C. P. (Charles Patrick) Meehan.

The confederation of Kilkenny online

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I'ts hasty zeal, to proceed to the county Wicklow, and
outroot the septs of the O'Byrnes and O'Tooles, who
had been plundered by Sir William Parsons, and driven
to madness by the savage Coote. Lord Gormanstown,
and others of his order, such asDunsany and Netterville,
burned for an opportunity in which they might prove
their loyalty, by persecuting the men who had arisen to
beat down the most intolerable despotism — they sought
arms, but were denied tiiem,— they were treated with the
contempt which they merited, nor did the}- repent them
of their bloody purpose, till they found theuiselves in-
volved in the damnatory edicts which the justices pub-
lished against '' all Papists without distinction of any:'
Yet did tliey still indulge a hope that these denuncia-
tions might be mitigated in their behalf, but the hope
soon vanished. Their religion was a plausible pretext
for robbing them ; their estates were worth having, and
had long tempted the cupidity of Parsons and Borlase.
Indeed the sordid griping of those men stands without
parallel. Perfectly unscrupulous as to the means of
acquiring wealth, they hesitated not to smite, with
" axe and oath," all who stood between them and their
object ; nor can we find the counterpart of such unblusli-
ing plunderers, save amongst those whom Dante describes
in the eighth circle of the Inferno.'

But a new light began to break in on them, and
they were soon made aware of the danger which beset
them. A letter from the Earl of Essex to the justices,
suggesting the expediency of banishing the lords and
gentry of the Pale to the West Indies, was sufficient to
alarm and teach them to provide for their safety. They
had no alternative ; to stay any longer separated from
the national movement, perilled their lives and fortunes.
The rackings and torturings of their own kinsmen, and
the cruelties and the atrocities which they were
forced to endure in the Castle of Dublin, gave fearful
warning that a similar course of treatment was in reserve
for themselves. Remonstrances were vain, for they
were unheeded, — loyalty, and hoary age, Avere but
"scurvy pleas" at such a moment. Patrick Barnwellf
of Ki ll brew, and Sir John Read, were living witnesscja

» Inferno. Canto xxvlii. t Cai'te's Ormoni



of the inhumanity of the executive : without the shadow
of a charge against their devotion to the Crown, they
had their sinews stretched, and their bones broken
in the torture-charaber of Dublin Castle. Their crime
was, that they were Papists, and, consequently, fit

, objects for the vengeance of Parsons and Borlase, No
matter how reluctant they might have been, the nobility
and gentry of the Pale had no other course open to
them, save that of joining with those who, in the
hypocritical slang of the times, were denominated
"rebels." Naturally enough, they dreaded to encounter
the pains and penalties to which their religion consigned
them, and they determined to abandon their vacillation,
and seek protection in the patriot ranks. Thus were the
lords of the Pale at length convinced that their kindly
feelings to England couJd not protect them when the
rack might be called in to support the suspicions and
confirm the jealousies of the justices, who had an interest
in their,-, destruction.* Their tenants on their own
estates had been wantonly pillaged, and their persons
wounded. Coote's thirst for blood was insatiable, and
his threat of not leaving a Catholic in Ireland began to
gain some truth, from the recollection of his barbarities
in Wicklow. Was the man who could smile and become
facetious when an infant was writhing on the pike of one
of his soldiers, incapable of any deed which diabolical
ingenuity could suggest ?

^ Finglas, Clontarf, and Santry, were the scenes of the
most wanton murders, perpetrated by this man on people
whose proximity to the capital might have been sufficient
guarantee for their loyalty, or, at least, for their inability
to do the state any mischief When the humbler classes
of the Catholics were thus persecuted, what could tlieir
lords expect by tame acquiescence, or what solace could
they borrow from delusive hope ? But, above all, what
good could accrue to them from perpetuating the anta-
gonism which, alas ! had too long divided " the modern"
and the "old Irish." It was madness to continue it,

\and the meeting on the Hill of Crofty, in the county

' Meath, was the result of their reflections. There, as on
an altar, Roger O'Moore and Lord Gormanstown, the

• Cartes Onn., p. 259.


representatives of the two parties, plighted a solemn
vow, and swore to bury in oblivion the feuds and dissen-
sions which had long wasted their strength and now left
them a prey to the designs and hatred of the common

