IS ULSTER RIGHT?
A STATEMENT OF THE QUESTION AT ISSUE BETWEEN ULSTER AND THE NATIONALIST PARTY, AND OF THE REASONS—HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, AND FINANCIAL—WHY ULSTER IS JUSTIFIED IN OPPOSING HOME RULE
BY AN IRISHMAN
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.
I. The Ulster Covenant. The Questions Stated. Ireland under the Celts and the Danes
II. Ireland from the time of Henry II to the time of Henry VIII
III. Ireland under the Tudors
IV. The Seventeenth Century, until the end of the reign of James II
V. The period of the Penal Laws
VI. The earlier part of the reign of George III. The acquisition of independence by the Irish Parliament
VII. The independent Parliament. The Regency Question. The commencement of the Rebellion
VIII. The Rebellion
IX. The Union
X. The period from the Union until the rejection of the first Home Rule Bill
XI. The Unionist Government of 1886
XII. The Gladstonian Government of 1892. The Political Societies
XIII. Ireland under the present Government
XIV. Criticism of the Bill now before the Country
XV. The danger to the Empire of any form of Home Rule. The Questions answered
In the following chapters I have endeavoured to lay before ordinary readers a simple statement of the present position of the Irish question. Following the maxim of Confucius that it is well "to study the Past if you would divine the Future," I have first shown that the tales which are told about the glories of the ancient Celtic Kingdom are foolish dreams, not supported by the accounts given by contemporary annalists or the investigations of modern writers, and that Ireland never was a nation in the political sense, with the possible exception of the few years between 1782 and 1800, during which the Irish Parliament was independent; that the charges made against the English government with reference to their action between the "Conquest" by Henry II and the assumption of the title of King by Henry VIII are baseless; and that though there is much which the historian must look back upon with regret in the period between the reign of Henry VIII and the passing of the Act of Union, it is mere waste of time now to dwell on the wrongs of a former age which have long since passed away and which in any other country would be forgotten. Then I have traced the brief history of the independent Parliament, and shown that whatever may have been its virtues or its failings, it would be impossible to revive it now; all the circumstances of the country have changed. I have striven also to make it clear that the Nationalists of to-day are not the representatives of the leaders of that Parliament but of the party which fought against it and brought on the horrors of the Rebellion; that the Union was a political necessity, if the connection between the British Islands was to be maintained at all; and that if the people of Ireland have not derived all the benefits from the Union which they might have done, it is their own fault, as the history of Ulster during the last century has shown. Next, I have explained the rise of the present Home Rule movement, and its dependence on agrarian agitation. I have analyzed some of the provisions of the present Bill, which independent writers consider to be hopelessly unworkable; and lastly I have stated why in my opinion Home Rule in any form must be fraught with disaster not only to Ireland but also to the Empire at large.
I have no desire unnecessarily to wound the feelings of those who take a different view; if it can be shown that any of my statements are incorrect or my inference illogical, I shall be glad to correct them; but to mere abuse, such as the Nationalists are in the habit of pouring on Unionist writers, I shall pay no heed. I admit that it may be said that there are several matters which I ought to have gone into more fully; to that I can only reply that I wished to be as brief as possible, and that I have done my best to compress with fairness. What I am really anxious to do is to draw the attention of thoughtful readers, before it is too late, to the terrible dangers with which we are faced. As an Irish historian has said:—
"No political madness could be greater than to put the legislative machinery of an integral and essential portion of the Empire into the hands of men who are largely or mainly disaffected with that Empire, and who, in times of difficulty, danger and disaster are likely to betray it."
* * * * *
The following are the principal works of which use has been made in preparing this volume. They are cited here in order to avoid the necessity of constant footnotes:—
"Short History of the Irish People." By Professor Richey.
"Irish Nationalism." By the late Duke of Argyll.
"History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century." By W.E.H. Lecky.
"History of the Legislative Union of Great Britain and Ireland." By Dunbar Ingram.
"Ireland and Her Fairy Godmother." By J. Warren.
"The Continuity of the Irish Revolutionary Movement." By Prof. Brougham Leech.
"A Fool's Paradise." By Professor Dicey.
THE ULSTER COVENANT. THE QUESTIONS STATED. IRELAND UNDER THE CELTS AND THE DANES.
"Being convinced in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedom, destructive of our citizenship and perilous to the unity of the Empire, We, whose names are underwritten, Men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V, humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in Solemn Covenant throughout this our time of threatened calamity to stand by one another in defending for ourselves and our children our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And, in the event of such a Parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognise its authority. In such confidence that God will defend the right, we hereunto subscribe our names."
Such is the Solemn Covenant which 220,000 resolute, determined Ulstermen—of various creeds and of all sections of the community, from wealthy merchants to farm labourers—fully realizing the responsibility they were undertaking, signed on the 28th September, 1912. To represent that it was merely the idle bombast of ignorant rustics, or a passing ebullition of political passion coming from hot-headed youths excited by irresponsible demagogues, is folly. It expresses the calm resolution of earnest men who, having thought deeply over the matter had decided that it was better even to face the horrors of civil war rather than to submit to the rule of a Nationalist Government.
The opinions of the Nationalists with regard to the Ulster Covenant can be gathered from many speeches and sermons. The following extract from one of their papers—the Frontier Sentinel—may be taken as a specimen:—
"It may not be out of place here to translate into simple English the terms of the Covenant. It denies the claim of Ireland to self-government and the capacity of Irishmen to govern Ireland. It asserts that the Catholics of Ireland are the spawn of the devil; that they are ruthless savages and dangerous criminals with only one object in life—the wiping out of Protestants. It claims for the Protestant Unionist majority of four Ulster counties a monopoly of Christianity, public and private morality, and clean successful business enterprise. In the name of God it seeks to stimulate the basest passions in human nature, and calls on God to witness a catalogue of falsehoods. Only a few of the local Protestant clergymen, it should be stated, signed this notoriously wicked document."
It is well then to pause and consider calmly two questions: What are the real objects of the Nationalists; and, Are the men of Ulster justified in resisting them to the uttermost?
It is a mere truism to remark that in every political question the main controversy is complicated by a number of side issues. Thus in the tangled skein of politics in South Eastern Europe there is not merely the great struggle between the Crescent and the Cross, but there are also jealousies between Greek and Bulgarian, between Servian and Austrian, which have to be considered. So in Ireland, if we take the religious question as the dominating one, we find ourselves involved in a maze of racial animosities, class prejudices, and trade disputes; by ignoring these we can arrive at a simple but unfortunately a totally erroneous solution of the question. And to weigh them all fairly involves more trouble than the average man cares to take.
Irish history is at best a dismal subject. And those who ought to be historians are too often politicians; regarding themselves as advocates and not as judges they deliberately omit incidents which tell against their views, and enlarge on others, frequently without even examining the evidence in support of them. Then in arriving at the truth about any matter connected with Ireland there is the additional difficulty arising from the custom, almost universal amongst Irishmen, of talking in superlatives. The exaggerated expressions, both of praise and blame, which are constantly employed, at first puzzle a stranger coming to Ireland from another country; he soon, however, gets to realize that they are mere forms of speech, and are no more intended to be taken seriously than similar phrases are when used by an Oriental. They are therefore harmless. But it becomes a more serious matter when learned men employ inflated language in addressing ignorant and excitable audiences. Thus Bishop Gaughran, when recently preaching to a crowded congregation in Dublin a sermon which was reported in full in the Roman Catholic papers, said:—
"The persecution of the Catholics in Ireland had no parallel in the history of the Church save perhaps those of the early Christians in the Catacombs of Rome. Edicts were sent forth before which those of Nero might be said to pale into insignificance—the Edicts of Elizabeth and Cromwell, for example."
Yet these words came from a man who was doubtless familiar with the histories of Spain, Portugal, France and the Netherlands; and who is a leader of a party which had not long before expressed the opinion that Catholics have no reason to be ashamed of the Inquisition, which was a coercive and corporally punitive force which had effected its ends splendidly!
One of the many popular delusions under which English people labour with regard to Ireland is that all the population of the country at the present day are Celts, and that this is the key to the whole Irish question. Thus a review of Father Tyrrell's autobiography recently appeared in an English journal in which the reviewer said: "Probably no Englishmen could have written such a book; it needs a Latin like Rousseau, or a Celt like Tyrrell to lay bare his soul in this way." No doubt these words were written in perfectly good faith; but if the writer had cared to make any enquiry he could have found out in a moment that the Tyrrell family were thoroughly English and that none of them had gone to Ireland before the nineteenth century. The fact is that the inhabitants of Ireland, like the inhabitants of all other countries in Western Europe, are of mixed origin. The Celts were themselves immigrants, who conquered and enslaved a pre-existing race called the Firbolgs; then came the Scandinavian invasion; and then wave after wave of immigration from England and Scotland, so that Sir J. Davies, writing three hundred years ago—that was, before the Cromwellian settlement and the arrival of the French refugees who had escaped from the persecution of Louis XIV—said that if the people of Ireland were numbered those descended of English race would be found more in number than the ancient natives.
