Irish Race in the Past and the Present
Aug. J. Thebaud

Part 5 out of 14

-(Four Masters.)

"A.D. 1178. The English built and fortified a castle at Kenlis,
the key of those parts of Meath, against the incursions of the
Ulster men."--(Ware's Antiquities.)

"A.D. 1180. Hugh De Lacy planted several colonies in Meath, and
fortified the country with many castles, for the defence and
security of the English."--(Ibid.)

Such enumerations might be prolonged indefinitely; we conclude
with the following entry taken from the Four Masters:

"A.D. 1186. Hugh De Lacy, the profaner and destroyer of many
churches, Lord of the English of Meath (the Irish cannot call
him their lord), Breffni, and Oirghialla, he who had conquered
the greater part of Ireland for the English, and of whose
English castles all Meath, from the Shannon to the sea, was full,
after having finished the castle of Der Magh, set out
accompanied by three Englishmen to visit it . . . . One of the
men of Tebtha, a youth named O'Miadhaigh, approached him, and
with an axe severed his head from his body."

So wide-reaching and comprehensive was the plan of the invaders
from the beginning that they felt confident of holding
possession of Ireland forever; and to effect this they must
certainly have intended to destroy or drive out the native race,
or at best to make slaves of as many of them as they chose to
keep. Thus they had prophecies manufactured for the purpose, and
Cambrensis, in his second book, chapter xxxiii., says
confidently: "Prophecies promise a full victory to the English
people. . . . and that the island of Hibernia shall be subjected
and fortified with castles--literally incastellated,
incastellatam--throughout from sea to sea."

Meanwhile, together with the building of castles, the partition
of the territory was being carried out. The ten great lords,
among whom, according to Sir John Davies, Henry II. had
cantonized Ireland, saw the necessity of giving a part of their
large estates to their followers that so they might occupy the
whole. McGeohegan compiles from Ware the best view of this very
interesting and comparatively unexplored subject. Curious
details are found there, showing that, with the exception of
Ulster, not only the geography, but even the most minute
topography of the country, had been well studied by those feudal
chieftains. Their characteristic love for system runs all
through these transactions.

But the Irish had now seen enough. The whole country was in a
blaze. That kind of guerilla war peculiar to the Celtic clans
began. The newly built castles were attacked and often captured
and destroyed. Strongbow was shut up and besieged in Water- ford,
which fell into the hands of the Danes. The latter sided
everywhere with the Irish. Limerick changed hands several times,
until Donnall O'Brian, who was left in possession, set fire to
it rather than see it fall again into the hands of the invaders.

In Meath, where the numerous castles of De Lacy were situated, a
war to the knife was being waged. O'Melachlin first tried
persuasion, but in conference with De Lacy he dared inveigh
loudly against the King of England, and, as his words must have
expressed the feelings of the great majority of the people, we
give them:

"Notwithstanding his promise of supporting me in the possession
of my wealth and dignities, he has sent robbers to invade my
patrimony. Avaricious and sparing of his own possessions, he is
lavish of those of others, and thus enriches libertines and
profligates who have consumed the patrimony of their fathers in

This manly protest was answered by the stroke of a dagger from
the hand of Raymond Legros, and, after being beheaded,
0'Melachlin was buried feet upward as a rebel.

The monarch himself, Roderic O'Connor, finally appeared on the
scene, beat the English at Thurles, and, marching into Meath,
laid the country waste.

Henry at last saw the necessity of adopting a milder policy, and
O'Connor dispatching to England Catholicus O'Duffy, Archbishop
of Tuam, Lawrence O'Toole, of Dublin, and Concors, Abbot of St.
Brendan, the Treaty of Windsor was concluded, which was really a
compromise, and yet remained the true law of the land for four
hundred years. It may be seen in Rymer's "Foedera."

Sir John Davies justly remarks that by the treaty "the Irish
lords only promised to become tributaries to King Henry II.; and
such as pay only tribute, though they are placed by Bodin in the
first degree of subjection, yet are not properly subjects, but
sovereigns; for though they be less and inferior to the princes
to whom they pay tribute, yet they hold all other points of

"And, therefore, though King Henry had the title of Sovereign
Lord over the Irish, yet did he not put those things in
execution, which are the true marks of sovereignty.

"For to give laws unto a people, to institute magistrates and
officers over them, to punish or pardon malefactors, to have the
sole authority of making war or peace, are the true marks of
sovereignty, which King Henry II. had not in Ireland, but the
Irish lords did still retain all those prerogatives to
themselves. For they governed their people by the Brehon law;
they appointed their own magistrates and officers; . . . . they
made war and peace one with another, without control; and this
they did not only during the reign of Henry II., but afterward
in all times, even until the reign of Queen Elizabeth."

By an article of the treaty the Irish were allowed to live in
the Pale if they chose; and even there they could enjoy their
customs in peace, as far as the letter of the law went. Many
acts of Irish parliaments, it is true, were passed for the
purpose of depriving them of that right, but without success.

Edmund Spenser, himself living in the Pale in the reign of
Elizabeth, speaks as an eye-witness of "having seen their meeton
their ancient accustomed hills, where they debated and settled
matters according to the Brehon laws, between family and family,
township and township, assembling in large numbers, and going,
according to their custom, all armed."

Stanihurst also, a contemporary of Spenser, had witnessed the
breaking up of those meetings, and seen "the crowds in long
lines, coming down the hills in the wake of each chieftain, he
the proudest that could bring the largest company home to his
evening supper."

Here would be the proper place to speak of the Brehon law, which
remained thus in antagonism to feudal customs for several
centuries. Up to recently, however, only vague notions could be
given of that code. But at this moment antiquarians are revising
and studying it preparatory to publishing the "Senchus Mor" in
which the Irish law is contained. It is known that it existed
previous to the conversion of Ireland to Christianity, and that
the laws of tanistry and of gavelkind, the customs of gossipred
and of fostering, were of pagan origin. Patrick revised the code
and corrected what could not coincide with the Christian
religion. He also introduced into the island many principles of
the Roman civil and canon law, which, without destroying the
peculiarities natural to the Irish character, invested their
code with a more modern and Christian aspect.

Edmund Campian, who afterward died a martyr under Elizabeth,
says, in his "Account of Ireland," written in May, 1571: "They
(the Irish) speak Latin like a vulgar language, learned in their
common schools of leechcraft and law, whereat they begin
children, and hold on sixteen or twenty years, conning by rote
the aphorisms of Hippocrates, and the Civil Institutes, and a
few other parings of these two faculties. I have seen them where
they kept school, ten in some one chamber, grovelling upon
couches of straw, their books at their noses, themselves lying
prostrate, and so to chant out their lessons by piecemeal, being
the most part lusty fellows of twenty-five years and upward."

It was then after studies of from sixteen to twenty years that
the Brehon judge--the great one of a whole sept, or the inferior
one of a single noble family--sat at certain appointed times, in
the open air, on a hill generally, having for his seat clods of
earth, to decide on the various subjects of difference among

Sir James Ware remarks that they were not acquainted with the
laws of England. He might have better said, they preferred their
own, as not coming from cold and pagan Scandinavia, but from the
warm south, the greatest of human law-givers, the jurisconsults
of Old Rome, and the holy expounders of the laws of Christian

What were those laws of England of which Ware speaks? There is
no question here of the common law which came into use in times
posterior to Henry II., and which the English derived chiefly
from the Christian civil and canon law; but of those feudal
enactments, which the Anglo-Normans endeavored to introduce into
Ireland, for the purpose of supplanting the old law and customs
of the natives.

There was, first, the law of territory, if we may so call it, by
which the supreme ruler became really owner of the integral soil,
which he distributed among his great vassals, to be
redistributed by them among inferior vassals.

There was the law of primogeniture, which even to this day
obtains in England, and has brought about in that country since
the days of William the Conqueror, and in Ireland since the
English "plantations" of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
the state of things now so well known to Europe.

There was also the long list of feudal conditions to be observed,
by the fulfilment of which the great barons and their followers
held their lands. For their tenure was liable to homage and
fealty, as understood in the feudal sense, to wardships and
impediments to marriage, to fines for alienations, to what
English legists call primer seizins, rents, reliefs, escheats,
and, finally, forfeitures; this last was at all times more
strictly observed in England than in any other feudal country,
and by its enactments so many noble families have, in the course
of ages, been reduced to beggary, and their chiefs often brought
to the block. English history is filled with such cases.

The law of wardship, by which no minor, heir, or heiress could
have other guardian than the suzerain, and could not marry
without his consent, was at all times a great source of wealth
to the royal exchequer, and a correspondingly heavy tribute laid
on the vassal. So profitable did the English kings find this law,
that they speedily introduced it into Church affairs, every
bishop's see or monastery being considered, at the death of the
incumbent, as a minor, a ward, to be taken care of by the
sovereign, who enjoyed the revenues without bothering himself
particularly with the charges.

There were, finally, the hunting laws, which forbade any man to
hunt or hawk even on his own estate.

Such were the laws of England, which Sir James Ware complains
the Irish did not know.

In signing the treaty of Windsor, the English king had
apparently recognized in the person of Roderic O'Connor, and in
the Irish through him, the chief rights of sovereignty over the
whole island, except Leinster and, perhaps, Meath. But, at the
same time, a passage or two in the treaty concealed a meaning
certainly unperceived by the Irish, but fraught with mischief
and misfortune to their country.

First, Roderic O'Connor acknowledged himself and his successors
as liegemen of the kings of England; in a second place, the
privileges conceded to the Irish were to continue only so long
as they remained faithful to their oath of allegiance. We see
here the same confusion of ideas, which we remarked on the
meaning given to the word homage by either party. The natives of
the island understood to be liegemen and under oath in a sense
conformable to their usual ideas of subordination; the English
invested those words with the feudal meaning.

All the calamities of the four following centuries, and,
consequently, all the horrors of the times subsequent to the
Protestant Reformation, were to be the penalty of that

Let us picture to ourselves two races of men so different as the
Milesian Celts on the one side, and the Scandinavian Norman
French on the other, having concluded such a treaty as that of
Windsor, each side resolved to push its own interpretation to
the bitter end.

The English are in possession of a territory clearly enough
defined, but they are ever on the alert to seize any opportunity
of a real or pretended violation of it, in order to extend their
limits and subjugate the whole island. Yet they are bound to
allow the Brehon Irish to live in their midst, governed by their
own customs and laws. Moreover, they acknowledge that the former
great Irish lords of the very country which they occupy are not
mere Irish, but of noble blood; for, from the beginning, the
English recognized five families of the country, known as the
"five bloods," as pure and noble, in theory at least.

