« PreviousContinue »
brother, and said " where is your heart now?” O’Hugh answered the signal by discharging his gun into the back of the earl who, receiving the contents, exclaimed “ Lord have mercy on me," and fell dead across the threshold of his betrayer. The crime was followed up by another as revolting. On the same night, a number of Sir Phelim's own tenants and servants, who were English and Scotch, were massacred by the same abandoned band of ruffians. Among the murdered was a son of Sir Phelim's, whose mother was an English woman.
This tragic incident took place 1st March, 1641. A curious story is told by Lodge or his commentator, from some old book. We shall add it here in the words of the teller. On the perfidious visit of Sir Phelim which we have just described, when the company were met, “ The Butler, an old and trusty servant, remarked that the assassin with his accomplices and the noble family, made up the odd number of thirteen; and observed with dread and concern, that the murderers had often changed their seats and their countenances, with the exception of the bravo himself, who kept his place on the left hand of lord Caulfield as he was wont to do, being an intimate acquaintance. The butler took an opportunity, whilst they were at dinner, to acquaint his lady with the causes of his uneasiness; telling her that he dreaded some direful event. She rebuked his fears, told him he was superstitious, asked if the company were merry, and had every thing they wanted. He answered that he had done his duty; they all seemed very merry, and wanted nothing he knew of but grace; and since her ladyship was of opinion that his fears were groundless, he was resolved, through a natural impulse he felt, to take care of his own person. And thereupon instantly left the house, and made the best of his
way to Dublin."*
Such was the first exploit of Sir Phelim O'Neile. night many similar successes were obtained, but none by means so base. From Charlemont fort O'Neile proceeded to Dungannon, which he surprised and seized without any resistance; the castle of Mountjoy was surprised by one of his followers; Tanderage by O'Hanlon; Newry was betrayed to Sir Con Magennis; Roger Maguire, brother to lord Maguire, overran Fermanagh ; lord Blaney's castle, in Monaghan, was surprised by the sept of MacMahon, and the lord with his family made prisoners by the MacMahons. In Cavan, the insurrection was headed by Mulmore O'Reily, sheriff of the county, and all the forts and castles seized by the posse comitatus, under the pretence of legal authority and the king's service. His example was followed by the sheriff of Longford. Insurrection had not as yet put forth its horrors, neither had its vindictive spirit been inflamed, or the fanaticism which was to infuse its fiendish character at a further stage as yet been called into action. It was as yet an insurrection of lords and gentlemen; nor is there any reason to believe, that any thing more was designed by these, than a partial transfer of property, and certain stipulations in favour of the church of Rome.
By these successes, Sir Phelim soon found himself at the head of an
On the same.
army of 30,000 men, and of ten counties. On the 5th of November, he took up his head quarters at Newry, and endeavoured to give a legal colour to his conduct, by the declaration, that he took up arms by the authority, and for the service of the king. To authenticate this pretension, he exhibited a parchment to which he had cunningly appended a great seal, which he contrived to obtain while at Charlemont fort, from a patent of lord Charlemont's. This fact was afterwards proved, both by the confession of Sir Phelim, and by the production of the very patent a few years after, in a lawsuit in Tyrone assizes, where the marks of the seal having been torn away, together with an indorsement to the same effect, confirmed this statement.*
In the mean time, no measures of a sufficiently decisive nature were taken against the rebels. The lords-justices appear to have been infatuated by some fallacious security, and perhaps were diverted from a sense of their danger by interested speculations of the future consequences of rebellion. Such speculations are, indeed, but too likely to have arisen; for it was only the after events of the long civil wars in England, that prevented the rebellion of 1641 from following the ordinary course of former rebellions. But so far were the lordsjustices from manifesting any true sense of the emergent position of events, that they not only acted remissly themselves, but interposed to prevent the activity and courage of such noblemen and gentry of the pale as were inclined to arm in their own defence. The earl of Ormonde volunteered his service, and pressed earnestly to be allowed to lead whatever men they could spare him against the rebels. This was not acceded to; and the lords-justices, pressed by the remonstrances of every loyal tongue, contented themselves by sending a regiment to the relief of Drogheda, which was then besieged by 4000 rebels.
The English parliament was still less desirous of giving peace to Ireland. The rebellion favoured their views, and could, they knew, be suppresed whenever it suited their own purposes to send an army into the country. It gave them, however, a pretext for the levy of men and money to be employed against the king, and of this they availed themselves largely.