This, however, is only one of many errors into which English writers have fallen. Mistakes of course will always be made; but unfortunately it is a charge from which Mr. Gladstone's admirers cannot clear him that when he wished to bring the English people round to the idea of Home Rule he deliberately falsified Irish history in order to make it serve his ends; and his misrepresentations have gained credence amongst careless thinkers who are content to shelter themselves under a great name without looking at what has been written in answer. The general idea of an average Englishman about Irish history seems to be that Ireland in Celtic times was a peaceful, orderly, united kingdom, famous for its piety and learning, where land was held by "tribal tenure"—that is, owned by the whole tribe who were closely related in blood—rent being unknown, and the chief being elected by the whole tribe in solemn assembly. Into this happy country came the Norman invaders, who fought against and conquered the king; drove the native owners out of their possessions, and introduced a feudal system and an alien code of law unsuited to the people; and the modern landlords are the representatives of the conquering Normans and the tenants the descendants of the ancient tribesmen who naturally and rightfully resist paying rent for the lands which by ancestral right should be their own. There could not be a more complete travesty of history.
The Celtic Church no doubt had its golden age. It produced saints and men of learning. It sent out its missionaries to the heathen beyond the seas. So famous were its schools that students came to them from distant lands. But centuries before the Normans appeared in Ireland the salt had lost its savour. The Celtic Church had sunk into being a mere appendage of the wild tribes it had once tried to tame. The chiefs of one tribe would sack the colleges and shrines of another tribe as freely as they would sack any of their other possessions. For instance, the annals tell us that in the year 1100 the men of the south made a raid into Connaught and burned many churches; in 1113 Munster tribe burned many churches in Meath, one of them being full of people; in 1128 the septs of Leitrim and Cavan plundered and slew the retinue of the Bishop of Armagh; in the same year the men of Tyrone raided Down and a great number of people suffered martyrdom; four years later Kildare was invaded by raiders from Wexford, the church was burnt and many men slain; and so on with dreary monotony. Bishops and abbots fought in the incessant tribal wars as keenly as laymen. Worse still, it was not infrequent for one band of clergy to make war on another. In the ninth century, Phelim, who claimed to be both Bishop and King of Leinster, ravaged Ulster and murdered its monks and clergy. In the eleventh century the annals give an account of a fierce battle between the Bishop of Armagh and the Bishop of Clonard. Nor did time work any improvement; we read of bloody conflicts between abbots and bishops as late as the middle of the fifteenth century. What influence for good could such a church have had upon the mass of the people?
And even in its noblest period the Celtic Church seems to have had but little power beyond the walls of its own colleges. The whole history of Celtic Ireland, as we learn from the annalists, was one miserable succession of tribal wars, murders and plunderings. Of course it may be said with perfect truth that the annals of other countries at the time tell much the same story. But there is this difference between them: wild and barbarous though the wars of other countries were, they were at any rate the slow and painful working up towards a higher civilization; the country became consolidated under the most powerful chief; in time peace was enforced, agriculture improved, and towns grew up. The tribal raids of Celtic Ireland, however, were merely for plunder and destruction. From such conflicts no higher state of society could possibly be evolved. The Irish Celts built no cities, promoted no agriculture, and never coalesced so as to form even the nucleus of a united kingdom.
It was about the end of the eighth century that the first foreign influence was brought to bear on Celtic Ireland. The Danish invasion began. Heathen though the Danes were, they brought some ideas of settled government and the germs of national progress. They founded cities, such as Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. And when they, like their fellow-countrymen in England, accepted Christianity, they established bishoprics in the new towns, but took care that they should be wholly independent of the Celtic tribal episcopate; they looked to Canterbury and Rome.
Much has been written and sung about the fame of Brian Boroo. No doubt he was in some ways a great man; and it seemed for a time that he might do for Ireland something like what Alfred the Great had done for England and Kenneth MacAlpine had done for Scotland—might consolidate the country into one kingdom. But the story of his life is a striking commentary on the wretchedness of the period. Forming an alliance with some of the Danes he succeeded in crushing the chiefs of several rival Celtic tribes; then in turn he attacked his former allies, and beat them at the battle of Clontarf in the year 1014, though they were aided by other Celtic tribes who hated Brian and his schemes even more than they hated the foreigners. Important though this battle was, its effect has been much exaggerated and misunderstood. It certainly did not bring the Danish power in Ireland to an end; Dublin was a flourishing Danish colony long afterwards—in fact it was thirty years after the battle that the Danish king of Dublin founded the Bishopric.
But Brian was slain in the moment of victory. The soldiers of his army murdered his only surviving son, and began fighting amongst themselves. Brian's dream of a united Ireland came to an end, and the country relapsed into chaos. If the immediate result of the battle was a victory of Celt over Dane, the lasting effect was a triumph of anarchy over order. It was on the Celtic people that the ruin fell; and the state of things for the next two centuries was if possible worse than it had ever been before.
It will be readily understood that throughout this terrible period of history anything like a peaceful cultivation of the soil or a regular election to the office of chief was out of the question. It was quite an ordinary thing for a chief to obtain his position by murdering his predecessor. The annalists give us a long list of Kings of Ireland dating from before the Christian era until the arrival of the Normans. Of course the word "king" can mean little more than "prominent chief," for no one man ever had real authority over the whole of the distracted land. Even of these prominent chiefs, however, according to the annalists, very few died natural deaths. Some fell in battle, others were assassinated; but the most common fate for a monarch was to be "slain by his successor." If this was true of the most powerful men in the country, to speak of the office of chief as elective is really absurd. But more than this: there is no evidence that the "tribal system," in the sense of all the tribe being related by blood and all owning their lands in common, ever existed in Ireland even in theory. At the earliest date of which we possess any distinct information on the subject, wealth, representing physical force, had become the acknowledged basis of political power and private right; and the richer members of the community were rapidly reducing the poorer freemen—many of whom were the descendants of an earlier race or of conquered tribes—to a state of serfdom. The system (if such a word can be applied at all) was in fact a bad form of feudalism without its advantages. There was no central overlord (like those in other countries who gradually developed into the sovereigns of mediaeval kingdoms and thus became able to enforce peace and progress), each petty chief being independent; and on the other hand the dues payable by the retainers were not fixed by law or custom. We must probably reject the suggested derivation of the word "feodal" from the Celtic "Fiudir"; but if so, it is curious that two words accidentally resembling each other conveyed ideas so closely alike; for a Celtic "Fiudir" was practically a tenant at the will of the lord; and it must be admitted that the word "vassal" is of Celtic origin. Charters which date from before the Norman invasion show that the land was regarded as the private property of the chiefs; frequently the wretched occupiers, instead of paying fixed rents, were liable to unlimited exactions, one of them being the right of the lord to "coigne and livery"—that is, to quarter himself and his retainers as long as he pleased on any occupier who possessed a few cows (which were the only form of wealth in those days of universal poverty); in some cases, however, land was let for a term of years, on a fixed payment of cattle.
On the death of a freeholder his land was divided amongst his sons equally, according to what is called "the custom of gavelkind." Whether primogeniture is a good or a bad thing in England or the British Colonies at the present day is of course a totally different question; the circumstances of the times are totally different. But it can hardly be doubted by a thoughtful student of history that the adoption of primogeniture in the early days of feudalism in other European countries was a social necessity if civilization was to rise to a higher state; and that its not being introduced in Ireland was if not a cause at least an evidence that civilization in that country did not progress. For in a condition not far removed from anarchy the connection between the ownership of land and political power is inevitable; hence if holdings are small their owners become an easy prey to stronger neighbours; whereas the possessors of larger areas can repel attacks and enable their dependents to live in some sort of security. It was the enormous number of petty independent chiefs that added to the miseries of Celtic Ireland.
I shall probably be accused of having painted too dark a picture in the brief sketch that I have given of Ireland before the coming of the Normans. I admit that it is very different from the glowing accounts of "Irish Ireland" that may be found in the pages of Nationalist journals. But the question to me is not which account is more pleasant but which is true. And I defy anyone who has cared to look through the works of such writers as Richey, Stokes, and Sullivan, to prove that what I have said is incorrect or unfair.
IRELAND FROM THE TIME OF HENRY II TO THE TIME OF HENRY VIII.
In the last chapter I dealt with the long period during which the Celtic tribes of Ireland were free from foreign influence except for the comparatively brief time when a small part of the country was under the rule of the Danes; and I endeavoured to show that according to the evidence of their own annalists and in the opinion of modern writers of various political sentiments, the whole island throughout that period remained in a chronic state of anarchy, without any advance towards a higher civilization.
As Dr. Richey, when describing the condition of Ireland about the year 1170, says, "The state of the Celtic people was beyond all hope of self-amendment. The want of law, order and justice, the absence of self-knowledge and self-control, paralysed their national action and reduced the power of their chief king to insignificance."
I come now to what has been absurdly called the conquest of Ireland under Henry II.
That the English king was instigated in his efforts by the Pope is perfectly clear. The Bull of Pope Adrian, issued in 1155, is still extant:—
"... There is indeed no doubt but that Ireland, and all the islands on which Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, hath shone, and which have received the doctrine of the Christian faith, do belong to the jurisdiction of St. Peter and the Holy Roman Church ... therefore we are the more solicitous to propagate the righteous plantation of faith in this land, and the branch acceptable to God, as we have the secret conviction of conscience that this is more especially our bounden duty. You then, our dear son in Christ, have signified to us your desire to enter into the island of Ireland, in order to reduce the people to obedience under the laws, and to extirpate the plants of vice, and that you are willing to pay from each house a yearly pension of one penny to St. Peter, and that you will preserve the rights of the churches whole and inviolate. We, therefore, do hold it good and acceptable that ... you enter this island and execute therein whatever shall pertain to the honour of God and welfare of the land; and that the people of the land receive you honourably and reverence you as their lord."
