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The History of Ulster
A "Wild and Woeful Land"


Sad State of the Conquered Country taken over by the Commonwealth - Mountjoy's Methods approved by Colonel Jones - Colonel Richard Laurence's Picture of Desolation - Effects of the Plague - Great Increase of Wolves - The Perils of Priesthood - Children seized and shipped to the Barbados - Attempts to extirpate the "Tories" - Food at Famine Prices - Petty's Survey of Ireland - The Act of Settlement.

Of the Ireland which was taken over by the Commonwealth, thus chastened and subdued, it might well be said in a sorrowful sentence culled from the volume to which the Puritans most readily referred: "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate". Ludlow himself, who had been obliged in his high office to contribute not a little to the spreading of desolation and then designating it peace, speaks of the "poor wasted country of Ireland". War, and pestilence, and famine had swept over the land, leaving "leagues on leagues of desolation" and of death. "About the years 1652 and 1653, the plague and famine had swept away whole countries that a man might travel twenty or thirty miles and not see a living creature, either man, beast, or bird, they being either all dead or had quit those desolate places."

The methods of Mountjoy in subduing the Irish, by destroying the means of subsistence, were apparently approved of by one at least of the Commissioners, for Colonel Jones expressed the opinion that no lasting peace could be obtained " but by removing all heads of septs and priests and men of knowledge in arms, or otherwise in repute, out of this land, and breaking all kinds of interest among them, and by laying waste all fast countries in Ireland, and suffer no mankind to live there but within garrisons". Whole districts were in this way laid waste, the officers boasting that "we have destroyed as much as would have served some thousands of them until next harvest", thereby so reducing the wretched people who had inhabited the ruined region "that they were at length entirely subdued without condition to any save for life".

This rigorous rule could have but one result, "great multitudes of poore swarming in all parts of this nation, occasioned by the devastation of the country, and by the habits of licentiousness and idleness which the generality of the people have acquired in the time of this rebellion; insomuch that frequently some are feeding on carrion and weeds some starved in the highways, and many times poor children who lost their parents, or have been deserted by them, are found exposed to, and some of them fed upon, by ravening wolves and other beasts and birds of prey". Not alone did wild beasts devour human beings, but human beings, Colonel Richard Laurence assures us, were driven in their hunger and despair to cannibalism.

While war and famine claimed their thousands, the Plague claimed its portion. Several places were attacked by this dread enemy. " It fearfully broke out in Cashel, the people being taken suddenly with madness, whereof they die instantly; twenty died in that manner in three days in that little town." The Plague attacked Limerick and Galway and many other places, and, as we have seen, one of its victims was Lord-Lieutenant Ireton. Though even Dublin did not escape the ravages of this dread disease, it does not appear to have gained as many victims in Ulster as in Munster and Connaught. Two-legged and four-footed enemies abounded. There were "many desperate rogues who know not how to live but by robbing and stealing out of bogs and fastnesses", and wolves had so largely increased in numbers that a price was laid on their heads, "five pounds a head if a dog, and ten pounds if a bitch". Money was paid by the Treasury to various persons " for providing of toyles for taking of wolves", and passes were given permitting certain persons, with their servants, fowling-pieces, powder, and bullets, to proceed without hindrance through the country "for the killing of wolves". The dread beasts were so numerous and ferocious, and such a source of common danger, that the Irish officers whose departure for foreign service was sanctioned were not allowed to take their wolf-hounds with them, a body of tide-waiters at the various ports being authorized to seize the hounds and send them to the public huntsman of the precinct. In some instances lands were leased under conditions of keeping a hunting establishment with a pack of wolf-hounds for killing the wolves, part of the rent to be discounted in wolves' heads, as much as forty shillings being given for the head of every cub "that preyed by himself", and ten shillings for the head of every sucking cub.

But if the wolf in Ireland had now a bad time the Roman Catholic priest had worse. The Puritan Parliament determined that he also should be exterminated, "for what could priests be about but spreading their religion if they staid?" For them, during the war, there was no mercy; when any forces surrendered upon terms, priests were always excepted; priests were thenceforth out of protection, to be treated as enemies that had not surrendered. A price was set on their heads also. For all "Jesuits, priests, fryers, munks, and nunnes, 20l. will be given to any that can bring certain intelligence where any of them are. And whosoever doth harbour or conceal any one of them is to forfeit life and estate." This obliged them to fly, and to hide until they heard of some body of swordsmen being ready to sail for Spain, when they would apply to the officers commanding for leave to accompany them.

