Cessation of Arms

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXIX

On the 15th of September, 1643, a cessation of arms for one year was agreed upon; and the tide, which had set in so gloriously for Irish independence, rolled back its sobbing waves slowly and sadly towards the English coast, and never returned again with the same hopeful freedom and overpowering strength.

The Irish, even those whose wisdom or whose ardour made them most dissatisfied with the treaty, observed it honorably. The Puritan party professed to regard the cessation as a crime, and therefore did not consider themselves bound to observe it. As they were in fact the ruling powers, the unfortunate Irish were, as usual, the victims. The troops, who had been trained and collected for the defence of their native land, were now sent to Scotland, to shed their blood in the royal cause. As honorable men, having undertaken the duty, they fulfilled it gloriously, and won the admiration even of their enemies by their undaunted valour.

The unhappy English monarch was now besieged by petitions and counter-petitions. The Confederates asked for liberty of conscience; the Puritans demanded a stern enforcement of the penal laws. Complaints were made on both sides of the infringement of the cessation; but Munroe was the chief offender; and Owen O'Neill was summoned to consult with the Supreme Council in Kilkenny. Lord Castlehaven, who was utterly incompetent for such an appointment, was given the command of the army; and O'Neill, though he felt hurt at the unjust preference, submitted generously.

In August, 1644, the cessation was again renewed by the General Assembly until December, and subsequently for a longer period. Thus precious time, and what was still more precious, the fresh energies and interests of the Confederates, were hopelessly lost. The King's generals, or rather it should be said the Parliamentary officers, observed or held these engagements at their convenience, and made treaties of their own—Inchiquin and Purcell making a truce between themselves in the south. As the King's affairs became daily more complicated, and his position more perilous, he saw the necessity for peace with his Irish subjects, and for allying himself with them, if possible. Had he treated them with more consideration, or rather with common justice and humanity, at the commencement of his reign, England might have been saved the guilt of regicide and Cromwell's iron rule. Ormonde had received ample powers from Charles to grant the Catholics every justice now; but Ormonde could not resist the inclination to practise a little subtle diplomacy, even at the risk of his master's kingdom and his master's head. The Confederate commissioners rejected his temporizing measures with contempt, though a few of their members, anxious for peace, were inclined to yield.