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The History of Ulster
The Arts of Peace in Ulster


The Presbyterians and the Prayer Book - The Exodus to New England - Blood's Conspiracy - Mutiny at Carrickfergus - Peace and Industry in Ulster - Ormonde's Encouragement of the Linen Trade - Orrery's Arguments - Sir Arthur Forbes, Lord Justice, assists the Presbyterians - Death of Charles II.

The Cromwellian settlers in Ulster were almost all Nonconformists, and they became seriously disturbed by the high-handed action of the Bishops, who carried through Parliament a second Act of Uniformity, whereby not alone could no one officiate as a clergyman who had not been ordained by a Bishop, but every clergyman was obliged to profess before his congregation his full acceptance of the Prayer Book. He was called upon to subscribe a declaration that no subject under any pretext was justified in warring against his King, and that the oath to the Solemn League and Covenant was illegal and impious.

There were seventy Presbyterian ministers in Ulster. Of these, eight only accepted the Bishops' terms and were ordained; the rest were deprived and imprisoned. Jeremy Taylor declared thirty-six churches in his diocese vacant, and, having thus emptied all the pulpits, proceeded to fill them with creatures of his own. There were at least 100,000 Presbyterians in Ulster, and their ministers determined to appeal from this rigorous ruling of their consciences by petitioning Parliament. "They complained of their present usage by the Bishops; and asked for liberty to preach the gospel without those impositions to which they could not agree with peace to their consciences." This petition the Presbyterians were not permitted to present to Parliament, and this produced such widespread discontent that the more serious minded of the Cromwellian settlers sold their holdings and left the country. Thus commenced an exodus of Nonconformist Protestants from Ireland to New England which eventually drained Ireland of its soundest Protestant blood. Ulster partially recovered her freedom. The Scots were too numerous and too resolute to be overcome, and they wrung from the Bishops a consent to connivance at their continuing to observe their particular form of worship.

The tension caused by these political and religious animosities led to discontent and disruption, and finally to a conspiracy to overthrow the Government. The leaders of the agitation were chiefly officers in the army, headed by Colonel Thomas Blood, whose name is familiar in connection with his subsequent delinquencies in London. He was joined by his brother-in-law, a Presbyterian minister, and Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, named Lecky, and a few others. The conspirators first addressed themselves to the Presbyterian ministers in Ulster, but with little or no success. They appointed a committee to conduct the enterprise which aimed at the surprise of Dublin Castle and the seizure of Ormonde, but one of the members sold himself to the Government and gave secret information of all their proceedings. On the night of the 2ist of May, 1663, a party of the chief conspirators assembled to carry out their project, but they were surprised by the authorities, and a number of them, including Lecky, were arrested. Blood, however, succeeded in getting away. Lecky, who refused to save his life by conforming, was executed.

The war with Holland in 1665-7 encouraged the discontented to rebel. The threat of a French invasion was magnified by rumour, and the army, being in arrears of pay, exhibited symptoms of disloyalty. In May, 1666, the garrison of Carrickfergus broke into mutiny, seized all the money in the hands of the King's receiver, deposed the governor of the fort, the Earl of Donegal, and took possession of the castle and town. The soldiers acted in such a resolute manner that they caused not a little uneasiness to the Government, who, however, took prompt measures. Ormonde immediately sent his son, the Earl of Arran, with four companies of guards by sea to Carrickfergus. He at once cleared the town, driving the mutineers into the castle, with the loss of their leader, Corporal Dillon. The following day the Lord-Lieutenant himself appeared before the town, whereupon the mutineers surrendered. One hundred and ten were tried by courtmartial, and nine of them, being found guilty, were executed, and the companies to which they belonged disbanded.

