Protestant Emigration from Ireland

Dublin University Magazine
May 1833
Vol. I, No. V

We are fallen upon evil days. Abroad thrones have been shaking—sceptres and diadems are breaking—dynasties are changing, and constitutions are vanishing away; at home all the time-honoured and time-nurtured must give way to the novel and ideal, for the spirit of change has breathed over all things, and while she rides in her rampant chariot against the throne of kings and the ark of God, all that we prize and love in the institutions of our country is to be dragged at her wheels, dishonoured in the dust.

We are indeed fallen upon evil days; but of all the elements of evils that are now overshadowing the protestant interest of Ireland, there is none that in the desolation and utter hopelessness of despair, can compete with that giant evil, the threatened emigration of the protestant population.

Numbers who have emigrated

The number of Protestants, who have emigrated from Ireland during the last few years is as follows: in 1829, 12,000; in 1830, 21,000; 1831, 29,500; in 1832, 31,500, making a total of 94,000, during the short space of four years!

Nor is this all—the evil is gradually increasing, the stream is widening its banks every successive year, so as to promise to exhaust before long the whole protestant population by its increasing drain; it is a slowly consuming and wasting malady that is working its noiseless and secret way through the land; and as consumption in the human form pales the cheek of beauty and prostrates the strength of youth, and then gradually and almost imperceptibly draws its victim unresisting to the grave, so is this evil, breaking and rendering powerless the Protestant interest, and promises so to waste its once mighty energies, that day after day it becomes weaker and weaker, and so will, almost without a struggle, vanish from the land.

We have no desire to magnify this evil beyond its just dimensions, but we ask, of what use will be the Protestant press—the Conservative Clubs—our Tory Principles—even the Established Church herself, when the protestant population has emigrated?—of what use will be the protecting measure, when there are no Protestants to protect?

It will, then, be mere idiotcy, or, at least, a waste of time and talent to devise plans for the support of the protestant interest, when those who are the bone and sinew of that body shall have abandoned the country for ever.

The magnitude of this evil will stand revealed still more plainly when we reflect on the value of the character and principles of that class.

Character and principles of the Irish Protestants

First, they have invariably supported the interests of the landlords; and in all the strife, and storm, and civil commotion of three centuries, have been ever found maintaining, with their voices and with their lives, the property of the country; secondly, they have been found, by long experience, to be most conducive, by their industry, to the improvement of the country, and especially conducive, by their respect for, and support of the laws, to the maintenance of peace and tranquillity; thirdly, they have ever proved themselves to be, by feeling and religion, closely attached to English interests, and English connections, and, as such, are the surest support on which the property or the government can rely with any settled confidence for the continuance of the connection between the sister islands.

Such is the true character of that Protestant population, which, like birds of passage at the blasts of winter, is migrating from the strife and treason and misery of this wretched island; there is no use in hiding the broad though unpalatable fact, that the protestant population are an English garrison which is holding this island in its allegiance to England—it is a garrison in a half-conquered and half-resisting country—and if it be once withdrawn, or if it deserts its banners, or if it emigrate, there will be neither safety for the property, nor security for the allegiance of this island, and the ascendancy of England is shivered to atoms!

Review of the history of Protestant emigration

In taking, as we now propose, a concise review of the history of this emigration of the Protestants, and of the various causes which operate immediately in promoting it, it will be impossible to pass unnoticed that which is the principle which sets all the more immediate causes into life and motion—that principle is a mistaken confidence on the part of our proprietary, in the security of that settlement under which they derive their estates—they are strangers, invaders, heretics, emphatically The Sasenach, in the eyes of the great body of the population, and yet, instead of encouraging another class to which they could securely look for assistance, instead of increasing the numbers and strength of their protestant tenantry, they throw themselves on the protection of England, and expect that protection from her which they ought to establish on their own estates.

They have been impressed with a feeling, that under every possible circumstance, England must hold this island, and repress, with a strong hand, every thing that would subvert the present settlement of property, and looking thus to what they conceive to be necessity and the will of England, they think they may themselves cast aside all effort of their own, and in this spirit they have adopted and preserved a course of conduct calculated not only to weaken, but utterly to ruin their true sources of safety, thinking when matters are reduced to the worst, they will be able still to rely on that protection which they hope from England, and which they dream it will be her essential interest to give.

In this manner they have been led to neglect encouraging such a protestant population as would effectually protect them from every possible danger, and have at this day reduced the country to a state almost beyond the hope of salvation.

Three Protestant settlements

There have been three great settlements of Protestants in this country at different periods.

The first one was after the rebellion of Tyrone was suppressed—Elizabeth had certainly made some valuable settlements, but it remained for James, on the lands forfeited in that rebellion, to make the first settlement of permanent value in Ireland—The second was after the great rebellion of 1641—the fearful atrocities of that terrible event, on the part of the natives against the settlers, drew down on their heads the vengeance of Cromwell, and he partitioned some of the lands thus forfeited, among the soldiers of his army—The third settlement was after the wars of the revolutions, when William paid some of his followers out of the lands forfeited by the adherents of the unhappy James.

Such were the three great settlements of Protestants in Ireland, and though they were all important, their importance was of a very different kind.

