The seventeenth century was the period of our most thriving Protestant trade in swearing. It was the time of Popish Plots, and of multitudinous “depositions.” As for the thirty-four folio volumes of oaths, to which Historian Froude calmly refers tis, as an “eternal witness,” that learned person must know that many of them were paid for, in money, most of them in confiscated land and lucrative office: that many of them were never sworn at all, appearing with the pen drawn across the words “being first duly sworn:” that the Lords of the Council of Ireland, and the heads of the “English interest” in the island, absolutely need ed these oaths for procuring the indictment of all Irish Catholics who owned anything; and that they bought the said oaths as in market overt. Carte, author of the Life of Ormonde, is a Protestant authority; and Mr. Froude has read his work, for he often cites it where it suits him: but he takes care not to give us this passage from Carte’s first volume: –
“The Roman Catholics complained that there were strange practices used with the jurors, menaces to some, promises of rewards, and parts of the forfeited estates; and though great numbers of the indicted persons might be really guilty, there was too much reason given to suspect the evidence. I am the more inclined to suspect there was a good deal of corruption and iniquity in the methods of gaining the indictments, because I find a very remarkable memorandum made by the Marquis of Ormonde, in his own writing, of a passage in the Council, on April 23, 1643. There was then a letter read at the Board, from a person who claimed great merit to himself, in getting some hundreds of gentlemen indicted, and the rather for that he had laid out sums of money to procure witnesses to give evidence to a jury, for the finding those indictments. This was an intimate friend of Sir William Parsons, and might very well know that such methods would be approved by him.”
The trade in affidavits had begun in 1642, a few months after the insurrection broke out; in the following year, when Ormonde read this letter, there was a perfect deluge of oaths; and the business went on very briskly for several years, until Sir William Petty, who longed to get at the Ormonde estates themselves, used a remarkable expression, as we read in the same Carte: –
“Sir William Petty bragged, that he had got witnesses who would have sworn through a three-inch board to evict the Duke.”
It may perhaps be thought very harsh to blame too much these poor, hard-working swearers, if our good Protestants, driven out of house and home by “the rebels,” and, finding that there was a demand for oaths, put their imaginations to the rack to invent the most horrible tales, – the more ghastly the higher price, – and hawked them in Dublin to noble lords and honorable gentlemen who would buy. Is a forlorn Protestant, who has been stripped bare, to be grudged even the chance of selling his naked soul?
Many of the swearers, indeed, received no cash in hand, but were sure of higher reward; which was the case of Dean Maxwell and other parsons. But, in dealing with the whole mass of evidence, it is curious to observe what caution and discrimination the Historian has shown. He names but two of the swearers, Dean Maxwell and one Adam Clover, and in constructing his general narrative of the atrocities, never hints that most of them are related on hearsay; and he omits altogether those which contain manifest impossibilities, and true Protestant miracles, and especially the ghosts.
In the last chapter, I mentioned the miracle of the floating corpses on the river at Belturbet, that, after lying drowned six weeks, came up and swam against the stream, up to the very bridge, at the moment when Maelmorra O’Reilly entered the village by that bridge. They came up to confront and accuse him of their murder – as a certain person was “credibly informed:” for, in fact, O’Reilly had still an estate in Cavan; and it was this estate which was guilty of the murder. But these swimming corpses did not speak, in which respect they fall short of the spectres of the Bairn. It was said, and repeated several times in depositions, that, “about the 20th of December,” (for they seldom give us dates at all, and then in a very loose way,) “the rebels” drowned one hundred and eighty Protestants in the Dunn, at Portadown bridge; that this was followed by other noyedes at the same place, week after week, until, as Dean Maxwell computes, there were over a thousand Protestants drowned there. The widow Catherine Cooke, not only swears to this, but adds in her affidavit this ghastly fact: –
“And that, about nine days afterwards, she saw a vision or spirit, in the shape of a man, as she apprehended, that appeared in that river, in the place of the drowning, bolt upright, breast-high, with hands lifted up, and stood in that posture there until the latter end of Lent next following: about which time, some of the English army marching in those parts, whereof her husband was one, (as he and they confidently told this deponent,) saw that spirit or vision standing upright, and in the posture aforementioned: but after that time, the said spirit or vision vanished, and appeared no more, that she knoweth.”