It is pleasant to be able to turn from an Ulster of insurrections and rebellions, an Ulster of massacres and miseries, to an Ulster which by skill and industry was slowly but surely winning her way to the front rank as a worker and a producer. The growing and spinning of flax had been encouraged by Strafford, who set it up in opposition to the wool trade. "He did observe", he said, "that the wool of that kingdom [of Ireland] did increase very much, that if it should there be wrought into cloth, it would be a very great prejudice to the clothing trade of England, and therefore he was willing, as much as he might lawfully and fairly, to discourage that trade; that in the other side, he was desirous to set up the trade of linen cloth, which would be beneficial there and not prejudice the trade of England." The linen business had always existed in Ulster; Strafford made rules for the management of the manufacture which he believed would greatly add to its value. The soil and climate of Ireland have proved to be eminently adapted for the cultivation of flax, and despite many and great vicissitudes the linen trade of the country has grown steadily since first it was mentioned in the early part of the fifteenth century, and the fact that the Presbyterians held their ground in Ulster was largely due to the help they derived from the rapidity of the development of this industry.

The example of Strafford was now followed by Ormonde, who determined to re-establish and promote the manufacture of linen cloth, which had languished amid the troubles and disorders of the intervening period. An Act of Parliament was passed in Dublin to encourage the growth of flax and the manufacture of linen. Ormonde sent special commissioners to the Netherlands to observe the state of the linen trade there, and the various methods of manufacture, and to engage skilled workmen to cross to Ulster to instruct the native workers. Sir William Temple undertook to send to Belfast from Brabant 500 families skilled in manufacturing linen, and other skilled workers were brought from Rochelle and the Isle of Re, from Jersey, and from various districts in France. Dwellings were provided for these various workmen, and the result of their presence in the north of Ireland was that the manufacture of cordage, sailcloth, linen, and diaper was brought to a remarkably high degree of excellence.

During these years of comparative peace in Ireland, England, and especially London, had suffered much. The war with Holland had opened well in 1665 and ended ignobly two years later. The great Dutch admiral, De Ruyter, had destroyed Sheerness, burned the shipping off Chatham, and sailed up the Thames as far as Tilbury. In the year 1665 it will be remembered the Plague raged in London, to be followed in twelve months by the Great Fire.

In 1666 the King (who detested the Covenanters) and the Earl of Clarendon resolved to uproot Presbyterianism in Scotland, and the consequent insurrection of the Presbyterians of Scotland aroused Orrery's zeal. He accordingly wrote to Ormonde. "I consider Ireland", he wrote, "as consisting of three sorts of people, the Protestants, the Scotch Presbyters and other sectaries, and the Papists. By the best calculation I could make, I cannot find the Protestants, including the army, to amount to above 40,000 men fit to bear arms. I believe the Scotch Presbyters and other sectaries are double that number and the Papists quadruple the number of both. But then the Protestants, to counterbalance the greatness of the other two, have the King's authority in their hands, together with the arms and garrisons.

"This insurrection in Scotland will no doubt animate all the birds of that feather in Ireland, if not some in England too, where of late some disturbances have been about the hearth money. So that, by what is already begun in Scotland, a greater body than the Protestants of Ireland may be suspected in it. The King's late Proclamation, at the humble desire of the Parliament there, which puts the laws in force against Priests, Jesuits, and all Popish Recusants, will no doubt be laid hold of by the Romish clergy here to incite their flocks to mischief, and will fortify their persuasions with this argument: that if England, where there are twenty Protestants for one Papist, so warmly apprehend danger from those of their religion, what will they not apprehend for Ireland, where there are some twenty Papists for one Protestant, by which they may be but too successful orators, if not vigorously and speedily prevented.

"Nor will this argument possibly be neglected by the French, nor arms nor ammunition omitted to be sent to them. Besides, I observed, that in the beginning of the late rebellion, in Scotland and Ireland, that no sooner the Presbyters there cried up the Covenant, but the Papists here did the mass; and some considerable persons of the latter sort did clearly confess, that what the Scots had done was no small invitation to their attempts.

