« PreviousContinue »
lord made no scruple at any time of dispossessing him—herding in mud hovels with neither the means nor the instruments of improvement--how could the agriculturist of Ulster, if it be not mockery to use such a term, have ever made progress in arts or cultivation, had it not been for the steady perseverance of Elizabeth and James? It is to these Sovereigns of England, and not to their native chiefs, or their territorial customs, that the Ulster farmer owes it that he now knows what a lease is or enjoys a recognized right of occupation.” It was the introduction into its borders of alien skill, education, enterprise, manners, and discipline that raised Ulster from the dust and seated it amongst the principalities of the land. The conditions imposed upon the colonists, though by no means oppressive, were sufficiently strict to secure immediate attention to the improvement of their allotments. They were not to remain idle or let the grass grow under their feet, until, as in Munster, the native Irish had once more gathered around them and wrested the land from their indolent and inefficient grasp. Every undertaker of 2,000 acres, as he was called, was bound in a bond of 400l. to erect within three years one dwellinghouse of brick or stone, with a strong court or bawn about the same. Those of middle proportion were tied to the same conditions in 300l.; and of smaller proportion
* “The inhabitants of this country,” says Sir John Davys, speaking of Cavan, “do border upon the English Pale, where they have made “acquaintances and alliances; by means whereof they have learned to “talk of a freehold and of estates of inheritance, which the poor natives “ of Fermannagh and Tyrconnel could not speak of, although these men “ had no other nor better estate than they; that is, only a scambling and “transitory possession at the pleasure of the chief of every sept.”— Letter to the Earl of Salisbury in 1610, p. 282.
t See p. 269.
still, in 200l.; but in the latter instance to build a bawn only. A servitor, beyond his rent, which was moderate, was to have in his house 12 muskets, 12 hand weapons for arming 24 men, and keep 600 acres in demesne. The British undertaker of the first rank, besides the conditions already mentioned, was to place on his allotment of 2,000 acres, for which he paid an annual rent to the Crown of 10l. 13s. 4d., 48 able-bodied men, aged 18 years or upwards, born in England or the inward parts of Scotland; and he was not to alienate any portion of his allotment, for the next five years, to any but his under-tenants." Nor was James indifferent to the interests of the natives. How large a number of these were provided for in the new plantation may be seen by reference to a document in this volume, p. 235, preserving the names of servitors and natives to whom lands were granted, stating the extent and the rent paid. Servitors and natives were to be exempted from all payment of rent for four years, at the end of which period they were to pay the Crown annually 10l. 13s. 4d. for 1,000 acres. They were to hold their lands in free and common socage; to erect a house of stone or brick, with a bawn, on every proportion of 1,500 acres; for the building of which they were to have an allowance of timber from the escheated lands. They were to enter into a covenant to make estates to their under-tenants with reservation of “rents certain;” to take no Irish exactions; to follow tillage and husbandry after the English fashion.t Yet with all the precautions the utmost care, vigilance, and moderation could suggest, there were yet difficulties almost insuperable, and sufferings that could not be alleviated. The allotments were in fixed numbers of a
thousand, two thousand, or fifteen hundred acres, and the rent per acre to the Crown was apparently invariable. How was it possible to mark out these allotments impartially P What skill could avail to bring the value of each to the same level, especially in a country so imperfectly known as Ulster was then, and of which the soil and advantages were so various? How could the proportion of bog and wood be justly observed? Here might be 500 acres of excellent and fertile land; elsewhere the allotment might be barren and uncultivated, intersected by swamps. Here the land might be near a thoroughfare or market town, elsewhere it might have no outlet. Besides, an allotment in Cavan, near the English Pale, would be, merely from its situation, twice as valuable as the same proportion in Donegal or Fermanagh. In some instances there were ancient claims which had not been extinguished by the late rebellion, and the colonist found himself involved in a dispute for his land with some powerful and prior claimant. In others, allotments overlapped each other, and the bitterest feuds were engendered among neighbours, who owed each other mutual aid and protection. In others, again, the allotments were too vaguely defined, and castles, towers, or abbeys at their extremities furnished constant cause of rival claims and dissensions.” To avoid these inconveniences it was at first proposed that the undertakers should cast lots for their several proportions; but this arrangement would have separated relatives, confederates, and friends, who wished to live together for mutual protection.t Here would be a Scotchman, and there an Englishman; here a Presbyterian, and next him a Churchman. Therefore it was considered better to settle the new colonists in groups; those of the same nationality together;
* See a remarkable paper in this volume, p. 244, and compare p. 82. f See p. 44.
