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Another brick to the wall: The unruly Irish nation within the civilized English empire, 17th century

Une autre pierre à l’édifice : la nation irlandaise indisciplinée au sein de l’empire anglais civilisé, xviie siècle
Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber
p. 19-29

Résumés

La nation irlandaise était jugée barbare par les colonisateurs anglais, en raison du catholicisme hybride, des coutumes et traditions primitives et du système de propriété inexistant de ses habitants. Ainsi, l’Irlande, première colonie de l’empire anglais, servit de laboratoire impérial, de réservoir de terres et de main-d’œuvre pour les colonies nord-américaines. Certains Irlandais prirent le parti de collaborer à la construction de l’empire, y voyant leur intérêt personnel, alors que de nombreux autres, des hommes, des femmes et des enfants, majoritairement pauvres, participèrent à la construction de l’empire anglais contre leur gré.

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1During the early modern period, the colonisation of Ireland was concomitant with the building of the English Empire. The island became of interest to its neighbour for two main reasons: fertile and – from the English perspective – underexploited land, and Ireland’s geographical position. Indeed, in an age where different empires were expanding, the English considered Ireland as potentially dangerous since it could be used as a springboard for an invasion by the Spanish or the French. Therefore, controlling it was strategically crucial. What about its population? Since the 13th century, when Gerald of Wales, an adventurer, published commentaries on the Irish nation, the Irish had been deemed barbarous, traitorous and uncivilized. Therefore, few political economists at the time showed interest in using the population in whatsoever way. However, once the empire started to expand at the beginning of the 17th century, and the need for labourers increased, especially in the West Indies and Chesapeake, the Irish constituted a useful reservoir of workers. Hence, when the conditions in England made it unnecessary for the English to cross the Atlantic as indentured servants, English merchants, mariners and factors turned to Ireland to fill in the cargoes of their ships, whether the servants were willing to depart or not.

  • 1 Ronald Hoffman, Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500-1782, Chapel Hill, T (...)
  • 2 See Loree Lough, Lord Baltimore, English Politician and Colonist, Philadelphia, Chelsea House Publi (...)

2Part of the landed Irish benefited from the Ulster Plantations at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century and from the creation of colonies in the West Indies and North America. One good example is Charles Carroll known as “the colonist” who settled in Maryland in 1688 and brought forth a familial dynasty with Charles Carroll of Annapolis and his son Charles Carroll of Carrollton, signatory of the Declaration of Independence1. One other well-known Irish colonial success story is the Calverts’, proprietors of the Maryland colony. Also, some of the Tribes of Galway, prominent merchant families, built up fortunes in trading and settling in the colonies, such as the Blake family in Montserrat2.

  • 3 Gerard Farrell, « Class divisions and the “mere Irish” of colonial Ulster », Journal of Postgraduat (...)
  • 4 The records used for this article are minutes of the county courts, wills, inventories after death (...)
  • 5 As Jonathan Israel demonstrated for Sephardi Jews, Irish commoners became “simultaneously agents an (...)

3However, in this chapter, I would like to tackle the special case of the common Irish men, women and children, also called the “mere” Irish, faced with the difficult economic and social conditions of 17th century Ireland3. Some considered emigration, others did not and were drawn to emigrate against their will. The colonial records reveal that a large part of the poor population of Ireland which ended up in the West Indian and British North America colonies had not willingly decided to do so4. Thus, those Irish became agents of English empire-building across the Atlantic by participating in the local economies of tobacco and sugar, giving up their freedom to serve planters and merchants and often dying before their contracts had expired5. I will also demonstrate that, to some extent, English colonial authorities were successful in turning some Irish individuals into English subjects who saw their interest in voluntarily participating in the building of the English empire, whether in the West Indies, where the ex-servants who survived their indentures became planters and had servants and slaves themselves, or in the Chesapeake, where the social pressure pushed some to hide or to no longer identify with their Irish origins and culture, if they considered the latter to be problematic for their integration into colonial societies.

Ireland: A colonized nation within an Empire?

4The relationship between England and Ireland dates back to the 12th century when the Anglo-Norman conquerors settled on the island. At the time, the English presence was not important; they only controlled the region around Dublin called the Pale and a few towns such as Limerick, Cork and Galway. Therefore, the island was not subdued, and the native Irish, or Gaels, still had the upper hand on most of their territories. Officially, however, Ireland was governed by an English administration owing to a simple right of conquest. In 1534, Henry VIII decided to change his title of Lord of Ireland to that of King of Ireland, establishing his supremacy over the native kings of Ireland.

