Page images

Whenever it acquired a momentary strength, the Lord Deputy would catch hold of an earl of Desmond, and endeavour to attach him to the court, or hang him; which only served to keep alive the jealousy of these degenerate chieftains, against the English government. - No steady or efficacious system was adopted to reduce their power, till it had acquired almost the sanction of prescription. : !.

This was the state of things when Elizabeth ascended the throne, when every cause, which had so long repressed the natural energy of the English government, of that solid and spirited force which arises from wise and equal laws, was removed; while the Irish had not advanced a step from the weak and impoverished state which had been engendered by tyrannical habits and absurd laws. Elizabeth felt the difference, and knew her power, and proceeded to reduce these long established dynasties to the rank of subjects. These unfortunate chieftains were too ignorant to comprehend

whatthe power of England was, they only recollected how weak it had been. They had been in the habit of treating the threats

of the English government with scorn, they had been successful in throwing off its controul and repelling its aggressions by , :

Is there any thing miraculous, that when fresh threats were held out, and fresh aggressions prepared, they should again have recourse to force? What has this to say to religion? ., . ';:

Take the particular instance in this reign of Garet, the last earl of Desmond.

The Lord Deputy summoned him to resign all the princely prerogatives which had been transmitted to him through a long line. of ancestors. He consults his relations and feudatories, wlio unanimously advise him to resist so unreasonable a demand, and promise to maintain their advice by force of arins, against the Deputy or any other that will covet the said earl's inheritance. Not one word of religion. The earl of Desmond had always been considered as the leader of the English-Irish chieftains ; he was the most powerful and wealthy, and stood most forward on the canvass. As long as his privileges were untouched, their's remained secure, when he was at

tacked, their welfare was in jeopardy till the contest was ended. :!". . .i .

On this head there was no doubt of the intentions of Elizabeth ; and consequently as soon as a small force of Spaniards landed at Smerwick, the Earl of Desmond and all his feudatories, turned their arms against the Lord Deputy... i' ve

But the Irish had at length to learn the difference between the force of a government, founded on wise laws, and the power of their dynasties which rested on principles, repugnant to justice, and common sense. The forces of the Earl of Desmond were defeated, dispersed, annihilated ; all compromise denied to him, because, as it was admitted, his possessions were of too princely an extent to be rescued from forfeiture. The wretched old man was hunted like a wild beast, from his forests and his caverns; he was surprised at length in a miserable hut; his head was cut off'; and out of compliment to the Queen, was conveyed to her, and impaled on London bridge. ,

All the Earl of Desmond's property was confiscated, and as it was convenient for the English government to construe the sovereignty he held over a large territory into property also, the estates of his clan, and his feudatories, were also confiscated. That is, nearly the whole province of Munster.

Hence we may trace the cause of the succeeding rebellion, without having recourse to that which has been made a saddle for all horses-religion.. :!'. :.;s:

The fifth cause for the rebellions under Elizabeth was the plan adopted by the English government, of destroying the power and privileges of the Irish princes.

When we consider, that at the commencement of Elizabeth's reign, there were more than sixty independent chieftams in Ireland, of whom the greater part were in fact kings, and possessed of unlimited power over their subjects, when we know the attempts that had been made, and were at this period absolutely making, to reduce this band of sovereigns, who traced their descent from the most remote antiquity, to the condition of subjects; instead of looking for imaginary causes of rebellion, one is surprized, that rebellions were not more frequent, and conducted with more unanimity. Why, during the early reign of Elizabeth, when the English force was insignificant, when the reign of a woman could not appear formidable to men who excluded women from their own petty thrones ; why, when the whole province of Ulster was confiscated; when the name of O'Neil was abolished, when the laws of tanistry were pronounced treasonable by the English law; why was there not a general union, and a prompt resistance of all the Irish chieftains, to an aggression, which aimed at the very foundation of all their princely rights ?

The English government was in fact not so inimical to the Irish chieftains as it appeared; it was too conscious of the injustice and weakness of its pretensions to act up to them. In the very act which pronounces the prerogatives of the Irish princes an usurpation, and abolishes them as such, a power was vested in the Lord Deputy to re-grant the same by letters patent, with much greater privileges than the chieftain possessed by the rules of the Irish law.*

* The queen tacitly allowed the validity of the Irish

« PreviousContinue »