And in 1172 Pope Alexander III ratified the action of his predecessor.
"Forasmuch as these things which have been on good reasons granted by our predecessors, deserve to be confirmed ... and considering the grant of the dominion of the land by the venerable Pope Adrian, we ... do ratify and confirm the same (reserving to St. Peter and to the Holy Roman Church, as well in England as in Ireland the yearly pension of one penny from every house) provided that, the abominations of the land being removed, the barbarous people, Christians only in name, may by your means, be reformed, and their lives and conversations mended, so that their disordered Church being thus reduced to regular discipline, that nation may, with the name of Christians, be so in act and deed."
Whether the description here given was literally correct, or whether the Pope's views were coloured by the fact that the Celtic Church did not acknowledge the supremacy of Rome and was heretical on certain points of doctrine, is a question outside the present subject. The Bulls are only quoted here as showing the part taken by Rome. And it must be admitted that in the succeeding century the power of the Pope became strong enough to enable him to levy taxes in Ireland for the purpose of carrying on his wars against the Emperor and the King of Aragon.
But Henry did not conquer Ireland. He did not even pretend to do so. Previous to his arrival there had been some little fighting done by a few adventurous Norman knights who had been invited by a native chief to assist him in a domestic war; but Henry II fought no battle in Ireland; he displaced no ancient national government; the Irish had no national flag, no capital city as the metropolis of the country, no common administration of the law. The English, coming in the name of the Pope, with the aid of the Irish bishops, with a superior national organization which the Irish easily recognised, were accepted by the Irish. The king landed at Waterford; his journey to Dublin was rather a royal progress than a hostile invasion. He came as feudal sovereign to receive the homage of the Irish tribes; the chiefs flocked to his court, readily became his vassals, and undertook to hold the lands they already occupied as fiefs of the Crown. But Henry did not take the title, or assume the position of King of Ireland. He merely sought to establish a suzerainty in which he would be the overlord. And in fact a conquest of Ireland in the modern sense of the term would have been impossible. England possessed no standing army; the feudal levies of mediaeval times were difficult and expensive. It might of course have been possible to have organized a wholesale immigration and an enslavement of the natives, something like that which the Normans had accomplished in England, and the Saxons had done centuries before; but nothing of the kind was attempted. Whether Henry's original intention was simply to leave the Irish chiefs in possession or not, it is useless now to enquire. But if it was, he appears to have changed his views; for not long afterwards he granted large fiefs with palatinate jurisdiction to various Normans who had made their way over to Ireland independently.
It may be that Henry—knowing that the Conqueror, whilst taking care that no powerful seignories should grow up in the heart of his kingdom, as rivals to the throne, yet made exceptions in cases where the lands verged on hostile territory, such as Durham or Chester—thought that he could best follow the spirit of that policy by establishing what were practically semi-independent principalities in an island already inhabited by another race. But the result was disastrous.
That the Normans were savage and brutal, dealing out no justice or mercy to their victims, is proved by the account of their conquest of England. Yet they possessed certain great qualities, which eminently fitted them to become rulers in those wild, unsettled times; as their successes, not merely in Britain, but also in Southern Italy and Syria, show. They had the idea of a strong, centralized Government; and more than that they had a marvellous capacity for receptivity. Thus we see that in England, after a period of rough tyranny, they blended the existing Anglo-Saxon Government—the strength of which lay in its local organization—with their own; and from the union of the two has come the British Constitution. So too in the Lowlands of Scotland it was the Norman knight Robert Bruce who, accepting the already existing Saxon and Roman civilization, raised Scotland into a powerful kingdom. But in Ireland all was different. The only state of society which the Normans found was Celtic barbarism. Political institutions did not exist. As the Normans in England had become Anglified, and in Scotland Scottified, so in Ireland they became Ersefied. It is true that they built stone castles which at any rate were better than the hovels of the Irish Chiefs, and (like the Danes before them) founded a few towns, such as Kilkenny, Galway and Athenry; but there their efforts ended. Scattered amongst the tribes, they learnt their ways. They sank to the position of the Celtic Chiefs around them; local wars went on the same as before; the only difference being that they were waged sometimes by Normans against Normans or against Celts, but more frequently by one body of Celts against another, each side being aided by Norman allies.
One class of Nationalist writers has inveighed against the English kings for not having forcibly introduced English law and put an end to the barbarous Celtic customs. The simple answer is, How could they do so? Whilst England was being weakened by long continental wars or by struggles between rival Houses, what strength had she left to undertake the real conquest of Ireland? The English kings had turned to the only people who could have helped them—the Normans settled in Ireland; and they failed them. Other Nationalist writers have on the other hand declaimed with equal vehemence against the tyranny of England in forcing an alien system of law on an unwilling people. To this the answer is that nothing of the kind occurred. It is true that petitions were sent from Ireland to the King urging him to introduce English law; but these petitions came mainly from the poorer classes of English settlers who found that instead of attaining greater liberty in their new home they were being ground down to the miserable position of the native Irish. The King issued proclamations directing the English barons to permit the Irish to be governed by the law of England; but his orders were totally disregarded; many of the unhappy English settlers fled from the country and returned to England; the barons supplied their places with native retainers. Thus the Ersefication of the degenerate Normans became complete; they "donned the saffron"—that is, they adopted the yellow dress of the Celts—abandoned their original language, and gave themselves up to a life of constant plunder and rapine.
Early in the fourteenth century the Irish septs united so far as to form a joint effort to expel the English. The incident is specially interesting, in the light of later history. Robert Bruce, a Norman knight, had recently consolidated the Scottish tribes into a kingdom and succeeded in shaking off the English yoke. The Irish Celts resolved to imitate his example. King Robert was shrewd enough to see that by aiding them he could attack his enemy at the most vulnerable point; consequently, when the chiefs offered the Crown of Ireland to his brother Edward if he would come and help them, he gladly accepted the invitation. For three years a devastating war raged over a large part of Ireland; the Scotch went from the North of Ulster almost to Limerick, burning, slaying, plundering, sacking towns, castles and churches; and a terrible famine ensued. But the Irish chiefs were no more energetic in supporting Edward Bruce than their ancestors had been in supporting Brian; he and his chief officers fell in a battle against the English near Dundalk, and the rest of his followers escaped to Scotland. The coalition fell to pieces; and the only result of the Scotch invasion was to increase the misery of the people, especially of the unhappy English settlers, who continued to flock back to England in greater numbers than before.
As soon as the rebellion was put down, the great legislator Edward III made another effort at introducing order into the distracted land. Acts were passed by the English Parliament providing that the same law should be applicable to both English and Irish, and forbidding landowners to keep larger bands of armed men than were necessary for self-defence. But the Ersefied barons on whom he relied refused to obey the new laws; they renounced their allegiance and joined the rebellious Celtic tribes. Then the king, seeing the impossibility of carrying out his scheme for pacifying the whole of Ireland, was reduced to the expedient of dividing the country into two; leaving the larger part of it for the natives and degenerate English to misgovern as they pleased according to their own customs, and preserving only a mere fraction (the "English Pale") in allegiance to the Crown of England. This was the real meaning of the "Statutes of Kilkenny," which have been so often misrepresented by modern writers.
The next king, Richard II, attempted to imitate the policy of his ancestor Henry II. He went to Ireland with great pomp. Again the Celtic chiefs flocked to Dublin to swear allegiance to their lord; and as soon as his back was turned commenced not only fighting amongst themselves but even attacking the English Pale. The result of all his efforts was that the limits of the Pale were still further contracted; the English power was confined to a small area in the neighbourhood of Dublin.
But even within that narrow boundary the power of the king was far from being secure. When England was torn by the Wars of the Roses, the so-called Parliament (which was really an irregular assembly at best representing a territory about the size of a modern county) seized the opportunity of declaring itself independent. It is interesting, in view of present-day questions, to observe that Dr. Richey, writing in 1869, seems to consider their action as not only justifiable but inevitable. He says:—
"The Irish Parliament declared the complete independence of the Irish Legislature, and boldly affirmed those constitutional rights which, though involved in the existence of separate parliament, had not hitherto been categorically expressed. They asserted their rights to a distinct coinage, and their absolute freedom from all laws and statutes except such as were by the Lords spiritual and temporal and Commons of Ireland freely admitted and accepted in their Parliament. They declared that no Irish subject was bound to answer any writs except those under the great seal of Ireland, and enacted heavy penalties against any officer who should attempt to put English decrees in force in Ireland. They, in fact, took the same position and laid down the same principles as the celebrated Parliament of 1782."
