Renewal of War by Statecraft, 1486-1537

12. The day of England's difficulty had been the hour of Ireland's relief. But in 1486 England settled her dynastic feud, and the day of Ireland's agony was re-opened. It was now to prove an agony hardly to be surpassed in history. The first act was to purge and strengthen the Pale. Lately the intellectual activity of the nation had flowed through the Pale, and envoys of that culture had come, who, as an English State document complained, "by their Irish gifts and minstrelsy provoked the people to an Irish order." Moreover, the Parliament of the Pale had declared its legislative independence. Therefore, the first act was to remedy both these things. The Pale Parliament was compelled to pass a law that restricted it from considering any measure until the heads of that measure had first been approved in Council. Then the Statutes of Kilkenny were re-affirmed. The next step, in pursuance of the old policy, was to break the considerable prosperity and ease the nation had achieved. This was done by a refinement of the old policy of dividing the national forces, and skilful use was made of the unsettlement that had inevitably been left in the train of the first invasion.

The most powerful man in the nation was FitzGerald, with the English title of Earl of Kildare. It had hitherto been a firm rule never to appoint a Viceroy who was not of English birth and blood, but now Kildare was created Lord Lieutenant with the widest powers. He was a man of great character and dignity; but since now to strengthen the King of England's authority was to increase his own power, it was little wonder that an era of wars opened in which every man's hand was against every other man's hand. At all times, in the best of ordered States, statesmanship is fully employed in holding together the necessarily contradictory parts of a nation; and such statesmanship is counted among the highest gifts with which men may be endowed; but now Ireland was given over to a foreign statecraft whose whole skill was employed in promoting such contradictions with a view to weakening the nation whose extinction was determined. Nor had the nation recovered the unity and stability with which that attempt might have been repelled. On Fitzgerald's death his son was appointed in his stead, and succeeded so well, by continuous warfare, in strengthening himself, that he was committed to the Tower of London, while his son was driven into raising the standard of rebellion. The result was that the son, known as Silken Thomas, with five of his uncles, were beheaded in London. Thus the family was obliterated, after it had been skilfully used to weaken and disrupt the nation.