The Ulster Plantation (4)

Henry Jones Ford
CHAPTER I (4) Start of Section

Although it was undoubtedly a wise stroke of policy on the part of the King to enlist the powerful City guilds in the enterprise, the mainstay of the Ulster plantation turned out to be the Scottish participation, which does not seem to have been originally regarded as important. Although from the first there was an understanding between Chichester and the English Privy Council that eventually the plantation would be opened to Scotch settlers, no steps were taken in that direction until the plans had been matured. If meanwhile any expectations of a share were entertained in Scotland there was no legal basis for them. Ireland belonged to the English Crown and although the King of Scotland was also King of England, the two kingdoms were then quite separate and distinct. The first public announcement of any Scottish connection with the Ulster plantation appears in a letter of March 19, 1609, from Sir Alexander Hay, the Scottish secretary resident at the English Court, to the Scottish Privy Council at Edinburgh. The tone of the letter shows that he was all agog with the news of the fine prospects opening up for the Scotch. Hay relates that he had been present by command at a meeting of the English Privy Council, at which he was notified that the arrangements for the Ulster plantation had been settled and that the King's Scottish subjects were to be allowed a share. Several members of the Privy Council put down their names in his presence, and the roll of the English Undertakers was already complete.

The articles required that every Undertaker for 2,000 acres should build a castle of stone, which he feared "may effraye our people," but upon inquiry he learned that "nothing was meant thereby bot any litill toure or peill suche as are common in our Bordouris." He was also curious to know how great an area 2,000 acres would be, and was told that it meant a property two miles square of arable land and pasture, without counting attached wood and bog. He suggests to the Council that here is a great opportunity for Scotland, since "we haif greitt advantage of transporting of our men and bestiall in regard we lye so near to that coiste of Ulster." The Scottish Privy Council acted promptly. On March 28 orders were issued for public proclamation of the good things now available upon "certain easy, tolerable and profitable conditions," which the King had offered "out of his unspeikable love and tendir affectioun toward his Majesties subjectis"; and those of them "quho ar disposit to tak ony land in Yreland" were requested to present their desires and petitions to the Council. The King's ancient subjects responded so heartily that by September 14 the allotments applied for by seventy-seven persons amounted to 141,000 acres although Hay had reckoned the Scottish share at 90,000 acres. In the following year the matter of Scottish participation was taken over by the English Privy Council, and when the list of the Scottish Undertakers was finally revised and completed, the number had been reduced from seventy-seven to fifty-nine, and of these only about eighteen had been among the original seventy-seven. Instead of the 141,000 acres applied for, the final award allotted 81,000 acres to Scotch Undertakers.

Military considerations presided over arrangements for the plantation. Hence the scheme provided that the natives should have locations of their own, while the settlers should be massed in districts so that their united force would confront attack. Only the "servitors," a class of Undertakers restricted to officers in the public service in Ireland, were permitted to have Irish tenants. The design was that the servitors should have estates adjacent to the Irish reservations, to "defend the borders and fortresses and suppress the Irishry." This expression occurs in a letter of May, 1609, from the Bishop of Armagh urging a postponement of actual occupation until the following spring, one of his reasons being that it would be dangerous for the English Undertakers to start until the servitors were ready. The lands were divided into lots of 2,000, 1,500 and 1,000 acres, designated respectively as great, middle and small proportions. Each Undertaker for a great or middle proportion had to give bond, in £400 or £300 respectively, that within three years he would build a stone or brick house with a "bawn," fortified enclosure, and he was required to have ready in his house "12 muskets and calivers, 12 hand weapons for the arming of 24 men." The Undertaker for a small proportion had to give bond in £200 that he would build a bawn.

The Scotch and English Undertakers for great proportions were under obligation "within three years to plant or place upon the said proportion 48 able men, aged 18 years or upward, born in England or inward parts of Scotland." Applications for estates were open to three classes: (1) English or Scottish persons generally, (2) servitors, (3) natives of Ireland. The estates of 2,000 acres were charged with knight's service to the King in capite; those of 1,500 acres with knight's service to the Castle of Dublin; and those of 1,000 acres with the tenure of common socage. That is to say the larger estates were held by the military tenure of the feudal system, while the small proportions were simply held by perpetual lease at a fixed rent. The yearly rent to the Crown for every 1,000 acres was £5 6s 8d for Undertakers of the first sort, 8£ for the second and 10£ 13s. 4d. for the native Irish. If the servitors should plant their lands with English or Scottish tenants they should pay the same rent as the Undertakers of the first sort. No Undertaker or his assign had the right to "alien or demise any of his lands to a meer Irish, or to any who will not take the oath of supremacy" upon pain of forfeiture.

