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The History of Ulster
Tyrone and Tirconnell Attainted


Talbot examined before the Star Chamber - He is declared Guilty and fined - A Farcical Trial - Baconian Wisdom displayed - The Irish Parliament opens - Its ways are ways of Pleasantness, and all its paths are Peace - A Subsidy Bill passed Tyrone, Tirconnell, and O'Dogherty attainted - Fynes Moryson on the Present State of Ulster.

"I do acknowledge my sovereign liege lord King James to be lawful and undoubted King of all the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and I will bear true faith and allegiance to his Highness during my life." So said William Talbot, ex-Recorder of Dublin, when questioned before the Star Chamber in London, concerning the result of his study of the works of Suarez, the Jesuit, excerpts from which he had been meditating upon during his sojourn in the Tower. One would imagine that any sane sovereign would have been satisfied with such a plain and evidently sincere expression of loyalty. Not so James, who, in addition to being worldly minded, was, in George Eliot's happy phrase, other-worldly minded also. He would be the shepherd, not alone of the bodies of his subjects, but also of their souls. Their spiritual welfare, indeed, occupied, as Head of the Church, not a little of His Majesty's kind attention.

Looking back from a day in which science and super-naturalism must be content to coexist, if not to walk hand in hand, to a day in which superstition of the most vulgar type held sway over the mightiest minds, one cannot help (when one has, with an effort, put aside a vision of the cruelty of creeds) being struck with the humour of this Star Chamber comedy. A comedy enacted before the most solemn tribunal in Europe the Inquisition alone excepted. In the first place, Talbot had been requested to take the English oath of allegiance, although the oath had no statutory force in Ireland. In the second, Talbot's clear statement of unswerving loyalty to the King really left nothing on that score to be desired; but because he, when questioned on the subject of the doctrine of regicide and the deposition of Kings, as set forth by Suarez and Parsons, replied that in the abstract these were matters of faith and must be submitted to the judgment of the Catholic Roman Church, he was condemned, and solemnly fined ; 10,000, a sum which his judges well knew he did not possess, and therefore could not possibly pay. In addition to this comedy of errors, Bacon, who must be regarded as the Pooh Bah of the play, being politician, lawyer, theologian, and philosopher, and having, as his later life revealed, more in common with this Gilbertian character than his contemporaries were in his early days aware of, was quite satisfied in any one or all of the roles enumerated that Talbot was innocent, but in his official capacity of Attorney-General he was far from being so, and, therefore, with ultra-Baconian gravity he declared that "it would astonish a man to see the gulf of this implied belief", and asked: "Is nothing exempted from it? If a man should ask Mr. Talbot whether he do condemn murder, or adultery, or rape, or the doctrine of Mahomet, or of Arius instead of Zuarius; must the answer be with this exception, that if the question concern matter of faith (as no question it does, for the moral law is matter of faith) that therein he will submit himself to what the Church will determine.*'

The Irish Parliament, which on account of various causes had been prorogued six times, now met on nth October, being opened by Chichester in person. The Lord Deputy was armed with a letter from the King, in which His Majesty made his final pronouncement on Irish affairs. A spirit of compromise pervaded this communication. The Government were right, therefore they were to be quiescent; the Opposition were wrong, but were to be left severely alone lest they should be tempted to go further astray. As already stated, it was settled that the members for boroughs incorporated after the writs were issued were not to sit during the present Parliament, and the decision of the Commissioners with regard to three other boroughs was confirmed. Everything else was declared to be in order.

This letter the Lord Chancellor read aloud to the assembled House, which listened patiently enough as the royal writer led them by tortuous ways through labyrinthian arguments to a welcome finale. Sir John Davies, as Speaker, "wearing his learning lightly like a flower", made one of his graceful speeches full of classical allusions which must have had much the same effect upon the majority of his Irish audience, some of whom could speak no English, as Milton's elephant had upon our First Parents, when, according to our great blind poet, to make them sport he "wreath'd his lithe proboscis". More serious business followed, and the recusants, to their credit be it said, listened as patiently while the Speaker offered up a prayer as they did to his many references to Ęschylus, Sophocles, Homer, Herodotus, Pindar, and Plato".

In the subsequent sessions of this Parliament, until it was dissolved in October, 1615, no further display of angry feelings between the two parties took place, both Talbot and Everard exerting themselves to prevent any disturbance. There were, in fact, mutual concessions. An intended penal law of a very sweeping character was not brought forward ; while, on the other hand, large subsidies, which gratified the King, were readily voted, a fact which greatly surprised Vice-Treasurer Ridgeway, seeing that the House was "com- pounded of three several nations, besides a fourth (consisting of Old English Irelandized, who are not numbered among the mere Irish or New English), and of two several blessed religions (whatsoever more), besides the ignorance of almost all (they being at first more afraid than hurt), considering the name, nature, and sum of a subsidy'*.

Ignorance there undoubtedly was, though the willingness to pay was palpable, many of the Irish members expressing their gratification at the result of the vote, and even asserting that a further subsidy would have been given if required, but for the great loss of cattle during the preceding severe winter. By this Bill, Parliament gave to the Crown two shillings and eightpence in the pound from every personal estate of the value of three pounds and upwards, and twice that sum from aliens; and four shillings in the pound out of every real estate of the value of twenty shillings and upwards. Half the money was to be paid in the September following, and the balance in March, 1616.

