Plans for the great Plantation—Bacon’s plan—Projects and observations upon them.
We have dwelt at length on the Plantation in the Ardes of Down; for though not necessarily belonging to our immediate subject it possesses many features of engaging interest and belonging equally to that more extensive settlement which planted in the great domains of O’Neill and O’Donnell, and Mac Guire, and O’Dogherty, and O’Reilly, a new people, a new Faith, new habits, laws, institutions, traditions, a new history, and a new and more potent Aristocracy.
There was no character which James coveted more than that of planter and legislator of countries, and no passion of his was greater than that which he had for introducing “civility,” and the English laws and customs into Ireland. Nothing could have been more fortunate for this object than the rebellions and sham rebellions which disturbed the earlier part of his reign. The materials for experamentalizing were presented to his hands abundantly in the six northern counties of Ulster—Donegal, Tyrone, Derry, Fermanagh, Cavan, and Armagh—”a tract of country,” we are told by Leland, “covered with woods, where robbers and rebels found a secure shelter, desolated by war and famine, and destined to be waste without the deliberate and vigorous interposition of the English government.”
James determined to dispose of these lands to his British and Scotch subjects, to the exclusion of the original Irish owners. For the absence of integrity and national honour in such a proceeding, there was, in the opinion of the King and his courtiers, an ample compensation in the purposes of peace and cultivation to which he intended to apply the vast bulk of forfeited property, which had come to his hands. That his opinions and determination on this subject were of long standing, we may assume from the fact that Lord Bacon’s first suggestions for the planting of Ireland bear date long before the flight of the Earls of Tyrowen and Tyrconnell. Indeed it is impossible to resist the belief that from the beginning of this reign, Cecil and the other courtiers, surrounded by hungry vultures, having hordes of useless retainers, with a deficient public revenue, and anxious, it may be admitted, to establish permanent peace in Ireland where the most enormous expenses had been incurred in a long continuance of war, had planned the sham plot, the flight, and the forfeiture, at once to get rid of the enemies of England, to provide for their hungry applicants, and to garrison Ireland for the English crown.
In Bacon’s voluminous correspondence, we find a letter addressed to Mr. Secretary Cecil, after the defeat of the Spanish forces in Ireland. Bacon and Cecil!—it is a strange neighbouring of names in the management of Irish affairs! This letter must have been written just as the great war of Hugh O’Neill was closing and the Spaniards, under the imbecile Don Juan D’Aguila, had been defeated in the South of Ireland.* This letter had been despatched, O’Neill had capitulated, had been received into favour, had visited London, and thence returned loaded with the smiles of a Court and the coronet of an Earl; yet it seems as if this production were but the indication of a foregone conclusion, the programme of a play that was to be played out, and as if the reconciliation with O’Neill were not intended to be of long duration.
Bacon’s plan contained elements which had they been admitted into the Plantation it would have worked if not more absolute good, at least with less injustice to the natives of Ireland. He recommended toleration in religious matters. He argued philosophically that two things should precede compulsion, one was instruction and the other operation, “neither of which they yet had.” Besides, he says, “until they be more like reasonable men than they yet are, their society were rather scandalous to the true religion than otherwise—as pearls cast before swine; for, till they be cleansed from their blood, incontinency, and theft which are now not the lapses of particular persons but the very law of the nation, they are incompatible with religion reformed. For policy, there is no doubt but to wrestle with them now is directly opposite to their reclaiming.”
*”Life of Hugh O’Neill,” p. 213. a.d. 1603. Bacon says of this southern campaign: “What was the event? This in a few words: that after the Irish and Spanish forces had come on, and showed themselves in some bravery, they were content to give the English the honour as to charge them first: and when it came to the charge there appeared no other difference between the valour of the Irish rebels and Spaniards, but that the one ran away before they were charged, and the other straight after.”—Considerations of a War with Spain.
Whilst he recommends the fair distribution of justice amongst the people, he argues that a temporary application of martial law is politic and necessary. But his strangest suggestion, though not the least wise for his purposes, is “to translate large families from Ireland into England, and give them recompence and satisfaction here for their possessions there, as the King of Spain did by divers families of Portugal.” Further, he recommends two things which he considers very important; namely, that choice be made of such persons for the government of towns and places, and such undertakers be procured as be men gracious and -well beloved, and likely to be well followed. And that it be not left to the pleasure of the undertakers and adventurers, where and how to build and plant, but that they do it according to a precept or formulary. For, first, the places both maritime and inland which are fittest for colonies or garrisons, as well for doubt of the foreigner, as for keeping the country in bridle, will be found, surveyed, and resolved on; and then that the patentees be tied to build in those places only, and to fortify as shall be thought convenient. And lastly, “it followeth of course in countries of new populations to invite and provoke inhabitants by ample liberties and charters.”
It cannot be denied that, putting out of consideration the original wrong of this great transaction, Lord Bacon’s early suggestions—made in anticipation of the spoliation that afterwards occurred—contained much forethought and wisdom, and indicate a very different mode of procedure from that of Cecil and Chichester.
