Studies in Irish History, 1649-1775/Oliver Cromwell in Ireland
OLIVER CROMWELL IN IRELAND
By LT.-GEN. SIR WILLIAM BUTLER, K.C.B.
Oliver Cromwell in Ireland
Wherever the traveller pursues his route in Ireland—along the coast line which borders the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, over the inland plains of the central region, or yet through the mountains and valleys which lie between that central plain and the sea—there is one ever-present object in the landscape, whose presence after a time ceases to attract attention through the simple fact of its perpetual recurrence.
It is the ruin.
Ruins of great monastic edifices and abbeys—some set on lonely islands in silvery lakes, some standing amid meadows where winding river-reaches reflect their roofless outlines. Ruins of Plantagenet castles crowning some rock, which itself seems of material scarce less durable than the remnant of battlement above it. Ruins of hermit’s cell, of wayside chapel, of weed-grown cloister, of city rampart, of sea-beaten fortalice, of broken bridge and battered gable—everywhere they rise in view, the silent witnesses to some great historic cataclysm, some vast fact of human destruction which has wanted no historian to describe it, so largely is it written in characters, which even Time is powerless to efface, over the broad page of the entire island.
People have grown so accustomed to those relics that few stop to think or to ask what they were, or why they are ruined? It seems so natural they should be there. Are they not Irish? Do not the jackdaws nest in them? does not the ivy rest on them? do not the cattle shelter and shade in them from winter cold and summer heats?—that is all.
To-night I hope to lift a corner of the curtain which has enveloped these "fragments of stone raised (and ruined) by creatures of clay," and to show something of the actual impact of the storm which passed over Ireland two hundred and fifty years ago, to leave its wrecks still visible across the length and breadth of the land.
The time at which I ask you to begin is the early part of 1649. The Parliament has been purged by ex-drayman, now Colonel, Pride. The King has been beheaded at the banqueting hall in sight of Charing Cross; the nation has supped full of horrors; the death of the King has produced in the great majority of the people a profound sense of gloom, and a dread of horrors to come greater even than those which the seven preceding years had brought forth. To one party alone it had given increased strength and energy. The Royalists were cowed; the Presbyterians were scattered and disorganised; but the party of the Sectaries and the Republicans (known under the name of Independents, and embracing in that general title Levellers, Anabaptists, Fifth Monarchy Men, Antinomians, Familists, Brownists, Vanists, and many other sects and circles), having, by the murder of their King, drawn between themselves and their opponents a line which seemed impossible of compromise, and being now in possession. of all the resources of the Kingdom, were bent upon using the power they had gained to the utter extermination of their opponents. Brilliant fortune in the field, and an extraordinary capacity for intrigue in camp and council chamber, had already marked one man in this Independent party for supreme place.
Oliver Cromwell, born April 25th, 1599, in Huntingdon, educated at the Free School in that town, entered Sidney College, Cambridge, at 17; went to London a year later to study law in Lincoln’s Inn; ran riot for a year or two in the purlieus of the Strand and Holborn; married before he was quite of age a respectable lady, the daughter of a city merchant; threw up the law and went back to Huntingdon, where he farmed and brewed with indifferent success for some eight or ten years. That is all that is known with any certainty of the first half of the life of, perhaps, the most extraordinary man ever born in England.
His parentage deserves notice. He derived the name Cromwell from the maternal side. A certain Morgan Williams, a Welshman, married the sister of the famous, or infamous, Thomas Cromwell—Henry the Eighth’s head monk-killer and monastery-destroyer. Richard, the son of Morgan Williams, assumed the name Cromwell on receiving a grant of all the lands belonging to the monks in Huntingdon, which, we read, were “of prodigious value.” The grandson of this man, Richard Morgan, alias Cromwell, was the father of Oliver.
The intervening links in the family resided chiefly at Hinchinbrooke, “where had been a house of nuns.” Reading this entry, a doggerel epitaph on the walls of one of the old Hampshire Minsters comes back to mind. It runs thus:—
Here lieth John Thomas of Baddisly—
Who was a very good man
Before the marriage of Clerks began,
But he married a nun
And begat a sonne
Who was a very rude man.
Amid all the conflicting opinion upon Cromwell which exists to-day in England, few will be found to claim for him the quality of gentleness.
But to revert to Thomas Cromwell, Henry the Eighth cut off his head in 1540. One hundred and nine years later Oliver, great great great nephew of Thomas Cromwell, cut off the head of Henry the Eighth’s great great great nephew, Charles the First. History has strange ironies if we probe it deep enough.
If the death of the King had paralysed the Royalist and Presbyterian parties in England, its effect in Ireland and Scotland had been very different. King Charles the Second had been proclaimed in both countries, and the Catholics in one Kingdom and the Presbyterians in the other had, with few exceptions, rallied to the royal cause. After seven years of devastating civil war the treaty known as the peace of 1648-9 had been concluded at Kilkenny, between the Confederated Catholics and Ormond, the King’s Lieutenant. This peace had come too late to serve the cause of the unfortunate Charles. Indeed the negotiations which preceded it, coming at the moment when the Army and Cromwell had triumphed over all their adversaries in England, only served to increase the animosity of the military party against the King, and to strengthen the hands of those who meant to destroy him. To all the reasons which had heretofore existed among the Independents for "extirpating" the Irish people, another had now been added. Prelatist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic had at last been politically welded together by the fall of the axe which beheaded Charles. But the desired blow which the Parliament had long designed to strike at Ireland, and upon which the new Council of State were now intent, could not be carried into effect just yet.
Early in April, 1649, money was terribly scarce. The murdered King’s jewels, pictures, and parks had to be sold. The pay of the Army was deeply in arrear; and, above all, a spirit of insubordination and mutiny was showing itself in daily-increasing strength among the Parliamentarian regiments, and spreading deeper among the peasants, which threatened even the authority of the Council of State itself. There was nothing surprising in this. The people—that strange, dull, hapless, helpless multitude—always hoping, always credulous, always deceived, and always ready to be deceived, had come to ask themselves what the whole of this vast business of Rebellion had been about. They had been told for twenty years that the King had robbed them, enslaved them, emparked them off the land, stolen the commons from them, raised money without their consent (fancy consent of smock-frocked Hodge in Surrey, or of that other shivering being in Billingsgate!). They had been told, too, that if they upset the King and drove out his people all would be well with them; the Saints would possess the earth— which meant, so far as Hodge was concerned, a promise of better ale and cheaper cake all round. And now the King was dead; thousands of them had seen him die, and indeed had groaned heart and soul at the sight; but ale was as thin and cakes as dear, nay dearer, than they had ever been. Their declarations are pitiable reading, if we had time to dwell upon them. In April, 1649, they assemble in Surrey and begin to dig some waste spots of ground, and sow therein roots and beans. "The liberties of the people," they say, "were lost by the coming in of William the Conqueror, and ever since that day they, the people of God, have lived under tyranny and oppression wrose than that of the Israelites under the Egyptians. Now the time of deliverance is at hand. They intend not to meddle with any man's property, nor break down any pales or enclosures, but only to till what is wild and untilled and make it fruitful for man. They do not intend to defend themselves by arms." To all of which Authority, in shape of the—local justices and two troops of horse, answers by riding at them, dragging them to prison, pillory, and the rest of it.
But that did not end the matter. "It is serious," said somebody, speaking of the situation when troops and people sympathise, "it is serious when the extinguisher takes fire;" and now, here in the south of England, the extinguisher, represented by "the troops of horse," began to show symptoms of catching fire from the peasants. And in no part of the Army was the fraternising sympathy more noticeable than among the regiments which had been selected for the Irish war.
