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lowest class, and seem to have been intended, by depriving the rich of their property, and preventing education, to reduce the whole mass of Irish is Roman Catholics to a state of serfdom, in which
who could speak English, and only permitted them to “present an “honest able man albeit he cannot speak English,” after offering it by public proclamation for four successive weeks, “to any fit person who “can speak English.” Afterwards, when it was found impossible, in many places, to procure those who could speak the English language, the clergy were permitted, by an Act passed in 1560, the 2nd Elizabeth, to use the Common Prayer in Latin. Leland, in reference to the attempt made in the reign of Elizabeth to enforce conformity to the doctrines of the reformation, then lately introduced, says: “The clergy who refused to conform abandoned the “cures: no reformed ministers could be found to supply their places; “the churches fell to ruin: the people were left without any religious “worship or instruction. Even in places of most civility, the statutes “lately made were evaded or neglected with impunity.”—See vol. ii. p. 226. And when describing the foundation of Trinity College, he says: “From the first beginning of the Reformation, the difficulties in finding “pastors, the negligence of governors in affairs of religion, and the op“ position given to every attempt to provide for the instruction of the “people, and the real establishment of the reformed faith and worship, “gradually reduced the church of Ireland to a state of destitution,” &c. He also quotes a letter from Sir Henry Sydney to Queen Elizabeth, from which the following extract is taken: “If I should write unto your “Majestie, what spoile hath been, and is, of the archbishopricks, “whereof there are four, and of bishopricks, whereof there are above “thirty, partly by the prelates themselves, partly by the potentates “their noisome neighbours, I should make too long a libel of this my “letter; but your Majestie may believe it, that upon the face of the `4° earth, where Christ is professed, there is not a church in so miserable “a case; the misery of which consisteth in these three particulars:— “the ruin of the very temples themselves; the want of good ministers “to serve in them, when they shall be re-edified; competent living for “the ministers, being well chosen,” &c.—See vol. ii. page 319. Again, Leland accounts for laws against non-conformists being much
they should no longer be dangerous, and yet might be more useful to their oppressors as labourers, or as tenants from whom exorbitant rents might be obtained.
relaxed during Elizabeth's reign, thus: “Indeed it would have been a “useless and wanton, as well as an impolitic exercise of power, to have se“verely enforced the penalties of this law, as the christian methods of “reformation were sacrificed to the scheme of discouraging that “language, in which alone the body of the people could have received “ instruction: as there were few churches to resort to, few teachers ** to exhort and instruct, fewer still who could be understood, and “almost all, at least for the greater part of this reign, of scandalous “ inefficiency.”—See vol. ii. page 382. Burnet, in the life of Bedell, bishop of Kilmore and Ardagh, in the reign of Charles I. and one of the brightest ornaments of the reformed church in Ireland, says: “He found his diocese under so many disorders, “that there was scarce a sound part remaining. The revenue wasted “by excessive dilapidations, and all sacred things had been exposed to “Sale in so sordid a manner, that it was grown to a proverb.” He then quotes a letter of Bedell to Archbishop Laud, describing the state of the diocese, of which the following is an extract: “The cathedral church “of Ardagh, one of the most antient in Ireland, and said to be built by “Saint Patrick, together with the bishop's house there, down to the “ground ; the church here (at Kilmore) built, but without bell or “steeple, font or chalice. The parish churches all in a manner ruined, “and unroofed, and unrepaired. The people, saving a few British “planters here and there, (which are not a tenth part of the remnant) “obstinate recusants. There are seven or eight ministers in each “diocese of good sufficiency; and (which is no small cause of the “continuance of the people in Popery still,) English, which have not “the tongue of the people, nor can perform any divine office, or “converse with them, and which hold many of them two or three, four “ or more vicarages a piece; even the clerkships themselves are in like “manner conferred upon the English; and sometimes two, three, or “more upon one man, and ordinarily bought and sold or let to farm.” In describing the character of Bishop Bedell, in reference to his “ care for the native Irish, Burnet says: “He observed with much “regret that the English had all along neglected the Irish, as a nation
Could any course have been adopted, better calculated to degrade a nation ? Can we expect to find among a people thus treated, that self-respect, that sturdy independence which Englishmen have
