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The History of Ulster
King Charles and the Confederates


Power of Confederates attracts Charles - The King seeks a Cessation of Arms - The Roman Catholics petition the King - Royal Commission granted - Sir William Parsons superseded - Sir Henry Tichborne appointed Lord Justice with Borlase - Sir Henry Tichborne's Account of the Conduct of the War in Cavan - The Confederates demand a Free Parliament - Sufferings of the Army from Scarcity of Money - No Help forthcoming from England - Tichborne tries to raise Money, but fails - Renewed Activities of the Rebels - Munro, although requested to help the Royalists, refuses to act - Treaty with the Confederates signed and ratified.

The very power of the confederates now became the root of their misfortunes. It led the King to desire to come to terms with them, not from any intention to do them justice, but with the hope of deriving assistance from them in his difficulties; and it exposed them to assaults of diplomatic craft and fomentation of internal schism, in which Charles was a past-master, and which led to their ultimate disintegration. For some time Parsons and Borlase, seeing that they clashed with their own designs, contrived to counteract the King's movements. Any amicable arrangement made by the Crown with the Irish would have frustrated all their hopes of plunder, and that they entertained such hopes is proved by a private letter addressed to the Speaker of the English Commons by the Lords Justices as early as the nth of May, 1642, in which they beg the Commons to assist them with a grant " of some competent proportion of the rebels' lands", which had recently been confiscated to the extent of two and a half millions of Irish acres.


SIR WILLIAM PARSONS
From an engraving by S. Paul

The delays caused by the cupidity of the Lords Justices provoked the King, to whom delays were dangerous, and who was in no mood to be trifled with. In July a petition to the King from the nobility and gentry assembled in Kilkenny had been sent to Ormonde to be forwarded to His Majesty, with the significant intimation that if he failed to transmit the document he would be held "guilty of all the evils that may ensue". Ormonde, as in duty bound, first submitted it to the Lords Justices and Council, who agreed to forward a copy of the petition, provided they added thereto marginal notes of their own. To this Ormonde agreed; but the Lords Justices, acting on their old policy of never do to-day what can be put off till to-morrow, delayed so long that Ormonde in disgust sent the original petition to the King, "being well assured that His Majesty's judgment is not to be surprised with any colours these rebels can cast upon their foul disloyalty". Charles, although he had made up his mind to treat with the Irish, neglected to respond to this petition, no doubt being preoccupied with his English Parliament, and in December petitions addressed to both Charles and Henrietta Maria, were sent by the Roman Catholics of Ireland, who begged that a deputation might be permitted to wait upon Their Majesties, in order that their grievances might be made known to both.

In response to this petition a Royal Commission dated 11th of January, 1643, was issued to the (now) Marquis of Ormonde, the Earl of Clanrickard, the Earl of Roscommon, Lord Moore, Sir Thomas Lucas, Sir Maurice Eustace, and Thomas Burke to receive propositions from the confederates to be transmitted for His Majesty's consideration, the King at the same time writing to Ormonde: "We have not thought fit to admit any of them to our presence, who have been actors or abettors in so odious a rebellion". On the 17th March, St. Patrick's Day, a conference took place at Trim, in which a remonstrance was presented to Clanrickard (Ormonde being absent in the field), in which, amongst other complaints, Sir William Parsons was cited as one of the most flagrant ex- amples of those who had employed their high offices to enrich themselves at the expense of the Roman Catholics. The immediate result of the complaints was that the King superseded Parsons, and on the 12th of May, 1643, appointed as Lord Justice in his stead Sir Henry Tichborne, the able and energetic governor of Drogheda.

Before we lose sight of Tichborne the commander in Tichborne the Lord Justice we may here give an extract from his account of the irregular and desultory hostilities of this period, which throws not a little light on their character. "In March", writes Sir Henry, "the Marquis of Ormonde led the army, with the flower of the garrison of Drogheda and other adjacent garrisons, towards Ross; and I receiving intelligence that the rebels intended to send off their northern forces, to assist their party in those quarters against the Marquis of Ormonde, I moved the Lord Moore to draw the best strength he could conveniently from Dundalk (of which town Lord Moore now had the command); and sending for those that might be spared from Trim, I met them at Kells, the appointed rendezvous, with a party from Drogheda, where we made in all eleven hundred foot and one hundred and twenty horse.

