The Second Siege and Treaty of Limerick (1691-1695)

Patrick Weston Joyce

669. The duke of Tirconnell proceeded to put Limerick in a state of defence; but he died of apoplexy in the city on the 14th of August 1691: after which the chief command devolved on Sarsfield.

670. On the 80th of August Ginkel began the bombardment with sixty cannon and nineteen mortars: and soon the city was on fire in several places. After a time he was able to occupy the Clare side, but the besieged showed no signs of yielding. The Clare end of Thomond bridge was attacked, and defended; till the Irish overpowered by numbers had to retreat across the bridge. The town-major, a Frenchman, raised the drawbridge too soon and shut out 600 of them, who were all massacred on the bridge.

671. There was now a short truce, and negotiations were entered into for capitulation. Ginkel was anxious to end the war, fearing the rainy season, and Sarsfield saw no hope in further unaided resistance. A treaty of peace was at length signed by Ginkel and the lords justices Sir Charles Porter and Thomas Coningsby on the one hand, and on the other by Sarsfield, now earl of Lucan. The stone on which it was signed is still to be seen on a pedestal beside Thomond bridge. The treaty was soon after confirmed by king William. This ended the War of the Revolution; and William and Mary were acknowledged sovereigns of Ireland.

672. A few days afterwards a French fleet sailed up the Shannon: 18 ships of the line and 20 transports, with 3,000 soldiers, 200 officers, and arms and ammunition for 10,000 men; but Sarsfield refused to receive them, and honourably stood by the treaty.

673. The Treaty of Limerick contained forty-two articles. The most important of the civil articles were:—The Irish Catholics were to have the same liberty of worship as they enjoyed in the reign of Charles II. Those in arms for king James to retain the estates they possessed in the time of Charles II., and to be permitted to freely exercise their callings and professions. The oath to be taken by the Roman Catholics who submitted, to be the oath of allegiance merely, not the oath of supremacy.

674. The principal military articles were:—The garrison to be permitted to march out of the city with arms and baggage, drums beating and colours flying. Those officers and soldiers who wished might go to any foreign country, the government to provide them with ships; those who chose might join the army of William and Mary. Ginkel was anxious to keep those fine soldiers in the king's army, but only 1,000 joined; and 2,000 got passes for their homes.

675. More than 20,000—among them Sarsfield—went to Brest and entered the French service. These formed the nucleus of the famous Irish Brigade, who afterwards distinguished themselves in many a battlefield—Fontenoy, Ramillies, Blenheim, Landen, &c. Numbers of the gentry attained distinguished positions on the Continent. Sarsfield, after brilliant service, fell mortally wounded at the battle of Landen in 1693, where he commanded the left wing of the French army. It is stated that while lying on the ground, seeing his hand stained with his own blood, he exclaimed "Oh, that this was for Ireland!"

676. There was at this time and for long after, a vast exodus of the very flower of the Irish people; and between 1691 and 1745 it is reckoned that 450,000 Irishmen died in the service of France.

677. The war had cost the English about seven millions, representing probably fifty millions of our money, besides vast destruction of houses, cattle, and other kinds of property.

678. King William was kindly disposed towards the Irish; and taking advantage of the Treaty, he restored a good part of their estates, and granted many pardons. But he rewarded his followers with vast grants. He created Ginkel earl of Athlone, and gave him 26,000 acres; to William Bentink, son of the duke of Portland, 136,000 acres; to the countess of Orkney 96,000 acres. Altogether he made 76 land grants to his own people.

679. We shall see further on that the Treaty of Limerick was broken by the English; but for this violation king William was not to blame.

680. Lord Sydney, the lord lieutenant, summoned a parliament which met in Dublin on the 5th October 1692; it was exclusively Protestant. This was the first held since 1665, with the exception of that of king James (629).

It asserted the independence of the Irish parliament, and though granting a supply of money to the king, it rejected a money bill sent from England, on the ground that it had not been originated in the Irish commons. Sydney was so indignant at this refractory proceeding that he twice prorogued this parliament, which was finally dissolved on the 5th November 1698.

681. In less than a century there had been three great confiscations in Ireland, the old proprietors being in all cases dispossessed:—the first after the Geraldine and O'Neill rebellions; the second in the time of Cromwell; and the third after the conquest by king William.

These three included the whole island, except the estates of half a dozen families of English blood. Moreover, the three confiscations sometimes overlapped; so that large portions were confiscated twice, and some three times over, within that period. As the result of all, only about a seventh of the land of all Ireland was left in the hands of the Catholics.

682. The Catholics of old English blood were involved in this general ruin, so far as their numbers went, as well as those of the native Celtic race.