[This is taken from James MacCaffrey's History of the Catholic Church, which appears in its entirety on this website.]
The news of the death of Queen Elizabeth and of the accession of James I. came as a welcome relief to the great body of the Catholics of Ireland. As the son of Mary Queen of Scots, and in a sense, the descendant of the Irish Kings of Scotland he was regarded with favor both within and without the Pale. While King of Scotland he had been in communication with the Pope, with the Catholic sovereigns of the Continent, and with O’Neill, and even after he had been proclaimed in London he promised some of the leading Catholic lords that they might expect at least toleration. Without, however, waiting for any such promises the Catholics in the leading cities of the East and South made open profession of their religion. In Kilkenny, Thomastown, Waterford, Wexford, Cashel, Cork, Limerick, etc., they took possession of the churches, abolished the Protestant service wherever it had been introduced, and restored the Mass. James White, Vicar-general of Waterford, made himself especially conspicuous as the leader in this movement in the south-eastern portion of Ireland.
Lord Mountjoy was in a difficult position. He was uncertain as to the religious policy of the king, but in the end he determined to suppress the Catholic movement by force. He marched South to Kilkenny and thence to Waterford, where he had an interview with Dr. White. Everywhere the churches were restored to the Protestants, though it was hinted that the Mass might still be celebrated privately as in the days of Elizabeth. In Cork the condition of affairs was much more serious, and it was necessary to bring up the guns from Haulbowline before the mayor and citizens could be induced to submit. Reports came in from all sides that the country was swarming with Jesuits and seminary priests, that they were stirring up the people to join hands with the King of Spain, and to throw off their allegiance to James I. These rumors were without foundation, as is shown by the fact that most of the towns and cities in Leinster and Munster which were noted as specially Catholic, had not stirred a finger to help O’Neill in his war against Elizabeth. But they were put in circulation to prejudice the mind of King James against his Irish Catholic subjects, and to wean him away from the policy of toleration which he was said to favor. Loftus, Archbishop of Dublin, and Jones, Bishop of Meath, hastened to warn the king against a policy of toleration. They threw the whole blame of the late war on the Jesuits and seminary priests, and cast doubts upon the loyalty of the Catholic noblemen of the Pale. They called upon his Majesty to make it clear “even in the morning of his reign,” that he was ready “to maintain the true worship and religion of Jesus Christ,” to let the people understand that “he will never permit and suffer that which in his godly zeal he so much abhors, to devise some means of preventing the plots and aims of Jesuits and seminary priests, who “come daily from beyond the seas, teaching openly that a king wanting the Pope’s confirmation is not a lawful king,” to send over some “learned and discreet preachers” to the principal cities and towns, and to compel the people “by some moderate co-actions to come to church to hear their sermons and exhortations.”
As a means of spreading the new gospel amongst the Irish people it was recommended that “a learned ministry be planted, and that the abuses of the clergy be reformed;” that all bishops, Jesuits, seminary priests, and friars should be banished from the kingdom, that no lawyers be admitted to the bar or to the privy council unless they attended the Protestant service, and that all sheriffs, mayors, justices of the peace, recorders, judges, and officials be forced to take the oath of supremacy. Loftus and Jones insisted, furthermore, that Catholic parents should be forbidden to send their children to Douay and Rheims, and should be compelled to send them to the Protestant diocesan schools. They reported that although the Bishop of Meath had opened a school in Trim at great expense to himself, only six scholars attended, and that when the teachers began to use prayers in the school and to show themselves desirous of bringing their pupils to church, the pupils departed, and the teachers, though graduates of the University, were left without any work to do.
As James showed great reluctance to take any active measures against the Catholics, Brouncker, the President of Munster, Lyons, Protestant Bishop of Cork, and the other members of the Council of Munster issued a proclamation (14 Aug. 1604) ordering “all Jesuits, seminaries, and massing priests of what sort soever as are remaining within one of the corporate towns of the province” to leave before the last day of September, and not to return for seven years. Any persons receiving or relieving any such criminals were threatened with imprisonment during his Majesty’s pleasure and with a fine of £40 for every such offence, and “whosoever should bring to the Lord President and Council the bodies of any Jesuits, seminaries, or massing priests” were promised a reward of £40 for every Jesuit, £6 3s. 4d. for every seminary priest, and £5 for every massing priest. Fearing, however, that his action might be displeasing to the king, Brouncker took care to write to Cecil that the cities of the South were crowded with seminary priests who said Mass publicly in the best houses “even in the hearing of all men,” and that he had delayed taking action till they began to declare boldly that his Majesty was pleased “to tolerate their idolatry.”
Sir John Davies, a native of Wiltshire, who was made Solicitor-General for Ireland on account of his poetical talent, was not opposed to the policy of repression, but at the same time he held firmly that until the Protestant Church in Ireland was itself reformed there could be no hope of converting the Irish people. Writing to Cecil (Feb. 1604) “he is informed,” he says, “that the churchmen for the most part throughout the kingdom are mere idols and ciphers, and such as cannot read, if they should stand in need of the benefit of their clergy; and yet the most of those whereof many be serving men and some horseboys, are not without two or three benefices apiece, for the Court of Faculties doth qualify all manner of persons, and dispense with all manner of non-residences and pluralities. . . . The churches are ruined and fallen to the ground in all parts of the kingdom. There is no divine service, no christening of children, no receiving of the sacraments, no Christian meeting or assembly, no, not once in a year; in a word, no more demonstration of religion than among Tartars or cannibals.” In his opinion there was no use in asking the bishops of the Pale to hold an inquiry into the abuses, for they themselves were privy to them. “But if the business is to be really performed, let visitors be sent out of England, such as never heard a cow speak and understand not that language, that they may examine the abuses of the Court of Faculties, of the simoniacal contracts, of the dilapidations and dishersion of the churches; that they may find the true value of the benefices, and who takes the profits and to whose uses; to deprive these serving men and unlettered kern that are now incumbents, and to place some of the poor scholars of the College who are learned and zealous Protestants; to bring others out of that part of Scotland that borders on the North of Ireland, who can preach the Irish tongue, and to transplant others out of England and to place them within the English Pale."
At last, yielding to the advices that poured in on him from all sides, James I. determined to banish the Jesuits and seminary priests in the hope that when they were removed the people might be induced to submit, and to insist on compliance with the terms of the Act of Uniformity. He issued a proclamation (4 July 1605) denying the rumor that he intended “to give liberty of conscience or toleration of religion” to his Irish subjects, and denouncing such a report as a libel on himself, “as if he were more remiss or less careful in the government of the Church of Ireland than of those other churches whereof he has supreme charge.” He commanded “all Jesuits, seminary priests, or other priests whatsoever, made and ordained by any authority derived or pretended to be derived from the See of Rome,” to depart from the kingdom before the end of December. All priests who refused to obey or who ventured to come into Ireland after that date, and all who received or assisted such persons were to be arrested and punished according to the laws and statutes of that realm, and all the people were exhorted “to come to their several parish churches or chapels, to hear divine service every Sunday and holiday” under threat of being punished for disobedience.
