Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The History of Ulster
"Like Master, like Man"

Ulster now a Province without a History - Charles and his Parliaments - Wentworth appointed Lord Deputy - He repairs to Ireland twelve months later - Disgraceful Evasion of the Graces - Wentworth's Efforts to raise Money - His Treatment of the Privy Council - He proposes to call a Parliament - His Secretive Methods - Lord Fingall rebuffed - The Sentiments of a Solitary Man.

The history of Ulster is^iot necessarily confined within the limits of the area known by that name. The history of Ireland, as we have already pointed out, is the history of each of the four provinces; but it must be admitted that of the four provinces, even when geographically considered, Ulster has the most imposing record of stirring events, and Con- naught the least. This, no doubt, springs from the fact that Connaught's seaboard is on the broad Atlantic, "perilous seas" to the small craft of bygone days; while the shores of Antrim and Down and Deny, with their landlocked harbours of Loughs Foyle and Swilly, with what is now known as Belfast Lough and Carlingford Lough, made safe ridings for the ships of all nations, and especially for those manned by the Scots, who spoke in a tongue closely allied to that of the Irish.

The upheavals in Ulster in James's reign had the result of making Ulster in the reign of Charles a province without a history. Ulster was too busy settling down and becoming reconciled to the new state of things ; but she was nevertheless but a slumbering volcano, soon to burst forth into torrential life, and thus make up for years of seeming sleep. At the moment, however, Ulster was dormant.

In the meanwhile England was wide-awake. Charles, having inherited many difficulties and embarrassments through his father's misrule, had entered upon a policy of coercion, and had provoked thereby a stern spirit of resistance. Two Parliaments, on account of the courage with which they had opposed the encroachments of the Crown, had, without passing a law or granting a subsidy, been dissolved, and the King, to supply his necessities, had had recourse to unconstitutional measures.

A third Parliament had forced from Charles the Petition of Right; but it also, on account of its want of subserviency, had been dissolved, the King announcing his intention of governing by prerogative, and never again embarrassing himself by appeals to Parliament. The spirit of resistance now spread over the whole island, and the agitation which manifested itself so violently in England could not fail to find its echo in Ireland.

Charles now came to the conclusion that some of the Graces interfered with the free exercise of his prerogative, and he resolved that they should not be confirmed. He determined, in addition, not only to discard the Graces, but to extort the continuation of the promised subsidy, and to reduce Ireland to a more close conformity to England. Various circumstances encouraged him in the design of trying the experiment in Ireland of carrying the exercise of the prerogative to a greater extent than he could hope at first to succeed in doing in England, and for this purpose he required a minister of stern, not to say unscrupulous, character, who would be nothing daunted by difficulties or by danger. Such a minister Charles found in Thomas, Viscount Wentworth.

Although the King's intention was known for some time previously, the appointment of Wentworth did not take place until the beginning of 1632, when, in making the announcement, Charles requested a detailed statement from the Lords Justices of receipts and expenditure, and also one regarding the state of the army. Lord Wilmot replied to the latter request by stating that the army consisted of 2000 horse and 400 foot, distributed in companies of 50. He also gave it as his opinion that it would be dangerous to reduce this small force, for, "such as they are, they give countenance unto justice itself, and are the only comfort that the poor English undertakers live by, and at this hour the King's revenues are not timely brought in but by force of soldiers . . . out of long experience I have seen these people are ready to take the bit in their teeth upon all advantages, as any people living, although they pay for it, as many times as they have done before, with all they are worth".

Although appointed Lord Deputy early in 1632, the beginning of 1633 did not find Wentworth in Ireland; but with the new year, a certain Mistress Rhodes arrived mysteriously and took up her quarters in Dublin Castle, no title or place being given her until midsummer brought the Deputy, whereupon she took her place by his side as his wife, and was saluted with a kiss by each of the Lords Justices when she was presented to them.

