Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Penal Laws enacted against the Irish Catholics— General State of the Kingdom in 1652. part 3.


§ 3.—Other Penal Laws.

Further penal enactments against the Catholics were passed in quick succession. One of the first measures was to confiscate the estates of the Catholic gentry. No fewer than five millions of acres were parcelled out amongst the Puritan soldiers and favourites of the Protector, and so complete was the extermination of the natives that when the government commissioners were distributing some estates in Tipperary, none of the inhabitants could be found to point out the bounds of these estates.

And Dominick De Rosario cries out—

"It was not enough for them to torment and slay all of the Irish who fell into their hands; on the contrary, they resolved to proscribe all those who had not been taken in their impious toils; they contemplated the extirpation of the Irish people, in order to secure their triumph and new fangled religion."

That the persecution might be carried on with some semblance of justice, a new tribunal was instituted, called a high court of justice; in it all the ordinary forms of law were set aside, and so iniquitous and bloody were the sentences pronounced in these courts, that they were commonly called "Cromwell's slaughter-houses."

The parliament commissioners in Dublin, for their part, were not idle. It was enacted, that any one absent from the Protestant parish church on Sunday should incur a fine of thirty pence; and it was made obligatory on the magistrates of Ulster, Meath, Leinster, and Munster, to take away the children of the Catholics and send them to England to be educated Protestants.  All Irish noblemen, whose fathers were not English, were obliged, under pain of death, to wear a distinctive mark on their dress; the Irish of inferior rank were likewise compelled to wear a black round spot on the right cheek, under pain of being branded with a similar mark for the first offence, and of being hanged for the second. No office was to be conferred on an Irishman, if a fit Englishman could be found; if an Englishman were killed, the Irish of his district forfeited their lives; if an Englishman lost any of his property, the Irish had to compensate his loss threefold. Moreover, all Irish beyond fourteen years of age were declared the property of the republic, to be employed on sea or land; and any Irishman going one mile beyond the district in which his name was registered without a passport, or any one taking part in an assembly of four persons, forfeited his life.

The history of the Jesuit mission in Ireland, written in 1662, thus describes the condition to which the country was now reduced:—

"The Catholic nobility and gentry, and the inhabitants of the cities and towns, are deprived of their lands and goods, and partly banished to foreign countries—partly driven to the remote and uncultivated parts of the kingdom; some, too, were sold as slaves for the American islands, and some were privately butchered. . . . Thus all the Catholics are in exile, and in their stead, in the cities, and castles, and towns, and garrisons, none are to be found but parliamentarian heretics, for the most part of the lowest class of artizans, and the scum and outcast of society.  Hence, the ecclesiastics have nowhere a resting-place, and they are forced to fly to the herds of cattle, or to seek a refuge in the barns, or stables, or desert places; sometimes they seek to conceal themselves by paying for their lodging in the houses of the heretics. As regards the fathers of the society, some dwell in ruined edifices, others sleep by night in the porticos of the temples, lest they should occasion any danger to the Catholics."

Again we read:—

"The heretics being now masters of the kingdom, the clergy is scattered and destroyed, and the Catholic religion is almost extinct.  The nobility and gentry, and native citizens, are despoiled of their goods and properties, and in their place foreign heretics have been imported, the vilest of men, persecutors and capital enemies of the Catholic religion; so that Ireland no longer seems to be Ireland, and there are no longer any persons there to harbour the clergy and religious, but only to pursue them and lead them to imprisonment, torture, and the scaffold. Such is the sad condition of Ireland under the most cruel tyrant, Oliver Cromwell, the Nero, Domitian, and Julian, of our age. . . . Hence Ireland is in a far worse condition now than it was one hundred years ago, for it is inundated with foreign enemies and heretical persecutors; it is as an uncultivated field, overrun with briars—an immense and frightful wilderness—a new and unexplored land, to be once more cultivated and reclaimed."

The following still more minute and invaluable narrative of the many penal enactments of this time enforced against the Catholics, is extracted from another contemporary writer:%

"The Irish nation, besides many other gifts of nature, has two especially remarkable and most innate in her, which seem as two talents most liberally bestowed on her by God—namely, constancy in the Catholic religion, and an insatiable thirst for knowledge, in both which qualities I know not if she yields to any other nation. All who are acquainted with the nation, know well these her characteristics. The heretics, too, know them by experience; ever since the commencement of the Anglican schism they oppress the Irish with an iron yoke, and renewing the cruelty of the enemies of the Jews towards the shorn Samson, they unceasingly strive, by every art, to destroy in them the eyes of religion and learning; having proscribed the true pastors of souls, they imported mercenary pastors, whose only aim is to plunder and slaughter and destroy. The Catholic schoolmasters being expelled, now no one can open a school but a heretic, that, forsooth, the poison of Satan may be instilled into the children's minds. All Catholic books are prohibited, and wheresoever they are found, they are destroyed by fire, and in their stead we are inundated with pestiferous books that scatter everywhere the cockle of heresy. The use of printing is interdicted to the Irish, lest, forsooth, any book might be circulated that did not come forth from an heretical source. Nay more, whilst the Catholic religion yet flourished in the kingdom, the English Parliament decreed that no university should be erected in Ireland, lest, perhaps, the eyes of the people might be opened to see the tyranny of the yoke imposed on them. It is strictly forbidden for an Irishman to send his children for education to foreign parts, excepting to England, where he will be sure to imbibe the asp's milk. The jurisconsults are expelled from the tribunals, nay, the Irish are expelled from every office, unless they attest, by oath, the supremacy of the crown in matters of the church and religion. The eldest sons of the nobility, when young, are handed over to the guardianship of heretics, and these guardians, or rather wolves, devour the innocent lambs, and seize on all their goods and revenues: they consign, moreover, the youths to heretical schools as to so many prisons, where, by daily threats and punishments, they compel them to attend at the Protestant conventicles. They cannot contract marriage except with one destined by these guardians, wherefore it often happens that the most noble youths are bound to receive wives from the very lowest class, and from families that have only just emerged from the scum of society by rapine and fraud, the daughters, to wit, or relatives of the tutors, who moreover are always heretics, and deeply imbued with the poison of Calvinism. All the Irish are excluded from the viceroyalty of the kingdom; they are even declared incapable of this office by the very fact of being born in Ireland. Merchandise and commerce are subjected to so many taxes and restraints, that they are almost wholly taken from the hands of the Irish, and given to strangers.  The lands and territories of the gentry, by new interpretations of the laws, are extorted from those who possessed them for centuries, and are given to upstart heretics. We ourselves have seen many most respectable men, who, were it not for the oppression that prevails, would abound in wealth, but who now are seated in ruined edifices by an un-cheering fireside; and when interrogated as to the reason of their carelessness, they replied that they did not dare to live otherwise, and were they to repair or ornament their houses, the harpies would at once seize on them, and they themselves be deprived of the little that remained. Hence is the whole nation now reduced to such poverty, that it is no longer reckoned by the foreign countries, and none but poor and outcasts now go forth from that island, whence formerly, as St. Bernard writes, went forth so many swarms of holy men, and countless bands of philosophers, who illumined France, Germany, and Italy, by their learning and the splendour of their virtues."