Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

1710] COMPLETION OF THE PENAL CODE

39 penal code. A Bill to explain and amend an Act intituled An Act to prevent the further growth of Popery” was passed without delay. This Act was heralded by a proclamation ordering all registered priests to take the Abjuration Oath before March 25, 1710, under pain of præmunire. The penal code was now practically complete, and was, as Edmund Burke described it, “A machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, and as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment, and degradation of a people and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.” 1

While the Irish Catholics as the common enemy" were the chief objects of penal legislation, the Dissenters, who constituted perhaps two-thirds of the whole colonial interest, suffered from many disabilities inflicted upon them by their brethren, the dominant minority of the Established Church. The Dissenters had acted the part of the “mean whites" in America—they helped to oppress the Catholic slaves and support a system of government of which the Established Church planters alone got the profit. When the Popery Bill was before the House of Commons, the ten Presbyterian members all voted for the sections against the growth of Popery, and the Dissenters generally were clamorous for the stringent application of the penal code. They were rewarded for this zeal against the “common enemy” by the insertion in the Bill, when before the English Privy Council, of a section imposing the Sacramental Test upon themselves. The Irish Parliament could not alter a Bill sent from England; they could only reject it as a whole. Bishop Burnet tells us that the section referred to was inserted for the purpose of wrecking the Bill. This plea has been often used whenever it was desired to shift the responsibility for some questionable Acts from English ministers to the Irish Parliament. The “English interest” knew they had nothing to fear from the opposition of the insignificant minority of Dissenters in the Irish House of Commons, while, on the other hand, the House of Lords would not

· Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe.

reject a Bill which gave them the Sacramental Test. They reasoned rightly; the Dissenters made a feeble resistance in the House of Commons, and so the “mean whites” were now in the grip of the bishops, who put the laws in force against them. They very soon cleared out the Presbyterian magistrates of Ulster, and put in their place “men of little estate, youths, new-comers, and clergymen," the sole qualification being regular attendance at church. Out of twelve Aldermen in Derry, ten were Nonconformists, and these were deprived of their offices. The entire corporation of Belfast were superseded. The most objectionable rite of the Presbyterians in the eyes of the bishops was their marriage, which they regarded simply as a licence to sin. It was even announced in some dioceses that the children of all Protestants not married in the parish church would be regarded as bastards. Nay, even some bishops are said to have gone so far as to prosecute in their courts many persons of reputation as fornicators for cohabiting with their own wives.1

Wharton's Government connived at the non-enforcement of the laws against the Presbyterians. But they soon realised that connivance was not liberty, for, on venturing in a missionary spirit to occupy the field left by Church pluralists, they roused the anger of the bishops, especially at Drogheda, where they addressed a congregation composed of base persons, coopers, shoemakers, and tailors," who were threatened with the stocks; the preachers were arrested and bound over by the mayor to take their trial at the assizes. The Lord-Lieutenant ordered a nolle prosequi to be entered. Jonathan Swift entered the field against the Dissenters, and argued that they were the only real political danger to which Ireland was exposed. The Catholics he considered “ harmless as women and children, powerless to hurt, and doomed to certain disappearance in one two generations." The House of Lords complained to the queen that the Presbyterians were the cause of all the disorders in Ireland, and that Lord Wharton was standing by them. The

i Froude, op. cit., vol. i. p. 319.

or

1713]

PERSECUTION OF DISSENTERS

41

Presbyterian synod, in their defence, charged the bishops with “having placed an odious mark of infamy upon at least half the Protestants of Ireland." The complaint of the Lords coincided with the ministerial crisis by which the ministry of Godolphin and Sunderland fell and Bolingbroke and the Tories came in, so Wharton was recalled. The Tories having for the time a majority in the English House of Commons, an address of both Houses to the queen was voted on November 7, 1711, complaining of Wharton in reference to the Drogheda affair, and also charging the Presbyterians with “ tyranny in threatening and ruining members who left them; in denying them the common offices of Christianity; in printing and publishing that the Sacramental Test is only an engine to advance State faction, and to debase religion to serve mean and unworthy purposes." They prayed her Majesty to withhold the Regium Donum.