The royal proclamation produced little or no effect. The Jesuits and seminary priests remained and even increased in numbers by new arrivals from the Continental colleges and from England where the law was more strictly enforced. Nor could the leading citizens, the mayors and the aldermen of the principal cities, be forced to come to church, because they preferred to pay the fine of twelve pence prescribed in the Act of Uniformity for each offence. The government officials determined, therefore, to have recourse to more severe if less legal remedies. They selected a certain number of wealthy citizens of Dublin, addressed to each of them an individual mandate in the king’s name ordering them to go to church on a certain specified Sunday, and treated disobedience to such an order as an offence punishable by common law. Six of the aldermen were condemned to pay a fine of £100, and three citizens £50, one half of the fine to be devoted to the “reparing of decayed churches or chapels, or other charitable use,” the other half to go to the royal treasury. In addition to this, they were condemned to imprisonment at the will of the Lord Deputy, and declared incapable of holding any office in the city of Dublin, or in any other part of the kingdom (22 Nov. 1605). A few days later other aldermen and citizens of Dublin were brought before the Irish Star Chamber, and having been interrogated “why they did not repair to their parish churches,” they replied “that their consciences led them to the contrary.” They were punished in a similar manner. Thus, two methods were adopted for enforcing obedience to the Act of Uniformity, one the infliction on the poor of the fine of twelve pence prescribed for each offence by the law of 1560, the other, the promulgation of individual mandates, disobedience to which was to be punished by the Court of Star Chamber. The noblemen of the Pale, alarmed by such high-handed action, presented a petition against the measures taken for the suppression of their religion, praying that the toleration extended to them hitherto should be continued. In reply to their petition the Viscount Gormanston, Sir James Dillon, Sir Patrick Barnewall, and others were committed as prisoners to the Castle, and others of the petitioners were confined to their houses in the country, and bound to appear before the Star Chamber at the opening of the next term (Dec. 1605). Sir Patrick Barnewall, “the first gentleman’s son of quality that was ever put out of Ireland to be brought up in learning beyond the seas” was the ablest of the Catholic Palesmen, and was sent into England at the request of the English authorities.
The appeal of these Catholic lords, backed as it was by the danger of a new and more general rebellion, was not without its effects in England. In January 1607 the privy council in England wrote to Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy, that although “the reformation of the people of Ireland, extremely addicted to Popish superstition by the instigation of the seminary priests and Jesuits, is greatly to be wished and by all means endeavored, still, a temperate course ought to be preserved.” There should be no question of granting toleration, but at the same time there should be no “startling of the multitude by any general or rigorous compulsion.” The principal men in the cities who show themselves to be the greatest offenders should be punished; the priests and friars should be banished, but no “curious or particular search” should be made for them; Viscount Gormanston and his companions should be released under recognizance, except Sir Patrick Barnewall who was to be sent into England; the Dublin aldermen should be treated in a similar manner but should be obliged to pay the fines, and the Protestant clergy should be exhorted to take special pains to plant the new religion “where the people have been least civil."
But Chichester, Davies, Brouncker, and their companions had no intention of listening to the counsels of moderation. They continued to indict the poorer classes according to the clauses of the Act of Uniformity and to cite the wealthier citizens before the Star Chamber for disobedience to the royal mandates. In Waterford Sir John Davies reported “we proceeded against the principal aldermen by way of censure at the council table of the province for their several contempts against the king’s proclamations and the special commandments of the Lord President under the council seal of Munster. Against the multitude we proceeded by way of indictment upon the Statute of 2 Elizabeth, which giveth only twelve pence for absence from church every Sunday and holiday. The fines imposed at the table were not heavy, being upon some £50 apiece, upon others £40, so that the total sum came but to £400; but there were so many of the commoners indicted that the penalty given by the statute (twelve pence) came to £240 or thereabouts.” Punishments of a similar kind were inflicted in New Ross, Wexford, Clonmel, Cashel, Youghal, Limerick, Cork, and in all the smaller towns throughout Munster. In Cork the mayor was fined £100, and in Limerick more than two hundred of the burgesses were indicted, the fines paid by these being given for the repair of the cathedral. Steps were also taken in Connaught to enforce attendance at the Protestant service. Five of the principal citizens of Galway were summoned before the court and fined in sums varying from £40 to £20, and punishments of a lesser kind were inflicted in other portions of the province. In Drogheda “the greatest number of the householders together with their wives, children, and servants,” were summoned and fined for non-attendance at church. In Meath, Westmeath, Longford, King’s County, and Queen’s County the government officials were particularly busy.
But though here and there a few of the prominent citizens and of the poorer classes were driven into public conformity by fear of punishment, the work of winning over the people to Protestantism made little progress. In Cashel the Commissioners reported (1606) that they found only one inhabitant who came to church, and even “the Archbishop’s (Magrath) own sons and sons-in-law dwelling there” were noted as obstinate recusants.” Brouncker, President of Munster, was particularly severe in his repressive measures, so much so that on his death (1606) his successors were able to announce “that almost all the men of the towns are either prisoners or upon bonds and other contempts,” but they added the further information that many of those who had been conformable in his time had again relapsed. The Protestant Bishop of Cork complained (1607) that in Cork, Kinsale, Youghal, and in all the country over which he had charge no marriages, christenings, etc., were done except by Popish priests for seven years, that the country was over-run by friars and priests who are called Fathers, that every gentleman and lord of the country had his chaplains, that “massing is in every place, idolatry is publicly maintained, God’s word and his truth is trodden down under foot, despised, railed at, and contemned of all, the ministers not esteemed --no not with them that should reverence and countenance them.” “The professors of the gospel,” he added, “may learn of these idolators to regard their pastors.” Sir John Davies with his usual keen insight placed the blame for the comparative failure of the Protestant clergy. “If our bishops, and others that have care of souls,” he wrote (1606), “were but half as diligent in their several charges as these men [the Jesuits and seminary priests] are in the places where they haunt, the people would not receive and nourish them as now they do. But it is the extreme negligence and remissness of our clergy here which was first the cause of the general desertion and apostasy, and is now again the impediment of reformation.” The Catholics had protested continually against the proceedings under royal mandates as illegal, and their protests were brought before the English privy council by Sir Patrick Barnewall, who had been sent over to London as a prisoner. The judges in England condemned the proceedings in Ireland as unwarrantable and without precedent. Barnewall was allowed to return to Ireland in 1607, and the new method of beggaring or Protestantising the wealthier class of Irish Catholics was dropped for the time.
The king had been advised, too, to enforce the oath of supremacy in case of all officials of the crown. Though in the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth something had been done in that direction, yet, in later times, owing to the dangerous condition of the country Catholic officials were not called upon to renounce the Pope. As a result, when James ascended the throne many of the judges were Catholic, as were, also, the great body of the lawyers. In response to the advice from Ireland that judges who refused to attend church and to take the oath should be dismissed, and that “recusant” lawyers should be debarred from practicing in the courts, James instructed the council to induce John Everard, a Justice of the Common Pleas, to resign or conform. The mayors and aldermen of the cities, too, had never taken the oath of supremacy. In 1607 the Lord Deputy and council of Ireland informed the privy council in England that, “most of the mayors and principal officers of cities and corporate towns, and justices of the peace of this country birth refuse to take the oath of supremacy, as is requisite by the statute, and for an instance, the party that should this year have been Mayor of Dublin, avoided it to his very great charges, only because he would not take the oath.” The contention apparently was that the mayors not being crown officials were not bound to take the oath, but the lawyers decided against such a view, and steps were taken to imprison those mayors who refused, and to destroy the charts of recusant corporations. Still in spite of the attempted banishment of the clergy, the enforcement of attendance at church by fines, and the punishment inflicted on the officials who refused to take the oath, the Deputy and council were forced to admit that they had made no progress. “The people,” they wrote (1607), “in many places resort to Mass now in greater multitudes, both in town and country, than for many years past; and if it chance that any priest known to be factious and working be apprehended, both men and women will not stick to rescue the party. In no less multitudes do these priests hold general councils and conventicles together many times about their affairs; and, to be short, they have so far withdrawn the people from all reverence and fear of the laws and loyalty towards his Majesty, and brought their business already to this pass, that such as are conformed and go to church are everywhere derided, scorned, and oppressed by the multitude, to their great discouragement, and to the scandal of all good men.”
