Introduction of the Linen
Industry into Ulster - The Scottish Covenanters - Sympathy with them in
Ulster - The Earl of Antrim's Proposals - Fears of a Scottish Invasion -
The "Black Oath" - The Lord Deputy depletes Derry - A New Parliament
votes Generous Supplies - Declarations of Loyalty - Wentworth rewarded
with the Earldom of Strafford - He raises an Irish Army - His Good
Opinion of the Irish People.
Many of the acts of
Wentworth, our attention being devoted to Ulster, do not concern us. His methods of government, being applied to the whole country, have been dwelt upon on account of their affecting Ulster as well as the other provinces, and as showing the general trend of events.
In one particular
Wentworth's actions greatly influenced the well-being of the northern province: he introduced "the making and trade of linen cloth", "the rather", he wrote, "in regard the women are all naturally bred to spinning, that the Irish earth is apt for bearing of flax, and that this manufacture
would be in the conclusion rather a benefit than other to this kingdom. I have, therefore," he adds, "sent for the flax seed into Holland, being of a better sort than we have any, sown this year a thousand pounds' worth of it (finding by some I sowed last year that it takes there very well); I have sent for workmen out of the Low Countries and forth of France, and set up already six or seven looms, which if it please God to bless us this year, I trust so to invite them to follow it, when they see the great profit arising thereby, as that they shall generally take to it, and employ themselves that way, which if they do, I am confident it will prove a mighty business, considering that in all probability we shall be able to undersell the linen cloths of Holland and France at least twenty in the hundred." Thus Ulster owes to the government of Wentworth the establishment of one of her most important manufactures, the Deputy himself contributing £30,000 out
of his private fortune towards the experiment.
Such were the arts of
Peace in Ulster, the arts of War were soon to be displayed. It will be remembered that Chichester, in a desperate attempt to clear the country of idle swordsmen and youths who would not work, shipped them away to Sweden, and that later, in James's time, recruiting in Ireland by rulers on the Continent was permitted. The evil
results of this laxity were now evident. The descendants of the old native Irish chiefs, now men of broken fortunes and ready to follow any desperate courses that held out hopes of recovering them, conspired together, and communicated with their kinsmen serving in the armies of Sweden, Spain, and elsewhere.
Wentworth, from the day
he was appointed Lord Deputy, had looked with alarm at the policy of the preceding reign, and he more than once expressed his belief that the men who thus in foreign warfare became experienced soldiers would one day return to be dangerous enemies at home. Intelligence reached him of some Irish "that nest them- selves in Flanders", who "hold intelligence and correspondence with
their countrymen in Ulster, and continually practise and plot their return by arms".
The troubles in Scotland
at this time (1638), caused by attempts to enforce uniformity in religious doctrines, produced much
agitation in Ulster, which contained a large proportion of Scots. It was commonly reported in England that the Scots in Ulster amounted to 40,000, and that they were in close communication with their brethren in Scotland, and were prepared to support them in their resistance to Charles's plan of forcing English church government on his northern subjects.
The extent of this
agitation may be gathered from a letter written to Wentworth on the i8th of October, 1638, by Henry Leslie, Bishop of Down, in which the writer says: "Since His Majesty hath been pleased to condescend so far unto them in Scotland by his last proclamation, against which, notwithstanding, they have protested, there is such insulting amongst them here, that they make me weary of my life. . My officers have been lately beaten in open court. . . . They do threaten me for my life; but, by the grace of God, all their brags shall never make me faint in doing service to God and the King."
The Lord Deputy could not
fail to be alarmed at the agitation in Ulster, and his uneasiness was now increased by an appeal for arms from a hot-headed, irresponsible nobleman. In the last rebellion in the north the Scottish-Hibernian clan of the MacDonnells, or MacDonalds, had rendered considerable service to the Crown, and, as we have seen, their chief, Randal MacSorley MacDonald, in recognition of these
services, had been granted large tracts of forfeited lands in Ulster,
had been created Viscount Dunluce by James, and, later, was raised by Charles to the Earldom of Antrim. The son of this chief, also a Randal, was on his father's side a descendant of the famous Sorley Boy, and he was a grandson of Hugh, Earl of Tyrone, his mother having been a daughter of that great Irish chieftain.