Types of settlement

The persons, to whom grants were made by Cromwell and William, are the ancestors of a very great portion of the present proprietors, a very great number of our gentry are descended from them, but these settlements do not appear to have extended to the lower orders of the population, at least to the same degree as the settlement by James, and the reason of this difference was, that James imposed conditions on his grants, which were omitted by Cromwell and William—those conditions were the introduction and location of a certain number of families upon every grant in proportion to its extent, and the families, thus located, are the predecessors of the great body of the lower order of Protestants in Ireland at the present day.

Conditions of settlement under James I

Those conditions are thus described, by Leland

“The undertakers of 2,000, acres, were to build a castle, and enclose a strong court-yard, or bawn, as it was called, within four years. The undertakers of 1,500 acres were to finish a house and bawn within two years. The undertakers of 1,000 acres were to enclose a bawn, for even this rude species of fortification was accounted no inconsiderable defence against the incursions of an Irish enemy. The first were to plant upon their lands, within three years, forty-eight able men of English or Scottish birth, to be reduced to twenty families; to keep a demesne of 600 acres in their own hands, to have four fee-farmers on 120 acres each;—six lease-holders, each on 100 acres, and, on the rest, eight families of husbandmen, artificers, and cottagers.—The others were under the like obligations—all were, for five years after the date of their patents, to reside upon their lands, either in person or by such agents as should be approved by the state, and to keep a sufficient quantity of arms for defence. The British and Servitors were not to alienate their lands to the mere Irish, or to demise any portion of them to such persons as should refuse to take the oaths to government.”

In compliance with these conditions, the settlers built large houses, or castles, on some eligible site on their new estates, and added generally a deep trench or other defence of sufficient strength to repel any tumultuous or sudden assault of the natives; they at the same time brought over large parties of English and Scotch farmers, mechanics and peasants, and induced them to settle on their grants, as near as possible to the house, or castle, of the proprietors; and having always supplied these persons with arms they had them ever in readiness for protection; this was a wise and prudent arrangement in two respects—in the first place, the natives, a wild and uncivilized race, used to congregate in the bogs, and woods, and mountains, and then rush in many hundreds on the habitations of the settlers; their object in such incursions was the murder of the Sasenach, the driving away and despoiling him of all his cattle, and the destruction of his tillage. Now, when such predatory attacks were made, the proprietor would alarm his settlers, and they would immediately turn out and proceed in a body, a hosting against, the Irishry,” and being steady and faithful men, they generally succeeded in protecting the property on which they resided.

Good husbandry of Irish Protestants

In the next place, these settlers introduced the good husbandry of England—they very rapidly improved their farms, and by their steady and industrious habits, and by their introduction of all the mechanical trades they soon introduced a quiet and settled state of society, widely different from the praedatory life which had been almost universal among the natives; indeed, many of the villages which these settlers then founded were the originals of some of our best inland towns at present, and the present state of the province of Ulster is an evidence of the wisdom of having thus encouraged the settlement of a protestant population.

Happy it had been for this distracted country, and happy it had been for England, too, if she had carried into effect the measures which were for a time contemplated, of settling the provinces of Connaught and Munster in the same effective way.

Contrast with the natives

This civilized state of society was as opposite to the feelings and habits of the natives, as civilization is to this day to the Indian tribes of North America; they could not appreciate it, and naturally hated those who introduced it, as being strangers who had invaded their land and laid hold on their possessions.

The hatred which they had always entertained for the English who had conquered and despoiled them, was now envenomed by a virulent bigotry against the new settlers, who were universally Protestants, and they named them both by one common appellation the Sasenach, a word expressive of the two ideas, which were most hateful to them, namely, a Protestant and Englishman.

Hostility of the Irish

The following curious extract from one of our Irish authors (M‘Mahon) will aptly illustrate their feeling:—

“After lawlessly distributing your estates, possessed for thirteen centuries or more by your illustrious families, whose antiquity and nobility, if equalled by any nation in the world, was surpassed by none but the immutable God of Abraham’s people; after I say, seizing on your inheritances, and flinging them amongst their cocks, and crows, and rooks, wolves, lions, foxes, rams, bulls, hogs, and other birds and beasts of prey, or vesting them in the sweepings of their jails; their Small-words, Dolittles, Barebones, Strange-ways, Smarts, Sharps, Harts, Sterns, Churls, Savages; their Greens, Blacks, Browns, Greys, Whites; their Smiths, Carpenters, Brewers, Barbers, Taylors; their Tom-sons, John-sons, Will-sons, James-sons, Dick-sons; their Shorts, Longs, Lows, Flats, Squats; their Packs, Sacks, Stacks, and Jacks; and to complete the ingratitude and injustice they transported a cargo of notorious traitors to the divine Majesty among you, impiously calling the filthy lumber ministers of God’s words!”

Now, while this singular passage illustrates both the hostility of the natives against the settlers as English invaders, and their virulent bigotry against them as Protestants, it also proves that those settlers introduced all the common mechanical arts into the country, where previously they were totally unknown.

Unhappily for the country, after some years of quiet and prosperous settlement, some of the new proprietors, dreaming that this quiet would not again be broken, and discovering that the natives would sometimes offer a larger rent than the settlers, began to admit them as tenants on their farms.

