Restoration and Compromise (1658-1665)

Patrick Weston Joyce

607. Oliver Cromwell died in 1658 and was succeeded by his son Richard as lord protector. In England there was an obvious growing desire to restore the monarchy. In Ireland the two most powerful parliamentarians, Sir Charles Coote in Ulster and Roger Boyle lord Broghill in Munster, son of the great earl of Cork (539), skilfully observing the signs of the times, turned round and declared for Charles II.

608. The restoration of the king in 1660 put the Catholics in high hope that they would be reinstated in their lands: for they had fought and suffered for Charles and his father. But the ungrateful king gave himself little concern about those who had befriended him either in England or Ireland; and the Catholics received a scant measure of justice.

Broghill was made earl of Ossory and Coote earl of Mountrath; and these two enemies of the Catholics and of the king were also made two of the three lords justices: Sir Maurice Eustace lord chancellor being the third.

609. On the 8th of May 1661, a parliament—the first for twenty years—was assembled in Dublin, nearly all Protestants. They voted £30,000 to the marquis—now duke—of Ormond: who was a little later on appointed lord lieutenant.

They passed the Act of settlement which confirmed the new settlers in their holdings. Those of the dispossessed Catholic owners who could prove that they were innocent of any connection with the rising of 1641, and all Protestants who had been dispossessed, were to be restored. Any of the new settlers whom this arrangement displaced were to be "reprised" by getting land elsewhere.

610. To try these numerous cases a "Court of claims" was established, which began its sittings in February 1663. The conditions for proving "innocence" were very stringent and hard to comply with. Yet of 186 Roman Catholics who came before the court during the first three months, 168 established their innocence and were to be reinstated.

611. This so alarmed the settlers that a stop was put to the proceedings; and a new act was passed, known as the "Act of explanation," under which the adventurers agreed to give up one third of their possessions. But this did not afford near enough for all those who proved themselves "innocent," and the available land was greatly diminished by immense grants to favoured individuals: the king gave 120,000 acres in Tipperary to his brother the duke of York (afterwards James II.); and large districts were given to lords Ormond and Inchiquin.

612. After much wrangling, matters were adjusted; and it came to this, that whereas before the settlement the Catholic proprietors possessed about five millions of acres, or two thirds of all the arable land (the remaining third being held by Protestants of the Plantation times of Elizabeth and James), after the time of this final arrangement they had only two-and-a-half millions or one-third, while two thirds remained with the Protestants.

613. There remained a large proportion of the Catholics who were not restored: many of these held on in their poor homes in Connaught; and many sinking into hopeless poverty, perished of privation.

614. In the three planted provinces the great preponderance of the poorer people were Catholics: besides great numbers of Catholic gentry who resisted expulsion. The highest class of Protestant settlers remained apart from and unmixed with Catholics; but the middle and lower classes—like the settlers of earlier times (257)—became gradually absorbed by intermarriage among the old native race; and in half a century had in a great measure adopted their language, religion, and habits.