The Irish without the Pale are acknowledged as perfectly
independent, completely beyond English control, with their own
magistrates and laws, even that of war; subject only to tribute.
But, at the same time, this independence is rendered absolutely
insecure by the imposition of conditions, whose meaning is well
known and perfectly understood in all the countries conquered by
the Scandinavians, but utterly beyond the comprehension of the

The consequence is clear: war began with the conclusion of the
treaty--a war which raged for four centuries, until a new and
more powerful incentive to slaughter and desolation showed
itself in the Reformation, ushered in by Henry VIII.

First came a general rebellion. This is the word used by
Ware, when John, a boy of twelve years of age, was dispatched by
his father Henry, with the title of Lord of Ireland, to receive
the submission of various Irish lords at Waterford, where he
landed. "The young English gentlemen," says Cambrensis, who was
a witness of the scene, "used the Irish chieftains with scorn,
because," as he says, "their demeanor was rude and barbarous."
The Irish naturally resented this treatment from a lad, as they
would have resented it from his father; and they retired in
wrath to take up arms and raise the whole land to "rebellion."

This solemn protest was not without effect in Europe. At the
beginning of the reign of Richard I., Clement III., on
appointing, by the king's request, William de Longchamps,
Bishop of Ely, as his legate in England, Wales, and Ireland,
took good care to limit the authority of this prelate to those
parts of Ireland which lay under the jurisdiction of the Earl
of Moreton-- that is, of John, brother to Richard. He had power
to exercise his jurisdiction "in Anglia,, Wallia, et illis
Hiberniae partibus in quibus Joannes Moretonii Comes potestatem
habet et dominium."--(Matth. Paris.) It would seem, then, that
Clement III. knew nothing of the bull of Adrian IV.

The war, as we said, was incessant. England finally so despaired
of conquering the country, that some lords of the court of Henry
VI. caused him to write letters to some of his "Irish enemies,"
urging the latter to effect the conquest of the island in the
king's name. This was assuredly a last resource, which history
has never recorded of any other nation warring on a rival. But
even in this England failed. Those lords--the "Irish enemies" of
King Henry VI.--sent his letters to the Duke of York, then Lord-
Lieutenant, "and published to the world the shame of England."--
(Sir John Davies.)

The result was that, at the end of the reign of Henry VI., the
Irish, in the words of the same author, "became victorious over
all, without blood or sweat; only that little canton of land,
called the English Pale, containing four small shires;
maintained yet a bordering war with the Irish, and retained the
form of English government."

Feudalism was thus reduced in Ireland to the small territory
lying between the Boyne and the Liffey, subject to the constant
annoyance of the O'Moores, O'Byrnes, and O'Cavanaghs. And this
state of affairs continued until the period of the so-called
Reformation in England.

Ireland proved itself then the only spot in Western Europe where
feudal laws and feudal customs could take no root. Through all
other nations of the Continent those laws spread by degrees,
from the countries invaded by the Northmen, into the most
distant parts, modified and mitigated in some instances by the
innate power of resistance left by former institutions. In this
small island alone, where clanship still held its own, feudalism
proved a complete failure. We merely record a fact, suggestive,
indeed, of thought, which proves, if no more, at least that the
Celtic nature is far more persevering and steady of purpose than
is generally supposed.

But a more interesting spectacle still awaits us--that of the
English themselves morally overcome and won over by the example
of their antagonists, renouncing their feudal usages, and
adopting manners which they had at first deemed rude and

The treaty of Windsor, which was subsequently confirmed by many
diplomatic enactments, obliged King Henry III. of England to
address O'Brien of Thomond in the following words: "Rex regi
Thomond salutem." The same English monarch was compelled to give
O'Neill of Ulster the title of Rex, after having used,
inadvertently perhaps, that of Regulus.--(Sir John Davies.) Both
O'Brien and O'Neill lived in the midst of a thickly populated
Irish district, with a few great English lords shut up in their
castles on the borders of the respective territory of the clans.

The Norman lords in many parts of the country lived right in the
midst of an Irish population, with its Brehon judges, shanachies,
harpers, and other officers, attached to their customs of
gossipred, fostering, tanistry, gavelkind, and other usages,
which the parliaments of Drogheda, Kilkenny, Dublin, Trim, and
other places, were soon to declare lewd and barbarous. The
question of the moment was: Which of the two systems, clanship
or feudalism, brought thus into close contact and antagonism,
was to prevail?

Ere long it began to appear that the aversion first felt by the
English lords at such strange customs was not entirely
invincible, and many of them even went so far as to choose wives
from among the native families. In fact, there lay a great
example before their eyes from the outset, in the marriage of
Strongbow with Eva, the daughter of McMurrough. Intermarriage
soon became the prevailing custom; so that the posterity of the
first invaders was, after all, to have Celtic blood in its veins.

Hence, a distinction arose between the English by blood and the
English by birth. The first had, indeed, an English name; but
they were born in the island, and soon came to be known as
degenerate English.--That degeneracy was merely the moral effect
of constant intercourse with the natives of their neighborhood. -
-The others were continually shifting, being always composed of
the latest new-comers from England.

It is something well worthy of remark that a residence of a
short duration sufficed to blend in unison two natures so
opposed as the Irish and the English. The latter, not content
with wedding Irish wives, sent their own children to be fostered
by their Irish friends; and the children naturally came from the
nursery more Irish than their fathers. They objected no longer
to becoming gossips for each other at christenings, to adopt the
dress of their foster-parents, whose language was in many cases
the only one which they brought from their foster-home.

Thus Ireland, even in districts which had been thoroughly
devastated by the first invaders, became the old Ireland again;
and the song of the bard and the melody of the harper were heard
in the English castle as well as in the Irish rath.1 (1 The
process of gaining over an Englishman to Irish manners is
admirably described in the "Moderate Cavalier," under Cromwell,
quoted by Mr. J. P. Prendergast in his second edition of the
"Cromwellian Settlement," p. 263. If this process were common
with the Protestant officers of Cromwell, how much more so with
Catholic Anglo-Normans!)

The nationalization of their kin, which received a powerful
impetus from the fact that the English who lived without the
Pale escaped feudal exactions and penalties from the
impossibility of enforcing the feudal laws on Irish territory,
alarmed the Anglo-Normans by birth, in whose hand rested the
engine of the government; and, looking around for a remedy, they
could discover nothing better than acts of Parliament.

We have not been able to ascertain the precise epoch in which
the first Irish Parliament was convened; indeed, to this day, it
seems a debated question. The general belief, however, ascribes
it to King John. The first mention of it by Ware is under the
year 1333, as late as Edward III., more than one hundred and
fifty years after the Conquest. But the need of stringent rules
to keep the Irish at bay, and prevent the English from
"degenerating," became so urgent that, in 1367, the famous
Parliament met at Kilkenny, and enacted the bill known as the
"Statutes of Kilkenny," in which the matter was fully elaborated,
and a new order of things set on foot in Ireland.

The Irish could recognize no other Parliament than their ancient
Feis; and, these having been discontinued for several centuries,
they showed their appreciation of the new English institution in
the manner described by Ware under the year 1413: "On the 11th
of the calends of February, the morrow after St. Matthias day, a
Parliament began at Dublin, and continued for the space of
fifteen days; in which time the Irish burned all that stood in
their way, as their usual custom was in times of other

The reader who is acquainted with the enactments which go by the
name of the "Statutes of Kilkenny" will scarcely wonder at this
mode of proceeding.

Neither at that period, nor later on save once under Henry VIII.,
was the Irish race represented in those assemblies. In the
reign of Edward III. no Irish native nor old English resident
assisted at the Parliament of Kilkenny, but only Englishmen
newly arrived; for all its acts were directed against the Irish
and the degenerate English--against the latter particularly. How
the members composing these Parliaments were elected at that
time we do not know; but they were not summoned from more than
twelve counties, which number, first established by King John,
gradually dwindled, until, in the reign of Henry VII., it was
reduced to four, so that the Irish Parliament came to be
composed of a few men, and those few representatives of purely
English interests.

A true history of the times would demand an examination of the
various enactments made by these so-called Irish Parliaments, as
setting forth more distinctly than any thing else could do the
points at variance between the two nations. Our space, however,
and indeed our purpose, forbids this. In order to put the reader
in possession of at least an idea of the difficulties on either
side, we add a few extracts from the very famous "Statutes of

The preamble sets forth "that already the English in Ireland
were mere Irish in their language, names, apparel, and their
manner of living, and had rejected the English laws and
submitted to the Irish, with whom they had many marriages and
alliances, which tended to the utter ruin and destruction of the
commonwealth." And then the Statutes go on to enact --we cull
from various chapters: "The English cannot any more make peace
or war with the Irish without special warrant; it is made penal
to the English to permit the Irish to send their cattle to graze
upon their land; the Irish could not be presented by the English
to any ecclesiastical benefice; they--the Irish--could not be
received into any monasteries or religious houses; the English
could not entertain any of their bards, or poets, or shanachies,
" etc.

This extraordinary legislation proves beyond any amount of facts
to what degree the posterity of the first Norman invaders of
Ireland had adopted Irish customs, and made themselves one with
the natives.

The Irish, therefore, had, in this instance, morally conquered
their enemies, and feudalism was defeated. Another example was
given of the invariable invasions of the island. The enemy,
however successful at the beginning, was compelled finally to
give way to the force of resistance in this people; and the time-
honored customs of an ancient race survived all attempts at
violent foreign innovations. The posterity of those proud nobles,
who, with Giraldus Cambrensis, had found nothing but what was
contemptible in this nation, so strange to their eyes, who
looked upon them as an easy victim to be despoiled of their land,
and that land to be occupied by them, that posterity adopted,
within, comparatively speaking, a few years, the life and
manners of the mere Irish in their entirety. Feudalism they
renounced for the clan. Each of the great English families that
first landed in the island had formed a new sept, and the clans
of the Geraldines, De Courcys, and others, were admitted into
full copartnership with the old Milesian septs. This the two
great families of the Burkes in Connaught called their chiefs
McWilllams Either and McWilliams Oughter. The Berminghams bad
become McYoris; the Dixons, McJordans; the Mangles, McCostellos.
Other old English families were called McHubbard, McDavid, etc.;
one of the Geraldine septs was known as McMorice, another as
McGibbon; the chief of Dunboyne's house became McPheris.