"At Kells we took a few prisoners that were not aware of their danger, and amongst them one Plunkett, a popish archdeacon. Part of their Cavan forces were then near us, and sent a drummer pretending to treat an exchange or ransom of the archdeacon. The drummer, as is the custom of such fellows, spoke much of the strength and valour of the Cavan men; and I, that I might make a little use of his errand, which was, as I conceived, rather (if he could) to discover our strength and intention, than to redeem the prisoners, told him that I thought to have gone through Westmeath toward the county of Longford; but since he spoke so much of the number and courage of the Cavan forces near me, I would turn my course that way, lest I might be dishonoured in seeming to decline them, for fear of their power and ability to resist me. The drummer appearing to be perplexed, because his boasting was likely to bring inconvenience upon his country, not formerly intended; wherefore, I said further, (for I knew it would have wings when it came amongst them), that I would at least (that I might not appear to be terrified) lodge that night in the county of Cavan, it not being two miles out of my way into the county of Longford. And after we were all in a readiness to march, I dismissed the drummer, cheerful in the apprehension that he had discovered so much of my purpose.

"That night we went eight miles into the county of Cavan, saw many rebels, but they knew their distance; yet at Lough Ramor, in an island, we lighted on the Earl of Fingall's two children, thirty case of new pistols, with other goods, that could not be suddenly taken away when he fled from thence. That night, about one of the clock, the moon shining, we set forth towards the Cavan, came thither seasonably the next day, and unexpected, the rebels being secure on their drummer's report that I intended another way. The town was soon abandoned, and every man shifted for himself.

"The next day the rebels were gotten together, and fought with us at Ballyhays; afterwards at a bridge within three miles of Belturbet. We routed them at both places in one day, took two captains, and several other prisoners, besides many of their soldiers, and some remarkable men/ slain by us. We freed divers English that were in restraint among them, and killed a rebel as he was firing a house where there were ten English shut up ready to be burnt. I staid two days entire in those parts, burnt Ballyhays, the Cavan, and other places, and then returned with a great prey, which served much to the relief of our several garrisons, in those days of exceeding wants and great extremities."

The King had during the spring and summer continued in private communications to press Ormonde with regard to a cessation of arms, full discretionary powers having been granted him for this purpose. It was necessary, Ormonde thought, for the King's honour, in a transaction of such a nature, that the first overtures for peace should come from the rebels; he therefore instructed his agents in Kilkenny to induce the confederates to renew the negotiations. The majority of the rebels, however, still clung to their demand for a free Parliament (in which, of course, they would be the principal factors), and they still refused to acknowledge that which sat in Dublin as a legal assembly. Matters continued to be discussed all through the summer, and the state to which the Government in Ireland was reduced by these prolonged and tedious negotiations cannot be better given than in Tichborne's words.

"Finding", said the newly appointed Lord Justice, "the army in the highest extremity of want, all ways and means already sought and run through for their support, even to the seizing the native commodities of the kingdom; hides, tallow, and such like, taken from ship-board after the customs paid, and exposed to sale; I was wonderfully perplexed, and Sir John Borlase, His Majesty's other Justice, and myself, with the Council, daily assembled: we spent the whole time in sending complaints into England, both to King and Parliament; in the meantime borrowing, taking up, and engaging the whole Board for money and all sorts of victual and commodities convertible to the soldiers' relief.

"Amidst these extremities His Majesty's letter came over, signifying His Majesty's sorrow and disability to relieve us, in regard of the troubles in England. All men's eyes were on the Parliament, but no succours in those times arriving from thence to support the forces, His Majesty permitted a treaty to be had with the Irish, touching a cessation of arms, in case all other helps were failing; which was generally so disagreeing to the Board, that most of them desired to run any fortune and extremity of famishing, rather than yield unto it.

"And, truly, I was so much of that opinion, that when the Marquis of Ormonde made offer, that if he might be advanced ten thousand pounds, part victuals, part shoes and stockings, and part money, he would immediately draw towards the rebels, and either compel them to run the hazard of the field, or to forsake their quarters and leave them to the spoil of our soldiers, which might prove to them a future subsistence; and when Theodore Scout, and the rest of the merchants of Dublin, had refused to advance the money upon the security of all the lands of the whole board, and the Customs of Dublin, for the interest of the money; I moved the Board, there being at that time one-and-twenty Councillors present, and myself the meanest of fortune amongst them, that every one for himself, out of his peculiar means and credit, would procure three hundred pounds, which amongst us all would raise six thousand three hundred pounds. For even with that sum, and such means as the Marquis of Ormonde could procure himself, he offered to undertake the work, and that there should be no further mention of a cessation amongst us.

