Publishing the 1641 Depositions
As the rebellion progressed thousands of dispossessed English and Scottish settlers fled to Dublin for safety. The authorities in Dublin therefore established a ‘Commission for the Despoiled Subject’ to collect statements from these refugees. It consisted of eight Church of Ireland clergymen, headed by Henry Jones, dean of Kilmore. These statements subsequently became known as the 1641 depositions.
The deponents chronicled not just the extent of their losses, but also the outbreak of popular violence against the colonial order. These allegations of atrocities justified both the Adventurers’ Act of 1642 and the Cromwellian Act of Settlement in 1652, which led to the confiscation of Irish land for English “Adventurers” and brought about the transplantation of Irish natives to Connaught. Following the end of the war in 1652, a group of more than seventy commissioners spread throughout Ireland collected additional information, to assist the newly established high courts of justice to persecute rebel leaders.
Abstracts of the depositions first appeared in print in Henry Jones’s Remonstrance of Divers Remarkable Passages Concerning the Church and Kingdom of Ireland in March 1642. The deposition of an Ulster clergyman, Robert Maxwell, who claimed that the rebels themselves had estimated that they had killed 154,000 people in the early months of the rebellion sparked off a controversy that has yet to be resolved.