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ILLUSTRIOUS AND DISTINGUISHED
KILLED A. D. 1567.
As we enter on the lives of persons whose names are identified with a long struggle, all the incidents of which have taken, or are susceptible of, a strong colouring from national or party feeling and prejudice, we feel that statements which must clash with these sentiments of human nature must necessarily be hazarded. All history which either bears, or can be forced to bear, any relation to the events of modern times, is apt to be popularly viewed through a medium coloured by party; and it cannot well be otherwise: for it is from this that principles of interpretation, and even habits of thinking, are mainly formed. In the history of Ireland, the difficulty arising from this cause is much increased by the fact, that the broad principles of human nature, and of the constitution of society, have been dismissed from political speculation, and replaced by the specious but most illusory adoption of a mode of appeal to facts, and reference to states of society, which, however important they are, as furnishing subjects of investigation, and as illustrative of principle, have not the direct connexion, which is but too often implied by party, with any thing at present existing. So far as party politics are directly concerned, the evil, if such it may be called, is of small moment; it little matters under what pretensions the game of faction is played on either side, by those who, on the pretence of reason, are only anxious to find the most effective weapons. But in the composition of a work such as the present, the evil is great and not to be disguised. However cautiously stated, the fact cannot fail to be regarded according to its value as a political fact, stated with a political view. This difficulty is again augmented by the circumstance that in every statement of the facts of Irish history, this very bias is in a high degree observable, and more especially in those which are the produce of modern literature. They alone who are by their habits of study enabled to test the various notices of the Irish events of Elizabeth's reign, by the most
authentic authorities, can imagine the extent to which, without any direct falsehood being told, a totally opposite view of the same events and characters can be dressed up for the use, or to satisfy the prejudices of either of the two great parties which occupy the stage of political life.
When such is the fact, it is but too easily shown that while an unprincipled writer who can consent dexterously to turn his narrative according to the views of a faction, will incur the certain reprehension of those who think and feel in opposition; the unbiassed statement which is made, as all such statements should be made, in an impartial disregard for both, must alternately give offence to each. The view by which this position is illustrated, must be entered upon more at large hereafter, in the prefatory portion of our next period. It is briefly this: that in the continued struggle between human beings, in no very high stage of moral or intellectual culture, and actuated by the deepest passions of human nature, there was generated a vast complication of errors and wrongs on either side. That usurpation, violence, fraud, rapine, murder, breach of treaties, perfidiousness, and generally a disregard for all the principles of equity, and humanity, and good faith, find instances enough on both sides. From this general truth, and from the “mingled yarn" of human virtues, vices, and motives, it is easy, by seemingly slight omissions, to draw a coloured view of persons or events.
This slight sketch of some of the leading views of our historical creed, has been prompted by the revisal of our chief materials for the few important lives with which it is our design to conclude this period.
John O'Neale, more familiarly known by the Irish name Shane, was one of the most remarkable persons of his time; and occupies a principal position in the history of Ireland during the first years of Queen Elizabeth's reign. We have already had occasion to notice the particulars which involved his early years in anxiety and contention. The influence of an illicit union had usurped the favour and regard due to legitimate offspring; and the earl of Tyrone had set aside the claim of Shane, his eldest son by his lawful wife, for one who was known to be the offspring of his kept mistress, and on specious grounds affirmed to be the fruit of her clandestine intercourse with some low artizan. After frequent renewals of the family contention, which was the natural consequence of such arrangements, Shane, who had for some years occupied a leading position in the affairs of Tyrone, and in the civil feuds of the neighbouring chiefs, caused the lord Dungannon to be slain, and threw his father into confinement. The old earl sunk under the vexation and impatience excited by this undutiful, yet looking to the customs and spirit of that age of lawless violence, not quite unwarranted action. If his allegations are to be admitted, Shane had sustained a wrong, not likely to be meekly submitted to in any state of human polity. The lord justice Sidney having marched to Dundalk, sent for Shane, who was six miles off, to come and answer for himself.* Shane did not think it consistent with his safety to obey,
* Ware, Cox.