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CHAP. I REPLY TO CATHOLIC PRELATES 269
to England. Englishmen had good inheritances which many of them purchased with their money; they and their ancestors from you and your ancestors. ... They lived peaceably and honestly among you. You had generally equal benefit of the protection of England with them; and equal justice from the laws — saving what was necessary for the state, upon reasons of state, to put upon some few people apt to rebel upon the instigation of such as you. You broke the union. You, unprovoked, put the English to the most unheard of, and most barbarous massacre ... that ever the sun beheld.”
As if Cromwell had not stood by the side of Pym in his denunciations of Strafford in all their excess and all their ignorance of Irish conditions, precisely for systematic violation of English law and the spirit of it throughout his long government of Ireland. As if Clare's famous sentence at the Union a hundred and fifty years later, about confiscation being the common title, and the English settlement being hemmed in on every side by the old inhabitants brooding over their discontents in sullen indignation, were at any time more true of Ireland than in these halcyon days of Cromwell's imagination. As if what he calls the equal benefit of the protection of England had meant anything but fraud, chicane, plunder, neglect and oppression, ending in that smouldering rage, misery, and despair which Cromwell so ludicrously describes as the deep peace and union of a tranquil sheepfold, only disturbed by the ravening greed of the priestly wolves of Rome.
As for religion, after some thin and heated quibbling about the word “ extirpate," he lets them know with all plainness what he means to do. “I shall not, where I have power, and the Lord is pleased to bless me, suffer the exercise of the Mass. Nor suffer you that are Papists, where I can find you seducing the people, or by any overt act violating the laws established. As for the people, what thoughts in the matter of religion they have in their own breasts, I cannot reach ; but shall think it my duty, if they walk honestly and peaceably, not to cause them in the least to suffer for the same."
To pretend that he was not “ meddling with any man's conscience” when he prohibited the central rite of the catholics, and all the ministrations by the clergy on those occasions of life where conscience under awful penalties demanded them, was as idle as if the catholics had pretended that they did not meddle with conscience if they forbade the possession or use of the Bible, or hunted puritan preachers out of all the pulpits.
“We come,” he proceeds, “ by the assistance of God to hold forth and maintain the lustre and glory of English liberty in a nation where we have an undoubted right to do it; wherein the people of Ireland (if they listen not to such seducers as you are) may equally participate in all benefits ; to use liberty and fortune equally with Englishmen if they keep out of arms.” It is true enough that the military conquest of Ireland was an indispensable preliminary to any healing policy. Nor in the prostrate and worn-out condition of Ireland after ten years of such confusion as has not often been seen on our planet, could military conquest though tedious be difficult. If the words just quoted were to have any meaning, Cromwell's policy, after the necessary subjugation of the country, ought to have been to see that the inhabitants of the country should enjoy both their religion and their lands in peace. If he had been strong enough and enlightened enough to try such a policy as this, there might have been a Cromwellian settlement indeed. As it was, the stern and haughty assurances with which he wound up his declaration “ for the Undeceiving of Deluded and Seduced People ” were to receive a dreadful interpretation, and in this lies the historic pith of the whole transaction.
PERSECUTION IN IRELAND
The Long Parliament deliberately contemplated executions on so merciless a scale that it was not even practicable. But many hundreds were put to death. The same parliament was originally responsible for the removal of the population, not on so wholesale a scale as is sometimes supposed, but still enormous. All this Cromwell sanctioned if he did not initiate. Confiscation of the land proceeded over a vast area. Immense tracts were handed over to the adventurers who had advanced money to the government for the purposes of the war, and immense tracts to the Cromwellian soldiery in discharge of arrears of pay. It is estimated that two-thirds of the land changed hands. The old proprietors were transplanted with every circumstance of misery to the province west of the Shannon, to the wasted and desperate wilds of Connaught. Between thirty and forty thousand of the Irish were permitted to go to foreign countries, where they took service in the armies of Spain, France, Poland. When Jamaica was taken from Spain in 1655, Oliver, ardent for its successful plantation, requested Henry Cromwell, then in Ireland, to engage 1500 soldiers to settle, and to send a thousand Irishwomen with them; and we know from Thurloe that ships were made ready for the transportation of the boys and girls whom Henry was forcibly collecting. Whether the design was carried further we do not know. Strange to say, the massacre in the valleys of Piedmont in 1655 increased the bitterness of the Dublin government and of the protestant generals towards the unhappy Irish. Fleetwood says :“ The officers of the army here are very sensible of the horrid cruelties in the massacre of the poor protestants in the Duke of Savoy's dominions. ... It was less strange to us when we heard that the insatiable Irish had a hand in that bloodshed.” The rigours of transplantation waxed more severe.
Of all these doings in Cromwell's Irish chapter, each of us may say what he will. Yet to every one it will at least be intelligible how his name has come to be hated in the tenacious heart of Ireland. What is called his settlement aggravated Irish misery to a degree that cannot be measured, and before the end of a single generation events at Limerick and the Boyne showed how hollow and ineffectual, as well as how mischievous, the Cromwellian settlement had been. Strafford too had aimed at the incorporation of Ireland with England, at plantation by English colonists, and at religious uniformity within a united realm. But Strafford had a grasp of the complications of social conditions in Ireland to which Cromwell could not pretend. He knew the need of time and management. He knew the need of curbing the English lords. A puritan armed with a musket and the Old Testament, attempting to reconstruct the foundations of a community mainly catholic, was sure to end in clumsy failure, and to this clumsy failure no appreciation of Oliver's greatness should blind rational men. With him incorporation of Ireland in a united kingdom meant the incorporation of the British colony, just as a southern state was a member of the American union, to the exclusion of the serf population. One partial glimpse into the root of the matter he unmistakably had. “ These poor people,” he said (Dec. 1649), “have been accustomed to as much injustice, tyranny, and oppression from their landlords, the great men, and those who should have done them right, as any people in that which we call Christendom. Sir, if justice were freely and impartially administered here, the foregoing darkness and corruption would make it look so much the more glorious and beautiful, and draw more hearts after it.” This was Oliver's single glimpse of the main secret of the everlasting Irish question; it came to nothing, and no other English ruler had even so much as this for many generations afterwards.
It was the turn of Scotland next. There the Commonwealth of England was wholly without friends. Religious sentiment and national sentiment, so far as in that country they can be conceived apart, combined against a government that in the first place sprang from the triumphs of sectaries over presbyterians, and the violent slaying of a lawful Scottish king; and, in the second place, had definitely substituted a principle of toleration for the milk of the covenanted word. Cromwell's accommodation after Preston, politic as it was at the moment, had none of the elements of stability. The pure royalist, the pure covenanter, the men who were both royalists and fervid presbyterians, those who had gone with Montrose, those who went with Argyle, the Engagers whom Cromwell had routed at Preston, Whiggamores, nobles and clergy, all abhorred the new English system which dispelled at the same time both golden dreams of a presbyterian king ruling over a presbyterian people, and constitutional visions of the sway of the legitimate line. The spirit of intestine faction was red-hot, but the wiser Scots knew by instinct that the struggle before them was at bottom as much a struggle for independent national existence as it had been in the days of Wallace or Bruce. Equally the statesmen of the Commonwealth felt the impossibility of establishing their own rule over the host of