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The History of Ulster
Negotiations ad nauseam!


Negotiations between Confederated Chiefs and Her Majesty's Commissioners - They meet in an Open Field - The Irish Chieftains formulate their Demands - Tyrone asks for Aid from Spain - Differences between Russell and Norris - Fresh Negotiations Fenton and Norris meet Tyrone and O'Donnell - The Demands of the Irish - The Lord Deputy fears Treachery.

Tyrone had hitherto acted chiefly on the defensive, and when Commissioners were appointed by the Queen to treat with the confederated chiefs, he entered into the negotiations with zest and alacrity. The Commissioners were the treasurer, Sir Henry Wallop, and Chief Justice Sir Robert Gardiner, with whom the northern leaders conferred in an open field near Dundalk. The Irish chiefs made such representations of their grievances that the Commissioners confessed some of them were reasonable enough, but said these should be referred to the Queen, and the confederates, having no confidence in the English Government, and having learnt to be self-reliant, broke off the conference. This occurred in July, and the mutual distrust displayed may be clearly seen in the fact that Tyrone refused under any conditions to enter the town. Swords only were worn. "The forces of either side stood a quarter of a mile distant from them, and while they parleyed on horseback two horsemen of the Commissioners stood firm in the midway between the Earl's troops, and them, and likewise two horsemen of the Earl's were placed between them and Her Majesty's forces. These scout officers were to give warning if any treacherous attempt were made on either part."

This historic meeting was attended not alone by Tyrone and his brother Cormac, but also by O'Donnell, Maguire, MacMahon, O'Dogherty, and O'Reilly. The demand of the chiefs was "free liberty of conscience", an elastic term which might include a preference for the rule of Philip of Spain to that of Elizabeth of England. Free pardons were demanded, and also the supremacy of Tyrone in Ulster. Sheriffs were not to be appointed in Ulster, save in Newry and Carrickfergus, and the plea put forward was that by the suggested concessions the Irish chieftains would be drawn "to a more nearness of loyalty". Such concessions as these meant little less than an abrogation of royal authority in Ulster. Negotiations were protracted and lasted for months. At last a fresh truce was determined on extending to April. The Lord Deputy considered the terms too lenient, considering that the Irish chiefs were avowed rebels, and the Queen was highly incensed, and on the 8th of January, 1596, wrote to the Deputy and Council: "We see by your collections, that his rebellion has been favoured throughout the kingdom, and therefore can hardly be extinguished without great effusion of blood. If you find that the principal ringleaders will not submit unless the rest be pardoned, you may grant to Tyrone, O'Donnell, and all the rest, named in your letters, our free pardon, upon condition that they shall all come in and submit themselves. We leave their lands and goods to your discretion. For the speedy conclusion of a general quiet, you may ratify whatever may soonest effect the same. Make all the conditions as honourable to us as you may, and especially that our revenue in Monaghan be still answered to us. Spend no useless time in staying for directions from us. Discover whether this late protraction of Tyrone and O'Donnell's coming in were only out of desire to draw this remission to their companions, or whether it be a plot to temporize until they have received foreign aid. Delay is Dangerous." Elizabeth was particularly annoyed at the fact that the Commissioners addressed

Tyrone and his associates by such titles as "loving friends" and "our very good lord".

Tyrone had, as the Queen suspected, been in communication with Spain. On the 11th September, 1595, he had written to Philip that their only hope of re-establishing the Catholic religion lay with him; now or never the Church should be succoured; that 2000 or 3000 troops might be sent before the feast of St. Philip and St. James ; with such aid they hoped to restore the faith of the Church, and to secure him a kingdom. To Don Carolo he wrote that with the aid of 3000 soldiers the faith might be established within one year in Ireland, the heretics would disappear, and no other sovereign be recognized save the King Catholic. Philip, in response, promised in a letter dated the 22nd of January, 1596, to send assistance.

