Articles of the Ulster Plantation


These “Articles” refer to the English and Scottish Undertakers, who were to plant their portions with English and Scottish Tenants; subject to the following conditions:—

1. “His Majesty is pleased to grant Estates in Fee-Farm to them and their Heirs.”

2. “They shall yearly yield unto his Majesty, for every Proportion of a thousand Acres, Five pounds, Six shillings and Eight pence, English, and so rateably for the greater Proportions, which is after the rate of Six shillings and Eight pence for every three score English Acres. But none of the said Undertakers shall pay any Rent, until the Expiration of the first two years,[8] except the Natives of Ireland who are not subject to the charge of Transportation.”

3. “Every Undertaker of so much Land as shall amount to the greatest Proportion of two thousand Acres, or thereabouts, shall hold the same by Knight’s service in capite; and every Undertaker of so much Land as shall amount to the middle Proportion of fifteen hundred Acres, or thereabouts, shall hold the same by Knight’s service, as of the Castle of Dublin. And every Undertaker of so much Land as shall amount to the least Proportion of a thousand Acres, or thereabouts, shall hold the same in common soccage;[9] and there shall be no wardships[10] upon the two first descents of that land.

4. “Every Undertaker of the greatest Proportion of two thousand Acres shall, within two years[11] after the Date of his Letters Patent, build thereupon a Castle, with a strong Court or Bawne (or cattle-fortress) about it. And every Undertaker of the Second or middle Proportion of fifteen hundred Acres shall, within the same time, build a stone or brick house thereupon, with a Strong Court or Bawne about it. And every Undertaker of the least Proportion of a thousand Acres shall, within the same time, make thereupon a Strong Court or Bawne at least. And all the said Undertakers shall draw their Tenants to build Houses for themselves and their families near the principal Castle, House, or Bawne, for their mutual Defence or Strength. And they shall have sufficient Timber, by the Assignation of such Officers as the Lord Deputy and Council of Ireland shall appoint, out of his Majesty’s Woods in that Province, for the same Buildings, without paying anything for the same, during the said two (or four) years; and to that End there shall be a present Inhibition to restrain the felling or destruction of said Woods in the meantime for what cause soever.”

5. “The said Undertakers, their Heirs and Assignes, shall have ready in their Houses at all Times a convenient Store of Arms, wherewith they may furnish a competent number of able Men for their Defence,[12] which may be viewed and mustered every half year, according to the manner of England.”

6. “Every of the said Undertakers, English or Scottish, before the unsealing of his Letten Patent, shall take the Oath of Supremacy, either in the Chancery of England or Ireland, or before the Commissioners to be appointed for establishing of the Plantation; and shall also conform themselves in Religion, according to his Majesty’s Laws.”

7. “The said Undertakers, their Heirs and Assigns, shall not alien or demise their Portions, or any Part thereof to ‘meer’ Irish,[13] or to such Persons as will not take the Oath which the said Undertakers are bound to take in the former Article. And to that End a Proviso shall be inserted in their Letters Patent.”

8. “Every Undertaker shall, within two years, plant or place a competent number of English and Scottish Tenants upon his Portion, in such manner as by the Commissioners to be appointed for establishing of this Plantation shall be prescribed.”

9. “Every of the said Undertakers for the space of five years next after the Date of his Letters Patent shall be resident in Person himself upon his Portion; or place some such other Person thereupon as shall be allowed by the State of England and Ireland, who shall be likewise resident there during the said five years, unless by reason of sickness, or other important cause, he be believed by the Deputy and Council of Ireland, to be absent himself for a time.”

10. “The said Undertakers shall not alien their Portions during five years next after the Date of their Letters Patent, but in this manner, viz.: one third part in Fee-Farm, another third part for forty years or under; reserving to themselves the other third part without Alienation during the said five years. But after the said five years they shall be at liberty to alien all Persons, except the ‘meer Irish,’ and such persons as will not take the Oath of Supremacy, which the said Undertakers are to take as aforesaid.”

11. “The said Undertakers shall have power to erect Manors,[14] to hold Courts Baron twice every year, to create Tenures, to hold of themselves upon Alienation of any part of their said Portions, so as the same do not exceed the Moiety thereof.”

12. “The said Undertakers shall not demise any part of their Lands at Will only, but shall make certain estates (or leases) for years, for Life, in Taile, or in Fee-Simple.”[15]

13. “No uncertain Rent shall be reserved by the Undertakers, but the same shall be expressly set down without reference to the custom of the country; and a Proviso shall be inserted in the Letters Patent against Cuttings, Cosheries, and other Irish exactions upon their Tenants.”

