CHAPTER V. THE CATHOLIC CONFEDERATION - ITS CIVIL GOVERNMENT AND MILITARY ESTABLISHMENT.
How a tumultuous insurrection grew into a national organization, with a senate, executive, treasury, army, ships, and diplomacy, we are now to describe. It may, however, be assumed throughout the narrative, that the success of the new Confederacy was quite as much to be attributed to the perverse policy of its enemies as to the counsels of its best leaders. The rising in the midland and Munster counties, and the formal adhesion of the Lords of the Pale, were two of the principal steps towards the end. A third was taken by the Bishops of the Province of Armagh, assembled in Provincial Synod at Kells, on the 22nd of March, 1642, where, with the exception of Dease of Meath, they unanimously pronounced "the war just and lawful." After solemnly condemning all acts of private vengeance, and all those who usurped other men's estates, this provincial meeting invited a national synod to meet at Kilkenny on the 10th day of May following. On that day accordingly, all the Prelates then in the country, with the exception of Bishop Dease, met at Kilkenny. There were present O'Reilly, Archbishop of Armagh; Butler, Archbishop of Cashel; O'Kealy, Archbishop of Tuam; David Rothe, the venerable Bishop of Ossory; the Bishops of Clonfert, Elphin, Waterford, Lismore, Kildare, and Down and Conor; the proctors of Dublin, Limerick, and Killaloe, with sixteen other dignitaries and heads of religious orders - in all, twenty-nine prelates and superiors, or their representatives. The most remarkable attendants were, considering the circumstances of their Province, the prelates of Connaught. Strafford's reign of terror was still painfully remembered west of the Shannon, and the immense family influence of Ulick Burke, then Earl, and afterwards Marquis of Clanrickarde, was exerted to prevent the adhesion of the western population to the Confederacy. But the zeal of the Archbishop of Tuam, and the violence of the Governor of Galway, Sir Francis Willoughby, proved more than a counterpoise for the authority of Clanrickarde and the recollection of Strafford: Connaught, though the last to come into the Confederation, was also the last to abandon it.
The Synod of Kilkenny proceeded with the utmost solemnity and anxiety to consider the circumstances of their own and the neighbouring kingdoms. No equal number of men could have been found in Ireland, at that day, with an equal amount of knowledge of foreign and domestic politics. Many of them had spent years upon the Continent, while the French Huguenots held their one hundred "cautionary towns," and "leagues" and "associations" were the ordinary instruments of popular resistance in the Netherlands and Germany. Nor were the events transpiring in the neighbouring island unknown or unweighed by that grave assembly. The true meaning and intent of the Scottish and English insurrections were by this time apparent to every one. The previous months had been especially fertile in events, calculated to rouse their most serious apprehensions. In March, the King fled from London to York; in April, the gates of Hull were shut in his face by Hotham, its governor; and in May, the Long Parliament voted a levy of 16,000 without the royal authority. The Earl of Warwick had been appointed the Parliamentary commander of the fleet, and the Earl of Essex, their Lord General, with Cromwell as one of his captains. From that hour it was evident the sword alone could decide between Charles and his subjects. In Scotland, too, events were occurring in which Irish Catholics were vitally interested. The contest for the leadership of the Scottish royalists between the Marquises of Hamilton and Montrose had occupied the early months of the year, and given their enemies of the Kirk and the Assembly full time to carry on their correspondence with the English Puritans. In April, all parties in Scotland agreed in despatching a force of 2,500 men, under "the memorable Major Monroe," for the protection of the Scottish settlers in Ulster. On the 15th of that month this officer landed at Carrickfergus, which was "given up to him by agreement," with the royalist Colonel Chichester; the fortress, which was by much the strongest in that quarter, continued for six years the head-quarters of the Scottish general, with whom we shall have occasion to meet again.