Memoirs of Captain Rock, the celebrated Irish chieftain

Chapter XII.
1685-1701.

Reigns of James II. and William III.—Irish Anomalies.—English Injustice.—Battle of the Boyne.—Forfeitures.—Vindication of William from the Orangemen.—The “glorious memory” of Titus Oates proposed instead.-Judge Scroggs’s Wig.— Rapparees.—Relatives of the Rock Family.

Among the many anomalous situations in which the Irish have been placed, by those “marriage vows, false as dicers’ oaths,” which bind their country to England, the dilemma in which they found themselves at the Revolution was not the least perplexing or cruel*. If they were loyal to the King de jure, they were hanged by the King de facto, and, if they escaped with life from the King defacto, it was but to be plundered and proscribed by the King de jure afterwards.

Hac gener atque socer coeant mercede suorum.
VIRGIL.

“In a manner so summary, prompt, and high-mettled,
Twixt father and son-in-law matters were settled.”

In fact, most of the outlawries in Ireland were for treason committed the very day on which the Prince and Princess of Orange accepted the crown in the Banqueting-house; though the news of this event could not possibly have reached the other side of the channel on the same day, and the Lord-lieutenant of King James, with an army to enforce obedience, was at that time in actual possession of the government. So little was common sense consulted, or the mere decency of forms observed by that rapacious spirit, which nothing less than the confiscation of the whole island could satisfy; and which having, in the reign of James I. and at the Restoration, despoiled the natives of no less than ten millions six hundred and thirty-six thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven acres, now added to its plunder one million, sixty thousand, seven hundred and ninety-two acres more, being the amount, altogether, (according to Lord Clare’s calculation) of the whole superficial contents of the island!

Thus not only had all Ireland suffered confiscation in the course of this century, but no inconsiderable portion of it had been twice and even thrice confiscated. Well might Lord Clare say, “that the situation of the Irish nation, at the Revolution, stands unparalleled in the history of the inhabited world**.”

*Among the persons most puzzled and perplexed by the two opposite Royal claims on their allegiance were the clergymen of the Established Church; who, having first prayed for King James as their lawful sovereign, as soon as William was proclaimed took to praying for him; but again, on the success of the Jacobite forces in the north, very prudently prayed for King James once more, till the arrival of Schomberg, when, as far as his quarters reached, they returned to praying for King William again.

**“And if,” (he as truly adds), “the wars of England, carried on here from the reign of Elizabeth, had been waged against a foreign enemy, the inhabitants would have retained their possessions under the established laws of civilized nations.”—Speech on the Union.

Yet this is the period which our Orangemen have the face to celebrate!—and the day, which brought such ruin upon Ireland, is to be marked for ever among the Fasti of her Calendar, instead of being, if possible, erased from recollection for ever, as the fatal day of Pharsalia was by the Romans, beyond the power even of chronology to ascertain its date:—

“Tempora signavit leviorum Roma malorum,
Hunc voluit nescire diem.”
LUCAN.

Of all her days of sorrow, this alone
Was left by Rome, ev’n to herself unknown.

James was not fitted by nature for either of the tasks which he undertook,—neither for reducing a free people to slavery, nor for raising an enslaved race to freedom. He was in his true element at St. Germain, touching for the King’s evil, and endeavouring in vain to make good Catholics of the Calvinist grenadiers and dragoons that had deserted to him*.

Under such a leader, the ill-fated Irish, encumbered and distracted by English feuds, and strong only in hate, had but little chance against a people proud in the new exercise of their sovereign will, and under a chief so brave and so self-possessed as William. It was one of my ancestors,(a Corporal Rock of the gallant Sarsfield’s regiment), who, after the battle of the Boyne, spoke those well-known words, so pregnant with the feelings of mortified bravery, and so fully doing justice to both leaders,— “Change kings, and we’ll fight it over again with you!**”

*Prefixed to Count Hamilton’s Zéneyde there is a description of the court of St. Germain, at once melancholy and diverting. One of the groupes in this picture is “Un pere jesuite, grand convertisseur, entre un grenadier et un dragon Anglais, tous deux deserteurs, mais qui me parurent plus fideles à Calvin qu’au Prince d’Orange.”

**It is said to be the same witty corporal that invented the celebrated toast, “To the little gentleman in velvet,” meaning the mole that threw up the hill over which Crop (King William’s horse) stumbled.