The pale, and the protestant nobility and gentry, were thus left to their own courage and means of resistance. They quickly threw off their fears and their false security, and took up arms in their own defence. Their resolution and energy, however great, were in some measure paralyzed by the uncertain conduct of the king, and by the false pretences of the rebel leaders, who assumed his name and authority. Yet they began to fortify their castles and to defend the towns, and the progress of the rebels began to be more difficult, and to bé interrupted by numerous checks and disappointments.
Sir Phelim and his associate conspirators had been raising a strong force against themselves; the fugitives which their first successes had rolled together into Carrickfergus, were embodied and armed into a force, which, if inferior in numbers to the rebels, was far superior in moral force and discipline. From these colonel Chichester garrisoned
Carrickfergus, Derry, Belfast, and other principal places of strength. A reinforcement of 1500 men from Scotland gave added force to the whole. Sir Phelim's people were defeated in many places. He was himself repelled with slaughter from before the walls of castle Derrick, in the county of Tyrone, and fled to his camp at Newry, in mortification and disgrace.
From this, Sir Phelim's conduct is to be distinguished for its violence and cruelty. Some historians attribute the murders committed by his order, to a design to secure the fidelity of his people, by dipping them in guilt beyond the expectation of forgiveness. The love of plunder had brought the common people to his standard, and he very well understood that there was no other motive so likely to preserve their fidelity, as the desperation of crime beyond the hope of mercy. By some this counsel has been imputed to Ever MacMahon, one of his followers, and titular bishop of Down, on the authority of a deposition of a Mr Simpson of Glaslogh. But with Carte, we are inclined to attribute the crimes of this person to the evil passions of his nature, upon the strong ground, that they appear to have chiefly followed upon occasions of ill success. On such occasions where his followers met with a check-when any thing in the camp caused irritation, and sometimes when he was drunk, it was usual for him to be seized with a violent fit of rage bordering upon phrenzy, during which he frequently gave orders for the murder of his prisoners. Some of these ruffian-like acts are enumerated by Carte, and we shall give them in bis language. “ In some of these frantic fits, he caused Mr Richard Blaney, knight of the shire of Monaghan, to be hanged in his own garden, and the old lord Charlemont to be shot; in another, when the rebels were repulsed in the attack of the castle of Augher, and several of the sept of the O'Neiles slain, he ordered Mulmory MacDonell, to kill all the English and Scotch within the parishes of Mullebrack, Logilley, and Žilcluney; in another, when he heard of the taking of Newry by lord Conway, he went in the beginning of May, in all haste, to Armagh, and in breach of his own promise under his own hand and seal, at the capitulation, murdered a hundred persons in the place, burnt the town and the cathedral church-a venerable and ancient structure said to be built by St Patrick, and called by a name reverenced enough among the Irish, to have been an effectual protection to a place dedicated to his honour- and fired all the villages and houses of the neighbourhod, and murdered many of all ages and sexes, as well in the town as in the country round about.”
From this, all pretence to humanity was at an end: once adopted there is no end to cruelty. It will be justified by the assertion of its justice, and will be maintained by the furious passions of men dipped in lawless murder. The rebel soldier was not slow to catch the spirit of his chief, and to glory in atrocities which came recommended by a sanction he could not but respect. Even cows and sheep were tortured for being English, and were not saved by the growing necessity which they might have been used to supply. “Cruel and bloody measures," writes Carte, " seldom prosper:" from the commencement of this course of cruel conduct, Sir Phelim's successes were at an end. Whatever may be the value of Mr Carte's maxim, it seems quite reconcilable to every thing we know of the laws of human nature; an army steeped in crimes, which demand the help of the worst passions of man for their perpetration, cannot be the fit organ of moral discipline; it can have no calm energy, no sense of honour, or of an honourable, high, or holy cause. Some savage state can, it is true, be conceived, debased by a faith, atrocious by some fell rule of wrong;
be hordes who worship the powers of evil
, and are bound by fanaticism of some black and hell-born hue. The Christian, however misled, is taught to act on other grounds, even his illusions preserve the name of a holy cause; his crimes are in the defiance of his conscience, and his creed: the plundering and the licentious butcheries only sanctioned by cupidity-revenge, and the blood-thirsty excitement of an uncontrolled rabble, the most dangerous and disgraceful phenomenon in the known compass of things, could never be consistent with the moral discipline which is the best strength of armies. The army of Sir Phelim, terrible henceforth to the defenceless, were chaff before the smallest force that could be brought into contact with them. The rabble who followed him, expressed their designs in language, which requires no commentary. They declared that “ they would not leave an English man in the country; that they would have no English king, but one of their own nation, and Sir Phelim O'Neile should be their king,
that if they had his majesty in their power, they would flay him alive,” &c. Such were the frantic professions of this vile mob, as has been proved from several depositions, perused by Carte.
