THE SCOTCH MIGRATION TO ULSTER (5)

Even apart from the ease of access enjoyed by the Scotch, Ulster opportunities were more attractive to the Scotch than to the English whose experience and habits did not fit them so well to endure the hardships. The Rev. Andrew Stewart dwells on this in his account of early conditions, remarking:

"It is to be observed that being a great deal more tenderly bred at home in England, and entertained in better quarters than they could find here in Ireland, they were very unwilling to flock hither, except to good land, such as they had before at home, or to good cities where they might trade; both of which in these days were scarce enough here. Besides that the marshiness and fogginess of this Island was still found unwholesome to English bodies, more tenderly bred and in a better air; so that we have seen in our time multitudes of them die of a flux, called here the country disease, at their first entry. These things were such discouragements that the new English come but very slowly, and the old English were become no better than the Irish."

By the "old English" Stewart means the descendants of English formerly settled in Ireland. In every age they have shown a marked tendency to melt into the general mass, making Irish nationality so composite in character that it would be hardly more accurate now to describe the Irish people as Celts than to describe the English people as Angles or Saxons. The conflicts of which Ireland has been the scene have been more political and religious than racial, and the political and religious differences have caused undue emphasis to be put upon racial differences. Even the preservation of the Celtic language and customs in some regions is no guarantee of race purity, for there is abundant evidence that descendants of early English settlers have adopted Irish speech and ways.

According to the original scheme only the class of servitors whose houses were to possess the character of military posts were to be allowed to have Irish tenants. It was the intention to remove the native Irish from the lands assigned to the Scotch and English Undertakers. But this part of the scheme, to which Chichester had always been opposed, proved to be impracticable. In a report made in July, 1611, the English Privy Council is informed that "experience tells the Undertakers that it will be almost impossible for them to perform the work they have undertaken, if the natives be removed according to the general project, for when they are gone there will be neither victuals nor carriage within twenty miles, and in some counties more." In view of this situation the removal had to be deferred and as time went on the obstacles increased. The Irish were willing to pay for the use of pasture lands and the newcomers found that the readiest way of turning their holdings to account was to let them out. Pynnar, writing in 1619, observes that "the British, who are forced to take their lands at great rates, live at the greater rates paid to them by Irish tenants who graze." He adds that "if the Irish pack away with their cattle the British must either forsake their dwellings or endure great distress on the sudden." Those considerations did not relax their force and the removal of the natives, although from time to time announced as settled policy, was never actually attempted.

The practice by the Undertakers of letting the lands was particularly marked in the large tracts assigned to the London companies. Pynnar in his report made in 1619 says: "The greatest number of Irish dwell upon the lands granted to the City of London." He explains this by pointing out that the lands are "in the hands of agents, who, finding the Irish more profitable than the British, are unwilling to draw on the British, persuading the companies that the lands are mountainous and unprofitable, not regarding the future security of the whole."

The behavior of the London companies became the subject of an official inquiry, which incidentally produced a curious and beautiful record of the state of the plantation in the County of Londonderry in 1622. The survey was made under a royal commission to Sir Thomas Phillips and Richard Hadsor. The editors of the Calendar of State Papers, 1615-1625, say of the commission's report:

". . . . in it the state of every building, public and private, is portrayed in colors, giving a picture of the liveliest kind. There are views of Londonderry and Coleraine, with all the houses in the streets and other buildings, the ramparts, etc. And on the proportions of the several London companies are drawn not only the several manor houses, but those of the freeholders and farmers, besides the cage-work houses in course of building, but yet unfinished."

In their report the commissioners call attention to the preponderance of natives and to the need of larger settlements of British "which would prevent many robberies and murders daily committed by the Irish, to the great terror of the few poor British already settled." Of one place the commissioners remark: "This plantation, albeit it is the strongest and most ablest of men to defend themselves, yet have they sustained great losses by the wood kerne and thieves." Of another place the commissioners report: "The few British that inhabit this proportion live so scattered that upon occasion they are unable to succor one another, and are daily robbed and spoiled and driven to leave the country." The military importance of the forests at that period is indicated by the urgent recommendation that there be "large passes cut through the woods to answer each several plantation."

