Cromwellian Plantation in Ireland (1652-1658)

Patrick Weston Joyce

597. The war was now—1652—ended: but the pestilence continued; and famine came to help in the work of destruction. For two or three years these two scourges desolated the country. But worse even than all this was to come. Cromwell's soldiers were to be paid by grants of confiscated estates when the country should be conquered. The English parliament now professed to consider the whole of Ireland forfeited; and that therefore they might do as they pleased with land and people.

598. In August 1652, the Parliament passed an act to dispose of the Irish. The poorer sort of people of the three provinces of Ulster, Leinster, and Munster—small farmers, ploughmen, labourers, &c.—were not to be disturbed: the new settlers would need them. All others—the gentry of all classes—were ordered to transplant themselves and their families across the Shannon into Connaught and Clare, where they were to be given small allotments in lands that had been left waste.

They were to move by the 1st May 1654: any Catholics of those ordered away—young or old—men or women—found in any of the three provinces after that date, might be killed by whoever met them. Moreover, they were not permitted to live within four miles of the sea or of any town, or within two miles of the Shannon.

599. During this terrible migration of families mostly accustomed to a life of easy comfort, numbers perished of hardship and want; and after the settlement most of the survivors came at once to poverty; for they had no houses, implements, stock, or capital, to start them in their new life.

600. But great numbers of the younger men, instead of migrating, formed themselves into bands to be avenged on the new settlers, like the expelled natives of Queen Mary's time (409). These “tories,” as they were called, gave great trouble, plundering and killing at every opportunity: they were hunted down by the settlers, and neither gave nor received quarter. This terrible war went on for many years till the tories were exterminated.

601. The Irish soldiers who had fought against the Parliament were allowed to enlist in foreign service; and 34,000 emigrated and entered the service of France, Spain, Austria, and Venice.

602. There were widows and orphans everywhere, and a terrible fate awaited these: they were hunted and brought forth from their hiding places everywhere, and vast numbers of them, and many men also, were sent to the West Indian Islands to be slaves.

603. The laws against the Catholic religion and against Catholic priests were put in force with unsparing severity. But the priests remained among their flocks, hiding in wild places and under various disguises; and the Catholic religion was practised as earnestly and as generally as ever.

604. A new survey of the country was made, and the lands were distributed to Cromwell's soldiers and to those who had advanced money to carry on the war.

605. This vast exodus went on from 1652 to 1654. But it was found impossible to clear the gentry completely out of the land. Many settled in wild places; many were taken as under tenants on their own lands; and in course of time many intermarried with the new settlers.

606. This dreadful Cromwellian episode must be taken as proceeding, not from the English government, but from the will of one man, who then ruled as despotically in England as in Ireland, though not with such cruelty.