A Popular History of Ireland

From the Earliest Period to the Emancipation of the Catholics
by Thomas D’Arcy McGee


Ireland, lifting herself from the dust, drying her tears, and proudly demanding her legitimate place among the nations of the earth, is a spectacle to cause immense progress in political philosophy.

Behold a nation whose fame had spread over all the earth ere the flag of England had come into existence. For 500 years her life has been apparently extinguished. The fiercest whirlwind of oppression that ever in the wrath of God was poured upon the children of disobedience had swept over her. She was an object of scorn and contempt to her subjugator. Only at times were there any signs of life—an occasional meteor flash that told of her olden spirit—of her deathless race. Degraded and apathetic as this nation of Helots was, it is not strange that political philosophy, at all times too Sadducean in its principles, should ask, with a sneer, “Could these dry bones live?” The fullness of time has come, and with one gallant sunward bound the “old land” comes forth into the political day to teach these lessons, that Right must always conquer Might in the end—that by a compensating principle in the nature of things, Repression creates slowly, but certainly, a force for its overthrow.

Had it been possible to kill the Irish Nation, it had long since ceased to exist. But the transmitted qualities of her glorious children, who were giants in intellect, virtue, and arms for 1500 years before Alfred the Saxon sent the youth of his country to Ireland in search of knowledge with which to civilize his people,—the legends, songs, and dim traditions of this glorious era, and the irrepressible piety, sparkling wit, and dauntless courage of her people, have at last brought her forth like. Lazarus from the tomb. True, the garb of the prison or the cerements of the grave may be hanging upon her, but “loose her and let her go” is the wise policy of those in whose hands are her present destinies.

A nation with such a strange history must have some great work yet to do in the world. Except the Jews, no people has so suffered without dying.

The History of Ireland is the most interesting of records, and the least known. The Publishers of this edition of D’Arcy McGee’s excellent and impartial work take advantage of the awakening interest in Irish literature to present to the public a book of high-class history, as cheap as largely circulating romance. A sale as large as that of a popular romance is, therefore, necessary to pay the speculation. That sale the Publishers expect. Indeed, as truth is often stranger than fiction, so Irish history is more romantic than romance. How Queen Scota unfurled the Sacred Banner. How Brian and Malachy contended for empire. How the “Pirate of the North” scourged the Irish coast. The glories of Tara and the piety of Columba. The cowardice of James and the courage of Sarsfield. How Dathi, the fearless, sounded the Irish war-cry in far Alpine passes, and how the Geraldine forayed Leinster. The deeds of O’Neil and O’Donnell. The march of Cromwell, the destroying angel. Ireland’s sun sinking in dim eclipse. The dark night of woe in Erin for a hundred years. ’83—’98—’48—’68. Ireland’s sun rising in glory. Surely the Youth of Ireland will find in their country’s records romance enough!

The English and Scotch are well read in the histories of their country. The Irish are, unfortunately, not so; and yet, what is English or Scottish history to compare with Irish? Ireland was a land of saints and scholars when Britons were painted savages. Wise and noble laws, based upon the spirit of Christianity, were administered in Erin, and valuable books were written ere the Britons were as far advanced in civilization as the Blackfeet Indians. In morals and intellect, in Christianity and civilization, in arms, art, and science, Ireland shone like a star among the nations when darkness enshrouded the world. And she nobly sustained civilization and religion by her missionaries and scholars. The libraries and archives of Europe contain the records of their piety and learning. Indeed the echoes have scarcely yet ceased to sound upon our ears, of the mighty march of her armed children over the war-fields of Europe, during that terrible time when England’s cruel law, intended to destroy the spirit of a martial race, precipitated an armed torrent of nearly 500,000 of the flower of the Irish youth into foreign service. Irish steel glittered in the front rank of the most desperate conflicts, and more than once the ranks of England went down before “the Exiles,” in just punishment for her terrible penal code which excluded the Irish soldier from his country’s service.

It was the Author’s wish to educate his countrymen in their national records. If by issuing a cheap edition the present Publishers carry out to any extent that wish, it will be to them a source of satisfaction.

It is impossible to conclude this Preface without an expression of regret at the dark and terrible fate which overtook the high-minded, patriotic, and distinguished Irishman, Thomas D’Arcy McGee. He was a man who loved his country well; and when the contemptible squabbles and paltry dissensions of the present have passed away, his name will be a hallowed memory, like that of Emmet or Fitzgerald, to inspire men with high, ideals of patriotism and devotion.


