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in Dublin, at which the most turbulent of the Irish chieftains were present. An Act was passed by acclamation, whereby it was declared, “That the King's Highness, his heirs and successors, be always Kings of this land of Ireland, united and knit to the imperial crown of England for ever.” This celebrated statute preserves the unity of the executive power in England and in Ireland, and prescribes that whosoever should be king de facto in the one, should be also sovereign in the other. The power of the Pope was overthrown, so far as by Act of Parliament it could be done. The Sovereign of England was declared to be the head of the Church ; the religious abbeys were suppressed, the lands were distributed upon easy terms amongst the Roman Catholic chieftains, who did not blush to share the spoil; and, thus enriched and ennobled by King Harry, they undertook to conspire no longer with France, the Pope, or Spain. The Irish chiefs were feasted by the King in his palace at Greenwich; but while they feasted they trembled, because they felt that if they misbehaved, they would all be hanged. So, after this fashion King Henry reigned and ruled over his happy kingdom of Ireland.
Although, during the long reign of Henry VIII., the Parliaments held in Ireland were few; and although the number of members was small, not amounting to hundred, and, until the thirty-third year of Henry VIII., limited to persons of English blood or birth ; and although Sir John Davis speaks somewhat slightingly of the purposes for which Parliaments in this reign were held; yet many useful English statutes were adopted by the Irish Parliaments, and during this reign our laws were, in many respects, improved and assimilated to those of England : and we must in fairness admit, as we peruse the statute book and the history of this reign, that whatever may have been the vices or
the crimes of King Harry, he meant to rule Ireland fairly, to introduce the English laws, and to maintain tranquillity and order. That he meant to enforce the residence of the grantees of Crown lands is attested by that singular Act called the Act of Absentees. The receiving of rents through agents, though by unwilling absentees, was treated as a crime by Harry VIII.; and those English noblemen who, by marriage or descent, acquired lands in Ireland on which they were unable to reside, were expected to grant those estates to persons who could and would reside. The evils of absenteeism were recorded in the statute referred to, and the “King's Majesty, intending the reformation of the said land, to foresee that the like shall not ensue hereafter, with the consent of his Parliament, pronounces forfeited the estates of all absentee proprietors, and their right and title gone.” A construction was put on this singular statute in the case of the Earl of Shrewsbury, also Earl of Waterford, and reported in the 12th part of Lord Coke's Reports—“It was resolved by the Judges in England, to whom the question was by the Privy Council referred, that the Irish Act against absentees did not only take away
from the Earl of Waterford the possessions which were given to him at the time of his creation, but also the dignity itself.” And the Judges said—“It was with good reason to take away such dignity by Act of Parliament; and although the said Earl of Shrewsbury be not only of great honour and virtue, but also of great possessions in England, yet it was not the intention of the Act to continue him Earl in Ireland, when as his possessions were taken away from him; but that the King, at his pleasure, might confer as well the dignity as the possessions to any other, for the defence of the said realm.”
I ought to mention that the propriety of this opinion of
Lord Coke and others came before the Lords in 1852, in the case of the Earl of Shrewsbury claiming, as Earl of Waterford, to vote at the election of Representative Peers of Ireland; and it was held that the dignity of the peerage was not taken away by the Irish Act against absentees; and that the opinion above cited was not binding upon the House of Lords, or any other Court of Justice.
But the Act referred to, against absentees, is to be noted and remembered, because it proves not only what was the legislation in point of fact at the time, but also the policy upon which large grants of land were made in Ireland, and shows the expectation that thereby this country would be tranquillized, enriched, and civilized. The principle of the law against absentees has been derided by political economists of our days; but King Harry cared little for abstract theories of political economy. Like the kings of his race, he wished to behold a magnificent nobility—a resident gentry, and a commonalty well fed, well housed, well clad — industry flourishing, and rogues somewhat roughly punished. King Harry's theory of a poor-law was simple and practicalbeggars were proscribed; the destitute were provided with work. If a sturdy vagabond would not work, and was caught begging once, being neither aged nor infirm, he was whipped at the cart's tail ; if caught a second time, his ear was slit, or bored through with a hot iron; if caught a third time, being thereby proved to be of no use upon this earth, but to live upon it only to his own hurt, and to that of others, he suffered death as a felon. And this law was enacted, it is said, “from a hatred of rascality,” and was sanctioned by the general sense of the people.
When a case of poisoning a family, by a cook, occurred in the reign of King Harry, it filled England with horror and amazement. A special act of Parliament was drawn, reciting
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THE IRISH PARLIAMENT.
the enormous and unheard-of crime, and “that man's life was chiefly to be favoured, and voluntary murders to be most detested and abhorred, and especially all kinds of murders by poisoning, which in this realm, our Lord be thanked, has been most seldom committed or practised.” It is further declared, “That the crime shall be high treason;" and it was enacted, “ that the said Richard Rous, the cook, should be therefore boiled to death."
And boiled to death he was, in a huge cauldron, in Smithfield Market, amidst the applauses of the people, “who," saith the historian, “showed a temper that would keep no terms with evil.”
QUEEN MARY-Anecdote of Dean Cole-Irish Laws passed in Mary's
Reign-State of Ireland under Elizabeth-Shakspeare's character of Elizabeth – Legislation during her Reign - Creation of Free Schools—The First Day of a Session-Length of the SittingsPayment of Knights and Burgesses—History of the Foundation and Library of the University of Dublin.
In the reign of Edward VI. no Parliament sat in Ireland.
The principal statute of a beneficial character, during the reign of Mary, was for the settlement of the King and Queen's County, the transferring of them into shires, and the founding of Philipstown and Maryborough, called after the King and Queen. An Act of Parliament was also passed, defining the intent and meaning of Poynings' law, and effectually subjugating the Irish Parliament to the English Privy Council.
No Parliament had been held in Ireland for a period of thirteen years, which sufficiently proves of how little importance that assembly was felt to be in the kingdom.
In the session held in the reign of this Queen, fifteen laws ere passed, nine of which have long since been repealed, being laws passed in obedience to a Bull from the Pope, which was publicly read to an obsequious Parliament, the members