The Government not alone encouraged the departure of the priests, but facilitated their movements towards emigration. In some cases commanders, on the surrender of those in arms, covenanted " industriously to solicit the Commissioners of Parliament that such of the clergy in orders, having no other act or crime laid to their charge than officiating their functions as priests, not being suffered to live in quarters or protection, shall have passes and liberty to go beyond the seas". Commissary General John Reynolds did this in Ulster. The Mayor of Dublin was, by order of 19th February, 1652, "desired forthwith to press a fitt and able vessel in this port for the transportation of such a number of the Popish clergy as are to go with Lieutenant-General Farrell for Spain".

But though their departure was thus facilitated, the priests still lingered in the land, loath to leave the scenes where they had striven and suffered, and this in spite of the fact that all Roman Catholic priests were declared to be guilty of high treason, and their relievers felons, and they were themselves commanded, under severe penalties, to forthwith leave the kingdom. Even these penalties did not daunt them, and in consequence of the great increase of priests towards the close of the year 1655 a general arrest by the Justices of the Peace was ordered, under which the prisons in every part of Ireland seemed to have been filled to overflowing. On the 3rd of May the governors of the respective districts were ordered to send the priests, with sufficient guards, from garrison to garrison to Carrickfergus, there to be put on board such ship as should sail with the first opportunity to the tobacco islands, by which title the Barbados were then popularly known.

At Carrickfergus the horrors of approaching exile seem to have shaken the firmness of some of the priests, for on the 23rd of September, 1656, Colonel Cooper, who had charge of the prison, reporting that " several under their hands renounce the Pope's supremacy, and frequent the Protestant meetings, and no other", he was directed to dispense with the transportation of such of them as he could satisfy himself would do so without fraud or design, on their obtaining Protestant security for their future good conduct.

Priests were not the only part of the population sent to the Barbados, children of both sexes being captured by thou- sands and sold as slaves to the tobacco planters of Virginia and the West Indies. Sir William Petty estimates the number of boys -and girls sent to the tobacco islands as 6000. Force was needed to collect them, but the Government in England was, nevertheless, assured by their representatives in Ireland that they could have any number of young persons they required. Henry Cromwell wrote from Ireland to Secretary Thurloe: "I think it might be of like advantage to your affairs there [Jamaica] and ours here, if you should think fit to send 1500 or 2000 young boys, of 12 or 14 years of age, to the place afore-mentioned. We could spare them, and they would be of use to you." To this letter Thurloe replied: "The Committee of the Council have voted 1000 girls, and as many youths, to be taken up for that purpose." The victims appear to have been for the most part the children or the young widows of those who were killed or starved. Though there is no evidence extant that Henry Cromwell's proposal was carried out in its entirety, there is plenty that thousands of boys and girls were forcibly seized, shipped to Barbados, and sold for terms of years to the planters.

Every pretext for clearing the country of its native inhabitants was seized. Those who had no visible means of support, or were descendants of rebels, were marked for immediate transportation. The disorderly elements could not, at once and altogether, be removed. In inaccessible hiding-places, in the bogs and mountains, and in the still dense forests, bands of outlaws still lurked, and, under the name of "Tories", still continued a war of plunder and assassination. Their extirpation was a tedious process. The leaders were identified, and outlawed by name, and when they refused to give themselves up a price was set upon their heads. The ordinary price for the head of a "Tory" was 40s.; but for leaders of "Tories", or distinguished men, it varied from 5 to 30.

Even in the most peaceful districts life was by no means easy. The price of food was very high, for three-fourths of the stock of cattle had been killed, and there was danger of the native stock dying out. Cattle had to be imported from Wales into Dublin. So scarce was meat that a licence was required to kill lamb. In July, 1651, the Commissioners reported that four parts in five of the best and most fertile land in Ireland lay waste and uninhabited, and stated that they had encouraged the Irish to till the land, promising them the fruits of their tillage. Soldiers and officers were encouraged to till the land round their posts, "waste and untenanted lands" being let to officers and soldiers of the garrison "for five years, from 25th of March, 1653, at reasonable rents, free of contribution, on condition that they till and manure, and sow one-third of arable land with corn, and occupy".

