IRELAND IN THE REIGN OF JAMES I.* TnouGir unsignalised by civil war or other event of startling dramatic interest, the reign of James I. is yet one of the most important in the history of the long connection between this country and Ireland. For its commencement not only marks very distinctly the close of one period in the life of the latter nation and the opening of another, forming, in fact, the dividing line
Calendar of the Stale Papers Relating to Ireland of the Reign of James /,-1603-1606. Edited by the Rev. C. W. Russell, D.D, and John P. Prendergast, Esq. London : Longmans. 1872.
between ancient and modern Ireland, but the policy to which it gave effect has coloured indissolubly all the sub- sequent history of the island. It was during this reign that was accomplished the final break-up of the old Celtic clan system, and the substitution for it throughout the length and breadth of the land of the semi-feudal scheme of society that existed in England. For over four centuries and a quarter Ireland had been nominally subject to the English Crown ; for nearly a century the Sovereigns of England had styled themselves Kings and Queens of Ireland. But at no period throughout that long space of time had their authority been real, or acknowledged as anything more than titular, over a large part of the island. The conquest, which had proceeded so rapidly in the days of the first Plantagenet, had suddenly come to a standstill, and the English power, after remaining stationary for a time, had then begun to retire within narrower and still nar- rower limits, until during the Wars of the Roses it had come to be restricted to a few seaport towns along the eastern, southern, and western coasts, and to a narrow inland strip in the immediate neighbourhood of Dublin. The first Tudor laboured to recover by policy the lost authority of his predecessors. His son, while following in his footsteps, employed sterner measures also. And his children again pushed forward the work even more indefatigably. Indeed, the fifty-six years of the three last Tudor reigns were in Ireland years of the most merciless warfare, broken only by necessary but short breathing- times. But by this protracted strain on the energies of the two countries, the long agony of the uncompleted conquest was at length brought to an end. As the new King journeyed to London to ascend the throne left vacant for him by the death of Elizabeth, he was met by messengers who announced the submission of the last Irish chieftain who exercised independent authority over his clan. O'Neill and O'Donnell were received to terms and restored to their titles, but the constitution of ancient Irish society had received a mortal blow. Step by step the whole island was divided into shire ground, sheriffs were appointed to every county, and the judges went circuit twice a year, as in England. The Clan arrangement of society was for ever broken up ; the Irish system of land tenure was abolished with a high hand, and the English introduced in its stead ; the Brekon, or native-law code, was set aside absolutely and in every part, and the English law declared the law of the land. In a word, Irish society was made as much like English as Acts of Parliament and superior force could make it.
Ordinary historians have failed to understand the sweeping nature of the revolution that was thus effected, and have con- sequently misconceived and misrepresented the subsequent history of the country. All excuse for such misconception is at length being removed by the publication of the Calendar of the State Papers relating to Ireland during this reign, the first volume indeed having already appeared several months ago. It would be difficult to speak in terms of too high commendation of the manner in which this volume has been executed. It is not merely, as its name may seem to imply, a collection of chronologically arranged, but bald entries of the various subjects to which the correspondence caleu- dared relates. It is, on the contrary, a series of interesting summaries of important papers, many of them indeed being re- produced word for word, either in whole or in part. It will be seen, therefore, that the Calendar is calculated to serve a higher purpose than that of a mere book of reference. It will be found, in truth, not unsuited even to the general reader, and its value to students is enhanced by the admirable account contained in the preface of the various collections of State Papers which have been drawn upon, how they have been preserved up to the present, and where they are now to be found. Owing to the length to which this exhaustive account has run, the editors have felt themselves compelled to postpone to a future occasion the historical introduc- tion, in which they had intended to give a connected narrative of the principal events of the reign. The intention is, however, as we have said, merely postponed. Meantime, we look forward to the promised contribution to the history of this important period with no slight expectation. It would, indeed, not be easy to find two scholars more competent to deal with this subject than those whom the late Master of the Rolls has selected. In every way their selection does honour to him. Every reader is acquainted with the reputation of the distinguished President of Maynooth for moderation and ripe scholarship, and in his Cromu;ellian Settkment of Ireland, Mr. Prendergast has given proof of his fitness for the task here entrusted to him. It was a happy idea, too, as it seems to us, of Lord Rornilly's, thus to couple together a Catholic and Protestant, and by doing so, to give assurance to all parties that
every sect would be treated with fairness. Nor is it a small matter that the nationality of the editors has saved them from the ludi- crous perplexity respecting the spelling of the names of both persons and places, to the confusion of the student, which led some of their predecessors in this field to print the same name perhaps twenty times in as many different forms.
