KING JAMES IN IRELAND--IRISH PARLIAMENT OF 1689.
A few days after his arrival in France, James despatched a messenger to Tyrconnell, with instructions expressing great anxiety as to the state of affairs in Ireland. "I am sure," wrote the fugitive monarch, "you will hold out to the utmost of your power, and I hope this king will so press the Hollanders, that the Prince of Orange will not have men to spare to attack you." All the aid he could obtain from Louis at the moment was 7,000 or 8,000 muskets, which were sent accordingly.
Events succeeded each other during the first half of the year 1689 with revolutionary rapidity. The conventions of England and Scotland, though far from being unanimous, declared by immense majorities, that James had abdicated, and that William and Mary should be offered the crowns of both kingdoms. In February, they were proclaimed as king and queen of "England, France, and Ireland," and in May, the Scottish commissioners brought them the tender of the crown of Scotland. The double heritage of the Stuart kings was thus, after nearly a century of possession, transferred by election to a kindred prince, to the exclusion of the direct descendants of the great champion of "the right divine," who first united under his sceptre the three kingdoms.
James, at the Court of France, was duly informed of all that passed at London and Edinburgh. He knew that he had powerful partizans in both conventions. The first fever of popular excitement once allayed, he marked with exultation the symptoms of reaction. There was much in the circumstances attending his flight to awaken popular sympathy, and to cast a veil over his errors. The pathetic picture drawn of parental suffering by the great dramatist in the character of King Lear, seemed realized to the life in the person of King James. Message followed message from the three kingdoms, urging him to return and place himself at the head of his faithful subjects in a war against the usurper. The French king approved of these recommendations, for in fighting James's battle he was fighting his own, and a squadron was prepared at Brest to carry the fugitive back to his dominions. Accompanied by his natural sons, the Duke of Berwick and the Grand Prior Fitzjames, by Lieutenant-Generals de Rosen and de Maumont, Majors-General de Pusignan and de Lery (or Geraldine), about a hundred officers of all ranks, and 1,200 veterans, James sailed from Brest, with a fleet of 33 vessels, and landed at Kinsale on the 12th day of March (old style). His reception by the Southern population was enthusiastic in the extreme. From Kinsale to Cork, from Cork to Dublin, his progress was accompanied by Gaelic songs and dances, by Latin orations, loyal addresses, and all the decorations with which a popular favourite can be welcomed. Nothing was remembered by that easily pacified people but his great misfortunes and his steady fidelity to his and their religion. Fifteen chaplains, nearly all Irish, accompanied him, and added to the delight of the populace; while many a long-absent soldier, now came back in the following of the king, to bless the sight of some aged parent or faithful lover. The royal entry into Dublin was the crowning pageant of this delusive restoration. With the tact and taste for such demonstrations hereditary in the citizens, the trades and arts were marshalled before him. Two venerable harpers played on their national instruments near the gate by which he entered; a number of religious in their robes, with a huge cross at their head, chanted as they went; forty young girls, dressed in white, danced the ancient Rinka, scattering flowers as they danced. The Earl of Tyrconnell, lately raised to a dukedom, the judges, the mayor and corporation, completed the procession, which marched over newly sanded streets, beneath arches of evergreens and windows hung with "tapestry and cloth of Arras." Arrived at the castle the sword of state was presented to him by the deputy, and the keys of the city by the recorder. At the inner entrance, the primate, Dr. Dominick Macguire, waited in his robes to conduct him to the chapel, lately erected by Tyrconnell, where Te Deum was solemnly sung. But of all the incidents of that striking ceremonial, nothing more powerfully impressed the popular imagination than the green flag floating from the main tower of the castle, bearing the significant inscription--"_Now or Never--Now and Forever_."
