« PreviousContinue »
The principal inducement, however, to the greater chieftains to accept the king's suzerainty was the alteration in the tenure of the land. Henry insisted on the old fraud practised by the Plantagenets of recognizing the feudal laws as the laws of the country, and shutting his eyes to the Irish system of tenure. The chief surrendered his territory to the king, and the king regranted it to him to hold of the Crown by knight's service. The king was benefited by obtaining a recognition of his sovereign rights, and the invaluable leverage of the law of forfeiture for treason incident to the English tenure. The chief was benefited by getting a grant in fee to himself and his heirs of the land, which never was his, which belonged to his tribe, and of which he was only the demesne lord for life by virtue of the will of the tribesmen. The arrangement was colourable and collusive, and in effect confiscated every acre in the island. Though the practical effect was not at first apparent, the foundation was laid for a huge future injustice.
The tribesmen themselves were wholly ignorant of the effect of what had taken place ; but the submission of their lords was unpopular and grudgingly acquiesced in. In many cases the newly-created peers found the tribal dissatisfaction forcibly brought home to them. The new Earls of Thomond and Clanricarde, and the new Baron Ibrackan, on their return from the ceremony of inauguration at Greenwich, found portions of their countries in revolt. And the sons of O'Neil and O'Donnel, who had got some inkling of the juggle
which was being played about the property of the tribe, headed the clansmen in a refusal to accept the new order of things. Fighting followed, and the peace was only restored in Thomond and Galway by the intervention of the deputy, who led his troops to support his fledgling nobility, and in the north by the overthrow of young O'Donnel by his father ; while the schism in the O'Neil family was fought out between the new Baron of Dungannon, Mathew the bastard, and John or Shane O'Neil the legitimate son, who was clearsighted enough to contend that by the law of Tanistry his father had nothing but a life interest in the chieftaincy, and that the king had no power to settle the inheritance by the feudal laws.
The success of Henry's policy was greater and more immediate than could have been expected. Both Irish chiefs and Anglo-Irish lords kept to their bargain ; and there seemed a fair prospect of Ireland becoming a united and loyal portion of the dominions of the Crown. In ten years' time we find the Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Cusacke reporting to the Duke of Northumberland that the king's circuits were held in the counties of Cork, Limerick, and Kerry ; that the sheriffs were obeyed; and that Desmond, Roche, Barry, and Fitzmaurice were sitting as magistrates in petty sessions. The new peers were quiet, and studying to conform to the law; and were each prepared with their contingent for the support of order. Where depredations had been made by the natives, fines had been paid by the chiefs. In Fercal roads were being cut through the forests; in Clanricarde lands were coming under the plough ; in Tipperary the lives and property of travellers were respected, and cattle and agricultural implements could safely be left unguarded in the fields. It seemed as if the old days of lawlessness and tumult were passing away, and that those of progress and civilization were about to take their place.
THE IMPOSITION OF THE NEW FAITU.
HENRY's great object throughout was to rule in Ireland as he ruled in England ; and, with this object in view, he strove in his ecclesiastical policy to destroy the pretensions of the Bishop of Rome, and to improve the religious houses off the face of the earth. Beyond this he had no intention to go; and it is to be observed, that the accepting of both these courses in no way necessitated a breach of religious communion with the Holy See. But it was otherwise with those into whose hands, upon Henry's death, the reins of government came. In England, Henry's new nobility, the Seymours, the Russells, the Cavendishes, had profited by the plunder of the Church lands, and were greatly concerned to keep what they had got, and prevent anything like a reaction. The interests of the advanced party of the reformers lay in the same direction, and many of those whom Henry had used as his instruments were inclined to the forward course. Accordingly, we find the new doctrines directly encouraged; the law of the six articles repealed; the clergy permitted to marry; the mass displaced by the Lord's Supper; first one new liturgy introduced ; and then a second of a more advanced character; and the pulpits "tuned” by authorized preachers. The reforming tide was flowing strongly, and the new ideas prevailed. The secret of the success of the Reformation in England lay in its not being a movement in advance of its time. Large numbers of the people, especially those who dwelt in the cities, and towns, were ready to entertain it. The impulse came from within, and not from without. All the acts of Parliament passed to promote it would have been of no avail had not large sections of the community been ready to receive it. The movement had been at work upwards of two centuries. The ground had been broken by Wycliff and the Lollards. The former had translated the Bible into English, so that people were in a position to form their own opinions, and to freely criticise what they had hitherto taken on trust; the latter were bitterly persecuted by the Church, and, being scattered through the country, continued secretly to spread their opinions far and wide. The recent discovery of the printing-press had led to the rapid increase of general knowledge by the ready multiplication of the vehicle for its transmission. A keen spirit of inquiry had grown up, which fearlessly probed into all subjects. The Church itself had become discredited by the undisguised worldliness of its servants and officers; and from the days of Chaucer onward had suffered from the satirical attacks to which it had laid itself open.