This matter is noticed by Sir T. Phillips in his letter of Charles I., in these words:

“They found the natives willing to overgive rather than remove, and that they could not reap half the profit by the British, which they do by the Irish, whom they use at their pleasure, never looking into the reasons which induced the natives to give more than they could raise—their assured hope that time might, by rebellion, relieve them from their heavy landlords, whom, in the mean time, they were contented to suffer under, though to their impoverishing and undoing.”

Rebellion of 1641

The able and honest man who wrote this account to his royal master, was himself a witness of what he wrote; he knew the motive of the landlords, and saw the object of the natives; and the terrible rebellion of 1641, which marked the reign of that monarch, showed the propriety of his opinions.

Accurate details of that terrible rebellion and the fearful massacre of the settlers, have been transmitted to our times by three persons who witnessed it, and who, from their situation, had every means of ascertaining the precise truth; from their statement it would appear, that there never was evoked from hell a spirit of more fiendish malignancy, than that which actuated the natives, who sacrificed every tye and immolated every kindlier feeling of our nature to their virulent and bigotted hatred of the settlers.

The effect of this event upon the numbers of the protestant population was truly disastrous; multitudes were coldly and deliberately massacred—multitudes perished on the roads and in the ditches, and multitudes emigrated to England; the total is stated by those who wrote immediately after the event, to have exceeded two hundred thousand Protestants!

Such appears to have been the first important emigration of Protestants from Ireland, and the first great numerical deduction from the amounts of our Protestant population. Would that it had there ceased for ever! alas! the very same spirit and the very same causes do still exist, in this out day, and conspire to promote a similar emigration.

Revolution of 1688

The revolution of 1688 was perfected in Ireland just half a century after this rebellion, which, while it caused so extended an emigration of the Protestants of the inferior orders, promoted, in no measured degree, the absenteeism of the higher classes, for the horrors of popish bigotry, and the atrocities of Irish hate, created this impression upon every class.

During the period of the rebellion and the revolution much was effected by the government which saw plainly, especially in Cromwell’s time, that the allegiance of Ireland depended on the strength of the protestant population, and much also was performed by the landlords, who now learned that the security of their estates depended altogether on the amount of their protestant tenantry; the beneficial effects of the encouragement which the Protestants then received were revealed during the struggle of the revolution, in which the indomitable conduct of the Protestants of Ireland proved so powerful an auxiliary to the cause of genuine liberty.

Golden age of the Protestants of Ireland

Shortly after the agitation of that glorious struggle had subsided, and all had become calm and tranquil, when the Protestant settlers began to discover the true value of their newly-acquired possessions, and when the popish natives began to perceive the utter inability of their insurrectionary propensities, the whole face of the country presented a new and gratifying appearance; indeed, this period was the golden age of the Protestants of Ireland.

The surface of the country was, in a great degree, divided by the various proprietors into large farms that varied from fifty to two hundred acres, (for they had not yet learned to give their tenants merely “a bit of land,” which is as little suited to support, a family, as it is to pay the rent;) the boundaries of these farms are still visible on the various estates, and, in general, they still bear the very names they then received; the labourers on those farms were the settlers themselves, assisted by such of the natives as were reclaimed from their wild and wandering habits.

In such a state of things, when there was at the same time perfect internal tranquility, the whole frame of social life became improved, the resources of the country began to be developed, the lands were cleared of some of their endless woods, and numerous bogs and lakes were drained and reclaimed, and all things held out the prospect of as rapid improvement as has been ever known in any nation; the natives in vast numbers gradually forgot their prejudices amid the improvement that surrounded them, and, in adopting the manners and arts of the settlers, did also gradually and silently pass over to their religious profession.

This state of prosperity, however, was not without its attendant evil; it lulled the proprietary to sleep; they had reaped in it the harvest of protection and quiet, which they had sought for in encouraging Protestant settlers of the lower orders, and peopling their estates with such faithful protectors, and the long period of nearly half a century’s tranquillity which followed the revolution, appeared to their short sight as giving promise of there never again being any storm to trouble its smooth waters; they began to think that they had done enough for mere protection, and that as they were now secure from all disturbance in their estates, they might fairly turn their energies to increase the value of their possessions.

It is to this mistaken sense of security—to this erroneous idea that they had done enough for protection, that we are to ascribe those injudicious steps which led to the prodigious emigration of Protestants, which took place during the last century.


The commotions of Ireland have generally occurred at sufficient intervals to allow the generation that witnessed them to pass away, and to liberalise the feelings of the rising generation.

The long intervals of calm which followed the revolution had this effect, and led the proprietary into a system of setting their lands, which has been followed by the most disastrous consequences in the emigration of their Protestant tenantry;—that system is thus described by a writer who witnessed it, and who published his pamphlet in 1745:

Popish tenants are daily preferred and Protestant rejected, either for the sake of swelling a rental, or adding some more duties which Protestants will not submit to; but the greatest mischief, in this way, is done by a class of men, whom I will call land-jobbers.