Among the grievous consequences of these excesses, one was, that they called forth some lamentable instances of retaliation. Among the English and Scotch a horror of the Irish spread to every rank; the report of such barbarities appeared to degrade the perpetrators below the level of human nature. They also excited the worst passions among the inferior classes of the opposite party. The Scotch garrison at Carrickfergus, possessed both by their habitual hatred to popery, and inflamed to an implacable detestation of the Irish, by multiplied accounts of their cruelties, horrible in themselves, and exaggerated not only by the sufferers, but by those wretches who boasted and magnified their own barbarities. In one fatal night, they issued from Carrickfergus into an adjacent district, called Island Magee, where a number of
poor Irish resided, unoffending and untainted by the rebellion. Here, according to the statement of a leader in this party, they massacred thirty poor families. This incident has been, as might be expected, misstated in all its particulars, both as to the number of the sufferers and the date of the occurrence. Leland, by far the most accurate and scrupulous writer on our history, ascertains the true particulars from the MS. “depositions of the county of Antrim," preserved in the College Library; and states, that instead of happening in November, this incident took place in the beginning of the following January, when the followers of Sir Phelim " had almost exhausted their barbarous malice." We should add, that Carte cannot, as Leland
* Leland, ü. 128.
thinks, be properly said to favour the assertion, that this' massacre took place in November: without entering on the question as to its date, he quotes the assertion from a book entitled, The Politician's Catechism, in order to show from numerous facts, that it was not “the first massacre in Ireland, on either side,”* and on this Mr Carte is quite conclusive. We also think it fair to state, that one historical writer, whom we have consulted, questions the accuracy of Leland's investigation of the college MS.; but from the uniform tone of acrid misrepresentation in which this writer deals, we have not thought fit to adduce an opinion which we should be compelled to investigate at a very disproportioned length. The importance of the point has been overstated in the heat of party recrimination. When crimes on either side must be admitted, priority is of little importance; it cannot justify those who cannot be justified, but by the denial of every principle of right and wrong:
As we have observed, the moral effect of these atrocities was fatal to the army of Sir Phelim. They soon became only formidable to the unarmed and helpless. The horror diffused by their crimes, armed against them many who would willingly have remained inert, and drew from the Irish government, the English parliament, and the protestant gentry, efforts of opposition and resistance which soon effectually checked their advances. Of the wide spread scene of waste, disorder and danger amounting to the disruption of society, of which such a state of things was productive, an ample and striking description is contained in Borlase's account. Every private house seems to have been something in the condition of a besieged fortress—and a scene of protracted terror and watchfulness, or of heroic
and stancy. “Great were the straits
many of them were put unto, enduring all manner of extremities, subjecting themselves to all kind of dangers; not daunted with the multitude of rebels that lay about them, they in many places issued out, and lived only on the spoils they took from them, fighting continually for their daily bread, which they never wanted, so long as their enemies had it. The rebels were so undexterous in the management of their sieges, as they took very few places by force; in all their attempts whether by mine, battery, or assault, they seldom prospered. The great engine by which they mastered any fort of the English, was treachery; offers of safe conduct, and other conditions of honour and advantage, which might induce the besieged, sometimes reduced to the utmost extremities, to surrender their places into their hand; which though so solemnly sworn and signed, yet they seldom or never kept.”† We forbear entering into the sanguinary recital of these flagrant atrocities, which we should be too glad to have it in our power to reject as the monsters of exaggeration and fear, but which are given upon the authority of depositions, which there is no fair ground for rejecting. Much of the sanguinary spirit manifested by the followers of the rebel chiefs is to be attributed to the irritating consciousness of failure, and the protracted resistance which they so often had to encounter, from seemingly inadequate opponents. • Carte, i. 76, 77.