In order to upset the Parliament, Cromwell, a year before, secretly incited the officers and soldiers of the Army to mutiny. "They now," says Hume, "practised against their officers the same lesson which they had been taught against the Parliament." Whalley's regiment is mutinous in London; Scroop's, Harrison's, Ireton's, and Skippon's regiments are on the warpath in Salisbury, Oxfordshire, and Gloucestershire. They want their pay, and the end of this bogus Parliament. The old chains, they say, have been broken; they do not want new ones; still less, new ones which are incomparably heavier than the old. In mid-May Cromwell, with Fairfax, Harrison, Waller, Goff and Okey—all but one of them regicides—have to abandon the preparations for the Irish war, and go hunting mutineers from Andover to Oxford. The mutinies are quelled (mainly by a trick on the part of Cromwell, of which you will find scant mention in later histories), but the wrongs from which they spring remain. This Commonwealth—as they call it—has dammed up its wealth in its own House of Commons. The golden stream has not been allowed to descend to the people. Sequestration of royalist lands, sale of crown lands, dean and chapter lands, and forfeited properties, had only made a change of masters; the people —the peasants, the hewers of wood and drawers of water—were poorer than they had ever been before.
This fact is really the keynote to the whole mystery of this great Rebellion and its subsequent flat and ignominious end.
Among the hundred causes and reasons given for this Civil War, the foundation and root cause of the struggle has received little notice. One hundred years earlier the King and his nobles had combined together to rob the Church, the most active agent in this great conspiracy of plunder being Mr. Thomas Cromwell, the Surrey blacksmith's son. Exactly one hundred years later another great combination or conspiracy arose, this time the object being to rob the King and the nobles, and what was left of the Church. The classes which coalesced for this second confiscation were the two which the intervening century had produced or strengthened—the small country gentleman and the city trader. To both of these classes Oliver Cromwell belonged by birth, by profession, and by instinct.
For twenty years he had been a gentleman farmer and brewer. His grandfather had been a man of large means, but the "prodigious value," which had come to the Cromwell family at the suppression of the monasteries, had as quickly vanished—dissipated by extravagance and wild living. The family had descended in the social scale. Oliver's father, Robert, was a farmer. His mother, Elizabeth Styward, managed a brew-house. Of his five sisters, two at least made low marriages. One was the wife of Desborough, carter, and Councillor of State. Dr. Gardiner has told us that Cromwell's earliest extant letter was written to a city merchant, asking him to continue his subscription to maintain a certain Dr. Wills, a preacher and a "man of goodness and industry and ability to do gooa in every way." "You know," goes on Cromwell, "that to withdraw the pay is to let fall the lecture, for who goeth to warfare at his own cost?" Dr. Gardiner quotes this letter as proof that Cromwell had then in his mind only the spiritual welfare of his neighbours. "Pay," "warfare," "at his own cost." I confess I do not read the letter in the same spiritual sense. "Who goeth to war at his own cost?" Precisely. Star chamber, court of wards, ship money, church ritual, prelacy, accusation of the Five Members, prerogative, privilege, and the rest of it—these were but bubbles and surface-currents upon the deep stream of confiscation, by church spoliation and transference of wealth from one class to another, which ran beneath the plan, purpose, and prosecution of the strife. Let us see how this new explanation of the Puritan cry that "the Saints were to possess the earth" applies to the Irish war, upon which Cromwell was now about to enter.
Long before an English soldier set foot in Ireland to attempt the suppression of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, the edict of confiscation had gone forth from the English Parliament. Early in 1642, 2,500,000 acres of Irish land were declared forfeited, and were offered in London as security to those who would lend money to Parliament. On this security a loan of a quarter of a million sterling was raised, the lenders, in number about 1,300, forming themselves into a body called "Adventurers," or what would in our day be called a Joint Stock Company. Of this company Cromwell was the chief promoter and leading director. Dr. Gardiner tells us that, although Cromwell "was far from being wealthy, he contributed £600 to the projected campaign in Ireland;" and he cites the contribution as a proof of the disinterested zeal of his hero. But he does not tell his readers that Cromwell's £600 thus "adventured" had already behind it security which gave him between two and three thousand acres of the richest land in Ireland. For the rates at which the confiscated land should be allotted to the adventurers were already fixed; and, as early as February, 1642, the Lords and Commons were holding conferences at which all the details of the confiscation were arranged, the company prospectus was being issued, and among the chief allurements held forth to the intending investor was the promise that the old Irish and the Norman English "would be rooted out by a new and overwhelming plantation of English."
The list of the contributors to this subscription of slaughter is still to be read, thanks to the labour of Mr. Prendergast, and in it we find not only the name of "Oliver Cromwell, member of ye house," but of Elizabeth Austrey, servant to Mr. Cromwell, and a great number of the names of those men who eight years later were to become infamous as the signers of the death warrant of the King.
Nor was the security for the money advanced to be left for later prisage of war. The "two million five hundred thousand acres of profitable land, free from bogs, woods, and mountains," which were at once declared forfeited, did not content that veteran pillager, the first Lord Cork, who had begun his work of acquisition and confiscation more than fifty years earlier. We find this old filibuster writing to Speaker Bulstrode Whitlock in August, 1642, informing the House of Commons that he, Lord Cork, "has already held sessions in the counties of Cork and Waterford, and that, beyond the expectation of all men, he has indicted the following" (then follow the names of a dozen Irish Earls and Lords), "together with all other baronets, knights, esquires, gentlemen, freeholders and Popish priests—in number about eleven hundred—that either dwell in, or have done any rebellious act in these two counties." Mark the "dwell in." The Speaker is then asked "to have these indictments submitted to such members of the House as are learned in the law, for legal correction and amendment." The documents are then to be returned to Lord Cork, so that the persons named may be proceeded against as outlaws, and possession taken of their estates, which "I dare boldly affirm," he writes, "are of the yearly value of more than 200,000 pounds." In these interesting documents we have at once a foreclosure of about another two million acres.
There happens to be another letter of this Boyle's extant which throws a yet more lurid light upon the conspiracy of plunder then concocted. It is written to the Earl of Warwick in 1641, and in it he says that the ambition of his life has been "to roote out the Popish partie of the natives of the Kingdome, and to plant it with English Protestants, to prevent these Irish Papists from having any land here, and not to suffer them to live therein; to attainte them all of high treason, and to encourage the English to serve courageously against them, in hope to be settled in the lands of them they shall kill or otherwise destroy." Writing to the Lords Justices in Dublin he urges the same policy, and one of them—the notorious Parsons—replies, "I am of your mind that a thorow destruction must be made before we can settle on a safe peace. I pray you spare none, but indict all of quality and estate. We have done so hereabouts to many thousands and have already executed some." (The italics are not in the original.)
What, I ask, was the offence for which these men were thus despoiled of all they possessed? It was devotion to their King. As surely as Cromwell and the other regicides, whose names appear in the list of lenders from which I have quoted, were opposed to the King, so surely were the so-called "Irish rebels" faithful to him. Carlyle, with all his partiality for Cromwell (a partiality which a modern writer has characterised as "prostituted enthusiasm and brutal buffoonery")—even Carlyle has to admit of this Irish war that the Irish claim, "as we can now all see, was just, essentially just."
But the question of the Irish Rebellion is too large to be here discussed. History has been called the playground of liars, and never since the days of Herodotus has that field been used to more mendacious purpose than when this Irish Rebellion of 1641 has been the chosen theme.
Delayed by the many interruptions we have briefly related, Cromwell was not able to set out on his Irish expedition until the summer of 1049 was half over.
On the 10th of July he left London in great state late in the afternoon. Although his language was still studiously humble, he already lost no opportunity of playing the prince. Six grey Flanders mares drew his coach; an immense cavalcade preceded and followed it. Some fourscore gentlemen, in rich uniforms, formed his life guard. All the chief officers of the army accompanied him, drums beat, trumpets blared. London had not seen such a show since, exactly hifty years earlier, Essex had marched the same road in the same gallant fashion, the "extirpation" of the Irish people being in each instance the chiefest plank in the political and military platforms.
