CELT document E610002-001

A discourse of the present state of Ireland, 1614, per S. C.

George Carew


A discourse of the present state of Ireland, 1614, per S. C. [= George Carew]


In kingdoms conquered, nothing but time, and that also must be the flux of hundreds of years, hath power to unite the conquerors and the ancient inhabitants in perfect amity. Examples thereof are pregnant in many kingdoms of Europe, and particularly in Ireland. It is evident, for until of late, the old English race, as well in the pale, as in other parts of the kingdom, despised the meer Irish, accounting them to be a barbarous people, void of civility and religion; and other of them held the other as an hereditary enemy; and so it would have continued for many years yet to come, had not these latter times produced a change, the occasion whereof proceedeth from these three heads ensuing:
First,  p.431 their frequent marriages one with another, which in former ages was rarely seen.

Secondly, the meer Irish (by their travel abroad) are civilized, grown to be disciplined soldiers, politicians, and further instructed in points of religion, then accustomed, whereby the antient dislike and contempt is laid aside.

Lastly, the late plantation of new English and Scottish in all parts of the kingdom, whom (with an unanimous content) the natives repute as a common enemy; but this last is the first and principal cause of their union, which with all possible art they endeavour to disguise, covering the same under the colour of religion, pretending, that nothing but matter of coincidence moves them to concur in opposition to the present government; for this cause in (odium terris) the slaughters and rivers of bloodshed between them are forgotten, and the instructions made by themselves or their ancestors, on either part, for title of land, are remitted.

Which characters, of inveterate malice (reciprocally rooted) are as well in the hearts of the conquerors, as the conquered; and the wit and industry of man (but for the respects recited) were no way able to deface and extinguish, they being then enjoined (as is evident) it is worthy the consideration (admitting they rebel) what more danger to the state, their union can now produce, than in former ages. The rebellions in times past shave been moved (for the most part) uopn particular quarrels,  p.432 between themselves, the weaker evermore praying aid from the state, to preserve him from the oppression of his neighbour; some others having risen (whereof there are examples) out of disdain, to subject themselves to the laws of the land, which appeared in the earls of Desmond and Tyrone; and when they found their swords to weak to maintain their treasons, as men in despair (to be received to mercy) have drawn foreign forces (which was unusual) to their aid, wherreby the kingdom hath been in some danger. But in all these tumults whatsoever, the greater part of the inhabitants have overserved the state, or have stood neutrals. The cities and enclosed towns never gave cause of suspicion of defect; and of the old English, though some branches might fall into rebellion, yet the body hath evermore remained sound and firm to the crown of England, whereby we may conclude, that these forepassed rebellions have been more troublesome than dangerous, and the cause of small danger hath been their disunion, for the reasons aforesaid. But now contempt and rancor sleeping, and the general ill affections to the state, as well for the cause of religion, as for the new plantations encreasing, (whereby they are united) the next rebellion, whensoever it shall happen, doth treaten more danger to the state than any hath preceded, and my reasons are these:

  1. They have the same bodies they ever had, and therein they had and have advantage of us.
  2.  p.433
  3. From their infancies they have been and are exercised in the use of arms.
  4. The realm, by reason of long peace, was never so full of youth as at this present.
  5. That they are better soldiers than heretofore, their continual employments in the wars abroad assure us; and they do conceive that their men are better than ours.
  6. That they are more politick, and able to manage rebellion with more judgment and dexterity than their elders, their experience and education are sufficient.
  7. They will give the first blow, which is very advantageous to them that will give it.
  8. The quarrel, for the which they rebel, will be under the veil of religion and liberty, than which nothing is esteemed so precious in the hearts of men.
  9. And lastly, their union is such, as not only the old English dispersed abroad in all parts of the realm, but the inhabitants of the pale, cities and towns are as apt to take arms against us (which no precedent time hath ever seen) as the antient Irish.

Being then granted, that the revolt is like to be general, experience the master of fools, and reason the rule of wise men, hath sufficiently taught them that his majesty's sword is too sharp and heavy (when his pleasure is in his just indignation to draw the same) for them with their own forces to resist; wherefore we must imagine, that they will never take arms until they be assured of the aid of some foreign prince,  p.434 this in reason they will do, or pay the ransom of their follies with their ruin.