In 1624 Sir Thomas Phillips made a petition to the King in which he charged the London companies with "defects and abuses ... by which they have brought the country into an almost desperate case." He declared that "their towns and fortresses are rather baits to ill-affected persons than places of security, besides the few British now planted there be at the mercy of the Irish, being daily murthered, robbed and spoiled by them."

The London companies eventually incurred heavy penalties on conviction of default, but no great change took place in the general situation. The plantation instead of being a substitution of British for Irish, as originally intended, assumed the character of an incursion of British landlordism among the Irish. The mass of the natives were not displaced but became tenants and laborers upon the lands they used to regard as their own. And this appears to have been the case not only in Londonderry County but throughout Ulster. An official return made in 1624 gives the names of 629 Irish tenants in County Fermanagh alone.

The settlers thus lived surrounded by a hostile population, with almost daily risks from raiders and in almost constant alarm of a general rising. In 1615 a plot for the surprise and burning of Derry and Coleraine was formed, but was frustrated by the arrest of many of the conspirators. According to the cruel practice of the times torture was used to extort confessions. The authorities were too alert and the military precautions too extensive to admit any opportunity for a general rising at that time. But there appears to have been more or less marauding going on all the time. In an official report of March 27, 1624, the writer mentions that many thefts and robberies were being committed by bands operating in the counties of Tyrone and Londonderry. He adds: "I know well that this is a trifle to speak of in this kingdom, where such courses have been frequent, and where there are now many others in several counties upon their keeping, as we call it here." The phrase "upon their keeping" may be taken to denote such as adhered to the old order, what had once been tribal privilege now taking the form of rapine.

A Discourse upon the Settlement of the Natives in Ulster which was submitted to the Government in 1628 gives this account of the situation at that time:

"Whosoever doth know Ulster and will deal truly with His Majesty must make this report of it; that in the general appearance of it, it is yet no other than a very wilderness. For although in many of the proportions, I mean of all kinds, there is one small township, made by the Undertakers which is all, yet, the proportions being wide and large, the habitation of all the province is scarce visible. For the Irish, of whom many townships might be formed, do not dwell together in any orderly form, but wander with their cattle all the summer in the mountains, and all the winter in the woods. And until these Irish are settled, the English dare not live in those parts, for there is no safety either for their goods or lives, which is the main cause, though other reasons may be given, why they do not plentifully go thither, and cheerfully plant themselves in the province."

These perils and difficulties almost put an end to the settlement of English in Ulster. Their home conditions were not of such urgency as to force them out into such a field. It was different with the Scotch. More accustomed to emigration than the English of that period, more inured to hardships, more capable in meeting them, they held their ground, throve and spread, giving to the Ulster settlement a Scottish character.[3] Exact figures as to population are not attainable. No proper census of Ireland was taken until 1821; prior to that time there are only estimates. All authorities agree that Ulster increased rapidly in population, both in the native stock and in the planted stocks. Wentworth, who was Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1623 to 1640, estimated that there were at least 100,000 Scots in the North. The historian Carte, whose work although published in 1736 is based upon such diligent study of documentary sources that it still ranks as a leading authority, estimates that in 1641 there were in Ulster 100,000 Scotch and 20,000 English. When it is considered that Pynnar in 1619 reported only 6,215 men settled on the plantation, so great a growth in the next twenty years seems almost incredible. It is to be observed however that the estimates include not only the population of the six escheated counties covered by the plantation scheme, but also Antrim, Down and Monaghan in which settlements of Scotch and English took place before the plantation of 1610. After making all allowances for possible exaggeration, it is certain that within thirty years from the beginning of the plantation there was a large Scotch population in the country.

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The Scotch-Irish in America cover

There ain’t nothing like the real thing — get the softcover second edition to read The Scotch-Irish in America at your leisure and help support this free Irish library. The author, Henry Jones Ford had this to say about the book:

“This book tells the story of the Ulster Plantation and of the influences that formed the character of the people. The causes are traced that led to the great migration from Ulster and the Scotch-Irish settlements in America are described. The recital of their experiences involves an account of frontier manners and customs, and of collisions with the Indian tribes. The influence of the Scotch-Irish settlements upon American institutions is traced, particularly in organizing and propagating the Presbyterian Church, in spreading popular education, and in promoting the movement for American national independence. In conclusion, there is an appreciation of the Ulster contribution to American nationality.”


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