Four years after this letter had been written the opportunity occurred which was so much coveted by the king, and for which his courtiers and dependants had struggled so long. O’Neill and O’Donnell were gone, never to return—O’Dogherty was subdued, and the six great counties of the North lay at the mercy of James. Bacon now addressed his master in a very able and elaborate essay, which he entitled “Certain considerations touching the Plantation in Ireland.”* He sums up the several advantages incidental to a properly managed Plantation, and in the first place he dwells complacently on the prospects opened to his majesty for getting rid of the superabundant population of England and Scotland, and for providing ample “sustentation for numerous families, whose discharge also out of these countries may prevent the seeds of future perturbations. It is as if a man were troubled for the avoidance of water from the place where he hath built his house, and afterwards should advise with himself to cast those waters, and to turn them into fair pools or streams for pleasure, provision, or use. So shall your majesty in this work have a double commodity in the avoidance of people here, and in making use of them there.”
*Bacon excuses himself thus, though no apology appears to have been necessary, for giving his opinions at large to the King: “And I was the rather invited this to do by the remembrance, that when lord Chief Justice Popham served in the place wherein I now serve, and afterwards in the attorney’s place, he laboured greatly in the last project touching the Plantation of Munster, which, nevertheless, as it seemeth, hath given more light by the errors thereof what to avoid, than by the direction of the same what to follow.” Lord Bacon’s Works, vol. 1, p. 471. Bohn, 1843.
Other advantages he sets forth of defence against the foreign enemy, and of a great increase of strength and profit to the Crown by working “on the unpolished part thereof.” And he concludes the summary of benefits by a glowing picture of the prize proposed to British and Scotch speculation. “For this island being another Britain, as Britain was said to be another world, is endowed with so many douries of Nature, considering the fruitfulness of the soil, the ports, the rivers, the fishings, the quarries, the woods, and other materials; and especially the race and generation of men, valiant, hard, and active, as it is not easy, no, not upon a continent, to find such confluence of commodities, if the hand of man did but join the hand of Nature.”
The reader may, with great advantage, compare the suggestions of Bacon for carrying out this Plantation with the projects proposed by the council to the king, and the ” Orders and Conditions” which James published.
Three motives, Bacon says, induce men to undertake new settlements: pleasure, honour, and profit.* Without dwelling much on the two first, he proposes to make the new undertaking attractive to the planters by three means: 1st. To set the land at easy rates to their new owners. 2dly. To give them a perfect liberty of export of all commodities growing upon the planted country—liberty to import, custom free, all things appertaining to the necessary uses—liberty to take timber or other materials in the King’s woods, and the like. 3dly. To exonerate the planters from bearing the whole mass of charge out of their private purses.
He recommends a Commission of Plantation, and that the Commissioners should for certain times reside and abide in some habitable town of Ireland, as well to decide all controversies, as to form centres round which tradesmen and a concourse of people might flock, as it will be some help and commodity to the undertakers for things they shall stand in need of. And he adds a suggestion which proves him to have well understood the principles of centralization, which are so much interwoven with the modern system of colonization:
“The next is, that your Majesty would make a correspondency between the commission there, and a Council of Plantation here: wherein I warrant myself by the precedent of the like council of plantation for Virginia; an enterprise, in my opinion, differing as much from this, as Amadis de Gaul differs from Caesar’s Commentaries. But when I speak of a council of plantation, I mean some persons chosen by way of reference, upon whom the labour may rest, to prepare and report things to the council of estate here, that concern that business. For although your Majesty have a grave and sufficient council in Ireland: from whom, and upon whom, the commissioners are to have assistance and dependence; yet that supplies not the purpose whereof I speak. For, considering, that upon the advertisements, as well of the commissioners as of the council of Ireland itself, there will be many occasions to crave directions from your Majesty and your privy council here, which are busied with a world of affairs; it cannot but give greater expedition, and some better perfection unto such directions and resolutions, if the matters may be considered of aforehand, by such as may have a continual care of the cause. And it will be likewise a comfort and satisfaction to some principal undertakers, if they may be admitted of that council.”
The same principle of centralization he applies to the building of dwellings on the intended plantation. His opinion was in favour of towns and not of isolated residences, and he gives many sufficient reasons for it, which, however, had little effect in influencing the undertakers.
“My reasons,” he says, “are, First, when men come into a country vast, and void of all things necessary for the use of man’s life, if they set up together in a place, one of them will the better supply the wants of the other: workfolks of all sorts will be the more continually on work without loss of time; when, if work fail in one place, they may hare it fast by; the ways will be made more passable for carriages to these seats or towns, than they can be to a number of dispersed solitary places; and infinite other helps and easements, scarcely to be comprehended in cogitation, will ensue in vicinity and society of people; whereas if they build scattered, as is projected, every man must have a cornucopia in himself for all things he must use; which cannot but breed much difficulty, and no less waste.
“Secondly, it will draw out of the inhabited country of Ireland provisions and victuals, and many necessaries; because they shall be sure of utterance: whereas in the dispersed habitations, every man must reckon only upon that that he brings with him, as they do in provisions of ships.
“Thirdly, the charge of bawnes, as they call them, to be made about every castle or house, may be spared, when the inhabitants shall be congregated only into towns.
