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Chapter Five


In a figurative sense, the term "plantations," is applied to the establishment of new colonies of English, Welsh, and Scots in Ireland. This colonization was chiefly carried out by Queen Elizabeth, and James I (1550-1572). The preliminary groundwork was initiated, as mentioned earlier, by King Henry VIII and during the reign of Edward VI and Mary. Plantation and settlement records of Ireland (1603- 1703) comprise a great body of records, government documents of members of old and new landed families. This plantation of Ulster took place in the first decade of the 17th century (1610) and extended through the Cromwellian Settlement of 1650. These records concern the progressive confiscation, and the successive series of new land grants, until the final distribution placed most of the acreage of Ireland in the possession of English Protestants. It is hard to understand Ireland’s history, and resultant poverty, both economic and religious degradation, that lasted through the great famine of 1845 unless we grasp what effect of the Settlement of Ulster had.

It is difficult to describe the conditions of life during the 16th century under British condemnation. Even writers of prejudice British had to admit that learning and religion continued to exist with a perseverance that was sublime. A Jesuit priest, Father Quinn, who early in the 1550’s made a report to his superiors in Rome, writes; "On a spot of ground in the middle of an immense bog, Father James Forde constructed for himself a little hut, where boys and girls came to be instructed in the rudiments of learning, virtue and faith. Then they go from house to house, teaching parents and child what they learned in the bog. We generally live in the mountains, forests and inaccessible bogs where Cromwellian Troops cannot reach us."

After the end of the Nine Year War in 1607, the remnants of the leadership of Hugh O’Neill, Rauri O’Donnell and Conor Maguire, sailed for France. It was referred to as "The Flight of the Earls," because the Irish knew it was the last effort to retain Ireland under the control of their leaders. It was the end of the old Gaelic order, it completed the conquest and left the country clear for the Plantation of Ulster.

It has been shown that Catholics owned 61% of the land in 1541. By 1668, they owned only 22%. By 1703, 85% of the land owned by Catholics changed hands to Protestant ownership. The continual oppression of the Irish by the confiscation of land, slowly but inevitably brought the people to a condition of slavery. Every effort to resist, during the 17th century, brought more severe measures upon every class of Irish life.

The term "Settlement" was used in the last half of the 17th century in relation to the great changes in the ownership and occupation of the land. This is explained in the Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland by John Prendergast, of Doublin, in 1875. Settlement, of such importance in the history of Ireland, means nothing else than the settlement of the balance of land according to the will of the strongest. Force, not reason., is the source of the Law. The term "Cromwellian Settlement" is to be understood as the history of the dealings of the Commonwealth of the people of Ireland after the conquest for their country in 1652. The Englishmen’s objective was to extinguish a nation, rather than suppress a religion. They seized the lands of the Irish, and transferred them (and with it all the power of the state) to an overwhelming flood of new English settlers. The settlers were filled with the intense national and religious hatred of the Irish.

When James II ascended to the throne of England, there was a strong effort by the Stuarts to regain some control over the lands of Ireland. Catholics attempted to rally to the Catholic Stuarts support. This was a counter revolution initiated by some of the royalists English of Ireland, and a few native Irish, restored to their estates under the Act of Settlement and Explanation. The Protestant forces, under the leadership of William, severely defeated the Irish army at Drogheda. It is referred to as the famous Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Chapter 6

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