The last days of the Parliament of the penal laws were spent in a characteristic quarrel between the Lords and Commons, arising out of a vote of £5000 to Trinity College, Dublin, for building a library as a reward for the zeal of the Provost and Fellows in having expelled a Fellow named Forbes because he “aspersed the memory of King William.” In this quarrel the Presbyterians got some hard knocks, and the miserable alms of £1200, called the Regium Donum, was withdrawn in compliance with the wish of the House of Lords.

The native Irish were assumed to be so completely outside the constitution at this time that there was no need even to abuse them. So anxious were the colonists to shut out the Irish people from the faint reflection of freedom which a knowledge of even the debates of Parliament would give them, that an order of the House of Commons was made in 1713, “ that the sergeant-at-arms should take into custody all Papists that were in, or should presume to come into, the galleries." ?

A new feud had arisen before the end of the session, between the Government of the Duke of Shrewsbury and the corporation of Dublin, by which the city was left without municipal government for nearly two years, and the courts of law brought to a standstill. As a sequel to this dispute the Commons addressed the queen to remove Sir Constantine Phipps, an English Jacobite, who was Lord Chancellor, and whom they accused of favouring Popery—that is, of not deciding causes as they wished — and threatened to impeach him.

1 A grant to the Presbyterians, as to which see Part III., post. ? Commons Journals, vol. iii.

The House of Commons passed the money Bill, but appended to it a list of grievances which was in reality an indictment of the Government. The Lord-Lieutenant refused to accept the supplies under such conditions. As no arrangement could be made between the parties, the Government dispensed with the supplies, and the Parliament was prorogued until the autumn, never to meet again. The Bill to prevent the growth of schism was then before the English Parliament. Bolingbroke himself moved in the House of Lords that the provisions of the Bill should be extended to Ireland. The Bill passed, but on the day the Act was to come into operation Queen Anne died, and with her the Parliament of the penal laws.

George I. came peaceably to the throne, and the Parliament which he summoned continued the policy of its predecessors. Ireland was so far out of English politics that the dominance of Whigs or Tories in the larger island made little difference to the wretchedness of the smaller, or to the oppression inflicted on Catholics and Nonconformists. Scarcely any considerable event 2 marks the period which elapsed between the death of Anne and the beginning of the rule of Primate Boulter, to be described in the next chapter.

1 "A Long History,” etc. ? The Irish took no part in the Jacobite movements of 1715.

PERIOD OF DESOLATION; GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND BY

AN ENGLISH ADMINISTRATION AND A PARLIAMENT
AND MAGISTRACY OF COLONIAL LANDLORDS

THE penal code was in full force at the opening of the Hanoverian period. At the close of each session of Parliament a resolution was passed declaring "That it is the indispensable duty of all magistrates and officers to put the laws made to prevent the growth of Popery in Ireland in due execution.” In his speech proroguing Parliament in 1721, the Lord-Lieutenant, the Duke of Grafton, recommended both Houses to keep a watchful eye on the Papists, as he had reason to believe that the number of Popish priests was daily increasing; and, when Parliament reassembled in 1723, he recommended fresh legislation against them.

On this occasion a series of resolutions was reported by the Commons, chiefly relating to priests, but also including the status of Nonconformists. When lawyers began to conform in considerable numbers, consternation seized the Protestant interest. Primate Boulter expressed his alarm in several letters, and exaggerated the number of conformists. A Bill was prepared to enact that a Catholic who conformed to the Established Church could not hold any office or practise as a solicitor or attorney until seven years had elapsed, and then only on producing a certificate of having taken the Sacrament thrice in each year of his probationership, and on having duly enrolled his certificate in the proper office. This Bill appears to have been based on an abortive Bill introduced in the Parliament of 1719, which included a clause for the branding with a hot iron on the face of all unregistered priests and friars arrested.

« ForrigeFortsæt »