The English Rulers
that the most violent and destructive changes in Irish political and economic
life were directly caused and perpetuated by English rulers of the 16th, 17th
and 18th centuries, a story of the life of an Irishman born during this period
would not be complete without a brief story of the lives and records of the
English rulers responsible for such incredible and oppressive action. Most of
the trouble caused by the rulers arose out of religious conflicts and greed for
power and land. The rulers were extremely religious, although immoral and
dishonest in their behavior. The inhabitants of Ireland were the victims of
their unreasonable and immoral inhumanity and devilish harrassment for several
centuries. The only ones who fully escaped were the ones who emigrated to
America. From these emigrants came the majority of the soldiers who comprised
Washington's army of the Revolutionary War. This record of the English rulers
begins with Henry VIII in 1509,
and concludes with George III, in 1760.
HOUSE OF TUDOR 1485 - 1603
Reigned 1509 - 1547
Serious trouble for the Irish Catholics of Northern Ireland actually began
during the reign of Henry VIII. Henry became King at the age of 18. During his
reign, Henry broke with the Pope. The Protestant Episcopal Church of England was
established, and Henry was its supreme head. This abo-
K R O'Hair PAGE-18
lition of Papal jurisdiction was effected in 1533 due to the refusal of the Pope
to recognize Henry's divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. He had
married Catherine in 1509 at the beginning of his reign. The marriage had been
arranged by English diplomats and the King of Spain. Henry had defended the
Papacy against Luther in 1521. He tried for a divorce in 1523, but failed to
obtain approval of the Pope. Catherine had failed to produce a male heir. Henry
divorced Catherine in 1533 and again tried to obtain approval of the Pope. The
refusal of Papal approval turned Henry against the Pope and caused him to
influence Parliament to pass Acts of Supremacy which caused the separation of
England from the Pope and the Catholic religion. All the enormous wealth of the
Catholic Church in England was transferred to the King. The abolition of papal
jurisdiction removed all obstacles to the legalization of Henry's marriage to
Anne Boleyn in 1533. Anne also failed to produce a male heir to the throne. She
was charged with adultery and beheaded in 1536. Henry then married Jane Seymour
who died shortly after giving birth to Edward VI. The fourth wife, Anne of
Cleaves, was divorced in 1540. Catherine Howard became Henry's fifth wife. She
was beheaded in 1542 on a charge of misconduct. Catherine Parr then became
Henry's sixth wife. She survived Henry and lived to the age of thirty-six.
During Henry's reign he could divorce wives and behead ministers with impunity.
started the movement to destroy the Catholic religion in Ireland in 1535
when he sent his agent to Ireland to subdue the Irish and apply English law.
"From the beginning of his reign, Henry VIII undertook to destroy the basis of
Irish resistance. With this object in view he issued 'most secret' instructions
to his officials to capture our (Irish) trade and commerce, by every subtle
device. All the laws against Irish civilisation, against marriage, fosterage and
gossipred, against the use of native literature and its language, against every
phase and aspect of National life, were re-enacted. By a Parliament (May 1536)
composed of English colonists only, and convened by fraud, corruption, and
terror, Henry was acknowledged as Head of Church and State; and the Catholic
religion, with its ritual and teachings, declared null and void, 'corrupt for
ever.' Five years later the same body proclaimed Henry' King of Ireland' ."1
most northern province of Ireland, was
K R O'Hair PAGE-19
composed of nine counties: Antrim,
Armagh, Cavan, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Monaghan and Tyrone. Some
Irish clans went along with the new decree and turned their backs upon the old
Irish customs, laws and religion. Before long those who had traded their Irish
heritage realized their mistake. The King's appointed Marshall soon began
confiscation of their lands and proceeded to eliminate every living creature
from those lands. Henry intended to bleed Ireland of her finances, but his
greedy officials beat him to the wealth. The young sons of Irish noblemen were
taken from their homes. The children were raised in England where they were not
only brainwashed of their heritage, but indoctrinated to hate everything Irish.