It was popularly supposed that "the King was never the richer for Ireland", and the preamble of the Bill sets forth as much. "But forasmuch as since the beginning of His Majesty's most happy reign all the causes of war, dissension, and discontentment are taken away " (Ulster being successfully planted!), the King was now "in full and peaceable possession of his vineyard", and naturally expected to get something more than sour grapes therefrom.

An Act of oblivion and general pardon was passed, "no kingdom or people" being, in Davies's opinion, in "more need of this Act for a general pardon than Ireland".

The measure, however, which renders this first Irish Parliament of James most memorable was the Bill for the attainder of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, Hugh Roe O'Donnell, Earl of Tirconnell, Sir Cahir O'Dogherty of Innishowen, and several other Ulster chiefs. This was passed by the Commons without a single dissentient voice; Sir John Everard, indeed, speaking in its favour, said: "No man ought to arise against the Prince for religion or justice", and added that the many favours bestowed upon Tyrone in particular had greatly aggravated his offence. Davies, highly pleased, wrote: "Now all the states of the kingdom have attainted Tyrone, the most notorious and dangerous traitor that was in Ireland, whereof foreign nations will take notice, because it has been given out that Tyrone had left many friends behind him, and that only the Protestants wished his utter ruin. Besides, this attainder settles the Plantation of Ulster."

The passing of this Act of Attainder, and its being sanctioned by the Catholic party, has been deplored by many historians of Ireland, notably by Thomas Moore, who considered that it had been allowed to pass in a suicidal spirit of compromise, and, judged from that standpoint, he thought it assumed "a still more odious character, and left a stain upon the record of the proceedings".

The King was highly delighted with the liberal terms of the subsidy, and addressed a letter of thanks to the Lord Deputy begging him to express his feelings to Parliament. His Majesty now "clearly perceived" that "the difficult beginnings of our Parliament" in Ireland "were occasioned only by ignorance and mistakings, arising through the long disuse of Parliaments there; and therefore", he said, "we have cancelled the memory of them". "And we are now", he added, "so well pleased with this dutiful confirmation of theirs, that we do require you to assure them from us that we hold our subjects of that kingdom in equal favour with those of our other kingdoms, and that we will be as careful to provide for their prosperous and flourishing estate as we can be for the safety of our own person."

The recusants, taking advantage of these assurances, renewed their appeal for relief from the grievances of the penal statutes. They pleaded their good services in the present Parliament, the readiness with which they had granted a large subsidy, their subserviency even in sacrificing the northern chieftains, especially the Earls of Tyrone and Tirconnell, who had been looked upon as the pillars of the Catholic faith in Ireland; and they even more than hinted at their willingness to vote further grants to the Crown provided that the obnoxious Acts complained of were, if not repealed, even temporarily relaxed. But they soon found that, in spite of the show of moderation and indulgence he had lately assumed, nothing was further from the King's thoughts than to give up any of the points on which he had insisted. James exulted in the manner in which he had on this occasion weathered the gale of Irish faction; and no sooner had the subsidy Bill passed than the Irish Parliament was suddenly and unexpectedly dissolved, leaving untouched several measures for the improvement of Ireland which had been recommended to the consideration of the Government.

Of twenty projected Acts, "concerning the common weal or general good of the subject", only two became law, those against piracy and against benefit of clergy in cases of felony. A Bill for confirming royal grants to undertakers in Ulster came to nothing. The old laws proscribing the natives of Irish blood, as well as those against the Scottish settlers, were repealed, for England, Scotland, and Ireland were now "under one Imperial crown". Finally, the Statute of Kilkenny, and all other Acts prohibiting commerce between English and Irish, were to be treated as obsolete.

In the midst of these many and great changes Fynes Moryson, who, as secretary to Mountjoy, had returned with him to England, now revisited Ireland. "At this time", he says, "I found the state of Ireland much changed; for by the flight of the Earl of Tyrone and the Earl of Tirconnell, with some chiefs of countries in the north, and the suppression and death of Sir Cahir O'Dogherty, their confederate in making new troubles, all the north was possessed by new colonies of English, but especially of Scots. The mere Irish in the north, and all over Ireland, continued still in absolute subjection, being powerful in no part of the kingdom excepting only Con naught, where their chief strength was yet little to be feared, if the English-Irish there had sound hearts to the State.

"But the English-Irish in all parts, and especially in the Pale, either by our too much cherishing them since the last rebellion (in which we found many of them false-hearted), or by the King's religious courses to reform them in their obstinate addiction to popery (even in those points which oppugned His Majesty's temporal power), or by the fulness of bread in time of peace (whereof no nation sooner surfeits than the Irish), were grown so wanton, so incensed, and so high in the instep, as they had of late mutinously broken off a Parliament called for the public good and reformation of the kingdom, and from that time continued to make many clamorous complaints against the English governors (especially those of the Pale against the worthy Lord Deputy and his ministers), through their sides wounding the royal authority; yea, in all parts, the churl was grown rich, and the gentlemen and swordsmen grown needy, and so apt to make a prey of other men's goods."

Among the grievances pointed out in a memorial presented at this time by the Catholics were, that their children were not allowed to study in foreign universities, that all the Catholics of noble birth were excluded from offices and honours, and even from the magistracy in their respective counties; that Catholic citizens and burgesses were removed from all situations of power or profit in the different corporations; that Catholic barristers were not permitted to plead in the courts of law; and that the inferior classes were burdened with fines, distresses, excommunications, and other punish- ments, which reduced them to the lowest degree of poverty.

Contemplating which state of things the modern reader will scarcely echo Cowper's words: "Religion! what treasures untold reside in that beautiful word!"


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