[Note: From 1857 until his death, McGee was active in Canadian politics. A gifted speaker and strong supporter of Confederation, he is regarded as one of Canada’s fathers of Confederation. On April 7, 1868, after attending a late-night session in the House of Commons, he was shot and killed as he returned to his rooming house on Sparks Street in Ottawa. It is generally believed that McGee was the victim of a Fenian plot. Patrick James Whelan was convicted and hanged for the crime, however the evidence implicating him was later seen to be suspect.]

CHAPTER I.—The First Inhabitants
CHAPTER II.—The First Ages
CHAPTER III.—Christianity Preached at Tara—The Result
CHAPTER IV.—The Constitution, and how the Kings kept it
CHAPTER V.—Reign of Hugh II.—The Irish Colony in Scotland obtains its Independence
CHAPTER VI.—Kings of the Seventh Century
CHAPTER VII.—Kings of the Eighth Century
CHAPTER VIII.—What the Irish Schools and Saints did in the Three First Christian Centuries
CHAPTER I.—The Danish Invasion
CHAPTER II.—Kings of the Ninth Century (Continued)— Nial III.—Malachy I.—Hugh VII
CHAPTER III.—Reign of Flan “of the Shannon” (A.D. 879 to 916)
CHAPTER IV.—Kings of the Tenth Century—Nial IV.— Donogh II.—Congal III.—Donald IV
CHAPTER V.—Reign of Malachy II. and Rivalry of Brian
CHAPTER VI.—Brian, Ard-Righ—Battle of Clontarf
CHAPTER VII.—Effects of the Rivalry of Brian and Malachy on the Ancient Constitution
CHAPTER VIII.—Latter Days of the Northmen in Ireland
CHAPTER I.—The Fortunes of the Family of Brian
CHAPTER II.—The Contest between the North and South— Rise of the Family of O’Conor
CHAPTER III.—Thorlogh More O’Conor—Murkertach of Aileach—Accession of Roderick O’Conor
CHAPTER IV.—State of Religion and Learning among the Irish previous to the Anglo-Norman Invasion
CHAPTER V.—Social Condition of the Irish previous to the Norman Invasion
CHAPTER VI.—Foreign Relations of the Irish previous to the Anglo-Norman Invasion
CHAPTER I.—Dermid McMurrogh’s Negotiations and Success— The First Expedition of the Normans into Ireland
CHAPTER II.—The Arms, Armour and Tactics of the Normans and Irish
CHAPTER III.—The First Campaign of Earl Richard—Siege of Dublin—Death of King Dermid McMurrogh
CHAPTER IV.—Second Campaign of Earl Richard—Henry II. in Ireland
CHAPTER V.—From the Return of Henry II. to England till the Death of Earl Richard and his principal Companions
CHAPTER VI.—The Last Years of the Ard-Righ, Roderick O’Conor
CHAPTER VII.—Assassination of Hugh de Lacy—John “Lackland” in Ireland—Various Expeditions of John de Courcy—Death of Conor Moinmoy, and Rise of Cathal, “the Red-Handed” O’Conor—Close of the Career of De Courcy and De Burgh
CHAPTER VIII.—Events of the Thirteenth Century—The Normans in Connaught
CHAPTER IX.—Events of the Thirteenth Century—The Normans in Munster and Leinster
CHAPTER X.—Events of the Thirteenth Century—The Normans in Meath and Ulster
CHAPTER XI.—Retrospect of the Norman Period in Ireland—A Glance at the Military Tactics of the Times—No Conquest of the Country in the Thirteenth Century
CHAPTER XII.—State of Society and Learning in Ireland during the Norman Period
CHAPTER I.—The Rise of “the Red Earl”—Relations of Ireland and Scotland
CHAPTER II.—The Northern Irish enter into Alliance with King Robert Bruce—Arrival and First Campaign of Edward Bruce
CHAPTER III.—Bruce’s Second Campaign and Coronation at Dundalk—The Rising in Connaught—Battle of Athenry—Robert Bruce in Ireland
CHAPTER IV.—Battle of Faughard and Death of King Edward Bruce—Consequences of his Invasion— Extinction of the Earldom of Ulster—Irish Opinion of Edward Bruce
