Chichester's Parliament

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter XXVIII. ...continued

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Chichester now proposed to call a Parliament. The plantation of Ulster had removed some difficulties in the way of its accomplishment. The Protestant University of Dublin had obtained 3,000 acres there, and 400,000 acres of tillage land had been partitioned out between English and Scotch proprietors. It was expressly stipulated that their tenants should be English or Scotch, and Protestants; the Catholic owners of the land were, in some cases, as a special favour, permitted to remain, if they took the oath of supremacy, if they worked well for their masters, and if they paid double the rent fixed for the others. Sixty thousand acres in Dublin and Waterford, and 385,000 acres in Westmeath, Longford, King's county, Queen's county, and Leitrim, had been portioned out in a similar manner. A Presbyterian minister, whose father was one of the planters, thus describes the men who came to establish English rule, and root out Popery: "From Scotland came many, and from England not a few; yet all of them generally the scum of both nations, who, from debt, or making and fleeing from justice, or seeking shelter, came hither, hoping to be without fear of man's justice, in a land where there was nothing or but little as yet of the fear of God......Most of the people were all void of godliness......On all hands atheism increased, and disregard of God; iniquity abounds, with contention, fighting, murder, and adultery."[8]

It was with such persons as these the lower house was filled. The upper house was composed of the Protestant bishops and English aristocracy, who were of course unanimous in their views. Chichester obtained ample powers to arrange the lower house. Forty new boroughs were formed, many of them consisting merely of a few scattered houses; some of them were not incorporated until after the writs were issued. The Catholics were taken by surprise, as no notice had been given, either of the Parliament or the laws intended to be enacted. Six Catholic lords of the Pale remonstrated with the King, but he treated them with the utmost contempt. The house assembled; there was a struggle for the Speaker's chair.

The Catholic party proposed Sir John Everard, who had just resigned his position as Justice of the King's Bench sooner than take the oath of supremacy; the court party insisted on having Sir John Davies. The Catholics protested, and sent a deputation to James, who first lectured [9] them to show his learning, and them imprisoned them to show his power. Some kind of compromise was eventually effected. A severe penal law was withdrawn; a large subsidy was voted. In truth, the Irish party acted boldly, considering their peculiar circumstances, for one and all refused to enter the old cathedral, which their forefathers had erected, when Protestant service was read therein on the day of the opening of Parliament; and even Lord Barry retired when he laid the sword of state before the Lord Deputy. We may excuse them for submitting to the attainder of O'Neill and O'Donnell, for there were few national members who had not withdrawn before the vote was passed.

Chichester retired from the government of Ireland in 1616. In 1617 a proclamation was issued for the expulsion of the Catholic clergy, and the city of Waterford was deprived of its charter in consequence of the spirited opposition which its corporation offered to the oath of spiritual supremacy. In 1622 Viscount Falkland came over as Lord Deputy, and Usher, who was at heart a Puritan,[1] preached a violent sermon on the occasion, in which he suggested a very literal application of his text, "He beareth not the sword in vain." If a similar application of the text had been made by a Catholic divine, it would have been called intolerance, persecution, and a hint that the Inquisition was at hand; as used by him, it was supposed to mean putting down Popery by the sword.

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[8] Adultery.—MS. History, by Rev. A. Stuart, quoted in Reid's History of the Presbyterian Church, vol. i. p. 96.

[9] Lectured.—The address of the Irish party to James is given in O'Sullivan Beare's History, p. 316, and also the King's reply, p. 323. A collection was made throughout Ireland to defray the expenses of the delegates.

[1] Puritan.—Plowden's History of Ireland, vol. i. p. 338. "By his management and contrivance, he provided the whole doctrine of Calvin to be received as the public belief of the Protestant Church of Ireland, and ratified by Chichester in the King's name." Chichester himself was a thorough Puritan, and a disciple of Cartwright, who used to pray, "O Lord, give us grace and power as one man to set ourselves against them" (the bishops).


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