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The History of Ulster
A Precedent for Parliaments


James decides to hold Parliament in Dublin - Instructs Carew accordingly - Changes in the Country since Perrot's Parliament - Efforts made to outvote the Roman Catholics - Creation of New Boroughs - The New Boroughs in Ulster - The Catholics apprehensive of Results - They address the King - Their Address ignored - Parliament opens in Dublin Castle - Selection of a Speaker - Ludicrous Scenes - The Recusants remonstrate and withdraw.

Although no monarch ever sat on the throne of England who held stronger views than did James, with regard to the divine right of Kings to govern right or wrong as they thought fit, he was nevertheless somewhat meticulous in his methods of obtaining legal sanction for the deeds which he held whether those deeds were sanctioned by law or not he had a perfect right to do. In this he resembled Henry VIII, who was not contented until both Houses of Parliament besought him, almost on their knees, to marry Jane Seymour as speedily as possible after the sentence of execution had been carried out on Anne Bolyn which marriage, nevertheless, he had himself determined should be solemnized before Anne was twenty-four hours in her grave.

In like manner James, who decided that the natives of Ulster had no interest in or title to the land of their fathers, and had by his decision freed the Crown from all claims, legal or equitable, became all the more desirous to obtain legal sanction for the Ulster plantation and, deeming the holding of a Parliament in Ireland the best means of realizing his wishes, he determined to hold a Parliament in Dublin as speedily as possible, and instructed Lord Carew accordingly.

As over a quarter of a century had elapsed since the last Parliament had been held in Dublin, there were many delays  before His Majesty's wishes could be realized. The last  Parliament had been that summoned by Perrot in 1586, and  of those who had attended on that occasion only four temporal  peers and the same number of bishops survived even a complete list of the members of Perrot's Parliament could not be  found, and the officials who acted when Perrot was Deputy  being either dead or otherwise out of reach, even the law and  practice of Parliament were forgotten.

In the long interval which had elapsed, immense changes  had taken place in the country, not only in regard to its social  and political condition, but even in the form and character of  its representation. Formerly the members of the House of  Commons represented little more than the old English Pale  whereas, since the date just mentioned, no less than seventeen  additional counties had been formed, as well as a number of  new boroughs, which the Lord Deputy was daily increasing  by virtue of a royal commission. In order to carry out the  royal policy in Ireland it was necessary to secure a Protestant majority, and this could hardly be done without creating  new constituencies.

Of the seventeen new constituencies formed since 1586,  many were expected to send Catholic representatives, and  it was by the creation of new boroughs that Chichester pro-  posed to overwhelm the Catholic vote of the country. Thirty-  nine new boroughs accordingly were created, of which no  fewer than nineteen were in Ulster many of them mere  hamlets or scattered houses, inhabited only by some half-dozen of the new Ulster settlers, several of them not even  being incorporated until after the writs had been issued. Of  course the power of the King to make boroughs could not be  disputed, but no previous communication of the design to  summon Parliament, or of the laws it was proposed to enact,  had been made pursuant to Poynings' Act, and the Catholics  naturally apprehended a design to impose fresh burthens  upon them.

The new boroughs in Ulster were Agher, Armagh, Bally-  shannon, Bangor, Belfast, Belturbet, Charlemont, Clogher,  Coleraine, Derry, Donegal, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Lifford,  Limavady, Monaghan, Newtownards, Newry, and Strabane.  The majority of these have since justified their selection, but  in the other provinces some of the newly created boroughs  were too poor even to pay the wages which it was then usual  to give their representatives. The University of Dublin now  returned two representatives for the first time.

The announcement of the King's intention to call a  Parliament in Ireland became a subject of the greatest alarm  to the Roman Catholics. On the advice of Carew a rumour  was spread that every member of the House of Commons  would be required to take the oath of supremacy or be disqualified which rumour would, it was hoped,  be a means  to increase the number of Protestant burgesses and knights,  and deter the most spirited Recusants from being of the  House.

Although James issued his instructions to Carew with  regard to his desire to hold a Parliament in Ireland as early  as June, 1611, it was not found possible to carry out the King's  wishes until May, 1613. In the meantime, the rumours to  which reference has been made thoroughly aroused the  Catholics throughout the country and in October, 1612,  Sir Patrick Barnwell, notwithstanding his bitter experience  in the Tower in 1605, wrote protesting against the formation  of new boroughs and in November, six of the principal lords  of the Pale, Lords Gormanston, Slane, Killeen, Trimbles-  ton, Dunsany, and Louth, addressed a letter to the King  in which they complained of not having been previously  consulted as to the measures to be laid before Parliament,  and claimed to be the Irish Council within the meaning of  Poynings' Act.

The Catholic lords then proceeded to express a fearful  suspicion that the project of erecting so many Corporations  in places that can scantly pass the rank of the poorest villages  in the poorest country in Christendom, do tend to naught  else at this time, but that by the voices of a few selected  for the purpose, under the name of burgesses, extreme penal  laws should be imposed upon your subjects here, contrary  to the natures, customs, and dispositions of them all in  effect.

They also protested vigorously against the recent enforcement of the penal laws then in existence: Your Majesty's  subjects here in general do likewise very much distaste and  exclaim against the deposing of so many magistrates in the  cities and boroughs of this kingdom, for not swearing the  oath of supremacy in spiritual and ecclesiastical causes, they  protesting a firm profession of loyalty, and an acknowledgment of all kingly jurisdiction and authority in your High-  ness which course, for that it was so sparingly and mildly  carried on in the time of your late sister of famous memory,  Queen Elizabeth, but now in your Highnesses happy reign  first extended unto the remote parts of this country, doth  so much the more affright and disquiet the minds of your  well-affected subjects here, especially they conceiving that  by this means those that are most sufficient and fit to exercise and execute those offices and places, are secluded and  removed, and they driven to make choice of others, con-  formable in that point, but otherwise very unfit and uncapable to undertake the charges, being generally of the  meaner sort.