14. “The said Undertakers, their Heirs and Assigns, during the space of seven years next ensuing, shall have power to transport all Commodities growing upon their own Lands, which they shall hold by those Letters Patent, without paying any Custom or Imposition for the same.”

15. “It shall be lawful for the said Undertakers, for the space of five years next ensuing, to send for, and bring into Ireland, out of Great Britain, victuals, and utensils for their Households; Materials and Tools for Building and Husbandry; and Cattle to stock and manure the Land as aforesaid, without paying any Custom for the same, which shall not extend to any Commodities by way of Merchandize.”


[8] Years: But the time for freedom from rent paying was eventually lengthened from two to four years.

[9] Soccage: The tenure known as “soccage” (soc.: French, “the coulter or share of a plough,”) originally implied certain services in husbandry to be rendered by the tenant to the lord of the Fee. These services included not only ploughing, but making hedges, and carrying out manure to the fields. The more honourable but grievous system of Knight’s service has been swept away, and the laws providing for abolition have, according to Blackstone, done more for the freedom of property than Magna Charta itself. See Blackstone’s Commentaries, vol. II., p. 63.

[10] Wardships: Queen Elizabeth’s well known Secretary of State has the following reference, in one of his books, to this great evil of feudal law: “Many men do esteem wardship by Knight’s service contrary to nature, that a freeman and gentleman should be bought and sold like a horse or an ox, and so change guardians at first, second, or third hand, as masters and lords. The King having so many wards, must needs give or sell them, and the buyer has no natural care for the infant (the minor) but only for his the warder’s gain; thus, he will not suffer a ward to take any great pains, either in study, or any other hardness, lest he should be sick and die before he hath married the buyer’s daughter, sister, or cousin, for whose sake he bought him, and then all the money which he paid for him would be lost. The guardian doth but seek to make the most of his ward, as of an ox or other beast.”

[11] Two Years: The time was afterwards extended to four years.

[12] Defence: In this matter of Arms, the servitors who would become undertakers were all right, being military officers, and having always been in the habit of having their dwellings well stored with weapons. The regulation, however, which was finally required on this important matter was, that each undertaker of 2,000 acres must have had in his house or castle twelve muskets and twelve calivers (or blunderbusses), to arm 24 men for defence; each undertaker of 1,500 acres was required to have in store 9 muskets and 9 calivers; whilst the undertaker of 1,000 acres was supposed to be sufficiently provided, if he had six muskets and six calivers.

[13] Mere Irish: From an early period of the English rule in Ireland, the “meer Irish” were prohibited from purchasing, although the oppressive law had no practical existence beyond the Pale. It remained, however, on the Statute Book, to be used when and wherever it could be enforced. Though the English might take from the Irish, the latter could not, either by gift or purchase, take any from the English. In the year 1612, Davys framed an Act abolishing this distinction, but the prohibition against the Irish practically continued; for, by these Ulster Plantation “Orders and Conditions,” the English and Scotch were forbidden to convey any lands taken from the natives, back to the native Irish. In the time of the Commonwealth this oppressive law was not only continued, but extended to the whole nation. After the war of 1690, the English Parliament further enacted that the Irish then were incapable of purchasing, or holding even as tenants, any quantity of land greater than two acres.

[14] Manors: This word is supposed to be derived from the Latin verb maneo, “to remain;” because the “manor” is one of the results of long and well-established settlement. The power of erecting lands into manors often conveyed to the grantees other privileges besides those mentioned in the above clause. In England there used always to be a Court Leet as well as a Court Baron in connection with every manor. The former (so called from the Dutch laet, “a peasant tenant”) was the court in which copyhold tenants—the lease being a servile tenure—had justice administered; whilst the “Court Baron” was that in which the freeholders of the manor sought justice and protection from wrongs when necessary. The “Court Leet” is now everywhere superseded by other arrangements; and the “Court Baron,” from the same cause, now only exists in name.

[15] Fee-Simple: By this “Condition” it would appear that undertakers were prohibited from letting their lands for less than twenty-one years and three lives, because of their getting their grants on the very advantageous tenure of common soccage, instead of by Knight’s service. In connection with this “Condition” also, it was urged by Chichester that the undertakers should be prohibited from “marrying and fostering with the Irish.”

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