Cromwellian Settlement

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXX

But their lot was merciful compared with the fate of those who still remained. In 1653 Ireland was considered sufficiently depopulated by war and emigration to admit of a commencement of the grand planting. The country was again portioned out; again the ruling powers selected the best portion of the land for themselves and their favourites; again the religion of the country was reformed, and Protestant prelates were condemned as loudly, though they were not hunted as unmercifully, as Popish priests; again the wild and lawless adventurer was sent to eject the old proprietor, who might starve or beg while the intruder held his lands, and sheltered himself in his mansion, while a new cruelty was enacted, a new terror devised, a new iniquity framed, and this by rulers who talked so loudly of political and religious liberty. It was not convenient, or, more probably, it was not possible, to massacre all the native population who still survived; so they were to be banished—banished to a corner of their own land, imprisoned there safely by their ruthless conquerors, and there, without hope or help, it was supposed they must soon die out quietly.

This is the official proclamation which was issued on the subject: "The Parliament of the Commonwealth of England, having, by an Act lately passed (entitled an Act for the Settling of Ireland), declared that it is not their intention to extirpate this whole nation .... it is ordered that the Governor and Commissioners of cause the said Act of Parliament, with this present declaration, to be published and proclaimed in their respective precincts, by beat of drum and sound of trumpet, on some market-day within ten days after the same shall come unto them within their respective precincts."

We may imagine the dismay and anguish which this announcement caused. The old Irish chieftain and the Anglo-Irish lord still had some kind of home and shelter on their own estate—it might be but an outhouse or a barn; it was certainly on the worst and least cultivated portion of their land, for the old castle had long since been taken from them, and their broad acres transferred to others. Yet, though they tilled the soil of which they so lately had been the lords, this little spot was home: there the wife and mother loved her little ones as tenderly as in the stately halls which her husband or his fathers had so lately possessed. It was home, and if not the dear old home, it was, perhaps, loved all the more for its sorrowful proximity to the ancestral castle—for the faint hope that the rightful owner might still be restored. But the trumpet had sounded the nation's doom. Confiscation and banishment, wholesale plunder and untold iniquity, reigned supreme. The name of the God of justice was invoked to sanction [6] the grossest outrages upon justice; and men who professed to have freed their own nation from the tyranny of kingcraft and of Popery, perpetrated a tyranny on another nation, which has made the name of their leader a byword and a curse.


[6] Sanction.—See Cromwellian Settlement, p. 61, for a specimen of the "Bible stuff with which they crammed their heads and hardened their hearts."