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ful for the security of the kingdom at that juncture, and in short there was nothing in the articles of Limerick, that should hinder them to pass it. And how had they come to this conclusion? They argued thus; the treaty of Limerick provided that the Catholics should remain in the same situation as they were in during the reign of Charles II. But during that reign, the legislature was not prohibited from enacting laws against them, if it chose to do so, and therefore was not prevented now. Such was the passing “ of the good law” “ the excellent law,” for which the Protestants thanked “ her majesty's unparalleled goodness, and his grace's sincere and happy endeavours,"
The work was now almost accomplished. The persecutor had no more plans to devise. The sum of his ingenuity was nearly exhausted. There was one more step which might have been taken. The Papists might have been put to the sword, but this would have been both laborious and dangerous; it was better that the Irish should learn to destroy each other. What chiefly remained to be done was, sedulously to put the principles established in practice. Accordingly all the baser and blacker passions were nourished. The son was taught to betray his father, and the bosom friend was encouraged to become the spy. The House of Commons had to teach a new code of morality, and voted the profession of an informer to be
an honourable office.” All excuses were adopted to renew the rigour of the laws, and a ready one was found in such a circumstance as the rebellion in Scotland in 1715. The magistrates were then reminded by the House of Commons, that it was their indispensable duty to put the laws in immediate execution against Popish priests, and that such of them as neglected to do so, should be looked on as enemies of the constitution. Many years afterwards similar resolutions were passed and acts were passed “for explaining and amending those previously passed, that their glory might not be forgotten. On one of these occasions, an enactment passed against the Romish priests of a nature, over which the proprieties of mo
dern language draw a veil, but was too horrible to receive the sanction of the English government. Two more distinguished acts remain to fill up the dark catalogue. In 1726, it was enacted that any popish priest who should marry a Roman Catholic to a Protestant should be guilty of felony and suffer death, and in 1728, it was enacted that no person should be capable of practising as an attorney, who had not been for two years a Protestant, and who should take the oaths.
These things did their work. The great body of Roman Catholics seemed for a time inert and dead. There was no presiding spirit capable of filling it with life; there was no O'Connell, whose genius and courage were devoted to struggle with an arrogant government, in the redressing of those grievances, which paralyzed all the energies of six-eights of the Irish people. It must, however, be allowed that to Dean Swift, with all bis versatility and political vices, we almost awe the only attempts to revive patriotic feeling; but his attempts were partial, and did not strike boldly at the great evil. It is almost gratifying to reflect that the next step was to cast off the vile tools, who had done the work, the Irish Protestants. When they had accomplished the ends for which they were employed, their services were dispensed with English ascendency succeeded that of the Irish Protestants; the country was brought into deeper subjection, and the British legislature, as if such a formality were necessary, passed an act, declaring the supreme authority of Great Britain over Ireland. Mr. Wyse in his History of the Catholic Association, thus describes the state of the country.
“ George II. ascended the throne, and the Catholics for a moment indulged the hope of a relaxation. But their very congra · tulations were contemptuously consigned to oblivion; they were almost forgotten in the nation; they were voted by both Houses scarcely to exist. Their last remaining privilege was surreptitiously wrested from them. The Catholic freeholder was disfranchised before the Catholic could be apprised that such a bill was even before the House. The very converts from Catholicism, who did not attest the sincerity of the change by an ultra zeal in profession and persecution, were like the drummer at the triangle, subjected often to penalties little less than those, which they were expected to inflict upon others. Charter schools were founded by the pious and cruel Boulter, “out of concern for the salvation of those poor creatures, who are our fellow subjects, and to try all possible means to bring them and theirs over to a knowledge of the true religion.” Bills for registering the popish clergy, or annulling all marriages, &c. between Catholics and Protestants, &c. &c. were passed, yet was not Ireland bettered, but the malady grew more chronic and desperate. Cure was considered impossible, a whole nation was deemed irreclaimable, the desolating famine of 1740, one of the most terrible in the memory of man, carrying off 400,000 persons, the fifth or sixth within twenty years, was another blessing of this exclusive legislation. Drains to absentees, the old restrictious on the woollen trade, embargoes on provisions, total want of specie enhanced the distress, nor was the persecution of man corrected by the awful visitations of Providence. The first symptoms of returning plenty were only stimulants to new
The proclamation for the suppressing of monastic institutions in 1741 was the sequel. A general disarming of the Catholics took place; the sanctity of domestic retreat was violated in search of priests; chapels were closed, public service and private devotion were suspended ; terror reigned on all sides; and a persecution unequalled by any of the preceding, spread to the most remote parts of the kingdom. The Scotch rebellion of 1745, still further increased the alarm and cruelty of the ascendency. Trampled as the Catholic was to the very earth, shorn of every element of power, deprived of even the hope or the yearning after self-redress, the natural apprehensions arising out of a guilty conscience, attributed to him intentions, which were never verified by deeds and he saw in the just sense of the injuries, which had been inflicted, the probability of a merited and universal retaliation. Measures of extreme rigour were adopted; measures of extreme atrocity were proposed. A massacre similar to that of 1641, is said to have been agitated in the privy council. Let
us hope for the honour of our common chrisłianity that such things, even in Ireland, are impossible.
