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PENAL LAWS--PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION.

James the Sixth of Scotland was in his 37th year when he ascended the throne under the title of "James the First, King of Great Britain and Ireland." His accession naturally excited the most hopeful expectations of good government in the breasts of the Irish Catholics. He was son of Mary Queen of Scots, whom they looked upon as a martyr to her religion, and grandson of that gallant King James who styled himself "Defender of the Faith," and "_Dominus Hiberniae_" in introducing the first Jesuits to the Ulster Princes. His ancestors had always been in alliance with the Irish, and the antiquaries of that nation loved to trace their descent from the Scoto-Irish chiefs who first colonized Argyle, and were for ages crowned at Scone. He himself was known to have assisted the late Catholic struggle as effectually, though less openly than the King of Spain, and it is certain that he had employed Catholic agents, like Lord Home and Sir James Lindsay, to excite an interest in his succession among the Catholics, both in the British Islands and on the Continent.

The first acts of the new sovereign were calculated to confirm the expectations of Catholic liberty thus entertained. He was anxious to make an immediate and lasting peace with Spain; refused to receive a special embassy from the Hollanders; his ambassador at Paris was known to be on terms of intimacy with the Pope's Nuncio; and although personally he assumed the tone of an Anglican Churchman, on crossing the border he had invited leading Catholics to his Court, and conferred the honour of Knighthood on some of their number. The imprudent demonstrations in the Irish towns were easily quieted, and no immediate notice was taken of their leaders. In May, 1603, Mountjoy, on whom James had conferred the higher rank of Lord Lieutenant, leaving Carew as Lord Deputy, proceeded to England, accompanied by O'Neil, Roderick O'Donnell, Maguire, and other Irish gentlemen. The veteran Tyrone, now past threescore, though hooted by the London rabble, was graciously received in that court, with which he had been familiar forty years before. He was at once confirmed in his title, the Earldom of Tyrconnell was created for O'Donnell, and the Lordship of Enniskillen for Maguire. Mountjoy, created Earl of Devonshire, retained the title of Lord Lieutenant, with permission to reside in England, and was rewarded by the appointment of Master of the Ordnance and Warden of the New Forest, with an ample pension from the Crown to him and his heirs for ever, the grant of the county of Lecale (Down), and the estate of Kingston Hall, in Dorsetshire, He survived but three short years to enjoy all these riches and honours; at the age of 44, wasted with dissipation and domestic troubles, he passed to his final account.

The necessity of conciliating the Catholic party in England, of maintaining peace in Ireland, and prosecuting the Spanish negotiations, not less, perhaps, than his own original bias, led James to deal favourably with the Catholics at first. But having attempted to enforce the new Anglican Canons, adopted in 1604, against the Puritans, that party retaliated by raising against him the cry of favouring the Papists. This cry alarmed the King, who had always before his eyes the fear of Presbyterianism, and he accordingly made a speech in the Star Chamber, declaring his utter detestation of Popery, and published a proclamation banishing all Catholic missionaries from the country. All magistrates were instructed to enforce the penal laws with rigour, and an elaborate spy system for the discovery of concealed recusants was set on foot. This reign of treachery and terror drove a few desperate men into the gunpowder plot of the following year, and rendered it difficult, if not impossible, for the King to return to the policy of toleration, with which, to do him justice, he seems to have set out from Scotland.

Carew, President of Munster during the late war, became Deputy to Mountjoy on his departure for England. He was succeeded in October, 1604, by Sir Arthur Chichester, who, with the exception of occasional absences at Court, continued in office for a period of eleven years. This nobleman, a native of England, furnishes, in many points, a parallel to his cotemporary and friend, Robert Boyle, Earl of Cork. The object of his life was to found and to endow the Donegal peerage out of the spoils of Ulster, as richly as Boyle endowed his earldom out of the confiscation of Munster. Both were Puritans rather than Churchmen, in their religious opinions; Chichester, a pupil of the celebrated Cartwright, and a favourer all his life of the congregational clergy in Ulster. But they carried their repugnance to the interference of the civil magistrate in matters of conscience so discreetly as to satisfy the high church notions both of James and Elizabeth. For the violence they were thus compelled to exercise against themselves, they seem to have found relief in bitter and continuous persecution of others. Boyle, as the leading spirit in the government of Munster, as Lord Treasurer, and occasionally as Lord Justice, had ample opportunities, during his long career of forty years, to indulge at once his avarice and his bigotry; and no situation was ever more favourable than Chichester's for a proconsul, eager to enrich himself at the expense of a subjugated Province.

