The Cambridge Modern History: Planned by the Late Lord Acton - Vol. 4

By A. W. Ward; G. W. Prothero et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII.
IRELAND.
FROM THE PLANTATION OF ULSTER TO THE CROMWELLIAN
SETTLEMENT. (1611-69.)

IT is usual to describe the thirty years that elapsed between the plantation of Ulster and the Rebellion of 1641 as a period of peace and prosperity. That they were so in a relative sense is not to be denied. It is unquestionable that the country, thanks to the industry of the new settlers, made rapid progress in material prosperity. All the same it was a period of deep unrest and suppressed discontent. For the time, the sword had done its work. Their chiefs slain, exiled, or imprisoned, themselves decimated by famine and pestilence, the natives looked on in impotent rage while the chicaneries of the law stripped them one by one of lands to which they believed they possessed an indefeasible right.

In the years immediately following on the plantation of Ulster three other plantations, in North Wexford ( 1610-20), Longford and Ely O'Carroll ( 1615-20), Leitrim and the midland districts along the Shannon ( 1620), comprising nearly half a million acres of land, were taken in hand. But, though not one of these could be regarded as even moderately successful, and though the market price of land in Ulster averaged not more than £50 for a thousand acres, such were still the fortunes to be made in land-jobbing that it seemed as if the natural boundaries of Ireland could alone set a limit to the craving for Irish land. It was indeed an age of planters and plantation projects; and the philosophical reasoning of Bacon was hardly required to convince men willing to risk their lives and fortunes in trying to effect a settlement in Virginia or on the inhospitable coasts of Newfoundland that they would find a more remunerative sphere for their labours nearer home, and would at the same time render the State signal service by spreading order and civility among the Irish. For Ireland it was unfortunate that the former consideration largely outweighed the latter. The whole aspect of affairs had changed entirely since the days when Henry VIII had proposed to win Ireland by "sober ways, political

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