REIGN OF CHARLES II.
Hope is dear to the heart of man, and of all her votaries none have been more constant than the Irish. Half a century of the Stuarts had not extinguished their blind partiality for the descendants of the old Scoto-Irish kings. The restoration of that royal house was, therefore, an event which penetrated to the remotest wilds of Connaught, lighting up with cheering expectation the most desolate hovels of the proscribed. To the Puritans settled in Ireland, most of whom, from the mean condition of menial servants, common soldiers and subaltern officers, had become rich proprietors, the same tidings brought apprehension and alarm. But their leaders, the Protestant gentry of an earlier date, wealthy, astute and energetic, uniting all their influence for the common protection, turned this event, which seemed at one time to threaten their ruin, to their advantage and greater security. The chief of these greater leaders was the accomplished Lord Broghill, whom we are to know during this reign under his more famous title of Earl of Orrery.
The position of the Irish as compared with the English Puritans, was essentially different in the eyes of Ormond, Clarendon, and the other counsellors of the king. Though the former represented dissent as against the church, they also represented the English as against the Irish interest, in Ireland. As dissenters they were disliked and ridiculed, but as colonists they could not be disturbed. When national antipathy was placed in one scale and religious animosity in the other, the intensely national feeling of England for the Cromwellians, as Englishmen settled in a hostile country, prevailed over every other consideration. In this, as in all other conjunctures, it has been the singular infelicity of the one island to be subjected to a policy directly opposite to that pursued in the other. While in England it was considered wise and just to break down the Puritans as a party--through the court, the pulpit, and the press; to drive the violent into exile, and to win the lukewarm to conformity; in Ireland it was decided to confirm them in their possessions, to leave the government of the kingdom in their hands, and to strengthen their position by the Acts of Settlement and Explanation. These acts were hailed as "the Magna Charta of Irish Protestantism," but so far as the vast majority of the people were concerned, they were as cruelly unjust as the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, or the edicts which banished the Moors and Jews from the Spanish peninsula.
The struggle for possession of the soil inaugurated by the confiscations of Elizabeth and James was continued against great odds by the Catholic Irish throughout this reign. Though the royal declaration of Breda, which preceded the restoration, had not mentioned them expressly, they still claimed under it not only the "liberty to tender consciences," but that "just satisfaction" to those unfairly deprived of their estates, promised in that declaration. Accordingly, several of the old gentry returned from Connaught, or places abroad, took possession of their old homes, or made their way at once to Dublin or London, to urge their claims to their former estates. To their dismay, they found in Dublin, Coote and Broghill established as Lords Justices, and the new Parliament--the first that sat for twenty years--composed of an overwhelming majority of Undertakers, adventurers, and Puritan representatives of boroughs, from which all the Catholic electors had been long excluded. The Protestant interest, or "ascendancy party," as it now began to be commonly called, counted in the Commons 198 members to 64 Catholics; in the House of Lords, 72 Protestant to 21 Catholic peers. The former elected Sir Audley Mervyn their Speaker, and the able but curiously intricate and quaint discourses of the ancient colleague of Kelly and Darcy in the assertion of Irish legislative independence, shows how different was the spirit of Irish Protestantism in 1661 as compared with 1641. The Lords chose Bramhall, the long-exiled Bishop of Derry, now Archbishop of Armagh, as their Speaker, and attempted to compel their members "to take the sacrament" according to the Anglican ritual. The majority of both Houses, to secure the good-will of Ormond, voted him the sum of 30,000 pounds, and then proceeded to consider "the Bill of Settlement," in relation to landed property. The Catholic bar, which had been apparently restored to its freedom, presented a striking array of talent, from which their co-religionists selected those by whom they desired to be heard at the bar of the House. The venerable Darcy and the accomplished Belling were no longer their oracles of the law; but they had the services of Sir Nicholas Plunkett, an old confederate, of Sir Richard Nagle, author of the famous "Coventry Letter," of Nugent, afterwards Lord Riverston, and other able men. In the House of Lords they had an intrepid ally in the Earl of Kildare, and in England an agent equally intrepid, in Colonel Richard Talbot, afterwards Earl of Tyrconnell. The diplomatic and parliamentary struggle between the two interests, the disinherited and the new proprietory, was too protracted, and the details are too involved for elucidation in every part; but the result tells its own story. In 1675--in the fifteenth year of the restoration--the new settlers possessed above 4,500,000 acres, to about 2,250,000 still retained by the old owners. These relative proportions were exactly the reverse of those existing before the Cromwellian settlement; a single generation had seen this great revolution accomplished in landed property.
The Irish Parliament having sent over to England the heads of their bill, according to the constitutional rule established by Poyning's Act, the Irish Catholics sent over Sir Nicholas Plunkett to obtain modifications of its provisions. But Plunkett was met in England with such an outcry from the mob and the press as to the alleged atrocities of the Confederate war, and his own former negotiations on the continent, that he was unable to effect anything; while Colonel Talbot, for his too warm expostulations with Ormond, was sent to the Tower. An order of Council, forbidding Plunkett the presence, and declaring that "no petition or further address be made from the Roman Catholics of Ireland, as to the Bill of Settlement," closed the controversy, and the Act soon after received the royal assent.
