CHAPTER XX. ELIZABETH (v), 1558-78-IRISH AND ENGLISH
Yet experiments continued to be the order of the day. The one expedient not attempted was a government supported by obviously efficient physical force, but aiming at the prosperity of the people, and not running violently counter to the customs and the prejudices of centuries. Another inefficient colony was started in Ulster, which only excited popular animosity; Desmond was at last in 1573 allowed to return to Munster with many promises on his part, from which, like O'Neill before him, he considered himself absolved by a breach of faith towards him. Finally Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex, was allowed to try the biggest and perhaps the most disastrous of the whole series of experiments; being virtually granted authority to invade Ulster with a free hand to make laws and generally to do what seemed to him good there - all at his own cost - save only for some provisions safe-guarding the royal prerogative. He went with excellent intentions, romantic ideals, a respectable force, and a sublime ignorance of facts. The Irishmen, mindful of the Munster colonisation, tricked him with an apparently warm welcome at Carrickfergus, permitted him to congratulate himself on roseate prospects, and then at one swoop cleared the district of provisions. They professed to owe allegiance to the Queen, but repudiated the claims of a private adventurer. His own troops were volunteers, with no mind for hardships and no prospects of plunder. In three months he found his dreams hopelessly dissipated, and himself almost deserted, with no remotest chance of carrying out the Utopian projects with which he had started.
The volunteer method having failed thus ignominiously, Essex was made officially Governor of Ulster, and supplied with troops; for the O'Neills were now threatening, and the Deputy, Fitzwilliam, was inactive. Tirlogh O'Neill and his kinsman Sir Brian were very promptly brought to submission. In the south Desmond, between threats and promises, was persuaded to resume an air of loyalty. Essex however had learned to adopt the common view of the Irish in its extremest form. By a ruse which anywhere else he would have counted a piece of the blackest treachery, he seized Sir Brian and his wife and cut up their following when they were actually his own guests; and followed up the performance by a hideous and wanton massacre of women and children and decrepit men at Rathlin off the Antrim Coast; of which things he wrote with a perfect complacency, and for which he was highly applauded. Thereafter he returned to England.
[1576 Sidney's second Deputyship]
Once more, Sidney was persuaded to accept the Deputyship. It is probable that his honest desire was to govern firmly and justly, although, when denied the means for steady rule he had fallen back on extirpation. At any rate the Irish themselves, genuinely or not, hailed his return with apparent enthusiasm. The chiefs hoped that after so many experiments had collapsed, the pristine plan of making them responsible for their own districts and leaving them alone might be tried again. But no English statesman could divest himself of the idea that no government was worth having unless it was conducted by English methods. Sidney insisted on reconstituting the Presidencies of Connaught and Munster, Malby taking charge of the former and Drury of the latter. Naturally enough, and with plenty of excuse, they set about hangings on an extensive scale, and where they met with resistance gave no quarter. English methods, as usual in Ireland, promptly degenerated into massacre and devastation. Sidney left the country again two years after he had returned to it - and left it as ripe for rebellion as it had ever been.
And the omens abroad were dangerous. For the Jesuit Sanders was seeking to stir up a Catholic crusade, Stukely was in high favour at Madrid, and the ablest of the Geraldines, James Fitzmaurice, was in Spain. Moreover Philip's indisposition to interfere was on the verge of being seriously disturbed by Drake's great expedition, which had sailed from England in 1577.