Cromwell arrives in Ireland—He marches to Drogheda—Cruel Massacre of
the Inhabitants after promise of Quarter—Account of an
Eyewitness—Brutality of the Cromwellian Soldiers—Ladies are not
spared—Cromwell's Letters—He boasts of his Cruelties—Massacre and
Treachery at Drogheda—Brave Resistance at Clonmel—Charles II. arrives
in Scotland—The Duplicity of his Conduct towards the Irish—Siege of
Limerick—Ireton's Cruelties and Miserable Death—The Banishment to
Connaught—The Irish are sold as Slaves to Barbadoes—General Desolation
and Misery of the People.

[A.D. 1649-1655.]

romwell was now master of England, and ruled with all that authority
which is so freely granted to a revolutionary leader, and so often
denied to a lawful monarch. The great body of the English stood aghast
with horror when they discovered that regicide, and the substitution of
an illegal tyranny for one which at least was legal, was the end of all
their hopes. The new ruler was aware of the precariousness of his
position. The safety of his head, as well as the continuance of his
power, depended on the caprice of the multitude; and he saw that the
sword alone could maintain him in the elevated position to which he had
risen, and the still more elevated position to which he aspired. We
scarcely imagine him to have been more religious or less humane than
many of his contemporaries, though it is evident that he required a
great show of the kind of religion then fashionable to support his
character as a reformer, and that he considered himself obliged to
exercise wholesale cruelties to consolidate his power.

The rightful heir to the English throne was then at the Hague, uncertain
how to act and whither he should turn his steps. He wished to visit
Ireland, where he would have been received with enthusiastic loyalty by
the Catholics; but Ormonde persuaded him, from sinister motives, to
defer his intention. Ormonde and Inchiquin now took the field together.
The former advanced to Dublin, and the latter to Drogheda. This town was
held by a Parliamentary garrison, who capitulated on honorable terms.
Monck and Owen O'Neill, in the meantime, were acting in concert, and
Inchiquin captured supplies which the English General was sending to the
Irish chief. Newry, Dundalk, and the often-disputed and famous Castle of
Trim[483] surrendered to him, and he marched back to Ormonde in triumph.
As there appeared no hope of reducing Dublin except by famine, it was
regularly blockaded; and the Earl wrote to Charles to inform him that
his men were so loyal, he could "persuade half his army to starve
outright for his Majesty."

Ormonde now moved his camp from Finglas to Rathmines, and at the same
time reinforcements arrived for the garrison, under the command of
Colonels Reynolds and Venables. The besiegers made an attempt to guard
the river, and for this purpose, Major-General Purcell was sent to take
possession of the ruined Castle of Bagotrath, about a mile from the
camp. Ormonde professed to have expected an attack during the night, and
kept his men under arms; but just as he had retired to rest, an alarm
was given. Colonel Jones had made a sortie from the city; the sortie
became for a brief moment an engagement, and ended in a total rout. The
Earl was suspected; and whether he had been guilty of treachery or of
carelessness, he lost his credit, and soon after left the kingdom.

Cromwell had been made Lieutenant-General of the English army in
Ireland, but as yet he had been unable to take the command in person.
His position was precarious; and he wished to secure his influence still
more firmly in his own country, before he attempted the conquest of
another. He had succeeded so far in the accomplishment of his plans that
his departure and his journey to Bristol were undertaken in royal style.
He left the metropolis early in June, in a coach drawn by six gallant
Flanders' mares, and concluded his progress at Milford Haven, where he
embarked, reaching Ireland on the 14th of August, 1649. He was attended
by some of the most famous of the Parliamentary Generals—his son,
Henry, the future Lord Deputy; Monk, Blake, Ireton, Waller, Ludlow and
others. He brought with him, for the propagation of the Gospel and the
Commonwealth, £200,000 in money, eight regiments of foot, six of horse,
several troops of dragoons, a large supply of Bibles,[484] and a
corresponding provision of ammunition and scythes. The Bibles were to be
distributed amongst his soldiers, and to be given to the poor
unfortunate natives, who could not understand a word of their contents.
The scythes and sickles were to deprive them of all means of living, and
to preach a ghastly commentary on the conduct of the men who wished to
convert them to the new Gospel, which certainly was not one of peace.
Cromwell now issued two proclamations: one against intemperance, for he
knew well the work that was before him, and he could not afford to have
a single drunken soldier in his camp. The other proclamation prohibited
plundering the country people: it was scarcely less prudent. His
soldiers might any day become his masters, if they were not kept under
strict control; and there are few things which so effectually lessen
military discipline as permission to plunder: he also wished to
encourage the country people to bring in provisions. His arrangements
all succeeded.

