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The History of Ulster
The Closing Years of James's Reign

Sir Oliver St. John appointed Lord Deputy - Chichester accepts Lord Treasurership - St. John's Measures against the Recusants - The Prisons full of the Better Sort of Citizen - St. John's Zeal - He is recalled and created Viscount Grandison - Self-aggrandizement of the Recusants - Henry Gary, Viscount Falkland appointed Lord Deputy - Ussher's Remarkable Sermon - Fateful Measures in connection with the Army - Progress of the Plantation in Ulster - Death of James I.

In August, 1616, Sir Oliver St. John, who had been ten years Master of the Ordnance in Ireland, was appointed Lord Deputy. Before his appointment he had a seat in the Irish Parliament as member for Roscommon, and in the session of 1615 unsuccessfully endeavoured to have Guy Fawkes's day made a religious festival. He was known to be bitterly opposed to Roman Catholicism, and his appointment was looked upon by the recusants as a measure of hostility towards their party, and became the signal for fresh clamours and discontents. He was sworn in on 3oth August, after a learned sermon delivered in St. Patrick's Cathedral by the celebrated James Ussher, then Protestant Bishop of Meath, soon after made Archbishop of Armagh. The sermon finished, the Lord Treasurer's white staff was handed to the new Lord Treasurer, Baron Chichester of Belfast, "who with all humility upon his knees received the same".

St. John's first proceedings seemed to justify the apprehensions of the recusants. He began with a vigorous execution of the penal statutes. The seditious practices of the popish regulars, priests generally educated abroad, and actuated by a determined hostility towards the English Government, had given frequent uneasiness to it, and they had been an oppressive weight upon the poorer classes of the Irish Catholics. Early in the new administration a proclamation appeared, banishing this class of the clergy from Ireland. This was declared to be, especially upon the Continent, an intolerable act of persecution. At this state of things Carew appears to have rejoiced. "God", said he, "I hope will prosper these good beginnings, which tend only to His praise and glory, and to the assurance of obedience unto His Majesty." One result of these good beginnings was that half Ireland was incarcerated.

Worse than this was the case when the magistrates of cities and officers of justice were called upon to take the oath of supremacy, and when, on their refusal, the penalties ordained by the law in such cases were strictly enforced, and it was reported that "over eighty" of the best sort of "citizens" in Dublin and elsewhere were in prison. There was much trouble in the south of Ireland, which affected the north in some measure, inasmuch as all eyes were on the King, watching the extension of his methods of plantation. What was true of the south was equally true with regard to Ulster. The plantation scheme, in being carried into effect, had driven "from their well-established and ancient possession harmless poor natives, encumbered with many children and with no powerful friends". "They have", said a contemporary, "no wealth but flocks and herds, they know no trade but agriculture or pasture, they are unlearned men without human help or protection. Yet," said this warning voice, "though unarmed, they are so active in mind and body that it is dangerous to drive them from their ancestral seats, to forbid them fire and water; thus driving the desperate to revenge, and even the more moderate to thinking of taking arms. They have been deprived of weapons, but are in a temper to fight with nails and heels and to tear their oppressors with their teeth.

"Necessity gives the greatest strength and courage, nor is there any sharper spear than that of despair. Since these . . . men, and others like them, see themselves excluded from all hopes of restitution or compensation, and are so constituted that they would rather starve upon husks at home than fare sumptuously elsewhere, they will fight for their altars and hearths, and rather seek a bloody death near the sepulchres of their fathers than be buried in unknown earth or inhospitable sand."

In consequence of this system of depriving men of home and hearth, outlaws were on the increase. In the autumn of 1619 the Viceroy reported that 300 outlaws had been killed, most of them doubtless in the hills between Tyrone and Londonderry. St. John also reported that the country was full of "the younger sons of gentlemen, who have no means of living and will not work".

