CHAPTER IX: COMMONWEALTH AND COMPROMISE
SECTION1: “IRELAND: SCOTLAND”
IN THE 15th CENTURY, THE ENGLISH PALE* IN IRELAND WAS RESTRICTED TO AN AREA AROUND DUBLIN.
NORMAN-IRISH FAMILIES, THE FITZGERALDS AND EARLS OF KILDARE ESTABLISHED THEMSELVES IN THE REMAINDER BUT WERE PROVOKED INTO WAR IN 1534 AND THEIR POWER DESTROYED.
IRISH TRIBAL LEADERS WERE REPLACED BY ENGLISH LANDLORDS AND ENGLISH DRESS. ENGLISH EDUCATION AND LAW WERE INTRODUCED OVER IRISH CULTURE.
THIS DOMINANCE MET WITH FAIR SUCCESS, BUT IT WAS SLOW AND PROFITS LIMITED.
ENGLISH SPECULATORS FORCED MORE SALES OF LAND, AND A STRUGGLE /WAR FOLLOWED FOR 50 YEARS UNTIL FAMININE AND MASSACRE WERE FOLLOWED BY COLONIAL OCCUPATION. SOME PLANTATIONS WERE INTRODUCED BUT LARGE AREAS WERE LEFT A BARREN WILDERNESS.
HUGE SUMS OF MONEY WERE SPENT ON THE IRISH WARS. OF THE £5 MILLION SPENT BY ELIZABETH ON FOREIGN WARS, HALF WAS SPENT ON IRELAND.
REBELLIONS WERE COMPLICATED BY THE REFORMATION, WHICH REACHED IRELAND ONLY AS A PART OF THE ENGLISH ATTEMPT TO DESTROY NATIVE CUSTOMS AND INSTITUTIONS. CATHOLICISM WAS AN AVOWED ENEMY OF THE INVADING ENGLISH.
BY THE FIRST YEARS OF THE 17th CENTURY, CONQUEST WAS COMPLETE. ENORMOUS PROFITS FELL TO PLANTERS BY EXPLOITATION OF IRISH LABOUR. ELIZABETHAN FORESTS OF OAK MADE QUICK PROFITS UNTIL THEY HAD BEEN DESTROYED.
STRAFFORD, DEPUTY UNDER CHARLES I, LED THE EXPLOITATION. HE ESTABLISHED THE LINEN TRADE, AS IT DID NOT COMPETE WITH WOOL, AND ENCOURAGED A TRANSFER OF THIS INDUSTRY FROM ENGLAND TO COUNTER THE EFFORTS OF THE WOOL TRADE, WHICH WAS PROHIBITED TO IRELAND SO AS TO PROTECT ENGLISH INTERESTS.
HOWEVER, THE LINEN INDUSTRY WAS DESTROYED IN THE IRISH RISING OF 1641 AND WHEN IT RESUMED WAS CONFINED TO ULSTER.
THIS RISING WEAKENED THE ENGLISH GOVERNMENT, WHICH RESPONDED WITH SAVAGE REPRISALS, MASSACRES AND OPPRESSION BY INTRODUCING MORE ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH TROOPS.
AFTER THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR AND THE DEMISE OF CHARLES I, WHO HAD BEEN SECRETLY MAKING PLANS AND SUPPORTING THE IRISH, THE ENGLISH CITY MAGNATES BEGAN TO BUY UP LANDS FROM THE REBELS AT £100 for 1000 ACRES OR LESS.
WHEN CROMWELL LANDED IN 1649, HE CAME TO RE-ESTABLISH CONTROL FOR THE COMMONWEALTH AND ALSO FOR THE CITY SPECULATORS.
A LAST DESPERATE BATTLE BY THE IRISH TOOK PLACE AT CLONMEL UNDER HUGH O’NEIL WITH LEVELLERS - THEY WERE HELPING CROMWELL PLACE ENGLAND AND NOW IRELAND IN THE HANDS OF THE MONEY LORDS.
THE LEVELLERS HAD MET THEIR MATCH IN THE IRISH, WHO DROVE THEM BACK KILLING 2,500 MEN. IT WAS CROMWELL’S ONLY SERIOUS MILITARY REVERSE.
THE FIGHT WAS SETTLED ON HONOUABLE TERMS, BUT THE OVERALL CROMWELLIAN CONQUEST WAS FOLLOWED BY SETTLEMENT. OFFICERS, MEN AND SPECULATORS CARVED UP LAND, BUT SOON THE MAJORITY OF SMALLHOLDINGS WERE SWALLOWED UP BY LARGER ONES FOR VERY LITTLE MONEY.
HOWEVER, MANY REMAINED IN IRELAND, AS PEASANTS AND LABOURERS. SOME DIED IN WARS, BUT, IN ONE YEAR, 1653, 20,000 WERE SHIPPED TO AMERICAN PLANATIONS.
THE POPULATION OF IRELAND HALVED FROM 1641 TO 1652. MANY ENGLISH OR SCOTTISH SETTLERS SANK TO THE COMMON LEVEL OF MISERY OF THE IRISH AROUND THEM.