Ormonde had garrisoned Drogheda with 3,000 of his choicest troops. They
were partly English, and were commanded by a brave loyalist, Sir Arthur
Aston. This was really the most important town in Ireland; and Cromwell,
whose skill as a military general cannot be disputed, at once determined
to lay siege to it. He encamped before the devoted city on the 2nd of
September, and in a few days had his siege guns posted on the hill shown
in the accompanying illustration, and still known as Cromwell's Fort.
Two breaches were made on the 10th, and he sent in his storming parties
about five o'clock in the evening. Earthworks had been thrown up inside
and the garrison resisted with undiminished bravery. The besieged at
last wavered; quarter[485] was promised to them, and they yielded; but
the promise came from men who knew neither how to keep faith or to show
mercy. The brave Governor, Sir Arthur Aston, retired with his staff to
an old mill on an eminence, but they were disarmed and slain in cold
blood. The officers and soldiers were first exterminated, and then men,
women, and children were put to the sword. The butchery occupied five
entire days; Cromwell has himself described the scene, and glories in
his cruelty. Another eyewitness, an officer in his army, has described
it also, but with some faint touch of remorse.

Massacre at Drogheda

Massacre at Drogheda



A number of the townspeople fled for safety to St. Peter's Church, on
the north side of the city, but every one of them was murdered, all
defenceless and unarmed as they were; others took refuge in the church
steeple, but it was of wood, and Cromwell himself gave orders that it
should be set on fire, and those who attempted to escape the flames were
piked. The principal ladies of the city had sheltered themselves in the
crypts. It might have been supposed that this precaution should be
unnecessary, or, at least, that English officers would respect their
sex; but, alas for common humanity! it was not so. When the slaughter
had been accomplished above, it was continued below. Neither youth nor
beauty was spared. Thomas Wood, who was one of these officers, and
brother to Anthony Wood, the Oxford historian, says he found in these
vaults "the flower and choicest of the women and ladies belonging to the
town; amongst whom, a most handsome virgin, arrayed in costly and
gorgeous apparel, kneeled down to him with tears and prayer to save her
life." Touched by her beauty and her entreaties he attempted to save
her, and took her out of the church; but even his protection could not
save her. A soldier thrust his sword into her body; and the officer,
recovering from his momentary fit of compassion, "flung her down over
the rocks," according to his own account, but first took care to possess
himself of her money and jewels. This officer also mentions that the
soldiers were in the habit of taking up a child, and using it as a
buckler, when they wished to ascend the lofts and galleries of the
church, to save themselves from being shot or brained. It is an evidence
that they knew their victims to be less cruel than themselves, or the
expedient would not have been found to answer.

Cromwell wrote an account of this massacre to the "Council of State."
His letters, as his admiring editor observes, "tell their own
tale;"[486] and unquestionably that tale plainly intimates that whether
the Republican General were hypocrite or fanatic—and it is probable he
was a compound of both—he certainly, on his own showing, was little
less than a demon of cruelty. Cromwell writes thus: "It hath pleased God
to bless our endeavours at Drogheda. After battery we stormed it. The
enemy were about 3,000 strong in the town. They made a stout resistance.
I believe we put to the sword the whole number of defendants. I do not
think thirty of the whole number escaped with their lives. Those that
did are in safe custody for the Barbadoes. This hath been a marvellous great mercy." In another letter he says that this "great thing" was done
"by the Spirit of God."

