Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/205

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Irish army held several consultations at which some Roman Catholic prelates and some eminent lawyers were invited to assist. A preliminary question, which perplexed tender consciences, was submitted by the Bishops. The late Lord Lieutenant had persuaded the officers of the garrison to swear that they would not surrender Limerick till they should receive an answer to the letter in which their situation had been explained to James. The Bishops thought that the oath was no longer binding. It had been taken at a time when the communications with France were open, and in the full belief that the answer of James would arrive within three weeks. More than twice that time had elapsed. Every avenue leading to the city was strictly guarded by the enemy. His Majesty's faithful subjects, by holding out till it had become impossible for him to signify his pleasure to them, had acted up to the spirit of their promise.[1]

The next question was what terms should be demanded. A paper, containing propositions which statesmen of our age will think reasonable, but which to the most humane and liberal English Protestants of the seventeenth century appeared extravagant, was sent to the camp of the besiegers. What was asked was that all offences should be covered with oblivion, that perfect freedom of worship should be allowed to the native population, that every parish should have its priest, and that Irish Roman Catholics should be capable of holding all offices, civil and military, and of enjoying all municipal privileges.[2]

Ginkell knew little of the laws and feelings of the English; but he had about him persons who were competent to direct him. They had a week before prevented him from breaking a Rapparee on the wheel; and they now suggested an answer to the propositions of the enemy. "I am a stranger here," said Ginkell; "I am ignorant of the constitution of these kingdoms; but I am assured that what you ask is inconsistent with that constitution; and therefore I cannot with honour consent." He immediately ordered a new battery to be thrown up,

  1. Life of James, 464, 465.
  2. Story's Continuation.