CHAPTER I.—Civil War in England—Its Effects on the Anglo-Irish—The Knights of St. John— General Desire of the Anglo-Irish to Naturalize themselves among the Native Population—A Policy of Non-Intercourse between the Races Resolved on in England
CHAPTER II.—Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Lord Lieutenant— The Penal Code of Race—”The Statute of Kilkenny,” and some of its Consequences
CHAPTER III.—Art McMurrogh, Lord of Leinster—First Expedition of Richard II. of England to Ireland
CHAPTER IV.—Subsequent Proceedings of Richard II.— Lieutenancy and Death of the Earl of March— Second Expedition of Richard against Art McMurrogh—Change of Dynasty in England
CHAPTER V.—Parties within “the Pale”—Battles of Kilmainham and Killucan—Sir John Talbot’s Lord Lieutenancy
CHAPTER VI.—Acts of the Native Princes—Subdivision of Tribes and Territories—Anglo-Irish Towns under Native Protection—Attempt of Thaddeus O’Brien, Prince of Thomond, to Restore the Monarchy—Relations of the Races in the Fifteenth Century
CHAPTER VII.—Continued Division and Decline of “the English Interest”—Richard, Duke of York, Lord Lieutenant—Civil War again in England— Execution of the Earl of Desmond— Ascendancy of the Kildare Geraldines
CHAPTER VIII.—The Age and Rule of Gerald, Eighth Earl of Kildare—The Tide begins to turn for the English Interest—The Yorkist Pretenders, Simnel and Warbeck—Poyning’s Parliament— Battles of Knockdoe and Monabraher
CHAPTER IX.—State of Irish and Anglo—Irish Society during the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
CHAPTER X.—State of Religion and Learning during the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
CHAPTER I.—Irish Policy of Henry the Eighth during the Lifetime of Cardinal Wolsey
CHAPTER II.—The Insurrection of Silken Thomas—The Geraldine League—Administration of Lord Leonard Gray
CHAPTER III.—Sir Anthony St. Leger, Lord Deputy— Negotiations of the Irish Chiefs with James the Fifth of Scotland—First Attempts to Introduce the Protestant Reformation— Opposition of the Clergy—Parliament of 1541—The Protectors of the Clergy Excluded—State of the Country—The Crowns United-Henry the Eighth Proclaimed at London and Dublin
CHAPTER IV.—Adhesion of O’Neil, O’Donnell, and O’Brien— A new Anglo-Irish Peerage—New Relations of Lord and Tenant—Bishops appointed by the Crown—Retrospect
CHAPTER I.—Events of the Reign of Edward Sixth
CHAPTER II.—Events of the Reign of Philip and Mary
CHAPTER III.—Accession of Queen Elizabeth—Parliament of 1560—The Act of Uniformity—Career and Death of John O’Neil “the Proud”
CHAPTER IV.—Sir Henry Sidney’s Deputyship—Parliament of 1569—The Second “Geraldine League”— Sir James Fitzmaurice
CHAPTER V.—The “Undertakers” in Ulster and Leinster— Defeat and Death of Sir James Fitzmaurice
CHAPTER VI.—Sequel of the Second Geraldine League— Plantation of Munster—Early Career of Hugh O’Neil, Earl of Tyrone—Parliament of 1585
CHAPTER VII.—Battle of Glenmalure—Sir John Perrott’s Administration—The Spanish Armada— Lord Deputy Fitzwilliam—Escape of Hugh Roe O’Donnell from Dublin Castle— The Ulster Confederacy formed
CHAPTER VIII.—The Ulster Confederacy—Feagh Mac Hugh O’Byrne—Campaign of 1595—Negotiations, English and Spanish—Battle of the Yellow Ford—Its Consequences
CHAPTER IX.—Essex’s Campaign of 1599—Battle of the Curlieu Mountains—O’Neil’s Negotiations with Spain—Mountjoy Lord Deputy
CHAPTER X.—Mountjoy’s Administration—Operations in Ulster and Munster—Carew’s “Wit and Cunning”—Landing of Spaniards in the South—Battle of Kinsale—Death of O’Donnell in Spain
CHAPTER XI.—The Conquest of Munster—Death of Elizabeth, and Submission of O’Neil—”The Articles of Mellifont”
CHAPTER XII.—State of Religion and Learning during the Reign of Elizabeth
CHAPTER I.—James I.—Flight of the Earls—Confiscation of Ulster—Penal Laws—Parliamentary Opposition