Meanwhile, "it was manifest," says Sir John Davies, "that those
who had the government of Ireland under the crown of England
intended to make a perpetual separation and enmity between the
English settled in Ireland and the Irish, in the expectation
that the English should in the end root out the Irish."

There is no doubt that, if these laws of Kilkenny could have
been enforced and carried out, as they were meant to be, the
effect hoped for by these legislators might have been the
natural result. Yet even much later on, at a period, too, when
the English power was considerably increased, under Henry VIII.,
a very curious discussion of this possibility, which took place
at the time, did not by any means promise an easy realization.
The following passage of the "State Papers," under the great
Tudor, contains a rather sensible view of the subject, and is
not so sanguine of the success of the hopes cherished by the
attorney-general of James I.:

"The lande is very large--by estimation as large as Englande--so
that, to enhabit the whole with new inhabiters, the number would
be so great that there is no prince christened that commodiously
might spare so many subjects to depart out of his regions. . . .
But to enterprise the whole extirpation and totall destruction
of all the Irishmen of the lande, it would be a marvellous and
sumptuous charge and great difficulty, considering both the lack
of enhabitors, and the great hardness and misery these Irishmen
can endure, both of hunger, colde, and thirst, and evill lodging,
more than the inhabitants of any other lande."

There were, therefore, evidently difficulties in the way; yet it
is certain that the question of the total extirpation of the
Irish has been entertained for centuries by a class of English
statesmen, and confidently looked for by the English nation. Sir
John Davies, as we see, attributes no other object to the
Statutes of Kilkenny.

But could those statutes be enforced? were they ever enforced?
The same writer pretends that they were for "several years;" but
the sequel proves that they were not. The reason which he
assigns for their execution--that for a certain time after that
Parliament there was peace in the island--leads us to believe
the contrary; for if, as he himself justly remarks before, the
intention of the legislators was to create a perpetual
separation and enmity between the two races, the promulgation
and strict execution of those statutes would have immediately
enkindled a war which could have ended only with the total
extirpation of one race or the other.

And the further fact that it was thought necessary to reenact
those odious laws frequently in subsequent Irish Parliaments
proves that they were not carried into execution, since new
legislation on the subject was demanded.

It is true that events, transmitted to us either through the
Irish annals or the English chronicles, show that several
attempts were made to enforce those acts of Kilkenny, chiefly
against the Fitz-Thomases or Geraldines of Desmond, who
pretended, even after their enactment, to be as independent of
them as before, and refused to attend the Parliament when
convoked, claiming the strange privilege "that the Earls of
Desmond should never come to any Parliament or Grand Council, or
within any walled town, but at their will or pleasure." And the
Desmonds continued in their persistent opposition to the English
laws until the reign of Elizabeth.

But it was against Churchmen chiefly that they were carried out
in full; for we occasionally meet in the annals of the country
with instances where some English prelate in Ireland had been
prosecuted for having conferred orders on mere Irishmen, and
that some Norman abbots had been deposed for having received
mere Irishmen as monks into their monasteries.

With the exception of a few cases of this kind, no proof can be
furnished that any material change was brought about in the
relations of the old English settlers with their Irish neighbors.
In fact, matters progressed so favorably in this friendly
direction, that at length the descendants of Strongbow and his
followers became, as is well known, "Hibernis Hiberniores," and
the judges sent from England could hold their circuit only in
the four counties between the Liffey and the Boyne; and the name
given to the majority of the old English families was "English
rebels," while the natives were called "Irish enemies."

Sir John Davies himself is forced to admit it: "When the civil
government grew so weak and so loose that the English lords
would not suffer the English laws to be executed within their
territories and seigniories, but in place thereof both they and
their people embraced the Irish customs, then the state of
things, like a game at Irish, was so turned about, that the
English, who hoped to make a perfect conquest of the Irish, were
by them perfectly and absolutely conquered, because Victi
victoribus leges dedere."

The truth could not be expressed in more explicit terms. Yet all
has not been said. The same persevering character, making
headway against apparently insurmountable obstacles, shows
itself conspicuously in the Irish, in the preservation of their
land, which, after all, was the great object of contention
between the two races.

The first Anglo-Norman invaders, including Henry II himself, had
no other object in view than gradually to occupy the whole
territory, subject it to the feudal laws, give to Englishmen the
position of feudal lords, and reduce the Irish to that of
villeins, if they could not succeed in rooting them out.

A few years later, by the Treaty of Windsor, the king seemed to
confine his pretensions to Leinster, and perhaps Meath, and
expressly allowed the natives to keep their lands in the other
districts of the island. Yet none of his former grants, by which
"he had cantonned the whole island between ten Englishmen," were
recalled; the continued as part of and means to shape the policy
of the invaders, and subsequent Parliaments always supposed the
validity of those former grants made to Strongbow and his

It is true that those posterior Acts of Parliament did not
merely rely for their strength on the first documents, but on
the pretence that the Irish chieftains and people outside of
Leinster and Meath had justly forfeited their estates by not
fulfilling the conditions virtually contained in the Windsor
Treaty, in which they had professed homage and submission to the
English king. It is clear that, lawfully or unlawfully, the
Anglo-Normans were determined to gain possession, sooner or
later, of the whole island.

To secure their end, they declared that the natives would not be
subject to the English laws, but retain their Brehon laws, which
in their eyes were no laws at all, and which the Parliament of
Kilkenny had declared to be "lewd customs." Henceforth, then,
the natives were out of the pale of the law, could not claim its
protection, but became subject to the crown of England, without
political, civil, or even human rights.

They were soon, by reason of the constant border wars all around
the Pale, declared "alien and enemies." And these expressions
became, in the eyes of the English lawyers, identical with the
Irish race and the Irish nature; so that at all times, peace or
war, even when the Irish fought in the English ranks, aiding the
Plantagenets in their furious contests with the Scotch or the
French, they were still "Irish enemies;" "aliens" unworthy human
rights, villeins in whose veins no noble blood could flow, with
the exception of five families.

All the rest were not only ignoble, but not even men; nothing
but mere Irish, whom any one might kill, even though serving
under the English crown, at a risk of being fined five marks, to
be paid to the treasury of the King of England, for having
deprived his majesty of a serviceable tool.

This (to modern eyes) astounding social state demands a closer
examination in order to see if, at least, it had the merit of
finally procuring for the English the possession of the land
they coveted.

We find first that Henry II., John, and Henry III., would seem
on several occasions to have extended the laws of England all
over the island. But all English legists will tell us that those
laws were only for the inhabitants of English blood. The mere
Irish were always reputed aliens, or, rather, enemies to the
crown, so that it was, " by actual fact, often adjudged no
felony to kill a mere Irish in time of peace," as Sir John
Davies expressly points out.

Five families alone were excepted from the general category and
acknowledged to be of noble blood--the O'Neills of Ulster, the
O'Melachlins of Meath, the O'Connors of Connaught, the O'Briens
of Munster, and the McMurroughs of Leinster.

Those five families, numerous certainly, but forming only as
many septs, were, or appeared to be, acknowledged as having a
right to their lands, and as able to bring or defend actions at
law. We say, appeared to be, because they found themselves on so
many occasions ranked as mere Irish, that individuals of those
septs, induced by sheer necessity, were often driven, in spite
of an almost invincible repugnance, to apply for and accept
special charters of naturalization from the English kings. Thus
in the reign of Edward IV., O'Neill, on the occasion of his
marriage with a daughter of the house of Kildare, was made an
English citizen by special act of Parliament.

In reality then, even the most illustrious members of the "five
bloods" were scarcely considered as enjoying the full rights of
the lowest English vassals, although their ancestors had been
acknowledged kings by former Anglo-Norman monarchs in public
documents: "Rex Henricus regi O'Neill," etc.

But if there was some shadow of doubt with regard to the
political and social rights of those great families, such doubt
did not exist for the remainder of the Irish race. They were
absolutely without rights. Depriving them of their lands,
pillaging their houses, devastating their farms, outraging their
wives and daughters, killing them, could not subject the guilty
to any civil or criminal action at law. In fact, as we have
shown, such acts were in accordance with the spirit, even with
the letter of the law, so that the criminal, as we should
consider him, had but to plead that the man whom he had robbed
or killed was a mere Irishman, and the proceedings were
immediately stopped, if this all-important fact were proved; and
in case of homicide the murderer escaped by the payment of the
fine of five marks to the treasury.

To modern, even to English ears, all this may sound incredible.
Many striking examples of the truth of it might be produced.
They are to be found in all works which treat of the subject.
Sir John Davies, that great Irish hater, evidently takes a
genuine delight in depicting several such instances with all
their aggravating details, scarcely expecting that every word he
wrote would serve to brand forever with shame Anglo-Norman

Under such legislation it was clear that life on the borders of
the Pale was not only insecure, but that the soil would remain
in the grasp of the strongest. Any Anglo-Norman only required
the power in order to take possession of the land of his

But it is not in man's nature to submit to such galling thraldom
as this, without at least an attempt at retaliation. Least of
all was it the nature of such a people to submit to such
measures--a nation, the most ancient in Europe, dating their
ownership of the soil as far back as man's memory could go,
civilized before Scandinavia became a nest of pirates,
Christianized from the fifth century, and the spreader of
literature, civilization, and the holy faith of Christ through
England, Scotland, Germany, France, and Northern Italy.

If we have dwelt a little, and only a little, upon the intensity
of the contest waged for four hundred years previous to the
added atrocities introduced by the Reformation, we have done so
advisedly, since it has become a fashion of late to throw a
gloss over the past, to ignore it, to let the dead bury their
dead--all which would be very well, could it be done, and could
writers forget to stamp the Irish as unsociable, barbarous, and
bloodthirsty, because with arms in their hands, and a fire
ardent and sacred in their souls, they strove again and again to
reconquer the territory which had been won from them by fraud,
and because they thought it fair to kill in open fight the men
who avowed that they could kill them even in peace at a penalty
of five marks.

The contest, therefore, never ceased; how could it ? But, in
that endless conflict between the two races, the loss of
territory leaned rather to the English side. If, with the help
of their castles, better discipline, and arms, the English at
first gained on the natives and extended their possessions
beyond the Pale, a reaction soon set in--the Irish had their day
of revenge, and entered again into possession of the land of
which they had been robbed. In order to repair their losses, the
Anglo-Normans had recourse to acts of Parliament, which could
bind not only the English of the Pale, but also those of other
districts, who, enjoying the privileges of English law, were
likewise bound by its provisions.