Such outrages only served to draw Irishmen closer together. They took up the
standards of their chieftians as their fathers before them had done for many
centuries past. According to Irish custom, the clan, and not the chieftian owned
the clan lands. The chief did not have authority to give away or sell the clan
lands. Henry commented that "politic practices would serve till such time as the
strength of the Irish should be diminished, their leaders taken away from them,
and division put among themselves so that they join not together.
"But the whole scheme was rooted and grounded in falsehood, and Ireland had yet
to learn how far sufferings by the quibble and devices of law might
exceed the disasters of open war. Chiefs could be ensnared one by one in
misleading contracts, practically void. A false claimant could be put on a
territory and supported by English soldiers in a civil war, till the
actual chief was exiled or yielded the land to the King's ownership. No chief,
true or false, had power to give away the people's land, and the king was face
to face with an indignant people, who refused to admit an illegal bargain. Then
came a march of soldiers over the district, hanging, burning, shooting, 'the
rebels,' casting the peasants out on the hillsides. There was also the way of
conquest.' The whole of the inhabitants were to be exiled, and their countries
made vacant and waste for English peopling. . .
"The introduction of the Protestant Reformation principles added sources of
fresh outrages, new oppressions. In Ireland, Protestantism was not given a
chance to appeal to the people by any ethical, religious, or political ideals.
The licentious unpaid English soldiery who had to maintain them-
K R O'Hair PAGE-20
selves by plunder
and rapine, were accompanied by incendiaries who left not a homestead, not a
blade of corn, standing; these apostles were followed by ministers of the
Gospel, with hangmen and escheators in their train. So, amidst an orgy of
slaughters and executions, in which neither age nor sex, neither the infirm nor
the strong were spared, and of burnings ... The destruction of
monasteries, churches and schools, became a passion. Even the possession of a
manuscript on any subject whatever incurred the death penalty. Poets and
historians were put to the sword, and their books and genealogies burned, so
that no man 'might know his own grandfather.' All Irishmen, Old and New, were to
be confounded in the same ignorance and abasement, all glories gone and all
rights lost. The great object of the English government was to purge the land of
Ireland of its rightful sons, to destroy the National tradition, to wipe out
Gaelic memories, and to begin a new English life."2
With the destruction of her churches, Irishmen turned more fervently to the
Catholic religion. For many years following Henry's reign, conflict prevailed
between Catholics and Protestants for control of the British monarchy which had
been Protestant during the last fourteen years of Henry's reign. Control passed
from one faith to the other several times until it finally became permanently
Protestant. Discrimination, oppression and persecution of Catholics continued
after Henry's reign for over three hundred years with varied force and
intensity. Today, in Northern Ireland, discrimination against Catholics in some
respects is still practiced which results in much unrest and dissatisfaction.
Reigned 1547 - 1553
Edward VI was a son of Henry VIII. Edward was a Protestant and accomplished very
little during his short reign.
Reigned 1533 - 1558
Mary was a daughter of Henry VIII, and a sister of Edward VI. She was a
Catholic, but her Irish rule was no less merciless than that of her
predecessors. Mary de-
K R O'Hair PAGE-21
termined from the first to restore Catholicism but had to go slowly. In
October, 1554, Parliament repealed all anti-papal legislation. Reconciliation
with Rome was effected. From February, 1555 thru November, 1558 over three
hundred Protestants were burned at the stake. After this slaughter people turned
against Mary, her Church and her creed. Loyalty turned to hatred. Mary died
November 17, 1558, broken hearted over her failure to win English hearts back to
Reigned 1558 - 1603
Elizabeth was also a daughter of Henry VIII, and a sister of Edward and Mary.