But it is the old newspapers which give us these details of the departure; and then as now they have to be received with caution. Cromwell was the first press soldier of whom we have any record. Despite the accounts of the "diurnals," the attitude of the people of London was sullenly hostile. "The trumpets sounded," wrote the Puritan penny-a-liner, "almost to the shaking of Charing Cross, had it been now standing." But the blare was to drown the people's dissatisfaction. "That dismal universal groan such as was never before heard," which the multitude | had sent out from its heart five months before, as the axe fell upon the King's neck, might again have been repeated. A month earlier, when Cromwell and his officers had been feasted at the Grocer's Hall, after the loan of £120,000 for the Irish War had been concluded with the City Companies, so hostile was the feeling of the people against the regicides that the cooks who prepared the dinner had to be sworn not to poison the meats they were preparing; and the 4400 which, as Carlyle suggests, were given in charity to the poor on this occasion "that they also might dine," had other purpose than charity in its gift. For these dull multitudes had already found in their common-sense practical way the truth of all this business. These colonels and captains—described: by the pressman, "the meanest whereof, a commander or esquire in stately habit"—had, as the people well knew, been penniless adventurers dressed in drab and fustian a few years earlier—one a butcher, another a cobbler, another a carter. Cromwell himself, the late bankrupt brewer of Huntingdon, has his manors now in Hantshire, Monmouth, and Gloucestershire. Harrison, the butcher's son, (who on this day of departure for Ireland has, together with Cromwell and three ministers and another colonel, been "expounding some places of Scripture exceedingly well and pertinent to the occasion") has gathered "an estate of two thousand a year (worth about £8,000 now), besides engrossing great offices, and encroaching upon his under officers, and maintains his coach and family at a height as if they had been born to a principality." So it is with a hundred others in less degree who go by in all the bravery of buff and scarlet. To the multitude they are only beggars on horseback; and they are riding to the devil; for twelve years later not a few of them will be gathered on this same Charing Cross spot, from which they have pulled the emblem of Christianity—and the hangman will be busy at his hideous work upon them.
On August the 10th Cromwell reached Milford Haven, having delayed long in Bristol. Here news reached him of Jones' victory over Ormond at Dublin. We know now how largely this "rout of Rathmines," as it was called, was brought about by bribery and treachery; we know too how, as usual, the prisoners taken, although they had surrendered on terms of life, were put to death—many of them after they had been brought within the town.
On the 13th August Cromwell writes "from aboard the ship John in Milford Haven."
"The Lord is very near," he says, "this late great mercy of Ireland is a great manifestation thereof. We much need the Spirit of Christ to enable us to praise God for so admirable a mercy." The mercies which moved this man toa © more than usually emotional religious utterance were largely, so far as my study goes, events more than usually merciless.
On the 15th August Cromwell landed at Ringsend, Dublin. He brought with him the strongest and best equipped army that had ever landed in Ireland—8,000 foot, 4,000 horse, a powerful train of artillery. Four thousand men had already preceded this formidable force, making in all, when added to the former garrison of Dublin about 20,000 men—strong, fierce, and fanatical men, thirsting for Irish blood. The military chest contained £200,000 in cash. Chaplains Peters and Owen were of the company; and already, long in advance of the invasion, everything that bribery and intrigue could arrange had been set afoot to sow dissension and to purchase treason in Ireland How well these efforts succeeded we shall presently discover; it is enough to say here that stronger than all the strong things Cromwell brought with him to Ireland was the army of spies, sympathisers, and traitors which he had already established there.
I turn to review briefly the forces hastily got together by Ormond with which to oppose this - formidable invasion.
Worn and wasted through eight years of almost continuous civil war Ireland presented in this summer of 1649 a spectacle the parallel of which could only have been found in the condition of the Kingdom of Bohemia in the middle of the Thirty Years' War. A land and people so rent by controversy, so broken by battle, so suspicious from repeated treacheries, so marched and counter-marched over, that to the eye of Carlyle, when he tried to study it, it appeared a sight "such as the world before or since has never seen the like; the history of it not forming itself into a picture, but remaining only as a huge blot—an indiscriminate blackness—which the human memory cannot charge itself with." This picture is but partly true. The human memory is and has been too lazy to wish to charge itself with the study of any Irish business, preferring the blot explanation, as a writer who is doubtful of his orthography will frame his words in undecipherable characters. We must go back to our retrospect. Since its commencement in 1641 this Irish war has held four divisions in the ranks of its royalists:—
First—the old Irish element, the people of Milesian descent. This party in numbers and fighting instinct may be said to have been six-tenths of the whole, but they lacked arms and estates and influence.
Second—The Catholic lords and gentry of Norman-Irish descent, who had still considerable estates and influence.
Third—the Ormond Catholic Section, sometimes embraced in the second party, sometimes acting distinct from it.
Fourth—the English Protestant party, more or less loyal to the King, but hating the three other sections, and particularly detesting the old Irish element. To this fourth party the execution of the King had joined the Scotch Presbyterian section in the north, hitherto hostile, so that at the time of Cromwell's landing, or shortly after it, there was at least a nominal union amongst these four or five often discordant and even warring elements. But such a union, with so many memories of recent strife and cruel deeds still fresh among them, could promise only a weak homogeneity, compared with the solid force, the trained collective knowledge, and the spirit of implacable animosity to all things Irish which permeated the army of invasion.
To describe fitly the reasons for the distractions and differences which had heretofore marked these now nominally combined parties would require volumes. In addition to the great struggle between Royalty and Republicanism which was being fought in England, the politics of Europe, the intrigues of France, Spain, the Low Countries and Rome entered into this Irish war, and influenced the policy and predilections of its leaders. The best soldier on the Irish side —Owen O'Neill—had played a distinguished part in the war between France and Spain in the Low Countries; the Scotch Presbyterian— Munro—had served under Gustavus Adolphus; Castlehaven, the military head of the Anglo-Irish party, had been in the service of France; Inchiquin fought under Monticuculli; Preston had been in the Spanish, Taafe in the German, service. All these men carried with them into Ireland something at least of the rival interests and mutual jealousies they had learnt abroad.
It is easy for the historian of to-day to write with scorn of the dissensions between the Confederated Catholics in Ireland from 1641 to 1649; but if he turns to England or to Europe during that period he will find similar differences, similar factions. "Parties on the back of parties, at war with the world and with one another." Thus Carlyle writes of Ireland; but the description would equally have fitted the political and military condition of almost any state in Europe at the time, from the Vistula to La Rochelle. Nor did England form an exception. There Parliamentarians, Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, Levellers, and Fifth Monarchy Men were fighting against the Crown and Church of England; Cavaliers, Catholics, and Moderate Presbyterians fighting for it; and when these sections were not fighting on the main issues, they were fighting among themselves. In Ireland the play of parties, the currents of foreign influences, the intrigues of leaders, and the dissensions of followers, were more observable because the stage was smaller and the theatre of action more confined.
The man who was now to attempt to hold together and direct against Cromwell's solid soldiery these various conflicting interests and separate energies, was totally unfitted for the task. James, twelfth Earl of Ormond, has left history so long in doubt as to how it would sum up his character that the world has forgotten him before the decision could be arrived at. Yet was he a very great and powerful personage in is time. He saw, served, and knew intimately the first four Stuart Kings, and it may be said of him at once that no subject in all the troubled time of the great Rebellion gave more faithful service to his King than he did. But that service had all, and more than all, the defects of its virtues.