Although the persecution of James I. was violent the Catholics were well prepared to meet the storm. The Jesuits had sent some of their best men to Ireland, including Henry Fitzsimon, who was thrown into prison, and after a long detention sent into exile, Christopher Holywood, James Archer, Andrew Morony, Barnabas Kearney, etc., and, although there were complaints that their college in Salamanca showed undue favor to the Anglo-Irish, this college as well as the other colleges abroad continued to pour priests into Ireland both able and willing to sustain the Catholic religion. The Dominicans and Franciscans received great help from their colleges on the Continent so that their numbers increased rapidly, and they were able to devote more attention to instructing the people. As in England, the young generation of priests both secular and regular, sent out from the colleges in France, Spain, and the Netherlands were much more active and more determined to hold their own than those who had preceded them. They were in close touch with Rome where their agents kept the Papal Court informed of what was going on in Ireland. Clement VIII. hastened to send his congratulations to James I. on his accession to the throne, and to plead with him for toleration for his Catholic subjects. James White, Vicar-general of Waterford, wrote (1605) to inform Cardinal Baronius of the measures that had been taken to suppress the Catholic religion and to offer his good wishes to Paul V. The latter forwarded a very touching letter in which he expressed his sympathy with the Irish Church, commended the fidelity of the Irish people, and exhorted them to stand firm in the face of persecution. The only weak point that might be noted at this period was the almost complete destruction of the Irish hierarchy. O’Devany of Down and Connor, Brady the Franciscan Bishop of Kilmore, and O’Boyle of Raphoe were the only bishops remaining in the province of Ulster since the murder of Redmond O’Gallagher of Derry. Peter Lombard had been appointed Archbishop of Armagh (1601), but he never visited his diocese. In the province of Leinster Matthew de Oviedo, a Spanish Franciscan, had been appointed to Dublin (1600), and had come to Kinsale with the forces of Spain. He returned to plead for a new expedition to Ireland. Another Spanish Franciscan, Francis de Ribera, had been appointed to Leighlin (1587), but he died in 1604 without having done any work in his diocese. The rest of the Sees in Leinster were vacant. In Munster, David O’Kearney was named Archbishop of Cashel (1603), and soon showed himself to be a man of great activity and fearlessness. Dermod McCragh of Cork had been for years the only bishop in the province, and had exercised the functions of his office not merely in the South, but throughout the province of Leinster. In the province of Tuam all the Sees were vacant. Wherever there was no bishop in residence care was taken to appoint vicars. In Dublin Bernard Moriarty who acted as vicar was arrested in the Franciscan convent at Multifernan in 1601, and died in prison from the wounds he received from the soldiers. Robert Lalor who acted in the same capacity was arrested, tried, and banished in 1606.
Although the Earl of Tyrone had been restored to his estates and had been received graciously by the king (1603), he was both distrusted and feared by the government. Sir Arthur Chichester, who had come to act as Lord Mountjoy’s deputy in 1605, and who was appointed Lord Lieutenant on the death of the latter (1607), was determined to get possession of Ulster either by driving O’Neill into rebellion or by bringing against him some charge of conspiracy. New and insulting demands were made upon O’Neill; the Protestant Archbishop of Armagh and the Protestant Bishop of Derry and Raphoe claimed large portions of his territories as belonging to their churches, and some of the minor chieftains were urged on to appeal against him to the English authorities. Having learned in 1607 that he stood in danger of arrest, he and Rory O’Donnell determined to leave Ireland. In September 1607 they sailed from Rathmullen, and on the 4th October they landed in France. After many wanderings they made their way to Rome, where they received a generous welcome from Paul V. O’Donnell died in 1608, and O’Neill, who had cherished till the last a hope of returning to Ireland, died in 1616. Both chieftains were laid to rest in the Church of St. Pietro di Montorio. Although the flight of the Earls caused a great sensation both in England and Ireland, and although James I. was said to have been pained by their departure and even to have thought for a time of granting religious toleration, Chichester and his companions were delighted at the result of their work. The flight of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, the attempted rebellion of Sir Cahir O’Doherty, and the trumped-up charges brought against some of the other noblemen in the North opened up the prospect of a new and greater plantation than had ever been attempted before. Tyrone, Fermanagh, Donegal, Derry, Armagh, and Cavan were confiscated to the crown at one stroke, and preparations were made to carry out the plantation in a scientific manner. The greater portion of the territory was divided into lots of two thousand, one thousand five hundred, and one thousand acres. The Undertakers who were to get the largest grants were to be English or Scotch Protestants and were to have none but English or Scotch Protestant tenants, those who were to get the one thousand five hundred acres were to be Protestants themselves and were to have none but Protestant tenants, while the portions of one thousand acres each might be parceled out amongst English, Scotch, or Irish, and from these Catholics were not excluded. Thousands of acres were appropriated for the support of the Protestant religion, for the maintenance of Protestant schools, and for the upkeep of Trinity College. A small portion was kept for a few of the old Catholic proprietors, and the remainder of the population were ordered to leave these districts before the 1st May 1609. Many of them remained, however, preferring to take small tracts of the mountain and bog land from the new proprietors than to trust themselves among strangers; but a great number of the able-bodied amongst them were caught and shipped to serve as soldiers in the army of Sweden.
For some time after the flight of the Earls there seems to have been a slight lull in the persecution, the king and his advisers fearing perhaps that their action was only a prelude to a more general rebellion in the course of which O’Neill might return at the head of a Spanish force. But once it was clear that no danger was to be apprehended the Irish officials began to urge once more recourse to extreme measures. Fines were levied on Catholic towns, some of which, however, were remitted by the king. It was represented to Salisbury (1609) that the Catholics had grown much more bold even in Dublin, that in the country they drew thousands to “their idolatrous sacrifices, and that the Jesuits stir up the forces of disloyalty.” The writer of this letter recommended that the fine of twelve pence should be exacted off the poor every time they absented themselves from religious services, that so much should be levied off the rich as would suffice to repair all the churches and build free schools in every county, and he himself undertook to pay £4,000 a year for the right to collect the fines of the “Recusants” in Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, provided only that he could count on the support of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities. In the following year Chichester informed the authorities in England that “the mayors of cities and towns for the most part refused to take the oath of supremacy, as did also the sheriffs, bailiffs, etc.,” and he inquired in what manner he should act towards them. To put an end to this state of affairs Andrew Knox was sent over to Ireland as Bishop of Raphoe, and was commissioned to take measures to stir up the Protestant bishops and to suppress Popery. On his arrival he found that he had a heavy task before him. In a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury (1611) he wrote that there were only four men in the ministry “who have knowledge or care to propagate the Evangell.” “The defection,” he wrote, “is so great of those who sometime professed the truth, that where hundreds came to several churches before, there resort now scarce six; the gathering and flocking in great numbers of Jesuits, seminary priests, friars, and gidding Papists of all sorts are so frequent from Rome and all parts beyond the seas, that it seems to him the greatest lading the ships bring to this country are burdens of them, their books, clothes, crosses, and ceremonies; natives and others in corporate towns publicly profess themselves their maintainers. There is no diocese but it has a bishop appointed and consecrated by the Pope, nor province that wants an archbishop, nor parish without a priest, all actually serving their time and the Pope’s direction and plenteously maintained by the people, so that the few ministers that are, and bishops that profess to do any good, profit no more than Lot did in Sodom. And sure it may be expected that if God, the king, and his Grace prevent not this unnatural growth of superstition, the face of the kingdom will be shortly clad with this darkness.”
He lost no time in summoning a meeting of the bishops (1611), most of whom, according to him, were not very reliable. The Archbishop of Dublin (Jones) was “burdened with the cares of state;” the Archbishop of Armagh was “somewhat old and unable;” the Archbishop of Cashel (Magrath) was “old and unable, whose wife and children would not accompany him to the church;” the Archbishop of Tuam was “well willed and best learned, but wanted maintainers and helpers,” and the Bishops of Waterford and Limerick were described as “having no credit.” In accordance with the instructions that had been forwarded to them by the king, they agreed that they would take common action for “the suppression of papistry and the plantation of religion;” that they would observe the law of residence in their several dioceses; that they would make visitations every year of their parishes, and inquire into the condition of the churches and the behavior of their ministers; that by authority of his Majesty’s commission they would “carefully tender the oath of allegiance to every nobleman, knight, justice of the peace, and other officers of corporate towns,” and make a return to the Lord Deputy of those who took the oath as well as of those who refused it; that they would admit no cleric “to any spiritual promotion” who would not willingly take the oath of supremacy, and that they would inquire in every deanery “what persons receive or harbor trafficking priests, Jesuits, seminaries and massing priests, and friars, and will present their names together with the names of the said priests and Jesuits to the Lord Deputy.”