Elizabeth was a Protestant, so the church was once more Protestant. Papal
control of its ecclesiastical policy ceased. Elizabeth reclaimed all the power
which Henry had exercised as supreme head of the church. In Ireland the English
policy was to remain, and the Protestant religion was forced upon the Irish
people. Much persecution of the Irish Catholics followed. The conquest of
Ireland had been going on for four centuries. The immemorial laws of Ireland,
called the Brehon Laws, was the obstacle against which every attempt to complete
this conquest was broken. The Brehon laws had been the custom from the Gaelic
past. They decreed equal rights, and especially stressed that the land was owned
by the clan. England had tried for many years to abolish those laws which made
confiscation of the lands difficult. Elizabeth now ordered that the Protestant
religion must be enforced in Ireland and the clan owned lands must belong to the
Crown. Mass was abolished. Priests were hanged. The English authorities failed
to surpress the Catholics and except in the larger towns, it became impossible
to enforce the Protestant religion. Elizabeth instigated the Munster Plantation.
Half a million acres of Ireland's fertile land was seized. The inhabitants were
either evicted or killed. The lands were parcelled out to the English. The
Munster Plantation failed largely because the English were afraid to risk their
lives and fortunes in a new country where the elusive native Irish cunningly
found means to hinder the confiscation.
K R O'Hair PAGE-22
HOUSE OF STUART
1603 - 1649
Reigned 1603 - 1625
James I was a Protestant. He was thirty-seven years of age at the start of his
reign. James was the first Stuart king and formerly had been King James VI
Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone, became involved in a conspiracy against the
King in 1607. The Earl and nearly a hundred others, also a party to the plot,
fled Ireland, fearful of arrest by the English. Their flight became known as the
"Flight of the Earls." The families of the Earls had been powerful in Ulster
since the twelfth century. The Four Masters, at their monastery in Donegal,
wrote of the flight, "It is certain that the sea has not borne nor the wind
wafted from Ireland, a party in any one ship more eminent, illustrious and noble
than they were. Woe to the heart that meditated, woe to the mind that planned,
woe to the counsel that decided on the project of their setting out on that
voyage." The historical writings by the Four Masters ended in 1645 with the
death of the last of the four authors, O' Clery. About half a million acres of
land belonging to the Earls and their followers were confiscated by the King,
and became known as the Ulster Plantation. Those acres were parcelled out to
the followers of King James from Scotland, and to the English favorites of the
King. Along with the lands of the Earls, some two million acres had also been
seized for this plantation, comprising the counties of Donegal (Tyrconnell),
Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan, Armagh and Derry (Coleraine). The counties of Down and
Antrim were not a part of the plantation. Those two counties already had a large
Scotch population who had migrated during the previous century and spoke Gaelic
and were of the Catholic faith. The Scots account for the prefix "Mac" which
constituted so large a part of the Scotch-Irish race. Many of the names of the
Scotch settlers are identical with those of the Valley of Virginia. Like other
rulers before him, James abolished the Brehon laws and confiscated lands.
Tanistry was declared illegal in the first year James ruled. Under the custom of
tanistry a successor chief was appointed during the lifetime of the reigning
chief. The successor was usually a male relative, not necessarily a son of the
chief and was elected by the people on the
K R O'Hair PAGE-23
basis of his
worthiness and wisdom. With the confiscation of their lands, the Irish natives
were again driven from their homes. Thousands died of starvation, other
thousands fled to other lands. Many emigrated to America. Like the Munster
Plantation, the Ulster Plantation failed to populate Ireland to the extent hoped
for by the King.
Reigned 1625 - 1649
Charles I was the son of James I. At his accession he was twenty-five years old.