In order rightly to understand the need and purposes of those
enactments, we must return a moment to the days of the conquest.

The case of Strongbow will illustrate many others. He married
Eva, the daughter of McMurrough, and thus allied himself to the
best families of Leinster. On the death of his father-in-law, he
received the whole kingdom as his inheritance. The greater part
of his dominions, which he either would not or could not govern
himself, he was compelled to distribute, in the usual style,
among his followers. He distributed large estates as _fiefs_
among those who had followed his fortunes, but he could not
forget his Irish relatives, to whom he had become strongly
attached. He secured, therefore, to many Irish families the
territory which was formerly theirs, and many of his English
adherents, who, like himself, had married daughters of the soil,
did the same in their more limited territories. This explains
fully why Irish families remained in Leinster after the
settlement of the Anglo-Normans there, who established their
Pale in it, as also why they continued to possess their lands in
the midst of the English as they had formerly done in the midst
of the Danes.

The same thing took place in the kingdom of Cork, on the borders
of Connaught, and around the seaports of Ulster, wherever the
English had established themselves and erected castles and

But, over and above the Irish families, which, by their alliance
by marriage and fosterage with the English, retained their lands
and gradually increased them, many others, natives of the soil,
reentered into possession of their former territory by the
withdrawal of the Anglo-Norman holders of fiefs. Constant border
wars, the necessary consequence of the English policy, could not
but discourage in course of time many Englishmen, who, owning
large possessions also in England and Wales, preferred to return
to their own country rather than remain with their wives and
children in a constant state of alarm, compelled to reside
within their castles, in dread of an attack at any moment from
their Irish neighbors.

Moreover, the vast majority of the Irish, who did not enjoy the
benefit of these special privileges, who, deprived of their
lands at the first invasion, had remained really _outlaws_, and
never entered into matrimonial or social alliance with their
enemies, these men could not consent to starve and perish on
their own soil, in the island which they loved and from which
they could not--had they so chosen--escape by emigration. One
resource remained to them, and they grasped at it. They had
their own mountain fastnesses and bogs to fly to, and from those
recesses they could harass the invader, and inch by inch win
back their lawful inheritance.

They were often even encouraged in their attacks and
depredations by the English of the Pale and out of it, who,
unwilling longer to submit to the grinding feudal laws and
exactions, could prevent the English judges, sheriffs,
escheators, and other king's officers from executing the law
against them, and thus they held out in their mountains, bogs,
and rocky crags, in the midst of the invaders of their soil.

A necessity arose then, on the part of the English rulers, of
adopting measures calculated to prevent a further acquisition of
territory by the Irish, if not to extend the English settlements.
They saw no other remedy than acts of Parliament, which they
thought would at least prevent the subjects of English blood
from assisting the Irish to reenter into possession, as was then
being done on so extensive a scale.

To effect this they revived the former statutes by which the
Irish were placed without the protection of the law, were
declared aliens and enemies, and were consequently denied the
right of bringing actions in any of the English courts for
trespasses on their lands, or for violence done to their persons.

They soon advanced a step beyond this. The Irish were forbidden
to purchase land, though the English were at liberty to occupy
by force the landed property of the Irish, whenever they were
strong enough to do so. An Irishman could acquire neither by
gift nor purchase a rood of land which was the property of an
Englishman. Thus, in every charter afterward granted to the few
Irishmen who applied for them, it was expressly stated that they
could purchase land for themselves and their heirs, which,
without this special provision, they could not do; while for an
Englishman to dispose of his landed property by will, gift, or
sale to an Irishman, was equivalent to forfeiting his estate to
the crown. The officers of the exchequer were directed by those
acts of Parliament to hold inquisitions for the purpose of
obtaining returns of such deeds of conveyance, in order to
enrich the king's treasury by confiscations and forfeitures; and
the statute-rolls, preserved to this day in Dublin and London,
show that such prosecutions often took place, with the
invariable result of forfeiture.

The decision of the courts was always in favor of the crown,
even in cases where the deed of conveyance or will was of no
benefit to the person in whose favor it was drawn, but simply a
trust for a third person of English race. And the great number
of cases in which the inquisitions were set aside, as appears
from the Parliament-rolls, for the finding having been malicious
and untrue--the parties complained of not being Irish but
English-- prove what we allege, namely, that an Irishman could
not take land by conveyance from an Englishman.

Yet, as Mr. Prendergast justly says: "Notwithstanding these
prohibitions and laws of the Irish Parliament, the Irish grew
and increased upon the English, and the Celtic customs
overspread the feudal, until at length the administration of the
feudal law was confined to little more than the few counties
lying within the line of the Liffey and the Boyne."

Let us now glance, in conclusion, at the result of more than
four centuries of feudal oppression.

Ireland rejected feudalism from the beginning, and this at a
time when Europe had been compelled to adopt it, more or less,

The distinction between lords and villeins, so marked in all
other countries, remained at the end as it was at the beginning
of the contest, a thing unknown in the island. Even in the Pale,
the presence of the O'Moores, O'Byrnes, O'Kavanaghs, and other
septs, protested against and openly denied, from moor and glen
and mountain fastness, that outrage on humanity, which bestows
on the few every thing meant for all. The Brehon law was in full
force all over the island, and if the Irish allowed the English
judges to ride on their circuits within the four counties, it
was on the full understanding that they would administer their
justice only to English subjects, and levy their feudal dues,
and pronounce their forfeitures and confiscations on such only
as acknowledged the king's right on the premises. The laws
enacted in the pretended Irish Parliament were only for such as
called themselves English by birth; for even the English by
blood, whose ancestors had long resided on the island,
frequently refused to submit to the laws of Parliament, where
they would not sit themselves, although possessing the right to
do so.

In vain was the threat of compulsion held up again and again
before the eyes of the great lords of Desmond, Thomond, and
Connaught. If they chose, they went; if they chose not, they
remained at home; and obeyed or disobeyed at will the laws
themselves, according as they were able or unable to set them at

The castles which had been built all over the country by the
first invaders, as a means of awing into subjection the
surrounding districts, were at the beginning of the fifteenth
century no longer feudal castles. They had either been
destroyed and levelled to the ground by the Irish, or they were
occupied by Irish chieftains; or, stranger still, if their
holders were English lords, they were of those who had been won
over to Irish manners. In their halls all the old customs of
Erin were preserved. One saw therein groups of shanachies, and
harpers, and Brehon lawyers, all conversing with their chieftain
in the primitive language of the country. Hence were they called
degenerate by the "foreigners" living in Dublin Castle. The
mansions of the Desmonds, of the Burgos, of the Ormonds, were
the headquarters of their respective clans, not the inaccessible
fortresses of steel-clad warriors, who alone were possessed of
social and civil rights. If the master of the household held
sometimes the title of earl, or count, or baron, he was careful
never to use it before his retainers, whom he called his
clansmen. When he went to Dublin or to London, he donned it with
the dress of a knight or a great feudal lord; on his return home
he threw it aside, resumed the cloak of the country, and was
Irish again.

The subject of feudal titles in Ireland has not been
sufficiently studied and elucidated. A clearer light thrown on
this question would, we have no doubt, show more conclusively
than long discussions with what stubbornness the Irish refused
to submit to the reality of feudalism, even when consenting to
admit its presence and phraseology. It is a fact not
sufficiently dwelt upon, that the few Irishmen, who subsequently
consented to receive English titles from the king, were regarded
by their countrymen with greater abhorrence than the English
themselves, though in most cases the titles were empty ones,
which affected nothing in their mode of life. Yet were they
looked upon as apostates to their nation, and after the
Reformation such a step was often the first to apostasy of
religion, the deepest stain on an Irish name.

Feudalism had also its mode of taxation which failed with the
rest in Ireland.

In feudal countries the lord imposed no tax on his villeins;
these were mere chattels, ascripti gleboe, who tilled the land
for their masters, and, as good serfs, could own nothing but the
few utensils of their miserable hovels. They were just allowed
what sufficed to support their own life and that of their
families, and consequently they could bear no additional tax.
But, in the complicated state of society brought about by
feudalism, the inferior lord was taxed by his superior, a system
that ran down the whole feudal scale, and it would take a lawyer
to explain aids, talliages, wardships, fines for alienation,
seizins, rents, escheats, and finally forfeiture, the heaviest
and most common of all in England.

The Irish fought valiantly against the imposition of those
burdens, and aided the English settled among them to repudiate
them all in course of time.

It must be said, however, that they did not succeed in
preventing their own taxes, according to the Book of Rights,
from becoming heavier under the ingenuity of the English who
were established among them and admitted to all the rights of
clanship. We see by documents which have been better studied of
late, that the great Anglo-Irish lords had succeeded in
increasing the burdens in the shape of exactions, which were
never complained of by the Irish.

On this subject Dr. O'Donovan, in the preface to his edition of
the "Book of Rights," is worthy of perusal.

But it is chiefly in the very essence of feudalism that the
failure of the Anglo-Normans was most signal. Feudalism really
consisted in the status given to the land, the possession of
which determined and gave all rights, so that, according to it,
man was made for the land rather than the land for man. He was
placed on the land with the beasts of the field as far as
tillage and production went, until the system should round to
perfection and finally bring to the surface the new principles
of social economy, according to which the greater the number of
cattle and the fewer the number of men, the more prosperous and
happy might the country be said to be.

The Irish staked their existence against those principles, and
won. So complete was their victory that the feudal barons who
first came among them finally yielded to clanship, became the
chiefs of new clans, and opened their territories to all who
chose to send their horses and kine to graze in the chief's
domains. In vain did Irish Parliaments issue writs of forfeiture
against the English lords who acted thus, for between the law
and its execution the clans intervened, and no sheriff or judge
could step beyond the bounds of the four counties of the Pale to
enforce those acts.

It is told of one of the Irish chieftains that on receiving
intimation from a high English official of a sheriff's visit on
the next breach of some new law or ordinance, for the safety of
which sheriff he would be held responsible, he replied: "You
will do well to let me know at the same time what will be the
amount of his _eric_, in case of his murder, that I may
beforehand assess it on the clan."

This story may tend better than any thing else to give a clear
reason for the failure of feudalism in Ireland.



