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them conveyed to some of the leading dependants of the court, at the annual rent of 1976l. 7s. 5d.206 being about two pence per acre!
Case of Baron Nugent, Lord Kildare, Baron Delrin, and others.
In the year 1580, under the administration of lord Grey, there was a pretended discovery of a plot of " divers noble familes in Leinster, most of them descended of English blood, partly out of affection to the Romish religion, and partly out of hatred to the new-come English, who, many times, contrary to the intent of the law, excluded them as mere Irish from offices of government and magistracy, to surprise the lord deputy with his household ; to take the castle of Dublin at unawares, where all the provision of war lay; and to put the English in Ireland every man to the sword! and so close were they in carrying on their conspiracy, that they never discoursed about it more than two and two together!! But among so many as were privy
Acres. * Co. Waterford, Sir Christopher Hutton
10,910 Co. Cork and Waterford, Sir W. Raleigh
12,000 Co. Kerry, Sir Edward Denny
6,000 Ib. Sir William Harbart
13,276 Ib. Charles Harbart
3,768 Ib. John Holly
4,422 Ib. Capt. Jenkin Conway
526 Ib. John Champion
1,434 Cork, Sir Warham Saint Leger
6,000 Ib. Hugh Caff
6,000 Ib. Sir Thomas Norris
6,000 Ib. Arthur Robins
1,800 Ib. Arthur Hide
5,574 Ib. Francis Butcher and Hugh Wirth
24,000 Ib. Thomas Say
3,778 Ib. Arthur Hyde
11,766 Ib. Edmund Spencer
3,028 Cork and Waterford, Richard Beacon
6,000 Limerick, Sir William Courtney
10,500 Ib. Francis Berkly, Esq.
7,250 Ib. Robert Anslow
2,599 Ib. Richard and Alex. Fitton
3,026 Ib. Edmund Manwaring, Esq.
9,747 Ib. Waterford, and Tipperary, Sir Edward Fitton 11,515 Ib. Wm. Trenchard, Esq.
12,000 Ib. George Thornton, Esq.
1,500 Ib. Sir George Bourcher,
12,880 Ib. Henry Billingsley, Esq.
11,800 Inverary, Thomas, Earl of Ormond
206 Cox, 393.
to it, it came at last to light, and was by the execution of a few timely extinguished. The most remarkable of whom was J. Nugent, baron of the exchequer, a man of a singular good life and reputation, who was merely circumvented, (as the Irish report) by the cunning of his adversaries. He, relying upon the conscience of his own innocency, when the lord deputy faithfully promised him his life if he would confess himself guilty, chose rather being guiltless, to undergo an infamous death, than by betraying his own innocency, to lead an infamous life. Howsoever the truth were in this matter, certainly the lord Grey incurred great displeasure with the queen for putting these men to death."907
That there was no foundation for this plot—that it was a mere fabrication, similar to so many which preceded and followed it, cannot at this distance of time, be satisfactorily established. But I beg to state some circumstances, which shed strong light on the subject, and afford the highest degree of probability which the nature of the case will admit, to the idea of its having been a fabrication.
The first circumstance is all-important. Camden, it appears, informs us that the deputy "incurred great displeasure with the queen for putting these men to death.” Queen Elizabeth's stern character is well known. She was made of too firm a texture to feel " displeasure," “great” or small at the execution of real criminals. Her displeasure” must indubitably have arisen from a conviction of the innocence of the sufferers. It is not, therefore, assuming too much, to assert, that this fact alone, in the absence of all other evidence, would warrant the most serious doubts, almost amounting to a total disbelief of the reality of the plot.
There is another circumstance not unworthy of attention. The only two original writers, who mention the death of these gentlemen, as far as I am acquainted with the affair, are Hooker and Camden, whose accounts are very different indeed. They were both cotemporaries, the former having greatly the advantage of the latter, by being at the scene of action, and recording events, of many of which he was an eye witness. Camden received them at a distance, heightened and caricatured by the magnifying powers of common fame. Of course, in the discrepancy between them, Hooker's authority is far more to be relied on, than Camden's. “Hooker, a cotemporary writer, resident and employed in Ireland, and by no means partial to the old English race, doth not take notice of this formidable conspiracy, except by slightly mentioning a design formed against the person of the deputy.”208
We may fairly assume, that had there been any foundation whatever for the report of the plot, as stated by Camden, it could not have escaped Hooker, and would assuredly have been by him recorded.