Under this act, a court was established at Dublin, to try the claims of "nocent" and "innocent." Notwithstanding every influence which could be brought to bear on them, the judges, who were Englishmen, declared in their first session, one hundred and sixty-eight innocent to nineteen nocent. Proceeding in this spirit "to the great loss and dissatisfaction of the Protestants," the latter, greatly alarmed, procured the interference of Ormond, now Lord Lieutenant (1662), in effecting a modification of the commission, appointing the court, by which its duration was limited to an early day. The consequence was, that while less than 800 claims were decided on when the fatal day arrived, over 3,000 were left unheard, at least a third of whom were admitted even by their enemies to be innocent. About 500 others had been restored by name in the Act of Settlement itself; but, by the Act of Explanation (1665), "no Papist who had not been adjudged innocent" under the former act could be so adjudged thereafter, "or entitled to claim any lands or settlements." Thus, even the inheritance of hope, and the reversion of expectation, were extinguished for ever for the sons and daughters of the ancient gentry of the kingdom.
The religious liberties of this people, so crippled in property and political power, were equally at the mercy of the mob and of the monarch. To combat the war of calumny waged against them by the Puritan press and pulpit, the leading Catholics resolved to join in an official and authentic declaration of their true principles, as to the spiritual power of the Pope, their allegiance to the prince, and their relations to their fellow subjects of other denominations. With this intention a meeting was held at the house of the Marquis of Clanrickarde, in Dublin, at which Lords Clancarty, Carlingford, Fingal, Castlehaven, and Inchiquin, and the leading commoners of their faith, were present. At this meeting, Father Peter Walsh, a Franciscan, and an old courtier of Ormond's, as "Procurator of all the Clergy of Ireland," secular and regular, produced credentials signed by the surviving bishops or their vicars--including the Primate O'Reilly, the Bishops of Meath, Ardagh, Kilmore, and Ferns. Richard Belling, the secretary to the first Confederate Council, and Envoy to Rome, submitted the celebrated document known as "The Remonstrance," deeply imbued with the spirit of the Gallican church of that day. It was signed by about seventy Catholic peers and commoners, by the Bishop of Kilmore, by Procurator Walsh, and by the townsmen of Wexford--almost the only urban community of Catholics remaining in the country. But the propositions it contained as to the total independency of the temporal on the spiritual power, and the ecclesiastical patronage of princes, were condemned at the Sorbonne, at Louvain, and at Rome. The regular orders, by their several superiors, utterly rejected it; the exiled bishops withdrew their proxies from Father Walsh, and disclaimed his conduct; the Internuncio at Brussels, charged with the affairs of the British Isles, denounced it as contrary to the canons; and the elated Procurator found himself involved in a controversy from which he never afterwards escaped, and with which his memory is still angrily associated.
The conduct of Ormond in relation to this whole business of the Remonstrance, was the least creditable part of his administration. Writhing under the eloquent pamphlets of the exiled Bishop of Ferns, keenly remembering his own personal wrongs against the former generation of bishops, of whom but three or four were yet living, he resolved "to work that division among the Romish clergy," which he had long meditated. With this view, he connived at a meeting of the surviving prelates and the superiors of regular orders, at Dublin, in 1666. To this synod safe conduct was permitted to the Primate O'Reilly, banished to Belgium nine years before; to Peter Talbot, Archbishop of Dublin, John Burke, Archbishop of Tuam, Patrick Plunkett, Bishop of Ardagh, the vicars-general of other prelates, and the superiors of the regulars. This venerable body deliberated anxiously for an entire week, Father Walsh acting as ambassador between them and the Viceroy; at length, in spite of all politic considerations, they unanimously rejected the servile doctrine of the "Remonstrance," substituting instead a declaration of their own dictation. Ormond now cast off all affectation of liberality; Primate O'Reilly was sent back to his banishment, the other prelates and clergy were driven back to their hiding-places, or into exile abroad, and the wise, experienced, high-spirited duke, did not hesitate to avail himself of "the Popish plot" mania, which soon after broke out, to avenge himself upon an order of men whom he could neither break nor bend to his purposes! Of 1,100 secular priests, and 750 regulars, still left, only sixty-nine had signed the Clanrickarde House Remonstrance.
An incident of this same year--1666--illustrates more forcibly than description could do, the malignant feeling which had been excited in England against everything Irish. The importation of Irish cattle had long been considered an English grievance, it was now declared by law "a nuisance." The occasion taken to pass this statute was as ungracious as the act itself was despicable. In consequence of "the great fire," which still glows for us in the immortal verse of Dryden, the Irish had sent over to the distressed, a contribution of 15,000 bullocks. This was considered by the generous recipients a mere pretence to preserve the trade in cattle between the two kingdoms, and accordingly both Houses, after some sharp resistance in the Lords', gravely enacted that the importation of Irish beef into England was "a nuisance," to be abated. From this period most probably dates the famous English sarcasm against Irish bulls.
The act prohibiting the export of cattle from Ireland, and the equally exclusive and unjust Navigation Act-- originally devised by Cromwell--so paralyzed every Irish industry, that the Puritan party became almost as dissatisfied as the Catholics. They maintained a close correspondence with their brethren in England, and began to speculate on the possibilities of another revolution. Ormond, to satisfy their demands, distributed 20,000 stand of arms among them, and reviewed the Leinster Militia, on the Curragh, in 1667. The next year he was recalled, and Lords Robarts, Berkely, and Essex, successively appointed to the government. The first, a Puritan, and almost a regicide, held office but a few months; the second, a cavalier and a friend of toleration, for two years; while Essex, one of those fair-minded but yielding characters, known in the next reign as "Trimmers," petitioned for his own recall and Ormond's restoration, in 1676. The only events which marked these last nine years--from Ormond's removal till his reappointment-- were the surprise of Carrickfergus by a party of unpaid soldiers, and their desperate defence of that ancient stronghold; the embassies to and from the Irish Catholics and the court, of Colonel Richard Talbot; and the establishment of extensive woollen manufactories at Thomastown, Callan, and Kilkenny, under the patronage of Ormond.