Tyrone is said to have a design for Ireland; the same intelligence reports, that he hath found means to raise a competent force to put the kingdom in a flame, and to move us to be jealous; that the intelligence is in part or in all true, in the late coming of the pope's archbishop of Dublin into Ireland, who hath a pension of 300 ducats per {} of the Spanish king, and was sent from Lovaine into Spain to negociate for Tyrone's support. This his repair into Ireland agreeing with the intelligence, gives no less cause of suspicion than the sight of a seabird, called a Petrel, of a storm ensuing. Tyrone's councils aim no farther than to try his own fortune by stolen forces brought with him, although it must be confessed, that the slightest occasion countenanced by his presence, and fomented by the priests, is sufficient to disturb the peace of the realm, and to set a fire in every part thereof, which will cost the lives of many of his majesty's subjects, and the exhausture of great masses of treasure, before it be pacified. It yet will not move the cities, nor the gentlemen of the Enlish pale, or men of great possessions (although their hearts are with him) to set up their rests upon so weak a foundation, but as in former times they will be lookers on to see how the game is played.

Tyrone is known to be witty and crafty in nature, and now, by reason of his many years and  p.435 great experience, much wiser, the disposition of his body (worn with time and travel) are motives of his rest. He hath a competent pension from Spain for his relief. His age is sufficient to deter him from great and toilsome attempts, and especially from such as must be determined by a long tract of time, which he is like never to see; wherefore, if he do intend any enterprize for Ireland, we have reason to conceive it to be such a one that for the instant he will be able to carry all things smooth before him without resistance, which can be never done without a foreign army, paid and supplied by a powerful prince. If any such accident should happen, then we have just cause to fear the union of that people whose hearts are prepared to extirpate both the modern English and the Scots, which is not difficult to execute in a moment, by reason they are dispersed, and the natives' swords will be in their throats in every part of their realm (like the Sicilian vespers) before the cloud of mischief shall appear.

As yet there is no cause discovered, that any prince in Europe hath a design to break amity with his majesty; nevertheless it is wisdom to mistrust the worst, and not to be over credulous in the faith of any, and especially of such as are opposite unto us in religion, or jealous of his majesty's greatness.

Fugitives of Ireland are entertained and relieved only by the pope, the king of Spain, and the archduke, a branch of Spain. Upon these  p.436 princes, both the traitors aborad, and the traitorly disposed at home, have fastened their hopes, relying themselves upon their protections and aid in case of necessity.

Of the pope's desire to tear his majesty's crown in sunder, no man doubts; and of Spain we can judge no otherwise, than of a reconciled enemy, apt to break faith when occasion shall serve to advance his ends, which is, and evermore hath been, notwithstanding all oaths taken at the confirmation of treaties.

The familiar practice of popish princes, even in the times when all the world was Romish, and therefore much more now to be suspected by princes of the religion, the catholicks being assured to be absolved by his holiness. Reason of state moves both the one and the other to wish and endeavour the diminishing of his majesty's greatness. The ecclesiastick prince, because our king is the most powerful defender of the gospel, the enlarging whereof will in a prosecution of time dissolve his triple diadem; and the temporal monarch fears his sea and land forces, which not many years past made his father tremble, as well Spain as in his Indies; no king in Europe being so able to manifest him in either as his majesty.

These violent motives springing from fear and envy, keep their malice awake. The pope needs not to satisfy the world for the drawing of both his swords, quere angelos, for in being God's vicar on earth, he is bound in conscience to  p.437 extirpate heretical princes (and such a one he esteems his majesty to be) by all possible means whatsoever. The Spanish king can never want pretences to blind the world, for the defence of the breach of his league, which by the catholicks will be applauded; and if no other shift were to be found to preserve his humour, the plantations in the Bermudas and in Virginia, or his obedience to the church, being incited to a war by the pope, will be enforced as sufficient.

I do not conclusively deliver my opinion, that they will either at this present, or within a prefixed time attempt any of his majesty's kingdoms; notwithstanding, I am confident, that whensoever a fit opportunity (sorting with their desires) shall offer itself, that they will take the advantage of it, for the eyes of fear are ever open, and hearts swoln with envy study mischief.

Admitting then we have reason to suspect that Rome and Spain finding an aptness in the natives of Ireland, now vinted to speak of their obedience to his majesty, and to cast themselves into their arms; and that the pope would confer his pretended right to that realm, which he challengeth to be patrimonium sancti Petri unto the king of Spain, as his predecessor did the king of Navarre to Ferndinando et catholico; and that the Spanish king accepted of the same, and under the pretence of some other invasion (at the natives' desire) send an army of ten thousand foot into Ireland in one or two bodies, armed with the pope's indulgences and excomminucations, I think  p.438 that little doubt is to be made, but that all the modern English and Scotch would in an instant be massacred in their houses; no city or walled town would open their gates unto such as should escape the fury; his majesty's forts, and private men's castles, not being manned or victualled to sustain a siege, would be surprized: yea, the city of Dublin (in such a general revolt) would scarce be secure for the lord deputy, and such as should survive.

