The Ulster Plantation (2)

Henry Jones Ford
CHAPTER I (2) Start of Section

A difficulty with which the Government had constantly to contend arose from the conflicts among the Irish themselves. The chiefs argued that the land belonged to them; the occupants protested that the land was theirs although the chiefs had a customary right to various services and dues in kind. The chiefs quarreled among themselves as to their rights. Tyrone was incensed against his principal vassal, O'Cahan, who had made his submission before Tyrone gave him leave. O'Cahan's feudal rent, formerly fixed at 21 cows a year, was summarily raised to 200 cows. In support of this demand Tyrone took possession of a large district belonging to O'Cahan. When O'Cahan made his peace with the Government he had been assured that he should in future hold his lands not from Tyrone but directly from the Crown. O'Cahan appealed to the authorities at Dublin, but it was difficult to get Tyrone to appear to answer the charges. When he did so he insulted the Lord Deputy and Council by snatching the papers from O'Cahan's hand and tearing them to pieces. Eventually the King decided to hear the case in England, but instead of obeying the summons Tyrone fled the country, never to return. This action was quite unexpected by the Government as Tyrone had been demanding that he be allowed to plead his cause before the King in person. The affair has never been fully cleared up but it is known that the Government had received information that arrangements were making for another rising with Spanish aid and that Rory O'Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnel, was in the movement. This information did not mention Tyrone; but his cousin, Cuconnaught Maguire, who was in the plot and who had just gone to Brussels on its business, heard there that it had been discovered. Maguire procured a ship with which he sailed to the North of Ireland and on September 4, 1607, took off both Tyrconnel and Tyrone. This was the famous Flight of the Earls by which a great part of Ulster was escheated to the English Crown. Those were times when the more strong and active spirits among the masses of the people preferred to live as fighting men and raiders rather than as industrial drudges, and bands began operations in various districts. O'Cahan himself became disaffected, owing to some claims of the Bishop of Derry to lands in O'Cahan's territory. He drove the bishop's tax gatherers off the disputed lands, defied writs of law and did not submit until a body of troops was about to march on his castle.

While these events were taking place a clash occurred between the English commander at Derry and a neighboring Irish lord that culminated in another insurrection. Sir George Paulet, commander at Derry, was a dull, incapable and arrogant person who had obtained the command by purchase. In one of the Lord Deputy's reports to the home Government it is said of him that "he was hated by those over whom he had command, and neither beloved nor feared by the Irish, his neighbors." O'Dogherty, lord of Innishowen, collected a number of his followers to fell timber. A rumor reached Paulet that O'Dogherty was out to await the return of Tyrone, and Paulet marched on O'Dogherty's castle. Although O'Dogherty was away, his wife refused to open the gates and showed such an undaunted spirit that Paulet had to choose between attempting a siege with an inadequate force or marching home again, and chose the latter. O'Dogherty wrote a sharp letter of complaint to Paulet, but it was in respectful language and was subscribed "your loving friend." Paulet sent a railing letter in reply, closing with the declaration: "So wishing confusion to your actions, I leave you to a provost marshal and his halter." Although O'Dogherty was greatly incensed he did not refuse to present himself at Dublin to answer for his conduct; and soon afterward he acted as foreman of the Donegal grand jury that found bills for high treason against the fugitive Earls. O'Dogherty, who was young and hot-headed, was worked upon by others so that at last he did engage in a plot that enabled him to take vengeance on Paulet. The details of this affair are particularly instructive from the revelation they make of the sort of experiences that colored Ulster traditions and stamped the character of the Ulster breed.

O'Dogherty's first task was to procure a supply of arms and ammunition to use against Paulet. He approached Captain Henry Hart, commander of the fort of Culmore guarding the entrance to the Foyle, with complaints that the attitude of the ladies of Derry deprived his wife of society suitable to her rank. He asked Captain Hart to set a good example of social intercourse by coming to dine with him bringing also Mrs. Hart and the children. The request accorded with the conciliatory policy of the Government and the invitation was unsuspectingly accepted. As soon as dinner was over O'Dogherty threatened Hart with instant death unless he would agree to surrender the fort. Hart, a man of the bull-dog breed, flatly refused. His wife and children were brought before him and threatened with death; his wife fell at his feet on her knees, crying and beseeching him to yield. It was urged that by so doing he would save the garrison too, as all would be killed if force had to be used whereas all would be spared if the post were quietly surrendered. O'Dogherty offered to take a solemn oath that he would carry out his promise. Hart reminded him that he was even then breaking the oath of allegiance he had taken not long before; and bluntly declared that he "should never trust oath that ever he made again." But while O'Dogherty failed to budge Captain Hart, he gained his end by the aid of the Captain's wife. In her terror for her husband and her children Mrs. Hart entered into a scheme for betraying the garrison. Accompanied by O'Dogherty and his men, she went to the fort at nightfall, crying out that the Captain had fallen from his horse and had broken his arm. The little garrison ran out to help their commander and O'Dogherty rushed in and took possession.

These events took place on April 18, 1608. Having obtained the arms he needed, O'Dogherty set out at once to attack Paulet at Derry. Although that commander had been warned of danger, he had not taken any precautions and habitually neglected even such routine duty as the posting of sentries. O'Dogherty's men" were inside the fortifications before the noise roused Paulet. He ran out of his own house and hid in one of the other houses where he was finally discovered and killed. The surprise was so complete that the garrison was not able to make much resistance, but Lieutenant Baker with about 140 persons, men, women, and children, took possession of two large houses and held out until noon on the following day. By that time provisions had run short and O'Dogherty had brought up a cannon from Culmore, so Baker surrendered upon the promise that the lives of all with him should be spared. This promise was fulfilled. O'Dogherty slew no prisoners and in the course of his short rebellion no blood was shed by his orders except in actual conflict.

