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the four subsequent centuries, though surrounded on every side by contending armies, mainly assisted in consolidating that power. Its conquest by Ireton terminated the Great Rebellion ; while the result of its last siege sealed for ever the expatriation of the Stuart Family, and paved the way for the elevation of our present Royal House to the British Throne.
The Authors have endeavoured to detail the warlike history of Limerick, with all fidelity and accuracy. They came to the task, with minds free from undue bias, and resolved to express truths, however painful, in the manner least likely to irritate the feelings of any of the parties, which have too long divided the population of this fair island. The political factions and civil wars of Ireland have been the offspring of circumstances which would have produced similar results in any other country. She was colonized, not conquered, by her first English invaders. For some centuries the authority of the Crown was limited to a narrow district, while its more distant colonies, led on by proud and aspiring chiefs, were alternately engaged in fierce hostilities with the natives, or availing themselves of their strength and numbers, to set that authority within their respective territories ; at defiance. When the power of the English government became more extended and consolidated, religious 'rancour was superadded to the ancient grounds of animosity; and these united causes produced long and fierce rebellions, whose flames were quenched by torrents of blood. But such scenes, we trust, have for ever passed away: the recollection of them is, however, still pregnant with bitter fruit, which too often ferments, and bursts forth in ebullitions of party feeling. To allay those angry passions should be the first wish of every writer on Irish affairs, whose object is not to please a party. While he maintains his own political views, he should not refuse justice to his opponents ; and if he studies the history of this too long distracted country with that fairness which is so necessary to the elucidation of truth, he will be forced to confess, that in the actions of our forefathers there is much that should be forgiven and forgotten, on both sides, by their descendants. With the grand question which is considered by many as the chief source of Ireland's woes, the Authors have not interfered: they feel incompetent to cast any new light upon it, and therefore leave it to the wisdom of a government and a legislature, who appear well disposed to promote union among all classes of the population of this great Empire, by every practic able means.
They have found a more pleasing task in tracing the progress of the feeble colony that took up their residence in the City of Limerick at the close of the Twelfth Century. Their strong walls preserved them for four hundred years from the inroads of enemies who swarmed around, but these bulwarks also retarded the extension and prosperity of the City. In the latter half of the Seventeenth Century, three terrible sieges laid it almost in ruins, while pestilence, famine, and the sword, swept away thousands of its inhabi
tants. Its happy situation, however, enabled it soon to recover from these shocks, while a century of comparatively domestic peace, the protection of a paternal government, and the active energy of some public spirited individuals, have placed it in the important rank which it now holds amongst the cities of Ireland. Its rapid increase in wealth, extent, and population, since the demolition of its fortifications, will find few parallels in the history of any country; and its growing prosperity has had a happy influence on the important district of which it has become the grand emporium, including the greater part of five counties.
The History of the County is scarcely less interesting than that of the City of Limerick. Faithful to their ancient Kings, its inhabitants maintained their rights against every invader till resistance became hopeless. The early settlement of the Desmond family in the County, and the restless ambition, with few exceptions, of almost every succeeding chief of that aspiring house, rendered it for several centuries the almost constant theatre of civil strife, and checked every attempt to improve the condition of its inhabitants. The downfal of that family, in which was involved the ruin of a great part of its ancient gentry, made room for settlers of another character, whose number was augmented by the subsequent political changes in the kingdom. Their industry soon rendered the vast resources of this fertile, but too long neglected district, in some degree serviceable to public utility; and the aspect of the country, and the state of the population have continued gradually to improve from that period to the present. The Authors have interwoven with the Political and Military History of Limerick, a general outline of Irish transactions, without which the narrative of events in this district would neither be connected or satisfactory. This will appear the more necessary when it is recollected, that the great families of Desmond, Kildare, and Ormond, had immense possessions in this county, and that for several centuries, the Fitzgeralds and Butlers were alternately entrusted with the chief direction of the Irish government, except when circumstances rendered it necessary to send over a Royal Duke, or a Military Officer. More than seventy times was the office of Chief Governor of Ireland filled by members of these powerful families.
In the topographical part of the Work, the Authors have endeavoured to be accurate, and to display as minutely as their limits would admit, the real state of the district with respect to the great objects of Employment, Education, and Morals. The Synoptical Tables at the close of the First Volume, give a clear and succinct view of the two former of these objects when the last Census was taken, and a paper in the Appendix, on the Progress of Society in this County, and its various Insurrections, may be considered deserving of attention as conveying some useful information with regard to the latter. The Appendix also contains the Articles of Limerick in full, and some other documents which have never before been printed, for which the Authors are indebted to James Hardiman Esq. who with the most disinterested kindness has opened his treasures of antiquarian research to enrich this Work ; and to his unwearied efforts in every possible way to promote their object, they owe much of what
be considered new or valuable in these Volumes. For the very interesting paper on the Coins of Limerick they would acknowledge their obligations to R. Jacob, Esq. of Waterford. J. Fisher, Esq. of Clareville, has kindly furnished much interesting information on the Manufactures of Limerick, particularly the Linen Trade, accompanied by valuable suggestions as to the means of their further advancement. For these, the Authors return their most sincere thanks, as well as to T. Jacob, Esq. of Limerick, for his judicious observations, (the result of scientific research) on the vast power of the falls of the Shannon in the neighbourhood of Limerick. They also feel the deepest sense of obligation to Sir William Betham, and William Shaw Mason, Esq. not only for the facilities which they have afforded to their research in their respective departments, but for the politeness with which they granted them constant access to their valuable private collections of works on Irish affairs. To Eyre Burton Powell, Esq. of the Stamp Office, Dublin, they must also express their sincere thanks for his polite communication of some valuaable documents; and they cannot close the list of their kind contributors, without mentioning the name of an accomplished scholar, and polished