These savage butcheries had the intended effect. The inhabitants of all
the smaller towns fled at his approach, and the garrisons capitulated.
Trim, Dundalk, Carlingford, and Newry, had yielded; but Wexford still
held out. The garrison amounted to about 3,000 men, under the command of
Colonel Sinnot, a brave loyalist. After some correspondence on both
sides, a conference took place between four of the royalists and
Cromwell, at which he contrived to bribe Captain Stafford, the Governor
of the Castle. The conditions asked, preparatory to surrender, were
liberty of conscience, and permission to withdraw in safety and with
military honours. Cromwell's idea of liberty of conscience was as
peculiar as his idea of honour. He wrote to the Governor of Ross to say
that he would not "meddle with any man's conscience;" but adds: "If by
liberty of conscience you mean a liberty to exercise the Mass, I judge
it best to use plain dealing, and to tell you now, where the Parliament
of England have power, that will not be allowed of;"[487] which, in
plain English, meant that he professed liberty of conscience, but
allowed it only to such as agreed with himself. Of his estimation of
honour, his dealings at Wexford afford a fair sample. As soon as he had
found that Stafford could be bribed, he denounced the proposals of the
garrison as abominable and impudent. The traitor opened the
castle-gates, and the Parliamentary troops marched in. The besieged were
amazed and panic-struck; yet, to their eternal credit, they made what
even Cromwell admits to have been a "stiff resistance." The massacre of
Drogheda was renewed with all its horrors, and the treacherous General
held in his hand all the time the formal offer of surrender which had
been made by the townspeople and his own reply. He informs the
Parliament that he did not intend to destroy the town, but his own
letter reveals his treachery; and he congratulates his correspondents on
the "unexpected providence" which had befallen them. He excuses the
massacre on the plea of some outrages which had been offered to the
"poor Protestants," forgetting what incomparably greater cruelties had
been inflicted by the Protestants on the Catholics, both for their
loyalty and for their religion.

MacGeoghegan mentions the massacre of two hundred women, who clung round
the market-cross for protection.[488] His statement is not corroborated
by contemporary authority; but there appears no reason to doubt that it
may have taken place, from what has already been recorded at Drogheda on
unquestionable authority. Owen Roe and Ormonde now leagued together for
the royal cause, but their union was of short duration, for the Irish
chieftain died almost immediately, and it was said, not without
suspicion of having been poisoned by wearing a "pair of russet boots,"
sent to him by one Plunket, of Louth, who afterwards boasted of his
exploit. His death was an irreparable loss to the Irish cause; for his
noble and upright conduct had won him universal esteem, while his
military prowess had secured him the respect even of his enemies. New
Ross surrendered to Cromwell on the 18th of October and Luke Taaffe, the
Commander, joined Ormonde at Kilkenny. The garrisons of Cork, Youghal,
Kinsale, and Bandon, revolted to Cromwell, through the intervention of
Lord Broghill, son of the Earl of Cork, who became one of the leading
Parliamentary officers. On the 24th of November, Cromwell attempted to
take Waterford; but finding the place too strong for him, he marched on
to Dungarvan. Here the garrison surrendered at discretion, and his
troops proceeded to Cork through Youghal.

The Irish had now begun to distrust Ormonde thoroughly; even the
citizens of Waterford refused to admit his soldiers into their town.
Indeed, the distrust was so general, that he had considerable difficulty
in providing winter quarters for his troops, and he wrote to ask
permission from the exiled King to leave the country. The month of
January, 1650, was spent by Cromwell in continuing his victorious march.
He set out from Youghal on the 29th, and approached as near Limerick as
he dared, taking such castles as lay in his way, and accepting the keys
of Cashel and other towns, where the authorities surrendered
immediately. On the 22nd of March he arrived before Kilkenny, to meet a
resistance as hopeless as it was heroic. A fearful pestilence had
reduced the garrison from 1,200 men to about 400, yet they absolutely
refused to obey the summons to surrender, but, after a brave resistance,
they were obliged to yield; and Cromwell hastened on to Clonmel, where
he had to encounter the most formidable resistance he experienced in his
Irish campaigns. The garrison was commanded by Hugh Dubh O'Neill. The
Bishop of Ross attempted to raise the siege, but was taken and hanged by
Broghill, because he would not desire the defenders of Carrigadrohid to
surrender. The first attack on Clonmel took place on the 9th of May, and
O'Neill determined to resist with the energy of despair, and the full
knowledge of the demon vengeance with which the Puritans repaid such
deeds of valour. When the place was no longer tenable, he withdrew his
troops under cover of darkness; and the English General found next
morning that he had been outwitted, and that nothing remained for his
vengeance but the unfortunate townspeople.

