effectually conciliating their loyalty or satisfying their growing spirit of requisition, he gave discontent to their opponents; and two powerful parties grew up amid the perfidious tranquillity of a peace purchased and maintained by expedients and compromises as flimsy as the patching of a threadbare cloak.
The difficulties of the king increased, and with them the feebleness and impolicy of his government in Ireland. The discontents and animosities of which we have explained the grounds, increased, and the power of the civil authority grew less and less, when by a conjuncture of circumstances, unnecessary to detail here, Wentworth was sent over as lord-deputy. The course he adopted was one very singular for its vigour, sagacity, and efficacy: we cannot describe it so well as in the following extract from a profound and impartial writer:—"With a deep insight into the causes of Irish calamity, with a considerable address and undaunted resolution: with a spirit inaccessible to all factious or fanatical impulses, and an impartiality, the result at once of native benevolence and principled austerity; this great man, while he opposed himself to the wishes of every party, laboured indefatigably for the common welfare. Devotion to a master who was not worthy of such a servant—compassionate mercy towards the mass of the people, and severity to the local despots, whether Protestant or Roman Catholics, who had not yet learned to acknowledge either authority above them, or liberty below—these were the uniform characters of his arduous administration."* Too sagacious to stand on forms which become