« PreviousContinue »
“ others which are lately planted in their new college, are “ generally bad, licentious, and most disordered.” This was the state of the Irish Church as late, if not later, than the year 1593, when Trinity College was first opened for the reception of students. It may appear surprising that in the face of these difficulties—difficulties which every day accumulated and clogged the wheels of government—the Tudor sovereigns did not adopt a more conciliatory and politic course. The whole power of Ireland was in reality shared between the Irish chiefs and the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Until the attempt was made to force, at all hazards, the King's Supremacy and the doctrines of the Reformation upon Ireland, the chiefs of the nation, at all events, if not the great mass of the people, were, as we have seen, little affeeted towards their ancient religion.f No Irish chief had as yet, as in the case of James FitzMaurice FitzGerald, or Desmond a few years later, proclaimed himself the champion of a holy league, or combined friends and foes in the common cause of religion against the English government. No Irish chief had, as yet, appealed to the religious affections and sentiments of the people, and made
* State of Ireland, p. 529. f I do not mean to insinuate that the Irish chiefs were not religious in their own way ; but that way did not prevent them from treating priests and churches with a freedom not easily reconciled with our modern notions of the Isle of Saints. In the time of Henry VII., when one of Kildare's predecessors was brought before the Council to answer the charge of burning the cathedral of Cashel, “By Jasus,” he exclaimed to the astonishment of the board, “I would never have done it, had it not been told me that the Archbishop was within.” It is creditable to Henry VII, though a King given more to sadness than mirth, that he heartily enjoyed this Irish apology. See Holinshed (or Hooker's) Chron. of Ireland, p. 83. But indeed the fact is too notorious to need any laboured proof. f Carew, Vol. I. p. 397.
their devotional faith subservient to his own designs. Beyond the ancient ties of clanship, undoubtedly strong, and apparently as indefinite as they were strong, religion had not as yet intervened to bind an enthusiastic and susceptible people, chiefs and dependants, priests and laymen, in one close and compact union. The rights exercised by Irish lords were as oppressive as those exercised by the Russian nobleman over his serfs. The general improvement in the condition of the poorer Irish population introduced by English settlers, the regular habits of labour and fixed employments in English farms and homesteads would have created more intimate and tender ties between the two people—would by degrees have raised the population, and emancipated them from the ignorant tyranny of semi-barbarous chiefs, or made the interests of the two incompatible. By increasing the number of these settlers, by improving the general condition of the population, by restraining insensibly the powers of the chiefs, by putting a strong curb on the licence of the soldiers, England might, after a time, have created for itself the strongest barrier and support in the affections of the Irish people— it might have attracted towards itself, by a sense of gratitude and community of interests, those strong affections which now ran violently in an opposite channel. By wise and conciliatory treatment, the great mass of the people, like the Lowlander in Scotland, would have proved a barrier to the turbulence and insurrections of the chiefs. But indifferent to the condition, the wants, and the wishes of the broad mass of the population, the Tudor sovereigns merely sought how to force the Irish into compliance with English manners, English habits, dress, and customs; and when the task proved impossible, nothing remained except to retreat or to ride rough-shod over all obstacles to good government and improvement.