How then, shall we account for the high colouring of the picture by Camden? Probably Grey, finding his conduct severely reprobated, on the ground of the original story, added the aggravating particulars in his statements to the English ministry, to palliate his crime.
The refusal of Nugent, a man of fair unblemished character, elevated station, and high standing in society, to accept his life, on con
dition of confessing himself guilty of the crime alleged against him, must be allowed to be entited to the most serious consideration. It " brought the utmost discredit on lord Grey's administration."
One other circumstance, still more important, retains. The earl of Kildare and his son-in-law, baron Delvin, were among the persons implicated. They escaped the axe and the gibbet in Ireland, and were sent prisoners to England," where on a fair and candid examination, they were all acquitted of every charge and suspicion of disloyalty. The precipitation, with which Nugent and the other culprits had been executed, now became doubly odious. Grey was represented as a man of blood, who had not only dishonoured his nation and sovereign among foreigners, but alienated the hearts of all the Irish subjects by repeated barbarities. Detested in his government, and severely censured in England, he grew weary of his present charge, and petitioned to be recalled."210
These facts and inferences are offered to the reader's consideration, for rejection or acceptance, in proportion to their importance and bearing on the subject. I fondly hope, that they will satisfy any ra. tional mind, that the plot was, in all probability, a contrivance of lord Grey's for the gratification of his avarice, or bis malice, or both united.
From the mode in which Cox mentions this plot, for which baron Nugent was sacrificed, it is highly probable that he disbelieved it, although he does not explicitly express that opinion :-“Whether they were guilty or not, I leave, (as I found it,) doubtful."911
Spencer, who endeavours to defend Lord Grey, states the character given of him in England, in stronger terms than Leland; and from various circumstances to be found in the Irish history during his administration, particularly the butchery at Smeerwick*, there cannot be a doubt but the character was richly merited complaint was made against him, that he was a bloodie man, and regarded not the life of her subiects no more than dogges, but had wasted and consumed all, so as now she had nothing almost left, but to raigne in their
Case of the O'Moores and O'Connors. These two septs were harassed and goaded into resistance by sheriffs and marshals-and being unable to stand against the forces of the government, were obliged to conceal themselves.
Some English officers having found out their retreat, persuaded them to surrender, and proposed to make their peace. They accordingly went to Eng. land-but were thrown into prison-and their lands bestowed on those whose insidious counsels they had followed.
"Some English officers, who had discovered their retreats, proposed to make their peace. It was insinuated with what clemency the Irish Insurgents in the late reign had been treated, on their submission ; what favours and even what honours they had received at the court of England. They were advised to take the same course, which they were assured would be attended with the same success. They embraced this counsel, submitted, and consented to attend Saint Leger into England. But here the only favour granted, was, that they were not brought to immediate execution. They were committed to prison, their lands declared forfeit, and granted to those by whose counsels they had surrendered !*8211
209 Leland, II. 646. * See postea, chap. IV.
211 Cox, 367.
The case of Shane or John O'Nial. Of all the Irish chieftains during the sixteenth century, Shane or John O'Nial, was by far the most powerful. He was regarded by his countrymen as sovereign prince of Ulster; of which province almost all the nobility and gentry were his feudatories, under different tenures. His estates were of enormous extent, and great value. They excited the rapacity of the Irish administration and its dependants, who were on the watch for a pretext to confiscate them,
Forged plots were the means resorted to in this, as in so many other cases. The temptations to subornation, for the purpose of elfecting confiscation, were powerful. And, as already stated, on a former occasion, perjury was a saleable commodity. 'That the one party should buy oaths, which proved so valuable, and that the other party should sell thein at the regular market price, is not wonderful.