“And lastly, it will be a means to secure the country against future perils, in case of any revolt and defection: for by a slight fortification of no great charge, the danger of any attempts of Kernes and Sword-men may be prevented: the omission of which point in the last Plantation of Munster, made the work of years to be but the spoil of days. And if any man think it will draw people too far off from the grounds they are to labour, it is to be understood, that the number of the towns be increased accordingly; and likewise, the situation of them be as in the centre, in respect of the portions assigned to them: for in the champaign countries of England, where the habitation useth to be in towns, and not dispersed, it is no new thing to go two miles off to plough part of their grounds; and two miles compass will take up a good deal of country.”
*With regard to the pleasures of an Irish residence, he says: “In this region or tract of soil there are no warm winters, nor orange trees, nor strange beasts, nor birds, or other points of curiosity or pleasure, as there are in the Indies, or the like; so as there can be found no foundation made upon matter of pleasure, otherwise than the very general desire of novelty and experiment in some stirring natures may work somewhat.” Spenser had more flattering opinions of Ireland—Faerie Queene, passim. And this sentence contrasts strangely with that quoted in the text.
I have recapitulated the leading opinions of Lord Bacon on the subject of the Plantation, because they are the opinions of a great governing mind upon a subject of vast historical importance—of a statesman to whom is usually awarded the merit of designing this enormous confiscation ;* but principally that they may be contrasted with the scheme of Plantation which was subsequently carried into effect.
It is plain that the mind of England was bent on the new conquest, by colonization, of the whole of Ireland. The attempts which had been partially made served only to whet the appetite of acquisition, and from the grander speculations of Bacon down to those of the meanest undertaker in Scotland, the several passions of men were turned with different ends to the peopling of this country; and the rapidity with which the King proceeded in this his cherished scheme, corresponded with the anxious avidity of his hungry favourites, and the wants of that tribe of mendicant courtiers who infested his mean and pompous court.
The Earls had not long fled until, as we have seen, commissions were sent to the North, of judges to try and hang the traitors, and of others to investigate the extent and amount of forfeitures which had accrued to the Crown by the providential discovery of the dropped letter. Several of those whom Leland, with gross assurance, calls “conspirators,”—whilst in his own pages he admits the improbability of the existence of any “conspiracy”—were taken, tried, and hanged; and the two Earls and other fugitives of inferior note were attainted by the usual process of outlawry, according to the course of the common law, which was so new and unfamiliar in the principalities of Tyrowen and Tyrconnell. This hot haste received a startling check from the young chief of Inishowen; but, after some months of vigorous “rebellion,” his untimely death allowed the King and his undertakers to proceed with their long meditated designs upon the estates of Ulster, and they lost but little time and spared no toil in this labour of love.
*He shares this merit with Cecil, but the latter performed the vulgar part of the affair. He got up the plot with a view to the confiscation; but Bacon laid a comprehensive, and, contrasted with the execution, a humane plan of colonization. The basis of both wag acquisition, but there are degrees in robbery as in everything else.—See Concise View of the Irish Society, p. 3, where Robert Cecil obtains the whole merit of suggesting the project.
The six counties which were marked out as the prey of the undertakers, “as a new corner of the vineyard” for the Wingfields, and Caulfields, and Chichesters, and Blayneys, exceeded in length and breadth the large counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire. No part of Ireland was more rich in natural fertility and cultivation, and though the barbarian hand of English rapine had been busy with its teeming fields, it yet bore to the “hungry vultures” that awaited its partition, the abundant promise of untold wealth. To gratify the inordinate desires of his servants, James proceeded with rapidity and judgment. No better choice could have been made of agents, for the work of plunder, than the King’s Attorney General, and the Lord Deputy Chichester. Sir John Davies was a subtle, pliant lawyer, eloquent and learned, without conscience, the professional apologist of robbery. He was a man of spirit and courage, and as we shall presently see, carried himself boldly in the parliamentary contest, which took place a little later between him and Sir John Everard, for the speakership of the House of Commons. But in the plans and projects, and execution of the Plantation of Ulster, he did no more than the lawyer’s part; he vindicated every act of wrong, and was ready with a reason for every iniquity. In the whole range of law literature there is not a more wonderful instance of unprincipled reasoning than that by which he reconciles “the conscience of the King” to the ejectment of the native Irish from their lands. He was a useful counsellor to such a sovereign as James. But the true mastermind of the confiscation was Sir Arthur Chichester.
This Deputy was son of Sir John Chichester of Raleigh, in the county of Devon; his mother was a descendant of Bourchier Earl of Bath.* His ancestral line was long and noble. But he was from his earliest days an adventurer. He left the University, preferring action to study, and betook himself to arms. He served with distinction—the distinction of superior courage and superior cruelty—in the Irish armies of Elizabeth; and was knighted for his actions in Ireland, “where his services in the reduction of the Irish were so manifest, that he was effectually assistant to plough and break up that barbarous nation by conquest, and then to sow it with seeds of civility.”** In 1603, he was made a Privy Counsellor and Governor of Carrickfergus, and in 1604 he became Lord Deputy of Ireland.**
*One of this family got largo grants out of the Desmond confiscation.
**”Lodge’s Peerage” by Archdall, quoting Fuller; vol. 1, p. 318. He laid waste the neighbourhood of Carrickfergus with fire and sword (1599), and was for his brilliant services recommended to the congenial spirit of Cecil as the fittest man to be made sole Governor of Ulster to carry on “a sharp winter’s war against the rebels.”
