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of Popery ?” Did it support or countenance the observance of this holy law of Moses and of Jesus Christ ? No: it said, in language fit for pirates and robbers, Forswear your religion, and then you shall have legal sanction to plunder your father and mother, and bring their gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.
In return for all their cares, their solicitudes, their pains, their affection, strip them of that property which ought to support your brothers and sisters. This was the unequivocal epirit of Irish legislation, on the subject of filial duty. When
any child or children of any Roman Catholic other than the eldest son, whose case was provided for before, conform to the Protestant religion, the father was obliged to give in, upon oath, to the court of chancery, a statement of the real and bona fide value of all his estate, real and personal; and make such provision for the present and future maintenance of the conforming child or children, as the court might order.”1024
By 9th Geo. II. c. 6. sect. 5. persons robbed by privateers during war with a Popish prince, shall be reimbursed by grand jury presentment, and the money be levied upon the goods and lands of Popish inhabitants only."1023
Many people have been deluded into the opinion, that these laws were merely enacted in terrorem, and were scarcely ever enforced. This is a very great error. They were for nearly half a century enforced with the most unfeeling barbarity. Thousands of wretches lived on the spoils which they raised by informations against Roman Catholics for breaches of those wicked statutes.
“During all queen Anne's reign, the inferior civil officers, by order of government, were incessantly harassing the Catholics, with oaths, imprisonments, and forfeitures, without any visible cause but hatred of this religious profession. In the year 1708, on the bare rumour of an intended invasion of Scotland by the Pretender, forty-one Roman Catholic noblemen and gentlemen were imprisoned in the castle of Dublin; and, when they were afterwards set at liberty, the government was so sensible of the wrong done to them, that it remitted their fees, amounting to 8001. A custom that had existed from time immemorial, for infirm men, women, and children to make a pilgrimage every summer to a place called St. John's Well, in the county of Meath, in hopes of obtaining relief from their several disorders, by performing at it certain acts of penance and devotion, was deemed an object worthy of the serious consideration of the house of commons, who accordingly passed a vote, that these sickly devotees “ were assembled in that place to the great hazard and danger of the public peace, and safety of the kingdom." They also passed a vote, on the 17th of March, 1705, “That all magistrates and other
see ** The eldest son, conforming, immediately acquires, and in the life time of his father, the permanent part, what our law calls the reversion and inheritance of the estate, and he discharges it by retrospect; and annuls every sort of voluntary settlement made by the father ever so long before his conversion! This he may
sell or dispose of immediately, and alienate it from the family for ever.”1096
1024 Robins, 459.
10%5 Parnell, 68.
3026 Burke, V. 187.
persons whatsoever, who neglected or omitted to put them (the penal laws) in due execution, were betrayers of the liberlies of the king: dom ;">1087 and, in June, 1705, they resolved, “ That the saying and hearing of mass, by persons who had not taken the oath of abjuration, tended to advance the interest of the Pretender ; and that such judges and magistrates as wilfully neglected to make diligent inquiry into, and to discover such wicked practices, ought to be looked upon as enemies to her majesty's government."1029 And upon another occasion, they resolved, " That the prosecuting and informing against Papists was an honourable service to the government?!”1029
Of this code of laws, it may be fairly averred, that, had all the penitentiaries in Europe been ransacked, to form a legislature for Ireland, -had Cartouche and his gang taken possession of the Parliament-house, they could not have devised a more rapacious or cruel system.
There is hardly a code in the world, that does not afford some instances of unjust and immoral laws, enacted in moments of delusion or faction. But this is the only one universally and undeviatingly profligate and depraved,—of which every provision and paragraph violated some law of God or man, and the plainest dictates of eternal justice,—which legalized robbery, and punished with death acts of humanity--the tuition of youth-the celebration of marriage, &c. &c.
The professed object of the hypocritical tyrants who framed this “ ferocious system," as Burke appropriately styles it, was to rescue the objects of its rapacity from the darkness of Popish idolatry. But they might worship Jupiter Ammon, Juno, Venus, Mars, Bacchus, and Apollo, with the Roinans; the sun with the Guebres; or Apis, with the Egyptians; they might even disbelieve in God altogether. Provided they foreswore transubstantiation and the Pepe's authority, they became pure and immaculate; their property and persons were secure; and, under the forins and ceremonies of the law of the land, they then acquired a right to rob and plunder the blind idolatrous Papists whom they had abandoned.
Whoever has duly considered the villany of those statutes, and of the legislators by whom they were enacted; the horrible scenes of oppression, fraud, and murder, which they could not fail to produce; the demoralization that must have followed their operation,-cannot fail to agree with Tillotson, that, so far as respected the devoted island whose fate is the theme of this work, it were
“ Better there were no revealed religion, and that human nature were left to the conduct of its own principles and inclinations, which are much more mild and merciful, much more for the peace and happiness of human society, than to be actuated by a religion that inspires men with so vile a füry, and prompts them to commit such outrag'es."
Tillotson applied this strong position to other parts of Christendom; but shut his eyes to the wickedness, the profligacy, and the immorality of the code in force in his native country ;*—so much easier is it
10:27 Com. Jour. 3. 289. 1023 Idem, 319. 1029 Ibid.-Parnell, 59. 1030 Tillotson, IlI. 19. * The English laws on this subject were as wicked and cruel as the Irish.
to take the mote out of our neighbour's eye, than the beam out of our
We have now, however, in this enlightened country, bigoted clergymen, who cant, and whine, and turn up the whites of their eyes, deploring and reviling the persecuting spirit of Madrid, and Lisbon, and Paris, and Rome, and Goa; but, like Tillotson, deaf, and blind, and dumb, to the atrocious system of persecution for ages in operation in England and Ireland. If they attend to the maxiin of Jesus Christ, « Let him that is without sin cast the first stone,” they will lay an eternal embargo on their tongues, upon this odious, this detestable subject. Sat verbum.
