I shall have little or nothing to say touching the cruel oppressions inflicted, for so many ages, upon my countrymen; and absolutely nothing at all in the way of complaint or vituperation on account of those sad events. Let it be granted, for the present, that the English, or the Normans, or whoever the Historian pleases, were “forced by circumstances to take charge” of Ireland, and that, having so taken charge, they were forced to take all the lands of the island for their own people; forced to proscribe the religion of the country, and transport priests for saying Mass; forced to stir up continual insurrections in order to help the good work of confiscation: let all this theory stand admitted; but whatever may be thought of all that, the present point which I shall make is, that the Historian bears false witness at any rate; – Historian and History being all one huge fraud together. If I do not prove this, I prove nothing.
Taking up, then, the said History at the “turning-point” of the famous “Massacre,” I shall first give some account of the array of witnesses brought forward to establish it; and especially of Temple, Borlase, and Petty, and of the “forty folios” of depositions: testimonies, indeed, which I did not expect that any Englishman, or any Orangeman, would ever have the audacity to cite again. As the First of Living Historians, however, has thought proper to drag to light the whole hideous romance, and has actually come over to America to pour it into the horrified ears of this people, – both by Lectures and through the medium of a Book, I shall now follow him into the revolting details at least of the one period of a few years which he has selected as the turning-point in the History of my native country.
It is very observable indeed, and somewhat entertaining, that from his very dark portraiture of the Irish people in general, he kindly excepts us Protestants. “When I call them a generation of riotous and treacherous cut-throats,” he says, “I don’t mean you. You Protestants, on the contrary, are the noble and godly element, which we, the English, have introduced, to bring some order out of this bloody chaos: – you are the missioned race – as Macaulay (the predecessor of Froude) calls you – the imperial race that we have planted, enabling you to help yourselves to all the lands and goods of the irreclaimable Popish savages, that you might hold the fair island in trust for us, – for us, Ireland’s masters, and yours. You are our own ‘Protestant Boys:’ I pat you on the back, and exhort you not to do the work of the Lord negligently.”
But I am not myself acquainted with any Irish Protestant gentleman who is likely to accept graciously this considerate exception in our favor. My own friends in Ireland, from boyhood, – at school, – at the University, and in after life, – have been generally of opinion that it would be a blessed and glorious deed to sweep into the sea the last remnants of English domination in their country. I never was taught in my youth that the man of Two Sacraments has a natural right and title to take all the possessions, and to take the lives of the men of Seven Sacraments. My father was not only a Protestant, but a Protestant clergyman; and he, in the year ’98, when only a student in college, was sworn in as an United Irishman; and then proceeded to swear in his friends; and the noble object of that society was to abolish the English power in Ireland. Grattan was a Protestant, and he declared that he despised the pretended liberty of half a million of his countrymen, based upon the serfdom and slavery of two millions more: and it was this Protestant who penned the Declaration of Irish Independence, and created a Volunteer army to make good his words. And Tone was a Protestant, who brought on two invasions of the French, to free his native island from the English. And Tandy was a Protestant, who commanded the artillery of the Volunteer army. I fear that the Historian will find, in our Protestants, an ungrateful set of clients.
We will not have his advocacy upon any terms. I can imagine that I see William Smith O’Brien receiving the courtesies of our Historian, as a Protestant, and therefore, a sort of deputy Briton. This revered name of O’Brien I cannot mention without bowing in homage to so grand a memory. For years we broke the bitter bread of exile together, and drank of the sumo cup of captivity. He lived for the cause of his country’s independence; and never, till his latest breath, repented of his gallant though fruitless effort to destroy, with armed hand, the tyranny that was gnawing away his people’s life. It would be easy to name many other Protestants of the same principles; but at present let us content ourselves with Mr. Prendergast, who has so fiercely declined the special compliment offered him by this Historian. And, in truth, the very best book upon the subject of the turning-point of Irish history is this very “Cromwellian Settlement,” by Prendergast. Let nobody take Froude’s poison without taking Prendergast’s antidote. That there was an insurrection is certain. It began on the 23d of October, in the year 1641; and the whole plan and purpose of it were to retake and possess the farms and houses which had been forcibly taken away from the Irish of Ulster, only a few years before. From twenty years to thirty years had elapsed since most of the people of six counties had been driven to the mountains and bogs, that their pleasant fields might be occupied by Scotch and English settlers. The remnant of those Ulster clans had been reduced to the condition of laborers, or very small cottiers.