Ormond was as obstinate as the first James, whose ward he had been; he was as apt in intrigue and as devious in action as the first Charles, whom he served so faithfully; he was as selfish as the second Charles, to whom he gave thirty-four years service; he was as bigoted as the second James, in the early days of whose reign he died.
In such a nature hate must be stronger than love, and, much as Ormond loved the King, he hated the King's Irish Catholic subjects with far more intensity of feeling. Two years earlier he had surrendered Dublin to the English Parliament rather than give it to the Catholic Royalists at Kilkenny. It may have been that by this act he hoped to bring about a treaty between the King, then a prisoner, and the victorious faction in England. But, if this were so, never was action more mistaken. Dublin in the hands of the Independent faction meant easy access at any time into Ireland; the door was always open. From the moment Dublin passed into the hands of the King's enemies the King's fate was sealed. But the strangest part of this terrible blunder of Ormond's was the part which Dublin was doomed to play against him, when he came back to Ireland after the King's death, as Lord Lieutenant for Charles the Second. Then, when Inchiquin had come to terms with him, and O'Neill was in treaty with him, Dublin, the city he had surrendered two years earlier, was destined to wreck his fortunes. The "rout at Rathmines," the news of which came to Cromwell at Milford Haven, made the conquest of Ireland an easy task to him. It not only broke up the army which Ormond had got together, but it introduced into the Irish ranks the strongest feelings of distrust for Ormond himself. Their life-long persecutor, Inchiquin, had left Ormond a few days before the battle, taking with him some 2,000 horse and foot. Castlehaven hints that this was a treacherous movement. Prendergast, that indefatigable enquirer, asserts that "the English regiments who went over to Jones, the Parliamentary Governor of Dublin in the middle of the battle, helped mainly to cause Ormond's defeat."
The evidence of all these things is clear as noonday, but not a word will you find of them in Carlyle, in Froude, or even in the later historians now much in vogue. But it was not so with the older writers; they knew these things and spoke openly of them. I repeat, the whole catalogue of royal misfortune in Ireland began in Ormond's surrender of Dublin in the summer of 1647 to the Parliament Commissioners; and it is clear, from a letter recently brought to light by the researches of Dr. Russell and Mr. Prendergast, at Oxford, that this fatal action was taken by Ormond in direct opposition to the orders of the Queen's Council then sitting in Paris (the King being a prisoner in the hands of the Independents).
The shrewd Strafford, writing twelve years earlier of Ormond, had summed up in a few pithy words the whole matter that was later on to separate the Commander-in-Chief from his people. "If bred under the wings of his own parents," wrote Wentworth, "he (Ormond) had been of the same affection and religion his brothers and sisters were." So in truth it was; but the ending of it Thomas Wentworth no more saw than he saw his own end, for, had Ormond been of the same affection as his brothers and sisters, not only would the story of Ireland have been written to different purpose, but the great struggle between King and Parliament might well have had different ending. But we are not dealing with the might-have-beens of history.
Ormond now, in presence of Cromwell, was painfully aware of his own weakness. He dared not trust an army, the greater part of which did not trust their leader, to fight in the open against the solid strength of Cromwell's forces, neither could he lay waste the country, because on it he depended for his own supplies, and the sea was open to his enemy. He adopted the alternative of placing garrisons in the principal fortified towns, while he himself kept the field with a small army of observation. This plan had many disadvantages. It allowed the invader to attack when and where he pleased. It gave widest scope to the invader to use his money in practising upon the elements of treachery and disunion existing among the Irish confederates. It enabled Cromwell to make the fullest use of his heavy artillery. It gave him also the sea-board for his lines of advance, since the chief towns were all upon the coast, and his march north or south could be attended and partly covered by the fleets of the Parliament. There was at this moment in Ireland only one man who had intellect to know what to do and military knowledge which would have enabled him to do it. That one man, Owen Roe O'Neill, was now lying sick in Ulster of an illness which was to prove fatal to him, and to Ireland. It was said that he died from the effects of poison conveyed into his system by means of a pair of the large military russet boots which were then worn by mounted officers, and Carte gives the name of the agent who afterwards boasted of the service he had done the Parliament by this dastard deed. But history is doubtful as to the precise manner of this great soldier’s death. As to its effect upon the Royal cause in Ireland, history has never had any doubt. It was its death blow.
The exact date upon which Cromwell landed in Dublin is disputed, but it is certain that he and his army were all there by the last week in August, and in the early days of September he moved north for Drogheda.
Of his work in Dublin, during the ten or twelve days Cromwell spent there, we know little, but enough has come down to show that never had his matchless powers of dissimulation been exercised to greater effect, and never did he succeed better in deceiving with words of hypocritic kindness the victims upon whose destruction he was then wholly bent. Just as he had lured the Presbyterian party in the Civil War to destruction by an ostentatious acceptation of the Covenant to which he swore adherence; as he had lured the unfortunate King to the scaffold by pretending to be his friend and admirer, invoking God to witness the sincerity of his heart towards his monarch; as he had deceived the army, deceived the Levellers, deceived the Parliament, deceived Fairfax and Manchester, so now he stood before the Irish people, we are told, "as he passed through the city at a convenient place, and in a speech to the people declared the cause of his coming, promising not only favours and affection, but rewards and gratuities to all that should assist him in the reduction of their enemies;" and the people, we are told, answered him back that "they would live and die with him." The latter part of this promise he certainly exacted from them, though he did not go shares with them in the transaction. Whitelock gives a different version of the speech, but the truth is that Cromwell, the first press director, and the first press censor of whom we have record, was as versatile in his versions of things as he was many-sided in character.
Whatever may have been the precise nature of this oration delivered at his entry, there can be no doubt that in the two proclamations which Cromwell issued in Dublin, the text of which has been preserved, the tone is one of friendship and goodwill to the Irish people. A Jesuit priest was admitted to his circle, dined at his table, and played chess with him. The severest penalties were pronounced against the soldiers who should "illtreat or spoil the peasantry, who were invited to bring their produce to the army while in march or camp, or into any garrison under my command."
So far it was all religious liberty, free markets, and protection for the people. Later, when the land was prostrate at his feet, the choice would be "Hell or Connaught."
On the last day of August Cromwell broke up his camp at Oxmantown Green, crossed the Liffey with ten thousand men, and took the northern road to Drogheda.
Into that ancient city Ormond had thrown about two thousand six hundred men, horse and foot, badly provisioned, and badly supplied with ammunition. The defences were of the poorest nature. It was only on the 23rd of August, more than a week after Cromwell had landed, that Ormond decided to hold the place. The garrison represented the best men in his army. It is a matter of dispute to what nationality they belonged. Ludlow, a writer at the time, says they were English, and Hume and Carlyle repeat the statement; but other writers say they were Irish. Probably they were of both nationalities. The senior officers were chiefly English. Sir Arthur Aston, an old Catholic Royalist of great distinction, was in chief command. He had served in Poland against the Turks, and had held a commission from Gustavus Adolphus. At the outbreak of the Civil Wars he, like so many others, came home to fight for the King. He commanded the dragoons at Edgehill, where his charge scattered the right wing of Essex's horse; he was Governor of Reading when the Parliament besieged it, and of Oxford while the King made it his capital. Then he came to Ireland. Clarendon says of him that "no man in the Royal Army was of a greater reputation," and Hume makes frequent mention of his name and services.