A royal proclamation was issued (1661) ordering all Jesuits and priests to depart from the kingdom immediately; the laity were commanded to attend the Protestant service under threat of severe penalties, students in foreign colleges were ordered to return at once, and Catholic schoolmasters were forbidden to teach within the kingdom. Backed by all the powers of the crown, Knox and his fellow bishops set up a terrible inquisition in every part of the country, and spared no pains to hound down the clergy and those who entertained them, to drive the poorer classes by brute force into the church, to harass the better classes by threats and examinations, and to wipe out every vestige of the Catholic religion. Cornelius O’Devany, a Franciscan, who had been appointed Bishop of Down and Connor (1582), was arrested together with a priest who accompanied him, was tried in Dublin, and was hanged, drawn, and quartered (1612). Almost at the same time the Protestant Bishop of Down and Connor was accused of “incontinence, the turning away of his wife, and taking the wife of his man-servant in her room, subornation of witnesses,” and alienation of the diocesan property. He fled from his diocese, was arrested, degraded, and died in prison. The Archbishop of Glasgow and Bishop Knox of Raphoe, himself a Scotchman, hastened to London to secure the appointment of one of their countrymen as his successor; but Chichester wrote that though he would not say that Scotchmen were not good men, he could aver that they were “hot-spirited and very griping” and “such as were not fit for these parts.” Several attempts were made to arrest Dr. Eugene Matthews or MacMahon, who had been transferred (1611) by the Pope from Clogher to the Archbishopric of Dublin. He was detested especially by the government, because it was thought that he owed his promotion to the influence of O’Neill, who was also suspected of having had a voice in the appointment of the learned Franciscan, Florence Conry to Tuam (1609). During the course of these years jurors were threatened by the crown lawyers with the Star Chamber unless they found a verdict of guilty, and were sent to prison for not returning a proper verdict against those accused by the Protestant ministers of not attending church; wards of court though Catholic were committed to the guardianship of Protestants, and in every grant a special clause was inserted “that the ward shall be brought up at the college near Dublin (Trinity College) in English habit and religion;” the Irish were excluded from all offices; men of no property were appointed as sheriffs; and the fines for non-attendance at church were levied strictly. Instead of being applied to the relief of the poor they found their way, according to the Catholic Lords of the Pale, into the pockets of the ministers. In reply to this last charge Chichester asserted that they were not given to the poor, because all the poor were recusants, but they were employed “in the rebuilding of churches, bridges, and like charitable purposes.”
Yet Knox did not succeed in uprooting the Catholic faith in Ireland.
According to a report furnished (1613) to the Holy See by Mgr. Bentivoglio, Internuncio at Brussels, whose duty it was to superintend affairs in Ireland, heresy had made little progress even in the cities, while the nobility and gentry were nearly all Catholic. There were then in Ireland about eight hundred secular priests, one hundred and thirty Franciscans, twenty Jesuits, and a few Benedictines and Dominicans, of whom the Franciscans were held in special esteem. The best of the secular clergy were those who came from Douay, Bordeaux, Lisbon, and Salamanca. In the following year (1614) Archbishop Matthews of Dublin held a provincial synod at Kilkenny at which many useful regulations were made regarding the conduct of the clergy, preaching, catechizing, the celebration of Mass, the administration of the sacraments, the relations between the secular and regular clergy, the reading of controversial literature, and the observance and number of fast-days and holidays. In the province of Armagh Dr. Rothe, acting under authority received from Peter Lombard, convoked a provincial synod at Drogheda (1614). It was attended by vicars from the several dioceses and by representatives of the various religious orders, and passed regulations somewhat similar to those enacted at Kilkenny. In both synods the clergy were warned to abstain from the discussion of state affairs and from disobedience to the civil rulers in temporal matters. At Drogheda the new Oath of Allegiance framed by James I. was condemned as being opposed to faith and religion;
Catholics were commanded not to have recourse to prevarication or wavering in regard to it, but to reject it openly, and were warned against attendance at divine worship in Protestant churches even though they had previously made a declaration that they meant only to pay a mark of respect to the civil rulers. At the same period the Franciscans and Dominicans founded new colleges on the Continent, at Douay and Lisbon, to supply priests for their missions in Ireland.
During the later years of Elizabeth’s reign the disturbed condition of the country made it impossible to convene a Parliament, and after the accession of James I. his advisers feared to summon such a body lest they might be unable to control it. Still, they never lost sight of the advantage it would be to their cause could they secure parliamentary sanction for the confiscation and plantation of Ulster, and for the new methods employed for the punishment of recusants. These for so far had behind them only the force of royal proclamations, and their legality was open to the gravest doubt. The great obstacle that must be overcome before a Parliament could be convoked was the fact that both in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords the Catholics might find themselves in a majority. To prevent such a dire catastrophe it was determined to create a number of new parliamentary boroughs so that many places “that could scarcely pass the rank of the poorest villages in the poorest country in Christendom” were allowed to return members, provided only that it was certain they would return Protestants. Nineteen of the thirty-nine new boroughs were situated in Ulster, where the plantations had given the English and Scotch settlers a preponderance. In the House of Lords the situation was also critical, but it was hoped that by summoning all the Protestant bishops and also certain peers of England who had got grants of territory in Ireland the government could count on a majority, especially as some of the Catholic lords were minors, and as such not entitled to sit. For months the plans for packing the Parliament and for preparing a scheme of anti-Catholic legislation were being concocted, and the Catholic lords, knowing well what was going on, felt so alarmed that they lodged a solemn protest with the king against the erection of towns and corporations “consisting of some few poor and beggarly cottages” into parliamentary boroughs, against the wholesale exclusion of Catholics from office on account of their religion, and conjured the king “to give order that the proceedings of Parliament may be conducted with moderation and indifferency.” In spite of this protest the new boroughs were created, and the elections were carried out in the most high-handed manner, the sheriffs hesitating at nothing so long as they could secure the nomination of Protestant representatives.
On the day preceding the opening of Parliament (fixed for 18th May 1613) the Catholic Lords of the Pale addressed a protest to the Lord Deputy. They asserted that while several of the Irish Catholic nobles entitled to sit in the House of Lords were not summoned, English and Scotch lords “already parliant in other kingdoms” had been invited to attend, that new corporations had been created, many of them since Parliament was summoned, without any right or title except to assure a Protestant majority, that the sheriffs and returning officers had acted most unfairly during the election, and that a Parliament sitting “in the principal fort and castle of the kingdom,” surrounded by “numbers of armed men,” could not be regarded as a free assembly. When the House of Commons met on the following day the Catholics proposed that Sir John Everard, who had been dismissed from his office of judge because he refused the oath of supremacy, should be elected speaker, while the Protestants proposed Sir John Davies for this position. The Catholics, knowing well that if the returns of the sheriffs were accepted they would find themselves in the minority, maintained that the members against whose return objection had been lodged should not be allowed to vote. On this being refused, they tried to prevent a vote being taken, and when the supporters of Davies left the chamber to take a count, the Catholics installed Sir John Everard in the chair. The Protestants, claiming that they had a clear majority, one hundred and twenty-seven out of a possible two hundred and thirty-two, removed Sir John Everard by force, and adopted Sir John Davies as speaker. The Catholics then left the chamber, and both Lords and Commoners refused to attend any further sessions until they should have laid their grievances before the king. In consequence of their refusal it was necessary to suspend the parliamentary session, and both parties directed all their attention to an appeal to the king. The Catholics sent to London as their representatives, Lords Gormanston and Dunboyne, Sir James Gough and Sir Christopher Plunkett, William Talbot and Edward FitzHarris, and a general levy was made throughout the kingdom to raise money to pay their expenses. A great deal of time was wasted in inquiries in London and in Ireland. James found it difficult to decide against the Lord Deputy, while at the same time he could not shut his eyes to the justice of several of the claimants brought under his notice by the Catholics. At one time he promised their delegates that he would not interfere with the free exercise of their religion provided they admitted it was not lawful to deprive him of his crown or to offer violence to his person, but when the Lord Deputy wrote warning him of the effect this speech had produced in Ireland, James, while not denying that he had used the words attributed to him, issued a proclamation announcing that he would never grant religious toleration, and ordering all bishops, Jesuits, friars, and priests to depart from the kingdom before the 30th of September (1614). In April 1614 the king decided to annul thirteen of the returns impeached by the Catholics, but in regard to the other matters of complaint he gave judgment in favor of the Lord Deputy. In a personal interview with the Catholic lords he pointed out that it was his privilege to create as many peers and parliamentary boroughs as he liked. “The more the merrier, the fewer the better cheer.” He informed them, too, that they were only half subjects so long as they acknowledged the Pope, and could, therefore, expect to have only half privileges, and expressed the hope that by their future good behavior in Parliament they might merit not only his pardon but “his favor and cherishing.”
