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- Irish Race in the Past and the Present - 60/134 -
nation, saw very well that account should be taken of it, and thought, as Sir John Davies had thought before them, that it ought to be "rooted out." That great question of the Irish people was assuming vaster proportions every day; the people was soon to show itself in all its strength and reality, to be crushed out apparently by Cromwell, but really to be preserved by Providence for a future age, now at hand to-day.
Spenser and Raleigh, being gifted with keener foresight than most of their countrymen, were for the entire destruction of the people, thinking, as did many French revolutionists of our own days, that "only the dead never come back."
The author of the "Faerie Queene," who had taken an active part in the horrible butcheries of the Geraldine war, when all the Irish of Munster were indiscriminately slaughtered, insisted that a similar policy should be adopted for the whole island. In his work "On the State of Ireland," he asks for "large masses of troops to tread down all that standeth before them on foot, and lay on the ground all the stiff-necked people of that land." He urges that the war be carried on not only in the summer but in the winter; "for then, the trees are bare and naked, which use both to hold and house the kerne; the ground is cold and wet, which useth to be his bedding; the air is sharp and bitter, to blow through his naked sides and legs; the kine are barren and without milk, which useth to be his food, besides being all with calf (for the most part), they will through much chasing and driving cast all their calf, and lose all their milk, which should relieve him in the next summer."
Spenser here employs his splendid imagination to present gloatingly such details as the most effective means for the destruction of the hated race. All he demands is, that "the end should be very short," and he gives us an example of the effectiveness and beauty of his system "in the late wars in Munster." For, "notwithstanding that the same" (Munster) "was a most rich and plentiful country, full of corne and cattle, . . . yet ere one yeare and a half they" (the Irish) "were brought to such wretchednesse as that any stony heart would have rued the same. Out of every corner of woods and glynnes, they came creeping forthe upon their hands, for their legges could not beare them; they looked like anatomies of death; they spoke like ghosts crying out of their graves . . . . that in short space there were none almost left, and a most populous and plentiful country suddenly left void of man and beast."
Such is a picture, horribly graphic, of the state to which Munster had been reduced by the policy of England as carried out by a Gilbert, a Peter Carew, and a Cosby; and to this pass the "gentle" Spenser would have wished to see the whole country come.
Even Mr. Froude is compelled to denounce in scathing terms the monsters employed by the queen, and his facts are all derived, he tells us, from existing "state papers."
Writing of the end of the Geraldine war, he says: "The English nation was at that time shuddering over the atrocities of the Duke of Alva. The children in the nurseries were being inflamed to patriotic rage and madness by the tales of Spanish tyranny. Yet, Alva's bloody sword never touched the young, defenceless, or those whose sex even dogs can recognize and respect.
"Sir Peter Carew has been seen murdering women and children, and babies that had scarcely left the breast; but Sir Peter Carew was not called on to answer for his conduct, and remained in favor with the deputy. Gilbert, who was left in command at Kilnallock, was illustrating yet more signally the same tendency. " Nor "was Gilbert a bad man. As time went on, he passed for a brave and chivalrous gentleman, not the least distinguished in that high band of adventurers who carried the English flag into the western hemisphere . . . . above all, a man of 'special piety.' He regarded himself as dealing rather with savage beasts than with human beings (in Ireland), and, when he tracked them to their dens, he strangled the cubs, and rooted out the entire brood.
"The Gilbert method of treatment has this disadvantage, that it must be carried out to the last extremity, or it ought not to be tried at all. The dead do not come back; and if the mothers and babies are slaughtered with the men, the race gives no further trouble; but the work must be done thoroughly; partial and fitful cruelty lays up only a long debt of deserved and ever- deepening hate.
"In justice to the English soldiers, however, it must be said that it was no fault of theirs if any Irish child of that generation was allowed to live to manhood."--(Hist. of Engl., vol. x., p. 507.)
These Munster horrors occurred directly after the defeat of the Irish at Kinsale. Cromwell, therefore, in the atrocities which will come under our notice, only followed out the policy of the "Virgin Queen." And it is but too evident that the English of 1598 were the fathers or grandfathers of those of 1650. Both were inaugurating a system of warfare which had never been adopted before, even among pagans, unless by the Tartar troops under Genghis Khan; a system which in future ages should shape the policy, which was followed, for a short time, by the French Convention in la Vendee.