While the struggle described in the last chapter was raging,
Ireland could have little or no intercourse with the rest of
Europe. Heaven alone was witness of the heroism displayed by the
free clans wrestling with feudal England. It was only during the
internecine wars of the Roses that Erin enjoyed a respite, and
then we read that Margaret of Offaly summoned to peaceful
contest the bards of the island, while the shrines of Rome and
Compostella were thronged with pilgrims, chiefs, and princes,
"paying their vows of faith from the Western Isle."

In the mean time Christendom had been witness of mighty events
in which Ireland could take no part. The enthusiastic impulse
which gave birth to the Crusades, the uprising of the communes
against feudal thraldom, the mental activity of numerous
universities, starting each day into life, form, among other
things, the three great progressive waves in the moving ocean of
the time:

I. When Europe in phalanx of steel hurled itself upon Asia and
saved Christendom from the yoke of Islam, when the Japhetic race
by a mighty effort asserted its right not merely to existence,
but to a preponderance in the affairs of the world, Ireland, the
nation Christian of Christians, had not a name among men. It was
supposed to be a dependency of England, and the envoys sent
abroad to all parts by the Holy See to preach the Crusades,
never touched her shores to deliver the cross to her warriors.
The most chivalrous nation of Christendom was altogether
forgotten, and in its ecclesiastical annals no mention is made
of the Crusades even by name.

The holy wars, moreover, were set on foot and carried on by the
feudal chivalry of Europe, and in fact, wherever the Europeans
established their power in the East, that power took the shape
of feudalism. But Ireland had rejected this system, and
consequently her sons could find no place in the ranks of the
knights of Flaners, Normandy, Aquitaine, and England. Their
chivalry was of another stamp, and was employed at the time in
wresting their social state and territory from the grasp of
ruthless invaders.

Hence, not even St. Bernard, the ardent friend of St. Malachi,
remembered them, when journeying through Europe to distribute
the Cross to whole armies of warriors. Not only did he fail to
cross the Channel for the purpose of rousing the Christian
enthusiasm of a people ever ready to hearken to a call to arms
when a noble cause was at stake; he did not think even of
writing a single letter to any bishop or abbot in Ireland,
asking them to preach the holy war in his name.

Thus Ireland failed to participate in any of the benefits which
accrued to the European nations from the Crusades, as she failed
likewise to participate in results less beneficial which also
accrued from that powerful agitation.

Among such results is one which has not met with all the
attention it deserves. Historians speak at length of the many
and wide-spread heresies which infected Europe during the middle
ages; but their Eastern origin has not been thoroughly
investigated, and we have no doubt that, if it had been, many of
them would be found to have come with a returning wave of the

All these errors bear at the outset a very Oriental appearance.
Paulicians, Petrobrusians, Albigensians, and kindred sects,
all started from the principle of dualism, and even at the
time were openly accused of Manicheistic ideas. They all
involved more or less immoral principles, and rejected, or at
least strove to weaken, the commonly-received ideas upon which
society, civil and religious, is founded. Had they succeeded in
spreading their errors through Europe, it is possible that the
invasion would have been more fatal in its consequences than
that of Islamism itself. And, even in their failure, they left
among European societies the germ of secret associations which
have existed from that time down, and which in our days have
burst forth undisguised to terrify nations, and cause them to
dread the coming of the last days.

To an attentive observer it is clear that the heresies of the
twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries resemble more the
errors of our days than the Protestantism which intervened.
Luther's first principles, if carried to their legitimate
conclusion, would have inaugurated the socialism and communism
of modern times; but he shrank from the consequences of his own
doctrines, and the necessity of his standing well with the
German princes caused him, during the War of the Peasants,
almost to retract his first utterances and take his stand
midway between Catholic principles and the thorough nihilism of
later times. It is known that in the after-part of his life he
endeavored to repair the ruins of every dogma, social and
religious, which he at first had tried to subvert and destroy.

The Manicheism of the middle ages was certainly not of so
scientific and elaborate a nature as modern socialism; but it
would have been productive of like evil results to society had
it not been crushed down by the united power of the Church and
the state. If it had been successful, it is impossible to
imagine what would have become of Europe.

Of its Eastern origin historians say little. We know, however,
that, after a residence in the East, the most pious Christians
grew lukewarm and less firm in their opposition to the dangerous
errors then prevalent in Asia. Tournefort remarked this in his
own time, during the reign of Louis XIV.

It is known also that the posterity of the first crusaders in
Palestine formed a hybrid race, which, weakened by the influence
of the luxurious habits of Eastern countries, became corrupt,
and under the name of Pulani practised a feeble Christianity,
unfit to cope with the vigorous fanaticism of the Mussulman.
Many Europeans came back from those wars wavering in faith, and
no one knows how many with faith entirely lost.

It is not, therefore, too much to suppose that the Oriental
errors which suddenly burst forth at this time in Western Europe
followed in the wake of the returning pilgrims, and it is highly
probable, if not absolutely certain, that, had there been no
Crusades, Manicheism and the secret societies born of it would
never have been known in Italy and France. Hence, one of the
first and greatest champions of the Church in controversy with
the Albigenses - Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny - at the
very beginning of the heresy, found no better means of opposing
the new errors than attacking every thing coming from the East.
Thus, he wrote his long treatises against the Talmud and the
Koran, so much had the Crusades already contributed to
introducing into Western Europe the seeds of Asiatic errors. All
historians agree in giving an Eastern origin to the Paulicians,
Bulgarians, Albigenses, and others of those times.

Manicheism indeed had infested Europe long before. Some Roman
emperors had published severe edicts against it. In the fifth
century, the heresy still flourished in Italy and Africa, St.
Augustine himself being an adept for several years, and by his
writings he has made us acquainted with its strongest supporters
in his day. He was followed, in his attacks on it, by a great
number of Fathers, both Greek and Latin.

But after the barbarian invasions we hear no more of the
Manichees for upward of five hundred years. The West had
entirely forgotten them. Arianism and Manicheism had apparently
perished together. The tenth century is called a period of
darkness and ignorance; it at least possessed the advantage of
being free from heresy; the dogmas of the Church were
unhesitatingly and universally accepted. Western Europe, though
cut up by the new-born feudalism into a thousand fragments, was
at least one in faith, until that great and powerful union
having, in an outburst of enthusiasm, produced the Crusades, we
suddenly find Eastern theories and immoralities invading the
countries most faithful to the Church.

Raymond VI., Count of Toulouse, the great champion of the
Albigenses, was the near descendant of that great Raymond, one
of the chiefs of the first Crusade, who might have aspired to
the throne of Jerusalem, had not Godfrey de Bouillon won the
suffrages of the soldiers of the Cross by his ardent and pure
piety. Raymond VI. dwelt in Languedoc, in all the luxurious
splendor of an Eastern emir; and he doubtless found the
doctrines of dualistic Manicheism more congenial to his taste
for pleasure than the stern tenets of the Christian religion.
Ambition, it is true, was one of the chief motives which
prompted him to place himself at the head of the heretics; he
hoped to enrich himself through them by the spoils of the Church;
and thus the same power which later on moved the German princes
to embrace Lutheranism was already acting on the aspiring Count
of Toulouse at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Thus we
find him at the head of his troops, plundering churches,
ravaging monasteries, outraging and profaning holy things, for
the purpose of filling his coffers.

Yet it is also certain that he, the chief of the sectarians, and
a great number of the nobility of Southern France, were led to
embrace the Albigensian error by the degrading habits which they
had previously contracted.

We do not purpose entering into a lengthened discussion on the
subject; we merely wish to contrast, with the wide spread of
heresy in Western Europe, the great fact of a total absence of
it in Ireland; or rather, we should say, and by so saying we
confirm our reflection, that errors of a similar nature did
invade the Pale in Erin at this time, without touching in any
wise the children of the soil.

For, it is a remarkable fact that, at the beginning of the
fourteenth century, the name of heresy is mentioned for the
first and last time in Catholic Ireland; the new doctrines
bearing a close resemblance to some of the errors of the
Albigenses, and their chief propagators being all lords of the

In November of 1235, Pope Benedict XII. wrote a letter on this
subject to Edward III. of England, which may be read in F.
Brenan's Ecclesiastical History.

It is clear from many things related by Ware in his
"Antiquities" that the Vicar of Christ, unable to follow freely
his inclinations with respect to the filling of the sees of Erin,
and obliged to appoint to bishoprics, at least in many parts of
the island, only men of English birth, selected for that purpose
members of the various religious orders then existing. Instead
of granting episcopal jurisdiction to the feudal nominees of the
court, when unworthy, Rome appointed a Franciscan, or a
Dominican, a member of some religious community, who was born in
England, but at least more independent of the court, of greater
sympathy with the people, less swayed by worldly and selfish
motives, and consequently readier to obey the mandates of Rome,
which were always on the side of justice and morality. Thus we
find that in the whole history of Ireland, as a general rule,
the bishops chosen from religious orders were acceptable to the
people, and true to their duty.

Such a man certainly was Richard Ledred, a Minorite, born in
London, whom the Pope made Bishop of Ossory. But on that very
account he incurred the hatred of many English officials, and
even of worldly prelates, among whom Alexander Bicknor,
Archbishop of Dublin, was the most conspicuous. Bieknor was not
only archbishop, but had been appointed Lord Justice of Ireland
by the king, and later on Lord Deputy; later still he was
dispatched by the English Parliament as ambassador to France.

"It had been well," says F. Brenan, "for the archbishop himself,
and for those immediately under his jurisdiction, had he
abstained from mixing himself up with the state affairs of those
times. Ambition formed no inferior trait in the character of
Alexander, even long before he had been exalted to a high
dignity in the Church. He advanced rapidly into power, stepping
from one office into another, until at length he found himself
in the midst of the labyrinth, without being able to make his
way, unless by means of guides as inexperienced as they were
treacherous. It was by causes such as these that he brought
himself into serious difficulties, not only with the Archbishop
of Armagh, on account of the primacy, but also with his own
suffragans, and particularly with the Bishop of Ossory."

Under these circumstances it was that the prelate last mentioned,
on visiting his diocese, found unmistakable signs of the spread
of heresy among his flock. His diocese at that time formed a
part of the English Pale, and Kilkenny, where he had his
cathedral, was often the seat of Parliament.