But in all his long record this service at Drogheda was the most hopeless he had ever engaged in. Only in the last few years has it been possible to understand how hopeless it was. In the Bodleian library there are three letters written by Aston to Ormond a week. before Cromwell sat down before Drogheda. These report how Aston intercepted letters from Lady Wilmot, his own grandmother, who was quite ready to betray the place to Cromwell. "His Excellency (Cromwell) is informed that the hearts of the writers are with him, that many are ready to join him, and his coming this way is a great joy to all"; and then Aston goes on to beseech Ormond to be allowed to turn Lady Wilmot and her malignant family out of the town, for, "though she be my grandmother, I shall make poudher of her, if she play me such foul play, for they are very dangerous company | as the case stands." Lucky indeed it would have been for this old cavalier veteran if he could have carried out his threat, and turned the traitoress beldame into gunpowder, for he was most miserably deficient in that indispensable article. Six days before Cromwell's arrival he reports having received only "ten barrels of powder, but very little match, and that is a thing most wanting here, and for round shot, not any at all." "I beseech your Excellency," he writes Ormond, "to be pleased to give speedy orders for some; and also for the sudden coming of men and monies. Belly food will prove scarce among us, but my endeavours shall never be sparing."
Three days later Lady Wilmot and her family were removed from Drogheda by order of Ormond. It was one of his many mistakes. Cromwell's soldiers did not always draw distinctions in Irish sieges between men and women. This, then, was the state of Drogheda three days before Cromwell attacked it. There was scarcity of food and powder, no shot, and the Governor's grandmother was one of the many traitors already in league with the enemy. One thing he had in his favour: it was the spirit of his garrison. "They would perish," he wrote Ormond, "rather than deliver up the place."
On September 3rd Cromwell invested Drogheda. That day next year was to see him victorious at Dunbar; that day two years later was to see him conqueror at Worcester; and on the same date nine years later he was destined to die—"Concerned in the final moment," Ludlow says, "above every other thought for the reproaches he said men would cast upon his name in trampling upon his ashes when dead."
It was six days before the batteries could open fire upon Drogheda. On the 9th of September Cromwell summoned the Governor to deliver the place to the Parliament of England.
Another letter of Aston's has recently come to light, written to Ormond actually on the evening of that day, and painting in still stronger colours the miserable condition of the place. In this letter Aston thus describes his position: "Yesternight, about 10 of the clock, your Excellency's supply of foot came safe to me; my ammunition is far spent, each day having cost me, since Sunday last, 4 barrels of powder. … My provision grows short, and not a penny of money. Good my Lord, some more ammunition and money, or provisions." Again, one day later, another letter was sent out—a last tragic message, written after the battering had made "a very great breach near the Church," and when an assault seemed imminent, though one more day's cannonade had still to come. It is dated "7 o'clock at night, 10th September." "About 8 of the clock" of that morning, Aston had received and replied to a summons from Cromwell to surrender. "Since this summons," he goes on, "I have heard no answer but by mouth of cannon, the which hath ever since without intermission played upon our walls and works. They have eight pieces of battery, the least whereof shoot 12 pounds, and one of 30 pounds bullet. They have made a very great breach near the Church, and I am confident their resolutions are to gain it immediately by an assault. The soldiers say well. Pray God they do well. I assure your Excellency there will be no want in me; but, your Excellency, speedy help is much desired. I refer all to your Excellency's provident care. Living I am, and dying I will end, your Excellency's most faithful and most obliged humble servant
"P.S—Just now comes a messenger who brought me letters of the 7th of this month; but I hear nothing, nor have done, of Colonel Trevor. My ammunition decays apace, and I cannot help it."
The guns were the heaviest artillery of the time, and after some two or three hundred shots Cromwell says in his despatch, "they beat down the corner tower, and opened two reasonable breaches in the east and south wall." Against these openings the storming parties went. On the 9th Aston says the powder was "far spent," yet twice were the stormers beaten back. Probably the last cartridge had been fired, when a third attempt, led by Cromwell up to, but not into, the breach, was successful. Before darkness had set in the southern portion of the town was in possession of the assailants. Then began a scene which is almost without parallel in the annals of war.
It has been the effort of the writers of the last fifty years to minimise the massacre wrought by Cromwell's army, by Cromwell's orders, in this hapless town of Drogheda; but the old evidence of unmitigated atrocity is too strong for the new sepulchre-painters, and Drogheda stands, and will stand, through time as one of the bloodiest landmarks on the long road of human guilt.
Let us hear what these old chroniclers wrote of Drogheda.
Under date 15th October, 1649, we find Evelyn writing in Paris thus:—"Came news of Drogheda being taken by the Rebels, and a// put to the sword." Now turn to Ludlow, compatriot of Cromwell, and at this time his comrade:—"Our men entered pell mell with them (the Irish) into the place, where they put all they met with to the sword, having positive orders from the Lord General to give no quarter to any soldier." "The slaughter," he adds, "was continued all that day and the next, which extraordinary severity, I presume, was used to discourage others from opposition."
Now take Carte—"The officers and soldiers of Cromwell's army promised quarter to such as would lay down their arms, and performed it as long as the place held out, which encouraged others to yield; but when they had them once all in their power and feared no hurt that could be done, then Cromwell, being told by Jones that he now had all the flower of the Irish army in his hands, gave orders that no quarter should be given, so that his soldiers were forced, many of them against their will, to kill their prisoners." Then he gives a list of the principal officers, including the old Governor, Sir Arthur Aston, who were "killed in cold blood."
Ormond, a cool and phlegmatic man, speaks thus of Drogheda in his letter to the King:—"On this occasion Cromwell exceeded himself and anything I have ever heard of in breach of faith and bloody inhumanity. The cruelties exercised there for five days after the town had fallen would make as many several pictures of inhumanity as the Book of Martyrs, or the relation of Amboyna." What was this relation of Amboyna? It was a massacre which had taken place in the East Indies nearly fifty years earlier, in which every soul in a small garrison, men, women, and children, had been done to death, Hume tells us, "with the most inhuman tortures."
Another testimony of the time comes from the narrative of an officer in Clothworthy's regiment, who up to a few months before had served against the Irish. This is what he says:—"But the garrison being overpowered were all hewed down in their ranks, and no quarter given for twenty-four hours to man, woman, and child, so that not a dozen escaped out of the town of townspeople or soldiers." Ormond and this officer of Clothworthy's regiment were serving at the time within twenty miles of Drogheda, and their testimony is worth that of a thousand Carlyles or Froudes, who wrote more than two hundred years later.
Turn we now to Cromwell himself. This is what he wrote to the Parliament:—"I am persuaded that this 1s a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbued their hands in so much innocent blood, and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for our future, which are the satisfactory results of such actions which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret. … And now give me leave to say how it comes to pass that this work was wrought. It was set up in some of our hearts that a great thing should be done, not by power or might, but by the Spirit of God; and is it not so clearly? That which caused your men to storm so courageously; it was the Spirit of God who gave your men courage and took it away again, and gave the enemy courage and took it away again, and gave your men courage again, and therewith this happy success. And, therefore, it is good that God alone have all the glory." And again—"This has been a marvellous great mercy. I wish that all honest hearts may give glory to God alone, to Whom, indeed, the praise of this mercy belongs."
What matchless hypocrisy runs through all these sentences! The butchered garrison was at least largely English. Sir Edward Verney's regiment, Colonel Warren's and Wall's regiment were English or Anglo-Irish regiments, which had been fighting against the Irish for seven years. But more than that. It is doubtful whether there was in the garrison of Drogheda a single soldier who had been in arms eight years earlier, or who could have taken part in the so-called massacres of 1641. Cromwell must have been aware that six years before this time his own army in England had been reinforced from Scotland by large numbers of these old Irish rebels of 1641. This is what Carte says, when writing of the state of affairs in Ulster in 1044:—"Hereupon great numbers of the country people listed, and abundance even of the Ulster rebels, who had imbued their hands the deepest in Protestant blood were taken into the Scottish service, transported to Scotland, and sent to fight against the King in England."
