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Was there a massacre of the Protestants in
Ireland in 1641 ?
“Fortiter calumniare : aliquid adhærebit.”.
HAVING, as we hope and trust, satisfactorily disposed of the question of the pretended conspiracy, in 1641, for a general massacre of " such of the Protestants as would not join” the murderers, we now proceed to investigate and combat the legendary tales of the immense numbers which, in the miserable romances, honoured with the prostituted titles of histories of the Irish rebellion in 1641, are stated to have been massacred by the Irish : and we feel confident that we shall satisfy the reader, that they are entitled to exactly the same degree of credit as lord Clarendon's millenium, which has figured to so much advantage in our preceding chapters.
In order to proceed correctly in the investigation, our first step will be, to ascertain the exact state of the allegations which we mean to disprove. We will therefore let the parties narrate their own tales. If they should fail to impose on the reader of the present day, they have no
TALES OF TERROR.
merit in the failure: as they spared no pains to delude and deceive the world, and hitherto, unfortunately, have been but too successful :
It would be almost endless to give a particular account of all the detestable cruelties acted by these incarnate devils upon the innocent English, of whom they destroyed near 300,000 in a few months !!!”398
“ The depopulations in this province of Munster do well near equal those of the whole kingdom ! ! !"399
“There being, since the rebellion first broke out, unto the time of the cessation made Sept. 15, 1643, which was not full two years after, above 300,000 British and Protestants cruelly murdered in cold blood, destroyed some other way, or expelled out of their habitations, according to the strictest conjecture and computation of those who seemed best to understand the numbers of English planted in Ireland, besides those few which fell in the heat of fight during the war.
“ The day appointed for executing this bloody design was the 23d of October, on which day they were to rise all over the island. The design was really executed, as projected : and it is said, on that and the following days above forty thousand English Protestants were massacred by the Irish!!!"401
“ Above 154,000 Protestants were massacred in that kingdom from the 23d October to the 1st March following."402
“By some computations, those who perished by all these cruelties are supposed to be 150 or 200,000. By the most moderate, and probably the most reasonable account, they are made to amount to forty thousand ! if this extenuation itself be not, as is usual in such cases, somewhat exaggerated !!!403
“ The innocent Protestants were upon a sudden disseized of their estates; and the persons of above 200,000 men, women, and children were murdered, many of them with exquisite and unheard of tortures, within the space of one month!!!"404
398 Burton, 37. 399 Temple, 103. 401 Rapin, IX. 340. 402 Idem, 343. 403 Hume, III. 545. 404 May, 81. Frankland, 903. Baker, 532.
400 Idem, 6.
“A general insurrection of the Irish spread itself over the whole country, in such an inhuman and barbarous manner, that there were forty or fifty thousand of the English Protestants murdered, before they suspected themselves to be in any danger, or could provide for their defence, by drawing together into towns or strong houses.":405
Though they were prevented of surprising Dublin, by a mere accident, yet through the country, it has been thought, that in one week they massacred very near one hundred thousard persons, men, women, and children! ! !"#406
That “ Saul slew his thousands, and David his tens of thousands,” was, in “ olden time," sung by the women of Israel. Every Philistine was magnified into ten; every ten into a hundred; and every hundred into a thousand. But the amplifying powers of the Jewish women fade into insignificance, when compared with those of the Anglo-Hibernian writers. Every Englishman that fell in battle, or otherwise, was murdered. Every man was magnified into a hundred; every ten into a thousand ; and every hundred into ten thousand.
Such a spirit of exaggeration has prevailed, in a greater or less degree, in all ages. Even in common occurrences, hardly calculated to excite any interest, we find, every day of our lives, that the statements of current events are so highly coloured, as to differ full as much from the reality, as the countenance of a meretricious courtezan, who has exhausted her stores of carmine and white-lead, differs from the un
405 Clarendon's E. II.
406 Warwick, 199.
WAYWARD FATE OF IRELAND.
disguised countenance of an innocent country damsel, who depends wholly on the pure ornaments of beneficent Nature. This being undeniably the case on topics, where no temptation to deception exists, how dreadful must be the falsehood and delusion in cases like the present, where, as we have already stated, and now repeat, ambition, avarice, malice, bigotry, national hatred, and all the other dire passions that assimilate men to demons, are goaded into activity.
The difficulty, stated in the last chapter, of procuring evidence to invalidate O'Conally's legend, was very considerable ; but not so formidable, by any means, as we have to encounter in the present one. We are not, however, discouraged: we trust to the force of truth; to the obvious falsehood in these statements; and, above all, to the candour of an enlightened age.
In all other cases, but that of the history of Ireland, to convict a witness of gross, palpable, and notorious falsehood, would be sufficient to invalidate the whole of his evidence : but such has been the wayward fate of that nation, that the most gross and manifest forgeries, which carry their own condemnation with them, are received by the world as though they were
“ Confirmations strong as proofs of holy writ.” Or, when some are found too monstrous to be admitted, their falsehood and absurdity do not impair the credulity in the rest of the tales depending on the same authority.
The materials for Irish statistics, at that early period, are rare ; a deficiency which involves this subject in considerable difficulty. Had we ample and correct tables of the population of Ireland, our task would be comparatively easy; and we could put down all those tales, with as much ease as we have stamped the seal of flagrant falsehood on so many impostures as we have already investigated.
But we avail ourselves of a sound rule, that we must employ the best evidence that the nature and circumstances of the case will admit; and, fortunately, we have some data, of authority very far from contemptible, on which to reason, in the present instance; which will shed the light of truth on this intricate question, and dispel the dense clouds with which it has been environed by fraud and imposture.
Sir William Petty, the ancestor of the Lansdowne family, laid the foundation of a princely fortune, by the depredations perpetrated on the Irish, after the insurrection of 1641. he had no temptation to swerve from the truth in their favour: on the contrary, it was his interest, equally with the other possessors of the estates of the plundered Irish, to exaggerate their real crimes, and to lend the countenance of his reputation to their pretended ones. Hence his testimony, on this ground, and as a cotemporary, cannot, so far as it tends to exonerate those upon whose ruin he raised his immense estate,