Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/189

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


the sluggish and wavering movement of that mind which had once pursued its objects with a vehemence restrained neither by fear nor by pity, neither by conscience nor by shame. Yet, with impaired strength, both physical and intellectual, the broken old man clung pertinaciously to power. If he had received private orders not to meddle with the conduct of the war, he disregarded them. He assumed all the authority of a sovereign, showed himself ostentatiously to the troops as their supreme chief, and affected to treat Saint Ruth as a lieutenant. Soon the interference of the Viceroy excited the vehement indignation of that powerful party in the army which had long hated him. Many officers signed an instrument by which they declared that they did not consider him as entitled to their obedience in the field. Some of them offered him gross personal insults. He was told to his face that, if he persisted in remaining where he was not wanted, the ropes of his pavilion should be cut. He, on the other hand, sent his emissaries to all the camp fires, and tried to make a party among the common soldiers against the French general.[1]

The only thing in which Tyrconnel and Saint Ruth agreed was in dreading and disliking Sarsfield. Not only was he popular with the great body of his countrymen; he was also surrounded by a knot of retainers whose devotion to him resembled the devotion of the Ismailite murderers to the Old Man of the Mountain. It was known that one of these fanatics, a colonel, had used language which, in the mouth of an officer so high in rank, might well cause uneasiness. "The King," this man had said, "is nothing to me. I obey Sarsfield. Let Sarsfield tell me to kill any man in the whole army; and I will do it." Sarsfield was, indeed, too honourable a gentleman to abuse his immense power over the minds of his worshippers. But the Viceroy and the Commander in Chief might not unnaturally be disturbed by the thought that Sarsfield's honour was their only guarantee against mutiny and assassination. The consequence was that, at the crisis of the fate of Ireland, the services of the first of Irish soldiers were not used, or were used with jealous caution,

  1. Macariæ Excidium; Light to the Blind.