Whether they imagined that they could form a separate kingdom of Dublin, or dreamt of making an alliance with the tribes outside the Pale, it is useless now to conjecture; but we can see that though they had no chance of benefiting themselves they might have caused serious injury to England. Nor was it long before a difficulty arose. The inhabitants of the Pale remained attached to the House of York even after the Battle of Bosworth, and readily accepted Lambert Simnel as King of Ireland. He was crowned in the Cathedral of Dublin, and held a Parliament. After the defeat of this Pretender, the able and astute Henry VII saw that it was necessary without further delay to make the shadowy suzerainty of England over Ireland a reality. He accordingly persuaded the Irish Parliament to pass an Act which from the name of the Lord Deputy was known as "Poyning's Act." By this Act, all English statutes then existing in England were made of force in Ireland; the chief fortresses were secured to the Crown of England; and the Irish Parliament was relegated to the position of a subordinate legislature; for it was enacted that no Parliament should be held in Ireland unless the King's Lieutenant and Council should first certify the King, under the Great Seal of Ireland, the Acts which they considered should pass; then the King and his Council should approve the proposed Acts, and issue a licence under the Great Seal of England, summoning the Parliament.
Though some writers have spoken of this as the most disgraceful Act ever passed by an independent legislature, the people in Ireland at the time considered it a boon and a favour; for it shielded them from the unauthorized power of a Lord Deputy supported by a Parliament of his own creatures.
And so, with the close of the mediaeval period, ended the second chapter of Irish history. It will be observed that there had been no religious persecution, unless indeed the conduct of the Norman—that is, the Roman—Church towards the ancient Celtic Church, or the burning of some heretics in the fourteenth century, could be so described; a view which the Nationalists of to-day will hardly care to put forward. Nor can the English Government be fairly blamed for the condition of affairs; for responsibility depends on power, and English power in Ireland hardly existed. The suzerainty of England, feeble at best, had gradually been limited to a mere fraction of the country. The Celtic tribes had long since thrown off even a nominal submission to the English Crown; the Anglo-Norman lords had become either avowedly or practically independent. But the inhabitants of Ireland did not constitute a nation or possess any common interest or bond of union. There was no trace of an organization by which the Irish tribes could be united into one people. The ceaseless civil wars had indeed supplanted the original tribesmen by the mercenary followers of another set of rival chiefs; but there had been no union; and the mass of the people, still under the influence of their native customs, were probably in a more wretched condition than they had ever been before.
IRELAND UNDER THE TUDORS.
We have seen that at the close of the Middle Ages Ireland was in the condition that some people in England now consider the panacea for all the woes of the country; it possessed a subordinate Parliament and England interfered as little as possible in its local affairs. Henry VIII attempted "to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas"; having no army of his own, he appointed the most powerful of the Norman barons his deputy. But this deputy used his authority precisely as an Ersefied Norman (who possessed no more patriotism or national feeling than a Celtic chief) might have been expected to use it,—that was, to aid him in a succession of family quarrels and tribal wars in which, allied with some of the native septs he attacked others. Even the towns outside the Pale fared little better than the remoter districts; there was actually a civil war between Cork and Limerick. The state of affairs in Celtic Ireland during the brief period from 1500 to 1534 as stated in the annals (which, however, only deal with a part of the country, hardly referring to what took place in Leinster or Munster) has been summed up by Dr. Richey in the following words:—
"Battles, plunderings, etc., exclusive of those in which the English Government was engaged, 116; Irish gentlemen of family killed in battle, 102; murdered, 168—many of them with circumstances of great atrocity; and during this period, on the other hand, there is no allusion to the enactment of any law, the judicial decision of any controversy, the founding of any town, monastery or church; and all this is recorded by the annalist without the slightest expression of regret or astonishment, as if such were the ordinary course of life in a Christian country."
At length, in 1534, matters came to a head; the Lord Deputy broke out into open rebellion. We can learn from the State papers of the period what the condition of Ireland then was. The Pale—now but the remnant of a fraction—was constantly invaded and ravished by wild tribes, and was itself becoming Ersefied; for the poorer English settlers had either fled back to England, joined the Celtic tribes in despair, as their only way of escaping from the harshness of the English lords, or been crushed out of existence; and, as had already happened elsewhere, their place had been taken by Irish retainers. Then in the rest of the country there were some ninety chiefs, of whom about sixty represented ancient septs and the remainder degenerate Normans, all claiming independence and preying sometimes on one another and sometimes on their unfortunate followers. Not infrequently also a tribe was divided against itself, and a civil war was raging between the two factions. And one result of the Ersefication of the Norman barons was that, in addition to the regular feudal dues, they demanded every kind of Celtic tribute from the occupiers of the land. In fact, how the wretched tenants managed to support life at all seems a mystery. Whatever law there may at one time have been was now long extinct; and as King Henry himself pointed out, if the natives were to have any sort of law at all, the only possible law was the law of England.
At this time also a new factor came into the already complicated problem—the Reformation. Henry VIII never was a Protestant, in the sense of adopting the doctrines which are now usually called Protestant; but he had renounced the authority of the Pope. In 1535 Pope Paul III passed sentence upon him, consigning his kingdoms to whoever might invade them, and commanding his nobles to take up arms against him. Both the Emperor and the King of France saw their opportunity, as Robert Bruce had done centuries before. They commenced a correspondence with the Irish chiefs with the object of bringing about an invasion of Ireland. Thereupon King Henry resolved to take the only course that seemed to him possible—to make the conquest of Ireland a reality and to enforce law and order in that distracted land. His letters, which are still extant, show the care with which he thought out the matter, and his earnest desire for the welfare of the people of both races; a perusal of them would astonish those who regard him merely as a savage sensualist. Strange to say, in their Irish policy, the character of Henry VIII shows itself at the best, and that of Elizabeth at its worst. When Henry had with difficulty succeeded in crushing the Geraldine rebellion and a series of others which broke out soon after, he got the Irish Parliament to pass an Act conferring on him the title of king; he was solemnly proclaimed as such, and his title was confirmed by the almost unanimous consent of the Irish princes.
This was important in more ways than one: it was universally recognized that the word "king" meant much more than "lord"; and it gave him a title independent of the Pope's donation.
It is one of the ironies of history that the renunciation of the Papal authority and the submission to the king's supremacy was far more rapid and general in Ireland than it was in England. For not only did all the lay chiefs readily yield their adhesion, but only two of the bishops refused to take the oath of supremacy. Rebellions such as that of Fitzgerald had no connection with religion; it was not until years afterwards when England had become identified with Protestantism and Spain with Catholicism that the Irish became intensely Papal. On the other hand, the Reformation, as a religious movement, made no headway in Ireland. It was purely negative and destructive, and emanated from the Government, not from the mass of the people. The monasteries were destroyed; hence there were no vicars to supply the parish churches, which fell into ruin; the king endeavoured rather to Anglify than to Protestantise the people by sending to them bishops and clergy from England—but they were mere state officials, not fathers in God; unable even to speak the Irish language; what real preaching there was was done by friars sent from Rome and Madrid. Henry's efforts at establishing parish schools were also a total failure. Had there not been later immigrations from England and Scotland, Irish Protestantism would probably have died out. Yet it is but fair to state, and to bear in mind, that there was no religious persecution as such in Ireland during the Tudor period. Elizabeth's policy was, without making any actual promise of freedom of conscience, to leave the question of religious opinions alone as far as possible. The real difficulty came from the political nature of the Church of Rome; when the Pope deposed Elizabeth and gave Ireland to Philip of Spain every Irish Roman Catholic had either to be false to his religion or to become a traitor—in esse or in posse—to the queen.
When Henry had resolved to do his utmost to bring Ireland to a state of civilization, there were not wanting advisers who urged upon him that his only safe course was absolutely to destroy the whole native population by sword and famine and re-people the vacant lands by immigrants from England. Such a course would have been quite in accordance with the ideas of the time. Not thirty years previously, the combined forces of Church and State had pursued the heretic population of the Loise into the mountain fastnesses to which they had fled, and had piled logs of wood at the mouths of the caves in which they had taken refuge, and set them on fire. Then, when all the unhappy people—men, women and children, numbering some thousands in all—had perished, their lands were distributed amongst strangers brought in from a distance to occupy them. And at a later date—in the middle of the sixteenth century—the native inhabitants of the Canary Islands were exterminated by the Spanish Inquisition, and their lands taken by the invading race. But to Henry it appeared that there was one milder course that might still be possible. Might not the native chiefs and the degenerate Normans who had shown that their only idea of independency was anarchy yet be brought together as nobles under a strong central government with a Parliament representing not merely the Pale, but all Ireland? Might not the mass of the people, whose native customs had been well nigh crushed out by civil wars, be persuaded to adopt the law of England? This was the policy deliberately adopted by Henry and acted on by him during his life. It is easy for writers living in modern times to sneer at some of the details of his scheme; but it is not so easy for them to point out what other course would have been better; or indeed, whether any other course short of a policy of extermination, would have been possible.
The remarkable thing, however, is that the change to a more severe line took place not under Henry or his Protestant son, but under the most Catholic Sovereigns Philip and Mary. It was by their orders that the first of the confiscations (which were to play so important a part in the later history of Ireland) was carried out. By an Act passed in their reign the lands occupied by the O'Moores, O'Connors and O'Dempseys were confiscated and formed into the King's and Queen's counties, Leix and Offaly being renamed "Philipstown" and "Maryborough"; and a "Plantation" of English settlers was established.