A fortnight was devoted by James in Dublin to daily and nightly councils and receptions. The chief advisers who formed his court were the Count d'Avaux, Ambassador of France, the Earl of Melfort, principal Secretary of State, the Duke of Tyrconnell, Lieutenant-General Lord Mountcashel, Chief Justice Nugent, and the superior officers of the army, French and Irish. One of the first things resolved upon at Dublin was the appointment of the gallant Viscount Dundee as Lieutenant-General in Scotland--and the despatch to his assistance of an Irish auxiliary force, which served under that renowned chief with as much honour as their predecessors had served under Montrose. Communications were also opened through the Bishop of Chester with the west of England Jacobites, always numerous in Cheshire, Shropshire, and other counties nearest to Ireland. Certain changes were then made in the Privy Council; Chief Justice Keating's attendance was dispensed with as one opposed to the new policy, but his judicial functions were left untouched. Dr. Cartwright, Bishop of Chester, and the French Ambassador were sworn in, and writs were issued convoking the Irish Parliament for the 7th day of May following.
Intermitting, for the present, the military events which marked the early months of the year, we will follow the acts and deliberations of King James's Parliament of 1689. The Houses met, according to summons, at the appointed time, in the building known as "the Inns of Court," within a stone's throw of the castle. There were present 228 Commoners, and 46 members of the Upper House. In the Lords several Protestant noblemen and prelates took their seats, and some Catholic peers of ancient date, whose attainders had been reversed, were seen for the first time in that generation in the front rank of their order. In the Lower House the University and a few other constituencies were represented by Protestants, but the overwhelming majority were Catholics, either of Norman or Milesian origin. The King made a judicious opening speech, declaring his intention to uphold the rights of property, and to establish liberty of conscience alike for Protestant and Catholic. He referred to the distressed state of trade and manufactures, and recommended to the attention of the Houses, those who had been unjustly deprived of their estates under the "Act of Settlement."
Three measures passed by this Parliament entitle its members to be enrolled among the chief assertors of civil and religious liberty. One was the "Act for establishing Liberty of Conscience," followed by the supplemental act that all persons should pay tithes only to the clergy of their own communion. An act abolishing writs of error and appeal into England, established the judicial independence of Ireland; but a still more necessary measure repealing Poyning's Law, was defeated through the personal hostility of the King. An act repealing the Act of Settlement was also passed, under protest from the Protestant Lords, and received the royal sanction. A bill to establish Inns of Court, for the education of Irish law students, was, however, rejected by the King, and lost; an "Act of Attainder," against persons in arms against the Sovereign, whose estates lay in Ireland, was adopted. Whatever may be the bias of historians, it cannot be denied that this Parliament showed a spirit worthy of the representatives of a free people. "Though Papists," says Mr. Grattan, our highest parliamentary authority, "they were not slaves; they wrung a constitution from King James before they accompanied him to the field."
The King, unfortunately, had not abandoned the arbitrary principles of his family, even in his worst adversity. His interference with the discussions on Poyning's Law, and the Inns of Court bill, had shocked some of his most devoted adherents. But he proceeded from obstructive to active despotism. He doubled, by his mere proclamation, the enormous subsidy of 20,000 pounds monthly voted him by the Houses. He established, by the same authority, a bank, and decreed in his own name a bank restriction act. He debased the coinage, and established a fixed scale of prices to be observed by all merchants and traders. In one respect--but in one only--he grossly violated his own professed purpose of establishing liberty of conscience, by endeavouring to force fellows and scholars on the University of Dublin contrary to its statutes. He even went so far as to appoint a provost and librarian without consent of the senate. However we may condemn the exclusiveness of the College, this was not the way to correct it; bigotry on the one hand, will not justify despotism on the other.
More justifiable was the interference of the King for the restoration of rural schools and churches, and the decent maintenance of the clergy and bishops. His appointments to the bench were also, with one or two exceptions, men of the very highest character. "The administration of justice during this brief period," says Dr. Cooke Taylor, "deserves the highest praise. With the exception of Nugent and Fritton, the Irish judges would have been an honour to any bench."