In the projected work of the reduction of the whole country to the laws and customs of England, it is instructive to observe that a Parliament was not called in the first place. The reformers proceeded by proclamations, letters patent, and orders in council, not by legislation. The whole island was divided into 32 counties and 6 judicial circuits, all of which were visited by Justices in the second or third year of this reign, and afterwards semi-annually. On the Northern Circuit Sir Edward Pelham and Sir John Davis were accompanied by the Deputy in person, with a numerous retinue. In some places the towns were so wasted by the late war, pestilence, and famine, that the Viceregal party were obliged to camp out in the fields, and to carry with them their own provisions. The Courts were held in ruined castles and deserted monasteries; Irish interpreters were at every step found necessary; sheriffs were installed in Tyrone and Tyrconnell for the first time; all lawyers appearing in court and all justices of the peace were tendered the oath of supremacy--the refusal of which necessarily excluded Catholics both from the bench and the bar. An enormous amount of litigation as to the law of real property was created by a judgment of the Court of King's Bench at Dublin, in 1605, by which the ancient Irish customs, of tanistry and gavelkind, were declared null and void, and the entire Feudal system, with its rights of primogeniture, hereditary succession, entail, and vassalage, was held to exist in as full force in England. Very evidently this decision was not less a violation of the articles of Mellifont than was the King's proclamation against freedom of conscience issued about the same tune.

Sir John Davis, who has left us two very interesting tracts on Irish affairs, speaking of the new legal regulations of which he was one of the principal superintendents, observes that the old-fashioned allowances to be found so often in the Pipe-Rolls, pro guidagio et spiagio, into the interior, may well be spared thereafter, since "the under sheriffs and bailiffs errant are better guides and spies in time of peace than they were found in tune of war." He adds, what we may very well believe, that the Earl of Tyrone complained he had so many eyes upon him, that he could not drink a cup of sack without the government being advertised of it within a few hours afterwards. This system of social espionage, so repugnant to all the habits of the Celtic family, was not the only mode of annoyance resorted to against the veteran chief. Every former dependent who could be induced to dispute his claims as a landlord, under the new relations established by the late decision, was sure of a judgment in his favour. Disputes about boundaries with O'Cane, about the commutation of chieftain-rents into tenantry, about church lands claimed by Montgomery, Protestant Bishop of Derry, were almost invariably decided against him. Harassed by these proceedings, and all uncertain of the future, O'Neil listened willingly to the treacherous suggestion of St. Lawrence and Lord Howth, that the leading Catholics of the Pale, and those of Ulster, should endeavour to form another confederation. The execution of Father Garnet, Provincial of the Jesuits in England, the heavy fines inflicted on Lords Stourton, Mordaunt, and Montague, and the new oath of allegiance, framed by Archbishop Abbott, and sanctioned by the English Parliament--all events of the year 1606--were calculated to inspire the Irish Catholics with desperate councils. A dutiful remonstrance against the Act of Uniformity the previous year had been signed by the principal Anglo-Irish Catholics for transmission to the King, but their delegates were seized and imprisoned in the Castle, while their principal agent, Sir Patrick Barnwell, was sent to London and confined in the Tower. A meeting, at Lord Howth's suggestion, was held about Christmas, 1606, at the Castle of Maynooth, then in possession of the dowager Countess of Kildare, one of whose daughters was married to Christopher Nugent, Baron of Delvin, and her granddaughter to Rory, Earl of Tyrconnell. There were present O'Neil, O'Donnell, and O'Cane, on the one part, and Lords Delvin and Howth on the other. The precise result of this conference, disguised under the pretext of a Christmas party, was never made known, but the fact that it had been held, and that the parties present had entertained the project of another confederacy for the defence of the Catholic religion, was mysteriously communicated in an anonymous letter, directed to Sir William Usher, Clerk of the Council, which was dropped in the Council Chamber of Dublin Castle, in March, 1607. This letter, it is now generally believed, was written by Lord Howth, who was thought to have been employed by Secretary Cecil, to entrap the northern Earls, in order to betray them. In May, O'Neil and O'Donnell were cited to attend the Lord Deputy in Dublin, but the charges were for the time kept in abeyance, and they were ordered to appear in London before the feast of Michaelmas. Early in September O'Neil was with Chichester at Slane, in Meath, when he received a letter from Maguire, who had been out of the country, conveying information on which he immediately acted. Taking leave of the Lord Deputy as if to prepare for his journey to London, he made some stay with his old friend, Sir Garrett Moore, at Mellifont, on parting from whose family he tenderly bade farewell to the children and even the servants, and was observed to shed tears. At Dungannon he remained two days, and on the shore of Lough Swilly he joined O'Donnell and others of his connexions. The French ship, in which Maguire had returned, awaited them off Rathmullen, and there they took shipping for France. With O'Neil, in that sorrowful company, were his last countess, Catherine, daughter of Magenniss, his three sons, Hugh, John, and Brian; his nephew, Art, son of Cormac, Rory O'Donnell, Caffar, his brother, Nuala, his sister, who had forsaken her husband Nial Garve, when he forsook his country; the lady Rose O'Doherty, wife of Caffar, and afterwards of Owen Roe O'Neil; Maguire, Owen MacWard, chief bard of Tyrconnell, and several others. "Woe to the heart that meditated, woe to the mind that conceived, woe to the council that decided on the project of that voyage!" exclaimed the Annalists of Donegal, in the next age. Evidently it was the judgment of their immediate successors that the flight of the Earls was a rash and irremediable step for them; but the information on which they acted, if not long since destroyed, has, as yet, never been made public. We can pronounce no judgment as to the wisdom of their conduct, from the incomplete statements at present in our possession.