These particulars are taken from the Carew Manuscripts, which give a summary of the allotments as completed in 1611, making a total of 511,465 acres. Accompanying documents mention by name 56 English Undertakers holding 81,500 acres, 59 Scottish holding 81,000 acres, and 59 servitors holding 49,914 acres. The names of 277 natives are given as holders of allotments in the same precincts with the servitors, aggregating 52,479 acres. In addition Connor Roe Maguire received 5,980 acres and "several Irishmen" are scheduled as holding 1,468 acres, making a total of 59,927 acres allotted to natives. The Carew summary lumps together "British Undertakers and the Londoners" as holders of 209,800 acres. On deducting the 162,500 scheduled to English and Scotch Undertakers in the records accompanying the summary, the London allotments appear to have aggregated 47,300 acres. The remainder consisted of church endowments and lands reserved for public uses such as corporate towns, forts, schools, and hospitals. The College of Dublin received an allotment of 9,600 acres.

The total area appropriated in Ulster for the purposes of the plantation has been a controversial issue and estimates differ greatly, some writers putting it at about 400,000 acres while others contend that it amounted to nearly 4,000,000 acres. Such wide difference on a question of fact shows that passion has clouded the issue. The whole of the six counties includes only 2,836,837 Irish acres, or in English measure 3,785,057 acres. Just how much of this area was allotted to settlers it is impossible to determine exactly, notwithstanding the apparently precise statement made in the Carew records, for it seems that only cleared land was reckoned. The Orders and Conditions say that to every proportion "shall be allowed such quantity of bog and wood as the country shall conveniently afford." The negotiations with the City of London show that in that case large claims were made of privileges appurtenant to the acreage granted, among them woodlands extending into the adjoining county of Tyrone.

Nevertheless there is reason to believe that the Carew computation of 511,465 acres is a fair statement of the actual extent of the lands appropriated for the plantation. The principle upon which the plantation was founded was that the settlers should be massed in certain districts. It appears from a letter of Davies that the commissioners charged with making the surveys were in camp in Ulster nine weeks. In that period of time they could not have done more than to note and map areas suitable for tillage and pasture, and in a report of March 15, 1610, accompanying the transmission of the maps to the English Privy Council a summary is given of land available for the plantation aggregating 424,643 acres. There are also indications that appurtenant rights were strictly construed. The grant of woodlands to the City of London was made with the reservation that the timber was "to be converted to the use of the plantation, and all necessary uses in Ireland, and not to be made merchandize." It was afterward ordered that settlers in Donegal and Tyrone should be allowed to take supplies of timber from the Londoners' lands. The Carew computation of the area allotted exceeds by 86,822 acres the estimate of available lands made by the commission of 1610 which suggests that the Carew computation includes areas of every kind covered by the grants. This conjecture is strengthened by the fact that the articles of agreement with London in 1610 mention only 27,000 acres, whereas the Carew record made in 1611 of the actual distribution charges the Londoners with 47,300 acres.

Further confirmation is supplied by a report made in 1618 by Captain George Alleyne as muster-master of Ulster. It contains the names of all the landholders and the number of their acres, men, muskets, calivers, pikes, halberds and swords. The holdings of the English and Scottish Undertakers are returned as amounting to 197,000 acres, and of the servitors 51,720 acres, a total of 248,720 acres. The same items in the Carew summary aggregate 259,714 acres. So far as it is possible to test the Carew summary it appears to cover the total area appropriated for the occupation and use of the plantation. That is to say, about 18 per cent. of the total area of the six escheated counties, including however all the then desirable lands, was taken from the native Irish proprietors for the purposes of the plantation, but over 11 per cent. of these confiscated lands was allotted to Undertakers coming forward among the native Irish. However opinions may differ as to the morality of the scheme there can be no doubt of the success of the plantation. Ulster had been the most backward province of Ireland. It became the most populous and wealthy.


1605 October 2:—Chichester to Salisbury urging the need of "planting of English and others well affected" in Ulster.

1606 Bacon to James I:—"Considerations Touching the Plantations in Ireland."

1607 September 4;—Flight of the Earls, September 17:—Chichester urges the need of bringing into Ulster "colonies of civil people of England and Scotland." September 29:—Privy Council replies that the King is "resolved to make a mixture of the inhabitants, as well Irish, as English and Scottish."

1608 April 18:—O'Dogherty captures Derry. July 5:—O'Dogherty killed. September:—Chichester sends to the Privy Council "Certain Notes of Remembrances touching the Plantation and Settlement of the Escheated Lands."

1609 March:—The Privy Council issues "Orders and Conditions to be observed by the Undertakers." March 19:—Letter from the Scottish Secretary of State in London to the Scottish Privy Council at Edinburgh announcing that Scots are to share in the Ulster Plantation. March 28:—Proclamation of the Scottish Privy Council inviting applications for Ulster lands. July 14:—Deputies chosen by the London Guilds to confer with the Privy Council on the matter of taking part in the Ulster Plantation. July 21:—Commissioners appointed to make allotments and to mark fit places for settlement. July 30:—Four citizens of London sent at the City's charge to view the country.

1610 January 28:—Articles of Agreement with the City of London for the rebuilding of Derry and the planting of Coleraine. June 5:—Chichester receives the King's warrant to appoint a new commission for Ulster to remove the natives and put the settlers in possession. August 28:—Proclamation from commissioners that allotted are open for occupation.