Lord Gormanstown, and the other lords of the Pale
proceeded, soon after, to take measures which the
exigencies of the times necessarily demanded. Some
levies of men, badly equipped, and hastily disciplined,
were made in the various baronies. Commanders were
appointed, and orders were issued to raise such means
as were necessary for their support. The meeting on
Knockcrofty, and its immediate results, had two very
natural consequences : all hope of reconciliation with
'the justices was henceforth abandoned, and the "old
Irish," who had commenced the struggle in the north
and south, determined to persevere with redoubled
energy, now that they were joined by the men of the
Pale. Willing or unwilling, they were driven into a
position from which they could not recede. No matter
what their sympathy might have been for English domi-
nation, their religion was the grand plea for their
destruction: that they held in common with the "old
Irish," and in defence of the ancient creed they were
solemnly pledged to stand or fall. The objects of the two
parties now united were grand, and well worth a com-
bined effort. The Puritans of England meditated the
ruin of the monarchy : they were assisted in Ireland by
the machinations of the justices. Next to the ruin of
royalty, they ambitioned nothing so much as the extir-
pation of the Catholics. The preservation of the regal
, power was an object dear to the ancient and modern
Irish, but in every thing pertaining to religion, the Celt
knew no compromise, while his ally on the other hand
would be satisfied with mere toleration. Manifestoes,
calling on the leaders to arm in the common cause, were
forwarded to the principal towns ; a great portion of
Ulster had been already won back by Sir Phelim O'Neill ;
Lord Mountgarret captured Kilkenny ; Waterford opened
its gates to his son. Colonel Edmund Butler ; Koss and
Wexford declared for the national cause ; the O'Briens
were almost masters of Clare ; and, in the fastnesses of
iar-Connaught, there was a steady organisation in pro-



gress, which alarmed the Earl of Clanricarde, who,
wishing to preserve the good opinion of the justices,
stood aloof from the general movement.

But it was not till the 22d of March 1642, that the
Catholic prelates took any part in these momentous
proceedings. Of course their influence had been em-
ployed to exhort and encourage their flocks in fighting
the battle of the faith ; but, previous to that period, it
was quite impossible that they could have been synodi-
cally convened. Their presence was required in many a
hard fought field, to console and comfort those who
had fallen in the struggle ; nor had they time or oppor-
tunity to assemble and deliberate in councils.

^ The provincial synod at Kells, convened by Hugh
O'iieilly, archbishop of Armagh, was attended by all the
bishops of the province, with the exception of Thomas
Dease, bishop of Meath, who, like Lord Clanricarde,
sought to extinguish the spirit of patriotism in the
hearts of his people. Dease, who was evidently influ-
enced by the Earl of Westmeath, had already done
serious evil to the Catholic forces besieging Drogheda,
by preventing supplies from reaching them ; his presence,
therefore, must have been anything but agreeable to tlie
patriotic primate and other prelates. Tiieir meeting was
brief, but of great moment ; after mature deliberation,
they pronounced the war undertaken by the Catholics
to be lawful and pious, and issued a spirited address to
their flocks, exhorting them to take up arms for their
religion, country, and king. A series of decrees against
murderers and usurpers of other men's estates, was pub-
lished by this synod, and the pains and penalties wliich the
bishops pronounced against all evil doers, fully cleared
them from the foul aspersions of the justices, who, in their
puritanical cant, declared that " they had walked invisibly
in works of darkness."* Before the prelates retired to
their respective sees, they sent a manifesto to those
bishops who had not been present, advertising them of a
national synod to be held at Kilkenny, on the 10th of
May following. The meeting of the prelates had
Bcarcely terminated, when two e'i'ents occurred which
were calculated to depress the hcttrts of men with iosa

• Carte's Orm. p. 325.