"And if when England was rich and quiet, the example of Scotland could give motion to Ireland, what may not now be rationally expected from the like example, considering that the Ulster Scots were then as ready to join to suppress the Irish, as some doubt they will be to help the rebels of their own country; considering also that England is not only impoverished, but London likewise, the magazine of money and all things else, burned, and the King actually engaged in a bloody expensive war at once against France, Holland, and Denmark, and the rest of the Provinces of Europe at best but lookers-on, considering that France is quiet within itself, and governed by a young Prince, ambitious, absolute and wealthy, and apt on any occasion to enlarge his dominions; and in whose kingdom the desperatest sort of the Irish have taken their sanctuary, and are no doubt provoking him daily to embrace this promising juncture of time.

"Lastly, to omit many material considerations, considering the inability of England to help us, if they had the will; and the want of will too signally expressed in the late acts they have passed, almost as destructive as a rebellion or war could prove. To which may be added our general loss of trade, and consequently the almost impossibility of getting money to pay those taxes which are to pay the army."

"In 1669 Lord Robartes was for a few months Lord-Lieutenant, Ormonde having fallen from the royal favour, and on the 2ist of May, 1670, John Lord Berkeley, Baron of Stratton, was sworn in as Viceroy. The following year Lord Berkeley, finding it necessary to leave for England, entrusted the government to the Lord Chancellor and Sir Arthur Forbes as Lords Justices. The latter was a steady friend of the Presbyterians, and he no sooner had the power than he not only procured an order for the release of all those who had been sentenced to terms of imprisonment on account of nonconformity, but also obtained by grant from the King a pension for Presbyterian ministers out of the forfeited lands still in his hands. The administration of the Lords Justices was not marked by any other occurrence of importance, and, finding it necessary to make some concession to public opinion before the meeting of Parliament, the English ministers removed Lord Berkeley, who was believed to have been appointed Lord-Lieutenant by Roman Catholic influence, and in the beginning of August, 1672, Arthur, Earl of Essex, was made Viceroy, a position he held for five years. In August, 1677, Ormonde was reappointed Lord-Lieutenant by the King, who is said to have remarked of the Duke: "He is the fittest person to govern Ireland".

In 1679 the insurrection of the Covenanters in the west of Scotland aroused Ormonde's anxiety. He suspected that the Scottish insurgents had correspondence with their brethren in Ulster, and he therefore took hasty measures for the defence of the northern province. The battle of Bothwell Bridge on the 22nd of June, however, soon dissipated all his fears regarding Ulster.

Although of Ulster it cannot be said at this period that "more than peace was the passing of her days", she was nevertheless more at rest than she had ever been since the commencement of recorded time, for even under the rule of her native princes she had been eternally plunged in war, and had presented a scene in which never-ending battles were waged between Cinel Connel and Cinel Owen, savage O'Donnells and fierce O'Neills. She had now discovered that " peace hath her victories no less renowned than war", and she proceeded sedulously to follow the paths which lead to a people's welfare, and would no doubt have long continued to do so but for the somewhat sudden death of the King, which occurred at noon on Friday the 6th of February, 1685.

Emerson, in his list of Representative Men, omitted Charles II, an admirable representative of the voluptuary. The character of Charles is too well known to need much comment. Lord Macaulay, in his penetrating remarks on the subject, attributes not a little of Charles's levity to the fact that the Prince had, "while very young, been driven forth from a palace, to a life of exile, penury, and danger", and as a consequence his character was moulded abroad. This may be; but whatever other influences were at work, that of Henrietta Maria never ceased to be exercised, and it was this influence which had the most abiding and far-reaching results, not alone in the fact that Charles II died a professed Roman Catholic, but that James lived an avowed member of the same Church. Unlike Charles, James was not content to conceal his religious feelings, and his conduct in trying to coerce his subjects to think as he did, led as a natural consequence to the Revolution.


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