« PreviousContinue »
other saint, and the sacrifice of the mass, as they are now used in the church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous, &c.— This declaration was appointed to be taken by the members of the Irish parliament, and Roman Catholics were thus excluded from the legislature. It likewise excluded them from all offices, ecclesiastical, civil or military, and barristers practising without taking it, were liable in a penalty of £500. But thest were comparatively light matters, and only a commencement of the persecution. It was necessary to confirm the treaty of Limerick by parliament. To do so nominally, the legislature could not, with an approach to decency and good faith refuse, but it was only done nominally. The act confirming it made insidious distinctions, which a few members of the Irish House of Lords, who had sufficient spirit to protest, said put the Catholics in a worse condition than they were before. It may be mentioned as a curious anomaly in history, that this protest is signed by six bishops, but our surprise ceases when we reflect that they were of William's choice.
Having blocked up the approaches to power and emolument against the Roman Catholics, the ascendency party were not dilatory in framing laws still further to coerce them, but individuals were still more expeditious than the legislature, and prepared for its severities by anticipating them. Within a short period after the pacification, the lords justices, who had the temporary government of Ireland, received numerous complaints against the justices of peace, and other magistrates for dispossessing the Roman Catholics of their property, contrary to the letter of the law. They received complaints, but they could not or dared not act on them. The Protestarts began their long reiga of hatred, and even before they had made the laws which justified them, they could not be checked in their persecutions. The first Irish Parliament of William's reign gave fuller scope to the spirit. It was enacted that every description of churchmen of the Roman Catholic persuasion should leave the kingdom before the first of May, 1698. Those, who remained behind, were to be imprisoned, to remain in prison without bail, till transported, and if
they returned from transportation, to be adjudged guilty of high treason, and to suffer death according to all the abominable formalities then used in the punishment of that crime. It was further enacted, that any person who should be led by zeal or humanity to harbour a priest, should be liable for the first offence in a penalty of £20, for the second, in double that sum, and for the third, in the forfeiture of his moveable property, and the life rent of his landed property. Much about the same period, it was resolved in Parliament, that a harassing statute of the reign of Elizabeth, which rendered every one absent from divine worship in the established church, liable in a fine, should be put in execution.
These lopped the branches, but it was determined on to strike at the root. Amongst a fugitive clergy, compelled to conceal their profession, or to hide themselves amongst the mountains, and morasses, it was not likely that many young Catholics could be educated, but they might be educated abroad, and the law was made to stretch its hands to other countries. The statute for this purpose being one of persecution, is clear and unambiguous, and its sense cannot be more emphatically told than in its own words, which provided, that if any subjects of Ireland should after that session of Parliament go, or send any child or person to be educated in any popish university, college, or school, or in any private family, or if such child should by any popish person, be instructed in the popish religion, or if any subjects of Ireland should send money or other things towards the maintenance of such child or other person, already sent or to be sent, every such offender being thereof convicted, should be for ever disabled to sue, or prosecute any action, bill, plaint, or information, in law or equity; to be guardian, administrator, or executor to any person, or to be capable of enjoying any legacy, deed, or gift, and besides should forfeit all their estates both real and personal during their lives. Thus, the framers of this law were not contented that a measured punishment should be dealt against the offender; but he was deprived of the protection of the law; he could never even after having paid the penalty of an entire forfeiture of his property, again reinstate himself as a member of society. His debtor could not be compelled to pay him. He could not recover by laws the fruits of his labour, forcibly seized from him by ruffians. He must be content to live beyond the pale of society, providing for himself like one of the beasts of the field, having no ties which bound him to mankind, or mankind to him. To what would the nature of such a man be likely to turn ?
This was the commencement of a system of legislation, new to an age professing civilization. It tended to besavage the country, by making men solitary human beings thrown back on their own unbridled wills. It introduced and fostered in the midst of civilization, those habits of wild justice of “every man for himself," which moralists of the present day, wishing to depreciate the Irish character, sagely pronounce to be a national propensity of the Irish people.