  • 6 Ethan Howard Shagan, « Constructing discord: Ideology, propaganda, and English responses to the Iri (...)

5For the King and for the English, Ireland was the key to both military strategy, due to its geographical position, and to curtailing fears of invasion. Indeed, since most Native Irish were Catholics, and therefore potentially close to other Catholic empires such as the French and Spanish, England always feared Ireland could be used as a springboard for an invasion of their territory. Rumours of Irish invasions recurrently spread among English newspapers and pamphlets, as it did after the 1641 rebellion. From an English perspective, in 1678, 1688 and 1691, controlling Irish land would mean profits, security and military strategy6.

  • 7 They were descendants of the Anglo-Norman conquerors who had turned to Catholicism and had adopted (...)

6The Tudors experimented with different forms of control of which the plantations of the late 16th and early 17th century were the most remarkable. This process of confiscating land and giving it to investors who would speculate on their price and sell them to prospective settlers – from England and Scotland mainly – is crucial since it was repeated in British North America and the British Caribbean. Virginia, Maryland and other colonies were colonized according to those strategies. Part of the Gaels, as well as the Old English7, were displaced and put under the authority of the new landlords, mostly Protestants, were they English or Scottish.

  • 8 Jane Ohlmeyer, Kingdom or Colony? Political Thought in Seventeenth-Century Ireland, Cambridge, Camb (...)

7The history of Ireland is still marked by the absence of a consensus regarding the status of Ireland during the 17th century. Was it a kingdom? A colony? A province? A plantation? Historians disagree because Irish history and administration by the English are and were complex8. I would argue that, for the time we are interested in, Ireland should be considered as a colony, especially, as we will see, when we know how lands and people were used.

8The plantations were the first step towards turning Ireland into a colony. Sending Anglican Englishmen to take up Irish land in the province of Ulster meant infusing Englishness into that “wild territory”. The common law was imposed on Gaelic chiefs and heads of clans, primogeniture became the rule, as opposed to among custom of sharing the land equally between the children, legitimate and illegitimate.

9Comparing Ireland to the colonies in America was also an indirect way of recognizing it as a colony. Indeed, many contemporary accounts clearly compare Ireland and the way Irish lands and people had been conquered (or not) to the colonization of American soil. Edward William, writing from Virginia in 1650, advises the English parliament to use the Irish and their prosecution as an example to discourage any mutiny in the colony:

  • 9 Edward William, Virginia: More Especially the South Part thereof, Richly and Truly Valued, London, (...)

“To the Supreme Authority of this Nation, The Parliament of ENGLAND. Since the Interest of that Nation [Virginia] you have so happily restored to its just and native liberty is the principall ayme intended in it, since the publick acknowledgement of the world unites in common testimony, That God hath subscribed to all your Heroic and Christian undertakings […] made good in the eyes of Christendome by vindicating the English Honour upon the British Ocean with a Puissant Navy, a formidable subject of amazement to the Forraine Enemies of your Sion, by a strong winged prosecution of the Irish Assassinates, a spacious lettred example to teach English Mutineers what they may expect by the red sentence of justice upon Irish Rebells9.”

10Ireland was seen as some sort of laboratory where the strategies that had functioned there could be re-used in other colonies. Native American warfare would be compared to Irish forms of warfare. In order to retaliate, the English would do as they had done in Ireland, i.e. destroy the Natives’ villages, their food stock, and banish their women and children. As in Ireland, the English justified those extreme actions with the Natives’ barbarism. Comparisons between the Gaelic Irish and the Natives were numerous. Nathaniel Crouch wrote in 1685 that:

  • 10 R.B. [Nathaniel Crouch], The English Empire in America: or A Prospect of His Majesties Dominions in (...)

“The Indians are of disposition very inconstant, crafty, timorous, quick of apprehension, and very ingenious, soon angry, and so malicious, that they seldom forget an injury, and barbarously cruel, witness their direful revenges upon each other; prone to injurious violence and slaughter, by reason of their blood dried up by over-much Fire; very Letcherous, proceeding from adust choler and melancholy, and a salk and sharp humour; both Men and Women are very thievish, and great haters of Strangers, all of them Canibals or eaters of Human flesh, and so were formerly the Heathen Irish, who use to feed upon the Buttocks of Boys, and the Paps of Women10.”

11In the Americas, the English re-used strategies that had worked in Ireland but also learnt from their mistakes there and did not repeat what had failed on the island. The Earl of Anglesea, deputy-treasurer of Ireland, recommended caution when establishing English authority in the American colonies, because of the situation in Ireland:

  • 11 Earl of Anglesea, in Raymond Gillespie, « Negotiating order in early seventeenth century Ireland », (...)