This was not sworn until the 24th of February, 1643, when there was a most urgent demand, and good price, for the most frightful oaths. Other witnesses had a still more inventive imagination: and Elizabeth Price, of Armagh, swears that, on a certain day –
“She went unto the bridge aforesaid, about twilight in the evening; then and there, upon a sudden, appeared unto them a vision or spirit, assuming the shape of a woman waist-high, upright in the water, often repeating the word Revenge! Revenge! Revenge! whereat this deponent, and the rest, being put into an amazement and affright, walked from the place.”
There are five or six other deponents who swear to these shrieking apparitions: but it is time to come to Dean Maxwell, afterwards bishop, that consecrated, anointed, and mitred perjurer, whose long affidavit is relied upon with the greatest confidence by Borlase and Temple, and is, therefore, cited by Froude, as a main part of his authorities, but without giving any of the Dean’s very words. So it is now necessary to state what this reverend divine sword to.
This affidavit was sworn on August 22d, 1642, ten months after the insurrection began. The first notable thing in it is the extraordinary habit which “the rebels” had, whenever they had cut a good many throats anywhere, to come running to this Protestant divine to tell him their exploits: –
“Deponent saith, That the rebels themselves told him, this deponent, that they murdered nine hundred and fifty-four in one morning, in the county of Antrim; and that, besides them, they supposed they killed above eleven or twelve hundred more in that county; they told him likewise, that Colonel Brian O’Neill killed about a thousand in the county of Down, besides three hundred killed near Killeleigh, and many hundreds, both before and after, in both these counties.”
It is even more strange to find that Sir Phelim O’Neill himself, the very head and front of the “Massacre,” whenever he had slaughtered a good herd of Protestants, always made a confidant of our amiable Dean: –
“That he heard Sir Phelim, likewise report, that he killed six hundred English at Garvagh, in the county of Derry; and that he had left neither man, woman, nor child alive in the barony of Munterlony, in the county of Tyrone, and betwixt Armagh and the Newry, in the several plantations and lands of Sir Archibald Atcheson, John Hamilton, Esq., the Lord Caulfield, and the Lord Mountnorris: and saith also, that there were above two thousand of the British murdered for the most part in their own houses, whereof he was informed by a Scotsman, who was in those parts with Sir Phelim, and saw their houses filled with their dead bodies. In the Glenwood, towards Dromore, there were slaughtered, as the rebels told the deponent, upwards of twelve thousand in all, who Avere all killed in their flight to the county of Down.
The numbers of the people drowned at the bridge of Portadown are diversely reported, according as men staid among the rebels. This deponent, who staid as long as any and had better intelligence than most of the English amongst them, and best reason to know the truth, saith, There were (by their own report) one hundred and ninety drowned with Mr. Fullerton; at another time, they threw one hundred and forty over the said bridge; at another lime, thirty-six or thirty-seven; and so continued drowning more or fewer, for seven or eight weeks, so as the fewest which can be supposed there to have perished must needs be above one thousand, besides as many more drowned, between that bridge and the great lough of Montjoy, besides those that perished by the sword, fire, and famine, in Coubrasil (Clanbrassil), and the English plantations adjacent; which, in regard there escaped not three hundred out of all these quarters, must needs amount to many thousands.
And further saith, that he knew one boy, that dwelt near unto himself, and not exceeding fourteen years of age, who killed at Kinnard, in one night, fifteen able strong men with his skein, they being disarmed, and most of their feet in the stocks.”
The reader must remark that this hard-swearing divine does not affirm any of the above matters as of his own knowledge, until he comes to the wicked boy. About this there can be no mistake: for he knew the boy: not that he actually saw the bad boy kill those fifteen able strong men; but perhaps some frightened woman told some other woman, who told the Dean. Or probably some of the “rebels” themselves narrated the story to him; for these rebels appear to have had a certain malicious pleasure in “taking a rise out of” the Dean, if I may use a colloquial Irish expression. But the reader is not to imagine that the Dean was not himself an eye-witness of anything at all: indeed he was so; for he saw, like Moses and the Israelites, a pillar of fire; and he remarked the disloyal silence of the dogs and cocks; as follows: –
“And the deponent further saith, That the first three days and nights of this present rebellion, viz., October 23, 24, and 25, it was generally observed that no cock crew, or any dog was heard to bark, no not when the rebels came in great multitudes unto the Protestants’ houses by night to rob and murder them; and about three or four nights before the six-and-fifty persons were taken out of the deponent’s house and drowned, and amongst those the deponent’s brother, Lieutenant James Maxwell, in the dark of the moon, about one of the clock at night, a light was observed, in manner of a long pillar, to shine for a long way through the air, and refracted upon the north gable of the house. It gave so great a light, about an hour together, that divers of the watch read both letters and books of a, very small character thereby. The former the deponent knoweth to be most true, both by his own experience, and the general observation of as many as the deponent met with in the county Armagh. The latter was seen by all those of the deponent’s family, and besides by many of his Irish guard.”
