Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

from John O'Nial; who, upon the death of his father in confinement at Dublin, now claimed the royal sovereignty of the whole province of Ulster.

In this situation of affairs, Elizabeth's first concern was to spread the influence of the reformed religion through Ireland, as she had successfully done throughout England; not only as to the spiritual supremacy, which alone her father had attempt. ed, but as to several dogmatical points of faith. Conscious that this innovation would be strongly opposed even by a parliament of the pale, she gave special instructions to her lieutenant to prædispose the members to the measure, and ordered writs to be issued to the representatives of ten counties; whereas for a long series of years they had only been issued to six. Being tolerably sure of a majority in both houses, a parliament was convened in the second year of her reign; by which it was enacted, that the spiritual jurisdiction should be restored to the crown: that all the acts of her sister Mary by which the civil establishment of the Roman Catholic religion had been restored, should be repealed: that the queen should be enabled to appoint commissioners to exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction: that all officers or ministers, ecclesiastical or lay, should on pain of forfeiture and total incapacity take the oath of supremacy : that every person, as well as his aider, abettor, or counsellor, who should in any way maintain the spiritual supremacy

of the Bishop of Rome, should forfeit for the first offence, all his estates real and personal (or be imprisoned for one year if not worth 201.), incur a præmunire for the second offence, and become guilty of high treason for the third offence: that the use of the Common Prayer should be inforced as in England : that every person should resort to the established church, and attend the new service under pain of ecclesiastical censures, and of the forfeiture of twelve-pence for every offence, to be levied by the church-wardens by distress of the lands or chattels of the defaulter: that the first fruits and twentieths of all church reve. nues should be restored to the crown; and the old writ and form of congé d'élire should be superseded by the king's letters patent, by which in future all collations to vacant sees should be made. These ordinances were followed by an act of recognition of the queen's title to the crown ; and it was made a case of præmunire to speak, and treason to write against it.

So much had Sussex been alarmed by the opposition he had encountered in parliament,* though he ultimately succeeded, that he found it necessary quickly to dissolve it. He repaired to England to give to the queen, in person, a minute and faithful account of the reception these new laws had met with from the

* It sat from the 12th of January to the 12th of February. VOL. I.

I

Irish nation. The immediate effects of this parliament ,are thus described by Dr. Leland.*: “ The people were particu“larly provoked by the violence offered to their religious preju“ dices. The partisans of Rome inveighed against the here“tical queen and her impious ministers. The clergy, who " refused to conform, abandoned their cures; no reformed " ministers could be found to supply their places; the churches “ fell to ruin; the people were left without any religious worship “ or institution, even in places of most civility; and the statutes

lately made were evaded or neglected with impunity."

In this general discontent of the nation, the whole kingdom was for several years convulsed, either with the internal feuds and wars of the chieftains with each other, or the grand insurrection of O'Nial, that ended by his treacherous murder at a banquet in the camp of the Scotch adventurers. In order to put an end to the factions and disturbances of the nation, to provide for the necessities of government, and forward both the civil and ecclesiastical reform of the nation, Elizabeth, in the eleventh year of her reign, convened another parliament, which continued by several prorogations to the thirteenth. This parliament, like most other parliaments of Ireland, amidst some plausible and beneficial acts contrived to pass others, which in their nature could but increase the disaffection of the people, and consequently operate to the prejudice of both kingdoms. Such must ever be the effect of the unconstitutional formation of a parliament for the base purpose of giving legislative sanction to unjust measures.f Whilst the English government pursued a system so glaringly opposite to the will of the Irish people, and consequently destructive of their peace and welfare, a strong opposition was to be expected from every member, who had not already betrayed his country through fear, or sold it for lucre.

