Report on the State of Ireland

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

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In 1515 an elaborate report on the state of Ireland was prepared by the royal command. It gives a tolerably clear idea of the military and political condition of the country. According to this account, the only counties really subject to English rule, were Louth, Meath, Dublin, Kildare, and Wexford. Even the residents near the boundaries of these districts, were obliged to pay "black mail" to the neighbouring Irish chieftains. The King's writs were not executed beyond the bounds described; and within thirty miles of Dublin, the Brehon law was in full force. This document, which is printed in the first volume of the "State Papers" relating to Ireland, contains a list of the petty rulers of sixty different states or "regions," some of which "are as big as a shire; some more, some less." The writer then gives various opinions as to the plans which might be adopted for improving the state of Ireland, which he appears to have taken principally from a curious old book, called Salus Populi.[5]

Both writers were of opinion that war to the knife was the only remedy for Ireland's grievances. It was at least clear that if dead men could tell no tales, neither could dead men rebel against oppression; and the writer of the report concludes, "that if the King were as wise as Solomon the Sage, he shall never subdue the wild Irish to his obedience without dread of the sword." Even this he admits may fail; for he adds, "so long as they may resist and save their lives, they will never obey the King." He then quotes the Salus Populi, to show the advantages which England might derive if the Irish united with her in her wars on foreign countries, and observes, "that if this land were put once in order as aforesaid, it would be none other but a very paradise, delicious of all pleasaunce, in respect and regard of any other land in this world; inasmuch as there never was stranger nor alien person, great or small, that would leave it willingly, notwithstanding the said misorder, if he had the means to dwell therein honestly."

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[5] Salus Populi.—There is a copy of this book in MS. in the British Museum. The name of the author is not known.


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