Memoirs of Captain Rock, the celebrated Irish chieftain

Chapter X.
1649.

Cromwell in Ireland.—The Irish nearly exterminated. —Advantages of Despatch.—Cromwell, the Devil, and the Orangemen.—Parallel between the Soldiers of Joshua and the Corporation of Dublin.

The ancient name of Ireland was Innisfail, or the Island of Destiny—and, if there had been added “of evil Destiny,” the name would have been but too truly prophetic of her history. Walsingham, who, in Elizabeth’s time, wished, the whole island sunk in the sea, breathed a kinder wish for it than he, in the least degree, intended; and, either to have been moved farther off into the Atlantic—“procul a Jove, sed procul a fulmine”—or to be (like Rabelais’island Médamothi) nowhere, are the only two desirable alternatives that could be offered to us.

As if no possible change of circumstances could exempt this wretched people from suffering, after having been so vigorously persecuted and massacred under the Royal government, as rebels, they were now still more vigorously persecuted and massacred under the Parliamentary government, as royalists; and what with the Lords Justices on one side, and Cromwell and Ireton on the other, assisted by a pestilence, which was the least cruel enemy of the whole, they were at last reduced to a state very nearly realizing that longdesired object of English policy—their extirpation. Little more, indeed, was left of the Catholic population than was barely sufficient to give life to the desolate region of Connaught, into which they were now driven like herds of cattle by Cromwell, under the menace of a proclamation, that “all of them who, after that time, should be found in any other part of the kingdom, man, woman, or child, might be killed by any body who saw or met them;”—while their estates, which, at that time, constituted at least nine-tenths of the landed property of the country, were divided among his officers and soldiers, and among those adventurers who had advanced money for the War*.

Such was Cromwell’s way of settling the affairs of Ireland—and if a nation is to be ruined, this method is, perhaps, as good as any. It is, at least, more humane than the slow lingering process of exclusion, disappointment, and degradation, by which their hearts are worn out under more specious forms of tyranny: and that talent of despatch**which Moliere attributes to one of his physicians; is no ordinary merit in a practitioner like Cromwell:—“C’est un homme expéditif, expéditif, qui aime a depêcher ses malades, et quand on a à mourir, cela se fait avec lui le plus vite du monde.” A certain military Duke, who complains that Ireland is but half-conquered, would, no doubt, upon an emergency, try his hand in the same line of practice, and, like that “stern hero,” Mirmillo, in the Dispensary,

“While others meanly take whole months to slay,
Despatch the grateful patient in a day!”

Among other amiable enactments against the Catholics at this period, the price of five pounds was set on the head of a Romish priest—being exactly the same sum offered by the same legislators for the head of a wolf. The Athenians, we are told, encouraged the destruction of wolves by a similar reward (five drachmas); but it does not appear that these heathens bought up the heads of priests at the same rate—such zeal in the cause of religion being reserved for times of Christianity and Protestantism.

*A survey being made of all Ireland for this purpose, the best land was rated only at 4s. an acre, and some only at a penny; and the soldiers drew lots in what part of the kingdom their portions should be assigned them. “No man,” says Carte, “had so great shares as they who had been instruments to murder the king. What lands they were pleased to call unprofitable (which were thrown in gratis) they returned as such, let them be never so good and profitable.” Lord Antrim’s estate, (says the same author) consisting of 107,611 acres, was allotted to Sir J. Clotworthy (afterwards Lord Massarene) and a few others, in consideration of their adventures and pay, which did not in all exceed the sum of 7000l.

**Ludlow tells us in his Memoirs, that, being on his march, an advanced party met two of the rebels; “one of whom,” says he, “was killed by the guard before I came up; the other was saved, and being brought before me, I asked him, if he had a mind to be hanged?” and he only answered, “If you please.” “So insensibly stupid (adds he) were many of these poor creatures.”

Ludlow was mistaken—there was no stupidity here. Both the history and character of the Irish—their familiarity with the “plurima mortis imago,” and their careless contempt for it—were all expressed in the answer of this rebel.

“The Devil,” says Shakespeare, “can cite Scripture for his purpose;” and the soldiers of Cromwell being told by their leader*, that “the Irish were to be treated as the Canaanites were by Joshua,” most piously acted up to the model set before them; and, accordingly, “all the spoils of the cities and the cattle they took for a prey unto themselves, and every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them; neither left they any to breathe.”

A similar taste for the warlike passages of the Old Testament is observable in our modern Oliverians, Sir Abraham Bradley King, and his brother Orangemen; and, by a remarkable coincidence, it is from the same book, Joshua, that they, too, draw their charitable inspirations. How far these Orange heroes mean to carry their imitation of the soldiers of Joshua remains to be seen; but, I presume, the great victory which their leader Sir Abraham lately gained over the law by means of the House of Commons, was meant as a copy of the conquest of Jericho through the treachery of the harlot, Rahab–the House of Commons enacting the part of Rahab on the occasion.

Then, the ceremony of “taking twelve men out of the tribes” is as evidently followed in the selection of twelve good and true Orangemen, for all purposes of impartial law and justice—and “the accursed thing” which got among the soldiers of Joshua (meaning neither more nor less than a spirit of Jobbing), has been long supposed to lie lurking among these faithfully scriptural Orangemen. “They have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.”

When to these striking points of similitude, we add the perfect truth with which the whole body may say—“For even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us,” it will be granted that in the art of “citing Scripture to their purpose,” neither Cromwell nor the other personage mentioned by Shakspeare can, in any degree, compare with their modern imitators, the Orangemen,

*Cromwell’s pious account of the surrender of Drogheda (where, having been admitted, on promise of quarter, he began a slaughter of the garrison which lasted five days) is a precious sample of this perversion of religion. “I wish,” he says, in concluding his letter to the Parliament, “that all honest hearts may give the glory of this to God alone, to whom indeed the praise of this mercy belongs.”—WHITELOCKE.

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