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or otherwise, was discovered in a title, he compelled the proprietor to pay a heavy fine for a new conveyance. He pursued this vexatious policy for the base purpose of extorting money to enable the King to govern without the aid of Parliament. Roused by the successful example of their brethren in their native land, many of the Scottish residents in the Northern Province were disposed to combine together in defence of their religion and liberties. But Wentworth was determined, if possible, to prevent such a coalition. He accordingly prepared a form of oath, conceived in the most slavish style of passive obedience, pledging all who took it to honour King Charles, not to "protest against any of his royal commands,” and not to enter into any covenant for mutual defence “ without his Majesty's sovereign and regal authority.”? A proclamation, dated 21st May, 1639, required all the Scotch in Ulster, above the age of sixteen years, to enter into the engagement. This bond-henceforth commonly known by the odious designation of the BLACK OATH-was imposed alike on males and females. It was enforced, without any authority from Parliament, by the arbitrary will of the chief Governor. The episcopal clergy and church wardens were required to make a return of all the natives of North Britain resident in their respective parishes; and the oath, when read publicly by magistrates appointed to administer it, was to be taken by the people on their knees. Scotchmen who professed to be Roman Catholics were not obliged to swear; but these alone were excused. The names of such as declined thus to pledge themselves were immediately forwarded to Dublin ; and officers were dispatched from the seat of government authorized to deal with the recusants according to instructions received from the Lord Deputy:3
By exacting this oath, Wentworth hoped so to crush the spirit of the Presbyterians of the North that henceforth they would be amenable to his dictation. He had himself little respect for the demands of conscience; and he could not under
1 Reid, i. 211, 212.
stand the feelings of others who were guided by religious principle. The event proved that he had miserably miscalculated. To his astonishment, many refused to take the oath; and displayed a determination to submit to any penalty rather than enter into an engagement which they abhorred. All were quite ready to pledge themselves to constitutional loyalty ; but they were not prepared solemnly to vow unconditionally to do whatever the King pleased. He might require them to convert the holy rest into a day of sports," or to worship the cross, or to renounce their religion. The attempt to enforce the oath only aggravated the dissatisfaction which prevailed, and spread dismay and suffering throughout Ulster. But though the measure evoked such resolute and general opposition, the Viceroy remained inflexible; and the highest penalties, short of death, were inflicted by the officers of Government on all who refused compliance. “Pregnant women were forced to travel considerable distances to the places appointed by the commissioners. If they hesitated to attend, and still more, if they scrupled to swear, they were treated in a barbarous manner; so that crowds of defenceless females fled to the woods, and concealed themselves in caves, to escape their merciless persecutors. Respectable persons, untainted with crimes, were bound together with chains and immured in dungeons. Several were dragged to Dublin, and fined in exorbitant sums, while multitudes fled to Scotland, leaving their houses and properties to certain ruin ; and so many of the labouring population abandoned the country that it was scarcely possible to carry forward the necessary work of the harvest." ?
Wentworth was now fast filling up the measure of his tyranny. His Irish administration had not been altogether unsuccessful. Though, to appease the jealousy of England, he had discouraged the woollen trade, he had exerted himself greatly to promote the linen manufacture; and, under his government, the shipping of the country is said to have
1 In point of fact, not a few worthy ministers in this reign were severely punished for resusing to read from the pulpit a proclamation encouraging sports on the Lord's Day.
? Reid, i. 250.
multiplied one hundred fold.1 He increased the public revenue, and improved the condition of the army. The Established Church owed him much. He made arrangements for the repair of its ruined edifices; endeavoured to furnish it with a more reputable class of ministers; and contrived to provide for them a more liberal maintenance. He obliged many who had dishonestly obtained possession of ecclesiastical property to restore the unhallowed spoil. But, during the time that he had charge of the affairs of Ireland, he recklessly violated all the principles of constitutional government. He acted as if the people were made for the king; and as if his first duty as a statesman was to strengthen and extend the royal prerogative. About this period he was created Earl of Strafford, in recognition of the services he had rendered to his sovereign. He deported himself towards men of all classes with intolerable hauteur; and everyone who dared to thwart him in his proceedings was marked out for vengeance. He resolved to have a Plantation in Connaught, like that in Ulster; and, to carry out his views, he sought, by the chicanery of law, to invalidate the titles of the landed proprietors of the Western Province. When the Sheriff of Galway and a resolute jury refused to do his bidding, he cited them into the Castle chamber, imposed on them most oppressive fines, and threw them into prison. He detested nonconformists—for they asserted the right of private judgment in a way which he could not endure; and he hated all truly faithful ministers—for he knew that they could not but condemn the laxity of his own morals.
The fall of Strafford was sudden and striking. At the very opening of the Long Parliament-towards the close of the year 1640—he was impeached on the charge of treason, and committed to the Tower. In a few months afterwards he was brought to trial. His influence had already been beginning to wane in Ireland—as the Puritans and Roman Catholics had combined against their common oppressor; and the Lower House of Legislation had drawn up a remonstrance complaining alike of the abuses of the Ecclesiastical Courts, and of the exactions of the episcopal clergy.? . Strafford's activity, daring, and address, his admitted capacity for business, and the unquestionable benefits which the country had derived from his administration, had long kept him on a vantage-ground. So complete was his ascendency that the Irish Legislature had recently expressed their approbation of his government. But the continued successes of the Scotch Covenanters gave a rude shock to his power; and his friends were no longer able to maintain their supremacy in Ireland. Very soon after his imprisonment, the Commons declared that their late eulogy on the fallen statesman had been surreptitiously inserted ? among their acts, and that he was in reality the chief author of their national grievances. The King had promised to sustain his favourite against all assailants: but he deserted him in the hour of his extremity, and assented to his execution. On the 12th of May, 1641, in the forty-ninth year of his age, the man who had been the most powerful subject in the three kingdoms was beheaded on Tower Hill-a sacrifice to public justice, and a startling illustration of the instability of human greatness.
1 Leland, iii. 41.
? “From the Earl of Cork, in particular, the Deputy contrived to wrest about two thousand pounds annual revenue of tythes, which, from the want of incumbents and the disorder of the times, he had gotten into his possession, and converted to appropriations.”—LELAND, iii, 27.
Others perished in this political tempest. Wandesford, who had been appointed to administer the government of Ireland in the absence of Strafford, was so confounded when he heard of the impeachment of the Earl, that he sickened and died. A few weeks after the imprisonment of the Irish Lord-Lieutenant, Laud was put under arrest : but upwards of four years passed away before the proceedings relating to him were brought to a termination. At length, in January 1645, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the seventy-second year of his age, fell by the hand of the public executioner. In March 1641, Bramhall, Bishop of Derry, was impeached for treason and thrown into prison : but, in consequence of the royal interference, he was soon restored to liberty. He survived until another turn in the tide of politics placed him, nearly twenty years afterwards, in a higher ecclesiastical position than any he had yet occupied.
1 Leland, iii. 55.
? Ibid. ii. 67.
3 Ibid. üïi. 63.