Billeder på siden


Defeats the Earl of Clanricardę.

of his duty. He collected his English forces, and met the rebel lord at Knockston, near Galway, whom he defeated with great slaughter, besides taking two of his sons prisoners. This was the last event of any importance which occurred dur ing the reign of Henry VII.

Occurrences in the 15th and 16th centuries. 99


Henry VIII.-The importance of his reign-Great events that took place during the 15th and 16th centuries-The protestant religion attempted to be introduced into Ireland-Reflections upon the policy of this measure, and the present dis qualifications attached to the Catholics-Error of Dr. Mosheim with respect to the Ecclesiastical history of Ireland-Proceedings of Arch, bishop Browne-Reigns of Edward VI. of Mary, and of Elizabeth.

THE reign of Henry VIII. constitutes a new era in the histories both of England and of Ireland, and the age in which he lived may be said to constitute a new era in the history of mankind. It was during this period that an event took place, calculated to produce the most important results upon the destinies of human nature; an event whose consequences have not even yet ceased to operate upon the policy of European governments. I speak of the REFORMATION. It is not perhaps possible to name any period of time since the creation of the world, (if we except the appearance of our Saviour) in which so many great and extraordinary events occurred, as took place from the middle of the 15th to the middle of


Reformation established in England.

the 16th century. Within that short period was discovered the art of printing, an invention which has contributed more than even christianity itself to civilize mankind; within that period also, a new world was discovered by Columbus, an event which has led to commercial results, which distinguish the present age beyond any preceding one; within that period a passage was discovered to the East Indies, by Vasco de Gama; and lastly, within that period, the Reformation was begun and established. In reference, therefore, to the history of Europe in general, the time to which the course of this work is now approaching, deserves peculiar consideration, and it equally deserves it in reference to our own history, for Henry VIII. was instrumental, I will not say exactly from any purity of motive, in introducing the reformed religion into these realms; and though he was certainly one of the foulest and most abhorred tyrants that ever sat upon the English throne, yet it cannot be forgotten, that from him, impure as the source may have been, flowed all those blessings which we now enjoy as a protestant people, governed by a protestant king, and protected by laws which support a protestant establishment. The wisdom of Providence is shewn in nothing more than in that power which belongs to it, of educing real good from apparent evil; and while our ancestors were groaning beneath the tyranny of Henry VIII. they knew not that they were enduring a monarch, through whose vanity

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Endeavoured to be established in Ireland 101 would be entailed upon their posterity the most substantial of political advantages.

But there is another point of view in which the reign of Henry VIII. may be regarded as peculiarly important, and that is with respect to Ireland; for by establishing the reformed religion in England, and by endeavouring to establish it in Ireland, he drew that line of demarcation between the people of the two countries, which has so long constituted, and does still constitute the most fruitful source of dissention and discontent. When the reformers had become so impressed with the abuses of the catholic religion, as to attempt its purification, they immediately felt that the one which they proposed to substitute in its stead, was too opposite in its principles, cordially to coalesce with it as a political establishment. In every country, therefore, where the reformed faith was introduced, and where a part of the population still adhered to the catholic persuasion, it was found necessary to secure the former by all the guards and conditions which penal and prohibitory statutes could provide. These statutes bore with all their weight upon those subjects who were presumed to be inevitably and necessarily hostile to the religion of the state. As, however, the protestant persuasion was introduced principally into those countries where the great majority were favourable to it, and where consequently nothing very serious was to be apprehended from the machinations of the dissenting catholic, it was not always necessary

102 Impolicy of enforcing the protestant faith.

to oppress them with the actual operation of those laws, the enactment of which was dictated by sound policy. But the case was very different in Ireland, where the great majority of the people were catholic, and a very small number had embraced the new doctrines. There it was to be apprehended nothing could secure the smaller proportion from the most dreadful persecutions, but the vigorous and effective interposition of penal laws. As the establishment of the protestant religion was held to be of singular importance as a measure of state policy, and as it was im possible to insure obedience from recusants, by the liberal medium of argument and reasoning, there remained no alternative but to enforce it by the terrors of the law. It is the unquestionable right of every government to legislate for the people, and to compel the observance of those measures which may be considered conducive to the interests of the whole.

While, however, we admit this, there is another principle which cannot easily be denied, and that is, that the majority should always prevail over the minority. The condition of the Irish catholics, however, is wholly subversive of this principle, and hence Johnson, with all his bigotry, pronounced them to be in an unnatural state. The most zealous supporters of right must allow the operation of this maxim upon the human mind, that the feelings and wishes of the many ought to controul and govern those of the few;


« ForrigeFortsæt »