holy and inspiriting objects than those of the Irish Ca-

The civil -war had not, as yet, broken out in England ;
the fire of revolution was still smouldering, and only re-
quired the breath of popular excitement to fan it into
flame. The hatred which the factions on the other side
of the channel entertained for the Irish Papists,
was fed and invigorated by printed catalogues of
forged murders and shocking atrocities, sworn by corrupt
witnesses to have been committed on the Protestants iu
Ulster, and the other provinces. If anything could add
to that deadly hatred, it was the event known as the
''defection of the Pale." Charles I. gladly seized
an opportunity of turning the attention of the English
parties to the state of Ireland ; and, in a message to
the House of Commons, on the 8th of April, he signified
his desire of crossing the channel, to chastise the detest-
able rebels, and settle the peace of the kingdom ; pro-
testing, at the same time ' ' that he would never consent
to the toleration of the Popish profession, or the abolitior
of the laws then in force against Popish recusants.
The parliament, however, demurred, and the justices in
Ireland made such a representation of the state of the
kingdom, as was calculated to change his Majesty's
design of visiting it. A proposition, however, was
submitted to the king, of which he approved ; 2,500,000
acres were declared forfeited to the Crown, by the men
engaged in rebellion ; and in order to raise money for
prosecuting a war against the Irish on their own soil,
and against the king in England, the public credit was
pledged that for every sum advanced they should receive
a proportionate return of forfeited property.* This, how-
ever, was one of the many acts of English despotism
which might have been turned to a good account — for,
by it, the Irish people were reduced to the alternative of
crushing their tyrants, or perishing in the ruins of their
proscribed religion, and forfeited homesteads.

Cooped up within the walls of Dubhn, the justices
vainly represented to the English people the wretched
state of their troops, and the formidable array of the
rebels. Petition after petition was sent to England,

•Lingard, to« x.


and many a supplication for supplies of old clothing
and arms, pathetically headed '' an affair of bowels,"*
was passed over unheeded. But in keeping the king
from the Irish shores, they had accomplished their
purpose, for they dreaded nothing so much as any
investigation of their cruel and perfidious acts.

The second of the events alluded to, was the arrival
of Munroe, who, with 2,500 men, landed at Carrick-
fergus on tlie i5th of April, where he was soon after
joined by Lord Conway, and Sir Arthur Chichester,
with a large supply of arms and ammunition.

But neither the king's insolent declaration, nor the
arrival of the Scotch troops in Ulster, had power to
turn the Irish from their purpose.

In the south and west ihe people were everywhere
crowding round the popular leaders, Clanricarde's
dictation could not restrain the enthusiasm of his pro-
vince. He had no hold on the affections of his people,
and as they knew that he was in correspondence with
' the justices, they had little confidence in him. They
therefore thought it advisable to stand prepared against
. such horrors as Sir William St. Leger, the president of
Munster, was inflicting on the Catholics in his province.
That man, whose barbarities equalled those of Sir Charles
Coote, was supplied by the justices with money and
provisions, and ordered to execute martial law on those
who fell into his hands. Early in March he entered
*' Condon's Country," and having massacred the inha-
bitants, continued his march into the county of Wex-
ford ; nor did he return till he had burned the country
from Lismore to Dungarvan. In this work of devasta-
tion he was ably assisted by the Earl of Cork and his
sons, one of whom. Lord Kinalmeaky, is thus eulogised in
« letter from his father to the Earl of Warwick : — '^ And
now that the boy has blooded himself upon them, I
hope that God will bless him ; that as I now write but
of the killing of an hundred, I shall shortly write of
the killing 0/ tkousands."-\ Nevertheless, St. Leger and
the Earl of Cork could not have withstood the frequent
assaults of the masses, one-half of whom were not
armed, had there been unanimity amongst the leaders.


• Thorpe's Collect., E. D. S. t Smith's History of Cork.


The appointment of generals was a never-ending sub-
ject of controversy. Undisciplined and badly equipped,
they divided their strength and made a simultaneous
attack on Youghal, Bandon, and Kinsale. Failure was
the result. Mountgarret and Barry invested Cork, but
were successfully resisted by St. Leger and Inchiquin,
and were finally obliged to retire into Leinster.

Notwithstanding these reverses, the natural result of
want of plan and well-combined arrangements, almost
every town in Munster was in the hands of the Irish.
The justices, however, were determined on crushing the
unorganised levies in the province of Leinster, and Lord
Ormond was deputed to command their troops. Thig
nobleman, though of Irish origin, was born in England.
At a very early age he was removed from the Catholic
school of Finchley, near Barnet, to the tutelage of thc-
Archbishop of Canterbury, under whom he soon
abjured the faith of his fathers. He tells us himsel;
that he was, not only by birth, extraction, and alliance,
but likewise in his affections, wholly and entirely au
Englishman.* With military talents of a superior order,
he was in every respect equal to many of the generals of
his time. In diplomacy, however, he excelled them all.
Witli the most fascinating and artful address, he easily
worked himself into the confidence of friends and foes ;
but under the guise of simplicity and candour he covered
a heart which was full of treachery and craft. The
justices had unbounded confidence in him, and he in
return made no secret of his love and honour for them.
He was the hope of that faction which desired nothing
so much as the ruin of the Irish Catholics, and it mat-
tered very little how many perished, provided Ormond
was spared to carry out the designs of his patrons.
In the opinion of the men whom he served, he is
described by a writer at the period of which we treat
as *' The Jewell of the Kingdom; not greater in name
than rare abilities." f

