Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sect. III.—: How England rendered Ireland Protestant—Protestant Colonisation—Elizabeth and James I. - Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1
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Sect. III.—: How England rendered Ireland Protestant—Protestant Colonisation—Elizabeth and James I. - Gustave de Beaumont, Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1 
Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, ed. W.C. Taylor (London: Richard Bentley, 1839). Vol. 1.
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How England rendered Ireland Protestant—Protestant Colonisation—Elizabeth and James I.
It was impossible to convert Ireland to Protestantism, and yet it was necessary that Ireland should become Protestant.
This necessity was every day more imperious for England; for, besides its hatred against a religious and political principle hostile to its own, it feared Catholic Ireland, and the more, as its own liberties were disputed, and as the absolute governments of the continent formed many intrigues in Ireland to strike with the same blow the Protestant religion and the liberties of England.
The first means derived from persecution and war having failed, another was tried: wholesale confiscation; the expulsion of the Catholics from the Irish soil, and their immediate replacement by Protestant colonists. This violent and odious means had nothing repugnant to the manners of the times; for confiscation and death had been at the bottom of all the political and religious quarrels from the time of Henry VIII.; it could only be said, that when tried on so vast a scale it was of difficult execution; for how could an entire population be driven from its natal soil? What was to be done with the people torn from their dwellings? How could all be massacred? If not massacred, how were they to live when plundered? And further, how could an entire people be found ready to take their place? It is not so easy as people think to practise injustice. Still the obstacles did not daunt the projectors.
The first attempt of this kind was made in the reign of Elizabeth. The genius of this queen discovered the object to be attained, and her tyranny easily adopted the means. Desmond’s revolt was the opportunity.* Near six thousand acres in the province of Munster having been confiscated, proclamation was made in England, offering these lands to all who would take them on certain conditions, of which the first was, that not a single farmer or labourer of Irish birth should be employed on these lands.* About two hundred thousand acres were thus distributed to the new settlers of English descent. The old inhabitants of the soil, dispossessed of their domains, only found shelter in the depths of the forests, or on the uncultivated sides of the mountains.
The work begun by Elizabeth was continued by her successors.
In the reign of James I., the real or imaginary plot of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, and Sir Cahir O’Dogherty, having been detected, the six northern counties which belonged to them, (as suzerains,† ) Donegal, Tyrone, Derry, Fermanagh, Cavan, and Armagh, were confiscated to the crown; rather more than half a million of acres were thus placed at James’s disposal. As, after Elizabeth’s first confiscation, several of the English on whom lands had been bestowed had not entered on the possession, James permitted the Scots on this occasion to share with the English in the division of the confiscated estates, under the pretence that they were nearer Ireland, but in reality through partiality for his countrymen.
The regulation of this new colony was not precisely similar to that which had served as a base for the first.
In Elizabeth’s colony, the occupant of the soil should be an Englishman—in that of James I., it was necessary he should be a Protestant of the Anglican church.*
Experience had consequently shown a defect in the first colony, which an effort was made to avoid in the second.
“The original English adventurers,” says Leland, “on their first settlement in Ireland, were captivated by the fair appearance of the plain and open districts. Here they erected their castles and habitations, and forced the old natives into the woods and mountains, their natural fortresses: thither they drove their preys—there they kept themselves unknown, living by the milk of their kine, without husbandry or tillage—there they increased to infinite numbers by promiscuous generation, and there they held their assemblies, and formed their conspiracies without discovery.” (Lel. vol. ii. p. 431.)
To escape this peril, quite a different plan was adopted for the second plantation; the confiscated lands were given to the new settlers, on condition of their residing in the woody and mountainous part of the country, whilst the dispossessed natives were left free in the plains, where they would be more easily watched. A still more important innovation was made—the Irish whose lands were confiscated, and the new English settlers who had been intermingled in Elizabeth’s plan, were settled in distinct and separate districts.* It is from this colonisation that the city of Londonderry, founded by the corporation of London, arose; from it also dates the Scotch and Presbyterian settlement in Ireland; and this starting point of puritanism in Ireland is too important not to be demonstrated.†
James I. had made great advances in his iniquitous work, and he was so proud of his success that he had nothing more at heart than its continuance. The difficulty in his view was not to dislodge the natives and replace them by new settlers, for his wisdom had solved all the difficulties of execution; the obstacle was, that there were no more lands to confiscate; and though nothing was easier than to expel the Irish from their houses and estates, it was necessary to assign a motive for such conduct. The subtle spirit of James was not long at fault. This monarch, who, according to Sully, was “the wisest fool in Europe,” this pedantic spirit waged war against Ireland like a pettifogging attorney.
After ages of civil war and anarchy, there necessarily existed great uncertainty and confusion in the titles to estates in Ireland; no doubt many usurpations had been committed, but the chief defect in the titles was irregularity. Taking advantage of this irregularity, a trick well worthy his limited understanding, James resolved to deprive of their lands all whose titles were not strictly regular, and seize them for the crown. In consequence, a crowd of lawyers, interested in the plunder by the hope of sharing the booty,* pounced upon Ireland like a flock of harpies, shook the dust from old parchments; and by their chicanery, their ingenuity in discovering flaws and errors of form, and their diligence in hunting out defects, real or imaginary, succeeded so well, that there was not a proprietor who enjoyed the shadow of security; the king obtained a vast number of estates, and was able to stock them with Protestant colonists in place of the Catholic proprietors so cleverly ruined.
[*]Desmond was driven into rebellion by the subtle malignity of the Earl of Osmond and others, envious of his power and estates. He offered to surrender to Admiral Winter, on condition of being conveyed to England to plead his cause before the queen, but this was sternly refused. To take his trial in Ireland, was voluntarily to submit to ruin, for the political trials of that day, at least in Ireland, are edifying comments on the maxim, “It is quarrel and cause enough to bring a sheep that is fat to the shambles.”—Tr.
[*]Leland, vol. ii. p. 301.
[†]The Irish chiefs possessed the suzerainité but not the property of the soil: consequently the guilt of O’Donnell, though even so clearly proved, could not affect the right of their feudatories, who were not even accused of treason. The English law of forfeiture, in itself sufficiently unjust, never declared that the interests of innocent tenants should be sacrificed for the rebellion of the landlords; it only placed the king in the place of the person whose property had been forfeited, and left all the relations of the tenantry unaltered. Yet were all the actual holders of lands in these devoted districts dispossessed without even the shadow of a pretence; and this abominable wickedness is even at the present day eulogised by many as the consummation of political wisdom.—Tr.
[*]This rule was not enforced against the Scottish Presbyterians, who were just as unwilling to take the oath of supremacy as the Irish Catholica.—Tr.
[*]Leland, vol. ii. p. 431.
[†]Most of the Elizabethan settlers were attached to puritanism, as were also the Protestant clergymen sent over during her reign: hence the Irish church has been always more deeply tinged with Calvinistic principles than the church of England. The Elizabethan adventurers, particularly those who accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh and Richard Boyle, (afterwards Earl of Cork,) were chiefly the younger branches of noble and respectable families in Devonshire and the western counties of England; they were long remarkable for their steady adherence to Whig principles, and many of them so continue to the present day.—Tr.
[*]At the head of “The commission for the discovery of defective titles” was placed Sir William Parsons, an unprincipled adventurer, on whom craft and crime have conferred an unenviable notoriety. Through his exertions and those of his brother “discoverers,” half a million of acres was forfeited to the crown.—Tr.