Map of Ireland

Prev | Next | Contents | Main Page


(A.D. 1399) till the period of the Reformation. Native Irish life, therefore, throughout the whole of the fifteenth, and during the first half of the sixteenth century, was as free to shape and direct itself, to ends of its own choosing, as it had been at almost any former period in our history. Private wars and hereditary blood-feuds, next after the loss of national unity, were the worst vices of the nation. Deeds of violence and acts of retaliation were as common as the succession of day and night. Every free clansman carried his battle-axe to church and chase, to festival and fairgreen. The strong arm was prompt to obey the fiery impulse, and it must be admitted in solemn sadness, that almost every page of our records at this period is stained with human blood. But though crimes of violence are common, crimes of treachery are rare. The memory of a McMahon, who betrayed and slew his guest, is execrated by the same stoical scribes, who set down, without a single expression of horror, the open murder of chief after chief. Taking off by poison, so common among their cotemporaries, seems to have been altogether unknown, and the cruelties of the State Prisons of the Middle Ages undreamt of by our fierce, impetuous, but not implacable ancestors. The facts which go to affix the imputation of cruelty on those ages are, the frequent entries which we find of deposed chiefs, or conspicuous criminals, having their eyes put out, or being maimed in their members. By these barbarous punishments they lost caste, if not life; but that indeed must have been a wretched remnant of existence which remained to the blinded lover, or the maimed warrior, or the crippled tiller of the soil. Of the social and religious relations existing between the races, we shall have occasion to speak more fully before closing the present book.




Prev | Next | Contents | Main Page



Map of Ireland