A Displantation being thus effected (which would not be the work of many days) the conquering of Ireland will prove an Herculean labour, and no less difficult than the recoveries of Aquittain and Normandy, have been to the French kings, from his majesty's royal progenitors.

It hath ever been held as an infallible maxim, that no monarch in Europe is able to maintain a long war against his majesty in Ireland; and no man hath been more confident in that opinion than myself; and so I remained, until this fearful and unexpected union gave me cause to mistrust more danger than otherwise I should have done: for who did ever dream of a general defection in all the natives, which now is probable? It was always supposed the king should evermore have a strong party in the kingdom, and that the cities would never decline from their duties, as is now to be feared; this strange alteration must needs produce strange events whensoever Spain can be drawn to invade that realm, which is  p.439 no less wished and laboured by the priests and jesuited catholicks of Ireland, than liberty to such as groan under captivity proceeding from the abundance of their malice, which hath so blinded their reason, as that they loath his majesty's safe and sweet government, tempered with justice and mercy, and oversee the tyrannical dispositions of the arrogant Spaniards who would whip them with scorpions.

Of their affection to Spain, their desire to draw Spaniards into Ireland, and how glad they would be to subject themselves to the Spanish monarch, I need no other reason to persuade me to believe it than the speeches which I have often heard fall from the lips of protected rebels, who have ingenuously told me the truth of their hearts, and in disourse when I have replied that no king in Europe was able to maintain a long war with the king of England and Ireland; and therefore their projects in drawing Spanish forces to their aid, would prove vain and ridiculous; I have been answered that the maxim was true, if no other after the English were displanted, than a defensive war were intended; but the way for the king of Spain to hold that realm, was out of Ireland to make an incursive war upon England, which by reason of his great interest he was able to maintain, being drawn to a length would so consume and weaken us to a peace, and permit the Spaniard, as our neighbour, to enjoy his conquest. This I assure myself they consistenly believe to be feasible, and upon  p.440 this council their hopes are strongly fixt, taking for an instance the example of the united provinces, who by foreign aid have driven Spain to sit down with loss; although that I can hardly believe that the Spanish king will be induced to make an overt war against his majesty, or if he did that, the success would be such as they promise to themselves; yet it must be granted, that the council is very pernicious, and worthy of the consideration how to prevent it: for what the wit or industry of the Irish traitors may effect, must be expected, and although they be not able to draw upon the realm all the mischief they desire, yet we have reason to mistrust, that they will endeavour the uttermost of the ill they can procure, which is likely to be the return of Tyrone, with such aids as he can bring with him, or a home rebellion, either of which will prove chargeable and troublesome to suppress. His majesty, to prevent these dangers, hath in his power means and time sufficient by taking of such pledges as the lord deputy and council of estate there shall make choice of, and erecting of citadels at Waterford and Cork, to contain the best fort of the natives in due obedience, which may be done with a small charge, and according to the ancient manner; in the like cases out of his realms of England and Scotland to have companies designed upon all occasions to be in a readiness to be transported as occasion shall require, which for the present will be sufficient.

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Title (uniform): A discourse of the present state of Ireland, 1614, per S. C.

Author: George Carew

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Electronic edition compiled and proofed by: Beatrix Färber

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1. First draft, revised and corrected.

Extent: 3750 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of the History Department, University College Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2008

Date: 2011

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E610002-001

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Source description


  • Calendar of the Carew manuscripts preserved in the Archiepiscopal Library at Lambeth, 1515–1624, ed. J. S. Brewer and William Bullen. 6 vols. (London 1867–1873).

