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Reign of Charles I.



Reign of Charles I.-Lord Strafford appointed to the viceroyalty of Ireland-The parliament assembled by the most unconstitutional methods

Dissolved-The king's title to the lands in Connaught fraudulently enforced-The grand rebellion of 1640 breaks out-The immediate and remote causes of that event-The dreadful circumstances that attended its progressHume's energetic and eloquent account of itReligion made the pretext-Dublin saved from the insurgents-Inveteracy of Ormond against the catholics-Execution of Charles.

THE transactions of Irish history during the unfortunate reign of Charles I. though certainly inferior in interest to those which marked the annals of England during the same period, rise, notwithstanding, in importance above those of preceding reigns. The Irish formed pleasing hopes of being allowed a free toleration of their religion, and in point of fact, they did enjoy a more open practice of it at the commencement of his reign. But the calm was only the presage of a storm. Charles too soon displayed that in sincerity which finally brought him to the scaffold

164 First measures of his reign towards Ireland. and his Irish subjects did not escape some of its evil consequences. His first deputy, the Earl of Faulkland, by his mild and conciliatory conduct, gave the catholics every reason to hope for better times than they had yet witnessed; but his recall in 1629 dissipated their cheering prospects, and left them nothing to anticipate but the gloomy turbulence of persecution. He was succeeded in the administration by the two lords justices, Viscount Ely the chancellor, and the Earl of Cork the lord high treasurer, who, without any instructions from the king, enforced, with great severity, the penalties enacted by Elizabeth. They were informed, indeed, that these proceedings were not acceptable to Charles, and it was suggested to them, that they were not very consistent with his own interests in Ireland. But the most memo. rable events occurred during the administration of the unfortunate Earl of Strafford, who continued lord deputy from the year 1633 to the year 1641. The acts of his government during that period form an important feature in Irish history. Strafford displayed great vigilance, activity, and prudence, but he acquired very little popularity. "In a nation," says Hume, (6 so averse to the English government and religion, these very virtues were sufficient to draw on him the public hatred. The manners too and character of this great man, though to all full of courtesy, and to his friends full of affection, were, at bottom, haughty, rigid, and severe. His authority and


Administration of the Earl of Strafford. 165 influence, during the time of his government, had been unlimited; but no sooner did adversity seize him, than the concealed aversion of the nation blazed out at once, and the Irish parliament used every expedient to aggravate the charge against him."

Had Hume written with impartiality he might have added, that Strafford exercised great severity during the whole of his administration, and the haughtiness of his temper was so great that it displayed itself equally to his own party as well as to the Irish. On his first landing, he neglected to summon several members of the council, and those whom he did summon he proudly dismissed, after keeping them waiting for two hours. They remonstrated the next day, and he told them that there was no necessity which compelled him to use their advice, for that, at the peril of his own head, he would subsist the king's army without their help, namely, by free quarters. The menace had its due effect, and he obtained from the protestants a written promise, that they would provide the next year's contribution for the king. He then proposed to call a parliament, a measure which gave great satisfaction, because they hoped that by its interference this grievance of annual contribution would be remedied. Strafford, however, took sufficient precautions to have such a parliament as would minister to all his views. "For the purpose of securing a protestant majority," says Plowden, " in parliament, the new lord


166 Corrupt mode of obtaining a parliament. deputy, by his own account of it to secretary Coke, says, he sent out with the writs of summons about 100 letters in recommendation of quiet and governable men. The lower house,' says he, should be so composed that neither the recusants nor yet the protestants should appear considerably one more than the other holding them as much as might be in an equal balance, as being thus easier to govern.' And for varying the the balance of votes according to the exigency of circumstances, this wary deputy apprises us of the nature of the corps de reserve which he kept at command. I shall labour to make as many captains and officers burgesses in this parliament as I possibly can, who, having immediate dependence upon the crown, may always sway the business between the two parties which way they please.' When the Earl of Fingal represented to him, that it had ever been usual for the lords of the pale to be consulted concerning the parliament, and the matters to be therein propounded, he told this nobleman, that assuredly his majesty would reject with scorn all such foreign instructions: that the king's own councils were sufficient, to govern his own affairs and people, without borrowing from any private man whatever."" That a parliament thus procured and thus constituted should contribute very little to the amelioration of the Irish may easily be conceived. When it met they were informed by Strafford, "that his majesty expected 100,0001. debt to be discharged,


Perfidy of Charles towards his Irish subjects. 167 and 20,000l. a year constant and standing revenue to be set apart for the payment of the army; and that his majesty intended to have two sessions of that parliament, the one for himself, the other for them; so as if they without condition supplied the king in this, they might be sure his majesty would go along with them in the next meeting through all the expressions of a gracious and good king." This sort of compact between a parliament and the monarch has an anomaly in it which the practice of modern times makes sufficienly striking. It was not, however, so repugnant to the usages of those days, and accordingly the Irish received the offers of their sovereign with earnestness and good faith. Charles, however, was fatally persuaded by Strafford to violate the promise he had made, and at his instigation he consented to incur all the obloquy and disgrace of such a proceeding. Nor does it appear that this act of infamy was merely a passive one in the king, for we find him, in the following letter, thanking Strafford for counsels, which ought to have excited a prompt and virtuous indignation.


"Before I answer any of your particular letters to me, I must tell you, that your last dispatch has given me a great deal of contentment, and especially for the keeping off the envy of a necessary negative from me of those unreasonable graces that people expected from me."

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