Among those most active for the propagation of the new doctrines
were found, the Seneschal of Kilkenny, the Treasurer of Ireland,
and the Chief-Justice of the Common Pleas--all English of the
Pale. The zealous bishop, fearless of the consequences, openly
denounced them, and publicly excommunicated the Treasurer. At
once a terrible storm was raised among their English abettors,
and, in order to screen the guilty parties, they recriminated
against the prelate, and accused him of being a sharer in the
crime of Thomas Fitzgilbert, who had burned the castle of Moy
Cahir, and killed its owner, Hugh Le Poer. The temporalities of
Ledred having been already sequestrated for his boldness in
denouncing heretics, he was compelled finally to leave his
diocese and fly to Avignon, where he remained in exile for nine

The Archbishop of Dublin had been one of his bitterest enemies,
and, although not actually accused of heresy himself, he was
certainly the abettor of heretics, and had done all in his power
to have Ledred arrested for his supposed crimes.

Ware, in his lives of Bicknor and Ledred, is evidently a
partisan of the first and an enemy of the second. He pretends
that Ledred tacitly acknowledged his guilt in the affair of Le
Poer, since he sued for pardon to the king, as though readers of
English history did not constantly meet with instances of
innocent men compelled to sue for pardon of crimes which they
had never committed.

We have fortunately better judges of the characters of both
prelates in the two popes, Benedict XII. and Clement VI.: the
first believing in the existence of the heresy denounced by
Ledred; the second exempting the Bishop of Ossory from the
superior jurisdiction of Bicknor, on account of the unjust
animosity displayed toward him by this worldly prelate.

The absence of all historical documents in reference to the case
leaves us at a loss to know the effect produced on Edward III.
by the letter of the Pontiff. It is highly probable that the
king preferred to believe Bicknor rather than the Pope, and
disregarded the advice of the latter.

In such an event, how was the heresy put down? Simply by the
good sense and spirit of faith of the people, or rather by the
deep Christian feeling of the native Irish, who were always
opposed to innovation, and who remained firm in the traditional
belief inherent in the nation by the grace of God. Schism and
heresy seem impossible among the children of Erin. If at any
time certain novelties have appeared among them, they have
speedily vanished like empty vapor. They heard that, in other
parts of the Church, in the East chiefly, heresiarchs had arisen
and led away into error large numbers of people forming
sometimes formidable sects, which threatened the very existence
of the religion of Christ; but the face of a heretic they had
never beheld. Soon, indeed, they were to be at the mercy of a
whole swarm of them, to see a pretended church leagued with the
state to bring about their perversion; but as yet they had had
no experience of the kind.

Only a few heretics were pointed out to them by the finger of
one of their bishops, and his denunciations were confirmed by
the judgment of the Holy See. Hence, according to F. Brenan,
"the sensation which pervaded all classes became vehement and
frightful. The bishop and his clergy came forward, and by solid
argument, by the strength and power of truth, opposed and
discomfited the enemies of religion."

The feeling here expressed is a natural one for a true Christian
at the very mention of heresy. Yet how few nations have
experienced a sensation "vehement and frightful" at the
appearance of positive error among them! But, at all periods of
their history, such has been the feeling of the Irish people.

Fortunately for them, the number of sectarians was so small as
to become insignificant; the English of the Pale were always few
in comparison with the natives, and heresy had been, adopted by
only a small body.

Error, therefore, could not cause in the island the social and
political convulsions which it had produced in France about the
same time. There was no need of a second Albigensian war to put
it down. There was no need even of the Inquisition, as an
ecclesiastical tribunal. The sentence of the bishop, the decree
of excommunication pronounced from the foot of the altar, was
all that was required.

When we compare this single fact of Irish ecclesiastical history
with what was then transpiring in Europe--the most insidious
errors spreading throughout; the faith of many becoming
unsettled, a general preparation for the social deluge which was
impending and so soon to fall--we cannot but conclude that
Ireland, in the midst of her misfortunes, was happy in being
separated from the rest of the world. The breath of novelty
could breathe no contagion on her shores. Happy even was she in
not seeing her sons enlist in the army of the Cross, if the
result of their victories was, to bring back from the Holy Land
the Eastern corruption and the many heresies nestling there and
settled, even around the sepulchre of our Lord, during so many
ages of separation from the West and open communication with all
the wild vagaries of Arabian, Persian, and Indian philosophies.

Even in the midst of such a trial we believe that Ireland would
have held steadfast to her faith, as she did later on when
heresy came to her with compulsion or death; and this firmness
of purpose, which the Irish have always manifested when the
question was a change of religion, is worthy our consideration.
For the facility with which some nations have, in the course of
ages, yielded to the spirit of novelty, and the sturdy
resistance opposed to it by others, is a subject that would
repay investigation, but which we can only slightly touch upon.

In ancient times the Greek mind, accustomed from the beginning
to subtlety of argument, and easily carried away by a
rationalism which was innate, offers a striking contrast to the
steady traditional spirit of the Latin races in general. Except
Pelagiaism and its cognate errors, all the great heresies which
afflicted the Church during the first ten centuries, originated
in the East; and the various sects catalogued by several of the
Greek Fathers, as early as the second and third centuries,
astonish the modern reader by the slender web on which their
often ridiculous systems are spun, of texture strong enough,
however, at the time to form the groundwork for making a
disastrous impression on a large number of adherents. The
infinity almost of philosophical systems in pagan Greece had
prepared the way for the subsequent vagaries of heresy, and we
must look to our own times, so prolific of absurd theories, in
order to find a parallel to the incredible variety of dogmatic
assertions among the Greek heresiarchs of early times.

But, at the outbreak of Protestantism, in the sixteenth century,
the world witnessed a still more striking example of diversity
in the various branches of the Japhetic family - the nations
belonging to the Teutonic and Scandinavian stocks chiefly
embracing the error at once with a wonderful spontaneity. The
various remnants of the Celtic race and the totality of the
Latin nations remained, on the whole, obedient to the guiding
voice of the Church of Christ. It is customary with modern
writers, when imbued with what are called liberal ideas, to
ascribe this difference to the steady, systematic mind of
northern nations, and to their innate love of liberty, which
could not brook the yoke of spiritual despotism imposed by the
Church of Rome. But all this is mere supposition, inadequate to
accounting for the fact. The Teutonic and Scandinavian mind is
certainly more systematic and apparently more steady than the
Celtic; but it is far less so than the Latin. No nation in the
whole history of mankind has ever displayed more steadiness and
system than the Romans, and the Latin family has inherited those
characteristics from Rome. The Spanish race has no equal in
steadiness (in the sense here intended of steadfastness), and
the French certainly none in system, which it often carried to
the verge of absurdity.

As for love of liberty, as distinct from love of license, it had
absolutely nothing to do with the great revolution which has
been called the Reformation. No nation can relish despotism, and
the whole history of Ireland is a living example that her sons
are steadily opposed to it to the death. And it is now too late
to pretend that the cause of true liberty has been served by the
spread of Protestantism over a large portion of Europe. Balmez
and others have proved the falsehood of such pretensions. If any
modern writers, such as Mr. Bancroft, for instance, men
otherwise of sound mind and great ability, continue to assert
this, the assertion must proceed from prejudice deeply ingrained,
which reflection has not yet succeeded in eradicating, and
their opinions on the subject are necessarily confined to bold
assertions, of a character which in others they themselves would
stigmatize as empty and unfounded.

The reason of the difference lies deeper in the constitution of
the human mind, in the Celtic and Latin races on the one side,
in the Teutonic and Scandinavian families on the other. Any one
who has studied the Irish character in our days--a character
which was the same in former ages--will easily see something of
that great and happy cause.

The difference lies first in the good sense which enables them
to perceive instinctively that the eternal should be preferred
to the temporal. If all men kept that distinct perception ever
present to their minds, they would not only accept at all times
the truths of faith, since faith, according to St. Paul, is "the
substance of the things hoped for," but they would remain ever
faithful to the moral code given us by God. The Celt indeed will
at times lose sight of the eternal in the presence of a temporal
temptation; but he is never blind to the knowledge that faith is
the groundwork of salvation, and that hope remains as long as
that is not surrendered. Therefore he will never surrender it.
The need of reviving his faith is rarely called for, when, after
a life of sin, the shadow of death reminds him of the duty he
owes his own soul. The great truth that, after all, the ETERNAL
is every thing, remains always deeply impressed on his mind; and
half his labor is spared to the minister of God, when bringing
such a man back to a life of virtue. There is scarcely any need
of asking an Irishman, "Do you believe?" For, every word that
passes his lips, every look and gesture, every expression of
feeling, is in fact an act of faith. How easy after this is the
work of regeneration!

0 happy race, to whom this life is in truth a shadow that
passeth away! to whom the unseen is ever present, or comes back
so vividly and so readily!

This supposes, as we have said, a sound, good sense, which is
characteristic of the race. We may say that this nation
possesses the wisdom of Sir Thomas More, who esteemed it folly
to lose eternity for a life of twenty years of ease and honors.
Is not this, at bottom, the thought which has sustained the
nation in that dread martyrdom of three centuries, whose
terrible story we have still to tell? Have they not, as a nation,
one after another, generation upon generation, lived and passed
their lives in contempt, in want, in frightful misery, to die in
torments or hidden sufferings, without a gleam of hope from this
world for their race, their families, their children, their very
name, because they would not surrender their religion, that is
to say, truth, which alone could secure the eternal welfare of
their souls?

Speak to us, after this, of a steady and systematic mind! Prate
to us of the love of liberty, of self-dignity! Where are such
things to be found in their reality, on their trial, if not in
the scenes and the nation we have just pictured?

A second reason, no less effective, perhaps, than the first, and
certainly as remarkable, is the very composition of the Celtic
mind, which naturally tends to firm belief, because it is given
exclusively to traditions, past events, narratives of poets,
historians, and genealogists. Had the Irish at any time turned
themselves to criticise, to doubt, to argue, their very
existence, as a people, would have ceased. They must go on
believing, or all reality vanishes from their minds, accustomed
for so many ages to take in that solid knowledge founded, it is
true, on hearsay; but how else can truth reach us save by
hearsay? Hence, their simple and artless acquiescence in any
thing they hear from trustworthy lips - acquiescence ever
refused to a known enemy, never to a well-tried friend, even
when the facts ascertained are strange, mysterious, unaccounted
for, and incredible to minds differently constituted.