And here it is well to pause for a moment and consider these confiscations, about which so much has been written. That confiscations have taken place in every country is a plain fact of history. There is probably no part of Western Europe where land is now held by the descendants of the aboriginal inhabitants. Forcible conquest and adverse occupation is nearly always the primary root of title. But it is part of the policy of every civilized country to recognize what lawyers call "Statutes of limitations." When centuries have elapsed and new rights have grown up, it is impossible to rectify the wrongs of times long gone by. Thus we cannot suppose that any future Government of Spain would ever recognize the title of the Moors in Africa to the properties from which their ancestors were driven by Philip IV; or that the Huguenots, now scattered over various countries, could ever succeed in recovering possession of the estates in France which were confiscated at the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. And the only people who have a cause to complain, even on sentimental grounds, of the wrongs of past ages, are the lineal descendants of those who suffered ill-treatment. No Englishman to-day can feel aggrieved because Saxons drove out Britons, or Normans Saxons.
But more than that: the confiscation of the lands of rebels stands on a different basis, and has been so regarded in every country in the world, even New Zealand. The lands confiscated by Philip and Mary were owned by the arch-rebel FitzGerald. Naturally fertile and capable if properly cultivated of supporting a large population, they were at this time a wild pathless tract of forest and bog. The ceaseless tribal wars had prevented their being drained and cleared; the miserable remnants of the Celtic tribes gained a precarious living by periodical raids on the more peaceful inhabitants of the Pale. During the whole of the reign of Edward VI fighting had gone on in Leix and Offaly with great loss of life and at enormous expense to the English Government. The object of the confiscation was not to drive out the few existing tribesmen; for the land, when cleared and drained, might well support them as well as the new settlers. Nor was it to confer great estates on absentee proprietors, but to establish a fairly thickly settled district which might be a source of strength rather than a constant cause of trouble to the dwellers in the Pale. Nor again was it to introduce feudalism; for as I have shown, the system already in existence was feudalism without its advantages; the substitution of fixed dues for the barbarous custom of "coigne and livery" was an unmixed benefit to the occupiers of land. And it cannot be denied that the first "Plantation" was a thorough success—thriving settlements and prosperous farms took the place of forest and swamp.
If the position of Henry VIII had been one of difficulty, that of Elizabeth was far more critical. The separation of the Church of England from Rome was now complete. The great powers of the Continent were united in one supreme effort to stamp out the new heresy. The massacre of St. Bartholomew had taken place in France; Philip II had ordered a Te Deum to be sung at Madrid, and the Pope had had a medal struck to commemorate the glorious event. The lowest computation of those put to death for heresy in the Netherlands by Charles V was 50,000; and his successor had, at the instigation of the Holy Office, issued a proclamation sentencing to death the whole population—men, women and children—with the exception of a few persons specially named. Alva boasted that he had put 18,000 Dutchmen to death on the scaffold, and the Pope presented him with a consecrated hat and sword, an honour which had previously been bestowed only on reigning sovereigns. In Spain it was regarded not only as a sacred duty but a pleasant amusement for the King and his Court to watch the torturing of heretics. England alone—then a comparatively weak and insignificant country—stood out against this overwhelming combination. And in attempting to realize the position of affairs we must remember that in the sixteenth century the Papacy was not merely a religious system but also a tremendous political power. We may now regard the claim of the Pope to depose princes as a harmless dream; but at that time it was a stern reality. Thus matters came to a crisis when the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth and all who remained loyal to her, released her subjects from their allegiance, offered plenary indulgence and remission of sins to all who would take up arms against her, promised a liberal supply of graces and indulgences to Irish chieftains who would rebel, and gave Ireland to Philip of Spain.
It can hardly be denied therefore that England was engaged in a life and death struggle. And unless Elizabeth would consent to the annexation of Ireland by Spain and to the conquest of England by some power that would treat the people there much as the heretics of the Netherlands were being treated by Philip, it must be admitted that any measures, however violent, became a political necessity—a mere act of self-defence. But though Elizabeth had already on hand a war with France, Spain and Scotland, her difficulties did not end there. The North of Ireland was being invaded by Celts from Scotland, and the principal chief, Shan O'Neill (who was described by the Spanish Ambassador as "so good a Christian that he cuts off the head of any man who enters his country if he be not a Catholic") was in open rebellion with the avowed object of crushing out the English power, exterminating the rival tribes, and making himself King of Ulster. To so miserable a state had that part of Ireland been reduced by petty local wars between rival chiefs that hundreds of people had died of hunger. Can it be wondered that Elizabeth conceived the idea of imitating her sister's policy and forming a "plantation" in the North?
Then came another formidable rebellion in Munster, headed by an Ersefied Norman, Desmond. These rebellions were fomented by the Pope, and in the South the rebels were aided by Spanish troops. In the amount of the aid sent from Spain, however, the Irish rebels were sadly disappointed. That has been one of the characteristic features of all Irish rebellions; the foreign powers on which they have relied have been liberal enough with promises of aid, but when the time for performance has come they have left the unfortunate Irish to their fate. (Thus in 1641 not only did the rebels fully expect that a powerful Spanish force would come to their assistance, but they even believed that 18,000 Spanish troops had actually landed at Wexford.) That these rebellions were crushed by the forces of Queen Elizabeth with a savage violence that is more suggestive of the government of the Netherlands by Spain than of what should have been the action of a Christian nation cannot be denied; but when reading the accounts of the terrible condition to which the country was reduced one cannot help thinking that the stories of outrages committed by the English troops must be exaggerated. In the first place, the writers, even when eye-witnesses, seem to have assumed that the country was peaceful and prosperous up to that time; whereas not only had the tribal wars which had gone on incessantly until a few years before reduced the people almost to a condition of famine, but the rebels themselves, such as O'Neill and Desmond, had ravaged the country anew. And if it was obvious that the object of Elizabeth was to exterminate the whole Irish population and the Roman Catholic religion, it seems impossible (even allowing for the eccentricity of human nature in general and of the Irish character in particular) to believe that a large part of the queen's forces should have been composed of Irish Roman Catholics; or that the inhabitants of the towns, most of whom were also Irish Roman Catholics, should have taken her side; but such was undoubtedly the case. Again, if nearly the whole native population had been exterminated by slaughter and famine it would have taken at least a century to recover. Yet—a few years after the commencement of the English settlement we find Spenser complaining that the new proprietors were acting as the Norman barons had done centuries before; instead of keeping out the Irish they were making them their tenants and thrusting out the English; and some of the proprietors were themselves becoming "mere Irish." Then, although no doubt a certain proportion of the Elizabethan settlers renounced their Protestantism and embraced the Roman Catholic religion, that can hardly have been the case with the mass of them; and yet before the middle of the seventeenth century we find that the great majority of the freeholders of Ireland and even of the members of the Irish Parliament were Roman Catholics; surely they must have represented the earlier population. And lastly, considering the wild exaggerations that occur in the accounts of every other event of Irish history, we cannot suppose that this period alone has escaped.
Towards the end of the queen's reign occurred the last of the native rebellions. It too was crushed; and, by the "flight of the earls"—Tyrone and Tyrconnell—was completed the work which had been commenced by Henry II. And so the third chapter of Irish history was ended.
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY, UNTIL THE END OF THE REIGN OF JAMES II.
The seventeenth century is a terrible period of European history. It has been described as "the age of religious wars"; and those wars were waged with a savage ferocity which it is impossible even now to read of without a shudder.
It is a plain matter of history that from the very commencement of the Reformation the idea of toleration never entered into the heads of any of the authorities of the Church of Rome. France, Spain, Portugal, Savoy and Germany all tell the same story. Except in countries such as England where the sovereigns adopted the new opinions, the only chance which the reforming party had of being able to exercise their religion was by means of rebellion and all the horrors of civil war. What that meant, the history of the rise of the Dutch Republic tells us. As Lord Acton has said: "In the seventeenth century the murder of a heretic was not only permitted but rewarded. It was a virtuous deed to slaughter Protestant men and women until they were all exterminated. Pius V held that it was sound Catholic doctrine that any man may stab a heretic; and every man was a heretic who attacked the papal prerogatives." And it is equally true that in those cases where the reforming party succeeded in gaining the upper hand, they did not show much more mercy than had been shown to them previously or was being shown to their co-religionists in other countries at the time. Yet it is only fair to add that when the idea of toleration did arise, it arose amongst the reformed churches. Probably the only Roman Catholic State in the world where toleration existed during the seventeenth century was the little English colony of Maryland, of which Lord Baltimore was the proprietor. And when at length the religious wars died out it was, as far as Catholic countries were concerned, because the lay mind had become thoroughly disgusted with the whole thing, and men's minds were turning in other directions—not because the clerical rulers showed the slightest desire to relax their efforts or change their policy.
It would be well if the whole dreadful period could be buried in oblivion. But it is necessary to mention the subject here, for the Nationalist party are continually referring to the horrors of the Cromwellian massacres and the penal laws; and if such matters are to be gone into at all it is only fair, in order to make a just estimate of them, to glance at the great European struggle of which they formed an incident. In the century which saw Germany deluged with blood for thirty years, and which witnessed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the revival of vehement persecution in France, it was not likely that Ireland should remain unaffected.