The new ruler of Ireland came with a firm resolve to establish the principles of government of Charles, and be an exponent of the ecclesiastical maxims of Archbishop Laud. He was given unusually extensive powers, and made an express stipulation that no appeal from his judgment should be admitted by the English courts. His chief object was, however, to make Ireland do what she had never yet done give pecuniary assistance to the English Crown.

The new methods by which the country was to be governed may be gathered from the reply sent by the King upon learning that the Council had informed the Lord Treasurer "that all sorts of men, as well British as natives, had so far declared averseness and impatience in the payment of the contributions toward the payment of the army, and resolution to withstand the continuance thereof without respect to any consequence, or opening ear to any persuasions, that they conceived it a work impossible and beyond any industry to continue those levies longer than the three subsidies are in paying, without much hazard and danger to the State and peace of the King's affairs there".

Charles declared such a statement to be "very strange", and added, "nevertheless we may and do still justly hope for better endeavours and affections, as well from you our ministers, as from our subjects there in general, especially considering that our army is, as you write, not at all as formerly burdensome unto them, that they enjoy in a large manner the protection and care of our just and peaceable government, and that they have largely tasted of our acts of Grace and bounty when the Agents last attended us about the affairs of that kingdom, and ever since".

This was the first direct intimation that Charles now determined to look upon the Graces as merely temporary concessions, and it is coupled with the threat of treating them as such. "But seeing you conceive there is so much difficulty in the settlement of the payments, and considering the small hopes you mention in your letters of further improvement there, we must be constrained, if they be not freely and thankfully continued, to streighten our former Graces vouchsafed during those contributions, and make use more strictly of our legal rights and profits".

And further to terrorize the Roman Catholics, from whom naturally he expected most opposition, the King announced his intention to rigorously enforce the obnoxious fine for irregular attendance at church. "We approve", wrote His Majesty, "that this business may be presently put into such a state, as that the monies which shall by that means grow due unto us may be ready to be levied by Michaelmas next, albeit we are purposed for the present in this also to follow your counsel, and not to levy or seize any man's goods for the duty before the said subsidies be determined. And as the best and surest way to bring this business to effect, we do hereby authorize and require you forthwith to assemble our Council there, and with their privity to cause presentments to be duly made through the whole kingdom, according as the law you maintain doth appoint, which we expect shall be finished by the going over of our deputy, who shall be fully instructed to make use and proceed therein according as we shall by that time resolve upon."

Wentworth arrived in Dublin on 23rd July, and two days later was handed the sword in the Council Chamber, Cork declaring: "I for my part did most willing surrender the sword, the rather in regard the kingdom was yielded up in general peace and plenty". The new Deputy's opinion of his subordinates was not flattering. "I find them in this place", he reported, "a company of men the most intent upon their own hands that ever I met with, and so as those speed, they consider other things at a very great distance." The Viceroy was determined that the "great revenue, which His Majesty's affairs cannot subsist without", should be continued, and he was fully prepared, if he found any "wanton and saucy boldness", to deal severely with the recusants, and, if necessary, "lay it on them soundly".

Having been in office for seven days, Wentworth summoned the Council to consider how money could be raised for the payment of the army ; when it was proposed by Sir Adam Loftus, of Rathfarnham, that the voluntary contribution should be continued for another twelve months. The Deputy then asked Sir William Parsons, the Master of the Wards (whom he found to be "the driest of all the company"), for an expression of opinion. Sir William's reply proving to be particularly arid and unsatisfactory to the Viceroy, he determined to adopt his royal master's methods, 4 'which was plainly to declare that there was no necessity which induced me to take them to council in this business, for rather than fail in so necessary a duty to my master, I would undertake upon the peril of my head to make the King's army able to subsist, and to provide for itself amongst them without their help". At the same time he suggested a Parliament, not only for supply, but for the settlement of disputed titles, and for this all expressed their desire. "They are so terribly afraid", wrote Wentworth, "that the contribution money should be set as an annual charge upon their inheritances, as they would redeem it at any rate, so as, upon the name of a Parliament thus proposed, it was something strange to see how instantly they gave consent to this proposition, with all the cheerfulness possible. . . ."