2 Lel. p. 226. We have a very fair and candid judgment of recent au. thority, for the impolicy and injustice of the system of government carried on in Ireland, under Queen Elizabeth. “ It seems difficult to conceive any more “ unjust or impolitic act of government, than an attempt to force new modes “ of religious faith and worship by severe penalties, upon a rude, superstitious, " and unlettered people. Persecutions or attempts to force conscience “ will never produce conviction. They are calculated only to make hypocrites “or martyrs : and accordingly the violence committed by the regency of “ Edward, and continued by Elizabeth, to force the reformed religion on “ Ireland, had no other effect, than to foment a general disaffection to the

English government; a disaffection so general, as to induce Philip II. of

Spain to attempt partial descents on the Southern coasts of this island, “ preparatory to his meditated attack upon England.” Speech of Lord Clare in the Irisb House of Lords, 10th of February, 1800, p. 9.

† It has often been said that England could never be ruined but by a parJiament. And there has been tvo much reason for many late assertions, that Ireland could not be saved whilst it had a parliament.

I have followed Dr. Leland (2 vol. p. 241) in describing this early essay of legislating by a sure majority.

The intentions of government had been foreseen, and the utmost efforts openly exerted to strengthen their interest: for this purpose, considerable management had been used, and even great irregularities committed in the elections and returns of the commons. Stanihurst, recorder of Dublin, and sir Chris. topher Barnewall, a favourite of the old English race, were proposed by their respective partisans, for the office of speaker; and the election of Stanihurst, by the influence of the court, served to enrage the party in opposition. Barne. wall, who was esteemed for his political knowledge, in. sisted that the present House of Commons was illegally constituted; on this ground, he opposed the admission of any bill, and was supported by Sir Edmond Butler and the whole of the real landed interest of the kingdom. In proof of the assertion, it was alleged, that several were returned members for towns not incorporated; that several sheriffs and magistrates of corporations had returned themselves; but above all, that numbers of Englishmen had been elected, and returned as burgesses for towns, which they had never seen or known, and consequently could not be considered residents, as the laws directed. Four days were spent in clamorous altercation; the discontented members declaring, with great violence, against receiving any bill, or proceeding on any business. The speaker attended the lord deputy and council, to explain their objections to the constitution of the house. The judges were consulted, and they declared, that those returned for towns not incorporated, and the magistrates who had returned themselves, were incapable of sitting in parliament: but as to the members not resident in the towns for which they were returned, that they were entitled to retain their seats, and that the penalty of returning them should alight on the respective sheriffs : a decision which still left the government that majority of friends, which so much pains had been taken to procure; and which consequently encreased the violence of the opposite party.

Nor did the clamour cease until the judges came to the commons house, and there avowed their opinion; when Barnewall and his party reluctantly acquiesced, and reserved themselves for a vigorous contest against the measures of those, whom they regarded as an English faction.

Amongst the Englishmen returned to this parliament, was Mr. Hooker,* member for Athunree; he was also a member of the English parliament, and acquainted with the order and usage of its proceedings; he affected to be highly scandalized at the tumult and irregularity of the Irish commons, but was himself most violent in his opposition to Barnewall and his

To him we are indebted for these particulars.

party. He broached some doctrines upon the royal prerogative, which though familiar in England, were yet novelties to the native Irish, who, looking up to the ancient constitution, were as yet neither dazzled by the splendour of a court, nor terrified by the peremptory decisions of an imperious monarch. It raised a flame so violent, that the assembly was adjourned in confusion, and Hooker retired under protection of a guard to his house. This violence having abated after some days they proceeded to business.

