Billeder på siden

which reduced the revenue to a state of dangerous insufficiency, and left the realm without succour or resource. Many of the. public disorders they ascribed to a too frequent change of governors : entreating the king's highness that for the future he would be graciously pleased to entrust the charge of his Irish government to some loyal subject sent from his realm of England, whose sole object should be the honour and interest of the crown, unconnected with Irish factions, and uninfluenced by partial favour or aversion.*

Henry, though impetuous and ungovernable in his passions, wanted not penetration to see the weakness of his power over the Irish, who in their present situation were rather to be soothed by policy, than compelled by force into the adoption of his measures. His mind was now bent upon the most effectual means of introducing the reformation into Ireland. This was a work not to be effected by the terror of that artillery, with which the Lord Deputy Skeffington daunted and dispersed the undisciplined and tumultuary army of O'Connor before Maynooth, † and with which he carried terror through the nation. Whilst Henry was elated at the general and prompt compliance with his scheme of reformation in England, he resolved to extend it yet further and gain a reception for the new doctrines in Ireland. Accordingly, Lord Cromwell, who upon the death of Wolsey had succeeded to as much of his prince's favours, as Henry would again bestow upon a subject, in his quality of vicar general in spirituals, appointed George Brown, the provincial of the Augustine Friars, who had been prominently conspicuous in preaching up the reformation in London, to succeed Allan in the archiepiscopal see of Dublin. He was sent over with other commissioners, specially instructed and appointed to confer with the clergy and nobility, in order to procure a general acknowledgment of the king's spiritual supremacyf. But the task was found more difficult than the impetuosity of the king, or the fastidious contempt, which the English minister entertained of this country, permitted them to suspect. 'The Irish had aboriginally been enthusiastically tenacious of their religion, and of the sacredness of the rights and character of it's ministers. Accordingly, as Leland after Wam observes, when Europe had almost unanimously declared against the yoke of ecclesiastical power, a slight attempt made in one province of Ireland to circumscribe the privileges of the clergy raised a most violent and insolent clamour among the order, although it amounted to nothing more than empowering the civil magistrate to imprison ecclesiastical debtors. “And, had," continues the learned doctor, * " the generous policy prevailed of “ collecting all the inhabitants into one body of English subjects, “ a union and pacification of ages must have prepared the peo« ple for the reformation now proposed.”

* This state of grievances most singularly coincides with others of later dates : for it is a melancholy truth, that for want of an incorporate union with England, this country has been doomed for centuries to suffer a similarity, as well as continuance of oppression.

† This army consisted of about 7000 men, with which Dermod O'Connor Don had supplied Lord Thomas Fitzgerald : it Hattered the vanity, and gratified the feelings of this old chieftain, that a lord of the pale, then an exile in his territory, should apply for succour against the English government. O'Neil also had joined bis forces with those of O'Connor.

1 Usher, Ware, Cox, Leland, Crawford, &c.

† No sooner had the commissioners appointed by the king explained their instructions, and demanded an acknowledgment of his supremacy, than Cromer, primate of Armagh, an Eglishman by birth, and who had sometimes held the office of chancellor, openly and boldly declared against an attempt so impious. Disgust at being removed from his office, and resentment at the severity exercised against the family of Kildare, his friends and patrons, might be supposed to have had some share in this opposition, were it necessary to recur to worldly motives to explain it. He summoned the suffragans and clergy of his province: and to those whom he could collect, he pathetically represented the danger, which now threatened the religion of their ancestors : exhorting them to adhere inviolably to the apostolic chair, by such arguments and motives as were suited to their understandings. He reminded them, that their country had been called in the earliest ages the Holy Island; a convincing proof that it ever was and is the peculiar property of the holy see, from which the kings of England derive their lordship.... He enjoined them by his spiritual authority to resist all innovation, as they tendered their everlasting felicity: and pronounced a tremendous curse against all those, who should sacrilegiously acknowledge the king's supremacy. In the mean time he dispatched two emissaries to Rome, to represent the danger of the church, and to entreat the interposition of the pontiff in defence of his rights and interests in Ireland.

This spirited opposition of the most eminent amongst the Irish prelates, enlivened the zeal and vigour of the friends of Rome. Henry and his minister seem to have imagined, that no one could have presumed to attempt the least resistance to his royal will in a point, which had been already solemnly decided and established in England. His agents were probably possessed with the same idea. But to their utter mortification, the king's commission was treated with indifference and neglect; and his vicar, on account of the meanness of his birth,

* 2 Lel. 158.

† For very obvious reasons I have chosen to follow Dr. Leland's account of the Eficct of Archbishop Browne's Mission to Ireland.

became even a subject of popular ridicule.* Archbishop Browne, with the assistance of some of his suffragans, laboured in support of the commission : but he was treated not only with disdain but outrage, and his life was exposed to danger from the opponents of the reformation. Such at least were the

apprehensions he expressed. He informed Lord Cromwell of his bad success, and the opposition of Cromer: represented the melancholy situation of ecclesiastical affairs in Ireland ; the extreme ignorance of the clergy, incapable of performing even the common offices, and utter strangers even to the language, in which they celebrated their mass ; and the furious zeal of the people, whose blind attachment to Rome was as determined, as the constancy of the most enlightened martyrs to the true religion, who exulted in expectation of effectual support from the pope, and that he would engage some of the old chieftains and particularly O'Nial, the great dynast of the north, to rise in defence of their religion. He recommended, as the most vigorous and effectual method of procedure, that an Irish parliament should be assembled without delay, which, like the English legislature, might by law enforce a general acknowledgment of the king's supremacy, so as to terrify the refractory and to silence their opposition. This advice was approved and the Lord Gray, who was still engaged in suppressing the disjointed relicts of the Geraldine rebellion, received a commission to summon a parliament, which was accordingly convened at Dublin on the first of May, 1536.