Many men of high name, with the culture and associations of the gentry of that day, were tilling, as ploughmen, and reaping as harvest men, for the stranger, fields that had been their own. Others, with their shivering families, could look down from the brow of Tyrone hills upon those smiling valleys of the Blackwater and the Foyle, whence their own fathers had trooped, forty years before, to join their clans on the Blackwater, and to ride beside the bridle-rein of Hugh O’Neill, at the Yellow Ford. Of this sad and plundered people many of the young and high-spirited had emigrated to France or Spain, to take service in the armies of those countries. The rest lingered sorrowfully, in the hope that some alteration might be brought about, in their doleful lot, by a change of kings. For example, when King Charles the First came to the throne of England, there seemed to them a prospect of some share of relief or reparation: in the meantime, they endured life, hiding their clergy in woods and caves, concealing themselves, with their wives and little ones, as much as possible, from the notice of the insolent intruders. And when, at last, that King Charles and his Parliament were on the very point of open war, the leaders of the Northern Irish thought they might give counsel to their people, – disarmed and scattered as they were, – that the time was come to strike a blow. Of the long series of exasperating provocations which now at last made them ready to try this desperate remedy, I need not here speak. It is enough that the turning-point was reached.
The Historian here cannot bring himself to specify names and dates; nor even to indicate, save in a general way, the authorities for his fearful story. His sensibilities will not permit him to dwell upon scenes so sanguinary; but he gives this general account of the situation: –
“Savage creatures of both sexes, yelping in chorus, and brandishing their skenes; boys practising their young hands in stabbing and torturing the English children; – these were the scenes which were witnessed daily through all parts of Ulster. The fury extended even to the farm-stock, and sheep and oxen were slaughtered, not for food, but in the blindness of rage. The distinction between Scots and English soon vanished. Religion was made the new dividing line, and the one crime was to be a Protestant. The escorts proved in most cases but gangs of assassins. In the wildest of remembered winters, the shivering fugitives were goaded along the highways stark naked and foodless. If some, happier than the rest, found a few rags to throw about them, they were torn instantly away. If others, in natural modesty, twisted straw ropes round their waists, the straw was set on fire.
When the tired little ones dropped behind, the escort lashed the parents forward, and the children were left to die. One witness, Adam Clover, of Slonory, in Cavan, swore that he saw a woman who had been thus deserted, set upon by three Irish women, who stripped her naked in frost and snow. She fell in labor under their hands, and she and her child died. Many were buried alive. Those who died first were never buried, but were left to be devoured by dogs, and rats, and swine. Some were driven into rivers arid drowned, some hanged, some mutilated, some ripped with knives. The priests told the people ‘ that the Protestants were worse than dogs; they were devils and served the devil; and the killing of them was a meritorious act.’ One wretch stabbed a woman with a baby in her arms, and left the infant in mockery on its dead mother’s breast, bidding it ‘Suck, English bastard.’ The insurgents swore in their madness they would not leave English man, woman, or child alive in Ireland. They flung babies into boiling pots, or tossed them into the ditches to the pigs. They put out grown men’s eyes, turned them adrift to wander, and starved them to death. Two cowboys boasted of having murdered thirty women and children; and a lad was heard swearing that his arm was so tired with killing, that he could scarce lift his hand above his head.”
The main authority for all this is Sir John Temple, whose story is founded upon the famous folios of Depositions; but the Historian does not cite the depositions themselves, merely saying that they are the “eternal witness of blood.” To those who have made Irish history a study, these wonderful affidavits are familiar; and I should be ashamed to take up space with them, but that to most readers they will be something new, and will besides show the exact sources from which the Historian has drawn his bloody marvels. Here, for example, are several specimens: –
“The examination of Dame Butler, who, being duly sworn, deposeth that
“She was credibly informed by Dorothy Renals, who had been several times an eye-witness of these lamentable spectacles, that she had seen to the number of five-and-thirty English going to execution; and that she had seen them when they were executed, their bodies exposed to devouring ravens, and not afforded as much as burial.