The zealous divine is next happily enabled to expose a most cunning device of “the rebels,” for the purpose of concealing the extent of the carnage they had committed, and to make people believe that, after all, they had only assassinated one hundred and fifty-four thousand (out of 20,000 Protestants in Ulster,) within three or four months.
“And further saith, that it was credibly told him, that the rebels, least they should hereafter be charged with more murders than they had committed, commanded their priests to bring in a true account of them; and that the persons so slaughtered, whether in Ulster or the whole kingdom, the deponent durst not inquire, in March last, amounted unto one hundred and fifty-four thousand.”
We shall see this monstrous fable repeated by others, adopted without scruple by Sir John Temple, and embodied in a letter to the King from the Lords of the Council at Dublin; as follows: –
“They murdered, up to the end of March last, of men, women, and children, 154,000, as is acknowledged by the priests appointed to collect their numbers.”
Of course, Mr. Froude eagerly repeats this story, and dares to say that, if there was any exaggeration in the numbers, “the Catholic priests were responsible”. But the most singular circumstance is, that nobody ever saw these “returns” made by the priests: nobody even knows to whom the returns were made, nor where they were preserved. They were important documents decidedly, and deserved to be kept in some safe place of deposit; yet, even this diligent Historian, with all his painstaking researches, could never get a glimpse of them. There never were any such returns: and it is beyond measure impudent, at this day, to cite such a talc; but it served its calumnious purpose then, and is reproduced as fresh as ever to serve the same purpose now. It would be a pity to dismiss so soon the testimony of the devout Dean: his affidavit continues: –
“He might add to these many thousands more: but the diary which he the deponent wrote, among the rebels, being burned with his house, books, and all his papers, he referreth himself to the number in gross, which the rebels themselves have, upon inquiry, found out and acknowledge, which notwithstanding will come short of all that have been murdered in Ireland, there being above one hundred and fifty and four thousand now wanting of the British within the very precinct of Ulster. And the deponent further saith, that it was common table-talk amongst the rebels, that the ghosts of Mr. William Fullerton, Timothy Jephes, and the most of those who were thrown over Portadown bridge, were daily and nightly seen to walk upon the river, sometimes singing of psalms, sometimes brandishing of naked swords, and sometimes screeching in the most hideous and fearful manner.
The deponent did not believe the same at first, and yet is doubtful whether to believe it or not; but saith that divers of the rebels assured him that they themselves did dwell near to the said river, and being daily frighted with these apparitions (but especially with their horrible screeching,) were in conclusion forced to remove further into the country. Their own priests and friars could not deny the truth thereof; but as oft as it was by deponent objected unto them, they said, that it was but a cunning sleight of the devil to hinder this great work of propagating the Catholic religion, and killing of heretics; or that it was wrought by witch craft. The deponent himself lived within thirteen miles of the bridge, and never heard any man so much as doubt of the truth thereof; howsoever the deponent obligeth no man’s faith, in regard he saw it not with his own eyes; otherwise he had as much certainty as morally could be required of such a matter.”
The Dean, you observe, “obligeth no man’s faith,” except in such cases as the pillar of fire, and the silent Papist dogs and cocks, and the bad boy, whom he knew.
Many readers may now begin to be of opinion, that they have had enough of Froude’s forty folios of abominations: but I must give those readers still another dose of the “eternal witness of blood:” – for let it not be forgotten, that these documents form the whole foundation for the superstructure raised by Temple, Borlase, Leland, and Fronde, and the whole justification for the policy of England in Ireland during these last two hundred years. The record must not be dismissed too lightly, in justice to the First Living Historian. I had thought it was exploded long ago; but now that this illustrious person has taken his stand upon it, and not only rested upon it his own credit as a historian, but also the whole subsequent policy of his country in relation to my country, there is a real necessity of probing it to the bottom and letting the light through it.