In October 1614 Parliament was at last ready to proceed with its business. During the course of the negotiations it would appear that the plan of passing new penal legislation against Catholics was abandoned. It was intended at first to enact a very severe measure for the expulsion of Jesuits and seminary priests, and another framed with the intention of making the laws against Catholics in England binding in Ireland. But these clauses were struck out, probably as a result of a bargain between the Catholic lords and the king. In return for this toleration the Catholic lords agreed to support the Act of Attainder passed against O’Neill and O’Donnell, together with their aiders and abettors, and to approve of the wholesale confiscation that had taken place in Ulster. In vain did Florence Conry, Archbishop of Tuam, call upon the Catholic members to stand firm against such injustice. His warning, that if they consented to the robbery of their co-religionists of the North their own turn to be robbed would surely come, fell upon deaf ears. Their loyalty to England had nerved them to draw their swords against O’Neill, and it nerved them also to assist Chichester and Davies to carry on the Ulster Plantations. Well might the latter boast in his letter to the Earl of Somerset that the service performed by this Parliament was “of such importance, as greater has not been effected in any Parliament of Ireland these hundred years. For, first, the new erected boroughs have taken place, which will be perpetual seminaries of Protestant burgesses, since it is provided in the charters that the provost and twelve chief burgesses, who are to elect all the rest, must always be such as will take the Oath of Supremacy. Next, all the states of the kingdom have attainted Tyrone, the most notorious and dangerous traitor that ever was in Ireland, whereof foreign nations will take notice, because it has been given out that Tyrone had left many friends behind him, and that only the Protestants wished his utter ruin. Besides, this attainder settles the Plantation of Ulster.”
Chichester, who had planned the Plantation of Ulster, and who had enriched himself out of the spoils of the Northern princes, was removed from office in 1615, and was succeeded by Sir Oliver St. John, who came to Ireland determined to support the anti-Catholic campaign. In a short time more than eighty of the best citizens of Dublin were in prison because they refused the oath of supremacy, and throughout the country, jurors who refused to convict the Catholics were themselves held prisoners, so that the jails were soon full to overflowing. Immense sums were levied off both poor and rich for non-attendance at Protestant religious service. In the County Cavan, for example, the fines for one year amounted to about £8,000, while large sums were paid by the Catholic noblemen for protection from the Protestant inquisitors. New plantations were undertaken, on the lines of the Ulster Plantation, in Wexford, Longford, King’s County, and Leitrim, though, not having been carried out so thoroughly or so systematically as the former, they had not the same measure of success. All Catholic noblemen succeeding to property were obliged to take the oath of supremacy, though apparently they could procure exemption from this test by the payment of a fine, but the Court of Wards took care that minors should be entrusted to Protestant guardians, and should be sent if possible to Trinity College. By means such as these Elizabeth and James succeeded in Protestantising a certain number of the heirs to Irish estates. Proclamations were issued once more against the clergy, both secular and regular, and so violent was the persecution that the Bishops of Ireland addressed a petition to the Catholic rulers of Europe, and especially to the King of Spain, asking them to intercede with James on behalf of his Irish Catholic subjects (1617).
The negotiations for the marriage of Prince Charles to a Spanish princess made it necessary for the king to be more guarded in his religious policy in Ireland. Oliver St. John, who had shown himself to be such a bitter enemy of the Catholics, was removed from office, and Lord Falkland was sent over as Deputy in 1622. Rumors were afloat on all sides that his policy was to be one of toleration. The Protestants were alarmed and at the installation of the new Deputy (Sept. 1622) James Ussher, then Protestant Bishop of Meath, taking as his text, “He beareth not the sword in vain,” preached a violent sermon in favor of religious persecution. Primate Hampton wrote immediately to the preacher, reproving him for his imprudence, asking him to explain away what he had said about the sword, and advising him to spend more of his time in his own diocese of Meath, where matters were far from being satisfactory. On the return of Charles from Spain a new proclamation was issued (1624) ordering all “titulary popish archbishops, bishops, vicars-general, abbots, priors, deans, Jesuits, friars, seminary priests, and others of that sect, made or ordained by authority derived from the See of Rome or other foreign parts to depart from the kingdom within forty days under pain of his Majesty’s indignation and penalties. If any of these dared to remain, or if any persons dared to receive them, the offenders were to be lodged in prison, “to the end such further order may be taken for their punishment as by us shall be thought fit.”
A full account of the position of the Catholics of Ireland is given in a letter written from Dublin in 1623. Catholic minors were compelled to accept the oath of supremacy before they could get letters of freedom from the Court of Wards (established 1617); all mayors, magistrates, officials, etc., of corporate towns were commanded to take the oath under penalty of having their towns disenfranchised; priests were arrested and kept in prison; laymen were punished by sentences of excommunication and by fines for non-attendance at Protestant worship; they were summoned before the consistorial courts for having had their children baptized by the priests and were punished with the greatest indignities; Catholics were forbidden to teach school and Catholic parents were forbidden to send their children abroad; the Catholic inhabitants of Drogheda were indicted before a Protestant jury, and having been found guilty of recusancy, they stood in danger of having all their property forfeited; in Louth the juries were ordered to draw up a list of Recusants; when three Catholic jurors refused they were thrown into prison and obliged to give security to appear before the Dublin Star Chamber; and in Cavan proceedings of a similar kind were taken.
Amongst the distinguished bishops of the Irish Church at this period were Peter Lombard, Archbishop of Armagh (1601-25), a native of Waterford, who studied at Oxford and Louvain, was appointed a professor at the latter seat of learning, took a very prominent part in the Congregatio de Auxiliis, published some theological treatises together with an ecclesiastical history of Ireland, entitled, De Regno Hiberniae, Sanctorum insula, Commentarius, but who on account of the danger of stirring up still greater persecution never visited his diocese; Eugene Matthews or MacMahon, Bishop of Clogher (1609) and Archbishop of Dublin (1611) who did splendid work for the Irish Church by the decrees passed in the provincial synod at Kilkenny (1614) as well as by his successful efforts for the foundation of the Pastoral College at Louvain; David O’Kearney, appointed to Cashel (1603) as successor to the martyred Archbishop O’Hurley, who though hunted from place to place continued to fill the duties of his office till about the year 1618, when he went to Rome; and Florence Conry, Archbishop of Tuam, a Franciscan, who served with the army of the Northern Princes, and who was specially detested by the English government on account of his loyal defense of O’Neill. Not being allowed to return to Ireland, he devoted himself to the study of theology, and was the author of several very important works, some of which were not, however, free from the suspicion of something akin to Jansenism. By far the most useful book he composed was his celebrated Irish Catechism published at Louvain in 1626.
