A view of the state of Ireland and the Plantation of Ireland.
[ W.E.H.Lecky,  History of Ireland Vol 1. p 25-27 (1916).]

 The point to be understood is that land tenure was the deep seated and root cause of discontent; religion was a supplementary irritation which is emotive and sometimes taken out of context as the prime cause of the slaughter in the 1641 rebellion.

 “A new and energetic element was introduced into Irish life. English law was extended  through the island. The Judges went their regular circuits, and it was hoped that the resentment produced by recent events would be compensated or allayed by the destruction of that clan system which had been the source of much disorder, by the abolition of the exactions of the Irish chiefs, and by the intro­duction of skilful husbandmen, and therefore of mate­rial prosperity, into a territory half of which lay abso­lutely waste, while the other half was only cultivated in the rudest manner.’ It was inevitable that the English and the Irish should look on the Plantation in very different ways. In the eyes of the latter it was a confis­cation of the worst and most irritating description; for, whatever might have been the guilt of the banished earls, the clans, who, according to Irish notions, were the real owners of the soil, had given no provocation; and the measure, by breaking up their oldest and most cherished customs and traditions, by banishing their an­cient chiefs, by tearing them from their old homes, and by planting among them new masters of another race, and of a hostile creed, excited an intensity of bitterness which no purely political measure could possibly have produced. In the eyes of the English the measure was essential, if Ulster was to be brought fully under the do minion of English law, and if its resources were to be developed; and the assignment of a large part of the land to native owners distinguished it broadly and favourably from similar acts in previous times. It met with no serious resistance. Even the jury system was at once introduced, and although it was at first found that the clansmen would give no verdicts against one another; jurymen were speedily intimidated into submission by fines or imprisonment.’ In a few years the progress was so great that Sir John Davis, the able Attorney-General of King James, pronounced the strings of the Irish harp to be all in tune, and he expressed both sur­prise and admiration at the absence of crime among the natives, and at their complete submission to the law. ‘I dare affirm,’ he wrote, ‘that for the space of five years past there have not been found so many malefactors worthy of death in all the six circuits of this realm (which is now divided into thirty-two shires at large) as in one circuit of six shires, namely, the western circuit, in England. For the truth is that in time of peace the Irish are more fearful to offend the law than the English or any other nation whatsoever.’ ‘The nation,’ he predicted, ‘will gladly continue subjects, without adhering to any other lord or king, as long as they may be pro­tected and justly governed, without oppression on the one side or impunity on the other. For there is no nation or people under the sun that doth love equal or indifferent justice better than the Irish; or will rest better satisfied with the execution thereof, although it be against themselves; so as they may have the protec­tion and benefit of the law when upon just cause they so desire it`.

 But yet it needed little knowledge of human nature to perceive that the country was in imminent danger of drifting steadily to a fearful catastrophe. The unspeakable horrors that accompanied the suppression of the Irish under Elizabeth, the enormous confiscations in three provinces, the abolition of the land customs most cherished by the people, the legal condemnation of their religion, the plantation among them of an alien and hostile population, ever anxious to root them from the soil—all these elements of bitterness, crowded into a few disastrous years of suffering, were now smouldering in deep resentment in the Irish mind. Mere political changes leave the great body of the community un­touched, or touch them only feeb]y, indirectly or superficially; but changes which affect religions belief or the means and conditions of material subsistence are felt in their full intensity in the meanest hovel. Nothing in Irish history is more remarkable than the entire absence of outrage and violence that followed the Ulster Planta­tion, and for the present at least the people showed themselves eminently submissive, tractable, and amen­able to the law. But the only possible means of securing a permanence of peace was by convincing them that justice would be administered with impartial firmness, and that for the future at least, under the shadow of’ English rule, their property and their religion, the fruits of their industry, and the worship of their God, would be scrupulously respected. Had such a spirit animated the Government of Ireland, all might yet have been well. But the greed for Irish land which had now become the dominating passion of English adventurers was still unsated, and during the whole reign of James [1603-1625] a perpetual effort was made to deprive the Irish of the residue which remained to them.”

 The subsequent searching out of land for settlement by Wentworth in 1633 – 40, included the Irish nobility and gentleman land owners who had acquired land by fair means and foul in both Elizabeth`s and James` reigns.

 Sir John Davis’s letter to the Earl of Salisbury ~ concerning the State of Ireland.

‘This Plantation of the natives is made by his Majesty rather like a father than like a lord or monarch. The Romans transplanted whole nations out of Germany into France. The Spaniards lately removed all the Moors out of Grenada into Bar­bary, without providing them any new seats there; when the Eng­lish Pale was first planted, all the natives were clearly expelled, so as not one Irish family had so much as an acre of freehold in all the five counties of the Pale; and now within these four years past, the Greames were removed from the borders of Scotland to this kingdom, and had not one foot of land allotted unto them here; but these natives of Cavan have competent portions of land assigned unto them, many of them in the same barony where they dwelt before, and such as are removed are planted in the same county, so as his Majesty doth in this imitate the skilful husbandman who doth remove his fruit trees, not with a purpose to extirpate and destroy them, but that they may bring better and sweeter fruit after the transplantation.’—Sir J. Davis’s second Letter to the Earl of Salisbury.

 Wentworth - land and religious policies.

Home Scottish Reformation The Covenanters Ulster Scots English Reformation European Reformation General Topics & Glossary My Books & Bibliography Contact