The justices were now aware that the time appointed
by the prelates for the national synod was nigh at hand ;
and, as it were anticipating the order and organizatioc
which they expected to result from the congregated pre-

• Caxte's Orm., v Ormond's Letters. i Thorpe Papers, R.D. S.


lacy and lay lords, they determined to strike a blow
which would leave the leaders comparatively powerless.
One, whose name and influence might have been consi-
derable, did not live to witness the new era which was
about to dawn. Lord Gormanstown, the chief of the
Catholic nobility of Leinster, a prey'to grief and vexa-
tion of spirit, died, and the command of the Leinster
levies devolved on Lord Mountgarret, This nobleman,
who was married to a daughter of Hugh, Earl of Tyrone,
had early distinguished himself in the wars of Queen
Elizabeth ; in 1559, he successfully maintained the cas-
ties of Bally ragget and Coleshill against her Majesty's
forces. In the parliament of 1613 and 1615 he was
fortunate enough to win the good will of James ; and in
1619 he got a confirmation of all his estates with the
creation of several manors and various lucrative privi-
leges.* He had not, however, the talents which were
necessary for a great military leader; and, like the other
lords who had lately joined the "old Irish," "he was
forced," according to his own confession, "into the ge-
neral cause by the example of those, who, as innocent
and free from infringing his majesty's laws as himself,
had been used in the nature of traitors." f

On the 2nd of April, Ormond marched out of Dublin
with 300 foot, 500 horse, and five field pieces. It was on
thii day that his castle of Carrick had been taken by
Colonel Edmund Butler, who caused all the prisoners,
including the Countess of Ormond, with her children,
and about a hundred Protestants, to be safely conveyed
to Dublin. Ormond's object was to victual several de-
tached garrisons, which were still held by the lords
justices. He t* ent forth with the usual commission to
pillage, burn, aiwd kill ; and notwithstanding the hu-
manity and forbearance with which his own people
had been treated, he did not fail to execute his or-
ders to the very letter. He advanced to Carlow, Strad-
bally, and Maryborough ; . from the latter place he sent
Sir Charles Coqte to reinforce the garrisons in Burri*-
Knockmenease' and Birr ; which service having beek
performed, Coote rejoined him at Athy on the 13th.

• Lodge, iv. p. 52.
t Mountgarret's lutter to Ormond, March 25, 1642.


Queen Henrietta Maria, princess of France, was
represented by the growing party as inimical to the
liberty of the subject, and bent on some contrivance
for the introduction of Popery. Reared in the heart
of a despotic court, her religion and pretended ascen-
dancy over the king, furnished ample themes for tlie
mal-contents, who argued that the marriage of
Charles was far from being sanctified by his Popish
queen. Her confessor was arrested, the service of her
chapel was dissolved, and she herself had retired to
Holland with a view of soliciting such means^ from
foreign princes, as would render her husband equal to
the exigencies which beset him.*

But in Ireland the success of the Catholics might have
been far more signal, had there been a combined system
between tlie leaders. There lacked not energy nor motive
to unite them. The views of the Puritan faction, repre-
sented by Parsons and Borlase, were unmasked, and
the opinion which had already seized the minds of the
Catholics, grew stronger, and struck its roots more
deeply day by day. There was now but one conviction
on their minds, and that was, that the faction who
were levying war against the throne, had set their hearts
on the extirpation of the Papists, and the confiscation
of whatever property they still retained.

It has been already stated that the provincial synod
of Kells had declared the war against the Puritans to
be " pious and lawful," but it may be readily conceived
what mighty advantages were to be derived from a
national synod of all the bishops and clergy of

According to arrangement, the synod met at Kil-
kenny, on the 10th of May. The Archbishops of
Armagh, Cashel, and Tuam, with six other bishops,
and the proxies of five more, besides vicars-general and
other dignitaries, were present, and the country anxiously
awaited the result of their deliberations. The subjects
which they had to treat were of a momentous nature.
They regarded war as well as peace, and we may easily
imagine that they would have stood aloof from all
matters regarding bloadshed, if the cir

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Online LibraryC. P. (Charles Patrick) MeehanThe confederation of Kilkenny → online text (page 2 of 22)