Gookin, Vincent (1616?–1659), surveyor general, MP for Bandon and Kinsale 1654–9, and friend and colleague of William Petty (qv), was the eldest son of Cork settler Sir Vincent Gookin (qv) and his first wife, Mary (née Wood). He lived at Courtmacsherry until 1635, then in Gloucestershire during his father's enforced displacement, and returned to Ireland 1649. He married (date unknown) Mary Salmon, probably of Dublin; they had three children. The extent of Gookin's landownership or leaseholding is not clear. There is evidence in the 1653/4 Kinsale depositions that in its early stages the rebellion penetrated the Gookins’ immediate area: livestock, goods, and money were seized from them and their tenants, and Burrowes, Sir Vincent's steward, was hanged. In 1654 Oliver Cromwell (qv) acknowledged Gookin's sufferings for his adherence to parliament and directed Charles Fleetwood (qv) that he be compensated with a land grant in Barrymore (in east Cork), where he had already built a house. A document concerning the administration of his will describes him as ‘of Dublin’ (NAI, MS T.2829).
A prominent advocate of the established protestant interest, returned to three successive parliaments, Gookin held various offices both in England and Ireland throughout the latter half of the 1650s. Appointed with Petty and Miles Symner (qv) to oversee land distribution to the army after the Down Survey, he also served in April 1655 on a committee of ‘triers’ vetting candidates for the Co. Cork ministry. Of moderate presbyterian inclination, he opposed the army sectaries and, hostile to Fleetwood and the military party, enjoyed patronage from Cromwell himself. Conspicuously identified with the protectorate, in autumn 1659 he investigated a possible appointment as governor of Barbados, but died suddenly that October.
Gookin's larger importance is his authorship of The great case of transplantation in Ireland discussed (January 1655) and its May sequel, arguing for a much scaled-down and humane execution of the policy of transportation, and proposing a long-term project of assimilation between English and Irish. The idea of removing former rebels from their localities was mooted in an adventurers’ petition and incorporated in the act of settlement (August 1652). This act projected confiscations and redistribution of lands, badly needed to pay off the army, together with lists of those partly or wholly exempt. But the logistics of the policy were inadequately thought out. Lines of demarcation among categories of delinquents and those exempt became blurred, some gentry lobbied in London to avoid transplantation, and the overwhelming practical difficulties of uprooting thousands and settling them far away in an unknown country interposed themselves between plan and execution. It very gradually emerged that only rebel proprietors and any remaining fighting men would actually be transplanted; but during the latter half of 1654, when Gookin's first pamphlet must have been written, this result was not easily foreseeable.
The great case was bitterly opposed by the baptist governor of Waterford, Col. Richard Lawrence (qv), in his The interest of England in the Irish transplantation, stated (1655), prompting Gookin's reply, The author and case of transplanting the Irish into Connaught vindicated from the unjust aspersions of Col. Richard Laurence. Lawrence's pamphlet appeared in Dublin, both of Gookin's – significantly – in London, showing his aim to influence policy at its source. Lawrence argues for the ineradicable wickedness of the Irish: motivated by an intense suspicion of the whole nation, using harsh, blunt language studded with biblical texts, he advocates a definitive physical separation between righteous English and base contaminating natives. Gookin attacks the poor judgement of new incomers such as Lawrence, mocking his low social status by criticising his faulty logic and clumsy style. Familiar with the earlier discussions of Anglo-Irish history by Edmund Spenser (qv), Edmund Campion (qv), and John Davies (qv), Gookin deploys eloquent rhetoric and classical and humanist allusions (Plato, More). Rising far above the level of polemic, The great case in particular amounts to a reflective examination of the ethics of power, the problem of how the victors should treat the defeated, and the possible shared future of English and Irish.
Certainly his argument, however enlightened and humane, partly stems from self-interest. His pleas for the retention in situ of husbandmen and labourers show the landed gentleman's dismay at possible removal of the labour needed to keep farm, household, and fishery working. He expresses no compunction at the expulsion of the upper rank of catholic gentry proprietors. Nevertheless, both for its degree of compassion for the suffering of the poorer Irish, and for unusual self-exploration by the settled colonist, his work is exceptional in its period and context.
He first considers in turn whether transplanting will further religion, public good (‘in order to the preservation of the English nation and interest entire’), and economic advantage; he then outlines ‘the impossibility of this transplanting’ (Great case, 1). He argues that if the Irish live among the English their conversion is much likelier. A governing theme throughout is unification, by assimilation. He merges the aim of religious conversion with his anti-transplantation argument by referring to ‘the unitive principles of Christianity’ which oppose ‘separations of persons’ (ibid., 1–2). He predicts that the Irish, now ‘so abated’ by famine, the sword, and foreign transportation, are no longer likely to ‘overgrow the English as formerly’, but that ‘being mixed with, they are likelyer to be swallowed up by the English, and incorporated into them; so that a few centuries will know no difference present’ (21). This vision of a long-term assimilation of Irish into English certainly keeps the structure of dominant and submissive groups, but it is free of the fanatical self-distancing from the Irish which marks other English writings in this period.
The necessity to take a longer view was far more evident to Gookin than to his opponents: in a vivid phrase he says transplantation is ‘too narrow a plaister to cover the sore of Ireland’ (Author, 39). He does not address the fundamental injustice of the fate of transplanted proprietors and soldiers; this would have fatally undermined his own position. But, unlike Lawrence, he acknowledges a common humanity. His pamphlets combine moral concern – ‘the Lord knows I spoke only from the bowels of a man towards men, and the charity of a Christian to miserable blinded Christians’ – with historically informed pragmatism: ‘ . . . and one who had read a little what has happened to others by this practice, and therefore would that we should avoid such rocks’ (ibid., 41–2). He repeatedly solicits compassion for the state of the common people, ‘a nation so miserable . . . the tax sweeps away their whole subsistence; necessity makes them turn theeves and tories, and then they are prosecuted with fire and sword for being so. If they discover not tories, the English hang them, if they do, the Irish kill them’ (Great case, 13–14). His question ‘who will not believe an English souldier, rather than an Irish Teige, if the matter should come to dispute?’ (Author, 16) underlines his distaste for army dominance.
He repudiates the idea of an Irish ‘national bloud-guilt’, a central theme of the 1640s, arguing that self-righteous avenging rage is morally corrosive (Great case, 6–7): ‘Must we still cry justice, justice? . . . the fair vertue of justice (overdon) degenerates into the stinking weed of tyranny . . . ’ (14). He distinguishes the specific position of the planter in Ireland from that of the English citizen in general, anticipating the formation of a characteristic Anglo-Irish protestant mentality in Ireland, a mentality which from within itself would eventually produce colonial nationalism.