Soon after James I came to the throne he commenced his famous Scotch plantation in the desolated and half-emptied province of Ulster. That it was even a greater success than the plantation formed by Philip and Mary everyone is of course aware; it is the descendants of those immigrants who, though they live in a district not so highly favoured by nature as other parts of the country, form the only really prosperous and progressive section of the community at the present day. The native Irish do not seem to have looked on the Scotchmen with much disfavour, perhaps partly because there being plenty of room for all in the desolated tract, and lands being assigned to them, they realised that they were safer in the immediate neighbourhood of a peaceful settlement than they would have been had they remained a prey to unscrupulous adventurers like Shan O'Neill. A member of the legal profession must feel shame and sorrow in recording the fact that the chicanery of the lawyers added much to the harshness of the politicians. That, however, is only another way of saying that the humane policy of the nineteenth century was unknown in the seventeenth. Had courts been established in Ireland like the native land courts of New Zealand in which claims under customary law might be investigated, and equitable awards made, the later history of Ireland might have been very different. Yet one must remember that even in the reign of Queen Victoria there was a strong party in England and there were not a few people in New Zealand who argued that Maori customary claims should be disregarded and the treaty of Waitangi ignored. And in the seventeenth century such ideas were unheard of. Lawyers searched for every technicality of English law by which the titles of holders of land could be upset, in favour of English claimants. Then matters became strangely complicated, as they seem to be periodically throughout Irish history. The struggle between Charles I and the Parliament began, and it soon became evident that the Parliamentary party was the stronger of the two. To the Irish the Parliamentarians meant the Puritans; and they believed, not wholly without reason, that a determined attempt would be made not only to seize all their lands but also to stamp out their religion. (It must be observed that the Elizabethan anti-Roman Acts had never been strictly carried out in Ireland, and during the reign of James I their severity had been relaxed still further—a line of conduct which had no parallel in any Roman Catholic country in Europe at the time.) Thereupon in 1641 the Roman Catholics of Ulster broke into open rebellion, and soon afterwards they applied to the kings of France and Spain for aid; and the Pope issued a bull granting a full and plenary indulgence and absolute remission for all their sins to all who would do their utmost to extirpate and totally root out those workers of iniquity who in the kingdom of Ireland had infected and were always striving to infect the mass of Catholic purity with the pestiferous leaven of their heretical contagion.
The stories told of the actual outbreak of the rebellion are interesting as an illustration of the universal habit of exaggeration about Irish affairs, to which I have already alluded. Clarendon affirms that 40,000 English Protestants were murdered before they suspected themselves to be in any danger; Temple states that in the first two months of the rebellion 150,000 Protestants had been massacred. The Jesuit, O'Mahony, writing in 1645, says "Persevere, my countrymen, in the path you have entered on, and exterminate your heretical opponents, their adherents and helpers. Already within four or five years you have killed 150,000 of them, as you do not deny. I myself believe that even a greater number of the heretics have been cut off; would that I could say all." He had doubtless obtained his information from the returns made by the priests engaged in the rebellion to the military leaders, the figures of which were much the same. Yet Lecky (who, though in certain passages of his history he shows himself to be somewhat biassed in favour of the Irish Roman Catholic party, is on the whole a remarkably fair and impartial historian) argues with much force that there is no evidence of anything like a general massacre, and brings down the number murdered to about 8,000. Still, that there was a widespread rebellion and all the consequent horrors of civil war, there can be no doubt. The rebels of Ulster at one time tried to identify their cause with that of Charles I by producing a forged commission from the king—which annoyed the Royalists and made the Parliamentary party all the more bitter. Charles certainly did his utmost to bring about a peace—no doubt being anxious to obtain the assistance of his Irish subjects in his Scotch and English wars. But his efforts were thwarted by the Papal Nuncio, whose instructions from Rome were that the Holy See could never by any positive Act approve of the civil allegiance of Catholic subjects to an heretical prince; and thus the Royalist cause became as completely lost in Ireland as it was in England. Before the peace was finally concluded, Charles was a prisoner in the hands of his enemies.
Then came the terrible episode of the Cromwellian war, in which Romanist and Royalist alike went down before the Puritan force. Still, though he would be a bold man who could attempt to excuse—much less to justify—the barbarities that took place, it may be doubted whether all the Cromwellian outrages put together equalled a single one of those which the Imperial troops had committed during the war which had been raging for thirty years in Germany—such for instance as the sacking of Magdeburg. It is estimated, however, that about 600,000 people (of whom 500,000 were of the Irish race and 100,000 of the English) perished by the sword, pestilence or famine in the fearful years between 1641 and 1652—in other words, about a third part of the population was wiped out. And the war was followed by a wholesale confiscation—having fought for the king being considered as much an act of treason as having rebelled against him. The confiscated lands were allotted to soldiers, to persons who had supplied money to the Parliamentary forces, and to other supporters of the new Government. It is but just, however, to add that 700,000 acres of profitable land in Connaught were allotted to dispossessed Romanists, and that they were allowed to occupy 100,000 acres in other parts of the country; a striking contrast to the lot of the unhappy Waldenses who were at that time being driven from their homes and slaughtered without mercy for no crime but heresy; or to the treatment a few years later by Louis XIV of his Huguenot subjects whose lands were confiscated without compensation and who were only given the choice of death or the galleys.
At the Restoration some effort was made to undo the injustice of the Cromwellian confiscations. But the matter was one of great difficulty. In many cases land had been allotted by Cromwell in payment for money received; in others the grantees had sold their holdings to purchasers who had paid in cash, regarding the original grant as indefeasible. A reconfiscation of such lands would obviously have worked a great injustice; and it is a common maxim of law that between two claimants each with a good title the one in possession is to be preferred. Still it cannot be said that the decisions of the Royal Commissioners were always equitable according to our ideas; for instance, the award of 80,000 acres to the Duke of York (afterwards James II) of land which had been forfeited under Cromwell because the owner had fought for his father, would be hard to justify on any possible grounds. Still, an Act of Settlement was passed, by which a certain amount of justice was done; it is difficult to arrive at the figures accurately, but it appears that after the passing of the Act nearly one-third of the Island was vested in Roman Catholic proprietors. Archbishop King estimated that at the time when he was writing—1689—two-thirds of the Protestant landowners held their estates under the Act of Settlement. And Lecky says, "Only an infinitesimal portion of the soil belongs to the descendants of those who possessed it before Cromwell." But Archbishop King was influenced by the fear he had felt as to what the effect of a repeal of the Act would be; and there can hardly be a doubt that his feelings led him to overestimate the number. With regard to Lecky's remark, one can only take it as a strange instance of a gross exaggeration having crept into a book which is usually careful and accurate. It may be that the statement was not very incorrect according to the evidence the author had before him; but if so, that only proves that the evidence was wrong; for the proceedings in the Land Courts which have been set up in Ireland during the last half century have shown that the proportion of titles to estates which date from an earlier period was far larger than people had supposed.
During the peaceful and tolerant reign of Charles II the country made steady progress.
Under James II, however, everything was reversed. That unhappy monarch, having ascended the throne tranquilly, with many protestations of toleration and justice to all, succeeded in less than two years in making it clear to the people of England that his object was to confine liberty to those who professed his own creed and that his idea of good government was something like that which was then existing in France and Savoy. Driven from Great Britain, on his arrival in Ireland he issued a proclamation declaring that his Protestant subjects, their religion, privileges and properties were his especial care; and he had previously directed the Lord Lieutenant to declare in Council that he would preserve the Act of Settlement inviolable. But the Protestants soon had reason to fear that his promises were illusory and that the liberty which might be allowed to them would be at best temporary. In a word, what the one party looked forward to with hope and the other with dread was "a confederacy with France which would make His Majesty's monarchy absolute."
In order to understand what that meant, to Irish Protestants, it is well to glance at the condition of France at the time. Louis XIV had begun by directing that the Edict of Nantes was to be interpreted by the strictest letter of the law; and soon after that the condition of the Huguenots became more unhappy than that of the Irish Roman Catholics ever was during the penal laws. The terrible "Dragonnades" commenced in 1682; soldiers were billeted on heretics, and unfortunate women were insulted past endurance; Huguenots were restricted even as to holding family prayers; children at the age of seven were encouraged to renounce their faith, and if they did so they were taken from their parents who, however, were obliged to pay for their maintenance in convent schools. Protestant churches were closed, and their endowments handed over to Roman Catholic institutions. Huguenot children were forbidden all education except the most elementary. No heretic was allowed to sue a Catholic for debt. All this, however, did not satisfy the monarch or his ecclesiastical advisers. On the 18th of October 1685, he issued his famous Revocation of the Edict of Nantes:—
"We by the present Edict which is perpetual and irrevocable, revoke the Edict given at Nantes in 1583 together with every concession to the Protestants of whatever nature they be. We will that all temples of that religion be instantly demolished. We prohibit our Protestant subjects to assemble for worship in any private house. We prohibit all our lords to exercise that religion within their fiefs under penalty of confiscation of property and imprisonment of person. We enjoin all ministers of the said faith to leave the kingdom within fifteen days of the publication of this Edict, under penalty of the galleys. We enjoin that all children who shall be born henceforth be baptized by the Catholic curates. Persons awaiting the enlightening grace of God may live in our kingdom unhindered on account of their religion on condition that they do not perform any of its exercises or assemble for prayer or worship under penalty of body and wealth."
This Edict met with cordial approval from the Catholic party in France. The famous Madame de Sevigne wrote: "I admire the king for the means he has devised for ruining the Huguenots. The wars and massacres of former days only gave vigour to the sect; but the edict just issued, aided by the dragoons, will give them the coup de grace."
