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of religion. It is therefore no wonder, that although James, in fact, laid as sure a ground work as any of his predecessors, for future rebellions, his own reign was comparatively tranquil.
His first object was to destroy, not only the power but the very existence of the old Irish and old English chieftains, and this he accomplished with admirable wisdom. He espoused the cause of their oppressed subjects against their chieftains. He held out to them the blessing of equal law, of the inviolability of their persons, of the secure possession of their properties, and its descent to their children.' 'He strengthened defective titles, and abolished all distinctions between English and Irish'; “whereupon, (says Sir John Davis,) such comfort and security was bred in the hearts of all men, as insured the calmest and most universal peace that ever was seen in Ireland.” Can there be a more delightful, a more glorious contemplation, than to see a nation, a whole people, thus rescued from ignorance, poverty, faction and war, and installed in all the blessings of knowledge, wealth and peace, by the operation of a single measure, and this after the same effect had been in vain attempted by force, and its necessary attendant, havoc. * This was perfected in Ireland by the too little celebrated Act of Oblivion, published by proclamation under the great seal; by this all offences against the Crown, and all particular trespasses between subject and subject, done at any time before his Majesty's reign, were pardoned, remitted, and utterly extinguished, never to be revived or called in question. And by the same proclamation all the Irish. (who hitherto had been left under the tyranny of their lords and chieftains) were received into his Majesty's protection, The oppressive exactions of the Irish chieftains on their subjects, their bonnaught, their
coyne, and livery, cuttings and cosherings, were abolished. Instead of granting to a chieftain, who surrendered his chiefry, the whole territory of the sept in perpetuity, as had hitherto been done, he was only allowed his patrimonial property, which was generally very small, and a compensation in money for the tributes, exactions, and services due to him.
The common Irish were studiously instructed that they were free subjects to the kings of England, and not slaves or vassals to their respective chiefs; that the tributes and extortions exacted from them were not lawful, and that they should no longer pay them ; they gave a willing ear to these lessons, “ and therefore," says Davis, “the greatness and power of these Irish lords over the people suddenly fell and vanished, when their oppressions and extortions were taken away, which did maintain their greatness, insomuch, as divers of them who formerly made themselves owners of all by force, were now, by the law, reduced to this point, that wanting means to defray their ordinary charges, they resorted to the Lord Deputy, and petitioned fora competent maintenance. But some of them being impatient of this diminution, fled out of the realm to foreign countries ; whereupon we may well observe, that as extortion did banish the old English freeholder, who could not live but under the law, so the law did banish the Irish Lord, who could not live but by extortion.”
system, at once so simple and so effectual, never entered into the contemplation of James's predecessors. When they seized on the possessions of a conquered chieftain, they confiscated also the whole property of his subjects; in order to win only a seeming dependance, and to procure a nominal surrender of his authority, they regranted to him not only his own lands, but the lands of all his subjects, leaving him in full possession of all his ancient tyranny, tribute and exactions. When they sought to destroy a chieftain, they raised up and supported a rival, by which they tacitly acknowledged the legality of those petty sovereigns thus Queen Elizabeth had her O'Donnel, her O'Neil, her Macguire, her O'Reily. Whenever they interfered, they left the condition of the Irish worse than before. They held the Irish in too much contempt to have any interest in their wel fare ; and this good effect at least arose from the desperate resistance inade by the Irish against Elizabeth, that they gained a certain degree of respectability, which seemed to entitle them to the solicitude of government. James rescued them from
oppression, and raised them from the station of the slaves of petty despots, to the highest rank of men, free British subjects.
If a dog were treated with barbarity, one would feel an inclination to take his part. One cannot but pity the misfortunes of the Irish chieftains, and sometimes one must admire the virtues which those misfortunes called forth; one cannot but detest the mean perfidy, the rapacity and cruelty of their oppressors ; yet as far as we can judge from the scanty annals of the country, they were the scourge of their own subjects, and Ireland stands deeply indebted to England for their overthrow.
James conferred a still greater benefit on Ireland, by the abolition of the Brehon laws of property.
After reading every account of Irish history, one great perplexity appears to remain: How does it happen, that from the first invasion of the English till the reign of James I. Ireland seems not to have made the smallest progress in civilization or wealth? That it was divided into a number of small principalities, which waged constant war on each other ; or that