It was absolutely necessary that the rebels this is the name applied by Dr. Ledwich to the Confederate Catholics should have the form of an authority established among them, to make the orders of superiors obeyed, and prevent that confusion and those mischiefs which always attend competition for power, and uncertainty in the right to command; this was done in the general assembly of deputies from all the provinces in the kingdom, which met the 24th of October, 1642, at Kilkenny.
The first act, after their meeting, was to protest that they did not mean that assembly to be a parliament, confessing that the calling, proroguing, and dissolving that great body was an inseparable incident to the crown, upon which they would not encroach; but it was only a meeting to consult of an order for their own affairs until His Majesty's wisdom had settled the present troubles. They formed it, however, according to the plan of a parliament, consisting of two houses, in the one of which sat the estate spiritual, composed of bishops and prelates, together with the temporal lords, and in the other, the deputies of the counties and towns, as the estate of the commons, by themselves.
The meeting was at the house of Mr. Robert Shee, son of Sir Richard Shee, now 1802 Mr. Langford's, in Coal Market; the lords, prelates, and commons all in one room. Mr. Patrick Darcy bare-headed upon a stool, representing all
p.87or some of the Judges and masters of chancery that used to sit in parliament upon wool-sacks. Mr. Nicholas Plunket represented the speaker of the house of commons, and both lords and commons addressed their speech to him; the lords had an upper room which served them as a place of recess, for private consultation, and when they had taken their resolutions, this same were delivered to the commons by Mr. Darcy. This chamber forms part of a house, now 1802 inhabited by Mr. Tresham, an apothecary, it consisted of one large hall, forty-nine feet by forty-seven, with a dungeon underneath twenty feet square, with which the hall communicated by a trap-door, and stone stairs. Part of the benches with high backs, and the carved oak frame of a table remain. An iron door formerly led out of the dungeon into the yard; the windows have iron bars, and are small and arched. This hall is now subdivided into a kitchen, shop, and three or four rooms. The upper floor is low, with large beams, and above is a modern building.
The clergy, who were not qualified by their titular sees or abbies to sit in the house of lords, met in a house called the convocation, where it was reported among the laity that they only handled matters of tythe, and settling church possessions, in which points so little deference was paid to their debates, and their proceedings were treated with so much contempt by the lay-impropriators and gentlemen, that the provincial of the Augustinians was hissed out of the house for threatening to wipe off the dust from his feet and those of his friars, and to bend his course beyond seas, if the possessions of his order were not restored.
For the rule of their government, they professed to receive Magna Charta, and the common and statute law of England,
p.88in all points not contrary to the Roman Catholic religion, or inconsistent with the liberty of Ireland. Several judicatories were established for the administration of justice, and the regulation of all affairs; each county had its council, consisting of one or two deputies out of each barony and where there was no barony, of twelve persons chosen by the county in general, with powers to decide all matters cognizable by justices of the peace, pleas of the crown, suits for debts and personal actions, and to restore possessions usurped since the war; to name all the county officers, except the high-sheriff, who was to be chosen by the supreme council out of three which the council of the county were to recommend. From these lay an appeal to the provincial councils, which consisted of two deputies out of each county, and were to meet four times a year, or oftener if there was occasion, to examine the judgments of the county councils, to decide all suits like judges of assize, to establish recent possessions, but not to meddle with other suits about lands, except in cases of dower.
From these there lay a further appeal to the supreme council of twenty-four persons, chosen by the general assembly, of which twelve were to be constantly resident in Kilkenny, or wherever else they should judge it to be most expedient, with equal voices, but two-thirds to conclude the rest: never fewer than nine to sit in council, and seven to concur in the same opinion; out of these twenty-four, a president was to be named by the assembly, and was to be always one of the twelve resident; and in case of death, sickness, or absence, the other residents out of the twenty-four were to chuse a president.
The council was vested with power over all generals, military officers, and civil magistrates, who were to obey their
p.89orders, and send duly an account of their actions and proceedings, to determine all matters left undecided by the general assembly, their acts to be of force until rescinded by the next assembly: to command and punish all commanders of forces, magistrates, and all others, of what rank and condition soever; to hear and judge all capital and criminal causes (except titles to lands), and to do all kind of acts for promoting the common cause of the confederacy, and the good of the kingdom, and relating to the support and management of the war.
They used a seal,102 which is thus described: it had a long cross in the centre, on the right side of it was a crown, and on the left an harp, with a dove above the cross, and a flaming heart under it, and round it was this inscription
Pro Deo, pro Rege et Patria Hibernia unanimis.
The conduct of the war is no part of our present concern; but we must remark, that the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Jesuits now claimed their ancient possessions, and were generally reinstated; for one of the principal objects of this war was, the re-establishment of those orders, and the Romish hierarchy; that this point was accomplished we learn from a letter written by the confederates in 1644 to the Pope, wherein, among other enumerations of their good fortune,103 they exultingly observe, Jam Deus optimus maximus Catholico ritu palam colitur; dum cathedrales pleræque suis antistibus; parochiales parochis; religiosorum multa coenobia propriis gaudent alumnis.
Ledwich's Antiquities of Ireland.