Antrim, though educated
in England and married to the widow of Buckingham, had been "bred in the Highland way, and wore neither hat, cap, shoes, nor stockings till seven or eight years old", and a Highlander he remained to the end. On the Scots assuming an attitude hostile to the Crown, Antrim declared that the Earl of Argyll threatened to attack his estates, and he begged both Charles and Wentworth to supply him with arms, "to be kept in a store-house in Coleraine, because it would be too far for me and my tenants to send to Knockfergus if there were any sudden invasion".
As Antrim was a favourite
of the Queen, Charles acquiesced, and requested Wentworth to favour the
Earl, who was a Roman Catholic, "as much as any one of his profession in religion". When Antrim repaired to Dublin Castle and saw the Lord Deputy in pursuance of his request, "I desired to know", said Wentworth, "what provision of victual his lordship had thought of, which for so great a number of men "(Antrim had asked for 20,000)" would require a great sum of money. His lordship said he had not made any at all, in regard he conceived they should find sufficient in the enemy's country to sustain them, only his lordship proposed to transport over with him ten thousand live cows to furnish them with milk, which he affirmed had been his grandfather's play." The absurdity of Antrim's proposal may be gauged from the fact that he stated that, when all other resources failed, his men could "feed their horses with leaves of trees, and themselves with shamrocks". His proposal therefore came to naught.
The fear of a Scottish
invasion of Ulster was universal. The Scottish Covenanters held Wentworth to be their most formidable enemy, and the Lord Deputy was well aware of the fact. As a safeguard the Viceroy proposed that the Scot- tish Covenant should be met by a new and very stringent oath, whereby the Scots of Ulster should be bound not only to obey the King implicitly, but to renounce all other covenants. To
this proposal, notwithstanding the fact that such an oath, having no Parliamentary sanction, was illegal, Charles gladly assented. The oath, which is still known in Ulster as the Black Oath, was enforced by royal prerogative only, and it registers the low-water mark of liberty of thought under the English constitution.
The manner in which the
Black Oath was exacted was very reprehensible. Some took the oath under
compulsion; others, forsaking their farms and cattle, hid themselves in
the forests to avoid taking it; while a large number fled to Scotland.
The Roman Catholics had many grievances, but they were not required to
take the Black Oath, and thus escaped an ordeal to which all their
Scottish neighbours in Ireland were subjected. "We are content'*, said one, "with our advantage that my Lord Deputy permits to go out under his patronage that desperate doctrine of absolute submission to princes; that notwithstanding all our laws, yet our whole estate may no more oppose the prince's deed, if he should play all the pranks of Nero, than the poorest slave at Constantinople may resist the tyranny of the Great Turk."
The Earl of Argyll now
sent agents to incite the Scots of Ulster to rise in the cause of the Covenant; but the ships on which they embarked were taken, and a plot to betray the castle of Carrickfergus into the hands of the Scots was discovered in time, and the principal agent in the plot executed.
But whatever else the
Lord Deputy might have in hand, he was always on the look-out for money
wherewith to replenish the Exchequer. Casting about for some new source
from which to add to the revenue, which he had already increased by his
skilful methods to an annual sum of ;8o,ooo, Wentworth bethought him of
the Ulster Plantations; and having his attention drawn especially to
Londonderry by the complaints of Sir Thomas Phillips of Limavady, he found that the great Corporation had not fulfilled the law's requirements, and he therefore commenced Star Chamber proceedings against the Corporation of London. The matter occupied the attention of the Court for three years, when, after an offer from the Londoners of
£30,000 to close the case, which was refused, the matter ended by the charter being declared forfeited and a fine of
£70,000 being imposed.
"The Londoners", wrote
Howell, that charming gossip, 4 'have not been so forward in collecting the ship-money, since they have been taught to sing heigh-down-derry, and many of them will not pay till after imprisonment, that it may stand upon record they were forced to it. The assessments have been
wonderfully unequal and unproportionable, which is very ill taken, it being conceived they did it on purpose to raise clamour through the city."
Wentworth now suggested
to the King that His Majesty should "be pleased to reserve" Londonderry "entire to yourself, it might
prove a fit part of an appanage for our young master the Duke of York. It may be made a seigniory not altogether unworthy His Highness; and for so good a purpose I should
labour night and day, and think all I could do, little." James Duke of York's experience of Derry proved to be of a different kind to that thus proposed.