Dean Maxwell’s discourse – the most fructifying sermon that divine ever preached in his life, for it placed upon his head a bloody mitre, encircled by a black aureole of perjury, – has now been sufficiently exposed, though far from completely. Nothing would be easier, if the task were not so revolting, than to disgust all decent people with minute narratives of most grotesque obscenity, and cruelty more ingeniously horrible than ever entered into the head of an Iroquois; but the reader must be content with a few samples of the tamer sort. It will be observed that the deponents who swear to the horrid facts were in general mercifully dispensed from the pain of seeing them with their own eyes. Here is a hideous matter which somebody in Kilkenny told Mr. William Lucas “taking a rise” out of William, as Kilkenny fellows are too apt to do: –
“William Lucas, of the city of Kilkenny, deposeth, That although he lived in the town till about five or six weeks past, in which time, he is assured, divers murders and cruel acts were committed, yet he durst not go abroad to see any of them; but he doth confidently believe, that the rebels having brought seven Protestants’ heads, whereof one was the head of Mr. Bingham, a minister, they did then and there, as triumphs of their victories, set them upon the market-cross, on a market day; and that the rebels slashed, stabbed, and mangled those heads; put a gag, or carrot, in the said Mr. Bingham’s mouth; slit up his cheeks to his ears, laying a leaf of a Bible before him, and bid him preach, for his mouth was wide enough; and after they had so laced themselves, threw those heads into a hole, in St. James’s Green. Jurat, August 16, 1643.”
Some of Mr. Froude’s general statements, as I have before shown, are accurately confirmed by affidavit upon affidavit. If anybody doubts that “the wicked rebels” did really burn women and children, in a house, and cut them to pieces if they tried to come out, let that doubter only read what an unknown woman, without a name, did absolutely tell the Widow Stanhaw: –
“Christian Stanhaw, the relict of Henry Stanhaw, late of the county of Armagh, Esquire, deposeth, That a woman that formerly lived near Laugale, absolutely informed this deponent, that the rebels enforced a great number of Protestants, men, women, and children, into a house, which they set on fire, purposely to burn them; as they did: and still as any of them offered to come out, to shun the fire, the wicked rebels, with scythes, which they had in their hands, cut them to pieces, and cast them into the fire, and burned them with the rest. Jurat, July 23, 1642.”
Poor Mrs. Jane Stewart, residing in the town of Sligo, had, on a certain day, the good luck to be confined to her bed by sickness; and a piece of rare good fortune it was for Jane, seeing she was thus saved from the fate decreed to all the Protestants of that quiet town, and preserved alive to contribute her chapter to the “eternal witness of blood.” She deposeth and saith: –
“All the men, women, and children of the British that then could be found within the same town (saving this deponent, who was so sick that she could not stir) were summoned to go into the gaol, as many as could be met with, all were carried and put into the gaol, where, about twelve o’clock in the night, they were stripped stark naked, and after most of them were cruelly and barbarously murdered with swords, axes, and skeins, and particularly by two butchers named James Buts and Robert Buts, of Sligo, who murdered many of them; wherein also were actors, Charles O’Connor, the friar, and Hugh O’Connor, aforenamed, brother to the said Teigue O’Connor, Kedagh O’Hart, laborer, Richard Walsh and Thomas Walsh, the one the jailor, the other a butcher, and divers others whom she cannot name: and saith, that above thirty of the British which were so put into the gaol, were then and there murdered: besides Robert Crumble, then Provost of the said town of Sligo, Edward Nusham, and Edward Mercer, who were wounded and loft for Irish servants and others of the town: and further saith, that on the said sixth day of January, there were murdered in the streets of the town of Sligo, these British Protestants following, viz.: William Shiels and John Shiels, his son, etc.: and that they of the Irish, that came to bury them, stood up to the mid-leg in the blood and brains of those that were so murdered: who were carried out, and cast into a pit digged for that purpose, in the garden of Mr. Ricrofts, minister of Sligo.”