***His brother, Sir John, was also Governor of Carrickfergus, but not exactly so profitably for himself. For hearing that James Mac Sorley Mac Donnell was growing restive, he marched out against him. Their forces engaged, and Sir John was taken prisoner, and his head was cut off on a stone near the Glynnes. Next year Mac Donnell was taken into favour, and seeing the effigy of Sir John in Nicholas’s Church in Carrickfergus, asked—”How the De’il he cam to get his head again, for, he was sure he had anes taken it from him?”—M’Skimmins’s Carrickfergus, p. 37.
He was a rigid Puritan, and had signalized himself by the bitterness with which he persecuted the Roman Catholics. His zeal was so furious, that even the King and Council were compelled at times to moderate it. But it was “in sowing the seeds of civilitie,” that is to say, in plundering the natives of their property, that he was most signally efficient. He was “resolute in executing his designs, wise in taking his party, master of his own temper, dexterous and able to manage the variety of humours he met with.” And all these qualities were subservient to insatiable avarice, for he was, beyond all men of the day, greedy of gain and eager for forfeitures. And therefore to him fell the lion’s share of the Plantation, over whose details and management his acute and sagacious genius presided.* This was the man whom James selected as his agent; and it was a good choice.
*The list of the rewards of “faithful Chichester” will be given hereafter. They would nearly fill a volume by ‘themselves.
The King was well aware of the rock upon which the Munster Plantation split, and ” he had,” says Leland, “a just conception of his present scheme.” He showed this by his choice of Sir Arthur Chichester. The advantages of Sir Arthur were these: that his Irish experiences were great; he was skilled in all the mysteries of hanging, drawing, and quartering; he had served and butchered in the Irish wars; there was no traitor whom he did not know; and no Chief whose character he had not studied. He understood the territories to be planted—for his eyes were long turned with longing to the Peninsula of Inishowen, and the broad principalities of O’Neill; he had surveyed the doomed counties, and described particularly the state of each. The statistics of the escheated estates were familiar to him as his prayers, (though he prayed much); and he could point out with the accuracy of an engineer, the fit places for the making of Castles and Bawns, and other fortified haunts of robbers; nor could the most accomplished master of the secrets of the human character more accurately delineate than he did, the failings and passions of the Irish Chieftains, the temper of the old natives, and the way in which to deal with both.* This founder of the family of Donegal was in his way a rare man—a Pizarro or a Cortes it might have been, if he had had a new world to discover. It is to Sir Arthur Chichester then that we may attribute the excellent projects of the Plantation of Ulster, which, improving much on the philosophic theories of Bacon, admirably fulfilled, we may presume, the more practical designs of Cecil and his master. When we reflect upon what Chichester did, and what he gained, we shall have little doubt about the real and intimate motive, which influenced James and his counsellors in the Plantation of Ulster. But, indeed, little doubt appears to be entertained on any side in these days on such a transaction;** it stands confessed, an act of lawless spoliation without plea or excuse; and is now spoken of merely as a warning to Peoples against those divisions which make them the prey of the strong hand, and to Kings and Governments against the lust of conquest, and the iniquity of lawless aggression.— This great crime will not have been an unmixed mischief, if it teach People and Kings the evil and folly of their ways.
*Leland, vol. 2, p. 430. It is to be regretted, that all Chichester’s letters and despatches to England are not forthcoming. They would have formed admirable materials for history. Leland attributes to Chichester the qualifications enumerated above; “but he had one disqualification overlooked here by Leland, which is a fatal objection to every one of the above pretensions, namely, he was interested as one of the planters himself.” Liber Munerum publicorum Hibernia, under the head of Res gestte Anglorum in Hibernia, by Mr. Lascelles of the Inner Temple, chapter 47, p. 47, an excellent English history of Ireland.
**Hume in a burst of rhapsodical rapture exclaims, “Such were the arts by which James introduced humanity and justice, amongst a people who had ever been buried in the most profound barbarism. Noble cares! much superior to the vain and criminal glory of conquests; but requiring ages of perseverance and attention, to perfect what had been so happily begun.”—Hume’s History of England, vol. 6, p. 59, Edinburgh Edition of 1805. The conclusion of this pompous eulogy is rather lame.
Before the projects of the Privy Council, and “the Orders and Conditions” of the King are laid before the reader, we may consider for a moment the nature of the country and the character of the people who were thus to be rudely trampled upon. And James himself is the safest witness that can be called to testify to the natural wealth and fertility of the soil he was about to plant. In seeking to persuade the “incomparable city of London” to undertake a Northern Plantation, he presented them with the following “Reasons and Motives:”—
“The Land Commodities which the North of Ireland produceth.
“The country is well watered, generally by abundance of springs, brooks and rivers; and plenty of fuel, either by means of wood, or, where that is wanting, of good and wholesome turf.
“It yieldeth store of all necessary for man’s sustenance, in such measure as may not only maintain itself, but also furnish the city of London, yearly, with manifold provision, especially for their fleets; namely, with beef, pork, fish, rye, bere, peas, and beans, which will also, in some years, help the dearth of the city and country about, and the storehouses appointed for the relief of the poor.
“As it is fit for all sorts of husbandry, so for breeding of mares and increase of cattle it doth excel, whence may be expected plenty of butter, cheese, hides, and tallow.