Cromwell's letter addressed to Bradshaw, the President of the Council of State, was written from Dublin on the 16th September. On the following day he wrote a second and longer letter to the Speaker of Parliament, Lenthall. From this letter I will make another quotation:—"Divers of the enemy retreated into the Mill Mount, a place very strong and difficult. of access, the Governor, Sir Arthur Aston, and divers considerable officers being there. Our men getting up to them were ordered by me to put them all to the sword, and, indeed, being in the heat of action, I forbade them to spare any that were in arms in the town, and I think that night they put to the sword about 2,000 men. Divers of the officers and soldiers being fled over the bridge into the other part of the town, where about 100 of them possessed St. Peter's Church steeple; these being summoned to yield to mercy refused, whereupon I ordered the steeple to be fired, when one of them was heard to say, 'God damn me—God confound me—I burn! I burn.'"
This extract deserves notice, first for the fact that Cromwell admits the massacre was done by his orders, "I forbade them to spare," he says, as though they had been wishful to show mercy; and, secondly, because there is something in the sentence that appears to have escaped the notice of history. It is the detailed account of the exclamations of the dying wretch who was perishing in the flames of the burning steeple—flames lit by Cromwell's own orders. Did ever general commanding any army descend to such miserable detail? He is here the Commander-in-Chief of the army of the so-called Parliament of England; he is writing to the speaker of that Parliament, yet he positively gloats over the frenzied exclamations of a poor burning soldier, whom he has himself committed to this awful death, and deems the incident such welcome news to his Parliament that he gives it prominent place in his official despatch. A writer who has given a lifetime of study to the period with which we are dealing, and whose recent work has not received the attention it deserves—l allude to Colonel Colomb—justly characterises as "fiendish" this laboured description of Cromwell's. To me it is more; it is the measure of the man, and of the people to whom he was writing. I admit that the age was a rude and cruel one; I admit that the minds of men had in the eight years of civil strife become inured to deeds of blood—it was the age of Tilly, Wallenstein, Bernard of Saxe Weimar, Mansfield, and countless others of their kind; but where, I ask, in any despatch from general in the field, or from sack of city at the time, abroad or at home, can parallel example be found for such petty publication of savagery, such intense liplicking of vengeance as we have here revealed to us? Is this a really great mind expressing itself to a mighty assembly?
Leaving Drogheda weltering in the blood of its garrison and inhabitants, Cromwell went back to Dublin, where he caused the heads of Aston and fifteen other Royalist officers to be hung on poles, Then, after a short delay he marched south to Wexford. He followed the coast road through the County Wicklow. The fleet moved parallel to his advance, and his right flank was covered by his cavalry. On September 28th he was at Arklow, and on October I1st he encamped before Wexford. His fleet had already appeared before that town two days earlier.
Here, as in Drogheda, many persons were already in correspondence with the invader. All this had been arranged before Cromwell left England. In Carlyle's edition of the Letters, there is one written by Cromwell to Harrington on the eve of departure for Ireland, asking that the favour of the Council of State may be shown to Lord Thomond of Clare. The last sentence in this letter runs thus:—"If the result of the favour of the House fall upon him (Thomond) it is very probable it will oblige his Lordship to endeavour the peace and quiet of this Commonwealth, which will be no disservice to the State; perhaps of more advantage than the extremity of his fine." Carlyle quotes this letter as proof of his hero's kindness of heart at a moment of great pressure of business; but he does not tell his readers that Barnaby O'Brien, Sixth Earl of Thomond, was cousin to Morrough O'Brien, Lord Inchiquin, then commanding the Munster garrisons under Ormond, and that the "no disservice to the State.' which resulted was without doubt the treacherous surrender of these and other Royalist garrisons to Cromwell a couple of months later.
Cromwell sat before Wexford for ten days parleying with the Governor on one hand and with the inhabitants on the other. On October 11th, a breach having been made in the wall of the Castle, which stood outside the city wall, Commissioners were sent from the town to treat with Cromwell for the surrender of the place. Among these Commissioners was one Stafford, Governor of the Castle. Cromwell's own words tell the fraud and treachery that followed. Writing again to Speaker Lenthall, he says:—"While I was preparing the answer to the propositions, studying to preserve the town from plunder, that it might be of more use to you and your Army, the Captain Stafford, who was one of the Commissioners, being fairly treated, yielded up the Castle to us, upon the top of which our men no sooner appeared but the enemy quitted the walls of the town, which our men perceiving ran violently upon the town with their ladders and stormed it."
Examine this statement. Cromwell pretends the storming of the town was a chance event undertaken by his soldiers on their own initiative against his wishes. How then the scaling ladders, and the assaulting parties all ready? The whole thing had been deliberately planned and arranged. The wretched inhabitants were duped into a pretended negotiation. The Commissioners were sent out to Cromwell, one of them being the traitor Stafford, who has already arranged to admit the storming parties into his portion of the defences. "The townsmen," says the historian, "were first made aware of Stafford's treachery by seeing the enemy's colours floating on the summit, and its guns turned against their walls." All was confusion in the town. The Cromwellian troops poured in over the walls and began a slaughter equal to that of Drogheda; none were spared. There is a tradition that two or three hundred women and children were put to death in the market-place, whither they had flocked round the great stone cross which stood there.
They knelt around the Cross divine—
The matron and the maid;
They bowed before redemption's shrine
And fervently they prayed.
Three hundred fair and helpless ones,
Whose crime was this alone
Their valiant husbands, sires, and sons,
Had battled for their own.
The winter was now approaching, and already sickness of a grave character had broken out in the army. There was no time to lose if the Munster garrisons were to be gained and winter quarters secured. Waterford, Dungarvan, and Kilkenny were held by the Royalists. Ormond was in the neighbourhood of the latter city, where he had been joined by a strong force of O'Neill's Ulster army. On October 17th Cromwell led his troops to New Ross, where he intended to force a passage over the River Barrow. On the 10th he was in possession of the place. "The rendition of this garrison," he wrote, "was a seasonable mercy, as giving us an opportunity towards Munster, and is for the present a very good refreshment for our men." He appears to have remained at Ross for a month. The position had become very critical. The sick list grew rapidly; Cromwell himself caught the infection. "I have been crazy in my health," he writes on November 13th. On the 14th he urges that fresh troops be sent from England. "We desire recruits may be speeded to us," he says. "It is not fit to tell you how your garrisons will be unsupplied, and no field marching army considerable, if but three garrisons more were in our hands. It is not well not to follow Providences. Your recruits and the forces desired will not raise your charge if your assignments already for the forces here do come to our hands in time. I shall not doubt, by the addition of assessments here, to have your charge in some reasonable measure borne, and the soldiers upheld without too much neglect or discouragement, which sickness in this country, so ill-agreeing with, their bodies, puts upon them, and which this winter's action, not heretofore known by Englishmen in this country, subjects them to. To the praise of God I speak it. I scarce know one officer of forty among us that hath not been sick, and how many considerable ones we have lost is no little thought of heart to us." All these sentences, so ominous of the condition of the army, not yet three - months in the country, were omitted from the despatch when read to Parliament. As a set off against the now desperate condition of his troops came the news to Cromwell that Inchiquin's garrisons in Youghal, Cork, Mallow, Kinsale, and Bandon had revolted from the Royal cause and declared for the Parliament. He had, therefore, © a secure base opened to him in Munster, with ports of easy access from England, walled cities and supplies for wasted men and famished horses, could he but reach these friendly havens.
Some forty miles of intervening country still lay between him and safety, and everything now depended upon his passing that interval. The River Suir had to be crossed, and the operation known as a change of base effected in the presence of a hostile army—a dangerous movement in war. Ormond was at Kilkenny, within easy striking distance of the movement, yet he did nothing. This was his golden opportunity, and he lost it.