Ireland being now, as was well said by Froude, "a blank sheet of paper, on which the English Commonwealth might write what characters they pleased", the Parliament proceeded to cover it with hieroglyphics essentially their own.

The cost of the war was enormous, and the debt must now be paid. It could not be paid in money, and therefore of necessity the liability had to be liquidated by grants of land. This had been understood from the first. In 1642 had been passed the Act for the Speedy and Effectual Reducing of the Rebels in His Majesty's Kingdom of Ireland. This Act formed the basis of what is known as the Cromwellian Settlement. Three Acts to explain or extend the original one were passed soon afterwards. Under the Act the English Parliament, in consequence of the dimensions which the re- bellion in Ireland had then assumed, confiscated between two and three millions of Irish land. Debenture bonds were issued payable in land when the country should be reconquered. Six hundred and twenty-five thousand acres were pledged in each province, and the money advanced was to be repaid in land distributed by lot at the rate of 1000 acres in Ulster for every 200; in Connaught for every 300; in Munster for every 400; and in Leinster for every 600. The plantation measure of 1000 acres Irish was equal to 1600 English measure, the rate being reckoned at 12s. per acre in Leinster, Ss. in Munster, and 4s. in Ulster. Bonds for a million acres had been taken up, and money had been raised on them for the troops sent to Ireland previous to Cromwell's campaign, 100,000 having been borrowed by the House of Commons for their own purposes "upon the public faith". Similar debentures were issued later for Cromwell's own army, and were given to the soldiers in lieu of pay. The time had now arrived when these debentures must be redeemed, and with this view the whole country was carefully surveyed by Dr. Petty (afterwards Sir William), and a court was established to examine the claims and assign to each bondholder his share. This was all the more necessary in that many of the bonds had been bartered and sold, and their face value altered by ordinances made from time to time, of which one of the most important was that of the i4th of July, 1643, which doubled the acreage of land to be given for an additional one-fourth of the original subscription.

According to Sir William Petty's Political Anatomy of Ireland^ the surface of Ireland was estimated at 10,500,000 plantation acres, of which 3,000,000 were occupied by water, bogs, and coarse or unprofitable land. Of the remainder, 5,200,000 acres belonged to Roman Catholics and sequestered Protestants before the year of the rebellion in Ulster, 300,000 were church and college lands, and 2,000,000 were in possession of Protestant settlers of the reigns of Elizabeth and James. The Parliament confiscated 5,000,000 acres. This enormous spoil, two-thirds of the whole island, was distributed amongst the soldiers who had served in Ireland in the Cromwellian army, or to those who, as Adventurers, were holders of the debenture bonds and had thus indirectly contributed to the military chest since 1641. There must, however, be deducted from these 5,000,000 acres, 700,000 which were given in "exchange" to the banished in Clare and Connaught, and 1,200,000 confirmed to "innocent Papists".

Petty's survey was known as the Down Admeasurement of Ireland. The work was by no means easy to carry out, for in many places none of the older inhabitants were left who were familiar with the boundary marks, which proved "a great prejudice to the Commonwealth, for want of information of the bounds of the respective territories and lands therein upon admeasurement". The field work was carried on by foot-soldiers selected and instructed by Petty. On one occasion eight of them were seized by "Tories", and by them "carried into the woods, and most barbarously murdered".

On August the i2th, 1652, was passed the Act of Settlement, under which there were four chief descriptions of persons whose status was settled. All ecclesiastics and Royalist proprietors were exempted from pardon of life or estate. All Royalist commissioned officers were condemned to banishment, and the forfeiture of two-thirds of their property, one-third being retained for the support of their wives and children. Those who had not been in arms, but could be shown by a Parliamentary commission to have manifested "a constant and good affection" to the war, were to forfeit one-third of their estates and receive "an equivalent" for the remaining two-thirds west of the Shannon. All husbandmen and others of the inferior sort "not possessed of lands or goods exceeding the value of 10", were to have a free pardon, also on condition of transporting themselves across the Shannon.

Thus in their wisdom did the Commonwealth plan to piece together the puzzle-map of Ireland.


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