CHAPTER I. JAMES I. - FLIGHT OF THE EARLS - CONFISCATION OF ULSTER - PENAL LAWS - PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION.
James the Sixth of Scotland was in his 37th year when he ascended the throne under the title of "James the First, King of Great Britain and Ireland." His accession naturally excited the most hopeful expectations of good government in the breasts of the Irish Catholics. He was son of Mary Queen of Scots, whom they looked upon as a martyr to her religion, and grandson of that gallant King James who styled himself "Defender of the Faith," and "Dominus Hiberniae" in introducing the first Jesuits to the Ulster Princes. His ancestors had always been in alliance with the Irish, and the antiquaries of that nation loved to trace their descent from the Scoto-Irish chiefs who first colonized Argyle, and were for ages crowned at Scone. He himself was known to have assisted the late Catholic struggle as effectually, though less openly than the King of Spain, and it is certain that he had employed Catholic agents, like Lord Home and Sir James Lindsay, to excite an interest in his succession among the Catholics, both in the British Islands and on the Continent.
The first acts of the new sovereign were calculated to confirm the expectations of Catholic liberty thus entertained. He was anxious to make an immediate and lasting peace with Spain; refused to receive a special embassy from the Hollanders; his ambassador at Paris was known to be on terms of intimacy with the Pope's Nuncio; and although personally he assumed the tone of an Anglican Churchman, on crossing the border he had invited leading Catholics to his Court, and conferred the honour of Knighthood on some of their number. The imprudent demonstrations in the Irish towns were easily quieted, and no immediate notice was taken of their leaders. In May, 1603, Mountjoy, on whom James had conferred the higher rank of Lord Lieutenant, leaving Carew as Lord Deputy, proceeded to England, accompanied by O'Neil, Roderick O'Donnell, Maguire, and other Irish gentlemen. The veteran Tyrone, now past threescore, though hooted by the London rabble, was graciously received in that court, with which he had been familiar forty years before. He was at once confirmed in his title, the Earldom of Tyrconnell was created for O'Donnell, and the Lordship of Enniskillen for Maguire. Mountjoy, created Earl of Devonshire, retained the title of Lord Lieutenant, with permission to reside in England, and was rewarded by the appointment of Master of the Ordnance and Warden of the New Forest, with an ample pension from the Crown to him and his heirs for ever, the grant of the county of Lecale (Down), and the estate of Kingston Hall, in Dorsetshire, He survived but three short years to enjoy all these riches and honours; at the age of 44, wasted with dissipation and domestic troubles, he passed to his final account.
The necessity of conciliating the Catholic party in England, of maintaining peace in Ireland, and prosecuting the Spanish negotiations, not less, perhaps, than his own original bias, led James to deal favourably with the Catholics at first. But having attempted to enforce the new Anglican Canons, adopted in 1604, against the Puritans, that party retaliated by raising against him the cry of favouring the Papists. This cry alarmed the King, who had always before his eyes the fear of Presbyterianism, and he accordingly made a speech in the Star Chamber, declaring his utter detestation of Popery, and published a proclamation banishing all Catholic missionaries from the country. All magistrates were instructed to enforce the penal laws with rigour, and an elaborate spy system for the discovery of concealed recusants was set on foot. This reign of treachery and terror drove a few desperate men into the gunpowder plot of the following year, and rendered it difficult, if not impossible, for the King to return to the policy of toleration, with which, to do him justice, he seems to have set out from Scotland.
Carew, President of Munster during the late war, became Deputy to Mountjoy on his departure for England. He was succeeded in October, 1604, by Sir Arthur Chichester, who, with the exception of occasional absences at Court, continued in office for a period of eleven years. This nobleman, a native of England, furnishes, in many points, a parallel to his cotemporary and friend, Robert Boyle, Earl of Cork. The object of his life was to found and to endow the Donegal peerage out of the spoils of Ulster, as richly as Boyle endowed his earldom out of the confiscation of Munster. Both were Puritans rather than Churchmen, in their religious opinions; Chichester, a pupil of the celebrated Cartwright, and a favourer all his life of the congregational clergy in Ulster. But they carried their repugnance to the interference of the civil magistrate in matters of conscience so discreetly as to satisfy the high church notions both of James and Elizabeth. For the violence they were thus compelled to exercise against themselves, they seem to have found relief in bitter and continuous persecution of others. Boyle, as the leading spirit in the government of Munster, as Lord Treasurer, and occasionally as Lord Justice, had ample opportunities, during his long career of forty years, to indulge at once his avarice and his bigotry; and no situation was ever more favourable than Chichester's for a proconsul, eager to enrich himself at the expense of a subjugated Province.