“English sheep will breed abundantly in Ireland, the sea coast, and the nature of the soil, being very wholesome for them; and, if need were, wool might be had cheaply and plentifully out of the west parts of Scotland.
“It is held to be good in many places for madder, hops, and woad.
“It affordeth fells of all sorts, in great quantity, red deer, foxes, sheep, lamb, rabbits, martins, squirrels, &c.
“Hemp and flax do more naturally grow there than elsewhere; which being well regarded, might give great provision for canvass, cable, cording, and such like requisite for shipping, besides thread, linen cloth, and all stuffs made of linen yarn, which is more fine and plentiful there than in all the rest of the kingdom.
“Materials for building—timber, stone of all sorts, limestone, slate, and shingle—are afforded in most parts of the country; and the soil is good for brick and tile.
“Materials for building of ships, excepting tar, are there to be had in great plenty; and in the country adjoining the goodliest and largest timber in the woods of Glanconkene and Killetrough that may be, and may compare with any in his Majesty’s dominions, which may easily be brought to the sea by Lough Neagh, and the river of the Bann. The fir masts, of all sorts, may be had out of Lochabar in Scotland, not far distant from the North of Ireland, much more easily than from Norway; other sorts of wood do afford many services, for pipe staves, hogshead staves, barrel staves, hoop staves, clap-board staves, wainscot, soap and dyeing ashes, glass and iron work, for iron and copper ore are there plentifully had.
“The country is very plentiful for honey and wax.
“The Sea and River Commodities.
“First. The harbour of the river of Derry is exceeding good; and the road of Portrush and Lough Swilly, not far distant from the Derry tolerable.
“The sea fishing of that coast very plentiful of all manner of usual sea fish, especially herrings and eels; there being yearly, after Michaelmas, tor taking of herrings, above seven or eight score sail of his Majesty’s subjects and strangers for lading, besides an infinite number of boats for fishing and killing.
“Great and profitable fishing are in the next adjacent isles of Scotland, where many Hollanders do fish all the summer season; and do plentifully vend their fish in Spain, and within the Straits.
“Much train or fish oil, of seal, herrings, &c., may be made upon that coast.
“As the sea yieldeth very great plenty and variety of the sea fish, so doth the coast afford abundance of all manner of sea fowl, and the rivers greater store of fresh fish than any of the rivers in England.
“There be also some store of good pearls upon this coast; especially within the river of Lough Foyle.
“The coasts be ready for traffic with England and Scotland, and for supply of provision from or to them; and do lie open and convenient for Spain and the Straits, and fittest and nearest for Newfoundland.”
It is not surprising that, as we shall find presently, such excellent reasons and motives had weight with the mercers, drapers, goldsmiths, and painter-stainers of the good city of London.
This country so blest by nature in her most bountiful mood, was possessed by a brave, warlike, and religious people. They were “frank, amorous, ireful, sufferable of paines infinite, very glorious, excellent horsemen, delighted with wars, great alms-givers, passing in hospitalitie.”*Other testimonies are at hand to much the same effect.
*Campion’s “Historie of Ireland,” A.D. 1571. He Says, “the lewder sort both clerks and laymen are sensual and over loose in living, but being virtuouslie bred up or reformed are such mirrors of holinesse and austeritie, that other nations retain but a shadow of devotion in comparing with them.”
“The Irish were a people peaceable, harmless, and affable to strangers, and to all pious and good, whilst they retained the religion of their forefathers.”* These are the qualities generally attributed to the old natives of Ireland, and which, perhaps, were in none more marked than in the clans of O’Neill and O’Donnell. Brave,** gay, adventurous, hospitable, religious, the Irish possessed those elements of popular character, which when allowed a fair development, conduce to national power, wealth, and happiness. But the circumstances of their country, the arrival of the Anglo-Norman adventurers, the long struggles for political existence, and then for religious freedom effectually counteracted the results naturally to be expected from the happy dispositions of the people, and the abundant productiveness of the soil.
*This is quoted in O’Connell’s ” Memoir,” from Borlase, p. 14; I have not found out any such passage in Borlase, nor do I understand the meaning of the qualification touching religious fidelity. See also Spenser’s “State of Ireland,” p. 116.
**”In battle they measured the valour of the combatants, by their contempt of artificial assistance; and when they beheld the English knights covered with iron, hesitated not to pronounce them void of real courage. Their own arms were a short lance, or two javelins, a sword called a skean about 15 inches long, and an axe of steel called a sparthe. The latter proved a most formidable weapon. It was wielded with one hand, but with such address and impetuosity as generally to penetrate through the best tempered armour. To bear it was the destruction of freemen.”—Lingard’s Hist., vol. 2, p. 249.
If we were to judge by the modern historians,* the Irish people at the accession of James, nay some have said from the earliest periods, were buried in the most profound barbarism, even though from the fifth century they had enjoyed the light of Christianity, and though the priests and missionaries of the country had preserved, through medieval gloom, both faith and learning, and propagated them through the world. In the tenth century, ere the history of England had well begun, and when the greatest part of Europe was involved in darkness, a steady light of piety and learning continued to shine in this island, and shed its rays over the neighbouring countries.**
*I say the modern historians, for the old historians. Campion, Hanmer, &c., though perhaps more prejudiced were less ignorant than the late writers. They tell more truth, though they sometimes say bitterer things. On all Irish matters Hume is undoubtedly the most ignorant English historian.
