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When Ormond, restored in 1677 to the govern- cxx*xp' ment of Ireland, was busied in arrangements for the v—v—/ improvement of the army, the revenue and other departments., he was suddenly interrupted, and involved in perplexity, by the news of a plot formed by the Roman catholics of England, in concert with foreign powers, for the murder of the king, the massacre of the protestants, and the exclusive establishment of the Romish religion. To the history of England belongs the narrative of this affair, one of the most extraordinary in the records of nations, a fiction uncountenanced by any real discoveries, so inconsistent in its parts as to betray its falsehood, yet so opportunely conspiring with the views of certain-men and with popular notions, as to have been received with implicit belief. The plot was declared to extend to Ireland, Peter Talbot to be. a conspirator, and the assassination of the lord lieutenant planned by hired ruffians. Since the least hesitation to believe the reality of the plot, or to act on informations against particular persons, would have been highly dangerous in the present popular phrensv. Talbot in a situation of pain and debility, afflicted for two years past with the stone and stranguary, was made prisoner, and lodged in Dublin castle, but treated with humanity. Orders arrived soon after from England for the seizure of Lord Mountgarret and his son, colonel Peppard, and Richard Talbot. No colonel Peppard could be found, or had been known in Ireland: Mountgarret, eighty years of age, was bedridden and in a state of dotage; and,
Scxix as notmng suspicious couM be discovered concerning Richard Talbot, he was permitted, on securitygiven for his quiet behaviour, to depart the kingdom.
Amid clamour and distraction, the chief governor proceeded calmly to secure the public peace by disarming the catholics, and making proper dispositions of the standing forces and militia. One of his measures on this occasion could be justified only by necessity. Since robbers, termed tories, who committed depredations and cruelties, were knowft to be concealed by their relatives, and sometimes by Romish priests, a proclamation was issued, directing that the near relatives of known tories should be* committed to prison until such tories should be killed or brought to justice; and that any Romish priest of a parish, where murder or robbery waa committed by these tories, should be imprisoned, and afterwards transported, unless within fourteen days the guilty persons were killed or taken, or such discovery made that they might be brought to punishment. More timid or designing protestants were displeased at the refusal ofOrmond to adopt another measure unnecessary and dangerous, to imprison those of the Irish race, who still enjoying the rank of chieftains, and having lost their estates, might be supposed the most ready to join in desperate schemes. Instead of expelling, as was recommended, the Romish inhabitants from the corporate towns, and thereby desolating the corporations, and driving numbers to a vagrant life, the chief governor and muicil pursued a more moderate course. They issued sued a proclamation forbidding persons of the Ro- Chap. mish religion to enter the castle of Dublin, or any C-^—y other fort or citadel, without Special order from the lord lieutenant; but allowing them to resort unarmed to fairs and markets held outside the walls of some principal cities. Such of them as had been lately admitted into these cities, were removed; and from others, where Romish inhabitants chiefly abounded, the idle and useless were expelled.
Enraged at the preservation of tranquility by Or- 1579; toond in Ireland, where they wished for insurrection, the partizans of violent measures accused the duke of partiality to papists. Ashley, earl of Shaftesbury, Who, from a member of the cabal, had changed sides, and become the leader of the popular party, severely arraigned his administration in the English house of lords, where he was spiritedly answered by the gallant Ossory. Unable to effect the removal of Ormond, yet endeavouring to embarrass his government, Shaftesbury and his followers procured orders to the chief governor and council, which Were properly obeyed, to prepare bills for the exclusion of Romanists from both houses, of parliament and all offices in Ireland, and to publish a proclamation encouraging all persons to make farther discoveries of the popish plot. A year had elapsed before One witness of such a plot could be found in Ireland, and those Mho came afterward brought little credit to the cause. The accusation of De la Poer, earl of Tyrone, by one Bourke of the county of Waterford, a man of flagitious character, who had been imprisoned by the earl, proved on the clearest Wot, II. F . evidence
Chap, evidence false and malicious. Fitzgerald, a protestant \.^w' of the county of Limerick, tried for high treason .and acquitted, gave a confused and inconsistent information against some persons of rank, who freely offered themselves for trial, where the facts and their characters could be best examined. But the informer was brought forcibly to London to give his evidence, where he fully confessed his own falsehood, and thereby saved the lives of the accused.
Oliver Plunket, the Romish archbishop of Armagh, met with different fortune. He had lived quiet, detached from political intrigues, recommending a peaceable submission to government, and had even exerted his spiritual authority to confine the turbulent Peter Talbot within the duties of his profession. Accused by some profligates of his inferior clergy, he was brought to London, where their story was found so inconsistent, that, even in those times of passionate credulity, the jury could not find a bill against him. But reinforced by some new accomplices, the informers framed again their accusation, charging him with having obtained his place on the express compact of raising seventy thousand men in Ireland by the contributions of the Romish clergy, whose whole revenues would be insufficient for the equipment of even one regiment. They swore that this army was to be joined by twenty thousand men from France, who were to land at Carlingfbrd, a place impracticable for such a debarkation. The unfortunate prelate, whose witnesses were detained by contrary winds and other accidents, was executed for a conspiracy which he
explicitly denied at his death, with the most solemn Chapj
disavowal of all equivocation; and which no ra:inu-/«j acquainted with the circumstances of Ireland, as he remarked, could have believed, even if he had solemnly acknowledged it in his last moments.
Neither discouraging informations, nor encouraging violence in the prosecution of them, Ormond steered so cautious and steady a course, that, after several acquittals on the clearest evidence, the credit of the plot declined; and men, relieved from then? terrors, applied their minds to pursuits of industry. The fortitude of the duke was severely tried by the death of the generous Ossory, of whose signal .merit he retained so lively a sense, that he declared, "he would not exchange his dead son for any living son in Christendom." Repairing to court, at the 16S2. instance of the duke of York, and leaving the administration two years in the hands of a deputy, the earl of Arran, he solicited in vain, when he prepared to return, for the convention of an Irish parliament. Dangerous measures appear to have been then concerted without awakening his suspicion. A commission of grace was issued for the remedy of defective titles in Ireland, planned by the duke of York; and the protestants had good reason to conclude, that the purpose of it was to discover what advantages might be taken to deprive protestants of their possessions, and to restore them to the Irish. A scheme had been formed for putting the whole power in Ireland into the hands of the catholics; and, when Or- 1684 inond had returned to his government, he received a letter from the king, informing him of the expe
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