Charles was deeply religious, a High Churchman who stressed Episcopacy (rule by
the Bishops). His wife, Henrietta Maria from France, was a devout Roman Catholic
and distressed over the status of the Catholics. There was peace in Ireland for
a few short years at the beginning of Charles' reign. Charles then subjected
Ireland to ruthless tyranny. Mercy was shown to no one, neither to the
Anglo-Irish, the Catholic peasants, or Presbyterians. Ireland was milked
of her revenue. Her woolen manufacture was put to an end. Only woolens
manufactured in England were allowed. The Irish Catholics finally rebelled in
1641. The rebellion turned into a religious war in which hundreds were killed.
Charles was condemmed and executed January 30, 1649 for his part in the
religious civil wars. Charles' death was followed by a temporary abolition of
monarch. Substitution of executive power was vested in a council of state. The
government was based upon the army.
1649 - 1660
Oliver Cromwell, as virtual head of the army, was responsible for the change
from a monarchy to a Council of State in 1649. Cromwell was an earnest Puritan,
an independent Protestant, and a leader of the anti-Presbyterian party. He had
grown up with a demented hatred of Catholics, especially Irish Catholics. A
Puritan was "a member of a group of 16th and 17th century Protestant Christians
in England opposing the traditional and formal usages of the Church of England
who during the Commonwealth period, 1649-59, became a powerful political party
and who emigrated in large
K R O'Hair PAGE-24
Cromwell commanded the army of 17,000 that subdued Ireland and Scotland before
the end of 1652. During his inhumane sieges of Drogheda and Wexford in the late
summer of 1649, in less than one month, over 6,000 people - men, women,
children, priests, nuns and laymen were massacred under the direction of
Cromwell himself. Cromwell was destined to leave behind him in Ireland for all
time, a name synonymous with ruthless butchery. The other northern strongholds
were reduced in quick succession before the horrible war was over. The war was
the most dreadful ever fought in Ireland. After Ireland capitulated, all the
Irish still alive in Ulster, Leinster and Munster were ordered to move to
Connacht, a desolate county. This was to make way for the great Cromwellian
Settlement. This Act of Settlement went far beyond the earlier confiscations
carried out under Elizabeth and James. The Munster Plantation had involved half
a million acres. The Ulster Plantation had involved about two and a half million
acres. The Cromwellian Settlement now confiscated nearly eight million acres,
more than half of the cultivatable land. The war had nearly depleted the number
of young men. Most of the few young men left were sold into slavery, along with
women between the ages of twelve to forty. The number sent into slavery varies
from thirty to eighty thousand. The Irish historian, John P. Prendergast, gives
this description of the terrible condition of Ireland at that time: "Ireland, in
the language of Scripture, lay void as a wilderness. Five-sixths of her people
had perished. Women and children were found daily perishing in ditches, starved.
The bodies of many wandering orphans, whose fathers had been killed or exiled,
and whose mothers had died of famine, were preyed upon by wolves. In the years
1652 and 1653 the plague, following the desolating wars, had swept away whole
counties, so that one might travel twenty or thirty miles and not see a living
creature..."4 The conquered lands were given to the
soldiers who supported Cromwell in lieu of payment for their services. Many of
the soldiers were reluctant to leave their homes and sold their newly acquired
lands to English land speculators.
"The Protectorship of Oliver Cromwell, from 1654 to 1658, is the one break in
the regality of English government. There have been revolutions and coup d'etats
K R O'Hair PAGE-25
by members of the royal house or men claiming to be so; Cromwell is the only
'civilian' - if we except modern prime ministers - who was raised to supreme
power, and indeed at his height he wielded a greater authority than most English
"Until the twentieth century, English reaction was somewhat mixed, but his
stature has never been in serious doubt. To the royalists he was evil incarnate,
but even the Earl of Clarendon saw in him elements of greatness, and his
portrait is akin to Milton's Satan:
Without doubt, no man with more wickedness ever attempted anything, or brought
to pass what he desired more wickedly, more in the face and contempt of
religion and moral honesty; yet wickedness as great as his could never have
accomplished those trophies without the assistance of a great spirit, an
admirable circumspection and sagacity, and a most magnanimous resolution.
