An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800 eBook

Mary Frances Cusack
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 779 pages of information about An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800.

Well might he designate the policy by which the country had been hitherto governed as “cowardly,” and contemn the practice of promoting division between the native princes, which was still practised.  He adds:  “So far hath that policy, or rather lack of policy, in keeping dissensions among them, prevailed, as now, albeit all that are alive would become honest and live in quiet, yet there are not left alive, in those two provinces, the twentieth person necessary to inhabit the same.”  Sidney at once proceeded to remedy the evils under which the unfortunate country groaned, by enacting other evils.  We shall leave him to give his own account of his proceedings.  He writes thus, in one of his official despatches:  “I write not the names of each particular varlet that hath died since I arrived, as well by the ordinary course of the law, as of the martial law, as flat fighting with them, when they would take food without the good will of the giver, for I think it no stuff worthy the loading of my letters with; but I do assure you the number of them is great, and some of the best, and the rest tremble.  For most part they fight for their dinner, and many of them lose their heads before they be served with supper.  Down they go in every corner, and down they shall go, God willing."[426]

When we remember Sidney’s own description of the desolation of country, and read of the fashion in which he remedied that desolation we cannot wonder at the piteous account given a few years later by the English poet; for who could escape the threefold danger of “ordinary law, martial law, and flat fighting.”  Nor was the state of religious affairs at all more promising.  The Deputy describes the kingdom as “overwhelmed by the most deplorable immorality and irreligion;"[427] the Privy Council, in their deliberations, gives a similar account.  “As for religion, there was but small appearance of it; the churches uncovered, and the clergy scattered."[428] An Act of Parliament was then passed to remedy the evils which Acts of Parliament had created.  In the preamble (11th Elizabeth, sess. iii. cap. 6) it mentions the disorders which Sidney had found, and complains of “the great abuse of the clergy in getting into the said dignities by force, simony, friendship, and other corrupt means, to the great overthrow of God’s holy Church;” and for remedy, the Act authorizes the Lord Deputy to appoint, for ten years, to all the ecclesiastical benefices of these provinces, with the exception of the cathedral churches of Waterford, Limerick, Cork, and Cashel.

But it was soon evident that Acts of Parliament could not effect ecclesiastical reform, though they might enforce exterior conformity to a new creed.  In 1576, Sidney again complains of the state of the Irish Church, and addresses himself, with almost blasphemous flattery to the head of that body, “as to the only sovereign salve-giver to this your sore and sick realm, the lamentable state of the most noble and

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An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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