So limited at this time was the jurisdiction of the Irish parliament, or to speak mure properly, of the provincial assembly of the pale, that the master of the rolls reported to the king, that his laws were not obeyed twenty miles from his capital. Yet did Henry successfully exert every device of art and power to render the members that composed it ductile and subservient to his dictates. The transactions of the late parliament at Westminster were holden out to the members convened, as a model of the ordinances the king expected at their hands. Therefore, as to all the acts which concern the reformation of religion, the Irish statutes are mere transcripts of the English acts upon the same subjects. The king was declared supreme head on earth of the Church of Ireland: all appeals to Rome in spiritual causes were taken away: the English law against slandering the king in consequence of these innovations was enacted and confirmed in Ireland, together with the provisions inade in England for payment of first fruits to the king: and not only of the first fruits of bishoprics and other secular promotions in the Church

• Archbishop Browne in one of his letters to Lord Cromwell, tells him with an awkward and uncourtly simplicity, the “countrie folk here much hate your lordship, and despitefully' call you in their Irish tongue, the blacksmith's son."

of Ireland ; but by another act he was vested with those of abbies, priories, colleges, and hospitals. By a further act the authority of the bishop of Rome was more solemnly renounced, and the maintainers of it in Ireland made subject to a præmunire. All officers of every kind and degree were required to take the oath of supremacy: and every person who should refuse it was declared, as in England, guilty of high treason. All payment of pensions and suing for dispensations and faculties to Rome were utterly prohibited, by adopting the English law made for this purpose, and accommodating it to Ireland. By one act twelve religious houses were suppressed : by another the priory of St. Wolstan's was particularly suppressed; and the demesnes of them all were vested in the crown.

As to the right of inheritance and succession of the lordship of Ireland, they pronounced the marriage of the king with Catharine of Arragon to be null and void, and the sentence of separation by the archbishop of Canterbury to be good and effectual. They declared the inheritance of the crown to be in the king and his heirs by Queen Ann (of Boleyn) : they made it high treason to oppose this succession, misprision of treason to slander it; and appointed an oath of allegiance to be taken by the subjects of Ireland for the sure establishment of it under the penalties of misprision of treason. But scarcely had this act been passed, when intelligence arrived of the condemnation and death of Ann Boleyn, and the marriage of the king with the Lady Jane Sev. mour. With the same ease and compliance with Henry's wishes, they followed the servile corruption of the English parliament, and instantly repealed their late act, and passed an act of attainder on the late Queen Ann, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, William Brereton, and Mark Smeaton, who had been accused as accomplices in the supposed guilt of that unhappy lady. Both the former marriages of Henry were by this new act declared null and void: the succession was new modelled, and declared to be in the king and his heirs by the Lady Jane, his then queen; and, in default of such heirs, the king was empowered to dispose of the inheritance of the lordship of Ireland (as of the crown of England) by letters patent, or by will.

Other acts were made for the encrease of the king's revenue, and the internal regulation of the pale. The usual subsidy of 13s. 4d. on every plough land was granted for ten years. The lands and honours of the Duke of Norfolk and other absentees were vested in the king, and one twentieth part of every spiritual promotion was granted to him for ever. All pensions paid by the king's subjects to any Irish sept were utterly abolished; the ancient laws against marrying and fostering with the Irish were revived in all their severity; and the use of the English order uf living, habit, and language, were strictly enforced throughout the pale. It was provided, that no ecclesiastical preferment should be conferred on any, who did not speak the English language, unless after three solemn proclamations none so qualified could be found; that an English school should be kept in every parish; and that such as could not pay for the education of their children at such school, should be obliged to employ them from the age of ten years in trade or husbandry. To prevent waste of lands, either by the suppression of monasteries or attainder of rebels, commissioners were appointed to grant leases of all crown lands; and others for pardoning any persons concerned in the late rebellion, who should submit within a given time, except such as had been attainted by name. These were named in the very first act of this parliament, intituled, An act for the attainder of the Earl of Kildare and others.

Such were the laws which this corrupt and servile parliament passed to gratify the resentment, lust, avarice, and ambition of Henry.* Ingenuity could not have devised a collection of laws more emphatically calculated to render the English power contemptible and odious to the Irish nation. This policy of the English, to discourage all connection of the colony with the native Irish, it has been lately observed,t was not “ to be recon“ ciled to any principle of sound policy: it was a declaration of “ perpetual war, not only against the native Irish, but against " every person of English blood, who had settled beyond “ the limits of the pale, and from motives of personal interest “ or convenience had formed connections with the natives, or

adopted their laws and customs; and it had the full effect, “ which might have been expected: it drew closer the confede

racy it was meant to dissolve, and implicated the colony of the “pale in ceaseless warfare and contention with each other, and “ with the inhabitants of the adjacent districts.”

As the religion professed by those within and those without the pale was at this time one and the same in every respect, an observation of the same illustrious personage, to whose authority I have just referred, applies indiscriminately to both if it was equally hopeless and impolitic to call upon the people at once to abjure the religion of their ancestors, and to subscribe to new doctrines. Accordingly, says Dr. Leland, the laws for the regulation of the pale, and even those which declare the right of succession to the throne, were received without opposition. But

[ocr errors]

* This tyrannical monarch had equally subdued our own parliament in En. gland, when he forced from them that iniquitous law, that gave to a royal proclamation the full effect of an act of parliament.

† Speech of the Earl of Clare in the Irish House of Lords on the 10th Feb. ruary, 1800, p. 5.

Same speech, p. 7. $ 2 Lel. 165.


« ForrigeFortsæt »