"To the republicans he was equally odious, as the betrayer of the 'Good Old
Cause,' the seventeenth-century Stalin:
that grand imposter, that lothesome hypocrite, that detestable traitor, that
prodigy of nature, that opprobrium of mankind, that landscape of iniquity,
that sink of sin, and that compendium of baseness, who now calls himself the
" . . . It is significant that he never publicly enrolled in any particular
creed, and when he came to supreme power as Lord Protector he envisaged a new
state Church, non-episcopalian, but hierarchial in its implications nonetheless...
his refusal to believe that Divine-Truth was the sole prerogative of any
individual sect or communion led to an insistence on religious freedom...
His enormous prestige in Europe eased 'the transition from divine right of
monarchy to the divine right of the nation.' ... As Hill says:
The new English patriotism was closely associated with religion, with liberty
and with the rise of the middle class. Its symbol in the eighteenth century was
to be the unattractive figure of John Bull - Oliver Cromwell minus ideology."
K R O'Hair PAGE-26
HOUSE OF STUART 1660 - 1714
Reigned 1660 - 1685
Charles II was the son of Charles I. He was recalled from exile and proclaimed
King of England and Ireland in May, 1660. Scotland again became an independent
kingdom. Charles declared in favor of Prelacy (rule by the Bishops). He refused
toleration to non-conformists and named Bishops for all the dioceses in Ireland.
Charles' mother had been Catholic and he turned to that faith before he died.
Charles placed restrictions upon the export to England of Irish livestock. The
newer owners of Irish lands were dismayed because they had turned to the raising
of livestock and allowed the fertile fields to return to pasturelands, due to
lack of farm labor since the Cromwellian transplant. The landowners now shifted
to sheep, thinking to stimulate the wool industry. Two political parties arose
during this reign known as Whigs and Tories.
Reigned 1685 - 1688
James II was the son of Charles I, and a brother of Charles II. James had
adopted the Catholic religion. He appointed a Catholic deputy to look after his
interests in Ireland. Many favors were bestowed upon the Roman Catholics out of
proportion to their number. James was very popular in Ireland because of his
religion, but very unpopular in England for the same reason. Discontent soon
followed among the Presbyterians and Episcopalians now united together in a
common cause. A newly formed organization urged James' son-in-law, William of
Orange, then in Holland, to invade England with an armed force and take over the
government. James fled to France when William and his army invaded England.
Reigned 1689 - 1694
William of Orange was crowned William III. His wife, Mary, was a daughter of
James II. William and Mary
K R O'Hair PAGE-27
1694 as joint soverigns. The Williamite Wars against Ireland fought during their
reign failed to surpress the Irish. The English and Scottish settlers in Ireland
declared for William. The Irish declared for James II. James went to Ireland and
set about raising an army, but arms were deficient. Within two months thousands
of Irish Catholics enlisted in James' new army. Many were barefoot. They were
ragged and some were half naked. Their fathers had been robbed of their
homelands and they just barely managed to exist. James had landed in Ireland
March 19, 1689. He spent over a year raising his army, had an unsuccessful siege
with the Protestants, then prepared to meet William of Orange on the banks of
the Boyne river. William landed at Belfast in June, 1690. William had a
well-trained army of 36,000 made up of English, Dutch, Danes, French Huguenots
and Orangemen. Besides that number, William's army was supplemented with several
thousand English and Scottish settlers living in Ireland. James had only been
successful in raising some 25,000 for his army. They were not well-trained, nor
were they well-armed. On July 1, 1690 the unequal Battle of the Boyne was fought
all day long. Fearful of being captured by William, James deserted his army. The
ragged little army fought on without James for two weeks before they were forced
to surrender at Limerick. Under the terms of the treaty, the Irish Catholics
were granted their liberties and the right to exercise their religion, but the
remainder of the ragged little army was given the choice of defecting to
William, or being shipped to France. Most of the army chose France even though
they were forced to leave their families behind. William became the acknowledged
King of Ireland, but he did not live up to the terms of the treaty and Ireland
came under Protestant rule.
