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Confiscation of Irish Property at the Revolution
WE now reach the term of this part of our historical inquiries.
The predisposing cause of all the religious troubles in Ireland, was, the natural irritation of the ancient Irish families, at the confiscations, made in the reigns of Henry the second, Henry the eighth, Edward the sixth, queen Elizabeth, and James the first. By these, a great proportion of their hereditary possessions was wrested from them, and transferred to adventurers from England. This divided the kingdom into the Old Irish and the New Settlers,-two parties, strongly distinguished from each other, by language, habits, and manners. The reformation introduced the further division of the kingdom into a catholic and protestant party.
The former included almost all the families of the ancient Irish blood, and the far greater part of the new families. As the latter had participated in the general plunder, they were sometimes involved in the general jealousy, with which all the sharers of it were viewed by the ancient proprietors and their descendants: and being of English descent,-most of them allied to English families, and all of them holding their titles under the same confiscations as the protestants, they were thought to be more favourably received by the protestant party. So far as respected the free exercise of the catholic
religion, they agreed with the descendants of the old Irish; but, when any thing like a restoration of property came in question, they were suspected of showing something of a protestant feeling, and of being too ready to come into terms of accommodation, in which neither the civil nor the religious rights of the general body of the Irish catholics were, in the opinion of its great majority, sufficiently consulted. This contributed mainly to the dissentions, which uniformly distracted the councils of the Irish catholics, and finally brought on the ruin of the confederacy.
The consequences of it, and the injustice shown to the innocent catholics, by the government of Charles the second, are shortly stated in the passage which we last extracted from lord Clare's celebrated speech. Never, surely, did any race of men pay more dearly, than the Irish catholics, for their dissentions.
But, even at the time, of which we are now speaking, their calamities were not at their close. -An extract from the same speech will succinctly exhibit the last scene of the tragedy.
"After the expulsion of James the second," (says the earl of Clare), "from the throne of England, "the old inhabitants made a final effort for the
recovery of their ancient power, in which they were once more defeated by an English army, "and the slender relics of Irish possessions became "the subject of fresh confiscation. From the report "made by the commissioners appointed by the par"liament of England in 1698, it appears, that the
"Irish subjects outlawed for the rebellion of 1688 "amounted to 3,978; and that their Irish posses"sions, as far as could be computed, were of the " annual value of 211,6237., comprising one mil"lion sixty thousand seven hundred and ninety-two "acres. This fund was sold under the authority of an English act of parliament, to defray the expenses incurred by England in reducing the "rebels of 1688; and the sale introduced into "Ireland a new set of adventurers.
"It is a very curious and important speculation "to look back to the forfeitures of Ireland incurred "in the last century. The superficial contents of "the island are calculated at eleven millions forty"two thousand six hundred and eighty-two acres. "Let us now examine the state of forfeitures:
"In the reign of James the first, the "whole of the province of Ulster was "conficated, containing
"Set out by the court of claims at "the restoration
"Forfeitures of 1688
"So that the whole of your island has been "confiscated, with the exception of the estates of "five or six old families of English blood, some of "whom had been attainted in the reign of Henry "the eighth, but recovered their possessions before Tyrone's rebellion, and had the good fortune to escape the pillage of the English republic in
"flicted by Cromwell; and no inconsiderable por"tion of the island has been confiscated twice, or perhaps thrice, in the course of a century. The "situation, therefore, of the Irish nation at the revo"lution stands unparalleled in the history of the "inhabited world."
Here the history of the sanguinary executions of the Irish catholics, and of the confiscations of their property, in some manner closes. In defence of these atrocious inflictions, it has been sometimes contended, that they were justified by the rebellions of the Irish catholics. To arrive at a just conclusion on this head, a full examination of the causes, nature, and extent of these rebellions, is absolutely necessary. The writer begs leave to express his conviction, that such an examination would demonstratively show, that however reprehensible the conduct of the individuals engaged in them might have been, neither their number, nor their guilt, was so great as to justify the horrid severities which were exercised on the catholic body at large.
Far be it from the writer to justify a resistance to the government of a country, on the ground of religion; it must be admitted, that no religion inculcates passive submission, even to the most unjust government, more than the catholic. The alleged rebellions he therefore neither defends, nor, for the present, attempts to extenuate. But he submits, that the accusers of the Irish catholics should be consistent with their own principles :—they should consider the various passages in the writings of the
patriarchs of the reformation, in which they justify resistance to government on account of religion, and the many crowns that were broken, and governments that were overturned, to introduce the reformation into those states. If they condemn these revolutionary proceedings, they may, consistently with their own principles, condemn the insurrections of the Irish catholics :-but, if they justify the former, they may be justly required to avow some principle, which made it lawful for the reformers to use these means for establishing their new religion, and which, at the same time, rendered it unlawful for the Irish catholics to use them for maintaining their old *.
The Irish Brigade.
A LARGE proportion of the sufferers under the confiscation in 1688, emigrated to France and Spain, and composed, what is termed, THE IRISH BRIGADE, a military corps, renowned in every part of Europe for their sufferings, their valour, and their honour. To them, the roughest and most perilous services of the armies to which they belonged, were too often appropriated. They constantly acquitted themselves of them without a murmur and without a fault; and verified, by their conduct, the truth of the expression, Un gentilhomme est toujours gentilhomme. Many gentlemen of the
On this subject "Lord Castlemain's Apology," and Patterson's "Image of both Churches," may be usefully consulted.