Throughout the papers of Carew there are to be found repeated and fruitless enactments for obliterating from the face of Ireland all traces, accidental or otherwise, of Irish characteristics. The land was in all respects to be remodelled, volens molens, upon an English platform, so far at least as it was possible in a conquered province—so far as a humble and distant dependant can be made to assume the dress, manners, deportment, religion, and policy of its superior. Its Deputy was to be the alter idem of English royalty; its council board the counterpart in its constitution and its authority of the council board in England. Its chiefs, some of whom were scarcely superior in civilization to their followers, were to abandon their wild and intemperate habits, and wilder lives among wild dependants, and, holding their estates, like English noblemen, of the crown, to strut in the robes of peers of the realm.” Ireland must have its bench of bishops, and its dioceses, most of which existed only in name; and even the people were to be remodelled after the English fashion. The weight of the law was brought to bear against forelocks and moustaches: it regulated the size of noblemen's and gentlemen's shirts, and took under its protection hats, caps, French hoods and tippets. Saffron cloth and embroidery were little better than constructive treason. To listen to Irish lays or give alms to an Irish minstrel exposed the offender, by the bitter sarcasm of the laws, to the forfeiture of both ears if the offence were repeated. “All carroughes, bards, rhymers, “ and common idle men and women, within this province “ (of Munster), making rhymes, bringing of messages, and “ common players at cards, [are] to be spoiled of all their
* There is a curious instance of an Irish nobleman, who having to make his appearance at the Irish parliament in his official robes, requested that his chaplain might have a suit of the same, as the boys would laugh at him.
“goods and chattels, and to be put in the next stocks, there “ to remain till they shall find sufficient surety to leave that “ wicked thrade of life, and fall to other occupation.” As if, forsooth, they could ! Nor did these restrictions end here. They descended even to the women's apparel. According to the ordinances proclaimed at Limerick by Sir John Perrot in 1571, no maid or single woman was allowed “to wear or put on “any great roll or kercher of limen cloth upon their heads, ‘ neither any great smock with great sleeves, but to put “on hats, caps, French hoods, tippets, or some other “civil attire upon their heads,” upon pain of forfeiting ‘the said Irish garments so worn ; the same forfeiture to ‘ be to such person or persons as shall happen to seize “ the same.”f Narrowing their notions of government rather to their own limited experience of what was suitable to and had succeeded in England, the Tudor sovereigns scarcely considered how far a different country might require a different rule. Believing that all the disorders of Ireland were to be traced either to the neglect or the misconduct of English Deputies, bishops, captains, or settlers, who had failed to carry out their instructions with the diligence and success expected of them, the government at home was chiefly occupied with the thought, how they could
* Carew, p. 410. “Harpers, rhymers, Irish chroniclers, bards, and “isshallyn commonly go with praises to gentlemen in the English Pale, “ praising in rhymes, otherwise called danes, their extortions, robberies, “ and abuses, as valiantness, which rejoiceth them in that their evil doings, “ and procure a talent of Irish disposition and conversation in them.” (State Papers, II. 450.) A much more effectual method was adopted in the reign of Edward VI. for extinguishing the spirit of Irish minstrelsy. It was ordained that no poet hereafter should make or compose any poem except in honour of the King. (Carew, 215.)
f Carew Papers, I. 411.
best force the acceptance of their laws and institutions upon the unhappy Irish. By dint of repeated efforts, by enormous waste of blood and treasure, the O'Neils, O'Connors, and O'Mores were humbled ; the still more formidable chiefs of the Butlers and Geraldines were overawed or conciliated. But their submission, extorted by fear or the hope of a peerage, by English honours or English protection, produced little effect upon the population in general. Rather it broke the neck of their own influence, and only tended to bring into closer union the Irish priesthood and the Irish people. It will be seen from these remarks that if any advice had been offered for conciliating the native Irish clergy, it would have been rejected with the utmost disdain. Yet here was the difficulty; the people, obstinately opposed to Protestant teachers, must either be obliged, for the little religious instruction they had, to Popish emissaries, employed by foreign sovereigns, or grow up uncared for and untended, in grosser barbarism than before. To the former alternative the English government refused to listen; in the temper of those times no religion was more hopeful and acceptable than the Roman Catholic. So nothing remained except for the people to become daily more barbarous and more unmanageable, or be forced upon Protestantism by the edge of the sword. How could the Reformation, under these circumstances, commend itself to the convictions or affections of Irishmen? Of the actual condition of the great mass of the population it is impossible to speak with precision. We have no sufficient or authentic data for determining this important question. Occasional and intermittent notices now and then flit across the page of a public document, leading the reader to infer that the state of the “mere Irish ’’ was as wretched as might be expected after centuries of