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   Chapter 42 OPPRESSION AND COUNTER OPPRESSION.

The Story of Ireland By Emily Lawless Characters: 10523

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


No class of the community suffered more severely from the effects of the Restoration than the Presbyterians of Ulster. The church party which had returned to Ireland upon the crest of the new wave signalized its return by a violent outburst of intolerance directed not so much against the Papists as the Nonconformists. Of the 300,000 Protestants, which was roughly speaking the number calculated to be at that time in Ireland, fully a third were Presbyterians, another 100,000 being made up of Puritans and other Nonconformists, leaving only one-third Churchmen. Against the two former, but especially against the Presbyterians, the terrors of the law were now put in force. A new Act of Uniformity was passed, and armed with this, the bishops with Bramhall, the Primate, at their head, insisted upon an acceptance of the Prayer-book being enforced upon all who were permitted to hold any benefice, or to teach or preach in any church or public place.

The result was that the Presbyterians were driven away in crowds from Ireland. Out of seventy ministers in Ulster, only eight accepted the terms and were ordained; all the remainder were expelled, and their flocks in many cases elected to follow them into exile.

This persecution was the more monstrous that no hint or pretext of disloyalty was urged against them. They had been planted in the country as a defence and breakwater against the Roman Catholics, and now the same intolerance which had, in a great measure forced the latter to rebel, was in its turn being brought to bear upon them.

The Roman Catholics, on the other hand, now found themselves indulged to a degree that they had not experienced for nearly a century. The penal laws at the special instance of the king were suspended in their favour. Many of the priests returned, and were allowed to establish themselves in their old churches. They could not do so, however, without violent alarm being awakened upon the other side. The Irish Protestants remonstrated angrily, and their indignation found a vehement echo in England. The '41 massacre was still as fresh in every Protestant's mind as if it had happened only the year before, and suspicion of Rome was a passion ready at any moment to rise to frenzy.

The heir to the Crown was a Papist, and Charles was himself strongly, and not unreasonably suspected of being secretly one also. His alliance with Louis XIV" was justifiably regarded with the utmost suspicion and dislike by all his Protestant subjects. It only wanted a spark to set this mass of smouldering irritation and suspicion into a flame.

That spark was afforded by the murder of Sir Edmondbury Godfrey, under circumstances which were at first believed to point to its having been committed by Papists. A crowd of perjured witnesses, with Titus Gates at their head, sprang like evil birds of the night into existence, ready to swear away the lives of any number of innocent men. The panic flew across the Channel. Irish Roman Catholics of all classes and ages were arrested and flung into prison. Priests who had ventured to return were ordered to quit the country at once. Men of stainless honour, whose only crime was their faith, were on no provocation seized and subjected to the most ignominious treatment, and in several instances put to death.

The case of Dr. Plunkett, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, a man whom even Protestants regarded with the utmost reverence, is the most notorious of these. Upon a ridiculous charge of being implicated in a wholly mythical French descent, he was dragged over to London, summarily sentenced, convicted, and hung, drawn, and quartered. Although the most eminent, he was only one, however, of the victims of this most insane of panics. Reason seemed to have been utterly lost. Blood and blood alone could satisfy the popular craving, and victim after victim was hurried, innocent but unpitied, to his doom.

At last the tide stayed. First slackened, then suddenly--in Ireland at least--reversed itself, and ran almost as recklessly and as violently as ever, only in the opposite direction. In 1685 Charles died, and James now king, resolved with hardly an attempt at further concealment to carry out his own long-cherished plans. From the beginning of his reign his private determination seems to have been to make Ireland a stronghold and refuge for his Roman Catholic subjects, in order that by their aid he might make himself independent both of England and the Parliament, and so carry out that despotism upon which his whole narrow, obstinate soul was inflexibly set.

His first step was to recall the Duke of Ormond, whom Charles had left as Viceroy, and to appoint in his place two Lords Justices, Lord Granard and the Primate Boyle, who were likely, he believed, to be more malleable. All tests were to be immediately done away with. Catholicism was no longer to be a disqualification for office, and Roman Catholics were to be appointed as judges. A more important change still, the army was to be entirely remodelled; Protestant officers were to be summarily dismissed, and Roman Catholic ones as summarily put in their places.