Printed primary sources

  1. John Derricke, The Image of Irelande, with a discouerie of woodkarne (London 1581, repr. Edinburgh 1883).
  2. John Davies, A discoverie of the true causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued, nor brought under obedience of the crowne of England, until the beginning of his Majestie's happie raigne (London 1612; reprinted 1969).
  3. Fynes Moryson, An Itinerary: containing his ten yeeres travell through the Twelve Dominions of Germany, Bohmerland, Sweitzerland, Netherland, Denmarke, Poland, Italy, Turky, France, England, Scotland and Ireland (London 1617, repr. 4 vols. Glasgow 1907–8).
  4. John Hagan (ed.), [Bentivoglio's reports on Ireland] in 'Miscellanea Vaticano-Hibernia: Borghese collection, Vatican Archives', Archivium Hibernicum 3 (1914) 300–302.
  5. Peter Lombard, De regno Hiberniae, sanctorum insula, commentarius (Lovanii (=Louvain) 1632; Dublin 1868).
  6. Thomas Stafford, Pacata Hibernia: Ireland appeased and reduced, or a historie of the late warres of Ireland [...] (London 1633). Re-edited, in 2 vols., with an introduction and notes by Standish Hayes O'Grady, as 'Pacata Hibernia: or, A history of the wars in Ireland during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, especially within the province of Munster under the government of Sir George Carew, and compiled by his direction and appointment.' (Dublin 1896).
  7. Dominic O'Daly, Initium, incremento et exitus familiae Geraldinorum ac persecutionis haereticorum descriptio (Lisbon 1655).
  8. Denis Murphy SJ (ed), Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí Dhomhnaill: the life of Hugh Roe O'Donnell by Lughaidh O'Clery (Dublin 1893).
  9. The Compossicion Booke of Conought [1585], ed. A. M. Freeman (Dublin 1936).
  10. Paul Walsh (ed), Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí Dhomhnaill, transcribed from the book of Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh (2 vols. Dublin 1948–57).

Secondary sources

  1. Bagwell, Richard, Ireland under the Stuarts (3 vols., London 1909–1916).
  2. Aidan Clarke, 'Colonial identity in early seventeenth-century Ireland', in T. W. Moody (ed.), Nationality and the pursuit of national independence (Belfast 1978) 57–71.
  3. K. R. Andrews, Nicholas Canny and P. E. H. Hair (eds.), The westward enterprise: English activities in Ireland, the Atlantic and America 1480–1650 (Detroit 1979).
  4. Alan Ford, 'The Protestant reformation', in: Ciaran Brady and Raymond Gillespie (eds.), Natives and Newcomers: essays on the making of Irish colonial society 1534–1641: (Dublin 1986).
  5. Bernadette Cunningham, 'Native culture and political change in Ireland, 1580–1640, in: Ciaran Brady and Raymond Gillespie (eds.), Natives and Newcomers: essays on the making of Irish colonial society 1534–1641: (Dublin 1986).
  6. Brendan Bradshaw, 'Robe and sword in the conquest of Ireland' in C. Cross, D. Loades and J. J. Scarisbrick (eds.), Law and government under the Tudors: essays presented to Sir Geoffrey Elton on his retirement (Cambridge 1988) 139–162.
  7. Brendan Fitzpatrick, Seventeenth-century Ireland: the war of religions (Dublin 1988).
  8. Hiram Morgan, Tyrone's Rebellion: The outbreak of the Nine Years War in Tudor Ireland (Woodbridge 1993).
  9. Jane Ohlmeyer (ed.), Political thought in seventeenth-century Ireland (Cambridge 2000).
  10. Patricia Palmer, Language and conquest in early modern Ireland: English Renaissance literature and Elizabethan imperial expansion (Cambridge 2001).
  11. Ciaran O'Scea, 'The significance and legacy of Spanish intervention in west Munster during the battle of Kinsale', in Thomas O'Connor and Mary Ann Lyons (eds.), Irish migrants in Europe after Kinsale, 1602–1820 (Dublin 2003) 32–63.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘A discourse of the present state of Ireland, 1614, per S. C.’ (1772). In: Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica: or a select collection of State Papers‍. Ed. by John Lodge. Vol. 1. Dublin: David Hay, at the King’s Arms, Parliament St., pp. 430–440.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {John Lodge},
  title 	 = {A discourse of the present state of Ireland, 1614, per S. C.},
  booktitle 	 = {Desiderata Curiosa Hibernica: or a select collection of State Papers},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  publisher 	 = {David Hay, at the King's Arms, Parliament St.},
  date 	 = {1772},
  volume 	 = {1},
  pages 	 = {430–440}


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Creation: by Sir George Carew

Date: 1614

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  • The text is in seventeenth-century English. (en)
  • Some words are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: discourse; prose; contemporary affairs; government; 17c

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(Most recent first)

  1. Beatrix Färber: Text keyed in. (data capture 2008-07-14 )
  2. 2011-08-04: File updated; additions to bibliography made; new SGML and HTML file versions created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2008-09-12: File parsed and validated; SGML and HTML file versions created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2008-09-12: Suggestions to bibliography made. (ed. Benjamin Hazard)
  5. 2008-07-17: Header created with preliminary bibliography; keywords added. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  6. 2008-07-16: File proofed (2); more structural and content markup applied. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  7. 2008-07-15: File proofed (1); structural and content markup applied. (ed. Beatrix Färber)

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