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   Chapter 33 OLD AND NEW OWNERS.

The Story of Ireland By Emily Lawless Characters: 4291

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The zeal for Irish colonization had by no means subsided after the Ulster settlement had been established; on the contrary, it was the favourite panacea of the hour, especially in the eyes of the king himself. After one such resounding success, why, it was asked, not extend so evident a blessing to the rest of Ireland? "A commission to inquire into defective titles" was set on foot, whose duty it was to collect evidence as to the condition of estates, and to inquire into the titles of owners. The pipe rolls in Dublin and the patents, kept in the Tower of London were alike eagerly ransacked, and title flaws found to be discoverable with the most delightful facility. There was a strong feeling too about this time in England that something good was to be made of Ireland. When tens of thousands of acres were to be had almost for the asking, who could be so slow or so mean-spirited as to hang back from doing so.

Something like a regular stampede of men ambitious to call themselves undertakers, began to cross over from the larger to the smaller island. Nor was the Government anxious to check this spirited impulse. In Wexford alone over 60,000 acres had been discovered by the lawyers to belong to the king, and of these a large portion were now settled with English undertakers. In Longford, Leitrim, Wicklow, and many other parts of Leinster, it was the same. Even where the older proprietors were not dispossessed heavy fines were levied in return for fresh grants. No proof of recent surrender or former agreement was allowed to count, and so ingeniously was the whole scheme carried out, and so inextricable was the jungle of legal technicalities in which it was involved, that what in reality was often sheer confiscations sounded like the most equitable of judicial arrangements.

The case of the Connaught landowners is particularly characteristic, and as space dwindles rapidly, may serve as an example of the rest. Nearly all the Connaught gentry, native and Norman alike, had surrendered their estates either to Elizabeth or to her father, and had received them back again upon new terms. Legal transfer, however, was s

o little understood, and the times were so rough and wild, that few had received patents, and title-deeds were all but unknown. In James I.'s reign this omission was rectified and patents duly made out, for which the landowners paid a sum little short of £30,000, equal to nearly £300,000 at the present day. These new patents, however, by an oversight of the clerks in Chancery, were neglected to be enrolled, and upon this plea fresh ones were called for, and fresh fees had to be paid by the landowners. Further it was announced that owing to the omission--one over which the owners, it is clear, had no control--all the titles had become defective, and all the lands had lapsed to the Crown. The other three provinces having by this time received plantations, the Connaught landowners were naturally not slow to perceive the use that might be made of so awkward a technical flaw. To appeal against the manifest injustice of the decision was of little avail, but a good round sum of money into the king's own hands was known to rarely come amiss. They agreed accordingly to offer him the same sum that would have fallen to his share had the plantations been carried out This was accepted and another £10,000 paid, and the evil day thus for a while, but only, as will be seen, for a while averted.

Charles's accession awakened a good many hopes in Ireland, the Catholic party especially flattering themselves that a king who was himself married to one of their faith would be likely to show some favour to his Catholic subjects. In this they found their mistake, and an attempt to open a Catholic college in Dublin was speedily put down by force. In other directions a certain amount of leniency was, however, extended to recusants, and Lord Falkland, who a few years before had succeeded Sir Oliver St. John as deputy, was a man of conspicuous moderation and tolerance. In 1629, however, he resigned, worn out like so many others before and after him by the difficulties with which he had to contend, and not long afterwards a man of very different temperament and widely different theories of government came to assume the reins.

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