Such sweeping changes could not, even James found, be carried out all at once. The Lords Justices were next

dismissed, and his own brother-in-law, Lord Clarendon, sent over as Lord-Lieutenant. He in turn proving too timid, or too constitutional, his place was before long filled by Richard Talbot, a fervent Catholic, but a man of indifferent public honour and more than indifferent private character. Talbot was created Earl of Tyrconnel, and arrived in 1686 avowedly to carry out the new policy.

From this point the stream ran fast and strong. The recent innovations, especially the re-organization of the army, had naturally caused immense alarm amongst the whole Protestant colony. A petition drawn out by the former proprietors and forwarded to the king against the Act of Settlement had made them tremble also for their estates, and now this new appointment came to put a climax to their dismay. What might not be expected they asked in terror, under a man so unscrupulous and so bigoted, with an army, too, composed mainly of Roman Catholics at his back to enforce his orders? The departure of Clarendon was thus the signal for a new Protestant exodus. Wild reports of a general massacre, one which was to surpass the massacre of '41, flew through the land. Terrified people flocked to the sea-coast and embarked in any boat they could find for England. Those that remained behind drew themselves together for their own defence within barricaded houses, and in the towns in the north, especially in Enniskillen and Londonderry, the Protestant inhabitants closed their gates and made ready to withstand a siege.

Meanwhile in Dublin sentences of outlawry were fast being reversed, and the estates of the Protestants being restored in all directions to their former proprietors. The charters of the corporate towns were next revoked, and new (by preference Catholic) aldermen and mayors appointed by the viceroy. All Protestants were ordered to give up their arms by a certain day, and to those who did not, "their lives and goods," it was announced, "should be at the mercy and discretion of the soldiers." These soldiers, now almost exclusively Catholic, lived at free quarters upon the farms and estates of the Protestants. "Tories," lately out "upon their keeping," with prices upon their heads, were now officers in the king's service. The property of Protestants was seized all over the country, their houses taken possession of, their sheep and cattle slaughtered by hundreds of thousands. All who could manage to escape made for the north, where the best Protestant manhood of the country had now gathered together, and was standing resolutely in an attitude of self-defence.

In England, William of Orange had meanwhile landed in Torbay, and James had fled precipitately to France. Tyrconnel, who seems to have been unprepared for this event, hesitated at first, undecided what to do or how matters would eventually shape themselves. He even wrote to William, professing to be rather favourable than otherwise to his cause, a profession which the king, who was as yet anything but firm in his own seat, seems to have listened to with some belief, and General Richard Hamilton was sent over by him to negotiate matters with the viceroy.

The passions awakened on both sides were far too strong however, for any such temporizing. Louis XIV. had received James upon his flight with high honour, and his return to the throne was believed by his own adherents to be imminent. In England, especially in London, the excitement against the Irish Catholics was prodigious, and had been increased by the crowd of Protestant refugees who had recently poured in. The Irish regiments brought to England by James had been insultingly disbanded, and their officers put under arrest. "Lilibullero," the anti-Catholic street song, was sung by thousands of excited lips. Lord Jefferies, who embodied in his own person all that the popular hatred most detested in his master's rule, had been dragged to prison amid the threatening howls of the populace. The "Irish night," during which--though without the faintest shadow of reason--the London citizens had fully believed an Irish mob to be in the act of marching upon the town, with the set purpose of massacring every Protestant man, woman, and child in it, had worked both town and nation to the highest possible pitch of excitement. In Ireland too the stream had gone too far and too fast to turn back. The minority and the majority stood facing one another like a pair of pugilists. The Protestants, whose property had been either seized or wasted, were fast concentrating themselves behind Lough Foyle. Thither Tyrconnel sent Richard Hamilton--who, deserting William, had thrown himself upon the other side--with orders to reduce Londonderry before aid could arrive from England. To James himself Tyrconnel wrote, urging him to start for Ireland without delay. Though unprepared at present to furnish soldiers, Louis was munificent in other respects. A fleet of fourteen men-of-war, with nine smaller vessels, was provided. Arms, ammunition, and money without stint were placed at the command of the exile, and a hundred French officers with the Count d'Avaux, one of the king's most trusted officials, as envoy, were sent to accompany the expedition. On March 12, 1689, James II. landed at Kinsale.

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