It is to be presumed, that had there not been so formidable an opposition, more acts would have been passed to forward the Reformation. One statute only, and that in the fourth session, was passed which concerned religion, by which the governor was empowered to present to all the dignities of Munster and Connaught for ten years, in consequence of abuses by presenting improper persons. The Act for the Attainder of Shane O'Neile, and the extinguishment of the name O'Neile, and the entitling of the Queen's Majestie, her heyres and successors, to the county of Tyrone, and to other countries and territories in Ulster (11th Eliz. C. 1. Sess. 3.) seems to have been pointedly calculated to insult the feelings of the Irish nation, and consequently to enflame their animosity and rancour. It enumerates all his acts of outrage and rebellion in a style of vindictive acrimony, and in order to expose the futility of the pretences of this, or any Irish family to sovereignty in Ireland, it affects to deduce the title of the English monarch to the absolute sovereignty of the whole kingdom of Ireland as paramount even to the Milesian race of kings:* setting forth a fabulous tale of one King Gurmonde, son to the noble King Belan of Great Britain, who was Lord of Bayon in Spain, as many of his successors were to the time of Henry II. who possessed the island afore the comeing of Irishmen into the said lande. This was a most wanton act of violence offered to the feelings of a people, singularly proud of their royal lineage and ancestry, and by public institution scrupulously chaste as to the fidelity of their national traditions. Nothing short of a wish to goad them into rebellion, could have so effectually spirited them up to it, as thus kindling the flame of patriotism by a collision with their national honour.

Aversions and affections are usually reciprocal. Elizabeth was hated by the generality of the Irish, and she as cordially detested them. The insurrection of Desmond, Clanricarde, and other chieftains, kept the country in a constant state of war. fare. The unsuccessful attempts of Sir Thomas Smith, and afterwards of the queen’s prime favourite the Earl of Essext, to establish an English settlement in Ulster, upon the forfeited lands, greatly exasperated the queen. In the indulgence of her resentment she afforded new grounds of disaffection even to her own subjects within the pale. She ordered Sir William Sidney, her lieutenant, to impose by the mere authority of council a new tax, by way of composition for the charge of purveyance, which amounted to about twelve pounds for every plough land. A general and violent discontent was the immediate consequence of this act of government, which was followed up by a remonstrance to the lord lieutenant against a system of taxation so oppressive and unconstitutional. Sydney persisted in supporting the prerogative, by which he contended the queen had a right to impose the tax; but offered to moderate it. Opposition in a cause so popular gained daily accession of strength: the principal lords through all parts of the realm refused obedience to the edict of council, and enjoined their tenants and dependants to refuse payment of the assessment. The inhabitants of the pale finding no redress from their governors, assembled, deliberated upon their grievances, and resolved to depute three confidential agents or commissioners to procure redress from the queen. They presented to her Majesty a written memorial of their case, signed by the Lords Baltinglass, Delwin, Hoath, Trimblestowne, and Bellew, Mr. Nangle, some of the families of Plunket, and Nugent, with other distinguished inhabitants of the counties of Meath, and Dublin, in the names of all the subjects of the English pale. In lieu of redress, of which the agents were confident, they were by order of the queen committed to the Fleet prison as contumacious opposers of the royal authority: she also sent orders to Sydney to confine every person, who should offer any opposition or remonstrance against the new imposition, and dismiss from their offices all her servants, and counsellors learned in the law, who had been present at the original complaint, and neglected to maintain her royal prerogative. Some gentlemen of the first distinction again remonstrated against this unconstitutional mode of taxation, and insisted upon paying no tax not legally imposed by parliament. They were instantly committed to close confinement in the castle ; and the agents in England upon a second application to the throne were removed from the Fleet to the Tower; a proceeding which implied that their offence was considered to be of a treasonable nature. The whole body of Irish subjects took the alarm, and the unanimity of their voice even terrified this arbitrary monarch. Both agents and remonstrants were ungraciously dismissed, in communications, which are not intended for the public eye. The letter of Essex to the queen will let us into more light upon the state of the English power in Ireland at this time, than the most elaborate representations of co. te mporary, much more of modern authors. Vide App. No. VIII.

* For this curious abstract of the queen's title to all the land in Ireland, vide the Appendix No. VII. as it is recorded in the statute.

+ Few circumstances so truly delineate the spirit and power of an enemy, as the unreserved and confidential reports of the person who has to oppose them,

« ForrigeFortsæt »