Page images

Irish Church, and under the protection of Ormond convened a meeting of the Catholic nobles at Dublin, when a declaration of faith was drawn up in language offensive to the Holy See. Though disowned by the bishops, Walsh gathered some adherents, who were at once taken under the patronage of the viceroy, much as the Old Catholics were taken up by Prince Bismarck a few years ago. The Valesians, as Walsh's adherents were styled, were allowed to open churches and convents, while the Catholics were debarred from any public exercise of their worship. The craft of the viceroy, however, was all in vain. The attempted schism died out, and Walsh himself made his submission after a few years. It even proved of benefit to the Church, for the chapels which had been opened for the expected schism were not interfered with afterwards; and thus their use was accorded unintentionally to the Catholics.

Judged by purely human reasons, the prospects of the Church in Ireland in the reign of Charles were well-nigh hopeless. The greater part of the land and nearly all political power had been taken away from the Catholics. A large and compact minority of English and Scotch settlers controlled the Government, and were supported by the whole power of England. The clergy were under the ban of the law, and the means of filling up the gaps in its ranks were cut off as far as the power of the Government could reach. The connivance of some years was interchanged for the violent persecution of others. In 1674 all the bishops but one had to fly to the woods, and six years later, when the Popish Plot frenzy seized the English people, its effect was felt in Ireland. The Archbishop of Dublin was confined for two years in a cell in Dublin Castle until death released him, and the Primate, Oliver Plunket, after twelve years of unceasing toils, was executed as a traitor at Tyburn on the evidence of some infamous characters. His blood was, indeed, the last actually shed for the Faith in Ireland, but for a whole century longer the fidelity of its people continued to be tried by the inflictions of the Penal Laws.

Dreary as was the lot of the Irish Catholics under Charles, yet drearier times were to come. The accession of a Catholic to the throne in the person of James II. brought a gleam of hope to the downtrodden nation; and when that unfortunate monarch was driven from England by the Dutch army and the treachery of his ministers, the vision of an independent Ireland seemed for a moment on the point of being realized. A representative Parliament of the whole nation, Catholics as well as others, held sway in Dublin. Full toleration for all was proclaimed in the Catholic Parliament of Ireland, as it had been half a century earlier in Catholic Maryland; and the independence of the Irish Parliament itself of all

English supremacy was declared at the same time. The work of reorganizing the nation was pushed on with activity, if not always with judgment, by the Viceroy Talbot, and the popular hopes were raised to the highest for the future of their country. But those bright hopes were short-lived. The hastily raised levies were overmatched by the veterans of William, fifty thousand of whom were sent to the conquest of Ireland, and after a gallant contest of two years the remnant of the Irish forces capitulated on honorable terms at Limerick. Their forces were still formidable, and as William was anxious to bring the contest to a speedy termination, so full toleration was accorded by solemn treaty to the Catholic population, and the army was offered its choice of entering the service of the conqueror or of following the fortunes of his dethroned predecessor. Fourteen thousand of the flower of the nation accepted the latter alternative, and sailed away from their native land forever. Scarcely had they departed when the terms of the treaty were broken, and the whole power of the Government once more was set to work to root out the Catholic Faith from the soil of Ireland.

The toleration promised by the Treaty of Limerick was refused by Parliament, and the Penal Code against all exercise of Catholic worship replaced on the Statute Book. All Catholic bishops, dignitaries and religious were ordered to depart the kingdom forthwith, and a few years later the same rule was applied to all priests whomsoever who had not been registered. A limited number were allowed to remain on condition of making their names and residences known to the authorities and taking the oath of allegiance, but it was expressly provided that this regulation should be only temporary, and that no successors should be allowed to take the place of the registered priests as they were removed by death or other causes from their parishes. As the presence of Catholic bishops in Ireland was utterly forbidden, no exercise of Church discipline was allowed, and any registered priest, if so disposed, might refuse to conform to any rule of his superiors with impunity. Their registration was, besides, no protection against the vexations of the magistracy. The latter might require them at any time to take an oath of abjuration of the Pope's temporal supremacy which, in the opinion of the Protestant judges, was not incompatible with the Catholic belief, but which was received in a very different light by the Catholics themselves. The registered parish priest of Macroom was thus committed to jail in 1712, and his case was not a solitary one. In the County Leitrim alone, about 1714, the grand jury found presentments against no less than thirty-one priests and two schoolmasters, but they mournfully added that not one could be captured in spite of the large rewards offered for each.

In Sligo and in Waterford, during the years 1712 and 1714, numbers of Catholics were compelled to swear where they had last heard mass and who had officiated, but the attempt to secure the persons of the hunted clergy was as unsuccessful as the presentments of the Leitrim grand jury. In other cases, however, the chase was more successful. In Cork, Fathers Hennessy and Carty were convicted of being priests and transported beyond the seas in the summer of 1712, and Father Boyle, in Galway, and Father Hamal, in Down, were arrested and held for trial the same year. Two Catholic teachers were also reported as being in Longford jail under conviction for “having been Popish schoolmasters.” Two more were under sentence for the same crime in Dublin in 1715, and a curious letter bearing date of the beginning of 1713 is preserved in the Irish archives from the cousin of Secretary Dawson, a resident of Armagh, which sets forth that he had a few months before arrested Brian McGurk, the Popish Dean of that place, and had obtained witnesses against him, but that his prisoner died before the assizes, and he hoped that this mischance would not deprive him of the reward of fifty pounds which he would have been entitled to on conviction. Another letter states that Father McGurk was ninety years of age, bedridden and in second childhood at the time of his arrest, facts which must enhance our sympathy with Mr. Dawson's disappointment at his thus being cheated of his legal right. It is a striking fact to find the Protestant Primate Boulter reporting to the Irish House of Commons, in 1732, that there were over fourteen hundred secular priests and two hundred and fifty friars at that time in Ireland, and nine communities of nuns and five hundred and forty-nine Popish schools were maintained in full defiance of the law. The worthy Primate, an Englishman and a bitter fanatic after the manner of the times when fanaticism was little beyond a hatred of the Catholic Church, complained at the same time of the difficulty he found in obtaining eight hundred ministers for the State Church, in spite of the immense revenues and power at its disposal. Again, as in the old days of Rome, the persecutors had to confess their powerlessness before the passive resistance of Christian faith.