During the opening years of the reign of Charles I (1625-49) the persecution was much less violent, and as Charles was married to a French Catholic princess and as he had promised solemnly not to enforce the laws against Catholics, it was hoped that at long last they might expect toleration. The distinguished Franciscan Thomas Fleming, son of the Baron of Slane, who had received his education in the Irish Franciscan College at Louvain, was appointed Archbishop of Dublin (1623), and arrived in Ireland two years later. He was able to report that the conduct of the Catholics not only in Dublin but throughout Ireland was worthy of every praise, and to point to the fact that many who made the pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Purgatory in Lough Derg were obliged to return without satisfying their pious desires because the island was so crowded that there was no room for them to land. Chapels were opened in some of the less pretentious streets in Dublin; communities of religious orders took up fixed residences in the capital; and the Jesuits summoned home some of their ablest teachers to man a Catholic University which they opened in Back Lane (1627). The government stood in need of money to equip and support a new army, then considered necessary on account of the threatening attitude of France, and in order to obtain funds a large body both of the Protestant and Catholic nobility were invited to come to Dublin for discussion. They were offered certain concessions or “Graces” in return for a subsidy, and to placate the Catholic peers it was said that the fines for non-attendance at church would not be levied, and that they might expect tacit toleration.
The very mention of toleration filled the Protestant bishops with alarm, and, considering the fact that they were dependent upon coercion for whatever congregations they had, their rage is not unintelligible. James Ussher, who had become Protestant Primate of Armagh, convoked an assembly of the bishops. They declared that: “The religion of the Papists is superstitious and idolatrous, their church in respect of both, apostatical. To give them, therefore, a toleration, or to consent that they may freely exercise their religion, and profess their faith and doctrine is a grievous sin, and that in two respects. For it is to make ourselves accessory, not only to their superstitions, idolatries, and heresies, and in a word, to all the abominations of Popery; but also, which is a consequent of the former, to the perdition of the seduced people, which perish in the deluge of Catholic apostasy. To grant them toleration, in respect of any money to be given, or contribution to be made by them, is to set religion to sale, and with it, the souls of the people, whom Christ our Savior hath redeemed with His most precious blood.” The Irish deputies arrived in London to seek a confirmation of the “Graces” at the very time that the third Parliament of Charles (1627) was petitioning him to put in force the laws against the Recusants. The members of the English House of Commons complained that religious communities of men and women had been set up in Dublin and in several of the larger cities, that Ireland was swarming with Jesuits, friars, and priests, that the people who attended formerly the Protestant service had ceased to attend, that in Dublin there were thirteen mass-houses, and that Papists were allowed to act as army officers, and Papists were being trained as soldiers.” In these circumstances the Catholic members of the deputation consented to abandon their claims for full toleration, though it was understood that the fines levied on account of absence from Protestant service would not be enforced, but they were promised that Catholic lawyers would be allowed to practice without being obliged to take the oath of supremacy. In return for the promised “Graces,” which were to be ratified immediately in Parliament, the Irish nobles promised to pay a sum of £120,000 for the support of the new army.
The promised Parliament was not held, nor were the “Graces” conceded either to the Irish generally or to the Catholics. Still, there was no active persecution for some time. The provincial of the Carmelites in Dublin was able to report to the Propaganda (1629) that “all the ecclesiastics now publicly perform their sacred functions, and prepare suitable places for offering the holy sacrifice, and that with open doors; they now preach to the people, say Mass, and discharge all their other duties without being molested by any one.” The Carmelites, he wrote, “had a large church, but not sufficient to contain one-sixth of the congregation; the people flocked in crowds to Confession, and Holy Communion; the Franciscans, Dominicans, Capuchins, and Jesuits were hard at work; and the parishes were supplied with parish priests who resided in their districts and were supported by the voluntary offerings of the people.” From a report of the year 1627, it is clear that the Dominicans had over fifty priests of their Order in Ireland, together with several novices and students.
But already the enemies of the Catholic religion were at work, and, as a result, a proclamation was issued by Lord Falkland in 1629 commanding that all monasteries, convents, colleges, and religious houses should be dissolved, that all religious and priests should cease to teach or to perform any religious service in any public chapel or oratory, or to teach in any place whatsoever in the kingdom, and that all owners of religious houses and schools should apply them to other uses without delay (1629). At first no notice was taken of this proclamation in Dublin or in any of the cities of Ireland. Ussher wrote to complain of the “unreverend manner” in which the proclamation was made in Drogheda. “It was done in scornful and contemptuous sort, a drunken soldier being first set up to read it, and then a drunken sergeant of the town, making the same to seem like a May-game.” The priests and friars merely closed the front doors of the churches, he said, but the people flocked to the churches as usual by private passages. Lord Falkland does not seem to have made any determined effort to carry out the royal proclamation in Dublin, but unfortunately he was recalled in 1629, and in the interval from his departure till the arrival of Sir Thomas Wentworth (1632) Loftus, Viscount of Ely, and Lord Cork were appointed as Lords Justices. Immediately the persecution began. The Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, accompanied by a body of soldiers, made a raid upon the Carmelite Church in Cook Street while Mass was being celebrated on St. Stephen’s Day, destroyed the altar and statues, and seized two of the priests; but the people set upon the archbishop and the soldiers, and rescued the prisoners. The troops were called out at once, and several of the Dublin aldermen were lodged in prison. Most of the churches were seized, and the Jesuit University was given over to Trinity College. Attacks of a similar kind were made on the houses and churches of the regular clergy in Cork, Waterford, Limerick, and in various other parts of the country. An order was issued by the Lords Justices that St. Patrick’s Purgatory together “with St. Patrick’s bed and all the vaults, cells, and all other houses and buildings should be demolished, and that the superstitious stones and material should be cast into the lough.” Catholic deputies hastened to London to lay their grievances before the king, but, though he was not unwilling to help them, he found it difficult to do much for them on account of the strong anti-Catholic feeling in England. Queen Henrietta Maria did appeal to the new Deputy to restore St. Patrick’s Purgatory, but, as it was situated “in the midst of the great Scottish Plantation,” he feared to grant her request at the time. Lord Cork reported that “he had set up two houses of correction in dissolved friaries, in which the beggarly youths are taught trades.” But soon the king and Wentworth grew alarmed about the storm that the justices were creating in Ireland. The Catholic lords threatened that unless an end were put to the persecution, which was contrary to the “Graces” that had been promised, they would refuse to pay the subsidy they had promised, and letters were sent both by the king and Wentworth throwing the blame on Loftus and Lord Cork, and reproving them for what they had done.
In 1632 Sir Thomas Wentworth, afterwards Earl of Strafford, arrived in Ireland as Lord Deputy. He was a strong man, intensely devoted to the king, and determined to reduce all parties in Ireland to subjection. In religion he was a High Churchman of the school of Laud, and opposed to the Scotch Presbyterians of the North of Island almost as much as to the Irish Catholics. From the beginning he was determined to raise the revenues of the crown in Ireland, to establish a strong standing army, and to secure the future peace of the country by carrying out a scheme of plantations in Connaught and Munster along the lines followed by the advisers of James I. in case of Ulster. One of his first acts after his arrival in Ireland was to commission Dr. John Bramhall, afterwards Protestant Bishop of Derry and Primate, to hold an inquiry into the state of the Protestant Church. The latter, after having made some investigations, informed Archbishop Laud that he found it difficult to say “whether the churches were more ruinous and sordid or the people irreverent in Dublin,” that one parochial church in Dublin had been converted into a stable, another had become a nobleman’s mansion, while a third was being used as a tennis-court, of which the vicar acted as keeper. The vaults of Christ’s Church had been leased to Papists “as tippling rooms for beer, wine, and tobacco,” so that the congregation stood in danger of being poisoned by the fumes, and the table for the administration of Holy Communion was made “an ordinary seat for maids and apprentices.” “The inferior sorts of ministers were below all degrees of contempt, in respect of their poverty and their ignorance,” and it was told him that one bishop held three and twenty benefices with care of souls.
