Page images

These practices were winked at by the planters, who were glad to get less independent tenants, until the custom of selling and buying the tenant right became established in Ulster as a recognized portion of the unwritten law of the province.



A.D. 1613.

THE momentous revolution in Ulster had been accomplished through the instrumentality of royal proclamations and royal warrants, following upon verdicts of "guilty" wrung from the juries before which the earls had in their absence been indicted. It was now thought desirable to put the seal of legality upon what had occurred by summoning a Parliament and passing an act of attainder against them.

Great wrestlings of spirit did the king and the deputy and Sir George Carew endure in respect of the composition of this Parliament. The spirit of religious intolerance was now fully awake. Every Irish interest was identified with Popery ; every English interest with Protestantism. The Government had determined to convert Ireland to the reformed faith by the terrors of the law. And in order to have a Parliament which would work, it was necessary in their eyes that there should be a competent Protestant majority. Seeing that the freeholders of the greater part of Ireland and almost all the burgesses were of the Roman Catholic persuasion, it was a moral certainty that at a free election only a very small number of Protestants would be returned. How to avoid this difficulty was the task which fell to Carew and Sir John Davis ; and after weighing the reports of the provincial presidents, and balancing the pros and cons, they calculated that by incorporating the infant towns which were projected and partly built in Ulster, and certain judiciously selected garrison towns elsewhere, to the number of forty, these, with the representatives of the newly planted counties, would be sufficient to swamp the “recusants” of the other three quarters of the kingdom. They felt safe with respect to the peers, for they reckoned that “of the forty-four spiritual and temporal we may assure ourselves of the nineteen bishops; of the temporal lords, three are under age, and five are Protestants, and so we shall sway the Upper House by seven voices." It was the Commons who were the stumbling-block. There were thirty-three counties in all ; Wicklow having been recently carved out of the county of Dublin ; and that portion of the present county of Tipperary in which Holy Cross is situated, being reckoned as a separate shire by the name of "the Crosse.”

Moryson, the President of Munster, reported that there might be as many as ten Protestant knights of the shire returned for his presidency, the only freeholders in the greater part of the province being of the recent plantation in Desmond; but that Tipperary and Crosse would return recusants. Of burgesses for Limerick, Waterford, and Cork, he says there is “no hope of any Protestant.” For Kinsale, Kilmallock, Clonmell, Cashel, Fethard, “no hope of any conformable ;” and for the rest of the ancient corporations but three Protestants would be chosen. By the creation, however, of eight new boroughs, sixteen supporters of the Government would be secured ; so that on the whole he concludes, “If it be so, the Protestants will exceed them six voices."

Sir Oliver St. John, the President of Connaught, reported that "he could not assure himself of the five counties of more than two Protestants;” and of the ancient boroughs of Galway and Athenry, “no hope of any Protestant.” The new borough of Athlone, however, a garrison town, he says will send two Protestants; and of the "boroughs to be newly erected," he believed all would send Protestants except Loughreagh, which "peradventure would send Papists," but that it might be as well nevertheless to incorporate it, “as it would gratify the opinion of partiality (sic) in erecting the new boroughs.” So that on the whole he hopes

. "the government of Connaught will send to the Parliament twenty-two Protestants for fourteen Papists.”

It was hoped that, in view of the recent plantation in Leinster,* several of the county members in that province would be Protestant. But out of the five shires of the Pale, only one Protestant was expected from Westmeath and one from the county of Dublin. Of the burgesses from the thirty ancient boroughs in Leinster and the Pale but seven Protestants could be reckoned

* See next chapter.

on. In Ulster, on the other hand, all the counties being recently planted with English Puritans and Scotch Presbyterians, would return Protestants en bloc; and as twenty-five corporate towns were to be erected there, each returning two members, the general conclusion on the whole calculation was that the Government would have a working majority of about eight-and-twenty.

Upon the news getting abroad that a Parliament was about to be called, and that the king was going to incorporate the Ulster blockhouse forts, there was a very general belief that the object of the Government was to pass a stringent penal statute against the Roman Catholics. And so strong was the fear that the Parliament would be made the instrument of James's arbitrary designs, that the gentry actually forwarded a petition to the king not to summon it, a petition which James treated with silent contempt.

On the issuing of the writs, a vigorous contest took place over the whole kingdom. It was the desperate struggle of a nation against the riveting upon them of the shackles of the law, by the introduction of the thin end of the “Protestant ascendency." The Roman Catholics strained every nerve to carry the elections ; and their energy was rewarded in the counties by the rejection of the Government candidates, and the return of recusant Dublin lawyers. The measures of the Government had, however, been sufficient to secure their majority; and the new house consisted of 226 members, of which 125 were Protestants, and 101 were Roman Catholics, the Government having a majority of 24.

« PreviousContinue »