Treaty of Dungarvan, 1648

A. M. Sullivan
c. 1900


ELATED by this great victory, that party in the confederation of which O'Neill was the military favorite, and the nuncio the head, now became outspoken and vehement in their denunciations of the temporizers. And opportunely for them came the news from England that the miserable Charles, on finding that his commission to Glamorgan had been discovered, repudiated and denied the whole transaction, notwithstanding the formal commission duly signed and sealed by him, exhibited to the confederate council by his envoy! Ormond, nevertheless, as strongly exhorted the "peace party" to hold firm, and to consider for the hard position of the king, which compelled him to prevaricate! But the popular spirit was aroused, and Rinuccini, finding the tide with him, acted with a high hand against the "Ormondists," treating them as malcontents, even arresting and imprisoning them as half-traitors, whereas,howsoever wrong their judgment and halting their action, they were the (majority of the) lawfully elected government of the confederation.

New elections were ordered throughout the country for a new general assembly, which accordingly met at Kilkenny, January 10, 1647. This body by an overwhelming majority condemned the peace as invalid ab initio, inasmuch as it notably fell short of the oath of federation; but the conduct of the commissioners and majority of the council was generously, and indeed justly, declared to have been animated by good faith and right intentions.

The feuds, however, were but superficially healed; discord and suspicion caused the confederate generals, according as they belonged to the conflicting parties—the "Pale English" or the "Native Irish"—to fear each other as much as the Puritan enemy. Meanwhile an Irish Attila was drenching Munster in blood—Morrough O'Brien, Lord Inchiquin, called to this day in popular traditions "Morrough of the Burnings," from the fact that the firmament over his line of march was usually blackened by the smoke of his burnings and devastations.[1] One monster massacre on his part filled all the land with horror. He besieged and stormed Cashel. The women and children took refuge in the grand cathedral on the rock, the ruins of which still excite the tourist's admiration. "Inchiquin poured in volleys of musket balls through the doors and windows, unmoved by the piercing shrieks of the crowded victims within, and then sent in his troopers to finish with pike and saber the work which the bullets had left incomplete. The floor was incumbered with piles of mangled bodies, and twenty priests who had sought shelter under the altars were dragged forth and slaughtered with a fury which the mere extinction of life could not half appease."[2]

Ere the horror excited by this hideous butchery had died away, the country heard with consternation that the Supreme Council of the Confederation had concluded a treaty with Inchiquin, as a first step toward securing his alliance. In vain the nuncio and the bishops protested against alliance or union with the man whose hands were still wet and red with the blood of anointed priests, massacred at the altar! The majority of the council evidently judged—sincerely, it may be credited—that under all the circumstances it was a substantial good to make terms with, and possibly draw over to the royal cause, a foe so powerful. The bishops did not look on the question thus; nor did the lay (native) Irish leaders. The former recoiled in horror from communion with a sacrilegious murderer; the latter, to like aversion joined an absolute suspicion of his treachery, and time justified their suspicions. The truce nevertheless was signed at Dungarvan on the 20th of May, 1648. Fully conscious that the nuncio and the national party would resist such an unholy pact, the contracting parties bound themselves to unite their forces against whomsoever would assail it.

Accordingly Preston, the favorite general of the "Ormondist" Confederates, joined his troops to those of Inchiquin to crush O'Neill, whom with good cause they feared most. Five days after the "league with sacrilege and murder" was signed, the nuncio published a sentence of excommunication against its abettors and an interdict against all cities and towns receiving it. Having posted this proclamation on the gates of the cathedral, he made his escape from the city, and repaired to the camp of O'Neill at Maryboro.' Four months of wild confused conflict—all the old actors, with barely a few exceptions having changed sides or allies—were ended in September, by the arrival of Ormond at Cork (he had fled to France after an unaccountable if not traitorous surrender of Dublin to the Puritans) expressing willingness to negotiate anew with the confederation on the part of the king and his friends, on the basis of Glamorgan's first treaty. Four months subsequently—on January 17, 1649—this treaty, fully acceptable to all parties, was finally ratified and published amid great rejoicings; and the seven years' war was brought to an end!

Ormond and his royal master had wasted four years in vain, hesitating over the one clause which alone is may be said was at issue between them and the Irish national party—-that one simply securing the Catholic religion against proscription and persecution, and stipulating the restriction of further spoliation of the churches. Its simple justice was fully conceded in the end. Too late! Scarcely had the rejoicings over the happy peace, or rather the alliance between the English, Scotch, and Irish royalists, Catholic and Protestant, ceased in Ireland, when the news of the king's death in London shocked the land. Charles, as already mentioned, had flung himself upon the loyalty of the Scottish parliament, in which the Lowland covenanting element predominated. His rebellious subjects on the southern side of the border, thirsting for his blood, offered to buy him from the Scots. After a short time spent in haggling over the bargain, those canny saints sold the unfortunate Charles for a money

price of four hundred thousand pounds—an infamy for which the world has not a parallel. The blood-money was duly paid, and the English bore their king to London, where they murdered him publicly at Whitehall on January 30, 1649.

A few weeks after this event the uncompromising and true-hearted, but impetuous and imperious nuncio, Rinuccini, bade adieu to the hapless land into whose cause he had entered heart and soul, but whose distractions prostrated his warm hopes. He sailed from Galway for home, in his ship the San Pietro, on February 23, 1649.

And now, while the at length united confederates and royalists are proclaiming the young Prince of Wales as king throughout Ireland, lo! the huge black shadow of a giant destroyer near at hand is flung across the scene!


[1] This dreadful man was one of the first and bitterest fruits of the "Court of Wards" scheme, which in the previous reign was appointed for the purpose of seizing the infant children of the Catholic nobility, and bringing them up in hatred and horror of the faith of their fathers. O'Brien had been thus seized when a child, and thus brought up by the "Court of Wards"—to what purpose has just been illustrated. It would hardly be fair to the English to say such a scheme had no parallel; for history records that the Turks used to seize the children of the subject Christians, and train them up to be the bloodiest in fury against their own race and creed!

[2] Haverty.