As soon as the Government was able to throw troops into the country O'Dogherty's lieutenants abandoned Derry and Culmore, after setting them on fire. The rebellion was never really formidable although O'Dogherty's energetic movements carried it into several counties. His forces were finally routed and he himself was killed on July 5, 1608. In a report to the home Government Sir John Davies, Attorney-General of Ireland, noted that O'Dogherty's death "happened not only on the fifth day of the month, but on a Tuesday, but the Tuesday 11 weeks, that is 77 days after the burning of Derry, which is an ominous number being seven elevens and eleven sevens." The special mention of Tuesday in this collection of portents is an allusion to an old proverb that Tuesday is the day of English luck in Ireland.

In consequence of these events vast areas were escheated to the Crown, including most of the territory now forming the counties of Donegal, Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Armagh and Cavan. It was the good fortune of the Ulster plantation that the man then at the head of the Irish Government as Lord Deputy was an administrator of rare ability. Sir Arthur Chichester, the Lord Deputy, is a typical specimen of the class of proconsuls whose solid characteristics have been the building material of the British Empire. He was born in 1563, the second son of Sir John Chichester of Ramleigh, near Barnstaple, Devonshire. He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford; was an officer in one of the Queen's best ships in the fight with the Spanish Armada in 1588; in 1595 he was employed in a military command in Drake's unfortunate last expedition to the West Indies, and the next year he commanded a company in the expedition of Essex that captured Cadiz; in 1597 he was third in command of a force sent to the assistance of Henry IV. of France, was wounded at the siege of Amiens and was subsequently knighted. He afterward served in the Netherlands and was in garrison at Ostend when he was summoned to duty in Ireland, in command of a force of 1,200 men. The record shows that although only thirty-six when he began his distinguished career in Ireland, he was a veteran thoroughly seasoned by land and by sea.

A characteristic instance of his determination in all matters of discipline took place soon after Essex arrived in Ireland as head of its Administration by Elizabeth's personal favor. Having heard of the good order in which Chichester kept his force, Essex went to Drogheda to review it. Carried away by excitement the scatterbrain Earl led a cavalry charge against the pikemen. Chichester repulsed the horsemen as if they had been actual enemies, and the Earl himself was scratched by a slash from a pike that made him wheel about and retreat. Essex took the affair in good part and on April 28, 1599, appointed Chichester to be governor of Carrickfergus and the adjacent country. Chichester took an active but subordinate part in the war waged against Tyrone and his adherents. On April 19, 1603, shortly after the accession of James, Chichester was made a member of the Irish Privy Council; and on October 15, 1604, he was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland, although not inducted into office until February 3, 1605. The appointment may be ascribed to the influence of a predecessor in that office, Mountjoy, who was now Earl of Devonshire and the King's chief adviser on Irish affairs, and who well knew the need there was for a strong hand and a cool head at the helm in Ireland. Chichester himself did not seek the office. About five months after assuming it he wrote to the home Government that it would be advisable to put a more eminent man at the head of affairs, "a man of his [Chichester's] estate and fortune being better fit to serve His Majesty in meaner places."

The perusal of Chichester's State Papers impresses one with his virtue in the Roman sense of hard manliness. His concern was always for the discharge of his professional duty; and that formed his moral horizon. He chose means with regard to their efficacy in attaining practical results, offering rewards for the heads of rebel chiefs, slaying their active partisans and wasting the land on occasion, but never indulging purposeless cruelty. He had a low opinion of the character of the native Irish, but he had no animosity and was more disposed to adopt conciliatory measures than the home Government. Indeed, his disapproval of measures to force the Roman Catholics into the Established Church eventually led to his retirement. While bent on repressing disorder and bringing the Irish chiefs under the rule of law, he was also vigilant against abuses in the administration and spared no one. He advised Montgomery, the Bishop of Derry, "sometimes to leave the care of the world, to which he thought him too much affected, and to attend to his pastoral calling and the reformation of his clergy." He showed great powers of sustained application to the literary tasks in which his position involved him, and his numerous State Papers are full, clear, and precise. In view of his previous career this side of his activity is remarkable, for he handles the pen with a readiness unusual in the captains of that age. In filing dispatches from the home Government he not only endorsed them with the date on which they were received but also added a summary of their contents, in a handwriting remarkably bold, clear and regular. The information gathered by his spies included stories of plots to make away with him by assassination or poisoning, but to alarms of that sort he appears to have been incredulous and callous. In the camp or in the office he was ever ready, clear-headed and sensible. In the plantation of Ulster he received a large grant of land and in 1613 he was raised to the Irish peerage as Lord Chichester of Belfast. He had no children and his estates devolved on his brother, Edward, father of Arthur Chichester, first Earl of Donegal.

Another official whose copious and vivid writings add greatly to our knowledge of this period is Sir John Davies. The modernized spelling of his name is here used although in the Irish Calendars it appears as Davys. He was born in Wiltshire, England, in 1569 and took his A.B. degree at Oxford in 1590. His poetical works hold an established place in English literature and his literary ability gives a distinctive lustre to his official papers, but in Ireland he figures as a hard-working administrator. He arrived in 1603 to assume the office of Solicitor-General. In 1606 he succeeded to the post of Attorney-General. From first to last he took an active and prominent part in the Ulster plantation. He was a man of high personal courage and of versatile ability, a fine poet, a voluminous essayist on legal, antiquarian and historical subjects, an eloquent speaker and a vigorous man of action. He held office in Ireland until 1619 and died in England in 1626, after he had been appointed Lord Chief Justice but before he had assumed the office.