FORMATIVE INFLUENCES (3)

When Cromwell's campaign had reduced Ireland to submission the Ulster Scots were again in jeopardy of deportation, this time not at the hands of the royalists but from the agents of Parliament. As a part of the Cromwellian settlement it was proposed that the Presbyterians should be cleared out of Down and Antrim, whose proximity to Scotland was thought to make the situation dangerous. What is known as the engagement of 1650, an instrument binding those taking it to support a Government without King or House of Lords, was pressed upon the people of Ulster by military force. The Presbyterian ministers as a class refused to take the engagement, and they were strongly upheld by the people. To break the resistance a plan was formed to transplant the leading Presbyterians in the counties of Down and Antrim to Kilkenny, Tipperary and the seacoast of Waterford, all districts in the extreme south of Ireland, and thus remote from Scotland. A list of 260 persons was made up and a proclamation ordering transplantation was issued on May 23, 1653. This transplantation was part of a general scheme for repeopling the parts of Ireland that had been desolated by the long civil war, and consideration was shown for property rights. The persons transplanted were to be compensated for the estates which they lost, including payment for the crops, and were to be allowed over a year's remission of taxes on lands occupied by them in the districts where they should be settled. It was expressly provided that:

"The said persons shall and may enjoy the freedom of their religion, and choose their own ministers: provided they shall be such as shall be peaceable minded men toward the authority they live under, and not scandalous: and such ministers shall be allowed a competence for their subsistence, suitable with others in their condition."

This scheme got so far forward that some of the leading men among those proclaimed for deportation visited the south of Ireland to examine the allotted lands, and other steps were taken by the people to make ready for the transplantation. The Scots of Antrim and Down who had successfully held out against the arbitrary power of the King were on the point of succumbing to the arbitrary power of Parliament, when absolutism intervened in the person of Oliver Cromwell to end factious tyranny. In April, 1653, Cromwell turned the Rump Parliament out of doors and that event made an end of the transplantation scheme. The Irish Government continued to be hostile to the Ulster Scots. An entry of February 14, 1656, on the minutes of the Council of State sets forth a scheme of driving out of Ulster and County Louth "all such of the Scottish nation" as bore arms against the Commonwealth in England, Scotland and Ireland, together with all who had arrived in Ulster or County Louth subsequent to June 24, 1650. It was further proposed that "others of the Scottish nation desiring to come into Ireland" should be prohibited from settling in Ulster or County Louth. This scheme of repressing the Scottish occupation of Ulster did not go into effect. It was Cromwell's policy to maintain public order without denominational preference. The Presbyterian ministers of Ulster were no longer vexed by oaths of fidelity or political engagements, and officiated without restraint.

The Cromwellian epoch marks the end of the pioneer period of the Scottish settlement of Ulster. It had survived persecution, massacre and war. It emerged from the years of trial scarred but vigorous, straitened in circumstances but undaunted in temper. Its vitality was promptly exhibited in the rapid growth of its characteristic institution, the Presbyterian Church, in the seven years of mild political climate that now ensued. Reid says:

"It was during this period that Presbyterianism struck its roots so deeply and extremely throughout the province, as to enable it to endure in safety the subsequent storms of persecution, and to stand erect and flourishing, while all the other contemporary scions of dissent were broken down and prostrated in the dust. In the year 1653, the church possessed scarcely more than the half dozen of ministers who had ventured to remain in the country; now, however [that is in 1660], she was served by not less than seventy ministers regularly and permanently settled, and having under their charge nearly eighty parishes or congregations, comprising a population of probably not far from one hundred thousand souls."

This period may be taken as that in which the Scotch-Irish type of character was definitely fixed. The Cromwellian settlement marks the end of the old era and the beginning of a new era, with its own social and economic base distinct from the foundations previously existing. Old Ireland had been a pastoral country and a meat diet predominated. At the close of the civil war meat had to be imported. During this period the potato rose to the prominence in Ireland that it has since preserved as a staple foodstuff. Not long after the civil war, Sir William Petty, a statistician of the period, found that the people were living on potatoes, their practice being to dig out the tubers just as they were wanted. That is to say, potatoes were a concealed crop to which the people could resort, although grain might be easily cut or burned by enemies and cattle still more easily driven off.

The potato crop seems to have been the mainstay of the people against the famine that followed the civil war and, accompanied by an outbreak of plague, increased the desolation caused by war. According to Petty, out of a population of 1,446,000, 616,000 had in eleven years perished by the sword, by famine or by plague. According to this estimate 504,000 of those who perished were Irish, and 112,000 were of English extraction. According to some calculations the number of victims was even greater, but Petty's estimates are generally regarded as the most trustworthy. Moreover, there were extensive deportations of native Irish to the West Indies and great numbers went into European exile. It is estimated that from 30,000 to 40,000 men left the country to enlist in foreign service. The details of this tremendous social revolution do not come within the province of this work. Probably the most dispassionate and trustworthy account is that given by Lecky in the sixth volume of his England in the Eighteenth Century. But from what has been stated it will readily be inferred that the tribal organization of society that had heretofore shown such tenacious vitality was destroyed root and branch. According to Petty about two-thirds of the good land had been possessed by Catholics before 1641; in 1660, more than two-thirds had passed into the possession of the Protestants. The mass of the people had been converted from clansmen into a tenant peasantry.

The Ulster breed was formed during these terrible vicissitudes of Irish history. It had still to pass through severe trials, but the permanence of the type was now secure. An amusing instance of the thoroughness with which Ulster had been Scotticized is supplied by a document in the Irish State Papers for 1660, entitled "A Short Memorandum What is to be Looked unto in the North of Ireland." The writer says that "There are 40,000 Irish and 80,000 Scots in Ulster ready to bear arms, and not above 5,000 English in the whole province besides the army." It is suggested that the Scotch should be made to wear hats instead of bonnets, which the writer calculates would remove from Scotland to Ireland a trade of about £10,000 a year. Moreover, the change would help the English "who in all fairs and markets see a hundred bonnets worn for one hat, which is a great prejudice and doth wholly dishearten the English there and those who would come out of England."

The Presbyterian Church of Ulster was the first to suffer from the proceedings against nonconformity after the restoration of Charles II. to the throne. In 1661 sixty-one Presbyterian ministers of Ulster were ejected from their benefices, and it was not until the following year that the non-conforming ministers of England and Scotland were ejected. But the Ulster Presbyterians were not called upon to endure such severe persecution as befell non-conformists in England and Scotland. As a general thing the ministers were able to keep on officiating although shut out of parish endowments. Ormonde, then head of the Irish Administration, was disposed to be indulgent. Reid remarks: "On the whole, the general mildness of his administration, which continued during seven years, presented a remarkable contrast to the unprecedented severity with which the non-conformists and Presbyterians were treated at this period both in England and in Scotland."

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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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