Though the priests were specially the object of pursuit, it must not be supposed that the simple Catholics were left unmolested in the practice of their religion. It was impossible to imprison or banish an entire nation, and the attempts to compel attendance at the State churches had proved utter failures; but still, there were ample means of making Irish Catholics feel the power of the law whose peculiar creed they so obstinately refused to profess. From all share in public affairs they were absolutely excluded. No Catholic could be a member of Parliament, or of any municipality; they

might not vote, nor sit on juries if objected to; the courts were closed to them, and their testimony might be refused on the grounds of their religion. Against personal outrages they had, practically, no legal redress, and the remnant of landed property, that a few still retained, was at the mercy of any Protestant claimant. The law provided that any member of a Catholic family might claim its property absolutely by becoming a member of the State church, thus offering a premium to the disregard of filial affection or subordination. The learned professions were closed to all who refused to swear to the royal supremacy, and Catholics were forbidden by statute from educating their children, either at home or abroad. The tenant-farmers, who had no lands to lose, were not beyond the reach of the Code, which combined the brutality of a Roman tyrant with the jealousy of an English huckster. Catholics might not take leases for over thirty-one years, and in case any farmer was able to extract from his holding anything above onethird of the rent, his right in it was declared forfeited, and any Protestant might oust him from its possession. The fact that any Protestant might take a horse belonging to a Catholic on payment of five pounds, has been widely commented on as an instance of the severity of the Penal Code, but it is not so generally known that the right to possess horses at all was one of the first relaxations of the Penal Code, by which arms and horses were alike forbidden property to any of the proscribed faith.

The trading and manufacturing classes fell equally under the restrictions of the Penal Code. Catholics were not allowed to invest money in real estate, or even to lend it on real estate security; they might not be received into many trades, and in all they were forbidden to receive apprentices beyond one or two each, and they might not own houses or even reside in many of the principal towns. Galway and Limerick were among the cities in which Catholics were forbidden to dwell, except under special conditions, and in Bandon, Enniskillen, and Belturbet, down to the middle of the century, no Catholic was allowed to live on any pretext. In Limerick it was found impossible to eject the whole population, but down to 1744 no Catholic chapel was allowed within its walls. In Galway, which had long been the second city of Ireland, the whole Catholic population was expelled in 1708, and again in 1715, with a few exceptions. The freedom of all corporations throughout the country was expressly reserved to the Protestant citizens, and the civic property was, in almost every instance, shamelessly jobbed away to members of the same creed. Among the Catholic Irish no class was too insignificant to escape legal persecution. The fishermen of Folkestone petitioned Parliament, in 1698, to redress the injury done to them " by the Irish catching herrings at Waterford

and Wexford and sending them tɔ the Straits, thereby forestalling the petitioners' market;" and a few years later, the Protestant porters of Dublin solemnly laid before a sympathizing Parliament the grievous wrongs they suffered at the hands of one Darby Ryan, a papist merchant, who presumed to give employ to porters of his own creed.

The family relations among the poorest Catholics did not escape the malevolence of the law. The right of becoming guardians to minors was denied to all members of the proscribed faith ; and in the case of Catholic minor heirs, the Chancellor at once seized their persons and had them brought up as Protestants, In this way the Duke of Ormond in the reign of Charles, the celebrated Earl of Inchiquin, and the Marquis of Antrim in the beginning of the eighteenth century, were removed from their families and forced into a profession of the State belief. It was impossible to apply such a rule to the children of the poor, universally, but the Government, during the whole of the century, made constant efforts to put it in practice partially. The poverty of the bulk of the population, resulting from their exclusion from all profitable employments, was described as a crime by the very legislation which forbade them from acquiring property. In Dublin, in 1703, a society was empowered to arrest all idle vagrants, i.e., unemployed poor, found in the streets, and to keep them at hard labor in the workhouse prison for a term of seven years.

All children over five years found begging might be at once seized and kept in the workhouse until their sixteenth year, after which they were to be bound out to any Protestant who wished to use their labor, for five years in the case of girls, and eight in that of boys. An act of 1715 extended the power of carrying off the children of the destitute Catholics to the minister and church wardens of every parish throughout the country, provided the consent of a justice of the peace was obtained. A corporation, similar to the Dublin Institution, was established in Cork, in 1735, and it was enacted that the captive children should be interchanged between the two cities to separate them more effectually from their parents. The well-known Charter-schools, founded by the Protestant Primate Boulter, in 1732, were another effort in the same direction, though more in the shape of a bribe for the surrender of poor Catholic children than the other Acts. These, the only primary schools of the country, offered to feed and clothe any Catholic children between six and ten that their parents would give up, on condition that they should be reared Protestants. Once received, the children were not allowed to see their parents, or hold intercourse with any members of their families, and their withdrawal was prohibited by law. The charter-schools were maintained long after

« PreviousContinue »