There remained now few barriers to the wholesale confiscation of Ulster, so long sought by "the Undertakers," and these were rapidly removed. Sir Cahir O'Doherty, chief of Innishowen, although he had earned his Knighthood while a mere lad, fighting by the side of Dowcra, in an altercation with Sir George Paulett, Governor of Derry, was taunted with conniving at the escape of the Earls, and Paulett in his passion struck him in the face. The youthful chief--he was scarcely one and twenty--was driven almost to madness by this outrage. On the night of the 3rd of May, by a successful stratagem, he got possession of Culmore fort, at the month of Lough Foyle, and before morning dawned had surprised Derry; Paulett, his insulter, he slew with his own hand, most of the garrison were slaughtered, and the town reduced to ashes. Nial Garve O'Donnell, who had been cast off by his old protectors, was charged with sending him supplies and men, and for three months he kept the field, hoping that every gale might bring him assistance from abroad. But those same summer months and foreign climes had already proved fatal to many of the exiles, whose co-operation he invoked. In July, Rory O'Donnell expired at Rome, in August, Maguire died at Genoa, on his way to Spain, and in September, Caffar O'Donnell was laid in the same grave with his brother, on St. Peter's hill. O'Neil survived his comrades, as he had done his fortunes, and like another Belisarius, blind and old, and a pensioner on the bounty of strangers, he lived on, eight weary years, in Rome. O'Doherty, enclosed in his native peninsula, between the forces of the Marshal Wingfield and Sir Oliver Lambert, Governor of Connaught, fell by a chance shot, at the rock of Doon, in Kilmacrenan. The superfluous traitor, Nial Garve, was, with his sons, sent to London, and imprisoned in the Tower for life. In those dungeons, Cormac, brother of Hugh O'Neil, and O'Cane also languished out their days, victims to the careless or vindictive temper of King James. Sir Arthur Chichester received, soon after these events, a grant of the entire barony of Innishowen, and subsequently a grant of the borough of Dungannon, with 1,300 acres adjoining; Wingfield obtained the district of Fercullan near Dublin, with the title of Viscount Powerscourt; Lambert was soon after made Earl of Cavan, and enriched with the lands of Carig, and other estates in that county.