**”‘The Monks,’ saith Mr. O’Connor, ‘fixed their habitations in deserts, which they cultivated with their own hands, and rendered the most delightful spots in the kingdom. These deserts became well policed cities; and it is remarkable enough that to the Monks we owe so useful an institution in Ireland, as bringing great numbers together into one civil community. In these cities the Monks set up schools, in which they educated the youth not only of the island but the neighbouring nations.’ The testimony of Bede is unquestionable, that about the middle of the seventh century, in the days of the venerable prelates Finian and Colman, many nobles and other orders of the Anglo-Saxons, retired from their own country into Ireland, either for instruction, or for an opportunity of living in monasteries of stricter discipline: and that the Scots (as he styles the Irish) maintained them, taught them, and furnished them with books without fee or reward. ‘A most honourable testimony,’ saith the elegant lord Lyttleton, ‘not only to the learning, but likewise to the hospitality and bounty of that nation!’ A conflux of foreigners to a retired island, at a time when Europe was in ignorance and confusion, gave peculiar lustre to this seat of learning; nor is it improbable or surprising, that seven thousand students studied at Armagh, agreeably to the accounts of Irish writers, though the seminary of Armagh was but one of those numerous colleges erected in Ireland. But the labours of the Irish clergy were not confined to their own country. Their missionaries were sent to the continent. They converted heathens, they confirmed believers, they erected convents, they established schools of learning; they taught the use of letters to the Saxons and Normans, they converted the Picts by the preaching of Columb-kill, one of their renowned ecclesiastics: Burgundy, Germany, and other countries received their instructions: and Europe with gratitude confessed the superior knowledge, the piety, the zeal, the purity of the Island of Saints. Such are the events on which Irish writers dwell with an enthusiastic delight.”—Leland’s Preliminary Discourse, p. xx. See Lingard, vol. 2, p. 245. Milner’s Enquiry into Vulgar Errors, p. 9; King’s Church History of Ireland, 2d edit. p. 139.
In the schools of the continent, the Irish scholars continued “to retain their former superiority, and amongst the dwarf intellects of that time, towered as giants.” In France and Germany, the monasteries of the Irish, the only retirements for piety and learning in an ungodly age, were flourishing, and the fame of Irish scholars was joyfully recognized. Irish monks founded a school at Glastonbury in England, where St. Dunstan imbibed under their teaching “the very marrow of scriptural learning.” There that distinguished ornament of the English Church was learnedly accomplished, according to the acquisitions of the time, in astronomy, arithmetic, and geometry; and there too he cultivated that sweet taste for music, in which he indulged through all his life.*
*Moore says, on the authority of William of Malmsbury, that it was the frequent habit of this great man when fatigued with business, and in his hours of rest, quando a Uteris vacaret, to fly for refreshment to the toothing sounds of his harp. Vol. 2, p. 134.
And so did piety and learning continue to flourish in Ireland, until by the constant intercourse, both peaceable and warlike, with the Danes, and by their employment as mercenaries of those barbarians in local feuds, the Irish had become familiar with rapine and all turbulent crimes, and a national degeneracy had been thereby produced, which continued increasing up to the time of the English invasion. Then it may, without disparagement to our country, be admitted that the Irish were matched against a people possessing at that time superior civilization, greater refinement, and a more compact and better system of government. A nation governed by innumerable Princes and Chiefs, was to meet in battle and to struggle with in policy, a country having but one centre of power, one head, one recognized source of government. It is no shame that with such unequal odds they were worsted in the long contest of ages, and it is a matter of national pride that so noble and unceasing a resistance could have been made, with such discordant materials.
But much as Ireland had degenerated since the English invasion, she still enjoyed at the accession of James a great degree of civilization, when compared with other countries at the same period. Under the rule of her native chieftains, religion had been protected, and the country was covered with the noblest architectural monuments of princely piety, of many of which, subsequently, she was stripped by the sacrilegious fury of the English. Laws had been propounded with solemn sanctions, laws repugnant to later notions and to the refinement of modern ages, but suited to the wants, the genius, and the feelings of the people. Amongst the chieftains had been, and still were men of high accomplishment, courtesy and valour. The Scotich chronicle of Fordun supplies us with a letter written in the reign of Edward III., by O’Neill, King of Ulster, and, as he proudly says, “rightful heir to the monarchy of all Ireland,” and addressed to the Pope John XXII., and a more impressive and eloquent document will scarcely be found in the pages of history, indicating a degree of high and refined feeling, that could not be surpassed, if it could be equalled, in the Court of Edward. It is a history of English rule in Ireland from the beginning, told with grave and earnest simplicity, but in language the most eloquent and graceful. There is little evidence in it of that perennial barbarism, which Hume attributes to the chiefs and people of ancient Ireland.
The deterioration which took place has been attributed to many causes; to the Danish invasions, to the Brehon laws—yet in days of acknowledged splendour and civilization, these Brehon laws formed the national code—but however that degeneracy was produced, it was signally accelerated by the arrival of the Anglo Normans. They came like “ravening wolves and more cunning than foxes;” they drove the inhabitants from their houses and their lands, “to seek shelter like wild beasts in the woods, marshes, and caves; they sought out the miserable natives even in those dreary abodes;” they seized on the noble endowments of the church, and destroyed the buildings devoted to piety and education. O’Neill pathetically laments that by the intercourse of the Irish with the English, his countrymen had lost the fine features of the national character, “for, instead of being like our ancestors, simple and candid, we have become as artful and designing as themselves.”
