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Act of Settlement (Irish)

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In 1662 an act was passed by the Irish Parliament, the privileges of which were restored on the return of Charles II, entitled "an act for the better execution of his majesty's gracious declaration for the Settlement of his Kingdom of Ireland, and the satisfaction of the several interests of adventurers, soldiers, and other his subjects there". To understand the provisions of this complicated Act, and the Act of Explanation of it (1664), it is necessary to recall that during the time of Cromwell English adventurers, as they were styled, advanced money for the war, and the soldiers engaged in it had large sums due to them for arrears of pay. To meet these demands, extirpate Papacy, and establish a Protestant interest in Ireland, almost all the land in Munster, Leinster, and Ulster was confiscated under the Cromwellian Settlement. The confiscations were arranged under different categories in such a way that scarcely any Catholic, or even Old Protestant, could escape. All persons who had taken part in the rebellion, before 10 November, 1642, or who had assisted the rebels in any way before that date, and also about 100 named persons, including Ormond, Bishop Bramhall, and a great part of the aristocracy of Ireland, were condemned to death, and their estates declared forfeit. All other landowners who had at any period borne arms against the Parliament, either for the rebels or for the King, were deprived of their estates, but were promised land of a third of the value in Connaught. Catholics who during the whole of the war had never borne arms against the Parliament, but who had not manifested "a constant good affection" towards it, were to be deprived of their estates, but were to receive two-thirds of their value in Connaught. Such a confiscation was practically universal (Lecky, I, 106). The Puritan made no distinction between the rebel and the royalist, and did not, of course, consider himself bound by the Articles of Peace (17 January, 1649). By these Charles I, through Ormond, had engaged that, with the exception of murderers, etc., all Catholics who submitted to the articles should "be restored to their respective possessions and hereditaments", and that all treason etc., committed since the beginning of the rebellion, should be covered by an "Act of Oblivion" (Articles of Peace, 1649, § 4). And Charles II, in a letter from Jersey, dated 2 February, 1649-50, to Ormond, ratifies and confirms this Peace (Carte, III, 524-590, ed. 1851). Many of the Catholic proprietors had never taken arms against the King, and the rest who had done so, when the English Parliament announced its intention to extirpate the Catholic religion in Ireland, with few exceptions submitted under the Articles of Peace, and supported his cause to the end. All these had a clear title to restoration, but the adventurers and soldiers were in the actual possession of the lands, and were allowed to vote as freeholders at the elections, though they had no legal status, their titles resting on an act of Cromwell's London Parliament, and an entry and ouster of the old proprietors under it. The Catholics who were legally the true freeholders had, of course, no votes. When the new Parliament met, the Puritan adventurers and soldiers had an enormous majority, while the Catholics were almost unrepresented in the House of Commons (1662). The king had previously issued a Declaration, in November, 1660, which was made the basis of the Act of Settlement. The Irish Parliament, under Poyning's Act, could not entertain a Bill that had not previously been sanctioned by the Privy Council in England. He confirmed to the adventurers all the lands possessed by them on 7 May, 1659, allotted to them under the Cromwellian settlement. He did the same as regards the soldiers with a few exceptions. Protestants, however, whose estates had been given to adventurers or soldiers, were to be at once restored, unless they had been in rebellion before the cessation (truce) of 1643, or had taken out orders for lands in Connaught or Clare, and the adventurers or soldiers displaced were to be reprised, i.e. get other lands instead. The Catholics were divided into "innocent" and "nocent". No one was to be esteemed "innocent"

  • who, before the cessation of 15 September, 1643, was of the rebels' party, or who enjoyed his estate in the rebels' quarters, except in Cork and Youghal, where the inhabitants were driven into them by force; or
  • who had entered into the Roman Catholic Confederacy before the Peace of 1648; or
  • who had at any time adhered to the nuncio's party; or
  • who had inherited his property from anyone who had been guilty of those crimes; or
  • who had sat in any of the confederate assemblies or councils, or acted on any commissions or powers derived from them.
Those who established their claims as "innocents", if they had taken lands in Connaught were to be restored to their estates by 2 May, 1661, but if they had sold their lands they were to indemnify the purchaser, and the adventurers and soldiers dispossessed were to be at once reprised.

The "nocent" Catholics who had been in the rebellion, but who had submitted and constantly adhered to the Peace of 1648, if they had taken lands in Connaught, were to be bound by that arrangement, and not restored to their former estates. If they had served under his Majesty abroad, and not taken lands in Connaught or Clare, they were to be restored after reprisals made to the adventurers and soldiers. If all this was to be accomplished, "there must" said Ormond, "be new discoveries of a new Ireland, for the old will not serve to satisfy these engagements. It remains, then, to determine which party must suffer in the default of means to satisfy all." The result was not doubtful. The Protestant interest was resolute and armed, and threatened to use force, if necessary, to defend their possessions. The Catholics were poor, broken, and friendless. "All the other competing interests in Ireland were united in their implacable malice to the Irish and in their desire that they might gain nothing by the King's return." The King yielded to the pressure of the Protestants, the vast majority of whom were accessory, before or after the fact, to the execution of his father. He declared that he was for the establishment of an English interest in Ireland. All attempts to carry out his father's and his own engagements were abandoned. A commission was appointed consisting of thirty-six persons, all Protestants, and they proceeded to appoint from amongst their body a court of claims to hear cases and decide without a jury. Four thousand Catholics claimed to be restored to their former estates. About 600 claims were heard, and in the great majority of cases the claimants proved "innocency". A loud outcry arose from the Puritan and Protestant interest. The mutterings of an intended insurrection were heard. The anger and panic of the Cromwellians knew no bounds. A formidable plot was discovered. A small outbreak took place (Lord E. Fitzmaurice, "Life of Petty", p. 131). A new Bill of Settlement, or, as it was called, of Explanation, was then approved in England, and brought in and passed in Ireland (1665). It provided that the adventurers and soldiers should give up one-third of their grants under the Cromwellian settlement, to be applied for the purpose of increasing the fund for reprisals. Protestant adventurers and soldiers serving before 1649, and Protestant purchasers in Connaught or Clare before 1663, removable from restorable lands, were to receive, before the lands were restored, two-thirds equivalent in other lands. Protestant purchasers from transplanted persons in Connaught or Clare before 1 September, 1663, were confirmed in two-thirds of their purchase. Every clause in this and the preceding act was to be construed most liberally and beneficially for protecting and settling the estates and persons of Protestants, whom the Act was principally intended to settle and secure (§ 73). The clause in the first act, empowering the King to restore innocent Catholics to their houses within Corporations, was repealed (§ 221). The Anglican Church regained its estates, including its large revenue of tithes, and its hierarchy was replaced in its former position. Finally (and this is the most important and iniquitous provision in the Act) it was declared "that no person who by the qualifications of the former Act hath not been adjudged innocent, shall at any time hereafter be reputed innocent, so as to obtain any lands or tenements", etc. This excluded the whole body of the 4,000 innocent claimants, except the 600 already disposed of "without a trial from the inheritance of their fathers, an act of the grossest and most cruel injustice " (Lecky, I 115). After these acts the Protestants possessed, according to Petty, more than two-thirds of the good land, and of the Protestant landowners in 1689, according to Archbishop King, two-thirds held their estates under the Acts of Settlement and Explanation.

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