Land-jobbers have introduced for farmers the lower sort of papists who were employed formerly as labourers, while the lands were occupied by the substantial Protestants; but since potatoes have grown so much, in credit, and burning the ground has become so fashionable, (a manure so easily and readily acquired,) these cottagers, who set no value on their labour, scorn to be servants any longer, but fancy themselves in the degree of masters as soon as they can accomplish the planting an acre of potatoes. One of this description, not being able singly to occupy any considerable quantity of ground, twelve or twenty of them, and sometimes more, cast their eyes on a plow-land occupied by many industrious Protestants, who, from a common ancestor, who planted them perhaps one hundred years before, have swarmed into so many stocks, built-houses, made many improvements, and nursed the land, in expectation of being favoured by their landlord in a new lease.

These cottagers, seeing the flourishing condition of this colony, the warm plight of the houses, but especially the strong sod on the earth, made so by various composts collected with much care and toil, and which secures to them a long continuance of this beloved, destructive manure, made by burning the green sward, engage some neighbours to take this plow-land, and all jointly bind themselves to become under-tenants to this land-jobber, and to pay to him an immoderate rent. This encourages him to out-bid the unhappy Protestant, and the great advance in rent tempts the avaricious and ill-judging landlord to accept his proposal.

The Protestants being thus driven out of their settlements, transport themselves, their families, and effects, to America, there to meet a more hospitable reception among strangers to their persons, but friends to their religion and civil principles.”

The same writer adds,—

“Some endeavour to excuse themselves by saying, that protestant tenants cannot be had—they may thank themselves, if that be true, for they have helped to banish them, by not receiving them when they might. But it is to be hoped we are not yet so distressed; those who have the reputation of good landlords, and encouragers of Protestants never want them. But there is a Protestant and a Popish price for land, and he who would have Protestants on his estate, must depart from his Popish price.

Here, I fear, the matter will stick, it will be as hard to persuade a gentleman to fall from one thousand pounds a-year to eight hundred, as it was to prevail on the lawyer in the gospel to sell all, and save his soul.”

—Such was the system which our proprietary adopted for the increase of their rentals, for the encouragement of Papists, and the emigration of Protestants, as it is described in a work written at the time, and now nearly ninety years of age; the effect of this system on the population of the country may be interred from another authority of a later date.

In 1793 Sir L. Parsons testified as follows:—

“Those large farms, which a few years ago, were all pasture grounds, each occupied by the Protestant farmer, are now broken into several parcels, tenanted for the most part by Catholic husbandmen, so that seven or eight Catholics hold the ground at present, which one Protestant held formerly.”

Thus this system had the double effect of increasing the numerical amount of the Popish population, and of diminishing the number of Protestants by compelling them to emigrate.

The emigration which then took place in consequence of this system was truly disastrous, and has done more towards the ruin of the English and Protestant interests in Ireland, than any other event, or even than the accumulation of events since the conquest by Henry II.

The Lord Primate Boulter had just then come from England, and had been appointed one of the Lords Justices, and his penetrating eye at once perceived the evil which was just then beginning to reveal itself—he wrote to the ministry in England, a letter on the subject, from which the following is an extract:—

“We have had for some years, some agents from the colonies of America, and several masters of ships have gone about the country, and deluded the people with stories of great plenty, and estates to be had for going for, in parts of the world, and they have been the better able to seduce the people, by reason of the necessities of the poor of late. The people that go hence make great complaints of the oppressions they suffer here, not from the government, but from their fellow-subjects of one kind or other, as well as the dearness of provisions, and say these oppressions are one reason of their going; but whatever causes their going, it is certain that about 4,200 men, women and children, have been shipped off for the West Indies within these three years, and of these above 3,100 this last summer. The whole north is in a ferment at present, and the people are every day engaging one another to go next year to the West Indies; the humour has spread like a contagious distemper, and the people will hardly bear any one that tries to cure them of their madness. The worst is that it affects only Protestants, and reigns chiefly in the north, which is the seat of our linen manufactures.”

Such was the testimony of this Archbishop in 1728, when he wrote this letter, and in alluding to the “oppressions” of the landlords, of which these protestant emigrants complained, he expresses himself in that guarded way, which was necessary at a time when the aristocracy had so overwhelming an influence.

No doubt there were other auxiliary causes which co-operated with the conduct of the proprietary in exciting this ferment and desire for emigration, which so universally pervaded the protestant population at that time, and, indeed, so general was this desire, that almost all the inferior protestant farmers, who possessed the means, did actually emigrate.

Extent of emigration

The extent in numerical amount, to which this emigration went, is far beyond what would be supposed, but it appears on the clearest evidence that from the year 1725 to 1768, the number of emigrants gradually increased from 3,000 to 6,000 annually, making altogether about two hundred thousand Protestants!

This number would at all times appear great, even in the present century, when our population is so increased, but when we consider the population of that day, it will appear truly astonishing, by the returns laid before Parliament in 1731, the total number of Protestants in Ireland was 527,505, or a little more than half a million.—Now, of these, 200,000 emigrated, so that making ample allowance for the increase of population between the years 1731 and 1768, we shall still find that one-third of the whole Protestant population of Ireland emigrated within that disastrous period!

We are the descendants of the two-thirds, who remained, and, as it appears by the last census, that we have increased to two millions, we may see how, in the third, which emigrated, we have to mourn the loss of another million of Protestants.

