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The Story of Ireland By Emily Lawless Characters: 7964

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

This was the last serious attempt on the part of any individual Irish chieftain to rise against the power of England. The next rebellion of which we shall hear arose from perfectly different causes, and was general rather than individual, grew indeed before its conclusion to the larger and more imposing dimensions of a civil war.

In one respect this six years' struggle was less productive of results than either of the two previous ones. At the end of it, Tyrone was still Tyrone; still the first of Irish subjects; his earldom and his ancestral possessions were still his. Nay, on crossing a few months later to England, and presenting himself to the English Court, he was graciously received by the new king, and seemed at first to stand in all respects as if no rebellion had been planned by him, or so nearly carried to a successful issue.

This state of things was a source, as may readily be conceived, of boundless rage to every English officer and official who had taken part in the late campaign. To see "that damnable rebel Tyrone" apparently in high honour caused them to rage and gnash their teeth. "How did I labour," cries one of them, "for that knave's destruction! I adventured perils by sea and land; went near to starving; eat horse-flesh in Munster, and all to quell that man, who now smileth in peace at those who did hazard their lives to destroy him!"

Sheriffs, judges, commissioners, all the new officials who now began to hurry to the north, shared in this sentiment, and all had their eyes set in wrathful animosity upon Tyrone, all were bent in finding him out in some new treason. That after all that had happened he should end his days in peace and honour was not inconceivable merely, but revolting. He himself complained about this time that he could not "drink a full carouse of sack but the State in a few hours was advertised thereof." It was, in fact, an impossible situation. Tyrone was now sixty-two, and would have been willing enough therefore, in all probability, to rest and be thankful. It was impossible, he found, for him to do so. He was harassed by spies, plunged into litigation with regard to his seignorial rights, and whatever case was tried the lawyers invariably found for his antagonists. Rory O'Donnell, a brother of Red Hugh, who had been created Earl of Tyrconnel by James, was in a like case. Both were regarded with detestation by every official in Ireland; both had not long before had a price set on their heads; both, it was resolved by all in authority, would, sooner or later, therefore, begin to rebel again.

Whether they did so or not has never been satisfactorily decided. The evidence on the whole goes to prove that they did not. The air, however, was thick just then with plots, and in 1607, a mysterious and anonymous document, of which Lord Howth was reported to be the author, was found in the Dublin Council Chamber, which hinted darkly at conspiracies and perils of various kinds to the State, in which conspiracies Tyrone, it was equally darkly hinted, was in some manner or other involved.

It was rather a poor plot, still it served its turn. Tyrone received warning from his friends abroad that he was about to be arrested, and so serious was the peril deemed that a vessel was specially sent by them to bring him away in safety. He at once communicated with Tyrconnel, and after a short consultation the two Earls with their families resolved to take advantage of the opportunity and depart at once. This at the time, and indeed generally, has been construed into a proof of their guilt. It may have been so, but, on the other hand, it may just as well not have been. Had their innocence been purer than alabaster or whiter than the driven snow they were probably well advised under existing circumstances in not remaining to take their trial.

Right or wrong, with good reason or without good reason, they went, and after various wanderings reached Rome, where they were received with

no little honour. Neither, however, long survived their exile. Tyrconnel died the following year, and Tyrone some eight years later, a sad, blind, broken-hearted man.

Nothing could have been more convenient for the Government than this departure. Under the circumstances, it meant, of course, a forfeiture of all their estates. Had the extent of territory which personally belonged to the two exiles alone been confiscated, the proceeding, no doubt, would have been perfectly legitimate. Whatever had led to it, the fact of their flight and consequent renouncement of allegiance was undeniable, and the loss of their estates followed almost as a matter of course. A far more sweeping measure than this, however, was resolved upon. The lawyers, under the direction of the Dublin Government, so contrived matters as to make the area forfeited by the two earls cover no less a space than six entire counties, all of which were escheated to the Crown, regardless of the rights of a vast number of smaller tenants and sub-proprietors against whom no plea of rebellion, recently at all events could be urged; a piece of injustice destined, as will be seen, to bear tragic fruit a generation later.

The plan upon which this new plantation was carried out was projected with the utmost care by the lawyers, the Irish Government, and the king himself. The former plantations in Munster were an acknowledged failure, the reason assigned being the huge size of the grants made to the undertakers. Many of these resided in England, and merely drew their rents, allowing Irish tenants to occupy the land. This mistake was now to be avoided. Only tracts that could be managed by a resident owner were to be granted, and from these the natives were to be entirely drawn. "As well," it was gravely stated, "for their greater security, as to preserve the purity of the English language."

The better to ensure this important result marriages were strictly forbidden between the native Irish and the settlers, and in order to avoid that ever-formidable danger the former were ordered to remove themselves and their belongings bodily into certain reserved lands set apart for them.

The person who took the most prominent part in this undertaking was the well-known Sir John Davis, a distinguished lawyer and writer, who has himself left us a minute account of his own and his colleagues' proceedings. That those proceedings should have aroused some slight excitement and dismay amongst the dispossessed owners was not, perhaps, astonishing, even to those engaged in it. In some instances, the proprietors even went the length of bringing lawyers from Dublin, to prove that their estates could not legally be forfeited through the attainder of the earls, and to plead, moreover, the king's recent proclamation which undertook to secure to the inhabitants their possessions. In reply to this, Sir John Davis and the other commissioners issued another proclamation. "We published," he says, "by proclamation in each county, what lands were to be granted to British undertakers, what to servitors, and what to natives, to the end that the natives should remove from the precincts allotted to the Britons, whereupon a clear plantation is to be made of English and Scottish without Irish." With regard to the rights of the king he is still more emphatic. "Not only," he says, "his Majesty may take this course lawfully, but he is bound in conscience to do so."

These arguments, and probably still more the evident uselessness of any resistance, seem to have had their effect. The discomfited owners submitted sullenly, and withdrew to the tracts allotted to them. In Sir John Davis' own neat and incisive words, "The natives seemed not unsatisfied in reason, though they remained in their passions discontented, being grieved to leave their possessions to strangers, which they had so long after their manner enjoyed."


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