Poor Jane Stewart, lying on her sick bed, did not see anything of it herself; but I think she had bad dreams.
Why should I wade any more through all this blood and brains? The reader must be weary of it, if not sick. Let it be sufficient to say that folio after folio, with Jurat, Jurat upon the pages, is full charged and reeking with the same kind of abomination. By far the greater part of the depositions are sworn upon hearsay: yet now and then a man comes boldly up and swears that he saw dreadful things with his own eyes. For example:
“James Geare, of the county of Monaghan, deposeth, That the rebels at Clownes murdered one James Netterville, proctor to the minister there, who although he was diversely wounded, his belly ripped up, and his entrails taken out, and laid above a yard from him, yet he bled not at all, until they lifted him up, and carried him away; at which this deponent being an eye-witness, much wondered; and thus barbarously they used him, after they had drawn him to go to Mass with them.”
Another saw an “Irish rebel” make three passes with his drawn sword point-blank into the body of a woman, she with hands clasped defying him to hurt her unless God permitted him; and accordingly the sword never grazed her skin; and the wicked rebel walked off much discomfited, and all the onlookers mightily marvelled. Yet another swearer tells how the “rebels” took a Scotchman (they seldom have any names, neither the rebels nor victims); and having cut open his body to get at his “small guts,” they did nail the end of said small guts to a tree, and then whipped the Scotchman round and round the tree, until all that intestine was drawn out and wound neatly round the trunk; – then whipped him back again, till it was unwound: and all this, as they said, to find out whether a Scotchman’s gut or a dog’s is the longer.
We have seen that the Historian scarcely names one of the swearers, except Dean Maxwell, whose testimony is the rock and strong tower to our Protestant interest; that he never gives any of the words of the swearers, and carefully omits any allusion to ghosts and miracles: but in one instance he has actually named another witness, Adam Clover, of the county Cavan, and gives him as authority for an act of cruelty perpetrated by three Irishwomen, who stripped a Protestant woman naked at the time of her childbirth, and left her and her child to die. I am delighted to find that he knows Adam Clover: but why not give us a little more of what Adam saw with his own eyes for – Adam was a good swearer. Why does our Historian withhold from his admiring readers such a choice horror as that which follows. Now Adam Clover deposeth and saith –
“That he observed thirty persons to be barbarously murdered, and about one hundred and fifty more cruelly wounded, so that traces of blood, issuing from them, lay upon the high road for twelve miles together: and many very young children were left and perished by the way, to the number of sixty or thereabouts.”
Mr. Froude’s friend Adam does not say where he observed all this, nor on what road, nor between, what towns, nor by whom, nor upon whom, the murders and other cruelties were committed. At any rate we see here an example of the manner in which this great Historian manipulates his authorities, presenting only those particulars which he thinks may go down, with credulous people, and suppressing the rest.
One blunder, however, he has made, in calling attention at all to the atrocious cruelties charged in these oaths against Irishmen and Irishwomen, as perpetrated upon helpless women and children of another nationality. At no time in their history have the Irish, – our proud, fierce, generous Irish, – been capable of cruelty to women and children; no, nor to defenceless men. If Froude wants to tell of massacres, let him consult the annals of his own country: let him go back to St. Brice’s day, 1002, at cock-crow in the morning, and feed full on horrors; or let him tell how the same Saxon slaves, who massacred their Danish masters on St. Brice’s day, afterwards formed a plot to massacre their French masters in the time of William the Conqueror: or let him turn his eyes a moment to the wild valley of Glencoe, and tell how King William’s Protestant soldiers knew how to deal with women and infants.
Mr. Froude is right in saying that England and Ireland will never arrive at a good understanding until the business of the “massacre” (that turning-point in history) shall have been fully cleared up. It is true: but he has not cleared it up; nor was that his intention. The man’s idea has been that the public would take his very general account of the matter, and rest upon his authority for those other authorities which ought to support him. He never was more mistaken in his life; and I shall be much deceived if the examination of that portion of Irish history, an examination which is now sure to go on, does not end in the gibbeting of Froude on high, as the most immoral of historic impostors.
My next chapter will finish his delinquencies as to the “Massacres;” and I shall afterwards have to show that in compiling the history subsequent to that, he has proved himself even more recklessly and desperately depraved.