Introduction. This letter was written by Sir Alexander Hay, the Scottish secretary of state to James VI and I. Hay resided in London and communicated the king’s wishes to the privy council in Scotland from time to time. The letter was addressed to Alexander Seton, earl of Dunfermline and chancellor of Scotland, informing him and the Scottish council that Scots were to be incorporated into the plan for the plantation of Ulster. Perhaps the first feature of the letter that strikes a modern reader is the language and the spelling, a reflection of the cultural difference that separated James’s northern kingdom from England at the start of the seventeenth century. It is not known at what stage in the planning for the plantation it was decided to incorporate Scots on an equal basis with Englishmen. On 16 December 1608, Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, James’s chief minister in England, wrote a memorandum on the proposed plantation in which he assumed that Scots would be full participants, but the first public announcement of their participation was when the Collection of such Orders and Conditions as are to be observed by the Undertakers upon the Distribution and Plantation of the Escheated Lands in Ulster were printed. This document had reached Dublin by 6 March 1609, and it is to this document that Hay’s letter referred briefly when it mentioned the conditions ‘as ar sett down in the printe articles.’ Hay had to communicate two important messages in his letter: first, the intended structure of the plantation, with the most important conditions applying to those who undertook to plant estates in Ulster, and second, how important it was for the Scots not to fall short of English expectations as they were brought into the scheme.
Source. D. Masson (ed), Register of the privy council of Scotland 1607-1610, first series, vol. 8 (Edinburgh 1887), pp. 792-4.
Whitehall, 19 March 1609
My noble goode Lord: I wes desyred to be present with the Counsell heir, where some speeche wes had concerning the planting of these countyes in Ireland upoun suche condiditonis as ar sett doun in the printe articles. And, becaus it is his Majesties intentioun to haif bothe Scottishe and Englishe planted there promiscue [in a mixed way], so as the hole people of the one natioun sall not be cast together all in one plaice, so the hole land is now to be devydeit into thrie pairtes, one portioun to the servauntes of the staite there in Ireland, ather [either] Englishe or Iyrishe, who haif merited, another thrid [third] to [the] Englishe heir, and the thrid pairte to our people. I find that our proportioun will extend to no les then four score ten thousand acres at leaste, thay of England having the lyike quantitye….Efter [the earl of Salisbury] hed red out [the names of the English paricipants] at the Counsell table, he then declaired his Majesties intentioun to haif the lyik nowmer of names of the Scottis natioun to be undertakeris [those who undertook to plant land according to the Conditions]…so as no manis portioun exceidit tuo thousand aikeris or were within [less than] a thousand. And becaus the abilitye of there owne people for performeing the service wes knowine to thameselfis, so I wes desyred to certifie your lordship that suche a choice suld be maide of the abilitye of these who did undertake that the Kingis service heirin suld not be disappoynted. Whereof thay did putt no doubt but your Lordshipis there of the Counsell wald be most cairfull…for, whatevir salbe left of the above-written quantitye not undertakin to be planted by our people there, thay will mak it out by getting so many mo undertakeris heir; bot, if the hole may be underkain by our people, and the Kingis service assuired, so as men do not promise more then thay will performe, it will breid bothe contentment to his Majestie and credite to the natioun….Your Lordship wald do weill with the assistance of the Counsell there [in Scotland] to move them that ar of abilitye to underake this turne; for, the offer being maid, our not accepting of it will abyide no other constructioun then that we are not able to do it. It may be perhappis [act as] some skarrecrowe [deterrent] to our people that thay ar not to duell all togither. The reasoun is that thir countrey-people [in England] might think thameselfis muche wronged if we suld be all planted togither in the best countreyis , and if thay wer so we culd think no les; and, however we ar to be mixed togither in all the countries [counties], yet not so bot some nowmer of Scottismen wilbe ever togither. There be many Counsellouris heir that in my presence casued there names to be putt up in the roll for untertakeris…for, without doubt, if the worke go fordward, the land may be maid bothe peceable and proffitable, and the greatest chairges wilbe in sending over of people to duell in it and some goodes to plenishe it….We haif greitt advantaige of transporting of our men and bestiall [beasts] in regairde we lye so neir to that coiste of Ulster. There wald behaif [behoove, i.e. it would be wise to send] a humble letter of thankes to his Majestie for his cairfull remembering of us in this plantatioun…Ceissing to trouble your Lordship any forder at this tyme. ...