Thus, when we read their "Acta Sanctorum," we at once find
ourselves in a world so different from our every-day world - a
region of wonders, mysteries, of heavenly and supernatural deeds,
unequalled in any story of marvellous travel or fable of
imaginative romance. Yet, who will say that the writers doubted
a single phrase of what they wrote? Is it not clear, from the
very words they use, that they would have held it sacrilege to
utter a falsehood, when speaking of the blessed saints? And, can
the lives of the saints be like those of common mortals? What is
there strange in considering that the earth was mysterious and
heavenly, when heavenly beings walked upon it? Read the Litany
and Festology of Aengus, and doubt if the holy man did not
believe all therein contained. Say, if it can be possible, that
it is not all true, though apparently incredible. Who can doubt
what is asserted with such vehemence of belief? How can that
fail to be true which holy men and women have themselves
believed, and given to the world to be believed?

This thoroughly explains the simplicity of faith which still
distinguishes the Irish people. It explains why no heretic could
be found among them, and their intense horror of heresy as soon
as known. Nor is it their mind alone which bears the impress of
faith: their very exterior is a witness to it. Go into any large
city where dwell a number of Irish inhabitants; walk through the
public streets, where they walk among the children of other
races, and you will easily distinguish them, not only by the
modesty of their women and the simple bearing of their men, but
by the look of confidence and contentedness stamped on their
features. Whoever has a settled faith, is no longer an inquirer,
no longer troubled with the anxiety and restlessness of a man
plunged in doubt and uncertainty; all the lineaments of the face,
all the gestures and attitudes of the body, speak of quietude
and repose.

We might render this discussion more effective by the study of
the contrary phenomena, by showing how easily races, differently
gifted, endowed with the spirit of criticism and argument, sever
from the faith and follow the lead of deceptive teachers. Our
object here was to describe the Irish, and not to enter into a
study of the physiology of other minds; but a word on Germanic
and Scandinavian tribes and peoples may not be amiss.

There is no doubt that these races place their "good sense" in a
very different line from the Irish; that they are, also, much
more given to criticism, what they call "grumbling," and absence
of repose.

With regard to the first point - their "good sense" - it is easy
to remark their tendency to prefer the temporal to the eternal.
For their "good sense" consists in enjoying the things of this
life without troubling themselves over-much about another. And,
in this observation, there is nothing which can possibly offend
them, for such is their open profession and estimate of true
wisdom. Hence result their love of comfort, their thrift, their
shrewdness in all material and worldly affairs; hence, their
constant boasting about their civilization, understanding,
thereby, what is pleasing to the senses; hence, also, their
success in a life wherein they set their whole happiness. How
could they be expected to remain steadfast to a faith which
declares war to pleasure, and speaks only of contempt for this
world? It is not matter of surprise, then, that their great
argument, to prove that theirs is the better and the right
religion, is to compare their physical well-being with the
inferiority in that regard of Catholic nations.

With regard to the spirit of criticism and argumentation,
nothing is so opposed to the spirit of faith; and it is as clear
as day that the northern races possess this in an eminent degree.
What question, religious or philosophical, can rest intact when
brought under the microscopic vision of a German philosopher or
an English rationalist? A few years more of criticism, as now
understood and practised by them, would leave absolutely nothing
which the mind of man could respect and believe.

An attentive observer will surely conclude, after a serious
examination of the subject, that it is from petty causes of this
character that these races have so easily surrendered their
faith, rather than from their systematic minds and love of

II. The rising of the communes, one of the greatest features of
mediaeval Europe, did not extend to Ireland, separated as it
then was from the Continent. But, by reason of this very
separation, the island remained forever free from the future
political commotions of what is known as "the third estate." A
few remarks on this subject are requisite, because of the
objection brought against the Irish, that they have never known
municipal government, and also on account of the false
assertions of some philosophical historians, who allege that the
Danes and Anglo-Normans, in turn, wrought a great good to
Ireland by bringing with them the boon of citizen rights.

What were the causes of the rising of the communes in the
eleventh and following centuries? The universality of the fact
argues identity of motives, since, without common understanding
among various nations, the risings showed themselves at about
the same time in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and England.

In ancient cities, which existed prior to the Germanic invasions,
the population, after the scourge had passed, was composed
principally of three elements: 1. Free men of the conquering
races, who were poor, and had embraced some mechanical pursuit;
2. The remnants of the Roman population, who followed some
trade; 3. Freedmen from the rural districts, who, unable to gain
a livelihood in the country, had come to reside in the cities,
where they could more easily subsist.

Thus, besides the feudal lords and the class of villeins, there
was formed everywhere a third class, that of arts and trades.

The juridical power being restricted to the lords, whose rights
extended only to the land and the men attached to it, the class
of artisans found themselves destitute of legal rights, without
a recognition or place even in the jurisprudence, as then
existing, consequently in a practically anarchical state. Hence,
they formed among themselves their own associations, elected
their own magistrates, enacted their own by-laws.

In the cities we have mentioned, the bishop alone held social
relations with the lords, whether the feudal chieftain of the
vicinity, or the Count of the city. Thus, the bishop often acted
as the mediator between the citizens and the privileged class
which surrounded them. The great object of the citizens was to
obtain a charter of rights from the suzerain, who alone could
act with justice and impartiality toward those disfranchised
burghers. To this was owed the immense number of charters
granted at that time, many of which, lately published, tend
better than any thing else to give us an insight into the origin
of municipal life in mediaeval Europe.

New cities, either founded by the invaders or springing up of
themselves around feudal castles and monasteries, soon
experienced the necessity of similar favors, which, as soon as
obtained, invested them with a social status unenjoyed before.

The number of freemen, reduced to poverty, or of recent freedmen
- freed by the emancipation everywhere set on foot and
encouraged by the Church - extended the spread of communes even
to the rural districts. Thus, many villages or small towns grew
into corporations, and a social state arose, hitherto totally
unknown in Europe.

The question has been much discussed, whether those new
municipal corporations owed their origin to the municipal system
of the Romans, or were altogether disconnected with it. The
opinion commonly now accepted is, that the two systems were
utterly distinct. In some few instances, a particular Roman
municipal city may have passed into a mediaeval corporate town
under a new charter and with extended rights; but this was
certainly the exception. In the great majority of cases, the
newly-chartered cities had never before enjoyed municipal rights.

These few words suffice to show that the communes, wherever they
arose, presupposed the existence of feudalism, and the slavery
once so widely extended, passing gradually into serfdom.

But neither feudalism nor slavery, in the old pagan sense of the
word, nor even serfdom, properly so called, as the doom of the
ascripti glebae, ever existed in Ireland. There was, therefore,
no need among the Irish for the rising of communes.

Nevertheless, we do find communes existing in Ireland and
charters granted to Irish cities by English kings. But they were
merely English institutions for the special benefit of the
English of the Pale, which were always refused to "the Irish
enemy," and which the "Irish enemy," with the exception of a few
individual cases, never demanded. Consequently the fact stands
almost universally true that the rising of the communes never
extended to Ireland, and that, if the Irish never enjoyed the
benefit of them, as little did they share in the evil
consequences resulting from them.

All those evil consequences had their root in a feeling of
bitter hostility between the higher or noble classes, and not
only the villeins, whom they ground between them, but also the
middle classes, who were dwelling in the cities, emancipating
themselves by slow degrees, and forming in course of time the
"third estate."

The workings of that hostility form a great part of the history
of Europe from the twelfth century down to the present day, and
many social convulsions, recorded in the annals of the six ages
preceding our own, may be traced to it. The frightful French
Revolution was certainly a result of it, although it must be
granted that several secondary causes contributed to render the
catastrophe more destructive, the chief among which was the
spread of infidel doctrines among the higher and middle classes.

But our days witness a still more awful spectacle, the
persistent array of the poor against the rich in all countries
once Christian, and this may be traced directly to their
mediaeval origin now under our consideration; and, the evils
preparing for mankind therefrom, future history alone will be
able to tell.

In Ireland, this has never been the danger. In the earlier
constitution of the nation, there could be no rivalry, no
hostility of class with class, as there never existed any social
distinction between them; and if, in our days, the poor there as
elsewhere seem arrayed against the rich, it is not as class
against class, but as the spoiled against the spoiler, the
victim against the robber, against the holders of the soil by
right of confiscation--a soil upon which the old owners still
live, with all the traditions of their history, which have never
been completely effaced, and which in our days are springing
into new life under the studies of patriotic antiquarians. This
fact cannot be denied.

The case of Ireland is so different in this respect from that of
other nations, that in no other country have the people been
reduced to such a degrading state of pauperism, yet in no other
country is the same submission to the existing order of society
found among the lower classes. No communism, no socialism has
ever been preached there, and, were it preached, it would only
be to deaf ears. Until the last two or three centuries, no seed
of animosity between high and low, rich and poor, had been sowed
in Ireland. The reason of this we have seen in a previous
chapter. And if, since the wholesale confiscations of the
seventeenth century, the country has been divided into two
hostile camps, the fault has never laid with the poor, the
despoiled; they have always been the victims, and never uttered
open threats of destruction against their oppressors. If in the
future men look to great calamities, Ireland is the only quarter
from which nothing of the kind is to be feared, and the
impending revolution by which she may profit will look to her
for no assistance in the subversion of society.

We now leave the reader to appreciate to its full extent the
real value of the opinion of modern writers who would justify
the successive invasions of the Danes and Anglo-Normans, and
also, we suppose, of the Puritans, as praiseworthy attempts to
introduce into Ireland the municipal system, so productive of
good elsewhere throughout Europe.

There is no doubt that municipal rights have been of immense
advantage to European society, as constituted at the time of
their introduction. They formed the germ of a new class,
destined to be the ruling class of the world, by whom human
rights were first to be understood and proclaimed, and the
necessary amount of freedom granted to all and secured by just
laws justly administered. Christianity is the true source of all
those rights, as Christian morality ought to be their standard.

But what an amount of human misery was first required, in order
that such blessed results might follow, merely because religion,
which was and ever had been steadily working to the same end,
was altogether set aside, and its assistance even despised in
the mighty change! And after all--we might say in consequence--
how limited has the boon practically become! How few are the
nations, even in our days, which understand impartiality,
moderation, justice! How soon will mankind become sufficiently
enlightened to settle down peacefully in the enjoyment of those
blessings of civil liberty proclaimed and trumpeted to the four
winds of heaven, yet in no place rightly understood and
equitably shared?

Ireland never knew those municipal rights from which have flowed
so many evils, side by side with so few blessings, because their
essential elements were never found there. What the future may
develop, no man can say. It is time, however, for all to see
that the nation is equal to any rights to which men are said to
be entitled.