Such is a scanty view of the different laws made against the Irish Catholics, the detail is one of instruction and interest, not of amusement; it must also be considered that the substance of an act of Parliament, given in a few words, tells a more correct tale than volumes of fine writing, and the subject is one of those, of which no one ought to judge without accurate information; it is from a want of a becoming attention to that principle, that we find so few people well instructed on the great and important merits of the Catholic question, and thus are apt to view it through a distorted medium, until the mind becomes so fettered by prejudice, that that which was originally a mere matter of opinion, degenerates into personalities, and eventually becomes the source of the most bitter strife and rancour.
Living indeed in this age of freedom and mental illumination, the whole series of oppression seems so unnatural and barbarous, that we require peculiar clear evidence, before we can cease to doubt its reality. Were one, instead of setting down these broad and undoubted details to make a minute investigation into the secret working of these laws, there is no doubt that he could produce multitudes of those cases of oppression and hardship, which are much more apt to rouse the compassion or indignation of the reader, than the dry details of the law, and the stories of the suffering remnant of the ancient faith in Europe, might be made as full of romantic in. terest, as those of the Covenanters, or the Waldenses of the Alps, but we do not need to apply to such resources. The legislature has recorded the evidence of its own enormities in clear and indisputable language, and we will be able the more accurately to estimate their merits, that they do not come to us magnified by the graces of rhetoric.
To one brought up in a Protestant country, with all the prejudices of a protestant, and daily reminded of the sanguinary persecutions of the church of Rome which at one time disfigured the fairest portion of Europe, the list of statute laws, if it has been perused ty him for the first time, will suggest a question which may not have occurred before. Is the church of Rome, the only church which stands stained with those sanguinary persecutions? A fair consideration of the subject, will shew the vanity of those accusations which churches make against each other, at the same time that it will lead to the exculpation of Mr. O'Connell for many of those acts, which his enemies have alleged against him. In fact it is scarcely possible to understand the leading motives of his actions, without being thoroughly instructed in the history of those events, which particularly belong to the records of his country, and out of which has grown that colossal power, which he has partly acquired from his own extraordinary genius and courage, and partly delegated to him by the people of whom he is the representative.
Of most of the ordinary sects of Christians in Europe, no one is more inclined, from its nature to persecution, than another. Give to almost any one of them the power and the teinptation, and it will persecute. It was the power and the temptation to persecute, that produced the Protestant martyrs of Smithfield and St Andrew's. The same power and temptation produced the penal laws against the Irish. The country was at the mercy of England, and England was Protestant. Were we, indeed, to judge of the religious merits of the two churches by their conduct to each other, it is to be feared that the Protestant would be found the less justifiable of the two. The persecutions of the Romish church were perpetrated in a barbarous age, before the very birth of the philosophy of free legislatures, and in the centre of general despotism; but Ireland was persecuted in the days of Locke, and Somers, and Addison, when the free constitution of Britain was full blown and when it was boasted that the meanest hind in England was as much under the protection of the laws as the subject nearest to the throne.
When one is simply informed of the hardship to which the Roman Catholics of Ireland were subjected, it would naturally occur to him, as a consequence, that the body would, in a short