To the candour and justice of every reader, Christian, Jew, Turk, or Heathen, I appeal, to decide, whether, if the Roman Catholics of Ireland had risen en masse, when this vile code was enacted, and crushed their tyrannical oppressors, they would not have been perfectly justified? And whether the resistance would, even if unguccessful, have deserved the odious name of rebellion ?
“Rebellion ! foul, dishonouring word,
Whose wrongful blight so oft has stain'd
Of mortal ever lost or gain'd.
Has sunk beneath that withering name,
Had wafted to eternal fame!
* That this detestable code, though cloaked with a hypocritical pretence of a regard for the propagation of the Protestant religion, and a zeal to suppress and extirpate the “superstitions of Popery," as the Roman Catholic religion was styled, originated, as I have stated, in a determination to rob and plunder the Roman Catholics of their estates, after having reduced them to the most abject slavery, is evident from the fact, that it was continued in operation, long after experience had proved it utterly unavailing to answer the pretended purposes of its enaction. The first act for rabbing the Roman Catholics of their estates, in case they did not conform to the Protestant religion, and bestowing them on the next Protestant heir, or conform. ing Catholic, was passed in the year 1703, and from that time till 1752 inclusive, a period of fifty years, there were only 1860 certificates of conformity filed, 1031 The attempt was almost as futile as an effort to drain lough Erne with a ladle.
I copied an atrocious case of legalized robbery, which I intended to have published here at full length—but have mislaid the MS. and am obliged to confine myself to a mere outline. One of the vile Popery laws, allowed six months for the Catholic heir of real estate to, forswear the religion of his fathers, as the means of securing the possession. If he neglected or refused, the next heir, if a Protestant, or a conforming Catholic, was authorized by law to rob the owner of the property. A large estate devolved on a Catholic, who conformed on the last day of the sixth calendar month. He then made a bona
1031 Newenham, 184.
As exhalations, when they burst
And turn to sun-bright glories there !"1032 I also appeal to the reader to decide, whether had any spy or informer blasted such an undertaking he would not have merited neverdying execration: Those who answer the first and third of those questions in the negative are groveling slaves, who, for sake of consistency, must exécrate the barons, who extorted Magna Charta from king John -those who produced the revolution of 1688-and all those who ever made any effort in favour of human liberty or human happiness.
“Oh for a tongue to curse the slave,
Whose treason, like a deadly blight,
And blasts them in their hour of might!
With joys, that vanish while be sips,
But turn to ashes on the lips!
Just Prophet, let the damned one dwell
Beholding heaven, and feeling hell!"1033
fide sale of the property. But the next Protestant heir sued for the estate, on the ground that the law contemplated lunar months. The plea, after long litigation, was admitted bġ the judges, and thus the robbery was sanctioned by what was corruptly called a court of justice. Can, I repeat once more, the language of vituperation find words strong enough to mark the infamy of the miscreant legislators, who promulgated such a detestable system?
1032 Lalla Rookh.
State of the Popery laws in the year 1812. Catholic clergymen liable
to be hanged for marrying two Protestants, or a Protestant to a Roman Catholic. Prohibition of the permanent endowment of a Catholic chapel or school house." System of exclusion from office. Oppression of parish vestries. “ Alas, the penal code against the Catholics of Ireland is far from being in a relaxed or languishing state. No clause is permitted to slumber : no merciful connitance is tolerated : even obsolete enactments are now forced into fresh vigour. The system warks incessantly to the prejudice of every Catholic: and though some. times unobservedly, yet eventually with sure and grievous efficacy. Even when it bears a masked appearance, it is not less malignant, than when raging in the most furious aspect of persecution.
“No Catholic is so exalted by rank, fortune, or talent, or so depressed by poverty or ignorance, us to elude its baneful influence, to remain insensible of its contumehious and exasperating operation, or to suppress his murmurs against its long continuance."-Statement of Penal Laws.
AN idea has been entertained that the only grievance under which the Irish Catholics labour at present, is their ineligibility to seats in parliament and some of the higher offices of government--and therefore that but a very few of the first class of that society are interested in the attempts making to promote Catholic emancipation. This is a most egregious error. Almost every Roman Catholic in the nation experiences the disadvantages of the existing order of things, in a greater or less degree, as will appear in the sequel.*
It is very true, that the most hideous features of the “ferocious" and rapacious code, of which I presented a brief sketch in the preceding chapter, have been repealed. The jeopardy in which the government was placed, was the impelling motive, not a sense of justice or humanity, or shame to have the Irish code thus disgraced and dishonoured. A bill was brought in, anno 1778, to enable the Roman Catholics to take leases for sixty-one years. This mighty boon was rejected by the unfeeling and tyrannical majority in parliament. The disasters in America opened their eyes to the policy of conciliating the mass of the population-and in a very few months after, I believe in the same session, the same body of men passed an act enabling the Roman Catholics to take leases for 999 years!! What an immense contrast between the rejected bill and the one that finally passed! Imminent danger is a wonderful liberalizer of oppressors.t
* The facts in the present chapter are taken from an elaborate and learned work, written and published anno 1812, under the auspices of the Catholic board, by a professional gentleman, of high reputation, and containing a fair statement of the remnants of this vile code, in force at that period. Its title is—"A Statement of the Penal Laws, which aggrieve the Catholics of Ireland.” I have reason to believe, but am not quite certain, that no alteration of those laws has since taken place.
7“ But the Catholics were indebted, not only to the labours of their friends, but also to the great revolution which was going on at this