Reigned 1694 - 1702
William of Orange became sole King and exclusive sovern in 1694. The British
settlers in Ireland did not want the Irish to have their liberties and set about
sending petitions to Parliament. William then invented the Penal Laws
K R O'Hair PAGE-28
as a means of
eradicating the race. Among other things, the Penal Laws ordered that:
Catholic was forbidden the exercise of his religion.
He was forbidden to receive education.
He was forbidden to enter a profession.
He was forbidden to hold public office.
He was forbidden to engage in trade or commerce.
He was forbidden to live in a corporate town or within five miles thereof.
He was forbidden to own a horse of greater value than five pounds.
He was forbidden to purchase land.
He was forbidden to lease land.
He was forbidden to accept a mortgage on land in security for a loan.
He was forbidden to vote.
He was forbidden to keep any arms for his protection.
He was forbidden to hold a life annuity.
He was forbidden to buy land from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to receive a gift of land from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to inherit land from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to inherit anything from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to rent any land that was worth more than thirty shillings
He was forbidden to reap from his land any profit exceeding a third of the
He could not be guardian to a child.
He could not, when dying, leave his infant children under Catholic
He could not attend Catholic worship.
He was compelled by the law to attend Protestant worship.
He could not himself educate his child.
He could not send his child to a Catholic teacher.
K R O'Hair PAGE-29
not employ a Catholic teacher to come to his child.
He could not send his child abroad to receive education.
"The priest was banned and hunted with bloodhounds. The schoolmaster was banned
and hunted with bloodhounds... The law soon came to recognise an Irishman
in Ireland only for the purpose of repressing him." 6
Throughout those dark days the hunted schoolmaster was hidden from house to
house with a price upon his head. In the summertime he gathered his little
class, hungering for knowledge, behind a hedge in a remote mountain. Each child
took a turn at keeping watch from the hilltop for British soldiers, while the
schoolmaster taught his pupils. The Penal Laws remained until the end of the
eighteenth century. William systematically clamped down on the export and import
laws of Ireland. In 1695 it became illegal to import sugar, cotton and tobacco
from the British West Indies and Jamaica. In 1698 the duties on export of Irish
wool were raised to an unreasonable price. The same kind of a duty was put on
Irish manufactured linen goods in 1699. Thousands emigrated to America as a
result of the imposition of those restrictions.
Reigned 1702 - 1714
Anne succeeded to the throne upon the death of William. The Declaration of
Rights which had been converted into the Bill of Rights by Parliament, gave the
succession to Anne in default of issue of William and Mary. Anne was a daughter
of James II, and a granddaughter of Charles. She was a zealous churchwoman and
"immediately placed herself under the guidance of the High Church Tories, and
from the beginning of her reign the series of anti-popery laws began, which have
been the cause of so much misery to Ireland. The Sacramental Test Act was now
enacted, by which all Nonconformists, Protestants and Catholics were excluded
from public offices. . . In addition to the oppressions on account of
their religion, the industry and commerce of the people of Ulster were
systematically repressed by the English government. Twenty thousand people (had)
left Ulster on the destruction of their woolen trade in 1698." 7
K R O'Hair PAGE-30
The heavy duties on the export of woolen and linen goods which had been imposed
in 1698 and 1699, causing so many people to leave Ireland, became worse during
Anne's reign. "In 1705 it was enacted that only the coarsest kinds of undyed
Irish linen should be admitted to the British Colonies. Checked, striped and
dyed Irish linens were excluded. Besides, no Colonial goods could be brought in
return. And Irish linens of every kind were forbidden to be exported to all
other countries with the exception of Britain... And, to the British linen
manufacturers a bounty was granted on all linen exports!... 'The result is the
ruin of Ulster and the flight of the Protestant population to America.' So, it
was the ruin of the linen trade by England... which helped to give to America
her so-called Scotch-Irish population." 8
HANOVER 1714 - 1901
This period of British history produced unity alike in politics, thought,
economics and social development which previously had not been experienced.