IRELAND, OUT OF NECESSITY, BECAME A SOURCE OF CHEAP LABOUR, FOOD AND RAW MATERIALS FOR ENGLAND, WHICH CONTROLLED TRADE TO SUIT ITS OWN INDUSTRIES.
THE EXPORT OF WOOL OR BEEF WAS BANNED, WHEN INCONVENIENT TO ENGLISH PRODUCERS’ COMPETITION. EVEN IRISH CLOTH WAS DELIBERATELY DESTROYED WHEN IT BECAME A DANGEROUS COMPETITOR.
BY 1650, CROMWELL HAD SUBJUGATED THE IRISH AND LEFT, LEAVING IRETON IN CHARGE.
THE SCOTS WERE STILL A THREAT TO ENGLAND. THE NAVY HAD GONE OVER TO THE ROYALISTS AND WAS ATTACKING ENGLISH SHIPPING IN THE CHANNEL.
ON HIS FATHER’S DEATH, CHARLES II WAS PROCLAIMED KING IN EDINBURGH AND LANDED IN SCOTLAND AND JOINED THE PRESBYTERIANS. THE CATHOLIC KING WENT THROUGH THE MOTIONS OF PROTESTANT PIETY.
THE ARMY WAS PURGED OF CAVALIERS AND ALL BUT THE MOST ORTHODOX COVENANTORS. IT WAS OFFICERED BY MINISTERS’ SONS, CLERKS AND SANCTIFIED CREATURES WHO WERE SOLDIERS OF CHRIST, NOT WARS. IT WAS A POOR LOT TO FACE CROMWELL’S VETERANS.
BY THE AUTUMN OF 1650, CROMWELL HAD SECURED A CRUSHING VICTORY, BUT A SECOND CHARLES’ ARMY TOOK POSSESSION OF STIRLING.
CROMWELL SLIPPED PAST THEM AND WENT TO PERTH TO CUT OFF THEIR SUPPLIES FROM THE NORTH EASTERN SCOTTISH PLAINS.
IT LEFT THE WAY OPEN TO ENGLAND, WHICH THEY HAD NO ALTERNATIVE BUT TO TAKE AND ATTACK, WITH CROMWELL IN PURSUIT.
THE SCOTS MARCHED SOUTH AND JOINED FORCES WITH A SMALL ARMY FROM CORNWALL. AT WORCESTER, THEY WERE SURROUNDED AND DEFEATED BY CROMWELL.
COMMONWEALTH’S ADMIRAL BLAKE ROUNDED UP THE ROYALIST PRIVATEERS, DRIVING THEM OUT TO THE SCILLY ISLES., AND ALL RESISTANCE TO THE COMMONWEALTH REGIME CAME TO AN END FOR THE TIME BEING.
THE NEW PROBLEM WAS TO STABILISE AND CONSOLIDATE GAINS AND TO FIND A CLASS BASE FOR A CROMWELLIAN MILITARY DICTATORSHIP TO TRANSFORM ITSELF INTO A GENUINELY POPULAR GOVERNMENT.
VIEWED FROM THIS ANGLE, THE STORY OF THE LAST NINE YEARS, BETWEEN 1651 AND 1660, WAS OF PERSISTENCE AND HEROIC EFFORT - BUT OF UNRELIEVED FAILURE.
IT MUST BE SEEN AS A TRANSITIONAL FAILURE, AS MOST MILITARY DICTATORSHIPS SINCE HAVE DISCOVERED.
*ENGLISH PALE –
The Old English (Irish: Seanghaill) were the descendants of the settlers who came to Ireland from Wales, Normandy and England after the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169-71. Many of the Old English became assimilated into Irish society over the centuries and their nobility were effectively the ruling class in the land up to the 16th century. Some were dispossessed, however, in the political and religious conflicts during and after the Tudor re-conquest of Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries, largely due to their continued adherence to the Catholic religion. The so called "New English" Protestant settlers had largely replaced them as the governing and landowning class of Ireland by 1700.
The name Old English was coined in the late 16th century to describe the section of the above community which lived within the heart of English-ruled Ireland, the Pale.
The Commonwealth of England, from 1653-1659 the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, was the republican government which ruled first England and Wales then Ireland and Scotland from 1649 to 1660. Some would call this government a "crowned" republican government. After the English Civil War and the regicide of Charles I, its existence was initially declared in An Act declaring England to be a Commonwealth by the Rump Parliament, on 19 May 1649. Executive power had already been entrusted to a Council of State. The government during 1653 to 1659 is properly called The Protectorate and took the form of direct personal rule by Oliver Cromwell and, after his death, his son Richard, as Lord Protector. The term Commonwealth is, however, loosely used to describe the system of government during the whole of 1649 to 1660, when England was de facto, and arguably de jure, a republic (or, to monarchists, under an Interregnum). It should not be confused with the Commonwealth of Nations (successor to the British Commonwealth in 1949).