"But this motion of mine finding no place, the cessation in a short time began to be treated on, and was in sincerity of heart as much hindered and delayed by me as was in my power; for I believed it would be hurtful to the public, and therefore I cast in rubs to lengthen the treaty, expecting daily relief and money from England, whither Sir Thomas Wharton was employed with the sad stories of the public miseries."

Having a full knowledge of the distress to which the Government was reduced, the Irish naturally took advantage of it. Preston overran a large portion of Leinster, extending the field of his operations almost to the gates of the capital.

Castlehaven took several forts in Queen's County and Carlow, and Owen Roe O'Neill crossed the Boyne and captured several castles and forts. "Whereupon," says Tichborne, "understanding that Munro with a flourishing army of Scots, was in the county of Armagh, and in three days' march might be brought to our assistance, I moved the Board to write unto him, to advance his forces and join with us against the common enemy. And because the message might be the better accepted, Colonel Crawford was employed unto him with the aforesaid letter, and particular advice and persuasion from myself to hasten his coming.

"How Colonel Crawford acquitted himself in the discharge of his trust, will best appear by Munro's answer, who had formerly intimated unto the Lord Moore his voluntary readiness to join with us, but now invited, and that by a power whereunto he was subordinate, he refused to come, because the Marquis of Ormonde had not signed the letter sent unto him, though he could not but be informed by Colonel Crawford that the Marquis of Ormonde was absent upon the treaty, and that the letter could not in convenience of time be transmitted unto him, returned, and sent, with expectation of that speedy remedy we were necessarily to receive by it."

Ormonde now determined to try conclusions with Preston in the field, and, collecting 5000 men, he retook Edenderry and other strong places, but failed to bring his opponent to an engagement, and, owing to scarcity of provisions for so large a force, was obliged to return to Dublin. The King now determined to obtain a cessation on any terms, but in order to do so he had to persuade or intimidate those of the Puritan party who opposed his wishes. With this view he ordered, on the 1st of August, the arrest of Sir Adam Loftus of Rathfarnham, Sir R. Meredith, Sir William Parsons, and Sir John Temple, the Master of the Rolls, whom he accused of high crimes and misdemeanours, and accordingly they were committed to custody in Dublin Castle, with the exception of Parsons, who pleaded illness.

These being effectually removed, Ormonde had a free hand, and he received from the King a commission under the Great Seal of Ireland, granting him plenary powers to treat for a cessation of arms for twelve months, to which was added an indemnification from all trouble or danger to him and all who should assist him in this transaction.

Other means were employed, no less reprehensible, to bring about the result desired by Charles. "The expectation of victual a.nd relief from England", says Tichborne, "stopped the hasty progress of the cessation until the evening, as I take it, of the eleventh or twelfth of September, when a fleet of ships was discovered near the harbour, to the great joy of all honest hearts; but the next morning, one Captain Dauske, that was come in with the fleet of provisions, and had landed the night before, returned early on shipboard, hoisted sail, forsook the harbour, and compelled seventeen barks laden with necessaries from Liverpool and other places, to do the like. On what ground or intelligence he did it, is yet unknown ; but this so rare and unlooked-for accident amazed all men, put the soldiers into a mutiny, and drew on a very unprofitable, and, in my apprehension, a very dishonourable cessation to be concluded with the rebels, with very much dislike of most of those that were actors in the treaty."

Finally, on the i5th of September, 1643, a cessation of arms for one year was signed in Ormonde's tent at Sigginstown, near Naas, the Commissioners of the Federation being Lord Muskerry, Sir Lucas Dillon, Nicholas Plunkett, Sir R. Talbot, Sir Richard Barnwell, Turlogh O'Neill, Geoffrey Brown, Heber Magennis, and John Walsh. The Commissioners throughout the proceedings remained uncovered, and Ormonde, as the Royal Commissioner, alone wore his plumed headgear. On the i6th the instrument was signed by which the Confederates undertook to pay the King ,30,800, half in money, payable in instalments, and half in cattle. The treaty, which resigned to the King the coast line from Dublin to Belfast, and Carrickfergus to Munro, was immediately ratified by the Lords Justices and Council, and notified to the whole kingdom by royal proclamation.


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