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STATE OF IRELAND IN THE
BEFORE THE UNION; OR, THE SOWING OF THE SEED
"Ireland has the same reason to spurn at this power of external legislation, because it has hitherto been employed for the purpose only of oppressing and distressing her. Had Ireland never been made to feel this power as a curse, she never would have complained of it, and the best and most effectual way to have kept it alive, would have been not to have made use of it. Ireland would then have suffered this harmless power to exist in the statute book, she never would have called out for a renunciation of it. But, fatally for this country, this power of external legislation has been employed against Ireland as an instrument of oppression to establish an impolitic monopoly in trade; to enrich one country at the expense of the other. Thus
the supreme power of the British Parliament is employed to gratify a few, and to distress a whole kingdom."-CHARLES JAMES FOX, House of Commons, May 17, 1782.
LORD SHELBURNE1 observes in one of his numerous Memoranda, and that statesman was no mean judge of Irish affairs—
"The history of Ireland may be read to considerable advantage, and more than the history of most countries, for as every other country had always more or less of a settled government, their history consists of little more than an account of sieges and battles, except now and then some civil wars: whereas the history of Ireland is in fact a history of the policy of England in regard to Ireland, and will be found to give the best idea of the principles, knowledge and passions which prevailed in each reign and characterized the times. It will be found to have always been the shame of England, as Sicily was of Rome, and is now of Naples, and Corsica was of Genoa."
That this is true, few persons who prefer truth to hypocrisy will be inclined to deny. The character of successive Administrations is undoubtedly to be found in their treatment of the Irish people, and a slight sketch of that treatment we now propose to offer.
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Ireland were a 1 William Petty, first Marquis of Lansdowne, better known as Lord Shelburne (1737-1805).
wilderness of crime, the cradle of the present Irish portent, the nursery of the weak and sickly child that has developed as men have seen, suckled in vice and dandled in infamy, to be finally gibbeted before the world as a spectacle of how fine and healthy an offspring may be reared under the tender solicitude and firm guidance of wise and honourable parents. We pass by the disgraceful confiscations of the lands of the O'Moores and the O'Connors in Leix and Offaley in the Bloody Mary's reign, by the war waged by Elizabeth against Shan O'Neil-the Shan O'Neil whom the Lord-Lieutenant did his best to poison when he feared to meet him in the field. We pass by the black treachery of Sidney-the massacre of Mullaghmast-where hundreds of the Irish chiefs were decoyed and slaughtered with the vilest cruelty, and we pass by the savagery of Essex and the wars against Desmond and Tyrone. The Irish were scared into rebellion by the conviction that they were doomed to be harried from their homes by the English settlers, and the suppression of Tyrone's insurrection was a veritable orgy of butchery and extermination, the slaughter of Irishmen being merely regarded as the necessary destruction of loathsome and plague-infected vermin.
The Irish, however, had but touched with their lips the rim of the chalice they were destined to exhaust. The result of Elizabeth's wars was the confiscation of the vast estates of Desmond, extending over the counties of Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford, and amounting to 295,379 acres. Soon after this spoliation Ulster and Leinster were planted by James I with English settlers, the proprietary rights of the clans being altogether disregarded, and great numbers of the old proprietors were driven from the land-2,836,837 acres in the former, and 450,000 acres in the latter province being wrested from their owners. A partial plantation of Ulster had already been attempted by Queen Elizabeth, but had not taken root. Conquest, however, had prepared the way for plunder and the new effort was more successful. Thomas Carte, in his Life of Ormonde, records the terms upon which the plantation of Ulster by James I was carried out, and his remarks are peculiarly interesting for two reasons. In the first place, the conditions laid down for observance by the new guarantees formed the source from which the Ulster "tenant-right" ultimately sprang; and secondly, the terms upon which the new owners settled upon their lands still hold good, and are a forcible argument for the substitution of a peasant proprietary, or a tenure very similar to it, in the place of that unsatisfactory system which embittered the relations between landlord and tenant throughout the nineteenth century.2
1 See Appendix VI, quotation from W. E. H. Lecky.