III. The great intellectual movement set on foot in Europe
during the middle ages, by the numerous universities which
sprang up everywhere, under the fostering care of Popes or
Christian monarchs, failed to reach the island, in consequence
of its exclusion from the European family; yet even this was not
for her an unmitigated evil, though certainly the greatest loss
she sustained. While Europe, during the eighth and ninth
centuries, was in total darkness, Ireland alone basked in the
light of science, whose lustre, shining in her numerous schools,
attracted thither by its brightness the youth of all nations,
whom she received with a generosity unbounded. Not content with
this, she sent forth her learned and holy men to spread the
light abroad and dispel the thick darkness, to establish seats
of learning as focuses whence should radiate the light of truth
on a world buried in barbarism.

And when the warm sunshine, created or kept alive by her, sheds
its rays on Italy, on France, on Germany, and England itself,
all her own schools are closed, her once great universities
destroyed. Clonard, Clonfert, Armagh, Bangor, Clonmacnoise, are
desolate, and the wealthy Anglo-Norman prelates find their
purses empty when the question arises of restoring or forming a
single centre of intellectual development. The natural
consequences should have been darkness, barbarism, gross
ignorance. Ireland never fell to that depth of spiritual
desolation. Her sons, though deprived of all exterior help,
would still feed for centuries on their own literary treasures.
All the way down to the Stuart dynasty, the nation preserved,
not only her clans, her princes, and her brehon laws, but also
her shanachies, her books, her ancient literature and traditions.
These the feudal barons could not rob her of; and if they would
not repay her, in some measure, for what they took away, by
flooding her with the new methods of thought, of knowledge, of
scientific investigation, at least they could not destroy her
old manuscripts, wipe out from her memory the old songs, snatch
the immortal harp from the hands of her bards, nor silence the
lips of her priests from giving vent to those bursts of
impassioned eloquence which are natural to them and must out.
Hence there was no tenth century of darkness for her--let us
bear this in mind--light never deserted her, but continued to
shine on her from within, despite the refusal of her masters to
unlock for her the floodgates of knowledge.

For this reason was it not to her an unmitigated loss; but there
is another and, perhaps, a stronger still.

We should be careful not to attribute to what is good the abuse
made of it by men; yet the good is sometimes the occasion of
evil; and so it was with those great, admirable, and much-to-be-
regretted universities.

They imparted to the mind of man an impulse which the pride and
ambition of man turned to his intellectual ruin. What was
intended for the spread of true knowledge and faith became in
the end the source of spiritual pride, the natural fosterer of
doubt and negation. Modern science, so called, that incarnation
of vanity, sophistry, error, and delusion, comes indirectly from
those universities of the middle ages; and it was chiefly at the
time of what is called the revival of learning, that the great
revolution in science came about, which changed the intellectual
gold into dross, the once divine ambrosia of knowledge, served
to happy mortals in mediaeval times, into poison.

That pretended "revival of learning" can never be mentioned in
connection with Ireland; and the "idolatry of art," and
corruption of morals, never crossed the channel which God set
between Great Britain and the Island of Saints.

Another revival, though of a very different character, was,
however, actually taking place in Erin at that very period, when
the Wars of the Roses gave her breathing-time, which we relate
in the words of a modern Irish writer, as a conclusion to the
reflections we have indulged in:

"Within this period lived Margaret of Offaly, the beautiful and
accomplished queen of O'Carrol, King of Ely. She and her husband
were munificent patrons of literature, art, and, science. On
Queen Margaret's special invitation, the literati of Ireland and
Scotland, to the number of nearly three thousand, held a
"session" for the furtherance of literary and scientific
interests at her palace near Killeagh, in Offaly, the entire
assemblage being the guests of the king and queen during their

"The nave of the great church of Da Sinchell was converted for
the occasion into a banqueting-hall, where Margaret herself
inaugurated the proceedings by placing two massive chalices of
gold, as offerings, on the high altar, and committing two orphan
children to the custody of nurses to be fostered at her charge.
Robed in cloth of gold, this illustrious lady, who was as
distinguished for her beauty as for her generosity, sat in
queenly state m one of the galleries of the church, surrounded
by the clergy, the brehons, and her private friends, shedding a
lustre on the scene which was passing below, while her husband,
who had often encountered England's greatest generals in battle,
remained mounted on a charger outside the church, to bid the
guests welcome and see that order was preserved. The invitations
were issued, and the guests arranged according to a list
prepared by 0'Carrol's chief brehon; and the second
entertainment, which took place at Rathangan, was a supplemental
one, to embrace such men of learning as had not been brought
together at the former feast."--(A.M. 0'Sullivan.)

Such was the true "revival of learning" in Ireland--a return to
her old traditional teaching. If this peaceful time had been of
longer duration, there is no doubt that her old schools would
have flourished anew, and men in subsequent ages might have
compared the results of the two systems: the one producing with
true enlightenment, peace, concord, faith, and piety, though
confined to the insignificant compass of one small island; the
other resulting in the mental anarchy so rife to-day, and
spreading all over the rest of Europe.



By losing the only bond of unity--the power vested in the Ard-
Righ--which held the various parts of the island together,
Ireland lost all power of exercising any combined action. The
nations were as numerous as the clans, and the interests as
diverse as the families. They possessed, it is true, the same
religion, and in the observance of its precepts and practices
they often found a remedy for their social evils; but religion,
not encountering any opposition from any quarter, with the
exception of the minor differences existing between the native
clergy and the English dignitaries, was generally considered as
out of the question in their wranglings and contentions. We
shall see how the blows struck at it by the English monarchs
welded into one that people, were the cause of that union now so
remarkable among them, and really constituted the only bond that
ever linked them together.

Before dwelling on these considerations, let us glance a moment
at the state of the country prior to the attempt of introducing
Protestantism there.

The English Pale was reduced at this period to one half of five
counties in Leinster and Meath; and even within those boundaries
the 0'Kavanaghs, O'Byrnes, O'Moores and others, retained their
customs, their brehon laws, their language and traditions, often
making raids into the very neighborhood of the capital, and
parading their gallowglasses and kerns within twenty miles of

The nobility and the people were in precisely the same state
which they had known for centuries. The few Englishmen who had
long ago settled in the country had become identified with the
natives, had adopted their manners, language, and laws, so
offensive at first to the supercilious Anglo-Normans.

But a revolution was impending, owing chiefly to the change
lately introduced into the religion of England, by Henry Tudor.
It is important to study the first attempt of the kind in
Ireland; not only because it became the occasion of establishing
for a lengthy period a real unanimity among the people--giving
birth to the nation as it were--but also for the right
understanding of the word "rebellion," which had been so freely
used before toward the natives, and which was now about to
receive a new interpretation.

The English had once deceived the Irish, exacting their
in the twelfth century by foisting upon them the word homage:
they would deceive Europe by a constant use, or rather misuse,
of the words "rebel" and "rebellion." By the enactment of new
laws they pronounce the simple attachment to the old religion of
the country a denial of sovereign right, and consequently an act
of overt treason; and the Irish shall be butchered mercilessly
for the sake of the religion of Christ without winning the name,
though they do the crown, of martyrdom; for Europe is to be so
effectually deceived, that even the Church will hesitate to
proclaim those religious heroes, saints of God.

But the great fact of the birth of a nation, in the midst of
those throes of anguish, will lessen their atrocity in the mind
of the reader, and explain to some extent the wonderful designs
of Providence.

From an English state paper, published by M. Haverty, we learn
that, in 1515, a few years before the revolt of Luther, the
island was divided into more than sixty separate states, or
"regions," "some as big as a shire, some more, some less."

Had it not been for this division and the constant feuds it
engendered, in the north between the O'Neills and O'Donnells, in
the south between the Geraldines (Desmonds and Kildares) and the
Butlers (Ormonds), the authority of the English king would have
been easily shaken off. The policy so constantly adopted by
England in after-times--a policy well expressed by the Latin
adage, Divide et impera--preserved the English power in Ireland,
and finally brought the island into outward subjection at least,
to Great Britain--a subjection which the Irish conscience and
the Irish voice and Irish arms yet did not cease to protest
against and deny. But the nation was divided, and it required
some great and general calamity to unite them together and make
of them one people.

That, even spite of those divisions, they were at the time on
the point of driving the English out of the island, we need no
better proofs than the words of the English themselves. The
Archbishop of Dublin, John Allen, the creature of Wolsey, who
was employed by the crafty cardinal to begin the work of the
spoliation of convents in the island, and oppose the great Earl
of Kildare, dispatched his relative, the secretary of the Dublin
Council, to England, to report that "the English laws, manners,
and language in Ireland were confined within the narrow compass
of twenty miles;" and that, unless the laws were duly enforced,
"the little place," as the Pale was called, "would be reduced to
the same condition as the remainder of the kingdom;" that is to
say, the Pale itself, which had been brought to such
insignificant limits, would belong exclusively to the Irish.

It was while affairs were at this pass that the revolt of
"silken Thomas" excited the wrath of Henry VIII., and brought
about the destruction of almost the whole Kildare family.

It was about this time, also, that Wolsey fell, and Cromwell,
having replaced him as Chancellor of England, with Cranmer as
Archbishop of Canterbury, the Reformation began in England with
the divorce of the king, who shortly after assumed supremacy in
spirituals as a prerogative of the crown, and made Parliament --
in those days himself--supreme law-giver in Church and state.

Cromwell, known in history as the creature and friend of Cranmer,
like his protector a secret pervert to the Protestant doctrines
of Germany, and the first arch-plotter for the destruction of
Catholicity in the British Isles, undertook to save the English
power in Ireland by forcing on that country the supremacy of the
king in religious matters, knowing well that such a step would
drive the Irish into resistance, but believing that he could
easily subdue them and make the island English.

Having been appointed, not only Chancellor of England, but also
king's vicar-general in temporals and spirituals, Cromwell
inquired of his English agents in Ireland the best means of
attaining his object--the subjection of the country. Their
report is preserved among the state papers, and some of their
suggestions deserve our attentive consideration. If Henry VIII.
had consented to follow their advice, he would have himself
inaugurated the bloody policy so well carried out long after by
another Cromwell, the celebrated "Protector."

The report sets forth that the most efficient mode of proceeding
was to exterminate the people; but Henry thought it sufficient
to gain the nobility over--the people being beneath his notice.

The agents of the vicar-general were right in their atrocious
proposal. They knew the Irish nation well, and that the only way
to separate Ireland from the See of Peter was to make the
country a desert.

Their means of bringing about the destruction of the people was
starvation. The corn was to be destroyed systematically, and the


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