“To the disgrace of Christianity, and the dishonor of the English, they [colonists] have succeeded better in their plantations among the heathen Indians of America than among the Irish and Old English corrupted by the Irish who after so many hundred years are not reclaimed whereas many of the Indians turn Christian and the rest brought to such order and civility that they live pleasantly by the English planters without attempt of massacre which they barbarously committed in Ireland. This must be attributed more to the want of policy and good government in the English and their neglect to execute laws against popish recusants than to the bloody principles and practice of their superstitions11.”

12With Ireland, the English could build on solid experiences of colonization which was used to expand the empire abroad. Therefore, the appropriation of Irish land by the English crown helped enlargeging the empire.

Irish servants: An unwanted labour force

13The Irish during the 17th century were a nation abroad -to some extent at the least. During that period, the British empire was constituted of the English/Welsh, Scottish and Irish nations. However, there was a clear hierarchy within this imperial space and the Irish were situated towards the bottom of the civilized population. The civilizing mission of the English was to be seen in Ireland but also within the colonial societies of North America.

  • 12 Richard Dunn, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713(...)

14Accordingly Irish colonists were not the favoured labour force of planters in the West Indies and the Chesapeake. As Richard Dunn puts it, “Irish servants were cordially hated by their English masters12”. They were believed to have primitive agricultural practices and, as mentioned earlier, no common regulations on the ownership of land. Numerous pamphlets contended this, such as John Leland’s Itineraries (1549), John Bale’s The Image of Both Churches (1570), John Derricke’s The Image of Irelande (1581), Edmund Campion’s History of Ireland (published in 1633). Apart from Campion’s pamphlet, all others were published in London. Contemporaries involved in the settlement of Virginia and Maryland, who had also often been part of the campaigns in Ireland and were therefore transported to the New World, imbuing their perception of the Irish labour force in the colonies. Additionally, Irish servants were considered as the worst work force one could employ. Indeed, “national traits” colonial authorities would identify Irish servants with were that they were treacherous, unruly and lazy.

15The main problem was that the Gaelic Irish, and to some extend the Old English, were considered to be Catholics and therefore seen as a potential threat in an Empire that fiercely defended Protestantism on a nearly global scale. Occurrences such as “many Irish […] who are most, if not all, Papists” were numerous in the records and show a set of religious prejudices attached to the origins of those Irish servants mentioned by Governor John Seymour in his letter to the Board of Trade and Plantations in 1706:

  • 13 John Seymour, 3 December 1706, CSPC, America and West Indies, vol. 23, n° 198 [my emphasis].

“Your Lordships will observe a Representation relating to Irish servants, who are generally papists; great numbers of which have of late years been imported here, […] upon a specious tho’ false encouragement given them in Ireland […] assuring them of good tracts of land at the head of the Bay, and free Tolleration and exercise of their superstitious worship13.”

  • 14 William Willoughby to King, 16 September 1667, British Library, Stowe 755, Miscellaneous Private Le (...)
  • 15 William Willoughby to Privy Council, 16 December 1667, CSPC, America and West Indies, vol. 21, n° 1 (...)
  • 16 Maryland Archives Online (hereafter MAO), Judicial and Testamentary Business of the Provincial Cour (...)
  • 17 Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber, Les premiers Irlandais du Nouveau Monde, une migration atlantique, 1618-1705(...)
  • 18 John Scott, Some Observations on the Island of Barbados, c. 1667, Colonial Office, I/2 i, no. I70.

16Nonetheless, on Barbados, the Irish represented the most important ethnic group, or nation. Therefore, many governors worried that they would trigger social unrest. In 1667, William Willoughby, governor of Barbados expressed his preference for Scottish servants in those terms: “I am for the downright Scot who, I am certain, will fight without a crucifix about his neck14.” Later that same year, he voiced his concerns that half of the island’s soldiers were Irish: “If your Lordship shall offer a trade with Scotland for transporting people of that nation [the Scottish] hither, and prevent any access of Irish in the future, it will accommodate all the ends propounded15.” Irish servants were clearly stigmatized during the 17th century: in the lists of headrights recorded in Maryland and Virginia, Irish servants were identified as being Irish with terms like “Irish maid”, “Irish man” or “of the Irish nation”. Apart from an occasional occurrence of a Scottish, French or Turkish servant, the Irish were the only ones identified in that manner, except for Africans who were also identified as such in the lists16. Another telling fact is that, in Maryland, whenever the clerks of the county courts were English Protestants, Irish servants were more systematically singled out as being Irish. For instance, between 1656 to 1660, a period during which three of the six clerks were English Protestants, more than 50 Irish servants were identified in Talbot county alone17. John Scott, an English adventurer, noted that in Barbados the Irish were “derided by the negroes, and branded with the Epithet of ‘white slaves’”, working alongside slaves, barefooted18. Virginia went as far as voting the Irish servant Act in 1655 which read as such:

  • 19 William W. Hening (ed.), The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia from (...)

