Saturday, 21 June 2014

Penal Laws enacted against the Irish Catholics— General State of the Kingdom in 1652. part 6.


§ 6.—Puritan Colonists.

Ireland was now, indeed, become the spoil of her merciless heretical enemy. The whole kingdom was ordered to be surveyed, and "the best land was rated at only four shillings per acre, and some only at one penny." The soldiers drew lots as to the parts of the kingdom that should be allotted to them, and Cromwell reserved to himself a large private demesne, comprising the chief portion of the county Tipperary.

To supply inhabitants to the desolate country, Protestant settlers were invited from New England, and liberal offers were likewise made to the Vaudois of Piedmont, should they choose Ireland for an evangelical colony."These offers, however, were made in vain; and so universal was the horror of the brutality displayed by the Puritan officers in Ireland, that none but the very dregs of society could be found even in England to seek a share in the spoil. There is a passage in Dominick de Rosario's History of the Geraldines, that details to us the character of the new settlers, and the rapacious spirit with which they rushed to plunder our island of saints:—

"That raging mass, besprinkled with the monarch's blood, burst upon the land of my birth. The butcher, the buffoon, and the hired cut-throat, each led his band; and the very dregs of English cities and towns were invested with centurion authority. Then came hideous woes, as though God would lash us with a triple scourge, discord, famine, and pestilence. Well was it for those who died by the plague, for they passed away without dishonour; and happier were they who perished by the edge of the sword, for they thus escaped the lingering pangs of hunger. Cities and towns were seized by those ruthless slayers; the nobility was ruined, the temples of God razed, altars polluted, everything sacred profaned, whole families destroyed, smiling plains reduced to barrenness, and the lowing herds slaughtered to feed an unbridled soldiery. Blessed, then, were they who possessed nothing. But how shall I describe the horrors which those fiends heaped on the heads of the Catholic clergy? In their private houses; in the caverns of the earth; in the recesses of the mountains and woods; naked and unarmed; were they not maimed, stabbed, struck with stones in their very transit to the gibbet? Oh! how many of them breathed out their souls exhorting their countsmen to deeds of heroism, and undying attachment to the Catholic religion !"

Amongst the manuscripts belonging to the King's library in the British museum, there is a work entitled "An Account of Ireland," written in 1773, which, speaking of the Cromwellian era, thus describes well the hordes of sectaries that overspread the three confiscated provinces of Ireland. "An army of new settlers, and mostly of a newer religion, whether Anabaptists, Socinians, Muggletonians, Brownists or Millenarians, now obtained large grants of forfeited lands in Ireland, and from these adventurers are descended some of the principal persons in the kingdom in opulence and power. Most of these settlers were men of the sourest leaven, who eagerly adopted the most harsh and oppressive measures against those upon whose ruin they rose. This description of the sectaries of every hue that divided amongst themselves the possessions of the exterminated or transplanted Irish, is confirmed by Lord Clare, in his celebrated speech on the union:—

"A new colony of new settlers composed of all the various sects which then infested England,—Independents, Anabaptists, Seeeders, Brownists, Socinians, Millenarians, and dissenters of every description, many of them infected with the leaven of democracy,—poured into Ireland, and were put into possession of the ancient inheritance of its inhabitants."

It cannot be expected that many virtues would be found in the train of these ruthless colonists; on the contrary, they seemed to wage war against every virtue, and to have become the champions of every vice. An eye-witness, Mr. Thomas Wadding, thus writes, on the 21st October, 1656:—" There is no corner of Ireland but is now filled with heresies and atheism, and iniquity of every sort; never was the Catholic name so persecuted; malice is triumphant, all vices flourish, justice has decayed; true faith, and mercy, and modesty, and sincerity are banished; violence and audacity everywhere prevail; no one has any property but what he acquired by fraud and violence; the good are exposed to persecution and mockery, the bad alone are prosperous, and abound in wealth. ... So that we are tempted to cry out, 'Oh, God! what an age have you made us spectators of !"

In Cambrensis Eversus, vol. 3, page 75, we find an additional corroborating testimony to the vile character of the new colonists:—" Nobles of high descent says that contemporary author, "were robbed of two-thirds of their hereditary estates and ordered to confine themselves within the contracted limits of the remaining third; while the properties wrested from them were assigned to swarms of Englishmen, collected from the barber's shops, and highways, and taverns, and stables, and hog-sties of England."