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Further review of Clarendon's millenium. Plots
and conspiracies. Droppers of letters. Wholesale spoliations in Ulster. Law, conscience, and honour of James I. Sir John Davies. Frontless fraud and chicane.
WE have examined the correctness of lord Clarendon's fascinating portrait of the Irish millenium, that “ blessed condition of peace and security,” which continued “ during the whole happy reign of king James," and was “increased and improved under his late majesty,” so far as respects the holy, the sacred right of adoring the Living God as conscience dictates; and also as respects the security of person. It now comes before us on the question of security of the rights of property, the universal stimulus to the exercise of all the talents and endowments bestowed upon us by our Creator.
The noble author informs us, that " whatsoever their land, labour, or industry produced, was their own, being free from having it taken from them by the king, on any pretence whatsoever.”
Of this specious tale, it is sufficient to say, that it is just as fair and as correct a portrait as the
religious one which we have reviewed. Clarendon's regard to truth ran pari passu in both cases. I hope to make it appear, that, during the whole period embraced in his millenium, there was hardly a man in the kingdom whose property
Under the most frivolous pretexts, the nobility and gentry were plundered of estates which had remained in their families for ages ; and such scenes of rapine and depredation were exhibited, as never were exceeded in any country in the world, in a time of peace.
These depredations were of two kinds : by the government, on a large scale, but confined to particular situations; and by fraudulent and rapacious individuals, on a small scale, but extended all over the country.
To present the subject more clearly and distinctly to the reader, I shall consider each branch separately ; and, although the government, throughout the reigns of James I. and Charles I. maintained an almost unceasing predatory warfare on individual property, yet in this review, I shall confine myself to the three great cases :
I. The lawless spoliation in Ulster, where six counties were at once seized by king James ;
II. The seizure of a large portion of King's and Queen's counties, Longford, Leitrim, and Westmeath;
III. The projected seizure of the entire province of Connaught by Strafford, the final accom
plishment of which was prevented solely by the civil wars in Scotland and England.
1. The Spoliation of Ulster. The unceasing rapine perpetrated on the Irish, for four hundred years, from the invasion by Henry II. till the reign of James I. was speciously covered with the mantle of rebellion, which was always within reach. The deputies of the kings of England, or the deputies of those deputies, or even the provost marshals, could, at any time, to suit their purposes, excite a rebellion, or what, in the castle style, was denominated a rebellion. Every act of resistance of insult, outrage, or aggression, was thus designated in proclamations, and afterwards in histories. The prescription was simple. It had been administered times without number, and never failed of
It was only to make an inroad, or to commit some depredation on such of the Irish nobility or gentry as might be selected for the purpose, the more flagrant the better; provoke them to resistance, as I have already stated; then proclaim them traitors, and let the armies loose to destroy them.
The pedantic James changed the system ; and substituted the fraud of the fox for the violence of the lion. He accomplished the same end, without the expense of raising a soldier, or firing a gun; and acquired, without disbursing a shilling, six entire counties in one province, and
nearly five in another. Pretended plots and conspiracies were easily fabricated; they were unexpensive; and succeeded to admiration, so as to render unnecessary the apparatus of a rebellion, which would have obliged the "peace-loving" James to open the doors of the temple of Janus, to which he had an unconquerable aversion.
A catch-penny letter was dropped in the castle, containing an absurd and contemptible development of a plot, of which the earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel were asserted to be the principal agents.* It was pretended to be from a Catholic,
* The import of the letter was as follows : “ That he was called into company by some Popish gentlemen, who, after administering an oath of secrecy, declared their purpose to murder or poison the deputy, to cut off Sir Oliver Lambert, to pick up one by one the rest of the officers of state, to oblige the small dispersed garrisons by hunger to submit, or to pen them up as sheep to their shambles. That the castle of Dublin, being neither manned nor victualled, they held as their own; that the towns were for them, the country with them, the
great ones abroad and in the North prepared to answer the first alarm; that the powerful men in the West are assured by their agents to be ready as soon as the state is in disorder. That the Catholic king had promised, and the Jesuits from the Pope had warranted, men and means to second the first stirs, and royally to protect all their actions. That as soon as the state is dissolved, and the king's sword in their hands, they will elect a governor, chancellor and council, despatch letters to king James I. trusting to his unwillingness to embark in such a war, and to his facility to pardon, would grant their own conditions of peace and government, with toleration of religion : that if the king listen not to their motions, then that the many days spent in England in debates and preparations would give them time enough to breathe, fortify, and
who had been tampered with by the traitors, and whom they had endeavoured to seduce into the conspiracy, but whose loyalty rendered him incorruptible. The conspirators, it was stated in the letter, had determined on poisoning the deputy, cutting off Sir Oliver Lambert, picking up, one by one, the rest of the officers, starving the garrisons,* &c. &c. It is almost as stupid and clumsy a performance as the depositions respecting the apparitions at Portnedown bridge, or those about the invulnerable woman, which may be seen in page 41. It carries the strongest marks of fabrication on its face.
furnish the maritime coasts; and at leisure call to their aid the Spanish forces from all parts.” The writer of the letter declares, “ That he interposed some doubts on them, which they readily answered ; and he pretended to them to consent to further their projects, and that he took the method of this letter, to give notice of their designs, though he refused to betray his friends; in the mean time he would use his best endeavours to hinder any further practices.” And he concludes, “ That if they did not desist, though he reverenced the Mass and Catholic religion equal to any of them, yet he would make the leaders of that dance know, that he preferred his country's good, before their busy and ambitious humours."176
*“A letter dropt in the Privy Council Chamber, intimated a traitorous scheme of rebellion formed by the earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel, and other Irish lords and gentlemen of the north ; that they had solicited assistance from Spain and Brussels, and intended to begin the war with surprising the castle of Dublin, and assassinating the lord deputy and council."177 176 Plowden, I. App. 48.
177 Leland, II. 498.