Moryson in writing the time of Elizabeth says, that an Irish chieftain sat round the fire with his family in a state of nakedness. But not to dwell upon the requisitions of a climate not tropical, this will appear a mere gratuitous misrepresentation, when we consider that sumptuary laws to prevent extravagance in dress were very frequent from an early period in Ireland, and that even English writers have minutely described the gorgeous garments of the chiefs and clansmen— the ornamented vest, the trowse, the flowing mantle, the vast sleeves of finest linen dyed in saffron—and that the ornaments of the women were of gold, and are duly recorded in bardic rhyme and soberer annals. A people so well supplied with, and so fond of using a costly wardrobe, would scarcely be reduced to a barbarous nakedness even in the recesses of their dwellings.*
It must be confessed, however, that the residences of the Irish, contrasting strangely with the splendour of their ecclesiastical architecture, were in most instances mean and temporary, and suited only for a loose pastoral people. They were slight, and composed of hurdles.**
**O’Donnell, who submitted in 1542, was dressed in the following fashion: “For I think him fumisht of other apparrail better than any Irishman, for at such time as he mette with me he was in a coat of crimoisin velvett with aiglettes of gold, twenty or thirty pair, over that a great doble cloke of right crimoisin satin, garded with black velvet, a bonnet with a feather set full of aiglettes of gold, that methought it strange to see him in so honorable an apparrail, and all the rest of his nation that I have seen as yet, so vile.”—State Papers in the time of Henry VIII. Lord Deputy St. Leger’s Letter to Henry. It is not easy to believe that he would drop these costly garments, to sit amongst his family in nature’s own material.
**Dr. Lingard says, that at the time of the invasion “the seaports, inhabited chiefly by the descendants of Ostmen, were places of some trade. Dublin is styled the rival of London, and the wines of Languedoc were imported in exchange for hides. But the majority of the natives shunned the towns, and lived in huts in the country. They preferred pasturage to agriculture. Restraint and labour were deemed by them the worst of evils; liberty and indolence the most desirable of blessings. The children owed little to the care of their parents, but, shaped by the hand of Nature, they acquired as they grew up elegant forms, which, ended by their lofty stature and florid complexion, excited the admiration of the invaders. Their clothing was scanty, fashioned after a manner which to the eye of Giraldus appeared barbarous, and spun from the wool of their sheep, sometimes dyed, but generally in its natural state.”—History of England, vol. ii., p. 249. This must be taken with many allowances. The historian afterwards says, “They constructed their houses of timber and wickerwork, with an ingenuity which extorted the admiration of the English. Their churches were generally built of the same materials; and when Archbishop Malachy began to erect one of stone, the very ,attempt excited an insurrection of the people, who reproached him with abandoning the customs of his country, and introducing those of Gaul.” In Mr. Petrie’s learned and elegant essay, he clearly proves that the use of stone and cement in churches, and occasionally in houses, was nearly contemporary with the introduction of Christianity; his clear and forcible reasoning will convince the most incredulous.—See The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, comprising an “Essay on the Origin and Uses of Round Towers of Ireland,” vol. i., 2nd ed., p. 127, et seq.
But this is not to be taken to support the charges of barbarism made against the nation, which are completely belied by the course of education in the management of cattle, in husbandry, in navigation, and in letters, which were administered to their youth; the early commercial dealings with foreign nations, and the long possession of letters. But the social habits in almost every country of Europe were of a low nature, and their standard of social comfort was mean. Great contrasts—noble castles, splendid edifices of piety, looking down upon mean structures of hurdles—were not unusual in England at the time of the first Anglo-Norman monarchs.
Hume sums up the character of the Anglo-Saxon race—and doubtless they were at the time of Henry II. not much ameliorated by the Norman invasion—in this manner:—”They were in general a rude, uncultivated people, ignorant of letters, unskilled in the mechanic arts, untamed to submission under law and government, addicted to intemperance, riot, and disorder. Their best quality was their military courage, which yet was not supported by discipline or conduct. Their want of fidelity to the prince, or to any trust reposed in them, appears strongly in the history of their later period. Even the Norman historians, notwithstanding the low state of the arts in their own country, speak of them as barbarians when they speak of the invasion made upon them by the Duke of Normandy. The conquest put the people in the way of receiving slowly from abroad the rudiments of science and cultivation, and of correcting their rough and licentious manners.”* The Normans brought with them their habits and their tastes, and some refinement, which, was, as Hume says, slowly imparted to the Saxons; and the composite nation, when its adventurers first invaded the shores of Ireland, had achieved a certain degree of civilization. Settled there, however, they made no exertion to extend this to the natives; they acted merely as needy adventurers, seeking to make easy fortunes, and reckless of the ruin they wrought in the pursuit of wealth and power.
*Hume’s History, vol. i., chap. 3. The Anglo-Saxons had their eric for murder and wounds, their gavelkind, and a practice which still obtains, of paying the husband the value of the wife in cases of adultery—Ib. Dr. Lingard even more graphically describes them, vol. i., p. 61.
