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enjoyed with little interruption to the present hour." The reader may advantageously compare this document with another of similar character at p. 392, showing what progress had been made by the British settlers in Ulster seven years afterwards. The success of James' policy in the administration of Ireland as compared with that of any of his predecessors, even of that of Elizabeth herself, is the most redeeming feature in a reign which has been often stigmatized by historians and romancers as the most ignoble and mean to which these kingdoms ever submitted. It is at least an indication that, in spite of his many personal defects and failings, James wanted not for that straightforward good sense and sagacity which are the never-failing characteristics of his race and nation, whenever an occasion arose of sufficient magnitude and interest, to conquer his natural indolence and overcome his wonted aversion to business. It is easier to talk than to do; easier to talk well than to do well; and whenever the former could stand him in the place of the latter he preferred that alternative which caused him the least trouble and seemed to excuse the necessity of action. But no man had a clearer judgment than James, when he chose to exert it; no man less suffered his own pedantry, or the pedantry of those by whom he was surrounded, to interfere with his proceedings when exertion became imperative. That was not often; for under Elizabeth loyalty was a romance and a sentiment, and his English subjects, at least so long as Cecil was alive, transferred to James that extravagant idea of submission and non-resistance which had grown up in their minds during the reign of a Sovereign, who was at one and the same time the impersonation of Protestantism, the
defender of their national independence, the glory of her sex; and whose solitary and unmarried state, and even defenceless condition, as a woman, seemed to evoke in her favour all the sympathies of the brave and the chivalrous, the ardent and devout. That loyalty and devotion they were quite as ready to pay as James was ready to accept. James therefore in England reigned over very submissive subjects, to whom his will was a law; and as he was extremely good-natured, hated the fuss and burthen of majesty, was willing to oblige every suitor, without considering the consequences, it was not often that James experienced any serious opposition to his wishes. The condition of Ireland and his desire to bring it into better order was the only serious concern of his reign; and the steadiness and ability displayed by him in reducing it to a much quieter and more prosperous condition than any former ruler had been able to do, is an evidence of better qualities in James than are generally suspected. Though somewhat hyperbolical, the remark of Sir John Davys is substantially true; that the defects in the previous government of Ireland had “been fully supplied in the first nine “years of James' reign. In which time,” he adds, “there “ hath been more done in the work and reformation of “this kingdom than in the 440 years which are past “since the Conquest was first attempted.” These reforms consisted not merely in the plantation of Ulster, to which reference has been already made, and of which more will be said hereafter, but in the establishment of stricter order and discipline in all departments of the State. Those who have consulted the previous volumes of this Calendar will remember the bitter complaints made against the English troops, in the Pale and elsewhere, for
* Discovery, &c., p. 206, ed. 1786.
their extortions and oppressions of the unhappy inhabitants. War was fed by war, and the wages of the soldiers irregularly paid seemed an excuse for disorderly actions, not less subversive of discipline than they were constant inducements to discontent and insurrection. Another great defect was the want of a uniform and regular administration of justice. Many parts of Ireland were not yet divided into shires; in others the Justices never attempted to execute their commissions, either from neglect or paucity of number, or both causes combined. The native Irish chiefs, whose interest consisted in promoting disorder, and to whom the English law was especially offensive, as interfering with their privileges in misruling their tenants, could still carry on their old irregularities and excesses, and set all improvement and steady industry at defiance, when there was no stronger arm than their own to interfere with their caprices. Regular tenure of land, inheritance, vested rights, were unknown among them, each man having no more “than a “scambling and transitory possession at the pleasure of “the chief of every sept.” The more careful and industrious the tenant, the more liable he was to oppression of all kinds, the more likely to be turned out of his holding. What chance could there be for order or improvement? Who would build farmhouses or granges, in the possession of which he could not be assured for a twelvemonth ? Who would venture to oppose the dictates of his chief, and prefer obedience to laws which he never saw duly administered and from which he could derive no protection? In such a state of things, not only devotion to his lord, a strong incentive in the mind of every Irishman, but his own interest and personal safety were entirely on the side of disorder. The former of these abuses James removed by the more regular pay and support of his army, the latter by a more searching, uniform, and impartial administration of justice in every shire. To the latter, more than to any other cause, must be attributed the real success of James' policy in Ireland, and its more complete subjection, without any of those extraordinary efforts to which his predecessors resorted,—great efforts followed by as great relapses,—verifying, in fact, the observation of Sir John Davys: “These progresses of the law renew and confirm “ the Conquest of Ireland every half year, and supply “ the defect of the King's absence in every part of the “realm; in that every Judge sitting in the seat of justice “doth represent the person of the King himself.” These reforms involved every other; and without them all other reforms, however wise and salutary, would have been wholly nugatory. No projects in favour of improvement or regular industry, if we could conceive them possible under such a state of things, would have had any chance of success whatever among chieftains far less frugal and orderly, and not less restless, than the old Scotch Highlanders. Their highest conceptions of the luxuries and amenities of life were confined to beef, whisky, and oatmeal, and an occasional raid, at discretion, upon their tenants and neighbours; if they were English freeholders, or Irish under the protection of England, or holding English grants, the pleasure was enhanced by the profits of the spoil. No anxiety and no effort on the part of the English Government to convert the precarious holdings of the native Irish farmer into regular tenure, and his arbitrary rent into a fixed payment, either of money or kind, would have been of the least avail, so long as the chief of the sept could never be called to account for his arbitrary exactions, and the violence of his kerns and his galloglasses remained unpunished. It was enough to mark him out as an
object of vengeance, if any man, native or otherwise, ventured, English wise, to build or to plant or to improve his land, and therefore no one attempted it, or speedily abandoned the attempt as hopeless. It will be seen in the first volume of this Calendar how many of the native Irish lords submitted to Henry VIII., and consented to hold their estates of him and his successors in capite. Their example was followed by others in subsequent reigns. The act was creditable to their discretion and sagacity as Irishmen, for while their submission was little better than nominal, they received the substantial advantage of being secured in their estates, of which the Crown was not very officious in examining the title or extent, and of which, by so doing, neither they nor their heirs could be dispossessed, as they were liable to be, had they strictly adhered to native customs of their own country. So English law secured for them that permanence and freedom of possession they never could have secured for themselves. But in receiving those benefits they had no intention that similar benefits should be extended to others below them. They were willing to invade and infringe their native customs, and make good their own interests by taking a grant of their real or supposed estates from the Crown, but they took very good care that these customs should not be infringed by the inferior septs, or any of their own privileges be sacrificed by the extension of similar rights and protections beyond themselves. So though the lord had become the King's tenant, and enjoyed the advantage of English law, he exercised the same authority and indulged in the same exactions as before. The lands he had thus secured were no better cultivated, the condition of the people no whit improved, the hope of reclaiming them from disorder, barbarism, and distress no greater; in fact