“BE it enacted by this Grand Assembly That all Irish servants that from the first of September, 1653, have bin brought into this collony without indenture (notwith-standing the act for servants without indentures it being only the benefitt of our own nation) [the English nation, clearly differentiated from the Irish nation] shall serve as followeth, (vizt.) all above sixteen yeares old to serve six years, and all under to serve till they be twenty-four years old and in case of dispute in that behalfe the court shall be judge of their age19.”

  • 20 The Glorious Revolution took place in 1688. For more information on the topic and its repercussions (...)
  • 21 MAO, Bacon’s Laws of Maryland, vol. 75, p. 235.

17This law intervened after several rebellions led by or in which Irish servants had participated. It aimed at discouraging merchants and mariners to transport Irish servants without indenture. At the time in Virginia, any servant under 16 coming into the colony without an indenture would have had to serve until they were 21 (as opposed to 24 in this law) and if above 16, for four years. After Maryland had been taken over by the Crown as a result of the Glorious Revolution20, a special tax was instated on Irish servants in 1699 “to prevent too great a number of Papists being imported into this Province21”. In the West Indies, censuses comprised a column devoted to the Irish while in the Chesapeake servants were identified as being of that nation when they were presented to the court to have their age judged or for petty crimes.

18However, no matter how unwanted those labourers were to the local planters, with regard to their “race” or “nation” the need for more hands to work led the English authorities to draw from Ireland the required labour force. The 1655 Virginian law lengthening the time of servitude for Irish servants was repealed five years later because it “discouraged” servants “from coming into this country” and “by that meanes the peopling of the country retarded”. The colonists were willing to accept this despised labour force despite their fears since there was a clear competition for migrants to help build and consolidate the fledgling economy of the Tobacco Coast. Before the 1640s, few Irish people were present in the colonies. The archives however show how the Irish source of labour was already valued. Daniel Gookin Senior arrived in Newport News, Virginia, in 1622 and his arrival was noted as such:

  • 22 Letter from the Council of Virginia to the Virginia Company of London, CSPC, America and the West I (...)

“There arived heere about the 22th of November a shipp from Mr Gookine out of Ireland wholy upon his owne Adventure, withoute any relatione at all to his contract with you in England which was soe well furnished with all sortes of provisione, aswell as with cattle, as wee could wishe all men would follow theire example, hee hath also brought with him aboute 50 more upon that Adventure besides some 30 other Passengers, wee have according to their desire seated them at Newport news, and we doe conceave great hope that frome Ireland greate multitudes of People will be like to come hither22.”

  • 23 Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber, Les premiers Irlandais…, op. cit., p. 120-121.
  • 24 Eamon Darcy, The Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Rochester, Boydell & B (...)

19The enthusiasm for ventures such as that of Daniel Gookin shows how important the need for labour was. During the twenty following years, most Irish people who arrived in the colonies were either political rebels or convicts. Moreover, due to the political, religious and economic tensions in England and Scotland, many migrated willingly23. The 1640s and 1650s proved to be more unstable for the Irish and the Irish rebellion of 1641 triggered the ire of Oliver Cromwell and led to the displacement of thousands of Irish Gaels to the region of Connaught24. Many were also sent to the colonies as servants since they were not welcome in England anymore. For those whose contract of indenture, signed in England, had survived, going to the colonies was a second migration. Many tried their luck in towns like London, Bristol or Middlesex and, realizing that opportunities for improving their conditions were scarce, they decided to cross the Atlantic. Irish migrants tended to stay rather than migrate seasonally as before.

  • 25 Historians have stressed that the 1660s started a revolution in English economics with the articula (...)
  • 26 John Wareing, Indentured Migration and the Servant Trade from London to America, 1618-1718, Oxford, (...)