Wentworth lost no time in trying to raise money for the army, but many of the lords, both Catholic and Protestant, were so annoyed at the refusal to confirm the “Graces” and at the delay in calling the Parliament that had been promised, that Wentworth was forced to make some concession. Parliament was convoked to meet in 1634, and the Lord Deputy nominated his own supporters in the boroughs, so as to counter-balance the representation from the counties, which representation he could not in all cases control. The Catholics were strong in the Lower House particularly, but care was taken that they should be in a minority. The main question was the granting of subsidies, but several of the Protestants and all the Catholics demanded that the “Graces” should first be confirmed. Both Protestant and Catholic landowners were interested in safeguarding the titles to their property by having it enacted that sixty years’ possession should be regarded as a sufficient proof of ownership. As such an enactment would have upset all Wentworth’s plans for a wholesale plantation, he succeeded in resisting such a measure, and partly by threats, partly by underhand dealings with particular individuals he obtained a grant of generous subsidies without any confirmation of the “Graces.” In April 1635 Parliament was dissolved, and almost immediately the Lord Deputy made preparations for acting under the commission for inquiring into defective titles granted to him by the king. “All the Protestants are for plantations,” he wrote, “and all the others are against them. If the Catholic juries refuse to find a verdict in favor of the king, then recourse must be had to Parliament, where a Protestant majority is assured.” Portions of Tipperary, Clare, and Kilkenny were secured without much difficulty, but nothing less than the whole of Connaught would satisfy the Deputy. Roscommon was the first county selected, and the Commissioners, including the Lord Deputy, arrived in Boyle to hold the inquiry (July 1635). The jury, having been informed by Wentworth that, whether they found in his favor or not, the king was determined to assert his claims to their county, and that their only hope of mercy was their prompt obedience, delivered the required verdict. Sligo and Mayo also made their submission. In Galway, however, the jury found against the king. In consequence of this the sheriff was fined £1,000 and placed under bail to appear before the Star Chamber, and the jurymen were threatened with severe punishment. They were fined £4,000 each and ordered to be imprisoned till they should pay the full amount. In this way the whole of Connaught, with the exception of Leitrim which was planted already, together with a great part of Clare, Tipperary, and Kilkenny was confiscated to the crown. But Wentworth postponed the plantation of Connaught to a more favorable period, and before any such period arrived he had lost both his office and his head. The danger to Charles I. from the Scotch Covenanters was already apparent, and Charles urged his Deputy to raise an army in Ireland. During the years 1639 and 1640 the work of training the army, many of the officers of which and most of the soldiers, were Catholics, was pushed forward, but the triumph of the Scots and the execution of the Earl of Strafford in April 1641 made it impossible to use it for the purpose for which it was designed. Acting on the instigation of the English Parliament, Charles sent an order that the Irish troops should be disbanded, and added that he had licensed certain officers to transport eight thousand troops to the aid of any of the sovereigns of Europe friendly to England. For one reason or another very few of the soldiers left Ireland, as both their own leaders and the king knew well that their services would be soon required at home. Parliament had met in Ireland in March 1640, and, having voted several subsidies to aid the king, it adjourned. When it met again in 1641 the Catholics were actually in the majority, and seemed determined to hold their own. The king wrote to confirm the “Graces,” and to suggest that a bill should be introduced to confirm defective titles in Tipperary, Clare, and Connaught, but the obstructive tactics of the Earl of Ormond, and the unfavorable attitude of the Lords Justices, Sir William Parsons and Sir William Borlase, towards Catholic claims, prevented anything being done. Parliament was adjourned till the 9th of November, but before that date arrived the issues had been transferred to another and a different court.
From 1632 till 1640, though the Deputy was doing his best to rob a large portion of the Catholic owners of their property on the ground of defective titles, and though in many districts the Protestant bishops and ministers created considerable difficulties for their Catholic neighbors, still the religious persecution was carried out only in a half-hearted manner. The king was shrewd enough to recognize the important part that might be played by the Irish Catholics in the civil struggle that he foresaw, and he was anxious not to antagonize their leaders. This period of comparative calm was providential for the Church in Ireland, by enabling it to organize its forces and to prepare for the terrible days that were soon to come. In accordance with the advice given by Archbishop Lombard years before, Rome decided to fill several of the Sees that had been left vacant. Hugh MacCaghwell (Cavellus), a distinguished Irish Franciscan, who had been instrumental in founding the College of St. Anthony at Louvain, and whose theological works caused him to be regarded by his contemporaries as the ablest theologian of the Scottish school in Europe, was appointed Archbishop of Armagh (1626), but he died in Rome a few weeks after his consecration. Less than two years later it was decided to transfer Hugh O’Reilly from Kilmore to the primatial See (1628). Thomas Fleming had been appointed to Dublin in 1623, and despite the efforts of his enemies he succeeded in eluding the vigilance of those who wished to drive him from Ireland. Malachy O’Queely, who had acted for years as vicar-apostolic of his native diocese of Killaloe, was appointed to Tuam (1630) in succession to Florence Conry, and Thomas Walsh, a native of Waterford, was promoted to the See of Cashel (1626). Amongst the distinguished ecclesiastics who were promoted to Irish dioceses during the reign of James I. and Charles, were the learned David Rothe (Ossory, 1618), Roche MacGeoghan (Roccus de Cruce), who had done so much for the restoration of the Dominican houses in Ireland (Kildare, 1629), and Heber MacMahon (Down, 1642, Clogher, 1643). As a result of the long persecution and of the absence of bishops from so many dioceses a certain amount of disorganization might be detected in several departments, and to remedy this provincial synods were held to lay down new regulations, and to adjust the position of the Church to the altered circumstances of the country. A synod was held at Kilkenny (1627) which was attended by bishops from Leinster and Munster; another very important one, the decrees of which were confirmed by the Holy See, was held for the province of Tuam in 1632, and a third attended by the Leinster bishops was held in the County Kilkenny in 1640. The Irish colleges on the Continent continued to pour able and zealous young priests into the country, while the colleges for the education of the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits supplied new recruits to replenish the ranks of the religious orders. The Capuchin founded Irish colleges on the Continent, at Lille, Antwerp, and at Sedan, and so earnestly did they work in Ireland that a special letter in praise of the Capuchins was forwarded to Rome by a number of the Bishops in 1642. The results of this renewed activity were soon apparent in every part of the country. Thus, for example, in a report presented (1631) from the diocese of Elphin, then ruled by Bishop Boetius Egan, it can be seen that although all the churches, including the cathedral, had been destroyed or taken possession of by the Protestants, there were at the time forty priests at work in the diocese; the decrees of the Council of Trent had been promulgated; the parishes had been rearranged, and the learning of the parish priests appointed had been tested by examination; regular synods, visitations, and conferences of the clergy were being held, and steps had been taken to ensure that the people should be instructed fully in their religion.
In the Parliament of 1641 the Catholics were in the majority, and they insisted that the “Graces” must be confirmed. The king granted their demands, and the bill was actually on its way to Ireland when the Lords Justices, Parsons and Borlase, who administered the government of the country prorogued the session. They wished for no settlement with the Catholics lest a settlement might put an end to their hopes of a plantation, and the Earl of Ormond tried also to block the passage of the bill in the hope of saving the king from the odium which he would incur in England and Scotland by granting toleration to the Irish Catholics. The Catholic noblemen of Ireland, whether Irish or Anglo-Irish, had good reason to complain. They had seen the Catholics driven out of the good lands of Ulster to make way for English and Scottish planters, and they well knew that the danger of similar transactions in Connaught, Munster, and Leinster had not passed away with the death of Strafford. They had seen the operation of the Court of Wards, and they could not fail to realize that as a result of its work the landowners of Ireland would soon be dispossessed or Protestantised. They knew something of the Protestant Inquisition courts as run by the ministers and bishops, of the persecution of their clergy, the fees and fines levied on the unfortunate Catholic peasantry, and of the still graver danger that lay before them in case the Covenanters and the Puritans were to overthrow Charles I., or to succeed in forcing him to accept their policy. Were they to remain passive, they believed, they could have no hope of redress or even of safety, and hence many of them made up their minds that the time for negotiations had passed, and that they could rely only on force. Never again were they likely to get such a favorable opportunity. England was torn by internal dissensions; the disbanded Irish soldiers, who had been trained for service against the Scots, were still in the country; and with so many distinguished Irishmen scattered through the countries of Europe there was good hope that they might get assistance from their co-religionists on the Continent. The distinguished Waterford Franciscan, Father Luke Wadding, who had founded the College of St. Isidore in Rome and had taken such a prominent part in the foundation of the Irish College, was in Rome ready to plead the cause of his countrymen at the Papal Court. His fame as a scholar was known throughout Europe, and his active support could not fail to produce its effect in Europe, and particularly in Spain where he was esteemed so highly by Philip IV. Owen Roe O’Neill, who had achieved a remarkable distinction in the army of Spain by his gallant defense of Arras against the French, Colonel Preston, uncle of Lord Gormanston, and a host of others, who had learned the art of war in France, Spain, and the Netherlands, were willing to return to Ireland and to place their swords at the disposal of their country.