“And this deponent saith, That Sir Edward Sutler did credibly inform her, that James Butler, of Finyhinch, had hanged and put to death all the English that were at Goran and Wells, and all thereabouts!!!
“Jane Jones, servant to the deponent, did see the English formerly specified going to their execution; and, as she conceived, they were about the number of thirty-five; and was told by Elizabeth Home, that there were forty gone to execution. Jurat, Sept. 7, 1642.
“Thomas Fleetwood, late curate of Kilbeggan, in the county of Westmeath, deposeth, That he hath heard from, the mouths of the rebels themselves of great cruelties acted by them. And, for one instance, that they stabbed the mother, one Jane Addis by name, and left her little suckling child, not a quarter old, by the corpse, and then they put the breast of its dead mother into its mouth, and bid it ‘suck, English Bastard‘ and so loft it there to perish.”
“Richard Bourk, bachelor in divinity, of the county of Fermanagh, deposeth, That he heard, and verily believeth, the burning and killing of one hundred, at least, in the castle of Tullah; and that the same was done after fair quarter promised. Jurat, July 12, 1643.”
In looking through the monstrous farrago of swearing, it is remarkable, first, that scarcely any one saw the horrid deeds he or she swears to, but only tells what somebody told somebody else, who told this deponent: also, that in most cases the authorities for the statements are called, in general terms, “the rebels.” For example: –
“Katherine, the relict of William Coke, of the county of Armagh, deposeth, That many of her neighbors, who had been prisoners among the rebels, said and affirmed, that divers of the rebels would confess, bray and boast, how they took an English Protestant, one Robert Wilkinson, at Kilmore, and held his feet in the fire until they burned him to death.”
To do the Historian justice, there is not one of the fearful scenes he has above described that he did not find in evidence duly sworn to upon the Holy Evangelists. The babies flung into boiling pots, or left to be devoured by swine; the men and women stripped naked, and driven out under the wild winter weather. Nay, more, he is too modest, and does not cite by any means the most revolting cases, fearing, perhaps, to give a certain grotesque air to his pages. I can supply him, for his second edition, with more and better horrors. Stripping, for instance, is but a trifle: why not give us the case of Margaret Fermeney, an old woman o seventy-five, who swears that on her way up to Dublin, “She was stripped naked by the Irish seven times in one day.” He will find this in the famous folios, and also in Temple. Or why not tell us what Elizabeth Baskerville swears she heard a murderer’s wife say to the murderer, her husband: –
“Elizabeth Baskerville deposeth, That she heard the wife of Florence Fitz-Patrick find much fault with her husband’s soldiers, because they did not bring along with them the grease of Mrs. Nicholson, whom they had slain, for her to make candles withal. Jurat, April 26, 1643.”
Indeed, several of the affidavits make express mention of the strong desire those Irish had to collect Protestant grease. And it is all set forth in those volumes which are the “eternal witness of blood!”
I observe that the Historian has avoided the many miracles and ghost stories which are found in the same repertory of facts. Yet these would greatly heighten the sensational charm of his work; and here is one which might probably suit him: –
“Arthur Culm, of Cloughwater, in the county of Cavan, esquire, deposeth, That he was credibly informed by some that Avere present there, that there were thirty women and young children, and seven men, flung into the river of Belturbert; and when some of them offered to swim for their lives, they were, by the rebels, followed in boats, and knocked on the head with poles; the same day they hanged two women at Turbert; and this deponent doth verily believe, that Mulmore O’Rely, the then sheriff, had a hand in the commanding the murder of those said persons, for that he saw him write two notes, which he sent to Turbert, by Brien O’Rely, upon whose coming these murders were committed: and those persons who were present also affirmed, that the bodies of those thirty persons drowned did not appear upon the water till about six weeks after, past; as the said O’Rely came to the town, all the bodies came floating up to the very bridge; those persons were all formerly stayed in the town by his protection, when the rest of their neighbors in the town went away.”
There are many other very miraculous facts sworn to, which are quite accessible to the Historian: also many other and still more savage cruelties, which he does his readers positive wrong in suppressing. In the next chapter, I shall present still another spicilegium culled from the “eternal witness of blood;” and afterwards explain why these depositions were called for, how they were obtained, and how they were paid for. All which the learned Historian knew very well, but preferred to suppress for the honor of Protestant human nature