Page images

discharge of ordnance from the walls, was induced to halt and . inquire the meaning of the matter ;' and informs us a little after, that the regular troops did not consider the place tena

ble, except by enduring a degree of starvation, for which they had i no fancy, and that they were, moreover, greatly amused at the * comical choice which the mob had made of a commander.' Alternating with this slipslop, we have occasionally pieces of fadé eloquence, or misplaced vivacity. In speaking, for example, of the complaisant priests who had become Protestants under Henry VIII., and were willing again to be Catholics under Mary, he touchingly observes, that Some, however, had un• fortunately carried their convictions into the bosom of beauty, • and taken wives !' and afterwards, in allusion to the first English adventurers in Ireland, he informs us that many found the death they dared, and some the wealth they sought for.' Of his lively vein, the following, we suppose, will be taken as a sufficient specimen. He is speaking of King William's efforts to stop a petty traffic, by which certain poor people in Dublin supplied his Irish enemies with provisions. On this disco• very, pursuit was made, and some of the traffickers in those . dangerous commodities were overtaken, or nearly so. It appears that a female merchant actually dropped her Petticoat in

the pursuit, which was triumphantly taken possession of by . the exulting pursuers. The petticoat was thought a danger

ous article; but this identical petticoat had, besides being po* pish, (perhaps popery may be interesting in a petticoat,) the fur

ther interest of containing a letter in its folds ! Here were • materials for a plot-a letter and a petticoat ! and both deci• dedly popish! But this was not all; upon further search, a • roll of Tobacco was discovered at no great distance from the • spot where the petticoat was found. Whether it dropped from • the fair owner of the petticoat, or from a male companion, our • historian does not say, but in the centre of the roll another • letter was detected lurking! What might have been the pur. port of those letters, we are not informed, whether love, • brandy, tobacco, or treason, but the consequences were seri"ous. The houses of all Papists in Dublin were searched, and • the proprietors of most of them,' we are told, were commit*ted to prison.' It would be unfair to Mr O'Driscol, however, not to say that those are but occasional blemishes; and that his style in general, though not remarkably correct, and deficient, perhaps, in historical calmness and gravity, is clear, concise, and manly, as our readers indeed will immediately perceive from the specimens which, for other purposes, we are about to lay before them.

The work, we believe we have forgotten to say, comes no farther down than to the great pacification of Ireland by the articles of Limerick in 1691, though Mr O’Driscol holds out hopes, that if this attempt meets with the encouragement which we decidedly think it deserves, he may be induced to continue his labours. It is, upon the whole, concisely and pleasantly written, the earlier and less important period being despatched in a pithy abstract, and the latter events explained and unfolded with more ample details.

We care little for anything earlier than Henry VIII. ; but it may be worth while to notice, that though converted long before to Christianity, and carrying on indeed a great manufactory of priests, the Irish rejected the authority of the Roman Pontiff till after the conquest by Henry II., baving previously followed the rites of the Greek Church, to which St Patrick belonged, but acknowledging no other ecclesiastical head than the Archbishop of Armagh. Henry VIII., as is well known, attempted seriously to introduce the reformed religion into Ireland,—and the following short account of the result is well entitled to attention.

• The British power in Ireland was too feeble, and the personal character of the King was too little felt, to impose much restraint upon the people, in expressing their abhorrence of the innovation proposed. Cromer, Archbishop of Armagh, and an Englishman, denounced the new doctrines as heretical and abominable, and was supported by the whole Church of Ireland. The king, however, did not despond. He saw that violence would accomplish nothing in this case, and he took the course of an able and judicious statesman. He waited till the rage which had been kindled by the first proposition of the reformation had somewhat abated; and until O'Neil, who had been excited to take arms by Cromer and the Pope, had returned voluntarily to his allegiance, after having met some slight checks in the field; and he induced this great chieftain to visit him at his court in London. The king received the chief of Ulster with the most flattering courtesies ; he prevailed upon him to accept the title of Earl of Tyrone ; he placed a chain of gold on his neck ; and won him not only to the strongest professions of attachment and allegiance, but induced him with little difficulty to renounce the Church of Rome, and adopt the reformed religion. O'Neil's example was followed by some of the chief nobles of Ireland, and even by some of the Romish bishops who were connected with their families. O'Brien of Thomond, the Lord Desmond, M William, Clanrickard, and others, waited on the king at London, and were all received with favour and attention, and presented with gifts, titles, and honours. They returned to their country highly gratified with the king, and well disposed towards his religion : For the remainder of Henry's reign, universal peace prevailed in Ireland and a groundwork was laid for a gradual introduction of the great change in the religion of the country, which was necessary to assimilate the worship of the two islands. It is surprising that the success of this experiment of Henry's, upon the vanity and good-nature of his Irish subjects, seems never to have tempted any of his successors to imitate this cheap and easy mode of governing that precious portion of their dominions.'

A change of policy in this respect, excited new troubles in the time of Edward VI.; and the sacrilegious violence with which the English garrisons plundered and defaced some of the rich Catholic churches, so irritated the national spirit of O'Neil and his associates, that even before the accession of Mary, they relapsed into the errors of their ancient faith, and prepared to maintain it by force against the armed reformers of the youthful king. The succession of Mary, however, assured them of abundant protection; and the nation went quietly back to its original creed. The following passage is memorable :

As the reformed faith had made little progress in Ireland, the ancient religion was restored without difficulty or violence. It is much to the credit of the people of Ireland, that, satisfied with a quiet and peaceable restoration of their faith, they, in no instance, persecuted or disturbed those who still thought proper to profess the religion of the reformation, and there were many such. While the fires of a ferocious proscription raged in the sister island, in Ireland the Protestants enjoyed their opinions in full security and peace; and numbers fled from persecution in England, to find freedom and protection amongst a people, whom they considered as almost savage, and blindly devoted to the worst of superstitions. Neither in this reign, nor afterwards in that of James the Second, when the religion of the Church of Rome was triumphant, did the Catholics of Ireland persecute or proscribe on account of religion. A rare merit; and which proves that neither superstition nor fanaticism had wholly blotted out all religious principle, nor the misfortunes of the nation extinguished entirely the natural kindness of the Irish people.'

