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 History 101

The 1650Act for Adventurers


During the Cromwell invasion of Ireland, England conjured ways to reward the Irish who were loyal to  England and punish those who resisted invasion of their country.

It was expected to earn through the "Act for Adventurers" that mercenary troops could loot sufficient assets from Ireland to pay for the war. 

The invasion cost £3.5 million, but Cromwell's thieves managed to loot less than £307 thousand.

A shortfall of nearly £2 million left Cromwell short of funds to pay his 35,000 mercenaries and the financiers who invested in Cromwell's ability to turn a profit on their investments. 

To cover the shortfall Cromwell decided to pay his war debts by stealing Irish land and dividing it among the debtors. But land owners first had to be evicted from their lands.

Step one of the Resettlement Act of 1652, was to identify "rebel" landowners who refused to bow to England. This was accomplished in many cases by bribery and false testimony. 

One hundred and five Irish Chiefs were identified as rebels and at risk for summary execution or banishment.

By murdering them, Cromwell could steal their land and at the same time eliminate potential Irish leaders who could raise an army to oppose English tyranny.

The vast majority of land owners who did not show "constant good affection" toward parliament were punished by applying several layers of land forfeiture.

When "Transplantation Certificates" were issued, land owners with their families had to leave their ancestral homelands so the English Parliament could steal their land.

To reiterate, under the Cromwell plan, landowners who had not "shown constant good affection" to parliament, faced forfeiture of their estates. Those who were not particularly supportive of parliament, but did not take up arms to defend themselves; those not responsible for "massacre or aggravated rebellion," could remove to Counties Galway, Roscommon, Mayo or Clare, where depending upon their degree of guilt, could receive two-thirds one-third or one-fifth of the acres of land that was stolen from them.

Step two of the plan for resettlement was executed in 1653 when Cromwell set aside four Ireland counties, Carlow, Cork, Dublin and Kildare, to be confiscated by the English Government for their own disposition. 

Step three named ten Ireland Counties, Armagh, Antrim, Down, Laois, Limerick, Meath, Westmeath, Offaly, Tipperary and Waterford to be divided among the adventurers with further provision that more land could be stolen from other counties if necessary to meet Cromwell's war debts.

Step four, a Civil Survey was made by gross estimation and mapping, and supervised by William Perry was ordered to lay out the boundaries of additional land to be stolen by England.  

In January 1654 AD 1,500 adventurers began dividing their portions of the ten counties by lot. In this manner 1,043 adventurers received 1.1 million acres. The largest beneficiaries were the investors who had purchased their shares from other investors at reduced prices. 

The 33,419 shares issued to mercenaries were approximately equal to land given to adventurers and investors, but the plan fell apart when because of a shortage of land, bribery and other factors, many investors and mercenaries were awarded reduced shares; some received nothing at all.

A third despicable act called for complete removal of the Catholic population leaving most of the land open to British Protestant settlement. That plan was defeated by the old Protestants who had settled in Ireland before 1640, who foresaw the negative economic effect total dislocation could have caused.

Evicted landowners had to move with their servants dependants and moveable goods by May 1, 1654 (later extended to March 1655). A commission at Athlone ascertained levels of guilt and a commission at Loughrea allocated the land. As available land decreased, allocations became increasingly arbitrary as administrative resources were unable to cover the costs even of their administration. 

By June 1657 the process for intents and purposes was complete. Some land owners originally deemed liable to total forfeiture had used bribes and influence to obtain land in Connaught. Others ordered to move, despite threats of punishment, refused to leave their lands. The 1,130 landowners transplanted to Connaught received in return a total of 700,000 acres, much of which involved former lands owned by Chief O'Kelly.


It appears from the table of transplanted below that not all land was stolen from Irish citizens, for names found liberally among the dispossessed were Lords of apparent English lineage, and also names of Norman and Viking societies who had settled in Ireland between 800 and 1400 AD.

It appears Robber Baron Cromwell was an equal opportunity thief and murderer.

GOTO Table of land Owners who were dispossessed of their lands by Cromwell.


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Copyright Fun Histories 1998 by Don Kelly

Ireland History For Kids

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