To justify at once the measures he proposed, as well as to divert from the exiles the sympathies of Europe, King James issued a proclamation bearing date the 5th of November, 1608, giving to the world the English version of the flight of the Earls. The whole of Ulster was then surveyed in a cursory manner by a staff over which presided Sir William Parsons as Surveyor-General. The surveys being completed early in 1609, a royal commission was issued to Chichester, Lambert, St. John, Ridgeway, Moore, Davis, and Parsons, with the Archbishop of Armagh, and the Bishop of Derry, to inquire into the portions forfeited. Before these Commissioners Juries were sworn on each particular case, and these Juries duly found that, in consequence of "the rebellion" of O'Neil, O'Donnell, and O'Doherty, the entire six counties of Ulster, enumerated by baronies and parishes, were forfeited to the Crown. By direction from England the Irish Privy Council submitted a scheme for planting these counties "with colonies of civil men well affected in religion," which scheme, with several modifications suggested by the English Privy Council, was finally promulgated by the royal legislator under the title of "Orders and Conditions for the Planters." According to the division thus ordered, upwards of 43,000 acres were claimed and conceded to the Primate and the Protestant Bishops of Ulster; in Tyrone, Derry, and Armagh, Trinity College got 30,000 acres, with six advowsons in each county. The various trading guilds of the city of London--such as the drapers, vintners, cordwainers, drysalters--obtained in the gross 209,800 acres, including the city of Derry, which they rebuilt and fortified, adding London to its ancient name. The grants to individuals were divided into three classes-- 2,000, 1,500, and 1,000 acres each. Among the conditions on which these grants were given was this--"that they should not suffer any labourer, that would not take the oath of supremacy," to dwell upon their lands. But this despotic condition--equivalent to sentence of death on tens of thousands of the native peasantry--was fortunately found impracticable in the execution. Land was little worth without hands to till it; labourers enough could not be obtained from England and Scotland, and the Hamiltons, Stewarts, Folliots, Chichesters, and Lamberts, having, from sheer necessity, to choose between Irish cultivators and letting their new estates lie waste and unprofitable, it is needless to say what choice they made.

The spirit of religious persecution was exhibited not only in the means taken to exterminate the peasantry, to destroy the northern chiefs, and to intimidate the Catholics of "the Pale" by abuse of law, but by many cruel executions. The Prior of the famous retreat of Lough Derg was one of the victims of this persecution; a Priest named O'Loughrane, who had accidentally sailed in the same ship with the Earls to France, was taken prisoner on his return, hanged and quartered. Conor O'Devany, Bishop of Down and Conor, an octogenarian, suffered martyrdom with heroic constancy at Dublin, in 1611. Two years before, John, Lord Burke of Brittas, was executed in like manner on a charge of having participated in the Catholic demonstrations which took place at Limerick on the accession of King James. The edict of 1610 in relation to Catholic children educated abroad has been quoted in a previous chapter, apropos of education, but the scheme submitted by Knox, Bishop of Raphoe, to Chichester in 1611 went even beyond that edict. In this project it was proposed that whoever should be found to harbour a Priest should forfeit all his possessions to the Crown--that quarterly returns should be made out by counties of all who refused to take the oath of supremacy, or to attend the English Church service--that no Papist should be permitted to exercise the function of a schoolmaster; and, moreover, that all churches injured during the late war should be repaired at the expense of the Papist inhabitants for the use of the Anglican congregation.