Reigned 1714 - 1727
George I was the first of the Hanoverian dynasty. He succeeded Anne pursuant to
the statutory definition of succession, laid down in the Act of Settlement which
was passed after the death of Anne's last child, giving succession to the next
Protestant heir. George was a German and spoke only the German language.
The momentum of the High Church party was somewhat slowed down and some favors
shown to the Irish Presbyterians. The King was also more favorable to the people
of Ulster. The English House of Parliament passed the Declaratory Act in 1719
which declared that "the King, with the advice of the Lords and Commons of
England, hath had of right and aught to have full power and authority to make
laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the people of the
Kingdom of Ireland." 9
K R O'Hair PAGE-31
Reigned 1727 - 1760
George II became King after the death of his father, George I. England became
alarmed by the numbers of Protestants leaving northern Ireland. Most of the
linen manufacture was located there and was being severely affected. There had
been three successive crop failures. The people had become discouraged and were
emigrating to America. "In 1728, nearly 6,000 Irish, nearly all Presbyterians,
came to America, landing in Philadelphia. Before the middle of the century
nearly 12,000 arrived annually for several years. Almost all who came to America
were Presbyterians. Protestant Episcopalians did not have the same motive for
emigration, and the tide of Catholic emigration from Ireland did not set in till
after the American Revolution. . . In the fall of 1739, many of the more
industrious and enterprising inhabitants fled from scarcity and oppression in
Ireland and came to America, landing on the Delaware river in Pennsylvania. Many
of these soon found their way into the wilderness of Augusta County." 10
Michael O'Hair was an exception. He was a Catholic and emigrated to America in
1761, before the Revolution.
Most of the fertile land of Ireland had been put into pasture land. As the
population increased during those years, agriculture land decreased. The main
diet of the poorer people consisted of potatoes. Years of crop failure also
brought famine. There were two more years of crop failures in 1740 and 1741. The
number of people who starved was estimated to have been 400,000. That was the
worst year of starvation for the Irish for nearly a century until the 'Great
Potato Famine.' The greatest portion of the emigration of Irish Catholics into
America took place after the 'Great Potato Famine' in 1845, 1846 and 1847.
Reigned 1760 - 1820
George III was a grandson of George II. He succeeded to the throne when he was
twenty-two years old. George III ruled for sixty of the most momentous years in
British history. Although his ability was mediocre and sur-
K R O'Hair PAGE-32
limited in range and vision, he had solid qualities of character. The first two
Georges were German Princes reigning in a British kingdom which they did not
understand. George III had been born in England. He was British by birth,
training and temperament. Conditions for the people in Ulster did not improve
and emigration to America continued. A great many of the soldiers who fought
under Washington were of Scotch-Irish descent. The historian, Bancroft, declared
that the first dissention with Britain did not come from the Puritans of New
England, the Dutch of New York, but from the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. Lord
North was the Prime Minister from 1770 thru 1782 which included the period of
the Revolutionary War.
The following summary of the Revolutionary War has been condensed from the
The crisis would have arisen even if there had been no George III or Lord North.
The American War of Independence, which followed the first blood shed at
Lexington, Massachusetts, in April, 1775, and Bunker Hill in June, 1775, was a
war of two radically different countries. It developed into a war of Great
Britain against several countries - France, Spain, Holland, and soldiers of
other neutral countries. The incompetence of Lord North's ministry to avert the
war with the colonies, and to anticipate or prevent the intervention of France
in the war led to England's defeat. The British army was quite inadequate for
the tasks imposed upon it. The navy had been allowed to fall far below the
strength required to assure command of the sea. It was the loss of the command
of the sea which was responsible for Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown in 1781.