In an old Irish account of these wars there occurs the following passage: "While Cromwell did continue in Ross he lodged in the house of the Mayor, Francis Dormer, where did hang a picture of my Lord of Ormonde. Cromwell asked who it was. Being told, he said the man whom the picture concerned was more like a huntsman than any way a soldier, which was most true, and the very party so inclined by education and nature."
Making a feint in the direction of Kilkenny, to deceive Ormond, Cromwell's army moved rapidly on Carrick, seized that town, crossed the River Suir, and was at once within easy reach of 'its new base. Cromwell, now recovered from his illness, joined his army at Carrick, and appeared before Waterford on the 24th November. He had the usual intelligence with his friends in the town, and was confident that it would be rendered without a blow. But in this he was disappointed. Waterford held out. The winter now broke in rain and tempest, and after seven days of fruitless attempt Cromwell raised the siege, leaving some of his heavy artillery in the mud, and marched for Dungarvan on December the 2nd; it "being so terrible a day," he wrote, "as I never marched in in all my life." He had lost over 1,000 men in the week before Waterford, and his army was reduced to a remnant of 3,000 fit for duty.
"T tell you," he wrote to the Parliament, "that a considerable part of your army is fitter for the hospital than the field. If the enemy did not know it I should have held it impolitic to have writ this." Then he turns to discant upon what it hath pleased the Lord to do "for your interest in Munster" in the matter of the treacherous mutiny of garrisons he had corrupted. "Sir," he asks, "what can be said of these things? Is it an arm of the flesh that hath done these things? It is the Lord only. God will curse the man and his house that dares to think otherwise, God gets into the hearts of men and persuades them to come under you." "These are the seals of God's approbation upon your great change of Government." Terrible words of blasphemy and presumption these—unexampled in any record I have ever read, when we reflect that the approbation he is asserting the Deity to have shown is given for the murder of the King, the abolition of the throne of England, the destruction of a free Parliament, and the revolt of the English garrisons of the Crown, brought about by fraud, perjury, and treason.
We must hurry through the succeeding events of Cromwell's career in Ireland. He reached the friendly shelter of Youghal early in December, and spent the next two months in resting and reorganising his broken army. He was joined at Youghal by Lord Broghill. Never had an army been in greater want of rest. Half the officers, and more than half the men, were dead or invalided; but the Parliament poured fresh troops into Ireland, and, Inchiquin's old army, men inured to the climate, soon swelled Cromwell's ranks to their original strength.
The defection of the Munster garrisons, while it saved Cromwell from destruction, had completely shattered Ormond's power of effective resistance. Nothing could now persuade the officers and soldiers that Ormond and Inchiquin had not been privy to this revolt. There only remained the wreck of Owen O'Neill's old army to still offer resistance. Of these about 2,500 men held Clonmel, Kilkenny, and Fethard; a few other towns in South Tipperary also held small garrisons. These Cromwell determined to attack before the winter had ended.
Marching in two columns from his Munster garrisons, one by way of Mallow, the other by way of Tallow and Newcastle, and sweeping the country as he went, he united his force in Tipperary, took Cashel, Fethard, Callan, and finally, in the end of March, laid siege to Kilkenny, which surrendered upon articles after a gallant resistance. Waterford and Clonmel were now the only places of importance remaining to the Irish Royalists in the south-east of Ireland.
In January Cromwell had received a letter from the Council of State desiring his presence in London. The position in Scotland was getting dangerous; there were Royalist movements again threatening in various parts of England. Fairfax, Cromwell's senior general, was a Presbyterian, and he could not be trusted by the Independents to command the projected invasion of Scotland. Cromwell had in consequence been summoned home, but before quitting Ireland he determined to attempt the reduction of Kilkenny.
And still he lingered to capture Clonmel as a crowning triumph to his career in Ireland.
On the 27th April he appeared in person before that town, but his army had invested it some weeks earlier. The sense of desertion and betrayal, which the treason of the Cork garrisons had spread through Ormond's army, had not affected the Irish troops in Clonmel. They were all old soldiers of Owen O'Neill's army, veterans of the victory of Benburb, heroes of that sole unconquered force which their great dead leader had raised, disciplined, and maintained for seven years against immense odds.
Hugh O'Neill, Owen Roe's nephew, was in command. The garrison numbered about 1,500 men; the townspeople were of good heart, and the Mayor had joined O'Neill in "solemn protestation and oath of union for God, King, and Country," swearing also "to defend the town to the utmost of their power." They sent a message to Ormond, telling him that "on Clonmel the safety of the Kingdom now chiefly depended," and they urged him to hasten to their relief, "to prevent any bloody tragedy being enacted there, as in other places, for want of timely succour."
The plague was raging within the town. Succour could not be given. Clonmel was left to its fate.
O'Neill was equal to the task. He made daily and nightly sallies. When the great guns opened fire, and their shot made breaches in the single wall, he repaired the damage and loopholed the neighbouring houses for musketry. "He did set all men and maids to work," says a contemporary writer, "townsmen and soldiers, to draw dunghills, mortar, stones, and timber, and make a long lane a man's height, and about eighty yard's length, on both sides up from the breach, and he caused to be placed engines on both sides of the lane, and two guns at the end of it, invisible, opposite to the breach, and so ordered all things against a storm. He intrusted the defence of this inner retrenchment, or lane, to a body of volunteers, armed with swords, sythes, and pikes.
"Musket ammunition was scarce, and to a picked body of good shots this precious store was distributed; they were placed in the loopholed houses" which commanded this lane. The storm began early on the morning of the 10th of May. Cromwell's columns advanced to the breach, singing a hymn. No opposition was made until the leading troops had entered well within the walls. Few people or soldiers were to be seen, and the column pressed forward up the long lane, anticipating an easy victory.
"The lane," says the same old account, "was crammed full with men, armed with helmets, backs, breasts, swords, musketoons and pistols. When those in the front seeing themselves in a pound, and that they could make their way no further, cried out, 'Halt! halt!) On which those entering behind at the breach thought by these words that the garrison were running away, and cried out 'Advance! Advance!' as fast as those before cried ' Halt! halt!' and so advanced until they thrust forward those before them till that pound or lane was full and could hold no more. Then suddenly rushes a resolute party of pikes and musketeers (along the wall) to the breach, and scoured off and knocked back those entering, at which O'Neill's men within fell on those in the pound with shots, pikes, sythes, stones, and then two guns, firing at them from the end of the pound, slaughtering them by the middle or knees with chained bullet, that in less than an hour's time about a thousand men were killed there, being atop one another.
"At this time, Cromwell was on horseback with his guard at the gate, expecting the gate to be opened by those entered, until he saw those in the breach beaten back and heard the cannons going off within. Then he fell off (retired), as much vexed as ever he was since he first put on a helmet against the King, for such a repulse he did not usually meet with."
Cromwell ordered a second assault, but his foot had suffered so severely that they refused to advance. He then called upon his cavalry. A second storming party was formed of dismounted troopers. Again the breach was gained, and again the murderous cross fire smote the column, "the hinder ranks pushing on those before them, but to no purpose." After four hours of desperate fighting the survivors of the assailants retreated, leaving, according to the best authorities, more than 2,000 dead in that terrible cul de sac.
O'Neill was left in full possession of the breach; but he had fired his last cartridge. The siege and the plague had cost him dear. An hour after nightfall he withdrew his troops across the River Suir and marched towards Waterford. Before leaving, he told the Mayor to send at midnight to Cromwell, saying he was ready to surrender the town in the name of the townspeople. This was done. Cromwell, in ignorance of the withdrawal of the garrison, was glad to get this stubbornly held place on any terms, and he guaranteed the citizens their lives and estates. He was enraged to discover next day when he entered the town that O'Neill and his garrison had got away. Pursuit was ordered; but only a couple of hundred stragglers were overtaken, and these—most of whom were wounded or women—were killed. "Cromwell," says Whitelock, "found in Clonmel the stoutest enemy his army had ever met in Ireland, and never was seen so hot a storm of so long continuance, and so gallantly defended, neither in England nor in Ireland."