20When the economic situation improved in England between the 1660s and the 1680s, English, Scottish and Welsh individuals did not wish to emigrate to the colonies anymore, since they could improve their economic condition while staying in the British Isles. Politically, the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 brought a certain degree of stability back to England. This was twined with an increase in salaries, good economic conditions, profitable harvests, leading to less people in need of improving their condition25. However, hands still had to be found and Ireland appeared as a ready reservoir of labour force, mostly for merchants and private factors. The control exerted on the island was more lax than in Great Britain, enabling the development of spiriting. Spiriting was the term used during that period to designate the kidnapping of children, women and men. The individuals targeted were seduced by false promises ending up in the forced boarding of a ship bound to the colonies across the Atlantic. Once on board, or upon arrival, they were forced into servitude by being sold to a planter. Since this practice was illegal, it is difficult to evaluate its numerical importance. However, when seeing the numbers of servants arriving without indentures in the Chesapeake for example, we can suspect that a part of them had been indentured against their will. The practice became so widespread that, as John Wareing noted, it caused a wide range of regulatory legislation, among which the 1645 Ordinance of Parliament against Stealing Children, proving how problematic this phenomenon had become26. In 1663, the Duke of Ormonde, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, issued a Proclamation against Stolen Children in Ireland:

  • 27 Ormonde, Irish Proclamations, 8 September 1663, English Short Title Catalogue, n° R178920, http://e (...)

“Certain persons, wickedly pretending authority, who have stolen children to sell them in foreign parts. The Mayors of Dublin and other cities are to arrest such persons and present them at the Assizes for trial. All ships and barques are to be searched for such offenders and such children27.”

  • 28 The 1678 census notes 800 Irish out of 7,381 inhabitants in Nevis, 1,869 out of 3,724 in Montserrat (...)

21As a result, in islands such as Montserrat, Nevis or Barbados, the Irish population made up to 50% of the entire population28. Here, the Irish contributed to all aspects of colonial life: they provided maybe an unruly but existing labour force, they were enrolled in the militias at times (when they were not perceived as too dangerous), they developed trade networks with Europe. Therefore, colonists were willing to overcome their fears in order to satisfy their thirst for economic advancement. Nevertheless, all Irish were not victims of the British Empire and some succeeded personally in participating in its construction and expansion.

The Irish as “willing” agents of the British empire

  • 29 Marc Belissa, « L’Irlande au xviie siècle, royaume ou colonie britannique ? », op. cit., p. 78.

22Already in Ireland, some Irish had pledged allegiance to the King to preserve their land. Others were threatened to lose their lands if they did not conform to the Anglican church and pledge allegiance to the king29. Conformity was crucial for the links between Ireland and England: problems in governing Ireland originated from the fact that the Irish would not conform to the Anglican church and would not cease to identify with what they might have considered their Irish identity: language, literature, music and their shared history. As typical of the early modern period, religion and civilization were thought of as typical traits of the “nation”. As such, the Irish were considered to be uncivilized, even less civilized than Native Americans:

  • 30 Earl of Anglesea, in Raymond Gillespie, « Negotiating order in early seventeenth century Ireland », (...)

“To the disgrace of Christianity, and the dishonor of the English, they have succeeded better in their plantations among the heathen Indians of America than among the Irish and Old English corrupted by the Irish who after so many hundred years are not reclaimed whereas many of the Indians turn Christian and the rest brought to such order and civility that they live pleasantly by the English planters without attempt of massacre which they barbarously committed in Ireland.30.”

23In the mind of Arthur Annesley, Irish parliamentarian later Lord of Anglesea, religion and Englishness or English pride were closely linked.

  • 31 Alan J. Guy, « The Irish military establishment, 1660-1776 », in Thomas Bartlett, Keith Jeffery (ed (...)
  • 32 Matthew O’Connor, Military History of the Irish Nation Comprising a Memoir of the Irish Brigade in (...)

24On the other side of the Atlantic, some Irish, having arrived as free migrants or ex-servants, willingly accepted some form of Anglican conformity. Others, more destitute, resolved to integrate into the army to avoid poverty, even if soldiers in Ireland during the 17th century did not fare well, as Alan J. Guy puts forward31. This led to situations in which Irishmen fought their countrymen, as in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne for example32.

  • 33 Jenny Shaw, Island Purgatory…, op. cit., p. 129.

25For the colonies, Jenny Shaw has highlighted that in Barbados, the Irish nation was divided into two categories: the ones of the good sort, such as planters, masters of servants and slaves, holders of offices, as opposed to those of “the bad sort”, meaning unruly servants, Irish Catholics fomenting rebellions and acting against the empire33. The Irish who had arrived as freemen, or who had survived their indenture, and had integrated colonial society by participating actively in the economic growth of the empire, were considered of the good sort, simply because they had a lot to lose if they acted against the empire through the development of their plantations, their trading networks and their political influence.

  • 34 Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber, Les premiers Irlandais…, op. cit., p. 214.
  • 35 Raymond Gillespie, Devoted People: Belief and Religion in Early Modern Ireland, Manchester, Manches (...)
  • 36 See Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber, Les premiers Irlandais…, op. cit., chapter 11, p. 201-221.