Yet, let us not mourn their departure; their’s has been the high destiny of founding and peopling new nations—the lofty destiny of rocking the cradle of the infant genius of America—their’s has been the Elysian lot of changing the barren wilderness into the fruitful field, and seated, as it were, under their own vine, they have found a peaceful and happy home, instead of all that storm and trouble, and want and danger, which haunt us in this wretched island—they are far away from our present afflictions, and it is they who have emigrated, and not we who have remained, that have the brightest prospect of happiness and peace.

An emigration so extensive—draining the country of that population which was the only support of “the settlement” of property, and of the allegiance of this island,—naturally alarmed both the government and the proprietary, it became the subject of very frequent communication between the government here, and the ministry in England, and many persons turned their attention to devise means of staying it.

It was suggested among other remedies, that the government should place a positive prohibition against any ship sailing from an Irish port with passengers; this was the absurd remedy adopted in the time of Charles I., to prevent the puritans and others emigrating from England to America, and which actually prevented the sailing of the vessel in which Oliver Cromwell had engaged his passage as an emigrant to New England; this was in the year 1637, and now, in precisely a century afterwards, it was suggested to take the same steps to prevent the emigration of the Protestants of Ireland.

The strangest feature of this suggestion was, that it came from the proprietary, who were themselves the cause of that emigration which they were now anxious to prevent, and who always had it in their power to stay it, but it was in that day even as it is in our present times, they merely mourned the evil, and, instead of encouraging a Protestant tenantry, they looked to other sources of relief.

It is scarcely necessary to add that this suggestion was not acted on, but most fortunately for the property of the country, the object which was so anxiously sought for, was compassed by a measure of a totally different kind, and from which such a result was never anticipated.

Octennial Bill

That measure was the Octennial Bill, which passed in 1768.

Previous to the passing of that measure the Irish Parliament might be said to be perpetual, for it was limited only by the demise of the Crown.

In consequence of this the country was but little disturbed by elections, and the proprietary, as well as the members concerned themselves very little about the state of their constituency; but after the passing of this bill, limiting the duration of parliament to eight years, our country gentlemen were thrown back more frequently on their constituency, and compelled on that account to watch and direct it.

Stop to the emigration of Protestants

At this period none but Protestants could vote, and, of course, the electioneering influence of every landlord depended on the number of Protestants on his estate; in order, therefore, to create a strong county influence the landlords were necessitated to stop their system of removing their Protestant tenantry and making them give place to the Papists, and they thus put an effectual stop to the emigration of Protestants, by giving to them beneficial leases, and thereby inducing them to remain; nor were they content with this, for they were so anxious to encrease their electioneering influence, that they sought after Protestants in every way: various parties were induced to come from England and Scotland, and large bodies, as the Palatines, were tempted to leave their own country, (for the Protestants were then much persecuted in Germany and other places on the continent,) and to settle in Ireland, while the Province of Ulster was assailed with the applications and promises of our proprietary, to induce them to settle in the other provinces, the result of all which was, that a Protestant population was soon visible, springing up in the darkest and most barren places in the land; nor was this the only effect of the bill, for when the landlords showed their desire and gave their energies to the extension of Protestantism, large bodies of Papists gladly flung from them the ragged superstitions of their Church, and avowed themselves as no longer Romanists.

The singular system of terrorism and combination which holds the members of that church together in this island was found too weak for the influence of the landlords, and it gave way every where before them; indeed so extended was the conformity at that time that the Catholic Body, as it was then called, petitioned the Parliament to extend the franchise to the papists, on the grounds that the population was conforming so rapidly in order to obtain that privilege under the profession of Protestantism!

This was certainly a happy state of things for the Protestant population; it was too happy to last long, especially for a people so doomed to suffering affliction as the Protestants of Ireland; it was completely suppressed by that unfortunate measure—the enfranchisement of the Roman Catholics in 1793.

That measure, while it conferred power on those who, from religion and nationality were estranged from the proprietary, removed at the same time the motive for encouraging Protestants, it removed the premium which the landlord previously found in encreasing his Protestant tenantry, and so brought all things back again to the afflicting system which preceded the passing of the Octennial Bill, and which had led to the expatriation of the Protestants, as already detailed.

We cannot therefore, be surprised that the fountains of emigration, which had been sealed for a time, were again opened and poured forth a stream which has continued, until it has become a mighty flood, as at this day.

Fresh emigration to America

We now approach the emigration of the present times, an emigration on such an extended scale as to give promise for exceeding anything of the kind ever yet known in any nation; it commenced shortly after the rebellion, when a spirit of a peculiarly hostile character began to reveal itself among the Romanists, so as to induce many Protestants to withdraw from the country for a long period; however the numbers were comparatively small, until the freehold leases which the landlords had granted to the Protestant tenantry previous to 1793, began to expire, and then the numbers swelled to an enormous amount, by reason of the removal of the old Protestant freeholders at the expiration of their leases.

During the last ten years the number of Protestant emigrants has regularly encreased each succeeding year, shewing a greater number than that which preceded it—Nor is this extensive drain of the Protestant population, so far as it has yet prevailed, the only or the greatest evil, for the whole body is in motion—the great body of the Protestant farmers, and mechanics, and manufacturers are in motion. They are all thinking on the subject, and preparing to emigrate.