friends in proximity with friends; as will be seen by reference to this volume, p. 231.
Two difficulties not less formidable remained to be surmounted,—the removal of the swordsmen, as they were called,—and of the poorer natives, without which precaution the new settlers could not remain in safety. These swordsmen, the armed retainers of the native chiefs, without any settled habits of industry, living by war and plunder, had always been the bane of Ireland,—must be so, as long as the old Celtic subdivision of the soil left them no better than land-stricken gentlemen, unwilling to work and ashamed to beg. It was the necessary consequence of such minute subdivision of the land to create a starving, wretched peasant proprietary that could never improve, never advance in culture or in comfort; elective chiefs with imperial and irresponsible power; and a restless middle class, who had nothing but their swords to help them, alike dangerous to their rulers and oppressive to those below them. In such a state of things, liberty and morality are equally in jeopardy. Too much engrossed with the most sordid cares for the necessities of life, such a population bows down, like Issachar, beneath any burthens its rulers may impose. Indifferent to all forms of government and all governors, it offers the strongest temptation to the restless and ambitious, and, like the ancient Irish, witnesses the parricide and murder and dissensions of its chiefs and tanists with unruffled equanimity. Why should it not ? What mattered whether a genuine or spurious O'Neal dispensed his favours or exacted tribute of cows, of butter, or of honey?" Their wretchedness and oppression remained the same.
* “In England, and all well-ordered commonwealths, men have certain estates in their lands and possessions, and their inheritances descend from
The swordsmen, that is, the class of idle gentlemen, supporting themselves by taking “man's meat, “ horse meat, and money of all the inhabitants of “ the country,” at their will and pleasure, espousing and fomenting the quarrels of their chiefs, maintained a perpetual state of warfare. How then to dispose of them— for to imagine they would change their habits and cultivate the land was hopeless—became a great difficulty. Some, it was thought, might be tempted to enlist into foreign service, with “a further allowance, as a gift from the “King, for supplying apparel and other necessaries,
“ whereof they are wholly destitute;” others were to be persuaded to settle with such Irish lords and others in
Connaught or Tipperary “as had great quantities of
father to son, which doth give them encouragement to build and to plant, and to improve their lands, and to make them better for their posterities. But by the Irish custom of tanistry the chieftains of every country and the chief of every sept had no longer estate than for life in their chiefries, the inheritance whereof did rest in no man. And these chiefries, though they had some portions of land allotted unto them, did chiefly consist in cuttings and other Irish exactions, whereby they did spoil and impoverish the people at their pleasure. And when their chieftains were dead their sons or next heirs did not succeed them . . . . and by the Irish custom of gavelkind the inferior tenancies were partable amongst all the males of the sept, both bastard and legitimate. These two Irish customs made all their possessions uncertain, being shuffled and changed, . . . which uncertainty of estates hath been the true cause of such desolation and barbarism in this land, as the like was never seen. . . . I dare hardily say that never any particular person, either before or since, did build any stone or brick house for his private habitation, but such as have lately obtained estates according to the course of the law of England. Neither did any of them in all this time plant any gardens or orchards, enclose or improve their lands, live together in settled villages or towns, nor make any provision for posterity. . . . And this is the true reason why Ulster and all the Irish countries are found so waste and desolate at this day; and so would they continue to the world's end if these customs were not abolished by the law of England.”—Sir John Davys, p. 135.