26In the Chesapeake, no official strategies were implemented to pressurize the Irish into assimilating, or at least not demonstrate their Irishness. Nevertheless, the sources show that some erased what they identified as markers of Irishness. Bryan O’Daly arrived in Saint Mary’s county before 1659, where he was freed after having completed his indenture. He married the widow of an Irish free man and became the owner of his land (300 acres). When he became a free planter, he got rid of the particle “O’ ” in his name. He was registered as O’Daly but he became Bryan Daly or Bryan Dayly. Even if he used Gaelic letterings, he still clearly wanted to anglicize his name34. The unofficial pressure exercised in Virginia, an Anglican colony, in the English West Indies and to some extent in Maryland probably pushed a large part of the free Irish to either convert or at least hide their Irish origins. Often, the husband would convert while the wife and children would remain Catholics, since religion was usually transmitted by the mother35. Hence, to favour economic as well as social integration and advancement, some Irish agreed to conform, denying their Irish origins. Bryan O’Daly married a Protestant girl: can this also be considered as a mechanism to integrate, or at least not to be remarkable? To counteract the two disadvantages that the English found to the Catholic Irish (their religion and their national belonging) some decided to blend into the colonial societies they were part of. The networks of sociability available for some individuals in the mainland colonies show that Irish ex-servants did not particularly interact with Irish people, or ex-servants36. They were not looking to re-create an Irish community but would rather integrate into the social context of their colony and/or county or achieve economic success by mixing with the other colonists. In Maryland, Catholics, whether of the English or Irish nation, tended to interact with each other, as in the case of Bryan O’Daly mentioned before, or his son Bryan Daly Jr.

Conclusion

27The Irish participated in the building of the British empire in several respects. While serving as a colonial laboratory for practising imperialism, the island also provided some of the much needed labour force for colonies such as Virginia, Barbados or Maryland. From an English perspective, to be of the Irish nation meant to be Catholic and uncivilized, at least as far as Irish labour was concerned. In Ireland, lands of the Native Irish were taken to repay the English gentry and military who had invested in the diverse wars, while the population was used either on those plantations, or sent to plantations across the Atlantic. Indeed, this pattern of confiscating land was reiterated in the Americas, where the original rights of the Natives were considered void because of their barbarism. However, despite the fear of planters regarding their Irish servants, labour was needed in such great quantities that the paradox was resolved by controlling the Irish excessively, using strategies such as counting them and localising them. In the West Indies, the Irish were counted in the censuses while in the Chesapeake servants were identified as being of that in the court records. Ireland, the last of the nations, participated unwillingly in the construction of the English empire.

  • 37 See Dagmar Freist, Susanne Lachenicht (eds.), Connecting Worlds and People: Early modern diasporas, (...)

28However, some Irish individuals participated actively in the construction of the Empire, mainly in an effort to achieve economic advancement. This did not mean that their loyalty was acquired by the Crown. The English considered those Irish as of “the good sort”, those who would not undermine English rule, as they had personal interests involved. In all, the experience of those Irish commoners and the reactions of the London and colonial authorities both in Ireland and in the colonies in British North America is not exceptional as this kind of pattern can be seen elsewhere in the Empire. Therefore, the notions of agency within the empire and the integration of sometimes unwilling members of the empire into a common society interact in this history similarly to other colonized spaces37. The fact that the English were at some stage compelled to “develop uneasy trust relations” with the Irish for economic needs came together with attempts to control that nation which remained in many contexts different from the English one.

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Notes

1 Ronald Hoffman, Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500-1782, Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

2 See Loree Lough, Lord Baltimore, English Politician and Colonist, Philadelphia, Chelsea House Publishers, 2000; Louis M. Cullen, An Economic History of Ireland since 1660, London, Batsford, 1972; S.J. Conolly, Divided Kingdom, Ireland 1630-1800, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002; Kerby Miller, Arnold Schrier, Bruce D. Boling, David Noel Doyle (eds.), Irish Immigrants in the Land of Canaan, Letters and Memoirs from Colonial and Revolutionary America, 1675-1815, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003.

3 Gerard Farrell, « Class divisions and the “mere Irish” of colonial Ulster », Journal of Postgraduate Research, Trinity College Dublin, 2014, n° 13, p. 73-91, p. 74.

4 The records used for this article are minutes of the county courts, wills, inventories after death and Assembly proceedings of Maryland, Virginia and the West Indies, as well as correspondence between local colonial authorities and the Lords of Trade and Plantations in London.

