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The Irish Protestants had undergone no persecution, they consequently neither increased in zeal or numbers. In England, the Protestants had suffered much persecution; their numbers in consequence had multiplied, and their zeal become excessive.
One would imagine that the horrors of Mary's reign in England, would have impressed on the most callous heart, and the dullest understanding, how futile is the barbarity, and how sad the folly of religious intolerance. Yet, so perverse are the feelings of the vulgar, that the English Protestants seemed to rise from under the wheel of persecution, with renewed vigour, to persecute. Every instance of popish bigotry has been recorded, not to deter from bigotry, but to justify a similar indulgence of depraved and malignant passions, under the specious pretexts of retaliation and precaution.
True it is, there is no more difficult task han to suppress those feelings of vengeance which may arise from a natural source, but would be mischievous if generally indulged. Yet, what else is the meaning of virtue ? what else the advantage of liberal education, but that the crude and impetuous suggestions of first impressions, should be disciplined and regulated, by the calm concluç sions and enlarged views of moral utility?
THE Irish rebellions in Queen Elizabeth's reign have been
been generally ascribed to the influence of Roman Catholic zeal; and this opinion has been main, tained both by Catholic and Protestant writers. :. This circumstance might appear fatal to our argument, but this concurrence of opinion may be readily accounted for, even supposing the fact to have been otherwise.
For, those authors who have been most positive in ascribing these rebellions to religious principle, wrote in later times, when religious animosity had acquired its greatest rancour ; and attributed the feelings of
their own breasts to the times that had past; while the Protestant writers endeavoured to fix a stigma on the Roman Catholic religion, by setting it forth as the cause of these rebellions: the Roman Catholic writers, with a zeal equally eager, but less judicious, boast of these rebellions as an index of the fervency of the Catholic faith.
The wretched bigot, O'Sullivan, records a murder committed by Sir John of Desmond, on a Protestant, to whom he was much indebted, as " preclarum facinus."'* The Protestant bigot, Sir Richard Cox, relates as a very meritorious action, that Lord Mountjoy reduced the Irish papists to the necessity of eating one another.
We must turn from these writers, who can never be trusted in their studied representations, but when they involuntarily betray the truth, to the cotemporary writers, who saw the scenes which they describe,
These, on the contrary, inake little or no mention of any existing animosity on
This murder was committed by Desmond to ingraLiate himself with the Spaniards.
account of religion, and so far from considering it as a cause of rebellion, they do not give the Catholics credit for it, even when they professed it was so, but expressly declare it was never more than a pretext.
Though the hasty words of such a man as the Earl of Essex cannot be pledged as historical fact, yet we may quote them with great reliance, as expressive of his feelings and the feelings of the times, when he replied to Hugh O'Neil, “ Thou talk of a free exercise of religion! thou carest as much for religion as my horse.”
The Earl of Desmond's rebellion has also been ascribed to his zeal for the Catholic religion. Let us hear what he
says himself, and collect the degree of his religious enthusiasm from the very words of this redoubted polemnic.
It was made a condition by the Lord Deputy, that the Earl should promote the reformed religion in his territory. Desmond replies, That as to the furtherance of religion in Munster, having no knowledge in learning, and being ignorant what was to be done in this behalf, he would aid and main
tain whatever should be appointed by commissioners nominated for this purpose !
As far as this rebellion is concerned, the testimony of Sir Richard Cox is decisive; who, if he could have referred it to any thing like popery, would certainly have done so. He expressly allows that it arose from “ the distaste of the old Irish potentates, and old English settlers, who had been dispossessed of their sovereign rights, and that religion was only made a pretence for rebellion.”
Moryson gives the same account of the origin of the insurrection under O'Neil. “ About this time, the northern chieftains conspired to defend the Romish religion; (for now, first among them, religion was made the cloak of rebellion,) to admit no English sheriffs, and to defend their liberties and rights against the English.”
Those who have acquired from writers of later date an exaggerated idea of the fanaticism of the Irish Roman Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth, will be surprised to hear that there were no recusants till the reign of James I. This is a most