Pressing demands were now made by the Parliament for his return to
England, where the royalists had also to be crushed and subdued; and
after committing the command of his army to Ireton, he sailed from
Youghal, on the 20th of May, leaving, as a legacy to Ireland, a name
which was only repeated to be cursed, and an increase of miseries which
already had seemed incapable of multiplication. In the meantime the
Irish clergy held frequent conferences, and made every effort in their
power to obtain peace for their unfortunate country. Ormonde became
daily more and more distrusted; the people of Limerick and of Galway had
both refused to receive him; and on the 6th of August the clergy met in
synod at Jamestown, in the county Leitrim, and sent him a formal
message, requesting his withdrawal from the kingdom, and asking for the
appointment of some one in whom the people might have confidence. His
pride was wounded, and he refused to retire until he should be compelled
to do so; but the bishops published a declaration, denouncing his
government, and threatening to impeach him before the King. They were
yet to learn that the King, whom they served so faithfully, and in whom,
despite all past disappointments, they confided so loyally, could be
guilty of the greatest duplicity and the basest subterfuge.

Charles II. landed in Scotland on the 28th of June, 1650, and soon after
signed the Covenant, and a declaration in which he stated the peace with
Ireland to be null and void, adding, with equal untruthfulness and
meanness, that "he was convinced in his conscience of the sinfulness and
unlawfulness of it, and of allowing them [the Catholics] the liberty of
the Popish religion; for which he did from his heart desire to be deeply
humbled before the Lord." Ormonde declared, what was probably true, that
the King had been obliged to make these statements, and that they meant
nothing; but neither his protestations nor his diplomacy could save him
from general contempt; and having appointed the Marquis of Clanrickarde
to administer the Government of Ireland for the King, he left the
country, accompanied by some of the leading royalists, and, after a
stormy passage, arrived at St. Malo, in Brittany, early in the year
1651. The Irish again sacrificed their interests to their loyalty, and
refused favourable terms offered to them by the Parliamentary party;
they even attempted to mortgage the town of Galway, to obtain money for
the royal cause, and an agreement was entered into with the Duke of
Lorraine for this purpose; but the disasters of the battle of Worcester,
and the triumphs of the republican faction, soon deprived them of every

It will be remembered that Cromwell had passed by Limerick at a
respectful distance; but the possession of that city was none the less
coveted. Ireton now prepared to lay siege to it. To effect this, Coote
made a feint of attacking Sligo; and when he had drawn off
Clanrickarde's forces to oppose him, marched back hastily, and took
Athlone. By securing this fortress he opened a road into Connaught; and
Ireton, at the same time, forced the passage of the river at
O'Briensbridge, and thus was enabled to invest Limerick. Lord Muskerry
marched to its relief; but he was intercepted by Lord Broghill, and his
men were routed with great slaughter. The castle at the salmon weir was
first attacked; and the men who defended it were butchered in cold
blood, although they had surrendered on a promise of quarter. At length
treachery accomplished what valour might have prevented. The plague was
raging in the city, and many tried to escape; but were either beaten
back into the town, or killed on the spot by Ireton's troopers. The
corporation and magistrates were in favour of a capitulation; but the
gallant Governor, Hugh O'Neill, opposed it earnestly. Colonel Fennell,
who had already betrayed the pass at Killaloe, completed his perfidy by
seizing St. John's Gate and Tower, and admitting Ireton's men by night.
On the following day the invader was able to dictate his own terms.
2,500 soldiers laid down their arms in St. Mary's Church, and marched
out of the city, many dropping dead on road of the fearful pestilence.
Twenty-four persons were exempted from quarter. Amongst the number were
a Dominican prelate, Dr. Terence O'Brien, Bishop of Emly, and a
Franciscan, Father Wolfe. Ireton had special vengeance for the former,
who had long encouraged the people to fight for their country and their
faith, and had refused a large bribe[489] which the Cromwellian General
had offered him if he would leave the city. The ecclesiastics were soon
condemned; but, ere the Bishop was dragged to the gibbet, he turned to
the dark and cruel man who had sacrificed so many lives, and poured such
torrents of blood over the land, summoning him, in stern and prophetic
tones, to answer at God's judgment-seat for the evils he had done. The
Bishop and his companion were martyred on the Eve of All Saints, October
31st, 1651. On the 26th of November Ireton was a corpse. He caught the
plague eight days after he had been summoned to the tribunal of eternal
justice; and he died raving wildly of the men whom he had murdered, and
accusing everyone but himself of the crime he had committed.

Ireton condemning the Bishop of Limerick.

Ireton condemning the Bishop of Limerick.