Unequal as was the conflict that ensued, the Irish, when disburdened of their king, fought it out manfully, and, had the common faith kept with enemies been observed towards them, would have derived from the struggle no ordinary advantages; as the Articles of Limerick, solemnly ratified under the great seal of England, guaranteed to the Catholics those two essential rights, liberty of conscience and security of property. But,-as if every compact between England and Ireland were to be read, like witches’ prayers, backwards,—those very Articles, on the faith of which the whole nation finally submitted, were not only grossly violated in every particular, but followed up, without any further provocation from the Catholics, by a system of the most odious persecution that ever disgraced the bloody annals of bigotry.

The consummation of this iniquitous code was reserved for the subsequent reign, but its beginnings were prompt and rapid in the present; and the acts for disarming Papists, for banishing all the regular clergy out of the kingdom, for preventing their intermarriage with Protestants, &c. &c. show the spirit in which the Articles of Limerick were acted upon, even during the lifetime of him, who had pledged his royal honour to their fulfilment.

In justice, however, to William, as well as to the shame of those who still employ his name as a watch-word of persecution, it should never be forgotten that his own principles were completely adverse to the intolerant measures thus forced upon him. Before his expedition to England, he wrote thus to the Emperor:—“I ought to entreat your Imperial Majesty to be assured, that I will employ all my credit to provide that the Roman Catholics of that country may enjoy liberty of conscience, and be put out of fear of being persecuted on account of their religion.”

His employment, too, of Irish Catholics in the army, was one of those criminal symptoms of a wish to make Papists useful and attached to the State, for which the English House of Commons rebuked him in their address of 1692; and there is but little doubt, that, could he have pursued his own liberal views*, the same spirit that dictated his instructions to the Commissioners of Scotland—“you are to pass an Act establishing that Church Government, which is most agreeable to the inclinations of the people”—would have also regulated his policy towards Ireland.

Even fettered and obstructed as he was by the bigotry of those about him, it is well known that, previously to the surrender of Limerick, he was prepared to offer to the Catholics no less advantageous terms**, than the free exercise of their religion, half the Church Establishment of Ireland, and the moiety of their ancient properties!

**Dryden thus, in one of his letters, does justice to the real disposition of William:—“We poor Catholics daily expect a most severe Proclamation to come out against us (the Five Mile Act), and at the same time we are satisfied that the King is very unwilling to persecute us, considering us to be but a handful, and those disarmed; but the Archbishop of Canterbury (Tennison) is our heavy enemy, and heavy he is, indeed, in all respects.”—Letters to Mrs. Stewart, 1698-9.

**This was called (says Leland) the “Secret Proclamation,” because, though printed, it was never published, having been suppressed on the first intelligence of the Treaty of Limerick.

What a heterodox idol, then, have the Orangemen set up unto themselves!—That pious and innocent Spaniard, who placed the picture of Lais in his oratory, and daily prayed to the fair Liberal, as a Saint, was not more mistaken in the object of his idolatry than they are.

In the name of history, then, why do they not select some fitter Patron? That learned antiquary, Vallancy, has discovered, that the name, Patrick, which we Irish give to our National Saint, means “the Devil:” and the same sort of blunder seems to have been com- mitted by the Orangemen, in the selection of their National Saint, King William—for who but the Devil would have offered half the Church Establishment to the Papists?

They must, therefore, lose no time in adopting some more appropriate Patron; and I would venture to recommend Titus Oates to their notice, as a Deliverer entirely after their own hearts. I would, myself, (being anxious for the maintenance of their Institution, and regarding it as one of the main props of the Rock dynasty) subscribe to a statue of old Titus for their use, which they might annually adorn and dress out with Judge Scroggs’ wig—if it be still extant—and thus, by this double homage to the Informer and Judge, do justice to their own notions both of Civil and Religious Freedom. Lord Farnham will, I trust, attend to this friendly suggestion.

It was a little before the period of the Revolution, that an important branch of my family first rose into notice, under the name of Rapparees, or Tories. As a full account however of these heroes has been given in an interesting work called “the History of the Irish Rogues and Rapparees,” it is unnecessary for me here to enter into any particulars about them—except just to remark, that one of their appellations, Tories, has been since transferred to an equally valuable class of his Majesty’s subjects, who have done as much mischief, at the head of affairs, as the others have at the tail, and who, though in no way related to me, have served me, on all occasions, even more effectually than if they were.

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