There were many reasons in favour of calling a Parliament at this moment. But the one which weighed the most with Wentworth was the prospect of obtaining an equivalent for the voluntary contribution and an increase in the revenue. He had secured the contribution until the end of the year 1634 (which was now commencing), and he calculated that, by calling the Parliament in Easter or Trinity term, now approaching, the Crown had its Irish revenue secured for some months, in case the legislative body should prove unruly, and thus he would have time to lay down plans for the future.

As Wentworth did not consider it expedient to permit an unconditional confirmation of the Graces, many of which were now held to be not sufficiently advantageous to the prerogative, he proposed to the King that the Parliament should be divided into two sessions, one of which, held immediately on its assembling, was to be occupied only with the question of supplies, and the second, to be held in the following winter, for considering the other business of the State.

This was Charles's favourite method in dealing with his English Parliaments, and he therefore fully approved of it as applied to Ireland, but urged that the plan should be kept secret until the supplies were obtained, so that the Parliament might be induced more readily to hasten over such preliminaries in order to proceed with their grievances.

Charles's opinion of Parliaments is well known, but of his duplicity there is no better evidence than that contained in his private letter to Wentworth, in which, writing about the pro- posed Parliament in Dublin, he says: "As for that hydra, take good heed; for you know, that here I have found it as well cunning as malicious. It is true that your grounds are well laid, and I assure you that I have a great trust in your care and judgment; yet my opinion is, that it will not be worse for my service, though their obstinacy make you break them, for I fear that they have some ground to demand more than it is fit for me to give."

Lords and Commons being alike interested in the holding of the proposed Parliament, and there being an unprecedented mystery with regard to it, all parties commenced to agitate, and the Privy Council began to discuss the question of supplies and subsidies, asking at the same time to be enlightened as to the nature of the Bills which were to be brought forward; whereupon they were silenced "by a direct and round answer" to mind their own business and leave everything to the King.

Lord Fingall, who called at the Castle a little later for information on the same subject, the Lords having "been accustomed to be consulted before those meetings", fared no better, for his lordship received "a quick answer" to the effect that "His Majesty might judge it, with some more reason, a high presumption in him or any other private man to elect themselves inquisitors over his gracious purposes towards his subjects. . . ."Whereupon Fingall, "a little out of countenance" at this new aspect of affairs, excused himself by saying that he merely called to remind the Lord Deputy of former practice in such circumstances, and that Lord Falkland had summoned the Lords of the Pale in like case. "My answer", said Wentworth, "was, my lord of Falkland should be no rule in this for me, much less than for my great master, to follow; that I advised his lordship, therefore, not to busy his thoughts with matters of this nature, but leaving them to the King and such as he should please to entrust therewith, to rest assured he should in convenient time be acquainted with as much of His Majesty's resolutions as should be fit for him to know, wherewithal he either ought or must rest satisfied; so we parted."

Wentworth now set himself to securing a majority; every important man whom he could influence found his way into the House of Commons. Sir William Parsons sat for the county, and Sir George Radcliffe, the Deputy's cousin, for the city of Armagh, and Captain Charles Price sat for Belfast. Then, as now, "the priests and Jesuits" were "very busy in the election of knights and burgesses", calling "the people to their masses", and there charging "them on pain of excommunication to give their voices to no Protestant". When the elections were over it was found that the Viceroy's exertions had not been in vain, and that a House of Commons had been returned in which the Crown had a considerable majority.

Thus, in spite of all opposition, Wentworth had his way. Half his strength lay in his secretiveness, for he deemed no- thing "more prejudicial to the good success of these affairs than their being understood aforehand by them here. So prejudicial I hold it indeed, that on my faith there is not a minister on this side who knows anything I either write or intend, excepting the Master of the Rolls and Sir George Radcliffe, for whose assistance in this government and com- fort to myself amidst this generation I am not able sufficiently to pour forth my humble acknowledgments to His Majesty. Sure I were the most solitary man without them that ever served a King in such a place."

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus