C. P. (Charles Patrick) Meehan.

The confederation of Kilkenny online

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We noAv return to the moment at Avhich Ave set out — the
day before that fixed for the general assembly. It was
about this time that Lord CastlehaA'en, and others
escaped from prison, J and having arrived at the place of
rendezvous, took the oath and Avere enrolled amongst
the confederates ; nor did the city of Kilkenny at any
time previous Avitness such excitement and enthusiasm
as on the 23rd of October, 1642. One Avho Avas a
spectator of that scene, Avhich we would fain recal,
has left us a pithy account of it. He tells us that

» Einun ini. + Thorpe Papers, R. D. S.

t " From Shepes- street, Dublin, thro' Templeoage and over "Wick
frr mountains." — F/c/e Castlehaven s Metuoii-a.


311 his arrival "he found every one actively engaged
preparing for war."* Nor does it require any great
,y)wer of imagination to conjure up the figure and
irashion of those who were then assembling. The Celt
had not as yet generally adopted the English tongue and
English garb ; hence, it was easy to distinguish the
chieftains of the north and south from their brethren
of the Pale. The triiis barraid, flowing mantle,
and colun, were still retained by the Celtic chiefs;
while those of the Pale, rigidly conforming to English
mannerism, adopted the broad black cloth, and the
prevailing fashions of the English court. f In groups
through the busy streets might be seen men, whose
dusky aspects and foreign costume, pronounced them
cavaliers of another clime, — ^but they were the Irish
officers who had accompanied O'Neill and Preston from
the Continent.

What a scene for recollection! Prelates and
priests were there, who, educated beyond the seas,
brought home with them a knowledge of those languages
which Dante and Calderon have immortalised, and yet
were ignorant of the English tongue ; — men who spoke
the language of Spenser side by side with the O'Neills
from the north and the Macarthys from the south.
Happily, however, the language of the western church
was understood by them all. But in such angry times
it were needless to dwell upon the marks by which the
two races might be known, if one were not anxious to
bring vividly before the mind of the reader every
feature and peculiarity of those who have invested the
churches, cloisters, council chambers, arid towers of that
venerable city with such an intense degree of interest.
And surely even the earlier period of its history, when

"Phenecian, and Milesian, and the plundering Norman Peera"
ascended the sacred hill of St. Canice, presents no re-
miniscence so agreeable as that when the lords and
gentry of the Pale came to sit in council with the chief-
tains and representatives of the Celtic tribes. Memory
will ever love to dwell on that extraordinary conjunction,
ill-starred though it may have been, or otherwise : —

• Castleliavens Jlem.

t Vide Walker s Letter on the dress of the Irish of the Pale aad Ul
Celtic Tribes.


around that old city there is an atmosphere of hallowed
antiquity ; — through the vista of ages the forms of
Donald O'Brien and Strongbow are still visible, though
dimmed and obscured by time. Not so, however, with
tliese of whom we treat: they are visions palpably
before us, and it is time that we follow them to the
place of assembly.

It is the 24th of October, and within the walls of
Kilkenny are assembled eleven spiritual peers, fourteen
temporal, and two hundred and twenty-six commoners,
to keep watch and ward over the nascent liberties of
their native land.


When the Catholic deputies were assembling in Kil-
kenny, to establish the federative government, and
adopt these administrative measures of which we are
now to treat, the war had broken out in England be-
tween the king and the parliament. Essex had the
command of the rebel army, and Charles the First,
summoning around him such of tlie nobles as yet stood
firm in their allegiance, raised his standard at Not-
tingham, and called on his subjects to " give to Caesar
his due."*

Those who Avere up in arms against their monarch, were
in close communication with the Lords Justices. They
understood each other well, and they mutually vowed
to turn all their strength on the Irish Catholics when
they had accomplished their designs in England. It
is hardly necessary to observe that the confederates
were well aware that in the din of arms, and thfe
confusion consequent on the collision between the king
and the parliament, they could hope for no ameliora-
tion of their condition, or concession of the "graces,"
which had been so dearly purchased, and so long with-
held. To submit to the dictates of Parsons and Borlase,
was to sacrifice life and liberty, and nothing now
remained for them but to take the government into
their own hands, and save themselves and the couatry
• Lingard. vol. x.



from the machinations of the Puritans. It was a wise
and bold resolve, and promptly was it carried into
execution. War with the justices was inevitable ; the
Nore now flowed between them and the Lords of the Pale,
and the latter were fully convinced that if they would
ever cross it to repossess themselves of their estates,
it would be necessary to do so, not as suppliants for
exemptions, but as bold men bent on maintaining their
own inalienable rights, and the lawful prerogatives of
the crown.

The first meeting of the confederates on this im-
portant occasion, is said to have been held in the
house* of Sir Robert Shea, in the Market-place of
Kilkenny. The great oaken floors, and massive
solidity of the walls, still attest the opulence of the
family who then possessed the mansion. Bellingf in-
forms us that the estates, spiritual and temporal, sat
in the same hall, and that a tier of benches, raised one
above the other, was deemed necessary in order to give
accommodation to the lords and commons. An upper
or private room was appropriated to the lords for con-
sultation ; and the clergy who were not qualified by
their sees or abbacies to sit in the house of lords, met
in an adjoining house, which was called the " house of
convocation." Mr. Patrick D'Arcy.J "bare-headed,
and seated on a stool, represented all, or some of the
judges and masters of chancery, that used to sit in
parliament upon the woolsack;" and Mr. Nicholas
Plunket represented the speaker of the house of
commons: to him both lords and commons addressed
their speeches. Thomas O'Quirke, § a Dominican friar of
the convent of Tralee, a man of eloquence and learning,
was appointed preacher and chaplain in ordinary to
both houses. The assembly had all the appearance ol
parliament, although the first act of the lay-lords,

• A part of this notable building is now occupied by a coachmaker,
and up to a very recent period the chair, said to have been used by
the speaker, was preserved, till broken up by the owner, who wished
to be rid of the importunities of visitors. Surely the authorities of
Kilkenny ought to look after the venerable residence of the Koth
family, nearly opposite, and if they do not, their city must soon
lose one of its most venerable mansions and greatest attractions.
tNan-ative of the War, Ap. Desid. Curiosa. liih.

1 Carte's Orm. Heynus. cited in the Ilib. Lorn.


prelates, and commons was, to declare they did not
intend it as sucli, fearing to infringe on the prerogative
of the crown, to which belonged the privilege of
calling, proroguing, and dissolving the senate. It was,
however, a provisional government "to consult of an
order for their own affairs, till his Majesty's wisdom
had settled the present troubles."*

The interval between the first day of meeting and the
end of October was occupied in making these pre-
liminary arrangements and administering the oath of
association to such as had not yet taken it. On the
1st of November a committee was appointed, by the
estates spiritual and tempoi-al, to draw up a form of
the confederate government. The committee was
composed, amongst others, of Lords Castleliaven and
GormanstoAvn, and the lawyers, the chief of whom were
Patrick D'Arcy, Sir Plielim O'Neill, and Richard
Belling. On the fourth of the month the two houses
formally approved the acts of the committee, and on
the same day the prelates issued a mandate to
their clergy throughout Ireland, charging tiiem to
administer the oath of association to their respective
flocks, and pay due obedience to the new government,
the spirit of which may be easily found in the following
extracts : —

'^ Magna Charta and the common and statute laws of England,
in all points not contrary to the lloman Catholic religion, or incon-
sistent with the liberty of Ireland, were acknowledged as the hasis of
the new government.

" They resolved that each county should have its council, consisting
of one or tvvo deputies out of each barony, and where there was np
barony, of twelve persons elected by the countj' in general, •with
powers to adjudicate on all matters cognizable by justices of the peace,
pleas of the ci-own, suits for debts, and personal actions, and to restore
possessions usurped since the war ; to name all the county officers,
saving the high sheriff, who was to be elected by tlie supreme
council, out of three whom the council of the county were to recom-
mend. From these there was an appeal to the provincial councils,
which were to consist of two deputies out of each county, and were
to meet four times a year, or oftener, if there was occasion, to examine
the decisions of the county councils, to decide all suits like judges of
assize, to establish recent possessions, but uQt to interfere with otner
suits about lands except in cases of dower.f

"From these there lay a furtber appeal to the supreme council of
tTireHt> - four persons who were to be elected by the general assembly,
of which twehe were to be constantly resident in Kilkenny, jr

• Carte's Orm. + Cai-te's Orm.


wherever else they should judse it to be most expedient, with equal
voices, hut two-thirds to conclude the rest ; never fewer than nine to
Bit in council, and seven to concur in the same opinion : out of these
twenty-four a president was to be named by the assembly, and waa
to be always one of the twelve resident, and in case of death or any
other serious impediment, the other residents out of twenty-four
were to select a president. "

It was also enacted—" That the council should be vested with
power over all {generals, military officers, and civil magistrates, who
were to obey their orders, and send an account duly of their actions
and proceedings ; to determine all matters left undecided by the
general assembly, 'i'heir acts to be of force till rescinded by tlie
next assembly ; to command and punish all commanders of forces,
magistrates, and all others of what rank and condition soever ; to
hear and judge all capital and criminal causes (saving titles to lands),
and to do all kinds of acts for promoting the common cause of the
confederacy and the good of the kingdom, and relating to the support
and management of the war.*

"And as the administrative authority was to be vested in the
supreme council, it was decreed that at the end of every general
assembly, the supreme council should be confirmed or changed, a?
the general body thought fit."

Ten days after these enactments had been sanctioned
by the general assembly of the confederate Catliolics,
they proceeded to elect the supreme council, when
Lord ;Mountgarret was chosen president. Six were
selected out of each province, and after the necessary
forms liad been gone through, the following were de-
clared duly elected : —

For Leinster — The Archbishop of Dublin, Lord Viscount Gormans-
town, Lord Viscount Mountgarret, Nicholas Plunket, Uiehard Belling,
James Cusack. Ulster — Archbishop of Armagh, liishop of Down, Philip
OKeilly, Col. Mac Jfahon, Heber Magennis, Tirlogh O'X'eill. For
Munster — Lord Viscount l^oche. Sir Daniel O'Brien, Edmund Fitz-
morris. Dr. Fennell. Robert Lambert, George Comyn. For Con-
naught — Archbishop of Tuam, Lord Viscount Mayo, Bishop of
Clonfert, Sir Lucas Dillon, Geoffi-ey Brown, and Patrick D'Arcy.

On these rested the great national responsibility, nor
rere they slow in taking such measures as they deemed
necessary for the welfare of the kingdom. Their first
act was to name the generals who were to command
under their authority. Owen Roe Mac- Art O'Neill was
.tppointed to command in chief all the Ulster forces.
Thomas Preston, those of Leinster. Barry was named
commander-in-cliief in Munster, and John Burke was
to be lieutenant-general in Connaught, reserving the
c'mef command to Clanricarde, who, it was thought,
would sooner or later declare for the confederation.
But as no act or instrument emanating from the
* Cox, Carte's Orm.


Bupreme council could be of force, unless sealed vrith
their own seal, they caused one to be made which may
be thus described N—'Twas circular, and in its centre
was a large cross, the base of which rested on a flaming
heart, while its apex was overlapped by the wings of a
dove : on the left of' the cross was the harp, and on the
right the crown. The legend was at once happy, novel,
and classic—" Pro Deo, liege,- et Patria, Hiberni Uuaui-

One of the first acts under the great seal of the
confederacy, was an order to raise thirty thousand
pounds sterling in Leinster, and a levy of thirty-one
thousand seven hundred men in the same province.
This force was to be drilled and disciplined by the
officers wlio had accompanied Preston, with the least
possible delay. The majority of the new levies was
to garrison such places as tlie confederates possessed in
Leinster, and the remainder was to be ready to take
the field as soon as circumstances might require. Mr.
Nicholas Plunket was appointed Muster-master-general,
and any locality refusing to contribute its due proportion
of men capable of bearing arms, Avas to be punished by
11 system of "free quarters."

A mint was ordered to be established at Kilkenny,
and those who were wealthy, and heart and soul in tlie
cause of their country, made large contributions of plate
to the National Treasury; in a very short time four
thousand pounds sterling, in half-crown pieces, "of tlie
value and goodness of English money" was coined.
The total absence of embellishment or legend on the
silver coin, is evidence of the haste in which it was
struck, for the half crown piece bears no mark save
that of the cross, and the figures indicating its value.
Tlie copper subsequently produced and circulated, is
far more elaborate, and the legend "Ecce Grex,"
"Floreat Kex," together with the beautiful device,
must be convincing proofs of a more prosperous moment
in the afiairs of the confederates.

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Online LibraryC. P. (Charles Patrick) MeehanThe confederation of Kilkenny → online text (page 4 of 22)