Several of the leading gentry of Limerick were also executed; and the
traitor Fennell met the reward of his treachery, and was also hanged.
Hugh O'Neill was saved through the remonstrances of some of the
Parliamentary officers, who had the spirit to appreciate his valour and
his honorable dealing.

Ludlow now took the command, and marched to assist Coote, who was
besieging Galway. This town surrendered on the 12th of May, 1652. The
few Irish officers who still held out against the Parliament, made the
best terms they could for themselves individually; and there was a brief
peace, the precursor of yet more terrible storms.

I have already given such fearful accounts of the miseries to which the
Irish were reduced by confiscations, fines, and war, that it seems
useless to add fresh details; yet, fearful as are the records given by
Spenser of 1580, when neither the lowing of a cow nor the voice of a
herdsman could be heard from Dunquin, in Kerry, to Cashel, in Munster,
there seems to have been a deeper depth of misery after Cromwell's
massacres. In 1653 the English themselves were nearly starving, even in
Dublin; and cattle had to be imported from Wales. There was no tillage,
and a licence was required to kill lamb.[490] The Irish had fled into
the mountains, the only refuge left to them now; and the Parliamentary
officers were obliged to issue proclamations inviting their return, and
promising them safety and protection. But the grand object of the
revolutionary party was still to carry out the wild scheme of unpeopling
Ireland of the Irish, and planting it anew with English—a scheme which
had been so often attempted, and had so signally failed, that one
marvels how it could again have been brought forward. Still there were
always adventurers ready to fight for other men's lands, and subjects
who might be troublesome at home, whom it was found desirable to occupy
in some way abroad. But a grand effort was made now to get rid of as
many Irishmen as possible in a peaceable manner. The valour of the Irish
soldier was well known abroad;[491] and agents from the King of Spain,
the King of Poland, and the Prince de Condé, were contending for those
brave fellows, who were treated like slaves in their native land; and
then, if they dared resist, branded with the foul name of rebels. If a
keen had rung out loud and long when O'Donnell left his native land
never to return, well might it ring out now yet more wildly. In May,
1652, Don Ricardo White shipped 7,000 men for the King of Spain; in
September, Colonel Mayo collected 3,000 more; Lord Muskerry took 5,000
to Poland; and, in 1654, Colonel Dwyer went to serve the Prince de Condé

with 3,500 men. Other officers looked up the men who had served under
them, and expatriated themselves in smaller parties; so that, between
1651 and 1654, 34,000 Irishmen had left their native land; and few,
indeed, ever returned to its desolate shores.

But their lot was merciful compared with the fate of those who still
remained. In 1653 Ireland was considered sufficiently depopulated by war
and emigration to admit of a commencement of the grand planting. The
country was again portioned out; again the ruling powers selected the
best portion of the land for themselves and their favourites; again the
religion of the country was reformed, and Protestant prelates were
condemned as loudly, though they were not hunted as unmercifully, as
Popish priests; again the wild and lawless adventurer was sent to eject
the old proprietor, who might starve or beg while the intruder held his
lands, and sheltered himself in his mansion, while a new cruelty was
enacted, a new terror devised, a new iniquity framed, and this by rulers
who talked so loudly of political and religious liberty. It was not
convenient, more probably, it was not possible, to massacre all the
native population who still survived; so they were to be
banished—banished to a corner of their own land, imprisoned there
safely by their ruthless conquerors, and there, without hope or help, it
was supposed they must soon die out quietly.

This is the official proclamation which was issued on the subject: "The
Parliament of the Commonwealth of England, having, by an Act lately
passed (entitled an Act for the Settling of Ireland), declared that it
is not their intention to extirpate this whole nation ... it is ordered
that the Governor and Commissioners of Revenue ... do cause the said Act
of Parliament, with this present declaration, to be published and
proclaimed in their respective precincts, by beat of drum and sound of
trumpet, on some market-day within ten days after the same shall come
unto them within their respective precincts."

We may imagine the dismay and anguish which this announcement caused.
The old Irish chieftain and the Anglo-Irish lord still had some kind of
home and shelter on their own estate—it might be but an outhouse or a
barn; it was certainly on the worst and least cultivated portion of
their land, for the old castle had long since been taken from them, and
their broad acres transferred to others. Yet, though they tilled the
soil of which they so lately had been the lords, this little spot was
home: there the wife and mother loved her little ones as tenderly as in
the stately halls which her husband or his fathers had so lately
possessed. It was home, and if not the dear old home, it was, perhaps,
loved all the more for its sorrowful proximity to the ancestral
castle—for the faint hope that the rightful owner might still be
restored. But the trumpet had sounded the nation's doom. Confiscation
and banishment, wholesale plunder and untold iniquity, reigned supreme.
The name of the God of justice was invoked to sanction[492] the grossest
outrages upon justice; and men who professed to have freed their own
nation from the tyranny of kingcraft and of Popery, perpetrated a
tyranny on another nation, which has made the name of their leader a
byword and a curse.

