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WAR OF THE REVOLUTION.
THE accession of James the second opened the third and latest era of Irish history, the war of the Revolution. The wars of Ireland since the connexion with Britain form a series of three long and fearful struggles, connected by the two short periods of the first James's, and the second Charles's reigns, -a ponderous weight of war held together by those two narrow links. The reigns of James the first, and Charles the second, were each about twenty years, or little more. The first divided the long wars of Elizabeth's reign from the Cromwellian wars. The second interposed between the latter and the war of the Revolution.
The wars of Elizabeth's reign were purely struggles for power and property. Upon both sides religion was spoken of, and appealed to; but upon both it was a mere pretence. O'Neil and Desmond appealed to the Pope, and the Pope's religion, as a point of union and sympathy with the powers of the Continent and the multitude at home. But there is reason to think that those chiefs were little interested for either.
On the other hand, the British adventurers of the same period appealed to the Protestant faith, to Elizabeth, and to Britain, with a view to enlist the Reformation and all its interests and promoters under their banners. But the abject condition of the reformed church in Ireland during that reign, is a proof how little they regarded it. While they professed to wage war for the cause of the church, they plundered it without mercy or remorse; and treated its ministers with the scorn and contempt which they too much deserved.
In point of fact the popery laws were hardly enforced in Elizabeth's reign; not because there was any want of inclination to press the edge of the law as keenly as possible on the people, but there was a want of power. The instrument which those laws furnished was, however, frequently used with success to oppress or exasperate particular individuals or districts, and force them into violence or rebellion.
The Cromwellians waged war with popery in another spirit. The Reformation was with them no second motive or despised pretence. The Cromwellian popery code exceeded Elizabeth's, infinitely, in severity; and was rigorously executed; until the spirit of religious fanaticism became éntangled in the net of this world's possessions, and bowed itself before the spirit of property. When Cromwell's rugged soldiers began to feel the comforts of "house and land," their hostility to the Romish religion was mitigated.
During all this time the state of the Roman church in Ireland was exceedingly low; but not so utterly degraded as the phantom church, which the reformed establishment presented, by starts and sudden visitations, in various parts of the country, as opportunity offered, only to disappear again and be forgotten.
The Romish clergy were generally ignorant and ill-conducted. Neither their learning nor their morals fitted them to be the instructors of the people but they were superior in both respects to the average of the Reformed clergy. They could plead the incessant wars which had destroyed every thing in Ireland, even the learning, religion, and morals, of the country. The reformed clergy came from a neighbouring nation, which was in the enjoyment of peace and prosperity, and had nothing to allege in
extenuation of their corruptions and their igno
The war of the Revolution, which is justly called glorious, was now begun. For the advantages of this great change, which was to establish a principle important to the well-being of mankind, no part of the empire paid so dear a price as Ireland. It swept the country almost entirely of the last remnant of her ancient gentry, which former wars had spared. But it saved both islands from the despotism of the Stuarts and of the church of Rome; and it vindicated the cause of liberty in Europe.
James had no idea of kingly power controlled or limited by law; still less could he comprehend the notion of a monarchy deriving grandeur and strength from the limitation of its
authority. He considered any check upon the
executive as injurious to the state, and derogatory to the dignity of the crown: he was a despotic sovereign upon principle.
The Revolution which overthrew James, laid prostrate also the power of the church of Rome in the British islands. Those who look at the violence and injustice which accompanied the act will perhaps not estimate the value of the service. There are two vices, which are found in connexion with all, or almost all, religious sects and establishments, despotism and intolerance. The first is exercised by the autho