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1189–150g. Period between Henry II. and Henry VIII.- The Irish
partial to Justice.— Ineffectual efforts to obtain it. Parallel between the Barons of Edward I. and the Orange Ascendancy:-Rebellion of the Macs and O's.-The Rocks in Danger.-Penal Laws under Edward III.Captain Rock's Taste for Music.-Surprising Ingratitude and Obstinacy of the Irish.
A short review of some of the reigns that preceded the Reformation will sufficiently account for the distinguished part that my ancestors played during the whole of that period.
My unlucky countrymen have always had a taste for justice-a taste as inconvenient to them, situated as they have always been, as a fancy for horseracing would be to a Venetian.
In the reign of Edward I., that part of the native population which came in immediate contact with the English settlements, and which it was, therefore, a matter of the utmost importance to conciliate, petitioned the King to adopt them as his subjects, and to admit them under the shelter of the English law. They even tried the experiment of bribing the Throne into justice. "An application was made," says Leland,“ to Ufford, the chief governor, and eight thousand marks offered to the King, provided he would grant the free enjoyment of the laws of England to the whole body of the Irish inhabitants. A petition, wrung from a people tortured by the painful feelings of oppression, in itself so just and reasonable, and in its consequences so fair and promising, could not but be favourably received by a prince possessed with exalted ideas of policy and government, and, where ambition did not interfere, a friend to justice.”
But, though the King was well inclined to accede to their request, and even ordered that a convention should be summoned to take this petition into consideration, luckily for the lovers of discord and misrule his wise and benevolent intentions were not allowed to take effect. The proud Barons, to whom he had entrusted the government of Ireland (or, in other words, the Orange Ascendancy of that day), could not so easily surrender their privilege of oppression, * but, preferring victims to
*" The great English settlers found it more for their interest that a free course should be left to their oppressions; that many of those whose lands they coveted should be considered as aliens; that they should be furnished for their
subjects, resolved to keep the Irish as they were ; and the arguments, or rather evasions, by which they got rid of the question altogether, so closely resemble the shallow pretexts which have been played off against the claims of the Catholics in our own time, that their folly, though of so old a date, appears to us quite recent and modern, and they might have been uttered by Mr. Goulburn last week, without any breach of costume or appearance of anachronism :-6 Edward was assured that an immediate compliance with his commands was not possible in the present state of things ; that the kingdom was in too great ferment and commotion,” etc. etc.—“And such pretences," adds Leland,
were sufficient, where the aristocratic faction was so powerful."
Read “Orange faction" here, and you have the wisdom of our rulers, at the end of near six centuries, in statu quo.
The Grand Periodic Year of the Stoics, at the close of which every thing was to begin again, and the same events to be all re-acted in the same order, is, on a miniature scale, represented in the History of the English Government in Ireland
petty wars by arbitrary exactions; and in their rapines and massacres be freed from the terrors of a rigidly impartial tribunal. " -LELAND,
every succeeding century being but a renewed revolution of the same follies, the same crimes, and the same turbulence that disgraced the former. But “ vive l'Ennemi !” say I :-whoever may suffer by such measures, Captain Rock, at least,
And such was the result at the period of which I am speaking. The rejection of a petition, so humble and so reasonable, was followed, as a matter of course, by one of those daring rebellions, into which the revenge of an insulted people naturally breaks forth. The M'Cartys, the O'Briens, and all the other Macs and O's, * who have been kept upon the alert by similar causes ever since, † flew to arms under the command of
* According to the following distich, the titles Mac and O are not merely what the logicians call accidents, but altogether essential to the very being and substance of an Irishman.
Per Mac atque O tu veros cognoscis Hibernos :
His duobus demptis, nullus Hibernus adest.
By Mac and 0,
You 'll always know
For if they lack
Both O and Mac,
No Irishmen are they. + The system of free-quartering, which was so successful in provoking insurrection in the year 1798, is, like all our
a chieftain of my family, and, as the proffered handle of the sword had been rejected, made their inexorable - masters at least feel its edge.
Still, such a hankering had the poor Irish after law and justice, that, about fifty years after, in the reign of Edward III., they again tried to soften the hearts of their oppressors, and “ addressing themselves once more to the Throne of England, petitioned that all those odious distinctions, which had so long deluged the land with blood, should, at last, be abolished, and that the Irish inhabitants should be admitted to the state and privileges of English subjects."
We need not ask what was the fate of this second memorable petition. Had it succeeded Captain Rock would not have been here to tell the story. Gibbon says, in speaking of some early other blessings, of ancient origin. “ The compendious method,” says Leland,“ of quartering the soldiers on the inhabitants, and leaving them to support themselves by arbitrary exactions, was adopted with alacrity and executed with rigour. Riot, rapine, massacre, and all the tremendous cffects of anarchy, were the natural consequences. Every inconsiderable party, who, under pretence of loyalty, received the king's commission to repel the adversary, in some particular district, became pestilent enemies to the inhabitants. Their properties, their lives, the chastity of their families, were all exposed to these barbarians."
A historian of the Rebellion of 1798 might transfer this passage to his page with perfect truth and fitness.