Matters proceeded thus
until in 1640 we find another Irish Parliament appealed to for subsidies, under the pressure of the Scottish rebellion, and a voluntary contribution, headed by ^20,000 from Wentworth himself, raised to meet the immediate wants of
the King. Though not a warm nor generous patron, Charles could not fail to recognize so much devotedness on the
part of Wentworth, and accordingly he was rewarded, on the i2th of January, 1640, with the titles of Baron Raby, of Raby Castle, in the County of Durham, and Earl of Strafford. He was shortly afterwards elected a Knight of the Garter, and was invested with the higher dignity of Lord - Lieutenant of Ireland, a title which had not been bestowed on any Governor of Ireland since Devonshire's time.
As on the previous
occasion, the Irish Parliament was loyal and liberal in the extreme, and voted four entire subsidies, some
of the members protesting, with characteristic warmth, that six or seven more ought to be given, and others declaring that their "hearts contained mines of subsidies for His Majesty".
The temper of this
Parliament is somewhat puzzling, for we learn from the Report of the Privy Council that the members seemed
"in a manner to contend one with another who should show most affection and forwardness to comply with His Majesty's occasions, and all of them expressing, even with passion, how much they abhor and detest the Scotch Covenanters, and how readily every man's hand ought to be laid to his sword, to assist the King in the reducing of them by force to the obedience and loyalty of subjects. ..."
The Lords exhibited the
same spirit of loyalty as the Commons, and, on the motion of the Earl of Ormonde, they passed a resolution to congratulate the Lower House on the temper it had shown in this pressing emergency, and to signify the desire that both Houses should join in the declaration. They proposed to appoint a conference to arrive at some agreement for joint action by the two branches of the Irish legislature.
The Commons, however,
became suddenly jealous of their privileges; it was their sole right to grant money, and they refused to comply with any form which might imply an acknowledgment that the Upper House had shared in the merit of the grant.
The Lords now determined
not to be behindhand in professions of zeal and loyalty, and therefore
published a separate declaration of their devotion to the royal cause, similar in substance to that issued by the House of Commons; and thus both Houses expressed like sentiments "published in print for a testimony to all the world and succeeding ages that as this kingdom hath the happiness to be governed by the best of kings", so therefore "they are desirous to give His Majesty just cause to account of this people amongst the best of his subjects".
Strafford could now
congratulate himself on the success of his efforts to serve the Crown,
especially as in the preamble of the Subsidy Bill he had been referred
to as a "just, wise, vigilant, and profitable governor". He still had
enemies, but he contented himself by saying: "God forgive their
calumnies, and I do". He now proceeded to raise an Irish army of 8000
foot and 1000 horse, which were ordered to Ulster on pretence of
garrisons being required for Carrickfergus, Londonderry, and Coleraine. The forces assembled at Carrickfergus, ready to be transported to England; and, having left everything in readiness and appointed his friend, Sir Christopher Wandesford, Lord Deputy, with instructions to collect the subsidies and continue the levies of soldiers, which were made without difficulty, the Lord -Lieutenant hastened over to England, still exulting in what he believed to be the temper of the whole people of Ireland.
"In few words," Strafford
wrote on board ship to Secre- tary Windebank, " I have left that people as fully satisfied, and as well affected to His Majesty's person and service, as can possibly be wished for, notwithstanding the philosophy of some amongst you then in the Court, who must needs have it believed, true or false, that that people are infinitely distasted
with the present Government, and hating of me, which error I can very easily remit unto them, considering, that thereby the truth will be more clearly understood unto all, and in conclusion the shame fall upon themselves."
Strafford's belief in
Irish loyalty is further expressed by his adding: "And this I am able to assure His Majesty, that I find the people as forward to venture their persons, as they had been to open their purses, and enlarge their engagements towards the instant occasion, infinitely disdaining His Majesty should be so insolently proceeded with, and unworthily provoked by those
covenanters: to which only I will add thus much (if truth may be spoken without offence to such as would have it thought to be otherwise), that not only the standing officers and soldiers of that army, but the Irishry themselves also, will go (to speak modestly) as willingly and gladly under my command, as of any other English subject whatsoever".
The truth of the closing
statement was never tested, for the raising of forces in Ireland to join the Royalist troops in a vain attempt to subdue by force the hostility of the powerful Parliamentary party cost both minister and monarch their heads, and the forces raised by Strafford in Ireland never left the country. In raising these troops he was acting contrary to his
oft-expressed opinion that the training of Irish- men as soldiers was a menace to the State. And such it proved to be.