The Plantation of Ulster (1605-1625)

Patrick Weston Joyce

519. We shall now go back a few years. The Catholics still clung to the hope (511) that their religion would be restored. But they found their mistake when king James, in 1605, caused the two penal Acts of supremacy and uniformity to be revived.

520. By the Act of supremacy no Catholic, without taking the oath of supremacy (350), could hold any office under government, could practise as a lawyer, act as a magistrate, be appointed judge, or take possession of an estate to be held from the king.

By the Act of uniformity any Catholic might be brought up and fined if he absented himself from Protestant worship on a Sunday; and many of the leading citizens of Dublin were at this time actually fined or imprisoned.

The Roman Catholics who refused to attend Protestant worship were called "Recusants."

521. But except in or near Dublin, it was impossible to carry out these laws, for the people were nearly all Catholics. And even in Dublin the law, for the same reason, could not be enforced to any extent; and numbers of Catholic magistrates, lawyers, and government officers, were permitted to discharge their duties unmolested.

522. Though the two earls of Tyrone and Tirconnell had committed no treasonable or unlawful act, yet nearly all the fertile land of six counties—-Donegal, Derry, Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh, and Cavan—amounting to 511,465* acres—was confiscated to the crown and given to settlers: Sir Arthur Chichester had the management of this Plantation, which was commenced in 1608.

523. The "lots" were of three sizes:—2,000, 1,500, and 1,000 acres. The planters were of three classes:—First: English and Scotch undertakers, who got the 2,000-acre lots, and who were required to people them with English and Scotch tenants—no Irish—and to build a castle and a bawn (a large walled enclosure near the castle). Second: "servitors," i.e. those who had served the crown in Ireland—all to be Protestants. These got the 1,500-acre lots; they might take English, Scotch, or Irish tenants, all to be Protestants; and they should build a strong house and a bawn. The 1,000-acre lots might be taken by English, Scotch, or Irish planters, who might be either Protestants or Catholics, and the Catholics were not required to take the oath of supremacy.

524. Vast tracts were given to London companies of merchants or tradesmen, and to certain high officials. Chichester had for his share the whole of Innishowen, Sir Cahir O'Doherty's territory. Large tracts were granted for religious and educational purposes, all Protestant: Trinity College, Dublin, got 9,600 acres.

525. Of the whole body of old Irish proprietors, only 286 were provided for: these got 58,000 acres—about one-ninth of the escheated lands. All the rest of the natives were ordered "to depart with their goods and chattels at or before the first of May next [1609] into what other part of the realm they pleased." But the greater number, instead of migrating to a distance, clung to their native place, and betook them to the hills, glens, and bogs, where they eked out a scanty subsistence, with bitter memories in their hearts.

526. This turned out by far the most successful of all the plantations; and in a short time vast numbers of English Protestants and Scotch Presbyterians were settled on the rich lowland farms all over the confiscated counties.

527. To help to pay the expenses of this plantation, the king, in 1611, created the order of "baronets"; who were to bear on their coat of arms the "bloody hand" of the O'Neills. Each new baronet had to pay for the maintenance of thirty soldiers for three years at 8d. a day each (about £1,095). The title is hereditary.

528. The lord deputy now resolved to summon a parliament, the first for many years: and in order to enable him to pass measures pleasing to the king, he took steps to have a Protestant majority, by creating forty spurious "boroughs," nearly all among the settlers of Ulster; each returning two Members. This parliament, which met in 1613, consisted of 232 members of the house of commons, of whom less than half were Catholic "recusants"; and fifty lords, of whom twenty-five were Protestant bishops, with several others lay Protestants.

529. A violent scene occurred on the election of a speaker the Catholics proposing Sir John Everard, and the Protestants Sir John Davies (page 79); and others equally violent followed; so that deputy Chichester, finding it impossible to carry on business, prorogued parliament.

530. On the expostulation of the Catholics some concessions were made; and when parliament next assembled business was carried on quietly. Large sums were voted for the king, who was always in want of money: and some old penal statutes against natives of Irish blood were repealed.

531. English law was extended to the whole of Ireland, a concession the Irish had often previously asked for in vain (247), and for which king James I. should get full credit. An act was passed for the attainder of the earls of Tyrone and Tirconnell, though they had committed no offence to warrant such a proceeding. This parliament was disolved in 1615.

532. Chichester was succeeded in 1616 by Oliver St. John, who enforced all the penal statutes against Catholics. He deprived Waterford of its charter, because the corporation refused the oath of supremacy. But his proceedings caused such dangerous commotion that the king removed him, and in 1622 appointed lord Falkland deputy in his place.

533. About this time king James, bent on following up the plantations, appointed a commission of inquiry into titles. The country swarmed with persons called "discoverers" who made their living by finding flaws, of pretended flaws, in titles; these either got the estates themselves, or shared with the king the increase of rent the proprietors had to pay to buy themselves off. They unsettled titles all over Leinster: and a great part of the province was given to English undertakers, the owners being turned off; and those who were allowed to remain had to pay a largely increased rent. These proceedings resulted in several other minor plantations in different parts of the country.

534. The discoverers extended their evil practices into Connaught also; but here matters were delayed till next reign. Iniquitous law proceedings unsettled everything; the whole country was in a state of uncertainty; and no man was sure of his property for a day.

* About three quarters of a million English acres. There was bog and waste land besides: the total area of these six counties is about 3 ¾ millions of English acres; so that the waste land was at that time four times the extent of the arable land.