5 As Jonathan Israel demonstrated for Sephardi Jews, Irish commoners became “simultaneously agents and victims of empire”. Jonathan Israel, Diasporas within a Diaspora: Jews, Crypto-Jews and the World of Maritime Empires (1540-1740), Leiden, Brill, 2002, p. 1. See also Susanne Lachenicht, « Refugees and refugee protection in the early modern period », Journal of Refugee Studies, 30, 2017, n° 2, p. 261-281.

6 Ethan Howard Shagan, « Constructing discord: Ideology, propaganda, and English responses to the Irish Rebellion of 1641 », Journal of British Studies, 36, 1997, n° 1, p. 4-34; John Gibney, « Ireland’s Restoration crisis », in Tim Harris, Stephen Taylor (eds.), The Final Crisis of the Stuart Monarchy: The Revolutions of 1688-91 in their British, Atlantic and European Contexts, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2013, p. 153.

7 They were descendants of the Anglo-Norman conquerors who had turned to Catholicism and had adopted the Gaelic language over the centuries.

8 Jane Ohlmeyer, Kingdom or Colony? Political Thought in Seventeenth-Century Ireland, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000; Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British, 1580-1650, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001; id., Kingdom and Colony: Ireland in the Atlantic World, 1560-1800, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988; Ciaran Brady and Raymond Gillepsi (eds.), Natives and Newcomers: The Making of the Irish Colonial Society, Dublin, Irish Academic Press, 2006; Marc Belissa, « L’Irlande au xviie siècle, royaume ou colonie britannique ? », in Déborah Cohen (dir.), État, pouvoirs et contestations dans les monarchies françaises et britanniques et dans leurs colonies américaines (vers 1640-vers 1780), Paris, Ellipses, 2018, p. 74-88.

9 Edward William, Virginia: More Especially the South Part thereof, Richly and Truly Valued, London, printed by T.H. for John Stephenson, 1650.

10 R.B. [Nathaniel Crouch], The English Empire in America: or A Prospect of His Majesties Dominions in the West-Indies, quoted in Steven Sarson (ed.), The American Colonies and the British Empire, 1607-1783, London, Pickering and Chatto, 2009, vol. 2, p. 80.

11 Earl of Anglesea, in Raymond Gillespie, « Negotiating order in early seventeenth century Ireland », in Michael Braddick, John Walter (eds.), Negotiating Power in Early Modern Society: Order, Hierarchy, and Subordination in Britain and Ireland, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 188. Arthur Annesley received the title of Earl of Anglesea after the death of Oliver Cromwell and became deputy treasurer of Ireland.

12 Richard Dunn, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713, Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2000 (1972), p. 69.

13 John Seymour, 3 December 1706, CSPC, America and West Indies, vol. 23, n° 198 [my emphasis].

14 William Willoughby to King, 16 September 1667, British Library, Stowe 755, Miscellaneous Private Letters, etc., English and Foreign; 1613-1818, f. 19.

15 William Willoughby to Privy Council, 16 December 1667, CSPC, America and West Indies, vol. 21, n° 162. [my emphasis]

16 Maryland Archives Online (hereafter MAO), Judicial and Testamentary Business of the Provincial Court, 1649/1650-1657, vol. 10, p. 568; Maryland Land Patents, 1659, in Maryland State Archives (hereafter MSA) SC 4341-6044, MSA SC 4341-5889, MSA SC 4341-6706.

17 Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber, Les premiers Irlandais du Nouveau Monde, une migration atlantique, 1618-1705, Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2016, p. 178.

18 John Scott, Some Observations on the Island of Barbados, c. 1667, Colonial Office, I/2 i, no. I70.

19 William W. Hening (ed.), The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia from the First Session of the Legislature in the Year 1619, New York, R. & W. & G. Bartow, 1823, vol. 1, p. 411.

20 The Glorious Revolution took place in 1688. For more information on the topic and its repercussions on the American colonies, see Owen Stanwood, « The Protestant moment: Antipopery, the Revolution of 1688-1689, and the making of an Anglo‐American Empire », Journal of British Studies, vol. 46, July 2007, n° 3, p. 481-508.

21 MAO, Bacon’s Laws of Maryland, vol. 75, p. 235.

22 Letter from the Council of Virginia to the Virginia Company of London, CSPC, America and the West Indies, vol. 3, p. 587.

23 Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber, Les premiers Irlandais…, op. cit., p. 120-121.