Lord North's ministry stands convicted of preventable blunders. At the
commencement of the war, a majority of Great Britain supported the ministry
against an eloquent and determined opposition of a large minority. The
disasters, the corruption, and the lack of unity in policy and direction, slowly
turned the minority into a majority, which by a vote of the House of Commons
ended the ministry of Lord North in March, 1782.
The system of responsible parliamentary government, working through a cabinet
representing the party which had or could retain a majority in the House of
Commons and reduce the power and influence of the King, survived the American
catastrophe. Had Lord North's ministry been competent,
K R O'Hair PAGE-33
it could have crushed the armed resistance of British subjects in America before
France had either the power or the will to intervene. Despite Washington's
heroic efforts, the American rebels realized that without France, they would be
beaten in the end. Burgoyne's disaster and defeat at Saratoga in October, 1777
was more persuasive at Paris than Franklin's diplomacy. 11
Daniel Morgan's regiment of riflemen performed a leading role, and perhaps the
most decisive role, in victory at Saratoga, which is now considered as one of
the world's all time most important battles. Michael O'Hair was actively engaged
in this battle under the command of General Morgan. Morgan's strategy turned the
tide of battle and contributed greatly to the defeat of the British General
Burgoyne. Morgan stationed his sharpshooters up in trees with instructions to
shoot only the British officers. The British lost so many officers that their
army was deprived of sufficient leaders to fight effectively, and a leaderless
army finally turned and fled from the field of battle.
French intervention in 1778 caused Great Britain to be placed in a
position of disadvantage. The French provided troops and money for Washington's
army, and a navy the equal of the British navy then stationed in American
waters. Washington's troops had not been paid. Many were ready to desert at the
time France provided the money to cover the back pay due them. Had there not
been the decisive battle of Saratoga and the surrender of Burgoyne's army, there
probably would not have been any French intervention, and probably no final
American victory. Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown convinced even the King that
the war in North America must be abandoned. The treaty of September 3, 1783 with
the American Colonies granted the independence proclaimed in 1776. The thirteen
American Colonies passed from British control. Although angry memories of the
war prevailed for over a century, Great Britain eventually turned to the
descendants of her former subjects for help when she became involved in World
The Irish Free State, with the status of a British dominion, came officially
into being on January 15, 1922. After much fighting and bloodshed, the Catholics
won back twenty-six of Ireland's counties in 1920. The peace agreement was
signed in London on December 6, 1921 by the British and
K R O'Hair PAGE-34
delegations. The peace agreement was ratified by the British Parliament ten days
later, and by a meeting of elected members of the Parliament of Southern
Ireland, convened January 15, 1922. The new state was composed of twenty-six of
the counties, and four of the county boroughs.
It is interesting to take a look at part of the new Irish Constitution enacted
in 1938, in contrast to the way British kings and government delt with the Irish
and imposed their will upon them. "The family is recognized as the natural unit
of society and as a moral institution possessing imprescriptible rights. . .
The Irish Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and free profession and
practice of religion. Free schools are built for Catholic, Protestant and Jews
alike. These schools are staffed and maintained by the Government." 12
When Terence O'Neill became Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1963, he
promised the Catholics a square deal in jobs, housing and public affairs.
Protestants thought they would suffer for any Catholic gains. Quite a few
rallied behind the Presbyterian minister, Rev. Ian Paisley, to defend their
privileges with clubs and stones. Protestants hold thirty-seven of the fifty-two
seats in the Northern Irish Parliament, and eleven of the twelve seats in the
British Parliament in London. Irish Protestants are the staunchest of British
Conservatives. A person's religion in Northern Ireland is very important. This
has been true for over three hundred years. All of this conflict actually began
during the reign of Henry VIII, and all because of the desire of the king to
divorce his wife so he could take another wife which led to a disagreement with
the Pope who would not approve of the divorce.