With the defeat of the Irish Confederate Army and their British Royalist allies, Cromwell took measures to ensure his grip upon the Island of Ireland.
His Long Parliament in London passed the Act of Settlement in 1652 with the purpose of
- Punishment of the leaders of the 1641 rebellion
- The seizure of Irish lands to finance the repayment of the loans the Parliamentarians had obtained from the City of London and compensate his armies in Ireland.
This act was to a large extent legalised ethnic cleansing in that it was to allow the confiscation of lands held by Catholics and the removal of the Irish from east of the Shannon to poorer lands in Connacht and Clare.
The act also called for the execution of those involved in the 1641 rebellion, all Catholic clergy and the leaders of the Confederate and Royalist forces.
The taking of land ownership
In regards to the seizure of land, anyone who had taken up arms against the Parliament was to be divested of their properties entirely and that even those who did not fight would lose three quarters of their lands though recompensed in kind in the province of Connaught. Hence the rise of the saying “To hell or to Connaught”.
Protestants who had sided with the Royalist/Confederate forces would be allowed to keep their properties if they made payment of fines to the Commonwealth. This was not an option opened to Catholics and as such it destroyed almost to a man the Catholic land owning class.
Catholic ownership of land fell from 60% prior to 1641 down to 8% during the Commonwealth until after the Act of Settlement in 1662 under the Restoration the percentage would rise to 20%.
Of the 12,000 Cromwellians given land in Ireland, many of them returned to England and sold their new holdings to other Protestants. Others settled and many of these actually married into the Irish Catholic population.
This article was first published on 05-01-2011 and last modified on 21-03-2017.