There is scarcely a family of the lower order of Protestants which has not some member or near relative already in America, and all are longing to flee away from this ill-fated island, looking forward with anxiety to the time when they can so arrange their little affairs, as to be enabled to emigrate with some prospect of success.

In the Province of Connaught, the various counties of Leitrim, and Sligo, and Mayo, have poured forth a great portion of their population; and the last-named county (Mayo) although it contains a smaller number of Protestants than almost any other county in Ireland, has actually lost by emigration during the last two years no less than 1150 Protestants.

In the Province of Munster, the counties of Limerick and Tipperary are already nearly exhausted, and promise ere long to be completely so; while Waterford and some parts of Cork have lost prodigious numbers.

In the Province of Leinster, the several counties of Wexford, and Longford, and Queen’s County, have literally sent and are preparing to send, thousands to America.

In the Province of Ulster, the great settlement of the Protestants, the number that have already emigrated is almost incredible, while the desire to imitate their example is almost universal among those who remain.

Emigration from Ulster

During the last few years, the number of Protestants from the North has equalled, and sometimes exceeded those from all the rest of Ireland together.

The four ports of Newry, Belfast, Derry, and Sligo are those nearest our Protestant population; and although vast numbers have gone from Dublin, and very many have sailed from the ports of New Ross, and Waterford, and Cork, and even from Limerick, and though some few have sailed from Galway, Westport, and Ballina, yet the great body of Protestants have gone from the northern ports; that once happy and prosperous province, whose population was as wealthy and peaceful as it was religious and happy, is rapidly losing those beautiful features, for which we once loved and admired it, and the scowling and ferocious aspect of Popery is fast unveiling itself where the smiling and gentle spirit of Protestantism was once almost universal.

That a change of a fearful and striking nature should be observable in other districts is only what might be expected.

In some parishes, where there was a few years ago a respectable Protestant population, there is not a solitary individual now; so that where hundreds once were, there is not a trace of them to be found at present.

In other places the number has been so reduced that we have but a meagre skeleton of what there once was, and even these are compelled, in their weakness now, to submit to every insulting indignity which their triumphing competitors are pleased to enjoin.

In some parishes, the present Protestants are so resolved on emigrating that the building of churches, &c. has been stopped, as being likely to be utterly useless in another year, from the intended emigration of the entire Protestant population, instances of which are known to ourselves.

Emigration statistics

It is a melancholy fact that the whole Protestant population of the lower orders are in preparation to abandon this country, and to seek a more happy settlement in other climes; they seem lifting their wings and preparing to “flee into the wilderness” of the new world, in order to escape the troubles of the old.

It is utterly impossible to acertain with any precision the total number of Protestants who have left us, as the subject of emigration occupied, for a long time, very little of public attention, but of late the departure of so many Protestants has drawn the attention of many to the subject, and means, reasonably effective, have been resorted to to ascertain the numbers that sail each year from all the several sea-ports.

There are many accurate details as to the last four years, collected with great pains, and they give the following result.—

In 1829 the number was 12,000—in 1830 it was 11,000—in 1831 it encreased to 29,600—and in 1832, the amount of which has never before been published, it was 31,500, being a total of 94,5000 Protestant souls within the short space of four years!

The number of last year would have been considerably greater, only that the prevalence of the cholera disarranged the affairs of a large portion of intended emigrants, especially when they learned that the emigrants were necessitated to undergo a quarantine beyond the Atlantic; these persons will probably depart this present year, and thus swell to an enormous extent the tide that has already been flowing from our coast.

During the last two years large bodies of Roman Catholics, sick of the bondage which they suffer from their priests, and from the factious, and allured by the success which has attended others, have been induced to emigrate.

These Roman Catholics, however, who were very numerous at the ports in the south and west of Ireland, are not included in the statement above given, which embraces the Protestant emigrants alone.

Causes of Protestant emigration

So extensive an emigration of that Protestant population, on which the safety of the property and the allegiance of this island so much depend, is entitled to the deepest attention; and it well becomes every man, who is anxious for the public weal, to endeavour to ascertain the real causes of so disastrous an evil.

In setting forth those causes which appear to us to be the most effective ones, we would observe, that we have already seen how the first great stream of Protestant emigration from Ireland was caused by the terrible and insupportable persecutions which they were compelled to endure from the popish population in the rebellion of 1641; we have also seen how the second great stream was caused by the avidity of the landlords, manifested in that system which they adopted during the last century, and we shall now find that the very same causes, namely, persecution by the Papists and the avidity of the landlords for an extravagant rental, are the grand and most effective of all the motives which have led to that melancholy and disheartening tide of emigration which gives promise of soon exhausting the whole protestant population of Ireland. We shall concisely consider these.

I.—It was said by Lord Chancellor Clare some forty years ago that, “The great misfortunes of Ireland, and particularly of the lower classes of its inhabitants is, that at the expiration of every lease, the farm is put up to auction, and without considering whether it is a Protestant or a Papist—whether he is industrious or indolent—whether he is a solvent or a beggar, the highest bidder is declared the tenant by the law-agent of the estate, I must say to the disgrace of the landlord, and most frequently much in his advantage. It happened to me to canvass the county in which I reside, and on an estate, which had been madly set at £20,000 a year, as I recollect, I found but five Protestant tenants!

