Page images

the Irish commons, on his passing this popery act, by which it will plainly appear, how exact a conformity of sentiment and disposition there was between his lordship and these commons.

“ Besides gratefully acknowledging her majesty's most particular care of them, in appointing his excellency their chief governor, and earnestly wishing his long continuance in the government;" they told him, " that they could not, on that occasion, omit mentioning, how acceptable to the whole body of protestants his excellency's endeavours had been in their favour; to which, next to her majesty's royal goodness, they justly attributed the return of the bill to amend the act to prevent the further growth of popery, in the manner the same was transmitted, notwithstanding the strong efforts made against it by the Irish papists in Great Britain.” With which address and acknowledgment his excellency desired the speaker to tell them, that he was extremely well pleased and satisfied.”

And, in truth, what governor could be better disposed or qualified than his excellency, as above described, was, to procure a law, which, under the specious pretence of preventing the growth of popery in Ireland, has, in reality, more effectually prevented the growth and improvement of every thing that is either useful or ornamental to that kingdom ; that instead of promoting true religion, and its genuine effects, public and private virtue, has given birth to more hypocrify, and, under that dangerous disguise, to more of every other species of moral evil, and turpitude, than was before known in this, or any other part of the christian world;

a law,

[ocr errors]

a Of this the legidature itself feemed fenfible when it passed this act, and many years after. For such was its diffidence of converts made by it, even in the year 1725, that they then, “ resolved, that no person that is, or fall be converted from the popish religion, ought to be elected or admitted to serve as a member of this house, for the space of seven years wext after his conversion; and unless he produces a certificate of having received the facrament, according to the usage of the church of Ireland as by law established, thrice in every year, during the said term." Com. Jour. vol. v. f.290.

a law, by which great rewards are occasionally held forth to that vile and detested race of men, discoverers and informers, who, being thus legally countenanced and encouraged, plunder indiscriminately parents, brethren, kinsmen and friends, in despite of all the ties of blood, of affection and confidence; in breach of the divine law, and of all former human laws enacted in this or any other country, for the security of property, since the creation of the world!

[ocr errors][ocr errors]



Reasons asigned for making those laws.


Two plaufible reasons have been commonly afligned for the framing and continuing of these laws. First, their tendency to bring the papists of this kingdom to conformity in religion, and loyalty, with their protestant fellow-subjects; and next, their aptitude to weaken and impoverish such of them as prove refractory in these respects, to such a degree as to render both them, and their pofterity utterly incapable of giving any future disturbance to this government. But is it not notorious that hypocrisy, and disaffection to the established religion and government, are the natural and constant effects of such forced conversions ? And even fuppofing that converts thus made might at length become real proteltants, and loyal subjects, “ is evil to be done that good may arise therefrom,” in this one instance, when both reason, and religion prohibit and condemn it in every other ? On the other hand, does not the enacting such predatory laws against these people, without their being even accused of any civil crime, and merely to weaken and impoverish them, suggest to the mind fomething like the policy of an highway-man, in putting those he has robbed to death, left if they were suffered to survive their losses, they might chance to discover and prosecute him for the robbery ?


The last of the common objections to the relaxation of these laws, which I shall consider (and it is the only remaining objection that deserves to be considered) is, " that the spirit of persecution is peculiar and essential to the Roman catholic religion ; and therefore that its professors ought, in good policy, to be always kept under, and in an absolute incapacity to exert it. But this objection confutes itself. It supposes, that men may be justified in actually wronging and persecuting others, for no other reason, but merely to prevent these others from ever having the power (however remote and improbable) to injure and persecute them. The Roman catholics wilh not for a power to persecute; they only implore the justice and mercy of the legislature, to relieve them from perfecution. But how can the spirit of persecution be deemed peculiar to Roman catholics, when it is notorious, that their very accusers, of every denomination, persecute both them and one another, whenever they have the power and opportunity of doing it? That such a spirit is far from being essential to their religion, however it may have unhappily poffefsed some of its bigotted members (and what sect, or communion of christians, is free from such members ?), is manifest from hence, that all their ablest and most respectable divines, and in particular their last pope, Clement XIV. (who surely must be supposed to have known the essentials of his religion) condemn and renounce it, as unchristian and inhuman.' “ The great misfortune in this case,” says that eminently learned and pious prelate, “ is, that some people confound religion with her ministers, and make her responsible for their faults. It never was religion, but false zeal pretending to her, that seized fire and sword, to compel heretics to abjure their errors, and Jews to become Christians. And what is more dreadful than to fee good men fall victims to a zeal displeasing in the fight of God, and condemned by the church, as equally hurtful to religion, and the rights of society? The example of Jesus


[ocr errors][merged small]

Christ, who during his residence on earth, bore patiently with the Sadducees and Samaritans (the infidels and fchifmatics of those times), obliges us to support our brethren, of whatever communion they be; to live peaceably with them, and not to torment them on account of any system of belief, which they may have adopted. The power of the church is purely fpiritual. Our blessed Saviour himself, when he prayed for his executioners, taught us how his cause is to be avenged. Had the ministers of the gospel been always careful to follow that divine model, the enemies of christianity would not have been able to bring against it the unjust reproach of favouring persecution.

The church always disavowed those impetuous men, who, stirred up by an indiscreet zeal, treat those who go astray with asperity; and its most holy bishops, at all times, solicited the pardon of apostates, desiring only their conversion. Men, therefore, ought not to impute to the church those excesses, of which history has preserved the memory, and which are repugnant to the maxims of the gospel.”

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Persecutions in the reign of king George I. NOTWITHSTANDING the great lenity and general beneficence introduced to the throne of these kingdoms, by the accession of his majesty George I. the popery laws were still rigorously executed, during the greatest part of his reign. Such of them as affected the property of Roman catholics, lay not within the sphere of the royal clemency, because they necessarily executed themselves. And some unlucky circumstances in the beginning of it, contributed to enforce the execution of those acts, which prohibit the exercise of their religion, under very severe penalties. Among these, the Scottish rebellion in 1715, was the principal; as that rebellion had been raised and car

ried on in favour of a popish pretender ; though all the acting rebels, almost to a man, were Scottish presbyterians; and none of the catholics in Ireland were known to be any way connected with them. Yet such was the government's affected fear, or real hatred, of these catholics, that the penalties for the exercise of their religion, were then generally inflicted. Their chapels were shut up; their priests dragged from their hiding places; sometimes from the very altars, in the midst of divine service, hurried into loathsome prisons, and from thence banished for ever from their native country. This persecution was the obvious, and but the natural, effect of a resolution of the commons at that juncture: “ that it was the indispensable duty of all magistrates, to put the laws in immediate execution against popish priests; and that such of them as neglected to do so, should be looked upon as enemies of the constitution.' And although this rebellion of the presbyterians in Scotland, was the fole pretence for this severity; and the very fame law which banishes popish priests, prohibits also difsenters to accept of or act by, a commiffion in the militia or array ; yet so partial were the resolutions of that parliament, that, at the same time that they ordered the former to be rigorously prosecuted, they resolved unanimously, " that any person, who should commence a prosecution against any of the latter, who had accepted, or should accept of, a commission in the array or militia, was an enemy to king George and the protestant interest.” Thus of the only two main objects of the same law, its execution against one of them was judged highly meritorious ; but it was deemed equally culpable, even to attempt it against the other ; though the law itself makes no difference between them. Such was the justice and consistency of our legiflators of that period.

The frequent exertions of this particular prejudice against the Roman catholic clergy of Ireland, seem not to have been the effects of any new or sudden provocation, arising occasionally from their misconduct, with respect to the government; but appear to


« PreviousContinue »