In reviewing, at this distance of time, with the aid of all the experience meanwhile accumulated, the transactions of the three and a half years here calendared, the reflection is again and again forced upon us, how utterly the statesmen of the day failed to seize the opportunity offered by the accession of the House of Stuart for the conciliation of Ireland ! Then, as now, the populations of Ireland were sharply divided into those of English and those of Irish descent. But then, unlike now, both sections were, with unimportant exceptions, of the same creed. This, however, did not hinder them from being bitterly hostile to one another. Amongst the Lords of the Pale there may have been some irreconcilable; but if there were, they were very few and
very uninfluential. As a rule, the Anglo-Irish—especially the Anglo-Irish of the towns—were loyally disposed. Their senti- ments may not unaptly be compared to those entertained by the American Colonists during the discussions on the stamp tax. All they asked for was liberty to profess their religion. But, blinded by the ease with which the Reformation was effected in England, this liberty the Government stubbornly refused them. In defence of Elizabeth's persecuting rigour, Mr. Fronde has pleaded the fact that there were Catholic claimants to her throne. In James's case at least this plea will not avail. For both the Infanta and the Lady Arabella, if they can be called pretenders, were pretenders without a party to support them. Indeed, so far as Ireland was concerned, there were special circumstances which tended to make the new Sovereign popular. The truth is, of course, that the plea of necessity was a mere pretext. The quarrel between the two religions in this country and on the Continent had become so bitter, that it got the better of the reason and the humanity of both parties, and Englishmen carried with them into Ireland, where the conditions that gave birth to the Reformation and to the passions that attended it did not then exist, the feelings which had at least a historical jUstification at home. Coming from a country which had not previously been mixed up with Irish broils, and where one section of the population was in the same stage of civi- lisation as the Irish, had James been a statesman, he might have initiated a policy that would have healed the wounds of the un- happy country that was lying helpless at his feet. But he did not possess a single quality that fitted him for such a task, and so the government of the island continued in its old course. The very first days of the new reign gave unmistakable evidence that tolera- tion was not to be extended. No sooner was the death of Elizabeth known, than the cities of the South restored the public celebration of the Mass. They were evidently under the impression that the son of Mary Stuart was at heart a Catholic, and would not look with very much displeasure upon their proceedings. Of course their public celebration of the mass was illegal, but so, as they pleaded, was its private celebration also, yet its private celebration had gone on unhindered through the whole reign of Elizabeth ; and they persuaded themselves that boldness on their part, without the loss of a day, would afford the new Sovereign a pretext for pushing toleration a step farther. The Lord Deputy, Mountjoy, was apparently not quite certain but that they were right. He tells Cecil, indeed, that he is without money or cannon, and that his powder was stored in Cork, and had been seized by the citizens. But it is difficult not to believe that he was in reality temporising, until he obtained an intimation of the pleasure of his new master. He was speedily reassured on this point, and with two thousand men he marched towards Munster. At Leighlin he was met by the Earl of Ormond, bringing with him the Sovereign of Kilkenny and four of the principal inhabitants, who made their submission, and were bound over to appear in the King's Bench to answer for their offence. Thomastown next sub- mitted, and the Deputy then advanced to Waterford. Four agents from that city met him on the way with protestations of the loyalty of the citizens, who boasted of their descents from the earliest Eng- lish conquerors of Ireland. They invited the Deputy into their town, but pleaded that by an ancient charter they were exempted from receiving soldiers. The Deputy refused to parley with subjects, and the negotiations were being spun out, when Lord Ormond brought down his own boats and ferried the troops across the river. Dr. White, the Catholic Bishop, then came out to treat, and his inter- view with the Lord Deputy is too characteristic of the times not to be given in the Lord Deputy's own words :—" Perceiving this Doctor to be a scholar, I, the Deputy, began to enter into dim-
course with him touching obedience and resistance of the authority of Princes, and by degrees did urge him to answer to this question, —Whether a subject might take arms against his prince for matters of religion ? Wherein, albeit, I spent some time before I could bring him to give me a direct answer, and in the end could not expressly get one, yet by his speeches he did insinuate that in his opinion he did seem to think they might take arms." The Doctor had good reason for his hesitation to speak out, for while this controversy was going on, three judges in the very camp were preparing a proclamation in which the bishop was proclaimed a traitor, as was also every person harbour- ing or relieving him. And it was with difficulty the Deputy was induced not to have it published there and then. Ultimately Waterford submitted, and agreed to receive a garrison. So like- wise did Limerick. But Cork at first seemed determined upon resistance. The citizens shut the gates, detained the powder stored up there, and even fired upon the Castle of Shandon, where the Commissioners for Munster resided. Upon the arrival of the Deputy, however, Cork also submitted, pleading that it was driven into resistance by the illegal conduct of the Commissioners, and denying any intention to resist the King's authority. Thus the danger passed away. Had the cities pushed matters to extremes, the Government must have been placed in great straits. The war against Tyrone had exhausted their resources, the Army was utterly unprepared for new operations of any magnitude, and the country was suffering from famine amd pestilence. But the cities had no intention to push matters to extremes. They had counted on finding the King favourable to their claims, and on discovering their mistake they resigned themselves to their fate. Even for their religion they were not yet prepared to unite with the old Irish, who were in their eyes no more fellow-countrymen than are the Red Indians fellow-countrymen in the estimation of Americans. It needed many more years of yet more rigorous oppression before the animosities of four centuries were forgotten, and Catholics of every race came to look on one another as brothers.