The majority of the Catholic nobility and gentry were banished; the
remainder of the nation, thus more than decimated, were sent to
Connaught. On the 26th of September, 1653, all the property of the Irish
people was declared to belong to the English army and adventurers, "and
it was announced that the Parliament had assigned Connaught [America was
not then accessible] for the habitation of the Irish nation, whither
they must transplant, with their wives, and daughters, and children,
before 1st May following, under the penalty of death, if found on this
side of the Shannon after that day."[493] It must not be supposed that
this death penalty was a mere threat; I shall give instances to prove
the contrary. Any man, woman, or child who had disobeyed this order, no
matter from what cause, could be instantly executed in any way, by any
of these soldiers or adventurers, without judge, jury, or trial. It was
in fact constituting a special commission for the new comers to
murder[494] all the old inhabitants.

Connaught was selected for two reasons: first, because it was the most
wasted province of Ireland; and secondly, because it could be, and in
fact was, most easily converted into a national prison, by erecting a cordon militaire across the country, from sea to sea. To make the
imprisonment more complete, a belt four miles wide, commencing one mile
to the west of Sligo, and thence running along the coast and the
Shannon, was to be given to the soldiery to plant. Thus, any Irishman
who attempted to escape, would be sure of instant capture and execution.

The Government, as it has been already remarked, reserved the best part
of the land for themselves. They secured the towns, church-lands, and
tithes, and abolished the Protestant Church, with all its officers,
which had been so recently declared the religion of the country. A
"Church of Christ" was now the established religion, and a Mr. Thomas
Hicks was approved by the "Church of Christ" meeting at Chichester
House, as one fully qualified to preach and dispense the Gospel as often
as the Lord should enable him, and in such places as the Lord should
make his ministry most effectual. The Parliament also reserved for
themselves the counties of Dublin, Kildare, Carlow, and Cork; and from
these lands and the church property they were to enrich themselves, and,
with what they could spare, to reward the leading regicides and rebels.
The adventurers were next provided for. They claimed £960,000. This was
divided into three lots, to be paid in lands in Munster, Leinster, and
Ulster. All these were to be drawn by lot; and a lottery was held at
Grocers' Hall, London, which commenced at eight o'clock in the morning,
on the 20th of July, 1653, at which time and place men who professed the
advancement of the Christian religion to be the business of their lives,
openly and flagrantly violated the most solemn and explicit commands of
that very belief which they declared themselves so zealous in upholding.
The soldiers and officers were to obtain whatever was left after the
adventurers had been satisfied.

A book was written by a Franciscan father, called Threnodia
Hiberno-Catholica, sive Planctus Universalis totius Cleri et Populi
Regni Hiberniæ
,[495] in which the writer states he had heard a great
Protestant statesman give three reasons why this transplantation was
confined to the gentry, and why the poor, who had not been either
transported or hanged, were allowed to remain: (1) because the English
wanted them to till the ground; (2) they hoped they would become
Protestants when deprived of their priests; (3) because the settlers
required servants, or else they should have worked for themselves.

But the fatal day at length arrived, and those who had dared to linger,
or to hope that so cruel a sentence would not be finally executed, were
at once undeceived. The commissioners had been in trouble all the
winter: the people who were to be driven out of their farms refused to
sow for those who were to succeed them; and the very plotters of the
iniquity began to tremble for the consequences which might accrue to
themselves. They fasted, they prayed, and they wrote pages of their
peculiar cant, which would be ludicrous were it not profane. They talked
loudly of their unworthiness for so great a service, but expressed no
contrition for wholesale robbery. Meanwhile, however, despite cant,
fasts, and fears, the work went on. The heads of each family were
required to proceed to Loughrea before the 31st of January, 1654, to
receive such allotments as the commissioners pleased to give them, and
that they might erect some kind of huts on these allotments, to shelter
their wives and daughters when they arrived. The allotment of land was
proportioned to the stock which each family should bring; but they were
informed that, at a future day, other commissioners were to sit at
Athlone, and regulate even these regulations, according to their real or
supposed affection or disaffection to the Parliament. All this was
skilfully put forward, that the unfortunate people might transplant the
more quietly, in the hope of procuring thereby the good-will of their
tyrants; but the tyrants were quite aware that the stock would probably
die from the fatigue of transportation and the want of food; then the
land could be taken from the victim, and, as a last favour, he might be
allowed to remain in the poor hut he had erected, until misery and
disease had terminated his life also.

