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for severity, on the other hand, seemed to disappear.
The Catholic Powers recognized George the First. 1723 England, the great protector of French and Flemish
Protestants, felt obliged to show equal respect to the intercession of her Catholic allies in favour of Irish Papists. As her fears subsided, she discovered, in the Duke of Newcastle's language, that it was not for the public service, even of the Protestant interest, that anything should be done that might alarm the Roman Catholic Powers with whom the King was in alliance.'
Secure at home, in the common strength of the Protestant spirit in England, George the First's ministers could consider these questions at their leisure. In Ireland, where the Protestants were few and scattered, the recollections of the 23rd of October were still uneffaced. To them a landing of Ormond or the Pretender implied, or might imply, confiscation and massacre. On them would fall the personal effects of a rising, the elements of which they knew to be seeth. ing in their midst. Between the Protestant gentry and the loyal Catholic clergy there was a steady increase of good feeling. · The laws,' wrote an ardent Protestant in 1717, are too severe already.' An idea was finding general favour that every parish should be allowed a priest, regularly licensed by the Government ; a plain oath of allegiance to which no conscientious objection could be made, being the only condition. Arrangements were contemplated for the continuance of the succession, and salaries were spoken of for them to relieve the pressure on the people. The Regulars meanwhile, whom the more intelligent Catholics themselves 6 regarded as a nuisance,' might then be totally extirpated and the laws be really and
1 ' Anonymous Common Place Book, 1717. MSS. Record Office.
effectively executed to keep out the disaffected and disloyal seminarists. In proportion to the disposition to reconciliation with one section of the Catholic clergy, there was a corresponding determination to clear the country if possible of the others, and to permit no bishops and vicars-general, who absolved subjects from their allegiance, and taught the people that the King had no right to his customs' duties. The true remedy, as they by this time knew, lay elsewhere than in penal laws—lay in an effective Church, enclosing in itself all Irish Protestants—lay in an education system coextensive with the country, in a resident gentry conscious of their duties, and in the development of Irish industry. These things, however, required time. Of the best of them they were robbed by hard fortunes and English tyranny.
Until the licensing system was fairly on foot they knew perfectly well that severe laws could seldom be enforced ; but they thought that some deterring effect might be produced if the scarecrow were made a little more frightful.
The Duke of Bolton in opening Parliament in 1719 had urged very strongly the desirableness of more union among the Protestants in the presence of the increasing strength of the Papists, and of their notorious inclination to the Pretender. The animosity of Churchmen against what they called dissent, forbidding an approach to the Presbyterians, the House of Commons determined to weaken their enemies by an addition to the penal laws against the more mischievous of the clergy.
The number of prelates, friars, and unregistered priests was daily growing larger. Prosecutions, which in nine cases out of ten
1 Letters to the King: by Charles Hogg, December 10, 1723.' MSS. Record Office.
broke down for want of evidence, yet if they succeeded, were almost as useless. The transported priest either went back to his seminary, and another came over in his place, or he returned himself to a part of the country where he was unknown. The law was thus defied with the confidence of certain impunity. These foreign priests were the fomenters of all rebellions and disturbances.' Unless a more effectual remedy could be found to prevent their coming into the kingdom,' Ireland, it was felt, would never be quiet or well affected to the Crown.'' A committee of the House of Commons therefore drew the heads of a bill which they considered would keep such persons at a safe distance, and among other clauses it contained a proposal that every unregistered priest or friar found remaining in the kingdom after May 1, 1720, might be branded with a hot iron in the cheek, as a mark by which he could be immediately identified.
Before it was transmitted to England, the bill was reviewed by the Lord Lieutenant and the Privy Council. The Council, among whom was the Chancellor, Lord Midleton, and two Bishops, while most anxious for its success, considered that the penalty of branding was both too mild in itself and also that it would fail of its effect. The hot iron had been tried already for the Rapparees: “the Rapparees had made it a common practice to brand innocent persons with the same mark, to destroy the distinction it was intended for.': These four or five noble Lords, therefore, did certainly recommend as a substitute for the iron a penalty
1 • The Lords of the Irish Council to the Lords Justices of Great Britain, August 22, 1719. MSS. Record Office.
2 • The Duke of Bolton to Secretary Craggs, August 25, 1719. MSS. Record Office.
which was reported, rightly or wrongly, to have been used in Sweden with effect against the Jesuits. They did
propose, not that all the Catholic clergy in Ireland, 1719 as Plowden
says, but that unregistered priests and friars coming in from abroad should be liable to castration. It was thought perhaps by those half dozen gentlemen, that the horrors of such a punishment would keep the persons against whom it was threatened from landing on the Irish shores. An impression possibly prevailed, that a mutilation which would have disqualified a man from receiving priests' orders would subsequently invalidate them. Whatever the motive, the Council did certainly, though with diffidence and hesitation, introduce this change into the proposed bill of the Parliament. The Duke of Bolton accompanied it with a letter, in which he confessed an expectation that it would not be accepted. The Council themselves wrote, that they would gladly have found some other punishment which in their opinion would have remedied the evil. They left the English Lords Justices either to replace the branding clause, or substitute some other penalty. They insisted only on the absolute necessity of making the law against unregistered priests and friars more severe than it was at present.'
1 Not certainly as implying a in the sixteenth century was no charge of immorality. Amidst less distinguished for licentiousthe multitude of accusations which ness, must be attributed wholly I have seen brought against the and entirely to the influence of the Irish priests of the last century I
Catholic clergy. have never, save in a single instance, 2 • The Duke of Bolton to Secreencountered a charge of unchastity. tary Craggs, August 25.' MSS. Rather the exceptional and signal
Record Office. purity of Irish Catholic women of 3 • The Lords of the Council to the lower class, unparalleled pro- the Lords Justices, August 22, bably in the civilized world, and 1719.' MSS. Dublin Castle. not characteristic of the race which
There was no occasion, as Irish writers have sug. gested, for the interposition of Cardinal Fleury. The Irish Secretary himself wrote that the clause was of no consequence if the substance of the bill was allowed to pass. Lord Stanhope at once struck it out as • ridiculous.' Shorn of the grotesque appendage, it went back to Ireland, where it passed the House of Commons, but it was thrown out by the Lords on another section, which was held to bear too hardly on the estates of Catholic landowners. The story that both Houses of the Irish Parliament desired that every priest in Ireland should be brutally mutilated is thus reduced to more modest dimensions. The House of Commons drew the heads of an act by which a class of Catholic clergy, whom they were legitimately anxious to keep out of the country, should be treated like vagrants and deserters. The unfortunate ingenuity of a handful of Lords and Bishops made an alteration which was contemptuously flung aside; and the bill, after the work had been undone, was lost after all in the Irish Upper House, as unjustly severe.
It will be answered that Plowden's narrative refers not to the viceroyalty of the Duke of Bolton in 1719, but to that of the Duke of Grafton in 1723.
1. Mr. Webster to Secretary Delafaye, September 22.' MSS. Record Office.
2 « The Committee of the House of Lords have rejected the clause in the Popery Bill relating to reversionary leases. Thus all the rest is involved in the same fate. The clause was thought unjust, as giving a subsequent determination of the meaning of a former law,
which did not plainly appear by the letter of it, since the retrospect was to reach such reversionary leases as had been made on a supposition that the former law had left them such a liberty. . . It is a great misfortune.'-'The Duke of Bolton to Secretary Craggs, Oetober 31, 1719. MSS. Record Office.