St. John, who had provoked many enemies by the zeal which he displayed in enquiring into irregularities, had now an outcry raised against him from a quarter from which it might be least expected. Some leading members of the State having usurped lands belonging to the Church, the Lord Deputy compelled their restoration, whereupon the guilty parties immediately joined the recusants in attacking St. John. This combined outcry at length induced the King to appoint a commission to inspect the state of Ireland and the irregularities of its administration; and at the urgent intercession of his enemies, who represented that the commission could have no effect while the person into whose conduct enquiry was to be made remained at the head of the Government, St. John was deprived of his office in 1622, and rewarded by the King who agreed with Bacon, that he was "a man ordained by God to do great good " to Ireland with the Irish title of Viscount Grandison, and the office of Lord-Treasurer of that kingdom, and that of a privy councillor in both.

Grandison left Ireland on 4th May, and the Commissioners arrived about the same time. His zeal for the army was such that he frequently called attention to the fact that, though the pay of the soldiers was two years and a half in arrear, the men behaved in an exemplary manner, notwithstanding their sufferings, their "tottered carcasses, lean cheeks, and broken hearts". "I know", he said, "that I shall be followed with a thousand curses and leave behind me an opinion that my unworthiness or want of credit has been the cause of leaving the army in worse state than ever any of my predecessors before have done."

The commission appears to have been, in its result, little better than a nominal one; but the recusants exulted in the recall of Grandison as a signal triumph over the Protestant party, and they began to act with greater independence than ever.

In the towns where their power was greatest they seized upon the churches and celebrated mass in them, and they even began to restore the abbeys. They were, however, obliged to submit to a signal mortification when, on Henry Gary, lately created Viscount Falkland in Scotland, being sent over as Grandison's successor, Ussher preached before the new Lord Deputy a sermon which was virtually a violent diatribe against them. Taking as his text the words of St. Paul: "He beareth not the sword in vain", the Bishop of Meath urged that it was necessary to place some restraint on the Catholics, to deter them from these public outbreaks of insolence and outrage.

This raised further protestations from the recusants, who declared Ussher to be a bloody minister, urging upon the civil chief magistrate the need to persecute and massacre, for the sake of religion, His Majesty's loyal subjects. Ussher's language was condemned by Hampton, the aged Protestant Primate of Armagh, in language "the mildness of which", says the Rev. Dr. D'Alton, the historian, "was not unworthy of an Apostle"; whereupon Ussher, recognizing the truth of the Primate's reminder to him that his proper weapons were not carnal but spiritual, took the opportunity of a sermon he was called upon to address to an assembly of non-conforming magistrates in Dublin Castle to explain away what he had said about the sword, and stated that he deprecated violence, and "wished that effusion of blood might be held rather the badge of the whore of Babylon than of the Church of God".

"We do good by speaking it," said Walter Savage Landor, and the converse is equally true. Ussher did evil by giving voice to it. The result of his words is seen in the report that at Cavan and Granard, when the Catholics had assembled for worship, Captain Arthur Forbes stated that, unless he knew for certain that the King wished for toleration, he would "make the antiphonie of their mass be sung with sound of musket". At the same time it must be remembered that some priests actually prayed in public for "Philip of Spain our King".

While the general feeling of discontent was thus increasing, James, with singular improvidence, had reduced the army in Ireland to a merely nominal force, and even this was scattered over the country in such small companies as to be useless in case of emergency. Instead of being regularly trained and mustered, the bulk of the army were left to the will of officers who were in many cases not in a position to be responsible for the welfare of their men. Officers who were Irish landlords employed their men in the cultivation of the land or as menial servants in their houses; while the others, who were, as we have seen, left in long arrears of pay, were obliged to connive at the lack of discipline, and the outrages committed by soldiers who also were left unpaid by the State. The prodigality and consequent pecuniary necessities of James forced him thus to neglect the defences of the Government in Ireland, and the seeming humiliation of the old rebellious septs seemed on the surface to justify his negligence.

Another equally imprudent measure led to future evils of a serious character, and proved at the time the necessity for placing a more efficient force at the disposal of the Government, for it had been pointed out that not more than 750 effective men would be available in case of insurrection. The error was that James, in his eagerness to clear the country, and Ulster especially, of idle swordsmen and land- less men, gave permission to such of them as were willing to leave Ireland to enlist in foreign service. By so doing he practically raised an army against himself, for the officers whose services were requisitioned to raise companies of men and conduct them to the Continent were chiefly sons or retainers of old rebel chiefs, and, having followed them into exile, had been educated abroad in exaggerated ideas of the former power and opulence of their' forefathers, and in inveterate hatred of all things British.