Remonstrances and complaints were sent to the faction who governed
England, but all was in vain. The principal petitioners were the
descendants of the English nobles; they were now, by a just retribution,
suffering themselves the very miseries which they had so ruthlessly
inflicted on the native Irish. The petitioners, says Mr.
Prendergast,[496] were the noble and the wealthy, men of ancient English
blood, descendants of the invaders—the FitzGeralds, the Butlers, the
Plunkets, the Barnwalls, Dillons, Cheevers, Cusacks, names found
appended to various schemes for extirpating or transplanting the Irish,
after the subduing of Lord Thomas FitzGerald's rebellion in 1535—who
were now to transplant as Irish. The native Irish were too poor to pay
scriveners and messengers to the Council, and their sorrows were
unheard; though under their rough coats beat hearts that felt as great
pangs at being driven from their native homes as the highest in the

One of these English families demands special mention. Edmund Spenser's
grandson was now commanded to transplant, as though he to had been "mere
Irish" and the very estate near Fermoy, which had been confiscated from
the FitzGeralds seventy years before, and which the poet had obtained
thus fraudulently, was now confiscated anew, and granted to Cromwell's
soldiers. William Spenser protested; he pleaded his grandfather's name,
he pleaded his grandfather's services, especially the odium he had
incurred amongst the Irish by the way in which he had written of them;
and lastly, William Spenser declares of himself that he had utterly
renounced Popery since he came to years of discretion. But even
Cromwell's interference could not save him; the soldiers were determined
to have his lands, and they had them.

The commissioners appointed to conduct the transplanting had a busy
time. They were overwhelmed with petitions: the heads of families
demanding permission to return and save their crops; the women
requesting to remain a few months longer for a similar purpose, when the
men were not permitted to return. Hundreds of petitions were sent from
aged and bedridden persons, to obtain leave to die in peace where they
were. Then there were complaints from the officers who had charge of
driving the people into the plantation; and above all, there was a
charge, a grave charge, against the Irish people—they were as
stiff-necked, wicked, and rebellious[497] as ever, and could not be
brought to see that they were created for no other end than to be
sacrificed for the benefit of English adventurers; and, moreover, they
were declared to be a most treacherous race, for, years after, they
might revenge all this kindness, by murdering the men who had taken
possession of their lands and farms; and some had absolutely refused to
transplant, and preferred death.

The manner in which these difficulties were met is thus recorded in a
letter which was written for publication in London:—


"Athy, March 4, 1664-5.

"I have only to acquaint you that the time prescribed for the
transplantation of the Irish proprietors, and those that have been
in arms and abettors of the rebellion, being near at hand, the
officers are resolved to fill the gaols and to seize them; by which
this bloody people will know that they [the officers] are not
degenerated from English principles; though I presume we shall be
very tender of hanging any except leading men; yet we shall make no
scruple of sending them to the West Indies, where they will serve
for planters, and help to plant the plantation that General
Venables, it is hoped, hath reduced."

So examples were made. Mr. Edward Hetherington was hanged in Dublin, on
the 3rd of April, 1655, with placards on his breast and back, on which
were written, "For not transplanting;" and at the summer assizes of
1658, hundreds were condemned to death for the same cause, but were
eventually sent as slaves to Barbadoes. The miseries of those who did
transplant was scarcely less than those of the persons who were
condemned to slavery. Some committed suicide, some went mad, all were
reduced to the direst distress. The nobles of the land were as cruelly
treated and as much distrusted as the poorest peasant. The very men who
had laid down their arms and signed articles of peace at Kilkenny, were
not spared; and the excuse offered was, that the Act of Parliament
overrode the articles. One of the gentlemen thus betrayed was Lord
Trimbleston, and his tomb may still be seen in the ruined Abbey of
Kilconnell, with the epitaph:—