Such were the sentiments of one who knew Ireland and its evils well, and who possessed both the means of ascertaining the truth, and the moral courage to proclaim it in his place in parliament.

The manner in which this system acts in the promotion of protestant emigration is easily explained: when a farm is vacant, there is an extraordinary competition for it, and men will out-bid each other to an extent ruinous to themselves though lucrative to the landlord.

The protestant farmer in making his proposal, calculates whether he will be able to feed, and clothe, and educate his family on the profit; and as his decent and respectable habits of life require a certain expenditure, he feels he can, as an honest man, offer only a certain moderate rent for the farm.

The Romanist, on the other hand, merely calculates whether he can make the rent; and as he is, in general, contented to keep his family on the lowest possible kind of feeding and clothing, he is enabled to live on much less, and so, saving a larger sum out of the proceeds of the farm, out-bids the Protestant.

The result of this competition is always the same, namely, the Romanist takes possession of the land, and the Protestant takes his passage to America!

Unhappily, our landlords have learned to value a tenant, not according to his character for honesty or loyalty, nor according to his disposition to improve the land, nor according to the punctuality of his payments, but according to the amount which he adds to the rent-roll; he may be a Whiteboy, a Black-foot, or a Whitefoot—he may be a Steel-boy, or a Ribbon-man, spending his days in the Shebeen, and his nights in the Ballinafad, still, if he only offer the highest rent, he is declared the tenant; and, unfortunately, to make this matter still worse in its effects, the landlords pay little or no attention to the matter, but hand over the management of their tenantry to stewards and drivers, who being, in general, native Papists, stupid in all the prejudices, and implicated often in the designs of the ill-affected, take care that their companions in disaffection shall always possess the preference.

It is a sad and melancholy fact, that owing to this system, the whole face of the country is by degrees changing owners—passing from the hands of the loyal, peaceful, and religious Protestant, who was a good tenant, as well as a faithful subject, into the hands of the most active and wily partizans of those who are opposed to the interests of the landlord, as they are estranged from the supremacy of England; so that, at this moment, the leaders and movers of Agrarian disturbances are found, not among the impoverished cotters, but among the substantial farmers, proving that it is not poverty, but something more deep as well as more dangerous, that is the moving cause of our agrarian insurrections.

II.—A second element in this moving cause of protestant emigration, is to be found in the peculiar state of society among the lower orders in Ireland.

In every part of this country there has sprung up of late years a system of forming knots, or cabals, of all the factious and most ill-affected in the vicinity; those who conceive themselves aggrieved by some government prosecution—others who feel themselves injured by some needy landlord—some who are descended from ancient families, and are looking to the forfeited estates, and others who forecast the same object, hoping to obtain something in the general confusion;*(see note at end) to these are added some, whose mistaken notion of patriotism after Irish independence, and others whose religious zeal incites to the expulsion of heresy, and the exaltation of their church.

All these various persons are combined in discontent, and are in cabal with factious and ill-affected intentions in every neighbourhood and around it, as a nucleus, all the evil passions of the people rally.

The priest of the parish is generally, by a sort of common consent, the nominal head of all these, a step of much advantage to them, as while it gives the sanction of religion, it removes from them all the petty rivalries and dissentions that would exist, if they were to select a head among themselves.

The great object of the longing aspirasions of these persons, is the expulsion of the Sasenach, and some vague and undefined expectation of some convulsion or revolution, which will alter the present system of property altogether, and confer on them some halcyon state in which neither rent, nor taxes, nor tithes, will be so much as named among them.

The conduct of these persons is what might be expected; there is no species of petty persecution which the Protestants are not exposed to from them; and from all that mass of population, with whom they have influence, all the enmity of the native Papists against England—against government—against the landlord—against Protestantism, is wrecked on the ill-fated and unprotected heads of the lower order of Protestants; for some years this system has been carried to a fearful extent, so that our people are beaten at fairs and markets, and exposed at all times to the open hostility, as well as the secret enmity of the native and Popish population; so that it would be impossible, even had they no other evils to contend against, for them to remain in the country.

Those persons, who, from their rank in life, do not associate with the lower orders, can have no conception of the extent to which this system of petty persecution is carried on, it keeps them in a state of increasing anxiety and disgust, so that they are always in alarm, and never have a comfortable sense of personal security among them; so that there is no object of an earthly kind, which is talked of and longed after, at their fireside, so much or so anxiously, as an opportunity of fleeing such an unceasing and secret persecution.

Nothing can tend more than this feeling, this sense of insecurity, to promote emigration, and unfortunately this result of the system of persecution has the effect of holding out a premium to the continuance of the system, as will thus appear.

There is nothing more common, during the last few years, than for some Roman Catholic, who sees a Protestant possessed of a farm, which would be a desirable acquisition, to resolve to make it his own, and in order to effect this object, a system of annoyance and persecution is resorted to, a threatening notice is posted on his house, his family is insulted, himself beaten at the fair, or returning from market, and his life made so uncomfortable, and, as he thinks, so insecure, that he proposes to free himself from all by emigration; this was the very object his persecutor was aiming at, and, having succeeded in removing the occupant, the Roman Catholic gets possession of the farm.