“not only conquered but undisciplinable; and that the clergy had “scarce considered them as a part of their charge, but had left them “wholly into the hands of their own priests, without taking any other “care of them, but the making them pay their tithes.” “The bishop “prevailed on several priests to change, and he was so well satisfied “with the truth of their conversion, that he provided some of them to “ecclesiastical benefices, which was thought a strange thing, and was “censured by many, as contrary to the interest of the English nation.” Burnet informs us that Bishop Bedell was so zealous in his anxious desires for the conversion of the native Irish, that “he set himself to “learn the Irish language;” “had common prayer read in Irish every “Sunday in his cathedral;” set up schools, and even undertook the translation of the Old Testament into the Irish tongue, (the New Testament had been already translated,) for which purpose he engaged the services of one of his converts, “believed to be the elegantest writer of “the Irish language then alive, thinking the use of the Scriptures to be the “only way to let the knowledge of religion in among the Irish.” He was very assiduous in this work, and having in a few years finished the translation, he resolved to set about the printing of it. But his zeal for the instruction of the people, and the spread of Protestantism, was not participated in by the government, or by others of the clergy. Much jealousy was shown towards his proceedings, and he fell under unjust persecution, in which even Usher, at that time Primate of Armagh, joined to some extent. He did not live to complete his design, but his translation was eventually printed by the Hon. Robert Boyle. The conduct of the English government, in this respect, is the more extraordinary, because a policy directly the reverse was pursued in Wales, and with complete success. The liturgy of the Church of England was translated into Welch, and the service is still performed in that language by native clergymen. The letters of Dr. Boulter, Archbishop of Armagh, written between the years 1724 and 1738, afford ample evidence that the church was looked upon, by himself at least, chiefly as an important means of maintaining the English influence in Ireland. His great anxiety appears
claimed as their peculiar characteristic 2 Is it wonderful if mendacity, the natural resource of the oppressed, be their prevalent vice P Or rather, is it not matter of surprise that any virtue should remain to a people, thus systematically exposed to such a process of degradation ? Treated by their oppressors as aliens of a different race and nation, insulted under the name of “the common enemy,” and yet retaining a perfect recollection of their former position, and of their recent defeat, is it wonderful that they opposed deceit to oppression ; that they returned open scorn with ill-dissembled hatred ; that they remained a distinct people, regarding with equal hostility the people of England and the religion they professed, and designating both an Englishman and a Protestant by the name of “Sassenach” as a term of opprobrium ? But it may be said that the penal laws were never strictly enforced. This is no doubt true. The minds of men revolted at their severity, and | refused to carry out in time of peace, the oppressive enactments which the Irish Parliament had passed in the heated feelings engendered by war. Some of the most oppressive soon fell into disuse, or the evasion of them was winked at. The Roman Catholic nobility and gentry retained their estates; in many instances transferring their title-deeds to Protestants, who held them in trust; and to the honour of these beit said, there is no record that the trust was ever broken. Still the political disabilities remained in full force, and although the worst of the penal laws may not have been insisted on, they remained in abeyance, and were held in terrorem over the heads of the Roman Catholics, being liable at any time to be enforced with rigour, and there
to have been that the bishops' sees which fell vacant, should be filled by Englishmen. In one of his letters to the Duke of Newcastle, dated February 18, 1726, he complains that “we are but nine English bishops “on the bench out of two and twenty ;” and at the same time shows his fears of the carelessness with which such appointments were often made, by adding, “I hope nobody will be sent hither from the bench in “England, for being restless or good for nothing there, or who is not “likely to agree with me, since this will certainly weaken the English “interest here.” His anxiety on the latter head appears to be nearly as strong as that felt for the appointment of English bishops. He again states his fears in a letter to Sir Robert Walpole, dated January 14, 1734, in which, after pressing for “at least an equality on the bench,” he adds, “but I would at the same time beg that we may not have one sent over, “who may be a burden or a disgrace to us.” What he considered “a burden” may be estimated from the circumstance, that he saw no objection in strongly recommending for promotion Dr. Abbadie, who held “the deanery of Killaloe with four sinecures,” and who “would “have had the deanery of Saint Patrick's, but having no knowledge of “English, it was thought improper to place him in the greatest prefer“ment in the city,” (Dublin). So he got Killaloe instead, in which, as almost all the inhabitants must have spoken only Irish, of course he answered quite as well as an Englishman would have done. Dr. Boulter, however, appears to have exerted himself also to extend the more legitimate influence of the church over which he presided, endeavouring to carry several bills through parliament for dividing unions and parishes when too large, and for building additional churches, where there was a Protestant population and no place for worship, and for providing glebes and building glebe-houses.