Gardiner repaired to England to lay before the Queen the results of the meeting at Dundalk, but Elizabeth, being vexed, refused, womanlike, to see him. When at last she consented to hear the Chief Justice, she expressed great displeasure, declaring that what Tyrone asked for was "liberty to break laws, which Her Majesty will never grant to any subject of any degree".

Differences had long prevailed between the Lord General, Sir John Norris, and the Lord Deputy, Sir William Russell. The former, says Leland, "had judgment and equity to discern that the hostilities of the Irish had been provoked by several instances of wanton insolence and oppression". The Deputy, who appears to have been jealous of the fame of Norris, adopted opposite views, and insisted on a "rigorous persecution of the rebels". The opinions of Norris became popular in England, and a commission was issued to him and Sir Geoffrey Fenton to treat with the confederates. Terms of submission were agreed on, and promises of pardon given; but the Annalists tell us that the Irish did not regard this arrangement of differences as conclusive. Russell gave out that he would go to the North himself, and Norris was in despair. "The mere bruit", he cried, "will cross us, and I am sure to meet as many other blocks in my way as any invention can find out. I know the Deputy will not spare to do anything that might bring me in disgrace, and remove me from troubling his conscience here."

Sir Geoffrey Fenton was of opinion that Tyrone and O'Donnell would most likely "stand upon their barbarous custom to commune with us in the wild fields". And so it proved. "On the 17th of January, 1596, the Earl announced the arrival of O'Donnell and most of the Irish chieftains, and prayed the Commissioners to come to a place called the Narrow Acre, while he came to a place adjoining, called the Black Staff. This they refused to do, and commanded him to come to Dundalk under Her Majesty's protection; but Tyrone made answer that he would not come to Dundalk, but would come to any other indifferent place.

"On the 19th the Commissioners wrote to the Earl, reproving his fears, and requesting him to set down in writing his offers and demands. If these should be acceptable to Her Majesty, they assured him of her gracious pardon for his life, lands, and goods, and also for the rest of his confederates.

"The next day the Commissioners, having in their company the Sheriff, Sir H. Duke, and Gerald Moore in all, five met with Tyrone and O'Donnell a mile out of Dundalk, none of either side having any other weapons than their swords. The forces of either side stood a quarter of a mile distant from them; and while they parlied, which was on horseback, two horsemen of the Commissioners stood firm in the midway between the Earl's troops and them, and likewise two horsemen of the Earl's was placed between them and Her Majesty's forces. These scout officers were to give warning if any treacherous attempt were made on either side. The treaty continued three hours. The Earl and O'Donnell stood still in their demands, and the Commissioners upon the negative; and they departed without any important conclusion, agreeing to meet at the same place the day following."

One of the Commissioners succeeded to "parling" with O'Donnell separately; "but O'Donnell was most resolute".

At the second meeting the Commissioners found them as men exceeding fearful, continually gazing about, their spies riding near them, and less attentive to their speeches than at the first.

"'Then', said we, 'what cause had you, O'Donnell, to enter into rebellion, the rather Her Majesty making account that you and ancestors had been always loyal?' Unto which he said he had been unjustly long imprisoned. Also he said that Willis, with great strength, sought not only to invade Fermanagh, Maguire's country, being his next neighbour, which warned him that the like would happen unto himself, but also came upon the borders of his own country. Also he feared the great extortion of Sheriffs and officers if his country should be under laws, which he found true by experience of other parts.