At this most eventful period, we find “the sufferings of the Protestants," which have just now come to their climax, commencing. The powers of the Irish Parliament did not enable it to make four-fifths of the kingdom starve at once. Still the poor Catholic, crawling through the world, would try some humble, unobserved, and perhaps some degraded means of procuring bread, and the Protestant could complain that his monopoly of supporting existence was invaded. We find the Irish Protestant Commons taking the following lamentable grievance into consideration, viz. “A petition of one Edward Sprag and others, in behalf of themselves and other Protestant porters, in and about the city of Dublin, complaining that one Darby Ryan, a papist, employed porters of his own persuasion, having been received and read, it was ordered to be referred to the examination and consideration of the committee of grievances, and that they should report their opinions thereon to the House.” Some years later, a well, called St. John's well, in the county of Meath, to which, infirm Catholic devotees resorted in the hope of being cured, provoked the anger and serious alarm of the Commons, who voted that the poor wretches “ were assembled in that place to the great
hazard and danger of the public peace, and safety of the kingdom, and fines, imprisonment, and whipping were enacted to prevent such dangerous and tumultuous assemblies.”
A prospect of deeper shadow opened to the Roman Catholics on the death of William III, who in comparison with the other statesmen of the age, might also be called their friend. The most charitable term by which to designate the high church feeling introduced by Anne, is that of insanity. Between corruption and mania, the English House of Commons was stocked with those bigots, which passed a bill to prevent occasional conformity in England, in other words to prohibit all persons holding any kind of office, from ever entering the door of any but a place of worship, belonging to the establishment. These persecutors of the anti-jacobite Protestant dissenters must needs likewise raise their hand against the jacobite Roman Catholics, and that at a time when the leading men amongst themselves were in correspondence with the exiled family, and ready, if it would aggrandize them, to throw themselves into the arms of a popish king. Indeed one of the principal persecutors of the Irish Catholics, the Duke of Ormond afterwards joined the Pretender; so unprincipled and selfish are sometimes the sources of religious intolerance, which is too often excused on the ground of misled zeal.
By such men was procured the law boldly and applicably styled “ An act to prevent the further growth of popery.” Again was the system of disorganizing society had recourse to; the dearest ties of nature, and social intercourse were burst asunder, and the just protection of the laws denied. It entitled any heir of a Roman Catholic, who should declare himself to be a Protestant, to acquire the property of the estate, the rightful owner only having the use of it during his life, and being unable to sell it, or otherwise dispose of it, even if it were of his own making. Thus did the law bribe the disobedient son to desert his religion, by allowing him, when he did so, to pillage his father. How many instances would the private annals produce, in which the sanction of the laws suggested depravity, which might have otherwise slumbered un
roused! Where no heir calling himself a Protestant interfered, the property of the father was to be equally divided amongst all his sons, or if he had none, amongst his daughters. A law making such a division would have been just and equitable had it not been compulsory; the parent had no power to alter the division. Papists were made incapable of succeeding to Protestants, and lands passing them by, were to go to the next Protestant heirs. The popish father was prohibited under a penalty of £500 from educating or standing guardian to his own children, who were given over to the nearest protestant relation, or to guardians appointed by the court of Chancery. No papist was to presume to enter the towns of Limerick and Galway, under pain of having his whole property furfeited and being imprisoned for a year. No Protestant possessing property was to marry a Papist under severe penalties. Finally, Roman Catholics were made incapable of purchasing landed property, or of enjoying long leases. Their conne tion with the land was limited to the tilling of it. They were to be the agrarian vassals of the Protestant; nothing more. Such was the manner in which the treaty of Limerick was kept.
It does appear that a feeling of shame at this time overcame the Irish Parliament. Before the act was introduced, several members resigned their seats in the House of Commons, and desertions became so frequent, that they were formally checked. The small remainder of Catholic power in the country was roused to a dying struggle, and some men of powerful oratory and never-to-be-forgotten courage, were sent to plead for the preservation of the treaty of Limerick and of the honour of the Parliament. The answer they received, showed the perfect deadness of the remaining members to any thing resembling honest shame. The petitioners were told, that if they were to be deprived of the benefit of the articles of Limerick, it would be their own faults, since by conforming to the established religion they would be entitled to these and many other benefits; that therefore they ought not to blame any but themselves; that the passing of that bill into a law was need