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We will now advert to a period in history almost as important in the history of Catholic Ireland, as the reformation itself, and the juncture out of which, the late system of persecution against the Catholics had its origin, the revolution of 1688, the event “of glorious memory." As soon as William III was established on the throne, several laws were passed for the purpose of depressing the Roman Catholics. Protestant ascendency was the general cry, and every effort was made by the Protestant party to suppress doctrines to which they objected. In Ireland, this was done to a great extent, and the dominant party were aided by the composition of the House of Commons, and the extent of time for which, members were elected. Roman Catholics were excluded from Parliament, and the members of the House of Commons were elected for the life of the reigning sovereign. The inconvenience of responsibility was entirely removed, and the members of the the House of Commons acquired interests separate and exempt from the control of their electors as absolutely and mischievously, as they would have done, 'if they had been members of the House of Lords. Many efforts were made to abolish this state of things, and in the year 1767, partly by clamour and partly by intimidation, the House of Commons was induced to pass a bill shortening the duration of Parliament. The Lords assented to it, in the hope that it would have been negatived by the crown, and that the odium of its rejection would not be thrown upon them. To the surprise however, and to the horror of both Houses, the royal assent was given to it. In 1778, only a few years after, the Irish Catholic Relief Bill passed. It repealed many of the offensive provisions of the statute, which the Dutchman “of glorious and immortal memory had consented to inflict upon the country.
To the Irish, however, the revolution proved of very different import, from what it was to Britain. In England and Scotland, the reformation of religion was looked on in itself as a relief from spiritual despotism, and was associated with the civil freedom of which it was the fore-runner. The fabric of the British constitution grew and fourished under its auspices, and all attempts to restore the Catholic religion, were allied in ihe minds of the people with arbitrary power, the dominion of haughty priests, and the baneful influence of foreign despots. The Protestant religion had been boldly defended; the British constitution, imperfect as it then was, had been purchased by the blood of the best and bravest in the land, all the highest and the best rights and associations were marshalled in the support of both, and called for a bold struggle in their defence. Ireland did not hail the revolution with similar feelings; and how could she? To her, the British constitution had been no loving mother, but a tyrannical step-dame. As it acquired health and vigour and years, the Irish only knew the change by the weight of its hand in persecutions. The dearer a friend it became to the Englishman, and the more he could rely on it for the maintenance of his rights, the more it became the Irishman's enemy, and the more grievously he felt its oppression. The laws of property visited him only to pillage; the privileges of his parliament were only to oppress him, and even the great palladium of our liberties, the trial by jury, was known to him only as one of the instruments of his persecutor.
In short, the Irishman felt the British constitution only as a powerful instrument in the hand of his enemy, and it was not to be wondered at, that he did not come forward to make a sacrifice for its preservation, still less were the Irish called upon to come forward in defence of the Protestant religion. It was a foreign plant, a kind of exotic, which would not take root in their soil, or which required a mode of culture of which they were ignorant, or if knowing it, they felt no disposition to call it into practice. It was associated with more than a century of oppression and injustice, with desecrated altars, ruined churches, and ministers of God driven from their homes. It was to them more darkly allied with foreign influence, than the Catholic religion had become in the eyes of the Englishman. In declaring the King of England the supreme head of the church, it gave them a spiritual governor more to be dreaded, because more powerful than the Pope. The Protestant religion was the religion of their enemies; the religion their enemies had striven to force upon them. They would have acted contrary to common human nature, had they come forward as its defenders.
Every advantage which has been gained by the mass of the population of Ireland deprived the Protestant faction of a portion of their power, and of the fruits of mis-government. Having for a length of time enjoyed all the benefits which the partial favour of the government could confer, they were loath to permit it to diminish, and contested every encroachment made in them with ferocity and zeal. The peculiarity of their position they either did not, or cared not to regard. The undue influence they had obtained was never suggested to them, and it was ascribed to treasonable intentions, when any suggestion was made that the Roman Catholics were entitled to equal favour and protection with themselves. But with them the term Protestant was associated with ascendancy; with the monopoly of power; with the possession of all that it is desirable for persons to aspire to obtain. In the mind of the Catholics, it implied political and social degradation ; disqualification to appointment to offices of trust and value; the unequal administration of the law, the infliction of the grossest injustice, under pretence of carrying the law into effect; regulations, which interfered with all public confidence, and destroyed the security of private happiness.
