Thomas Blenerhasset, from A Direction for the Plantation in Ulster (1610)

In the Elizabethan period, the province of Ulster in the north of Ireland had been (from the English perspective) the "wildest" part of the country. Ulster was the stronghold of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, the leader of the last and greatest Irish rebellion of the sixteenth century. Following the defeat of O'Neill's rebellion in 1603, and the flight of O'Neill and other Gaelic leaders to the continent in 1607, the English determined to solve the Ulster problem once and for all. Their aim was to stuff the province with Protestant settlers from England and Scotland, who would be rewarded with lands confiscated from O'Neill and his Gaelic compatriots. It is in large part due to this seventeenth century program of settlement, known as the "plantation of Ulster," that Ulster, with its slim Protestant majority, remains part of the United Kingdom today.

Thomas Blenerhasset's Direction for the Plantation in Ulster (1610) is a propaganda piece designed to encourage Englishmen of all classes to settle in Ireland. Like America in later centuries, Ulster is presented as a land of opportunity, where those who have suffered economic misfortune in England can make a fresh start. The task of encouraging prosperous English gentlemen to emigrate to a rough hinterland is obviously more difficult, but for them Blenerhasset has an original and chilling proposition. In addition to hunting animals like the fox, these gentlemen will get to experience the thrill of hunting the Irish.


[Click on image to enlarge] A Direction for the Plantation in Ulster, containing in it six principal things:

  1. The securing of that wild country to the crown of England;
  2. The withdrawing of all the charge of the garrison and men of war;
  3. The rewarding of the old servitors to their good content;
  4. The means how to increase the revenue to the Crown, with a yearly very great sum;
  5. How to establish the purity of religion there;
  6. And how the undertakers may with security be enriched.

* * *

The frowning countenance of chance and change (for nothing so certain as that all things are most uncertain) doth also incite a provident undertaker >> note 1 to lay such a foundation, as it should be rather a violent storm than a fret of foul weather that should annoy him. A scattered plantation will never effect his desire. What can the countenance of a castle or bawn >> note 2 with a few followers do? Even as they at present do, which is nothing to any purpose.

What shall we then say? Or to what course shall we betake ourselves? Surely by building of a well-fortified town, to be able at any time at an hour's warning with five hundred men well-armed to encounter all occasions. Neither will that be sufficient, except that be seconded with such another, and that also (if it may be, as easily it may) with a third. So there will be help on every side, to defend and offend. For as in England, if a privy watch be set, many malefactors are apprehended, even amongst their cups. So there when the spaces in the woods be cut out, and the bogs be made somewhat passable, then these new-erected towns, intending a reformation, must often times at the first set a universal great hunt, that a sudden search may be made in all suspicious places for the wolf and the wood-kern; >> note 3 which being secretly and wisely appointed by the governors, they with the help of some Irish, well-acquainted with the holes and holds of those offenders, the generality shall search every particular place. . . .

They shall discover all the caves, holes, and lurking places of that country, even for a hundred miles' compass. And no doubt it will be a pleasant hunt, and much prey will fall to the followers; for what doth escape some, will fall to the hands of others, and bring such a terror, that the wolf himself will not dare to continue his haunt, where such so sudden incursions shall be used, although it be but once in a month; the charge none, the pleasure much, the profit more.

* * *

Oh, this word "mine" is a strong warrior, every man for his own will adventure far; the mercenary rutter >> note 4 will often times have his charge empty with men, when his purse shall be full with dead pays. >> note 5 This, my valiant and provident warrior "mine," he will rather increase than decrease his number, he doth watch and ward night and day without ceasing. Therefore in this our undertaking, let all the people be such as shall enjoy every man more or less of his own, and if they were such as had no other estate than there, it were the better.

* * *

To conclude, what art thou? One whom kindness, casualty, >> note 6 or want of wit hath decayed? Make speed, get thee to Ulster, serve God, be sober; if thou canst not govern, be governed. Thou shalt recover thyself, and thy happiness there will make thee rejoice at thy former fortunes.

Art thou rich, possessed with much revenue? Make speed: without racking of rents, or other offensive means, thou shalt do God and thy prince excellent service. Thou hast the three-braided band which will bind bears, >> note 7 use there thy talent, it will be quickly a million.

Art thou a poor indigent fellow, and hast neither faculty >> note 8 nor money? Go not thither, for though there be plenty of all things, thou shalt starve there. Loiterers and lewd persons in this our new world, they shall not be endured. Art thou a tradesman? A smith, a weaver, a mason, or a carpenter? Go thither, thou shalt be in estimation, and quickly enriched by thy endeavors. . . .

Art thou a gentleman that takest pleasure in hunt? The fox, the wolf, and the wood-kern do expect thy coming; and the comely well-cabazed >> note 9 stag will furnish thy feast with a full dish. There thou shalt have elbow room. . . .

Art thou a minister of God's word? Make speed, the harvest is great, but the laborers be few. Thou shalt there see the poor ignorant untaught people worship stones and sticks. Thou, by carrying millions to heaven, mayest be made an archangel, and have, whiles thou dost live, for worldly respects, what not?

* * *

The Conclusion, containing an Exhortation to England

Fair England, thy flourishing sister, brave Hibernia, with most respective terms commendeth unto thy due consideration her youngest daughter, depopulated Ulster; not doubting (for it cannot but come unto thy understanding) how the long continuance of lamentable wars have raced and utterly defaced whatsoever was beautiful in her to behold; and hath so bereaved all her royalties, goodly ornaments, and well-beseeming tires, >> note 10 as there remaineth but only the majesty of her naked personage, which even in that plight is such, as whosoever shall seek and search all Europe's best bowers shall not find many that may make with her comparison.

Behold the admirable worth of her worthiness! Even now he gives the world to understand, by testimonial known sufficiently to all that know her, that if thou wilt but now assist her with means to erect her ruins, she will nourish thee with much dainty provision, and so furnish thee, as thou shalt not need to send to thy neighbor kingdoms for corn, nor to the Netherlands for fine holland. >> note 11 She will in requital of thy kindness provide those things, with some other, such as thy heart most desireth. Art thou overcharged with people? Ulster, her excellency, will embrace that thy overplus in her amorous sweet arms. . . .

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