This is a matter of no difficulty, for he will offer any rent, and will be strongly recommended by the Popish underlings of the landlord, who is often unwittingly thus made the instrument of this system; and, besides all this, the system of combination, which is of late so general among them, enables them to prevent the possibility of any stranger, or otherwise obnoxious person getting possession of the land, and the landlord, in his own utter ignorance of the true character of the applicants, accepts that character, whether black or fair, just as their stewards or drivers are pleased to say.

These men, owing to our radically vicious system, have it always in their power to darken and blacken the character of a Protestant, and to exalt the character of perhaps the most insidious and disaffected individual in the neighbourhood. God knoweth how often and how fearfully they have exerted this power with effect!

Such are the two chiefly-effective causes that have led the Protestants of Ireland to emigrate.

They have been neglected by the landlords, and persecuted by the Popish population.—There are, without question, many other causes, all assisting in the promotion of the same end, the modern liberalism of the government, the concessions made to the Papists, the breaking down of the linen trade, and a laudable desire to improve their condition, all lead them to emigrate, but the two causes already noticed, are those which are the grand and chief motives which influence the mass of the emigrants. They feel themselves neglected—unprotected—unfriended; and while they are broken in fortunes, they are all but broken in spirit.

Nature of Irish landlords

It is passing strange, that the proprietary should thus treat that population which has, through good report and through evil report, invariably supported their interests, and their conduct can only be accounted for, on the principle already noticed, at the commencement of this paper. They have adopted the opinion that England will protect them in their estates, and they see no use in protecting themselves or their properties, inasmuch as they conceive it will always he the interest of England to give them the protection they require.

When they see danger in the expulsion and emigration of Protestants, and in the increase and location of Papists, and that it is the factious priests and seditious leaders who possess the whole influence over that increasing body, they admit the greatness of the evil, but console themselves under the idea that when matters come to the worst, England will be obliged to interfere and afford them and “The Settlement” of property that protection which they stand in need of.

They see no necessity for encouraging loyalty or religion, no necessity for a moderate rental, no necessity for imparting comfort or civilization to the people, they see no necessity for any sacrifice of trouble or of rent or of anything else, on their part, to secure that protection which they conceive England, for her own sake, must always afford them.

They look for protection, not in the affections or respect of their tenantry, but in the supposed interests of England.

The only palliation for their conduct is to be found in the peculiar circumstances of their estates, which are so encumbered with debts arising out of the extravagance of their fathers and themselves, that at least one-half of the rental goes annually to liquidate them, so that in their desire to maintain the supposed importance of the family name they are necessitated to set their lands far beyond their reasonable value.

It is thus the Protestants are found to emigrate, it is thus the lands are got into the possession of the disaffected, and it is thus the landlords look to England to give them powers to coerce the people; they people their estates, (after removing the loyal Protestants,) with an ill-affected tenantry, and then call on the Government to protect them from that very class of tenantry which, they themselves are encouraging!

That there are some bright and illustrious exceptions among our proprietors is as certain as the shining of the sun; but those bright exceptions only serve to point out more plainly the desolation which others have created.

For ourselves we have no hesitation in saying that in these times, when new questions are mooted daily in a spirit of change, there is no security for the property of the country, no pledge for the allegiance of this island, no peace for her inhabitants of any class, unless in the encouragement of a Protestant population; and we must confess that our forebodings are so far melancholy as to incline to the opinion that it is now too late for even that remedy at present.


Thus is the history of the lower orders of the Irish Protestants a history of “suffering affliction” and of emigration!

They came here two centuries ago, and many of them not half a century ago, as emigrants from England and Scotland: they have been “strangers and pilgrims” in the land, and it may be said of their sojourn in this island, as of the Patriarch of old, that “few and evil have been the days of their pilgrimage.”

They are now anew loosened from the sails of their fathers’ adoption, and breathing their sad and bitter farewel to the green and sunny hills of their land—they have become emigrants again.

It is a destiny which is passing strange, and as melancholy and interesting as it is strange; but let us bow in meekness before Him who rules the destiny of nations, and who hath his own purpose in that which, he has appointed unto us.

We must not presume to fathom the deep purposes of His will; but as we have seen Him already cradle into maturity and people a new world beyond the western wave, where His name is known and His truth is loved, and has affected this glorious end chiefly by the emigration of Protestants from these islands, so we may imagine that He designs to carry on this glorious work, and, as we have witnessed a new spirit of Christian knowledge, and zeal, and piety raised up among the Protestants of Ireland, so we may conjecture that they maybe designed to be the honoured instruments of carrying the knowledge of His ways, and raising the standard of His salvation in the unpeopled and endless tracts of the American world.

The roses of Sharon will bloom in the wide Savannah, and the flowers of Carmel blossom in the transatlantic forest, and perfect civilization and true religion make their dwelling in that land of emigrants!

As for the land they leave—this doomed land, weeping with her thousand sorrows—there seems but little hope: she has not yet passed through her sea of troubles, and there seems nothing but “blackness and darkness” before her.


* A curious instance of this is known to the writer of this article, in the little country town in which he resides: there was a decent Roman Catholic family, which was induced to go to America in 1832; the eldest son, however, remained at home, and he and all the family avowed the motive to have been, that he is entitled to some estate forfeited by his ancestors, and that he remains expecting to obtain possession of it in some revolution, which they think possible ere long!