A war of three years, terminated by the siege of Limerick, extinguished the hopes of the Stuarts in Ireland, and laid their Roman Catholic followers again at the mercy of the Protestants of England. Again there were ample forfeitures, and the haughty courtiers, whom William knew he could only keep as his supporters by handsome payment, and exorbitant largesses, had at their disposal a tract of country estimated at 1,060,792 acres. The country was drained of its best and bravest sons, who in crowds sought refuge on the continent, and the forfeitures, wholesale, and bit by bit, had reduced and paralyzed Roman Catholic property, until such a thing was hardly known to be in existence. Yet William was more just than his age, and he discovered symptoms of lenity towards the Catholics, which shewed that, if he had not been the King of England, they might have hoped for fair dealing at his hands. He restored 233,106 acres and reversed 74,722 outlawries. It must be admitted that during his reign, several oppressive acts were allowed to pass, but it seems fair and candid to believe that the blame to be attached to William on account of these, arises more from his weakness in allowing them to pass against his inclination, than his having designed to persecute, and the same reinark may apply to his conduct towards the English dissenters.
It must be confessed that William had a strange mixture of heterogeneous elements to deal with. In England, his high church peers wished him to persecute the Presbyterians and other dissenters; in Scotland, the Presbyterians just relieved from oppression, called on him to extirpate their enemies of the episcopal persuasion, and in Ireland he was called upon to subject a whole nation of Catholics to the rod for the gratification of a few Protestants. It appears then, from the testimony of the Irish writers of the age, that though he was compelled to pass severe laws, his administration of them was mild and beneficent, that he gained the good esteem of the Catholics, as he did of the Protestant dissenters; that trust between man and man began to appear in the bruised and oppressed Catholic population, that they began cheerfully to look forward to coming prosperity, and the time, when they might enjoy the security of equal laws. But the Protestant ascendancy system did not allow these happy prognostications to remain uninterrupted, and the accession of Anne dispersed them. So much for the character of a man, whose name as the Prince of Orange, has been polluted by becoming the watch-word of persecution, to the intolerant Orangemen, whose principles are far separated, indeed from his.
The courage displayed by the Roman Catholics in their protracted struggle enabled them to obtain a pacification on respectable terms. They were embodied in the treaty of Li
merick, concluded on the 3rd of October 1691. The first article of this celebrated treaty deserves particular attention. It is as follows:
“ The Roman Catholics of this kingdom shall enjoy such privileges in the exercise of their religion as are consistent with the laws of Ireland, or as they did enjoy in the reign of king Charles II., and their majesties as soon as their affairs will permit them to summon a parliament, will endeavour to procure the said Roman Catholics such farther security in that particular, as may preserve them from any disturbance upon account of their said religion. By the second article, such retainers of James as might submit theinselves, were to hold, possess, and enjoy all, and every, their estates of freehold and inheritance, and all the rights, titles and interests, privileges and immunities, which they, and every or any of them held, enjoyed, or were rightfully and lawfully entitled to in the reign of king Charles II, or at any time since, by the laws and statutes that were in force in the said reign of King Charles II. It was made a condition that all persons claiming the benefit of these acts should take the oath of allegiance, which was declared to be in these simple terms. I, A. B, do sincerely promise and swear, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to their majesties King William and Queen Mary. So help me God. This was in very different terms from the oath of supremacy in England, which has been extended to Ireland, and it was accordingly viewed as an offer of good terms to the Roman Catholics. The government, however, changed its mind, and in direct violation of the treaty, an act was passed in England, professing to abolish the old oath of supremacy, and impose a new one, along with a declaration, which no Roman Catholic could conscientiously make, commencing, as follows. I, A. B. do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God confess, testify and declare, that I do believe that in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, there is not any transubstantation of the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, at and after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever, and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary, or any