24 Eamon Darcy, The Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Rochester, Boydell & Brewer, 2015.

25 Historians have stressed that the 1660s started a revolution in English economics with the articulation between economics and politics, the beginning of mercantilism and expansionism. See Perry Gauci (ed.), Regulating the British Economy, 1660-1850, Abingdon-on-Thames, Routledge, 2016, « Introduction. The ensuing economic and social conditions meant fewer people needed to leave ».

26 John Wareing, Indentured Migration and the Servant Trade from London to America, 1618-1718, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017, p. 170-172.

27 Ormonde, Irish Proclamations, 8 September 1663, English Short Title Catalogue, n° R178920, http://estc.bl.uk/R178920. Last viewed 15 June 2019.

28 The 1678 census notes 800 Irish out of 7,381 inhabitants in Nevis, 1,869 out of 3,724 in Montserrat and 610 out of 4,480 in Antigua. Governor William Stapleton to Lords of Trade, 29 June 1678, quoted in Hilary Beckles, « A riotous and unruly lot: Irish indentured servants and freemen in the English West Indies, 1644-1713 », William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 47, 1990, n° 4, p. 510. See also Jenny Shaw, Island Purgatory: Irish Catholics and the Reconfiguring of the English Caribbean, 1650-1700, PhD thesis, New York University, 2008, p. 50, and id., Everyday Life in the Early English Caribbean. Irish, Africans, and the Construction of Difference, Athens, University of Georgia Press, 2013.

29 Marc Belissa, « L’Irlande au xviie siècle, royaume ou colonie britannique ? », op. cit., p. 78.

30 Earl of Anglesea, in Raymond Gillespie, « Negotiating order in early seventeenth century Ireland », in Michael Braddick, John Walter (ed.), Negotiating Power in Early Modern Society: Order, Hierarchy, and Subordination in Britain and Ireland, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 188-205, p. 188.

31 Alan J. Guy, « The Irish military establishment, 1660-1776 », in Thomas Bartlett, Keith Jeffery (eds.), A Military History of Ireland, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 212-213.

32 Matthew O’Connor, Military History of the Irish Nation Comprising a Memoir of the Irish Brigade in the Service of France, Dublin, 1845.

33 Jenny Shaw, Island Purgatory…, op. cit., p. 129.

34 Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber, Les premiers Irlandais…, op. cit., p. 214.

35 Raymond Gillespie, Devoted People: Belief and Religion in Early Modern Ireland, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1997, p. 1-20; Mary O’Dowd, A History of Women in Ireland, 1500-1800, New York, Pearson Longman, 2005.

36 See Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber, Les premiers Irlandais…, op. cit., chapter 11, p. 201-221.

37 See Dagmar Freist, Susanne Lachenicht (eds.), Connecting Worlds and People: Early modern diasporas, Abingdon, Routledge, 2017.

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Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber, « Another brick to the wall: The unruly Irish nation within the civilized English empire, 17th century »Diasporas, 34 | 2019, 19-29.

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Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber, « Another brick to the wall: The unruly Irish nation within the civilized English empire, 17th century »Diasporas [En ligne], 34 | 2019, mis en ligne le 29 février 2020, consulté le 24 juin 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/diasporas/3879 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/diasporas.3879

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Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber

Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber est maîtresse de conférences en civilisation nord-américaine à l'Université de Poitiers. Elle est spécialiste de l'histoire de l'Amérique coloniale et des différentes formes de travail forcé qui s'y sont développés. Elle est l'auteure d'une monographie intitulée Les premiers Irlandais du Nouveau Monde, une migration atlantique, 1618-1705 (Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2016), ainsi que de « “Fourty thousand to cutt the Protestants throats”: The Irish Threat in the Chesapeake and the West Indies (1620-1700) », dans Lauric Henneton et Lou Roper (dir.), Fear and the Shaping of Early American Societies (Leyde, Brill, 2016). Elle est par ailleurs co-éditrice du Journal of Early American History, publié par Brill, et secrétaire du Réseau pour le Développement Européen de l’histoire de la Jeune Amérique - 1607-1865 (REDEHJA).

Élodie Peyrol-Kleiber is maître de conférences at Poitiers University (France), specialised in colonial America and the different forms of unfree labor developed there. She has published a monograph entitled Les premiers Irlandais du Nouveau Monde, une migration atlantique, 1618-1705 (Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2016). She is also the author of « “Fourty thousand to cutt the Protestants throats”: The Irish Threat in the Chesapeake and the West Indies (1620-1700) », in Lauric Henneton and Lou Roper (eds.), Fear and the Shaping of Early American Societies (Leiden, Brill, 2016). She is co-editor general of the Journal or Early American History published by Brill and secretary of the scientific association REDEHJA (Réseau pour le développement européen de l’histoire de la jeune Amérique).

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