The Irish Protestants saw with alarm that amongst the soldiers who came from France to aid King James were some who had taken an active part in the dragonnades organized by Louis XIV in order to carry out his edict. Then one Act was passed by the Dublin Parliament repealing the Act of Settlement; and by another 2,461 persons were declared guilty of high treason unless they appeared before the Dublin authorities on a certain day and proved they were not guilty. What steps King James was prepared to take in order to subdue the rebels of Derry who held out against him can be gathered from the proclamation which he directed Conrade de Rosen, his Mareschal General, to issue. He warned the rebels that if they did not surrender immediately, all the members of their faction, whether protected or not, in the whole neighbourhood, would be brought close to the walls of the city and there starved to death; that he would ravish the countryside, and see that no man, woman or child escaped; and that if the city still held out he would give no quarter and spare neither age nor sex, in case it was taken by force.
Even if there had been no Derry to relieve and no Protestants in other parts of the country, the conquest of Ireland was a political necessity to King William. England was at this time in much the same position that it had been in the days of Elizabeth, substituting the name France for Spain. The continental powers were again united in a supreme effort to stamp out Protestantism, and England once more stood almost alone. In Spain and Portugal, heresy was of course still punishable with death; the Pope had celebrated the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes with a triumphal Te Deum; a terrible persecution was raging not only throughout the Protestant districts of France but also on the Rhine, in Hungary, Savoy and the Alpine Valleys; if Ireland had remained a separate kingdom ruled by the ally and admirer of Louis XIV, the next step would certainly have been an invasion of England by the joint forces of France and Ireland. All that we in modern times include in the term "religious liberty" hung on the issue of the battle that was fought and won on the banks of the Boyne.
THE PERIOD OF THE PENAL LAWS.
The flight of James II brings us to the era of the "penal laws." To one who lives in the twentieth century and is embued with the spirit of modern thought, the whole subject is more than painful—it is detestable. But to pass it over in silence is impossible; and in order to get a clear view of the position it is necessary to examine what the penal laws were, what they were not, and what were the circumstances of the time during which they were in force.
The penal laws were a series of enactments carefully planned so as to harass the Roman Catholics at every moment of their lives, in the hope of inducing them to abandon their religion. The unhappy people were prohibited from becoming or voting for members of Parliament; they were excluded from corporations, the army, the navy and the legal profession. They were forbidden to bear arms, or even to possess a horse worth more than L5. Education was denied to them, as they could not send their sons to the university and were forbidden either to have schools of their own in Ireland or to send their children abroad. They were not allowed to possess freehold estates in land, and even as to leaseholds they were seriously restricted. On the death of a Roman Catholic his estate was divided amongst his children equally, unless the eldest son became a Protestant, in which case he inherited the whole. And as no Roman Catholic was allowed to act as a guardian, a man never knew that if he should die his children might not be brought up in a faith that he detested. The performance of Roman Catholic worship was barely tolerated, as no bishops or other dignitaries were allowed to remain in Ireland, and the only priests authorized to say mass were those who were "registered" and had taken the oath of abjuration—that is, an oath declaring that the Pretender had no right to the throne.
Such in brief were those terrible statutes. But without attempting to excuse them, there are various matters which must be taken into account if we are to judge them fairly. In the first place, the political aspect of the question should not be forgotten. The Protestant minority might justly fear that if the Roman Catholic party were as powerful as their numbers would naturally cause them to be, they would aid in bringing about a French invasion for the restoration of the Stuarts and the re-establishment of the system which had been in evidence under James II. An army was actually formed in France, and on more than one occasion was in readiness to start. The Stuarts were regarded by the Pope as the rightful sovereigns. The Roman Catholic prelates whose entry into Ireland was forbidden were appointed by the Pretender and were his political agents; it was that fact, and no doctrinal reason, that caused their expulsion. It is necessary to make this quite clear, as there has been as much exaggeration on this point as on most other subjects connected with Irish history. The words of the "oath of abjuration" were as follows:
"I do solemnly and sincerely declare that I do believe in my conscience that the person pretended to be Prince of Wales during the life of the late King James and since his decease taking upon himself the style and title of King of England by the name of James III hath not any right or title whatever to the crown of this realm."
A modern Roman Catholic writer has thus described the oath:—
"By the Oath of Abjuration the priest was ordered to swear that the sacrifice of the mass and the invocation of the Blessed Virgin and the saints were damnable and idolatrous. In other words, the priest was ordered to apostatize, or fly for his life."
And even if Roman Catholics took the oath of allegiance, the old difficulty arose as to the papal right to depose princes and to order their subjects to rebel. So late as 1768, when a declaration was drawn up which it was hoped the leaders of the Roman Catholic party would sign, so that the penal laws might be finally done away with, the Papal Nuncio vetoed the proposal because the declaration contained a reprobation of the doctrines that faith need not be kept with heretics and that if the Pope banned a sovereign his subjects might depose and slay him. It is but fair to add, however, that a large number of Roman Catholics did sign the declaration; and the penal laws (which had been relaxed from time to time when it was seen that the Irish took no part in the Stuart rebellions of 1715 and 1745) were soon afterwards practically abolished.
Then it must be borne in mind that the Irish penal laws, although to some extent modelled on the legislation of Louis XIV against the Huguenots, were absolutely insignificant compared with those which were in force at the time in every Roman Catholic country in Europe. Galling though the Irish laws were, they never went so far as to make the mere holding of heretical opinions criminal. Thus no one in Ireland was ever put to death for believing in transubstantiation; whereas in one diocese of Portugal 20,000 people were sent to the stake for denying it. As every one who has visited the Madrid picture gallery will recollect, it was still the custom in the eighteenth century for the King of Spain to preside in state at the burning of heretics; and it was not until that century was drawing to a close that it was for the first time enacted in Portugal that sentence of death for heresy when passed by the ecclesiastical court should not be carried into effect unless the order was countersigned by the king. In France, for two or three heretics to meet for worship anywhere (their churches had of course all been pulled down) was a crime punishable with death; and any Huguenot caught whilst attempting to escape from the country was sent to the galleys—a fate worse than mere death, for it meant death by slow torture. And every child was forcibly taken from its heretic parents at the age of five, and educated in a convent.
But more than that: Roman Catholics who fled from the tyranny of the penal laws at home had no scruple, when they reached the Continent, in taking part in persecutions far more terrible than anything they had seen in Ireland. During the dragonnades in Languedoc, Louis XIV's Irish brigade joined eagerly in the butchery of old men, women and children and the burning of whole villages. The same heroes distinguished themselves by destroying everything they could find in remote Alpine valleys so that the unfortunate Waldenses might die of starvation. And the Irish troops under Lord Mountcashel aided in the burning of 1,000 villages in the Palatinate of the Rhine, in which all the inhabitants—men, women and children—were slain by the sword, burnt to death, or left to perish from hunger. These persecutions were practically brought to an end by the French Revolution and the rise of modern ideas; but the ecclesiastical authorities, though they have lost their power, have shown no sign of having changed their principles. Even in the middle of the nineteenth century King Victor Emmanuel was excommunicated by Pope Pius IX for allowing his Vaudois subjects to build a church for themselves at Turin.
Of course it may be said with perfect truth that two blacks do not make one white. Still, the constant complaints about the tyranny of the penal laws have less force when they come from the representatives of a party who acted in the same way themselves whenever they had the opportunity.
It is indeed frequently urged as a matter of aggravation that whereas other persecutions were those of a minority by a majority, this was of a majority by a minority. To me, so far as this makes any difference at all, it tells the other way. As a matter of morality, I fail to see any difference; putting all the inhabitants of an Alpine valley to death as heretics does not seem to me one whit the less horrible because the sovereign also ruled a large Catholic population on the plains. On the other hand, the fact that the Roman Catholics in Ireland formed the majority of the population prevented the persecution from being strictly carried out. It was comparatively easy for Louis XIV to surround a heretic district with a cordon of soldiers, and then draw them closer together searching every house as they went, seizing the clergy and taking them off to the galleys; but it was impossible to track unregistered priests through the mountains and valleys of Munster. Hence the law as to the registration of priests soon became a dead letter.