CHAPTER II.—Last years of James—Confiscation of the Midland Counties—Accession of Charles I.— Grievances and “Graces”—Administration of Lord Strafford
CHAPTER III.—Lord Stafford’s Impeachment and Execution— Parliament of 1639-’41—The Insurrection of 1641—The Irish Abroad
CHAPTER IV.—The Insurrection of 1641
CHAPTER V.—The Catholic Confederation—Its Civil Government and Military Establishment
CHAPTER VI.—The Confederate War—Campaign of 1643— The Cessation
CHAPTER VII.—The Cessation and its Consequences
CHAPTER VIII.—Glamorgan’s Treaty—The New Nuncio Rinuccini— O’Neil’s Position—The Battle of Benburb
CHAPTER IX.—From the Battle of Benburb till the Landing of Cromwell at Dublin
CHAPTER X.—Cromwell’s Campaign—1649-1650
CHAPTER XI.—Close of the Confederate War
CHAPTER XII.—Ireland under the Protectorate— Administration of Henry Cromwell— Death of Oliver
CHAPTER I.—Reign of Charles II.
CHAPTER II.—Reign of Charles II. (Concluded)
CHAPTER III.—The State of Religion and Learning in Ireland during the Seventeenth Century
CHAPTER IV.—Accession of James II.—Tyrconnell’s Administration
CHAPTER V.—King James to Ireland—Irish Parliament of 1689
CHAPTER VI.—The Revolutionary War—Campaign of 1639— Sieges of Derry and Enniskillen
CHAPTER VII.—The Revolutionary War—Campaign of 1690— Battle of the Boyne—Its Consequences— the Sieges of Athlone and Limerick
CHAPTER VIII.—The Winter of 1690-91
CHAPTER IX.—The Revolutionary War—Campaign of 1691— Battle of Aughrim—Capitulation of Limerick
CHAPTER X.—Reign of King William
CHAPTER XI.—Reign of Queen Anne
CHAPTER XII.—The Irish Soldiers Abroad, during the Reigns of William and Anne
CHAPTER I.—Accession of George I.—Swift’s Leadership
CHAPTER II.—Reign of George II.—Growth of Public Spirit—The “Patriot” Party—Lord Chesterfield’s Administration
CHAPTER III.—The Last Jacobite Movement—The Irish Soldiers Abroad—French Expedition under Thurot, or O’Farrell
CHAPTER IV.—Reign of George II. (Concluded)— Malone’s Leadership
CHAPTER V.—Accession of George III.—Flood’s Leadership—Octennial Parliaments Established
CHAPTER VI.—Flood’s Leadership—State of the Country between 1760 and 1776
CHAPTER VII.—Grattan’s Leadership—”Free Trade” and the Volunteers
CHAPTER VIII.—Grattan’s Leadership—Legislative and Judicial Independence Established
CHAPTER IX.—The Era of Independence—First Period
CHAPTER X.—The Era of Independence—Second Period
CHAPTER XI.—The Era of Independence—Third Period— Catholic Relief Bill of 1793
CHAPTER XII.—The Era of Independence—Effects of the French Revolution in Ireland—Secession of Grattan, Curran, and their Friends, from Parliament, in 1797
CHAPTER XIII.—The United Irishmen
CHAPTER XIV.—Negotiations with France and Holland— The Three Expeditions Negotiated by Tone and Lewines
CHAPTER XV.—The Insurrection of 1798
CHAPTER XVI.—The Insurrection of 1798—The Wexford Insurrection
CHAPTER XVII.—The Insurrection elsewhere—Fate of the Leading United Irishmen
CHAPTER XVIII.—Administration of Lord Cornwallis— Before the Union
CHAPTER XIX.—Last Session of the Irish Parliament— The Legislative Union of Great Britain and Ireland
CHAPTER I.—After the Union—Death of Lord Clare— Robert Emmet’s Emeute
CHAPTER II.—Administration of Lord Hardwick (1801 to 1806), and of the Duke of Bedford (1806 to 1808)
CHAPTER III.—Administration of the Duke of Richmond (1807 to 1813)
CHAPTER IV.—O’Connell’s Leadership—1813 to 1821
CHAPTER V.—Retrospect of the State of Religion and Learning during the Reign of George III
CHAPTER VI.—The Irish Abroad, during the Reign of George III
CHAPTER VII.—O’Connell’s Leadership—The Catholic Association—1821 to 1825
CHAPTER VIII.—O’Connell’s Leadership—The Clare Election— Emancipation of the Catholics