From the date of his accession to the title and estates of his father, he was engaged in repeated skirmishes and warfare with the English, caused partly by their depredations--partly on the ground of pretended plots—and partly from the favour shown by the government to his bastard brother Hugh. But into the details of the early part of his history I shall not enter, confining myself to those circumstances which immediately preceded and led to his destruction.
After one of those petty warfares he had a conference with the deputy Sussex, and immediately afterwards sailed for England, and paid his first visit to the court of Elizabeth in Dec. 1561, whither he went to satisfy the queen of the provocations he had received, and to justify his conduct. He was received with attention--succeeded completely-and returned home in May, 1562.
But his enemies were indefatigable. They thirsted after his possessions; were resolved, if possible, to dispossess hiin; and commenced their operations the very next year after his return.
The auri sacra fames has in all ages goaded mankind, even in well regulated societies, to violate the rules of honour and justice. But I repeat what I have already observed, and shall be occasionally called on to reiterate, that so many of the pretended plots should be superlatively absurd, is truly unaccountable. The folly of the fabricators appears to have kept pace with their rapacity. Some of these, plots seem as if they were studiously contrived, to ascertain now far public credulity could be carried.
The conspiracy, or rather “conspiracies,” with which commenced those nefarious attempts on the life and estate of Shane O'Nial, which were finally crowned with success, partake in an eminent degree of this character, and add to the weight of evidence already offered to
913 Leland, II. 229.
the reader, to show by how very slender and precarious a tenure, life and property were held by the nobility and gentry of Ireland.
For the account of these “conspiracies," we are indebted to sir James Ware, whose narration is given with apparent full reliance on its genuineness. And yet it is so truly ludicrous, that it would at present be treated with contempt, if offered to the meanest justice of the peace, in the country, against a field negro. The nature of these “conspiracies” is given up in the following statement:
“ At this time the lord lieutenant received some intimation that Shane O'Nial was contriving new conspiracies.”914
This alarming exordium would lead to the belief that some most important disclosure was about to be made-as, for instance, the raising of large bodies of men clandestinely-the purchase of quantities of arms and ammunition—the building or repairing castles or fortifications-or some dangerous machinations, tending to subvert the state.” Such is the promise held out by these new conspiracies" but after exciting these great expectations, it appears that the whole is merely a "new" version of a very old fable-Parturiunt montes—nascitur ridiculus mus. These “new conspiracies” sunk into the following old wife's tale :*
5 A kinsman of his, (Shane O'Nial's,] drinking in company with the collector of the archbishop of Armagh's revenues at Drogheda, was heard to swear by his soul, that his cousin was a patient fool, and so were his ancestors, in taking an earldom from the kings of England, when by right themselves were kings. He further added by way of question, to the bishop's servant, Is it not so? The man was
Jooo * The clue to the proceedings in this, and in the other cases already narrated, is plain and simple-Leland states it in a very few words:
" It was the interest of the English officers to represent their conduct in the severest light. If once declared rebels, their lands and property lay at the mercy of their pursuers.?215
With this clue, we can readily account for the endless succes. sion of fabricated plots, and the so-oftep-repeated aggressions upon the Irish and Anglo-Hibernians. The temptations were irresistible. Lord Strafford displays the glorious harvest which deputies reaped out of these plots, and “new” and old“ conspiracies." To suppose that their subordinate agents did not derive their full share of the plunder, would argue against the universal experience of the world in all analogous cases.
“Others had the happiness not only to enjoy, but to have their labours rewarded besides; my lord Chichester with land at one gift worth at this day ten thousand pounds a year!! the lord Falkland ten thousand pounds in money at once !"9216,
Lands worth ten thousand pounds a year! Ten thousand pounds in money at once! What a hideous view this affords of the affairs of Ireland! How extensive the depredation on the wretched Irish to make up these preys! And how strong the temptations such douceurs afforded to fraud and peculation !
214 Ware, 6 Eliz. 7
216 Leland, 11. 347.
216 Strafford, U, 294.