These officers, to make up their levies, arrived in Ulster early in the summer of 1623, and lost no time in filling up their companies, which was no sooner done than the Government saw the danger of thus placing arms in the hands of old enemies, and became alarmed. When their levies were completed the Irish officers paid no further attention to the orders or limits prescribed to them, but, in defiance of the authorities, ranged through the kingdom, to the great detriment of all and annoyance of lovers of peace and order.

With much insolence they traversed those counties in which their old family connections were most powerful, and allied themselves with the disaffected and discontented, confirming their old sympathies, and carrying away the young to be educated abroad. At the approach of winter, still exhibiting no inclination to embark, they advanced with their men, in separate companies, towards the Pale, burdening and harassing the country, and causing the greatest alarm to the citizens of Dublin. An effort was made to collect the forces of the Government, by whom it was arranged, at the eleventh hour, that the number of horse was to be increased from 230 to 400, and of foot from 1450 to 3600. Small companies were sent to secure the outlying counties, and some troops of horse were quartered in Dublin to keep a watch over the Irish companies. At length, after causing no little anxiety, the Irish recruits embarked, and, to the great satisfaction of the Government, left the country.

The plantation in Ulster now proved that many of the inhabitants were tired of disorder. Sir William Jones being made Chief Justice of Ireland, Lord Keeper Bacon advised him to "have special care of the three plantations that of the North which is in part acted, that of Wexford which is now in distribution, and that of Longford and Leitrim which is now in survey." And added in words already quoted, "take it from me that the bane of a plantation is, when the undertakers or planters make such haste to a little mechanical present profit, as disturbeth the whole frame and nobleness of the work for times to come. Therefore hold them to their covenants, and the strict ordinances of plantation."

A new survey of the planted area was requested by some of the undertakers, because many that formerly "agreed to this . . . plantation now absolutely dislike thereof, and of their proportions assigned to them in lieu of their other possessions taken from them, for that, as they affirm, their proportions assigned are not so many acres as they are rated to them, and because the acres taken from them are far more in number than they be surveyed at. ..." At the end of 1612, James authorized the Lord Deputy to receive the surrender of the natives and to make " re-grants to such of them as he should think fit such quantities of land and at such rent and upon such conditions as he should think fit".

James I died on the 27th March, 1625. Lauded by some as the British Solomon, he was also called the wisest fool in Christendom. Extremes met in his character, which has been admirably dissected by Sir Walter Scott in The Fortunes of Nigel. He was certainly not happy in his government of Ireland, for his rule in that unhappy country consisted largely of wholesale plunder, oppression, and persecution of the Irish. Some of the minor crimes of James's government against the Irish have thus been summed up by Leland, a by no means prejudiced historian: "Extortions and oppressions of the soldiers in various excursions from their quarters, for levying the King's rents, or supporting the civil power; a rigorous and tyrannical execution of martial law in time of peace; a dangerous and unconstitutional power assumed by the Privy Council in deciding causes determinable by common law; the severe treatment of witnesses and jurors in the Castle-chamber, whose evidence or verdicts had been displeasing to the State; the grievous exaction of the established clergy for the occasional duties of their functions; and the severity of the ecclesiastical courts". As to the punishment of jurors, it was laid down as a principle by Chichester that the proper tribunal to punish those who would not find for the Crown on "sufficient evidence" was the Castle,, or Star Chamber; sometimes they were "pilloried with loss of ears and bored through the tongue, and sometimes marked on the forehead with a hot iron".

The ordinary principles of justice were set at naught; perjury, fraud, and the most infamous acts of deceit were resorted to; and, as Leland states: "There are not wanting proofs of the most iniquitous practices of hardened cruelty, of vile perjury, and scandalous subornation employed to despoil the fair and unfortunate proprietor of his inheritance".

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