Ten days later Cromwell embarked at Youghal for Bristol.
On the 31st May he entered London. A great concourse of people went out to meet him, guns fired, the Lord Mayor and the train-bands were present.
As the cortege was passing the gallows-tree at Tyburn, near what is now the Marble Arch, someone sitting in the coach remarked upon the crowd which had come out to do him honour. "Yes," said Cromwell, "but how many more would have come to see me hanged on yonder tree."
So much for Cromwell's personal share in the Cromwellian War in Ireland. Time has constrained me only to deal with the salient features of the campaign. I have not told you of the unnumbered acts of burnings and hangings, of the slaughter of ecclesiastics, and the merciless treatment of prisoners done in the castles or houses which lay in the path of the invaders. These find frequent mention in the despatches to the Parliament and in the correspondence of the time; but they are alluded to as things of such general and unquestioned occurrence as not to need explanation or excuse.
The war in Ireland went on for three years after Cromwell's departure. It reduced the country to a desert. Then came what was called the settlement. The land was divided among the army; the old proprietors were driven out of their homes, and forced across the Shannon, the terrible alternative of Hell or Connaught being, in the language of the time, given to them. Thousands of women and children were sold into the worst form of tropic slavery ever known. "An universal confiscation," says Isaac D'Israeli, "is a bloodless massacre." But there was plenty of blood upon it, too.
All this went on from 1653 to the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658. You may search the entire modern history of man on earth and find nothing more terrible, nothing more savage, nothing more relentlessly cruel, than the record of these nine years—from 1649 to 1658—in Ireland.
And now a few words about the man Oliver Cromwell himself.
For some fifty or sixty years it has been the fashion of the time to speak of him as one of the greatest and the best of men. For nearly two hundred years previous to this scarcely one historian, or writer of any eminence, had found anything good to say about him. But we have changed al] that. His eulogisers can now be counted by the thousand, his admirers by the million.
I have already quoted for you a letter written by Cromwell some years before he became famous. "Who goeth to war at his own cost?" That was the key to his character Underneath pious pretence the chief objects of his effort were personal ambition, plunder, and persecution. He and his were saints; they were to possess the earth. All the rest were sinners; they were to be despoiled, cast out, persecuted. Who can count the oaths taken by him and broken? He swore allegiance to the King, but he cut the King's head off. He swore to support the Parliament, but he betrayed it, and turned it out of doors. He swore to the Scottish Covenant, but he destroyed it. He swore to be loyal to Essex, to Manchester, to Fairfax, but he intrigued against them, and upset them in turn. He swore to uphold the liberties and rights of his country, but he trampled upon the one and betrayed the other. Standing in his place in the House of Commons, with his hand upon his heart, he swore in the presence of Almighty God that he knew the army would disband and lay down their arms at the door of the House whenever the Parliament should command them to do so. Within twenty-four hours he was in the midst of that army, inciting them to fresh defiance of the Parliament.
Can any instance of hypocrisy match that in which Cromwell, protesting his desire to save the King's life, said that he had prayed on his knees to God for the life of Charles until his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, by which he saw that God had willed the death of the King?
Let any man read the account of the interview between Cromwell and Sir John Berkeley, near Reading, when Charles was a prisoner in the hands of the army. Cromwell tells Berkeley that he had lately seen the tenderest sight that ever his eyes beheld—the meeting between the King and his children; and he wept plentifully at the remembrance thereof, saying "that never man was so abused as he in his sinister opinion of the King, who, he now thought, was the most upright and conscientious man of his Kingdom, and he prayed that God would be pleased to look upon him according to the sincerity of his heart to the King." Yet at that moment Cromwell had the King's death in sight.
It was Cromwell, and Cromwell alone, who brought the King to the scaffold. One of his latest biographers says, "Cromwell all through the trial never wavered or hesitated, and his influence kept the regicides together. Against that will all efforts to save the King were fruitless."
He was absolute master of every trick of tongue, gesture, or expression by which man can deceive his fellow. He could weep at will, pray, preach, affirm, swear, cajole, bully, act the buffoon with a corporal, play schoolboy tricks while signing the death warrant of his King. He could commit the most appalling massacres with the name of God upon his lips and the Bible in his hand. He was the greatest dissembler of whom history holds record.
While raving of liberty, he subverted in turn every liberty which Englishmen had ever known —representation in Parliament, trial by jury, taxation with consent; everything that the people had longest enjoyed or hardest fought for—all had gone. He proposed to sell St. Paul's to the Jews for a Synagogue. He sold hundreds of English and Scotch gentlefolk and many thousands of Irish men, women, and children as slaves to the West Indian planters. No illegality was too great for him. It is doubtful whether all the illegal actions charged against Charles could match that single act of Cromwell's by which he arrested and locked up the three counsel for a London merchant, who was being prosecuted for having refused to pay taxes which had not been voted by Parliament. He set the Parliament against the King. He set the army against the Parliament. He split the army into two sections. He humbugged Parliament and army at the same moment, pretending to the Parliament that the army designed to assassinate him, and to the army that the Parliament would never leave their seats until the soldiers "would pull them out by the ears." When confronted with this perfidy he fell upon his knees in the House of Commons, and took a solemn oath that it was untrue. He was false to his own chosen band of conspirators, and to the inner circle of his friends, and to each one of these multitudinous parties, which he deceived in turn, he used the same solemn affirmations of probity and rectitude, piling protestation upon protestation in a profuseness of prayer and preaching such as no age or nation had ever known.
In all this gigantic record of deception one question occurs to us: Did he deceive even himself? That question is unanswerable. It is possible that, having deceived everybody—enemies, friends, co-religionists, comrades—he had come at last to deceive himself: for let us remember that the world holds no such futility in its history as the English Civil War.
The Parliament fought the King, or the King fought the Parliament, for seven years, with the result that the King lost his head, and the Parliament lost every shred of privilege and liberty it had ever possessed. It, too, lost its life.
For another five or six years Cromwell ruled the land with heavy sword and booted foot. He flung to the winds every rule of justice, prescriptive right, every guarantee of freedom that had ever belonged to the Lords, Commons, and people of England. He shut up the Commons; he taxed without representation; he tried without jury; he ruled by martial law; he packed the Courts; he arrested counsel; he filled the prisons on false pretexts; he created conspiracies against himself, and hanged. and disembowelled the dupes his agents had trepanned and entangled. What a ghastly list of victims is that which begins with Gerard in 1654, and ends with Dr. Hewitt and Sir Henry Slingsby in 1658! "His little finger lay heavier upon the Nation," said the people, "than the loins of the late King had lain." And then he died, and there came back to a weary and blood-soaked land—a King.
Cromwell left nothing behind him—no public works, no new system of law, no better tenure of land, no clearer conception of justice. "Nothing cried at his funeral," wrote Evelyn, "but the dogs."
And this—the dismallest failure of English history—is the man in whose praise to-day histories are imagined, and statues inaugurated. Courage, capacity, diligence, and the most dogged and determined resolution—these things he had to an extraordinary degree; but to what end and at what cost did he use them?
It was a cowardly and base act of the Parliament of 1660 to dig up his remains and hang his mouldering body on the gibbet at Tyburn. You are aware of the circumstances which attended that loathsome vengeance. But history has missed one strange coincidence which resulted from it. You remember the choice which Cromwell, in the days of his victory, gave the unfortunate Irish—"Hell or Connaught" I turn to the last page of Cromwell's latest biographer, and this is what I read—"Where Connaught Square now stands, a yard or two beneath the street, trodden under foot and beaten by horse-hoofs, lies the dust of the Great Protector."
And that is—