"Also the Earl said: 'why was Philip Hore so long imprisoned, and no cause alleged upon him?' Unto all which we answered: 'Touching the imprisonment of you, O'Donnell, and of O'Reilly, if there were no cause to touch you in disloyalty, yet all princes in policy may and do use to take their subjects in pledge for the peace of their countries; and you both, being but subjects, do use the like, and therefore should the less dislike of that course.' Then said the Earl: 'Why do you then take great sums of money for their deliverance, as you have done of O'Reilly?' We said the Queen did freely set him at liberty. ' That is true,' they said, ' but others had it.' 'Neither', said we, 'do we know it true or believe it.'  But they still said they could prove it true, and inveighed greatly against such bribing, as they termed it. And we said, as touching Willis, his proceedings and the corruption of officers, it was without warrant, and Her Majesty's officers would many times be evil like their own. And after many other speeches had thereof with persuasion, that which was amiss should be remedied, we ended these parts.

"Then we entered into speeches touching their general demands, which we have formerly sent unto your lordship, saying: 'We, on Tuesday last, willed you to make them more reasonable, unto which you this last day sent us word you could not dare then to alter them, but since we hear not again thereof from you'. Unto which the Earl said: 'I will deal again with my associates, to see if they will agree to any change of them, and send you them to-morrow'. 'Then', said we, because we would as well alter their manner as their matter of these demands, <the course you hold, in setting down your demands in that manner you have done, can neither be allowed or answered by us, because it is joint, and that you would have all the rest depend upon the peace of you the Earl only. And you, the Earl,' we said, 'had in all your letters to the State mentioned you would deal but for Tyrone, and O'Donnell for Tyrconnel, and every one of the rest for their own peace.

"'Neither could we deal with you, O'Donnell, for Connaught causes, because they were to make their own peace, agreeing with your (the Earl's) letter. Neither yet touching the Breny causes, for the Breny is, was, and ought to be under only Her Majesty's immediate obedience. And our Commission could not take knowledge of Philip O'Relye's being with you, nor of any title he had or could make for himself by law or custom. And we marvelled in any manner why you meant in your articles to mention anything touching M'Genny's country, who had the same by patent, and in his lifetime never complained of any grievances to himself or to his country ; and which country was now descended upon his eldest son according to his father's patent.' Upon which O'Donnell answered: But there is another now claiming the same by ancient custom of the country, who is with us'. 'If custom', said we, 'should prevail, neither O'Relye in the Breny nor yourself have interest in Tyrconnel, so as we perceive you do now not stand upon your own customs.' Upon which he answered not, but smiled. And we said unto the Earl: ' What intend you to claim by patent, or by custom to the disherison of your children?' Unto which the Earl mutteringly answered: ' That shall come in question hereafter'. We gathered he would not fully answer, because O'Donnell was present; and although we divided them the first day, as we have signified, yet now we perceive they intend not to have speech, but both being present, and to assent to no more than what they all shall agree.

"In the conclusion of our parley, we required them, for the reasons aforesaid, to set down dividedly all the causes of their grievances, their demands and offers, and thereupon we would answer them so reasonably as we hoped should be to their satisfaction; and this present morning they have sent unto us their demands for M'Mahon, as they term him, and of every Mac with the griefs, because as they say, there began the cause of their complaints, which we send enclosed, by which it appeareth Her Majesty, besides her interest with the royalties, shall yearly lose about ^500 sterling, besides the Earl of Essex to lose the benefit of his lands of Ferny. The rest of their demands in likelyhood be of the same nature. We will keep them together by means of delays until we discover how far they will be drawn, and their further intentions."

Although small satisfaction could be got out of either Tyrone or O'Donnell, and O'Rourke ran away after signing the articles, Maguire, with several lesser chieftains, went to Dundalk and submitted. Thus we have again, at a critical time in her history, the spectacle of a divided Ireland. The Lord Deputy, on the other hand, had good cause to complain of the War Lord, Norris. Russell acknowledged that the Queen was put to great expense in Ireland, and that there was very little to show for it, "which", he said, "is not to be laid to my charge, but unto his who being sent specially to manage the war, and for that cause remaining here about a twelvemonth, hath in that time spent nine months at the least in cessations and treaties of peace, either by his own device contrary to my liking, as ever doubting the end would prove but treacherous, or else by directions from thence".


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