The writers of this important letter proceeded, with not  a little courage, to point out to the King that there were  already numbers of Irish rebels on the Continent, and it  was therefore undesirable to add to the number of those  who displayed in all countries, kingdoms, and estates,  and inculcated into the ears of foreign kings and princes  the foulness (as they will term it) of such practices. It  was by withdrawing such laws as may tend to the forcing  of your subjects' conscience  that His Majesty might settle  their minds and ensure their loyalty.' And so upon the  knees of our loyal hearts, we do humbly pray that your  Highness will be graciously pleased not to give way to  courses, in the general opinion of your subjects here, so  hard and exorbitant, as to erect towns and corporations  of places consisting of some few poor and beggarly cottages,  but that your Highness will give directions that there be  no more erected, till time, or traffic and commerce, do  make places in the remote and unsettled countries here fit  to be incorporated, and that your Majesty will benignly  content yourself with the service of understanding men to  come as knights of the shires out of the chief countries to  the Parliament.

The six loyal Roman Catholic lords concluded their  letter by saying: And to the end to remove from your  subjects' hearts those fears and discontents, that your Highness farther will be graciously pleased to give orders that  the proceedings of this Parliament may be with the same  moderation and indifferency as your most royal predecessors  have used in like cases heretofore wherein, moreover, if  your Highness shall be pleased out of your gracious  clemency to withdraw such laws as may tend to the forcing  of your subjects' consciences here in matters concerning  religion, you shall settle their minds in a most firm and  faithful subjection.

This letter produced no immediate result it is said to  have angered the King, who resented any opposition to his  authority, and he became more resolute in the carrying out  of his design. In order to stamp with his approval the  measures which the Lord Deputy was taking to secure a  Protestant majority, Chichester was created a peer under  the title of Baron Chichester of Belfast, an honour which,  the King observed, had only been deferred in order that  the meeting of Parliament might give it additional lustre.

Of the 232 members returned, 125 were Protestants,  101 belonged to the Recusant or Catholic party, and 6 were  absent. The Upper House consisted of 16 temporal barons,  25 Protestant prelates, 5 viscounts, and 4 earls, of whom  a considerable majority belonged to the Court party. Seeing that Parliament was about to assemble, and that no  action had been taken in connection with the letter of protest  addressed to the King, a petition, dated 18th May, 1613, was  presented to the Lord Deputy by a number of recusant lords,  embodying the complaints already put forward, and further  calling the Deputy's attention to the undue bias shown by  returning officers and sheriffs. An unhappy reference was  made when, in commenting on the presence of troops at  the ceremony as a slur on their loyalty, the Roman Catholic  lords protested against the House assembling in Dublin  Castle on account of its juxtaposition to the gunpowder  magazine. At this Chichester flared up, and reminded the  grumblers of what religion they were of, that placed  the powder in England and gave allowance to that damnable plot (the Gunpowder Plot), and thought the act  meritorious, if it had taken effect, and would have canonized  the actors.

On the very date of this petition Parliament met in  Dublin Castle. All was bustle and stir in the capital of  Ireland for this memorable meeting. The Government,  remembering recent disturbances in the city when "the  ruder part of the citizens" had driven the mayor from the  tholsel and had forbidden him to repair for succour to the  Lord Deputy, provided 100 foot soldiers for the protection  of all parties. The recusants had repaired to the meeting  accompanied by armed retinues, but all was peace without  the historic building whilst all was war within.

The first trial of strength between the parties was in  the election of a Speaker. Sir John Everard, member for  Tipperary, who in 1607 had resigned his position as Justice  of the King's Bench rather than take the oath of supremacy,  was proposed by the recusants and Sir John Davies, the  Attorney-General, who had been returned for Fermanagh,  by the Court party. The recusants deemed the numerical  majority of their opponents to be factious and illegal, as it  really was and in the absence of the Court party in another  room, for the purpose of being counted, according to the  forms then in use, they placed their own candidate in the  Speaker's chair, in which he was held down by Sir Daniel  O'Brien of Clare and Sir William Burke of Galway.

On the return of the Court party, Sir Thomas Ridgeway,  the Vice-Treasurer, who sat for Tyrone, and Sir Richard  Wingfield, afterwards Viscount Powerscourt, offered to tell  for both parties and after much confusion, caused by the  Opposition making by their movements the counting diffi-  cult, it was found, of a possible 232, that 127 were for  Davies, and Everard was therefore called upon by Sir Oliver  St. John, Master of the Ordnance, to leave the chair. This he  was unable to do. Whereupon the tellers made Davies sit  on his knees and, seeing that this ludicrous proceeding had  no effect upon the sedentary would-be Speaker, they pulled  Everard out of the chair, tearing, it is said, his clothes by  their violence. On the other hand, an eyewitness declared  that not so much as his hat was removed on their Speaker's  head.

Their Speaker, hat and all, having been ejected from his  chair, the recusants left the House, William Talbot, member  for Kildare, who had been removed from the Recordship of  Dublin for refusing to take the oath of supremacy, shouting  to be heard above the din as he left the chamber:  "Those  within are no House and Sir John Everard is our Speaker,  and therefore we will not join with you, but we will complain to my Lord Deputy and the King, and the King shall

hear of this". On reaching the outer door the Opposition  found that, during the division, it had been locked, and Sir  William Burke, with Sir Christopher Nugent, member for  Westmeath, re-entered and demanded egress. Sir John  Davies, who was in the Speaker's chair, courteously invited  them to be seated, but they declined, and, the doors being  opened, the entire party departed, stating that they would  never again return.


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