Raleigh, as well as Spenser, seems to have been a vigorous advocate of this system. It is true that his sole appearance on the scene was on the occasion of the surrender of Smerwick by the Spanish garrison; but the Saxon spirit of the man was displayed in his execution of Lord Grey's orders, who, after, according to all the Irish accounts, promising their lives to the Spaniards, had them executed; and Raleigh appears to have directed that execution, whereby eight hundred prisoners of war were cruelly butchered and flung over the rocks in the sea. From that time out the phrase "Grey's faith" (Graia fides) became a proverb with the Irish.
After having succeeded in crushing Desmond and "planting " Munster, the attention of Elizabeth was directed to the 0'Neills and O'Donnells of Ulster. That thrilling history is well known. It is enough to say that O'Donnell from his youth was designedly exasperated by ill-treatment and imprisonment; and that as soon as O'Neill, who had been treated with the greatest apparent kindness by the queen, that he might become a queen's man, showed that he was still an Irishman and a lover of his country, he was marked out as a victim, and all the troops and treasures of England were poured out lavishly to crush him and destroy the royal races of the north.
In that gigantic struggle one feature is remarkable--that, whenever the English Government felt obliged to come to terms with the last asserters of Irish independence, the first condition invariably laid down by O'Neill and O'Donnell was the free exercise of the Catholic religion. For we must not lose sight of the well-ascertained fact that the English queen, who at the very commencement of her reign had had her spiritual supremacy acknowledged by the Irish Parliament under pain of forfeiture, praemunire, and high-treason, insisted all along on the binding obligation of this title; and though at first she had secretly promised that this law should not be enforced against the laity, she showed by all her measures that its observance was of paramount importance in her eyes.
Had the Irish followed the English as a nation, and accepted Protestantism, Elizabeth would scarcely have made war upon them, nor introduced her "plantations." All along the Irish were "traitors" and "rebels" simply because they chose to remain Catholics, and McGeoghegan has well remarked that, "not- withstanding the severe laws enacted by Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Elizabeth, down to James I., it is a well-established truth that, during that period, the number of Irishmen who embraced the 'reformed religion' did not amount to sixty in a country which at the time contained two millions of souls." And McGeoghegan might have added that, of these sixty, not one belonged to the people; they were all native chieftains who sold their religion in order to hold their estates or receive favors from the queen.
Sir James Ware is bold enough to say that, in all her dealings with the Irish nobility, Elizabeth never mentioned religion, and their right of practising it as they wished never came into the question. She certainly never subjected them to any oath, as was the case in England. Technically speaking, this statement seems correct. Yet it is undeniable that Elizabeth allowed no Catholic bishops or priests to remain in the island; permitted the Irish to have none but Protestant school-teachers for their children; bestowed all their churches on heretical ministers; closed, one by one, all the buildings which Catholics used for their worship, as soon as their existence became known to the police; in fact obliged them to practise Protestantism or no religion at all.
In the eyes of Elizabeth a Catholic was a "rebel." Whoever was executed for religion during her reign was executed for "rebellion." The Roman emperors who persecuted the Church during the first three centuries, might have advanced the same pretences And indeed the early Christians were said to be tortured and executed for their "violation of the laws of the empire."
This point will come more clearly before us in considering the second phase of the policy of Elizabeth, her direct interference with the Church.
II. If the policy of England's queen had been one of treachery and deceit toward the nobility, toward the Church it was avowedly one of blood and destruction.
Well-intentioned and otherwise well-informed writers, among them Mr. Prendergast, seem to consider that the main object of the atrocious proceedings we now proceed to glance at was "greed," and that the English Government merely connived at the covetous desires of adventurers and undertakers, who wished to destroy the Irish and occupy their lands; for, as Spenser says "Sure it was a most beautiful and sweete country as any under heaven, being stored throughout with many goodly rivers, replenished with all sorts of fish most abundantly; sprinkled with many very sweete islands, and goodly lakes like little inland seas; adorned with goodly woods; also full of very good ports and havens opening upon England as inviting us to come into them."
Such, according to those writers, was the policy of England from the first landing of Strongbow on the shores of Erin, and even during the preceding four centuries, when both races were Catholic, and the conversion of the natives to Protestantism could not enter the thoughts of the invaders.
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