From A Direction for the Plantation of Ulster

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FromA Direction for the Plantation of Ulster


Thomas Blennerhasset

After the defeat of the Ulster earls in the Nine Years War (1594–1603) and their subsequent flight to the European mainland, six of Ulster's nine traditional counties were thrown open to English and Scottish "plantation." Thomas Blennerhasset (c. 1550–c. 1625) became one of these planters or "undertakers" and urged careful attention to fortification and military preparedness in an area where great hostility and resistance from the displaced Irish could reasonably be expected.

SEE ALSO Colonial Theory from 1500 to 1690; English Political and Religious Policies, Responses to (1534–1690); Land Settlements from 1500 to 1690; Politics: 1500 to 1690

For these undertakers to plant themselves so in this time of quiet, I doe verilie beleeve it would be to small availe, and not the best way to secure themselves with their goods, and that wilde country to the Crowne of England; for although there be no apparent enemy, nor any visible maine force, yet the wood-kerne and many other (who now have put on the smiling countenance of contentment) doe threaten every houre, if opportunitie of time and place doth serve, to burne and steale whatsoever: and besides them there be two, the chief supporters of al their insolencie, the inaccessable woods, & the not passible bogs: which to subject to our desires is not easie, and that not performed, it is not possible to make a profitable improvement, no not by any meanes in any place.

Moreover the frowning countenance of chance and change, (for nothing so certaine as that all thinges are moste uncertaine doth also incite a provident undertaker to lay such a foundation, as it should be rather a violent storme than a fret of foule weather that should annoy him. A scattered plantation will never effect his desire: what can the countenance of a Castle or Bawne with a fewe followers doe? even as they at this present doe: which is nothing to any purpose.

What shall we then say? or to what course shall we betake ourselves? surely by building of a wel fortified Towne, to be able at any time at an houres warning with five hundred men well armed, to encounter all occasions: neither will that be sufficient, except that be seconded with such another, and that also (if it may be, as easily it may) with a third: so there will be helpe on every side, to defend, & offend: for as in England, if a privy watch be set, many malefactors are apprehended, even amongst their cuppes: so there when the spaces in the Woods be cut out, and the bogges be made somewhat passible, then these new erected townes intending a reformation, must ten times at the first set a universall great hunt, that a suddaine search may be made in all suspitious places, for the Woolfe and the Wood-Kerne, which being secretly and wisely appointed by the governors, they with the helpe of some Irish, well acquainted with the holes and holdes of those offenders, the generalitie shall search every particular place. . . .

Throughout all Ireland where there be Fortes and garrisons in paye, if all those places were planted with this kinde of undertaking, & the old worthy Soldiers, who in those places have garrisons in pay, with every one of their Soldiers, if they were rewarded with the fee simple thereof, to them & to their heires, paying after one life yearly unto his Majestie a fee farme, as the other undertakers doe: but these Captaines and Soldiers would have their pay continued, otherwise, they shall not be able to procede with the charge of planting, and then other lands there next adjoining laide also to such places, that many might joine with them to erect corporations: which may be performed now ten times better cheape then it will be hereafter: their security would be much better and the societye farre excell, & so the charge of the garrisons might be withdrawne, the olde worthy warriour who hath gone already through with the brunt of that busines, shall with a good satisfaction be rewarded, and all Ulster a whole hundred times better secured unto the Crowne of England: for the generation of the Irish, (who doe at this time encrease ten to one more then the English, nay I might say twenty) will never otherwise be sufficiently brideled. . . .

The Conclusion, contayning an exhortation to England.

Fayre England, thy flourishing sister, brave Hibernia, (with most respective terms) commendeth unto thy due consideration her youngest daughter, depopulated Ulster: not doubting (for it cannot but come into thy understanding) how the long continuance of lamentable warres, have raced & utterly defaced, whatsoever was beautiful in her to behold, and hath so bereaved all her royalties, goodly ornaments, & well beseeming tyers, as there remaineth but onely the Majesty of her naked personage, which even in that plite is such, as whosoever shall seeke and search all Europe's best Bowers, shal not finde many that may make with her comparison. Behold the admirable worth of her worthiness! even now shee gives to the world to understand by testimoniall knowne sufficiently to all that knowne her, that if thou wilt now but assist her with meanes to erect her ruynes, she well nourish thee with much dainty provision, and so furnish thee, as thou shall not neede to send to thy neighbour-kingdomes for corne, nor to the Netherlands for fine Holland: shee will in requitall of thy kindnesse provide those thinges, with some other, such as thy heart most desireth. Art thou overcharged with much people? Ulster her excellency will imbrace that thy overplus in her amourous sweete armes: she will place them as it were Euphrates, and feed them with better Ambrosia then ever Jupiter himselfe knew.

Reprinted in Strangers to That Land: British Perceptions of Ireland from the Reformation to the Famine, edited by Andrew Hadfield and John McVeagh (1994), pp. 112–114.

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From A Direction for the Plantation of Ulster

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From A Direction for the Plantation of Ulster