The Violated Treaty

Justin McCarthy
Chapter VI | Start of Chapter

When the agreement had been formally arranged, the defenders evacuated the city, and the besieging forces took possession. But the provisions of the treaty were never carried out with regard to religious liberty, and the Parliaments which were summoned shortly after, both in England and in Ireland, declared that the besieging General had no right to make such terms, and that the laws affecting Roman Catholics must remain exactly as they were. The penal enactments against the Roman Catholics in Ireland were made more severe in the reign of William III. than they had been under Charles II. and James II. Many English historian's have endeavoured to justify the violation of the Limerick Treaty on the ground that General Ginckel could not have had any authority to enter into such an agreement, and that the Irish commander ought to have known this.

It may be admitted that Ginckel exceeded his powers when he accepted the terms laid down by Sarsfield, but the defenders of Limerick could not know that he was committing so grave an indiscretion, and they were quite justified in believing that he was acting in good faith and with full authority. No treaty for a cessation of war ever could be entered into on a battlefield if it were admissible that one of the parties might be free, after the laying down of arms on both sides, to withdraw from his part of the agreement on the ground that he had made it with no authority to carry it out. If Ginckel had no authority to make the terms for which Sarsfield stipulated, he ought to have maintained the siege to the bitter end, or have abandoned it altogether, and taken his army where his master thought it might be employed to better purpose. "The perverted ingenuity of man" could find no justification for the policy which accepted all the advantages secured by the treaty, and afterwards refused to carry out its most important stipulation.