Our author's account of the important reign of Elizabeth is clear and vigorous; and, on the whole, temperate and indulgent. He acquits that princess, and indeed the English government generally, of any direct encouragement of the insolence and oppression by which her deputies and commanders excited hostility in Ireland, or of the atrocious cruelties by which they afterwards sought to repress it. Much of these, he conceives, was unknown at the seat of government, and more shamefully misrepresented; while, on many occasions, attempts were seriously, though ineffectually made, to punish or prevent those provincial oppressions which came slowly and imperfectly to the knowledge of the distant sovereign. It was in this reign, however, and under the queen's direct authority, that the fatal scheme of repressing what was called rebellion by forfeiture, or rather of

breaking the power of the great chiefs, by the most sweeping confiscation of their domains, was first adopted and carried into rigorous execution. Up to this time those reguli had been treated somewhat on the footing of sovereign princes—vassal sovereigns indeed, and owing fealty and homage to the English monarch, but entitled within their own territories to most of the prerogatives of royalty. Between them and the English governors of the Pale, there had, indeed, been frequent hostilities, and inroads, and reprisals, with various fortune and on various pretexts ;but these had always been followed by pacifications which left the territories substantially unchanged, and seldom went even so far as to transfer the clannish sceptre to some more submissive member of the ancient family ;—and the little parliament of the Pale, though calling itself the Legislature of Ireland, had hitherto enforced its enactments only over the province of Leinster. In the time of Elizabeth, however, the wars with O'Neil and Desmond, which were carried on on both sides with frightful barbarity, terminated in the absolute confiscation of all the possessions of those great chiefs, comprehending the whole provinces of Ulster and Munster, and much of the adjoining country; and the whole of this vast region was immediately divided among the English adventurers, who had flocked to the distracted land, for the very purpose of enriching themselves by its plunder, and had undoubtedly sought both to provoke and to perpetuate the wars, with a view to this desirable result. We cannot now enter into any detail of the course of those terrible contentions; of which Mr O'Driscol, however, has here given a very animated sketch, and in the course of it, vindicated, we think, very successfully, his Irish favourites from the imputation either of inferior discipline, or superior cruelty, to the English. It is enough for us to remark, that under the sway of Sydney, Grey, and Essex, not only were the most inhuman butcheries practised upon the Irish, but a disposition unequivocally manifested, by these and other provocations, to goad them into irreconcilable hostility, with a direct view to the profit to be derived from their forfeitures. It is also certain that Elizabeth herself, though ignorant perhaps of the horrors actually perpetrated by her officers, was perfectly aware of the existence of this detestable principle, and of its efficacy in reconciling her armies to the continuance of the war. "If it goes on,' she is known to have said to her council, it will be the better for

you, for there will be estates for you all. When things were once placed on this footing, it is easy to conjecture in what spirit government would be conducted, and war waged by that band of adventurers, who had pressed into employment for the avowed purpose of aggrandising themselves and their followers. Nor can we be very much surprised that it should at last have been openly maintained, both in printed works by persons in authority, and in memorials graciously received by the Sovereign, that the only way to secure the peace and prosperity of Ireland, was utterly to extirpate or displace the whole of its native population, and to settle it anew, as a waste or vacant country, by colonies of industrious English! A great part of the forfeited property was accordingly distributed, at this period, to various new created lords, upon the express condition that each should plant a certain number of English families


on his own estate, and that he should not suffer any Irish to * rent or otherwise occupy any part thereof.' The experiment was tried, too, with the most intrepid cruelty, and persevered in with the most relentless severity for a long series of years ; but it succeeded only in embittering the animosity which divided the hostile races, and sowing the seeds of almost incurable hatred.

• The northern plantation had failed entirely. The grantees of the Tirowen territory could not make good their possession, even with all the aid of government. Warned by this difficulty, the southern plantation had been conducted upon a surer principle, as it was supposed,by removing the population. Nevertheless, it was hardly more fortunate ; but few of the grantees were enabled to keep possession of their new estates : those who were so successful soon discovered that there was but one mode by which their possession could be secured, and that was by abandoning the system of plantation, and making terms with the old Irish tenantry, or such remnant of them as could be found.'

One short gleam of comfort was afforded amidst these horrors, by the mild and equitable administration of Sir John Perrot.

• The principle of his government was, to do justice to the old Irish, to protect them from oppression and confiscations, and give them their due share of influence and employment in the state. By such a system of government, he was confident that he could preserve the peace of Ireland, and answer for its security without a military establishment. But Perrot's plan of government was hardly relished by the old English, because it gave them no preference over the mere Irish ; and it was thoroughly detested by the new English, whose object was not the peace and improvement of Ireland, but war and confiscation. That party, though they could not prevail with the queen to remove Perrot, had succeeded in weakening his influence with her majesty. His representations were neglected, his complaints were unheeded, and his enemies in the council, feeling the encouragement thus held out, urged their system of insult and annoyance beyond the forbearance of the deputy. He entreated the queen to be recalled. He assured her majesty that he found no difficulty in governing her Irish

« PreviousContinue »