In every other recorded case, the disasters of conquest have been followed by social amelioration to the conquered people.* But the Anglo-Norman invasion was an unrelieved and unatoned-for calamity to the Irish people; the conquest up to the reign of James never having been completed, the policy of division, and the practices of petty and incessant warfare, were adopted from the first. Whatever superior civilization was enjoyed by the invader was never imparted to the invaded people; he gave nothing but his vices to his new country. Entrenched within the stunted boundaries of the Pale, his only security was in the weakness of the “enemy;” and this was effectually secured by the divisions which the institutions of Tanistry and Chieftainship enabled him to create amongst their numerous kings and princes. The social amelioration of the Irish nation was never thought of by the English adventurers: the country was looked upon merely as so many estates, and the people as so many enemies. The legislation of the conqueror, the most remarkably cruel, ignorant, and selfish of any of which there is a remaining record, was carefully framed to obstruct the improvement of the nation. Statutes were passed to prevent intermarriages, and all those other social connections which the humanity of Irish customs taught,** and which would have gradually led to a perfect union of the two nations. Laws were made preventing the exercise of any of the arts and pursuits of peace.*** It was impossible for the Irish either to improve their own institutions, or, assuming them to be superior, to adopt those of the Anglo-Normans.**** Their expulsion and extermination continued to be. for centuries the objects of Government, which it sought to effect by remorseless cruelty, and by a policy even more cruel and relentless. The wars of the Pale—the Statute of Kilkenny—the Plantations of Munster and Ulster, were the varying indications of that settled policy. The resistance of the Irish was noble and continuous, but it was without plan, without unity, without any principle of concert, and it finally yielded to the warlike and politic genius of Lord Mountjoy. The submission of Hugh and Roderick removed the last obstacle to English dominion; and if the English did not succeed in the total annihilation of the natives, it was not that they had changed their policy, but that it had become impossible. The Plantation of James was a blow aimed as directly at this object as the campaigns of Carew or of Grey.
*I do not insist upon the point of honour, that Ireland was never conquered. In Elizabeth’s reign she was conquered both in war and policy; and from the beginning she was practically conquered, for a foreign enemy possessed her capital city, exacted a revenue, and by playing chief against chief, family against family, and sept against sept, reaped some of the most signal advantages of conquest.
**Fosterage, gossipred, &c.
***Irishmen could not enter English towns, nor trade with the inhabitants.
****The late Mathew O’Conor, in his “History of the Irish Catholics,” thus irreverently speaks on this question:—”Had Henry fulfilled his engagement (to extend the English laws, as he promised at the Council of Lismore), no revolution could have been more happy. Factious practices and unsocial manners would have yielded to the restraints of regular government, and the Brehon barbarism to civil jurisprudence.”—p. 3. Agreeing with him in other particulars, I must remark, that nothing in the accounts of ancient Ireland warrants the imputation of unsociality. The reverse is always insisted on.
The surveys being made of the escheated counties, inquisitions were held concerning the forfeitures. The commissioners authorized by virtue of his Majesty’s commission, (July and August, 1609,) “to enquire of divers things contained in the said commission, and articles of instruction thereunto annexed,” were—Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy; Henry, Lord Archbishop of Armagh; George, Lord Bishop of Derry; Sir Humphry Winch, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; Sir Thomas Ridgeway, Treasurer at War; Sir Oliver St. John, Master of the Ordinance; Sir Oliver Lambert, Sir Garret Moore, Privy Councillors; Sir John Davies, Attorney-General; William Parsons, Esq., Surveyor-General. Twelve men* were duly sworn and found on the several inquisitions that Hugh, sometime Earl of Tyrowen, and Roderick, sometime Earl of Tyrconnell, and Sir Cahir O’Dogherty and others, “did enter into rebellion, and at the time of the said entering into rebellion were seized in their demense as of fee, of, &c.” and the six counties of Ulster were duly enumerated by their several baronies, parishes, and townlands, and the number of acres and baliboes (or balibetaghs,) polls, quarters, and tathes, were set out with becoming accuracy.
*The following are the names of the jurors who were empannelled in Sir Cahir O’Dogherty’s case; viz: Anthony Reynolds, Jessy Smith, Richard Griffin, Humphry Vaile, Richard Birnes, William Colesmore, Anthony Mathew, Richard Appleton, Andrew Dykes, Hugh Thompson, Edmund O’Hegarty, Manus Mac Rorty, Walter Julian, and Donoghty O’Deny; all good men and true.
Quick upon the finding of these inquisitions, which handed over to the King the ancient and princely inheritance of the O’Neills and the O’Donnells, and the countries of the O’Cahans, the Maguires, the O’Doghertys and the O’Reillys, and a score of other ancient names—or it may be even before the formal finding—a project was submitted by the Irish Privy Council, to the King and Council in England for the division and plantation of the escheated lands in six several counties of Ulster, namely, Tyrowen, Coleraine,* Donegal, Fermanagh, Armagh, and Cavan.
*Coleraine the ancient name of the county which now enjoys the composite appellation of Londonderry.
This project, though in many instances much modified and in others not at all followed, contains the principles on which the Plantation was conducted. It will be found in the ensuing Chapter.