There was indeed one great difference, between Irish and continental persecution. On the continent it was the holiest and best men who were the keenest persecutors. (This may seem strange to modern readers; but anyone who has studied the lives of Bossuet and San Carlo Borromeo will admit that it is true.) Hence the persecution was carried out with that vigour which was necessary to make it a success. In Spain, if a heretic under torture or the fear of it consented to recant, the Holy Office was not satisfied with a mere formal recantation; for the rest of his life the convert was watched day and night to see that there was no sign of back-sliding; and even the possession of a fragment of the New Testament was considered as sufficient evidence of a relapse to send the wretched man to the stake. Consequently, in a generation or two heresy became as extinct as Christianity did amongst the Kabyles of North Africa after the Mohammedan persecution. In Ireland, however, persecution was always against the grain with religiously-minded Protestants. Seven bishops protested against the first enactment of the Penal Laws; and during the period when they were in force, the bishops repeatedly spoke and voted in favour of each proposed mitigation of them. (With this one may contrast the action of the French bishops who on the accession of Louis XVI in 1774 presented an address to the new king urging him to increase the persecution of the Huguenots which had become somewhat slack during the later years of his predecessor. By the irony of fate the same men were a few years later pleading vainly for the mercy which they had never shown in the days of their power.) Nor was this tolerant feeling confined to the bishops. By the aid of the Protestant gentry, the laws were continually being evaded. Protestants appointed by the Court as guardians of Roman Catholic children, used to carry out the wishes of the Roman Catholic relations; Roman Catholic proprietors frequently handed over their estates to Protestant friends as Trustees, and, though such Trusts were of course not enforceable at law, there were very few instances in which they were not faithfully performed. Many strange stories are told of the evasions of the Acts. On one occasion whilst it was still illegal for a popish recusant to own a horse of a greater value than L5, a man met a Roman Catholic gentleman who was riding a handsome horse; he held out L5 in one hand, and with the other caught hold of the bridle. The rider, naturally infuriated at this, struck the man with his whip so heavily that he fell down dead. When he was tried for murder, the judge decided that as the man had laid a hand on the bridle, the rider had reason to suppose that he intended to take it as well as the horse, which would have been an illegal act; consequently he was justified in defending himself against highway robbery; and therefore the charge must be dismissed. Again, a Roman Catholic proprietor found out that an effort was likely to be made to deprive him of his estate. He rode up to Dublin on a Saturday; on Sunday he received the Holy Communion at a Protestant Church; on Monday he executed a deed transferring his estate to a Protestant friend as Trustee; on Tuesday he was received back into the Church of Rome; and on Wednesday he rode home again, to enjoy his estate free from further molestation.
The schools which were founded in order to convert the rising generation were a strange contrast to the admirably conducted institutions established in France and Spain for a similar purpose. They were so disgracefully mismanaged that the pupils who had passed through them looked back on everything that had been taught them there with a lifelong disgust.
It is needless to say that laws thus carried out were a dead failure as far as winning converts was concerned. On the other hand, they became in one sense the more galling as the enforcement of them fell into the hands of a low class of informers who had no object beyond making money for themselves. Still, public feeling was so strong that by the middle of the century the laws had almost fallen into abeyance. Brook, writing in 1762, says: "Though these laws are still in force, it is long since they have been in action. They hang like a sword by a thread over the heads of these people, and Papists walk under them in security and peace; for whoever should adventure to cut this thread would become ignominious and detestable." And in 1778 and 1782 (that is, when, as an Irish Roman Catholic writer has pointed out, there was still neither toleration nor peace for Protestant populations in any Catholic state in Europe) the Irish Protestant Parliament formally repealed nearly all the penal laws.
Probably their most lasting effect was that relating to the tenure of land. If free purchase and sale regardless of religion had been allowed throughout the eighteenth century, one may conjecture that the effect of the Cromwellian confiscations would long since have died away. But these laws perpetuated that peculiar state of things which has been the cause of so much unhappiness in Ireland—the landlords generally belonged to one religion, and their tenants and dependents to another.
It may be asked, As these odious laws all came to an end generations ago, what is the good of recalling the sorrows of the past which had much better be forgotten? I reply, None whatever; and very glad I should be if the whole subject were quietly dropped. But unfortunately that is just what the Roman Catholic party in Ireland will not do. One of the ways in which religious animosity is being kept alive (and I regret to say is being steadily increased) is by the teaching in the Roman Catholic schools of exaggerated accounts of the penal laws without referring to any of the mitigating circumstances. Even in the present year—1913—the Lenten pastoral of one of the bishops goes back to the same old subject. If other countries acted in a similar manner, how could the grievances of bygone centuries ever be forgotten? The Jews, cruelly treated though they were during the time of the Norman kings, do not harp on the subject in England to-day. It may be doubted whether all the religious persecutions of Europe put together were as great a disgrace to Christendom as the slave trade—in which, I am ashamed to say, England strove to obtain the pre-eminence amongst European nations and which she forced upon her colonies against their will. Yet I should regret it deeply if that were the one passage of history selected for study in the schools and colleges for coloured pupils in the West Indies at the present day. When a man who has suffered wrong in former years broods over it instead of thinking of his present blessings and his future prospects, one may be sure that he is a man who will not succeed in life; and what is true of individuals is true also of nations.
The expression "Protestant ascendancy," although it never came into use during the period with which we are dealing, has so frequently since then been employed with reference to it, that it is necessary to explain its meaning. Probably no word in the English language has suffered more from being used in different senses than the word "Protestant." In Ireland it frequently used to be, and still sometimes is, taken as equivalent to "Anglican" or "Episcopalian"; to an Irishman of the last century it would have appeared quite natural to speak of "Protestants and Presbyterians," meaning thereby two distinct bodies. This is a matter of historical importance; for so far from the Presbyterian element being favoured during the period of the Penal Laws, the English Toleration Act had not been extended to Ireland; Presbyterians were by the sacramental test excluded from all municipal offices; their worship, though never in practice interfered with, remained technically illegal. Their share in "Protestant ascendancy" was therefore very limited.
But if the Established Church was the one favoured body, it had to pay dearly for its privileges. In truth, the state of the Irish Church at this period of its history, was deplorable. All the positions of value—bishoprics, deaneries and important parishes—were conferred on Englishmen, who never resided in their cures, but left the duties either to be performed by half-starved deputies or not at all. Many of the churches were in ruins, and the glebes had fallen into decay; a union of half-a-dozen parishes would scarcely supply a meagre salary for one incumbent. A large proportion of the tithes had been appropriated by laymen; how small a sum actually reached the clergy is shown by the fact that the first-fruits (that is, the year's income paid by incumbents on their appointment) did not amount to more than L500 a year in all. It may be that the standard of religious life was not lower in Ireland than it was in England when the spiritually-minded non-Jurors had been driven out and Hanoverian deadness was supreme; but in England there was no other Church to form a contrast. In Ireland the apathy and worldliness of the Protestant clergy stood out in bold relief against the heroic devotion of the priests and friars; and at the time when the unhappy peasants, forced to pay tithes to a Church which they detested, were ready to starve themselves to support their own clergy and to further the cause of their religion, the well-to-do Protestant graziers and farmers were straining the law so as to evade the payment of tithes, and never thought of doing anything further to support the Church to which they were supposed to belong. (It is but fair, however, to state that this condition of things has long since passed away; the Evangelical revival breathed new life into the dry bones of Irish Protestantism.)
But it was not merely in religious matters that Ireland suffered during this melancholy period. Students of modern history whose researches usually commence with the early part of the nineteenth century, are wont to gather from text-books the idea that the policy of the manufacturing party in England has always been liberal, progressive and patriotic; whereas that of the landed interest has been retrograde and selfish. There cannot be a greater delusion. English manufacturers have been just as self-seeking and narrow-minded as other people—no more and no less; they have been quite as ready to sacrifice the interests of others when they believed them to be opposed to their own, as the much-abused landowners. At this time every nation in Europe regarded the outlying portions of the Empire as existing only for the benefit of the centre; in fact, the English development of the "Colonial System" even then was more liberal than those of Spain or Holland. The English system, if perfectly carried out, was by no means unfair. The ground idea was that the mother country voluntarily restricted herself in matters of trade for the benefit of the Colonies, and the Colonies had to do the same for the benefit of the mother country. Thus, when England refused to admit timber from the Baltic in order to benefit the Canadian lumber trade; and placed a prohibitive duty on sugar from Cuba so as to secure the English market for Jamaica; it was but fair that the trade in other articles from Canada and Jamaica should be directed to England. To say that the whole thing was a mistake, as such restrictions really injured both parties, is no answer, as no one at that time dreamed of such a thing as free trade. The real answer is that it was impossible to keep the balance true; some slight change of circumstances might render that unfair which up to then had been perfectly equal. And as the English merchants were on the spot and commanded votes in Parliament, any injustice against them would be speedily rectified; the colonists living at a distance and having no means of making their voice heard, would be left to suffer.
In applying the colonial system to Ireland, it is true that in theory England undertook to protect her by means of the British army and navy, from foreign foes; but beyond that, the system was to Ireland all loss and no gain. Every branch of Irish industry was deliberately ruined by the English Government. By the Navigation Act of 1663, trade between Ireland and the British Colonies was forbidden; soon after, the importation of Irish beef, mutton, pork and butter into England was prohibited; then, at the request of the English woollen manufacturers, the export of woollen goods from Ireland to any country was stopped; and finally, with a refinement of cruelty, the export of linen articles—the one industry that had hitherto been left to the unfortunate country—was restricted to the coarsest and poorest varieties, for fear of offending the Dutch.
The result of all this wretched misgovernment was not merely destitution bordering on famine, but a wholesale emigration. Whilst the Roman Catholics were leaving the country to avoid the penal laws, the most skilful and industrious of the artizan class,—the very backbone of the nation—were being driven out by the prohibition of their trades. It is said that no less than 30,000 men were thrown out of employment by the destruction of the woollen industry alone. These were nearly all Protestants; to encourage them would have done more to Protestantize the country than all the penal laws and charter schools put together; but they were ruthlessly sacrificed to the greed of the English manufacturers. Some went to the Continent, many more to New England and the other American colonies, where they prospered, and they and their sons became some of Washington's best soldiers in the War of Independence.
It was only natural that thoughtful men in Ireland should cast envious eyes on Scotland, which had recently secured the benefit of union with England, and consequently was able to develop her commerce and manufactures unhindered. But though the subject of a union was discussed, and even referred to in addresses from the Irish Parliament to Queen Anne, no active steps were taken.