Very unexpectedly to the nation at large, after a lapse of 27 years, during which no Parliament had been held, writs were issued for the attendance of both Houses, at Dublin, on the 18th of May, 1613. The work of confiscation and plantation had gone on for several years without the sanction of the legislature, and men were at a loss to conceive for what purpose elections were now ordered, unless to invent new penal laws, or to impose fresh burdens on the country. With all the efforts which had been made to introduce civil men, well affected in religion, it was certain that the Catholics would return a large majority of the House of Commons, not only in the chief towns, but from the fifteen old, and seventeen new counties, lately created. To counterbalance this majority, over forty boroughs, returning two members each, were created, by royal charter, in places thinly or not at all inhabited, or where towns were merely projected on the estates of leading "Undertakers." Against the issue of writs returnable by these fictitious corporations, the Lords Gormanstown, Slane, Killeen, Trimbleston, Dunsany, and Howth, signed an humble remonstrance to the King, concluding with a prayer for the relaxation of the penal laws affecting religion. The King, whose notions of prerogative were extravagantly high, was highly incensed at this petition of the Catholic peers of Leinster, and Chichester proceeded with his full approbation to pack the Parliament. At the elections, however, many "recusant lawyers" and other Catholic candidates were returned, so that when the day of meeting arrived, 101 Catholic representatives assembled at Dublin, some accompanied by bands of from 100 to 200 armed followers. The supporters of the government claimed 125 votes, and six were found to be absent, making the whole number of the House of Commons 232. The Upper House consisted of 50 Peers, of whom there were 25 Protestant Bishops, so that the Deputy was certain of a majority in that chamber, on all points of ecclesiastical legislation, at least. Although, with the facts before us, we cannot agree with Sir John Davis that King James I. gave Ireland her "first free Parliament," it is impossible not to entertain a high sense of admiration for the constitutional firmness of the recusant or Catholic party in that assembly. At the very outset they successfully resisted the proposition to meet in the Castle, surrounded by the Deputy's guards, as a silent menace. They next contended that before proceeding to the election of Speaker the Council should submit to the Judges the decision of the alleged invalid elections. A tumultous and protracted debate was had on this point. The Castle party argued that they should first elect a Speaker and then proceed to try the elections; the Catholics contended that there were persons present whose votes would determine the Speakership, but who had no more title in law than the horseboys at the door. This was the preliminary trial of strength. The candidate of the Castle for the Speakership was Sir John Davis; of the Catholics, Sir John Everard, who had resigned his seat on the bench rather than take the oath of supremacy framed by Archbishop Abbott. The Castle party having gone into the lobby to be counted, the Catholics placed Sir John Everard in the Chair. On their return the government supporters placed Sir John Davis in Everard's lap, and a scene of violent disorder ensued. The House broke up in confusion; the recusants in a body declared their intention not to be present at its deliberations, and the Lord Deputy, finding them resolute, suddenly prorogued the session. Both parties sent deputies to England to lay their complaints at the foot of the throne. The Catholic spokesmen, Talbot and Lutrell, were received with a storm of reproaches, and committed, the former to the Tower, the other to the Fleet Prison. They were, however, released after a brief confinement, and a Commission was issued to inquire into the alleged electoral frauds. By the advice of Everard and others of their leaders, a compromise was effected with the Castle party; members returned for boroughs incorporated after the writs were issued were declared excluded, the contestation of seats on other grounds of irregularity were withdrawn, and the House accordingly proceeded to the business for which they were called together. The chief acts of the sessions of 1614, '15, and '16, beside the grant of four entire subsidies to the Crown, were an act joyfully recognizing the King's title; acts repealing statutes of Elizabeth and Henry VIII., as to distinctions of race; an act repealing the 3 and 4 of Philip and Mary, against "bringing Scots into Ireland," and the acts of attainder against O'Neil, O'Donnell, and O'Doherty. The recusant minority have been heavily censured by our recent historians for consenting to these attainders. Though the censure may be in part deserved, it is, nevertheless, clear that they had not the power to prevent their passage, even if they had been unanimous in their opposition; but they had influence enough, fortunately, to oblige the government to withdraw a sweeping penal law which it was intended to propose. An Act of oblivion and amnesty was also passed, which was of some advantage. On the whole, both for the constitutional principles which they upheld, and the religious proscription which they resisted, the recusant minority in the Irish Parliament of James I. deserve to be held in honour by all who value religious and civil liberty.




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