Early in 1641 Rory O’More, who was closely connected with both the Irish and the Anglo-Irish nobles, suggested to Lord Maguire of Enniskillen the idea of an appeal to arms, and hinted at the possibility of a union between the Irish nobles and the Lords of the Pale. In a short time most of the important leaders of the North, Sir Phelim O’Neill, Turlogh O’Neill, Lord Maguire, Hugh MacMahon, Arthur MacGennis of Down, Philip and Miles O’Reilly of Cavan had come to an understanding. The war was to begin in Ulster on the night of the 23rd October 1641, and on the same night an attempt was made to seize Dublin Castle. The latter portion of the programme could not be carried out owing to the action of an informer who betrayed Maguire and Hugh MacMahon to the Lords Justices; but at the appointed time the Irish Catholics of Ulster rose almost to a man, and in a very short time most of the strong places in the province were in their hands. In such a movement it was almost impossible for the leaders to prevent some excesses, particularly as many of the men who took part in it had been driven from their lands to make way for the Planters, and had suffered terribly from the harshness and cruelty to which they and their families had been subjected. Naturally they seized their own again, and in some cases they may have used more violence than the situation required, but it is now admitted by impartial historians that the wild stories of a wholesale massacre of Protestants are without any more solid foundation than the fact that the Protestants were for the most part driven out of Ulster in much the same way as the Catholics had been driven to the mountains thirty years before. Most of the few who were killed were probably struck down while attempting to defend their homes, and in no case is there evidence to prove that the leaders countenanced unnecessary violence or murder. If the historian wishes to look for organized lawlessness and murder he can find it much more easily in the campaign of the infamous Sir Charles Coote or in the raids carried out by the forces of the Scotch Covenanters of the North. The Catholic Lords of the Pale hastened to Dublin Castle to offer their services against the Northern rebels, but they were received so discourteously by the Lords Justices that they recognized the absolute necessity of joining with the Catholics of Ulster. In announcing their defection the Lords Justices positively gloated over the splendid prospect of having the province of Leinster planted with English settlers (Dec. 1641). The action of the English Parliament in decreeing that for the future there should be no toleration allowed to Irish Catholics (Dec. 1641) and in putting up for sale two million five hundred thousand acres of fertile land in Ireland, the proceeds to be expended in a war of extermination, strengthened the hands of the Irish leaders, and helped to bring over the waverers to their side.
The Catholic clergy had sympathized with the movement from the beginning, but they had exerted themselves particularly in moderating the fury of their countrymen, and in protecting the Protestants, both laymen and clerics, from unnecessary violence. But, as there was a danger that the movement would break up and that the Irish forces would be divided, it was necessary for the bishops to take action. Religion was nearly the only bond that was likely to unite the Irish and the Anglo-Irish nobles, and the Church was the only institution that could give the movement unity and permanency. A meeting of the bishops and vicars of the Northern province was held at Kells (May 1642) under the presidency of Dr. Hugh O’Reilly, Archbishop of Armagh. They prescribed a three days’ fast, the public recitation of the Rosary and the Litanies, and a general Communion for the success of the war, issued a sentence of excommunication against murderers, mutilators, thieves, robbers, etc., together with all their aiders and abettors, denounced the Catholic Irishmen who refused to make common cause with their countrymen, and ordered all bishops, vicars-general, parish priests, and heads of religious houses to spare no pains to raise funds immediately for the support of the soldiers. In May (1642) a national synod was held at Kilkenny. It was attended by the Primate of Armagh, the Archbishops of Tuam and Cashel, by most of the bishops either personally or by procurators, and by representatives of the religious orders and of the secular clergy. They declared that the war was being waged for the defense of the Catholic religion, for the preservation of the rights and prerogatives of the king, for the just and lawful immunities, liberties, and rights of Ireland, for the protection of the lives, fortunes, goods, and possessions of the Catholics of Ireland, and that it was a just war in which all Catholics should join. They condemned murder, robbery, and violence, advised all their countrymen to lay aside racial and provincial differences, took measures for the restoration of the cathedrals and churches to their owners, exhorted all, both clergy and laymen, to preserve unity, and called upon the priests to offer up Mass at least once a week for the success of the war.
During the year 1642 the war had spread into all parts of Ireland, and most of the prominent nobles, with the exception of the Earl of Clanrickard, had taken the field. Owen Row O’Neill and Colonel Preston had arrived with some of the Irish veterans from the Continent, and had brought with them supplies of arms and ammunition. Urban VIII. had forwarded a touching letter addressed to the clergy and people of Ireland (Feb. 1642) and had contrived to send large supplies of weapons and powder. A general assembly of Irish Catholics was called to meet at Kilkenny in October 1642. There were present, eleven spiritual peers, fourteen lay peers, and two hundred and twenty-six representatives from the cities and counties of Ireland, under the presidency of Lord Mountgarrett. Generals were appointed to lead the forces in the different provinces, as unfortunately owing to the jealousy between the Anglo-Irish and the Irish nobles Owen Roe O’Neill could not be appointed commander of the national army. Arrangements were made for sending ambassadors to the principal courts of Europe, for the establishment of a printing-press, for raising money, and for the promotion of education. The Irish Franciscans of Louvain were asked to transfer their press and library to Ireland to help in the creation of a great school of Irish learning. Father Luke Wadding was appointed the Irish representative at the Papal Court, and agents were dispatched to France, Spain, the Netherlands, and to several of the German States. Urban VIII., yielding to the entreaties of the Irish ambassador gave generous assistance, and wrote to nearly all the Catholic rulers of Europe recommending them to assist their co-religionists in Ireland.
In 1643 the well-known Oratorian, Father Francesco Scarampi, landed in Wexford as the accredited agent of the Pope, bringing with him supplies of money and arms. Hardly, however, had he arrived, when he discovered that though the Irish armies had met with considerable success both against the Royalist forces in Dublin and the Scotch Covenanters in the North, negotiations had been opened up for an extended truce. The Anglo-Irish nobles had never been enthusiastic for the war as an Irish war. They fought merely to preserve their estates and to secure a certain degree of liberty of worship, but in their hearts they were more anxious about the cause of the king than about the cause of Ireland. The Marquis of Ormond, whom the king had created his Lord Lieutenant in Ireland, had many friends amongst the Lords of the Pale, and by means of his agents he succeeded in bringing about a cessation (Sept. 1643). The Irish Catholics were to send agents to the king for a full discussion of their grievances, and were to help him with supplies. Anxious to secure the help of the Irish Catholics, and fearing to give a handle to his parliamentary opponents by granting religious toleration, Charles was in a very difficult position, and to make matters worse Ormond was determined not to yield to the demands of the Catholics. He was prepared to make a conditional promise that the laws against them would not be enforced, but beyond that he was resolved not to go.
After long and fruitless negotiations with Ormond the war was renewed (1644). Representatives from France and Spain had arrived in Kilkenny, and it was thought that if the Pope could be induced to send a nuncio such a measure would strengthen the hands of the Irish ambassadors on the Continent. At the request of Sir Richard Bellings, Secretary to the Supreme Council, Innocent X. consented to send Giovanni Battista Rinuccini as his representative to Ireland (1645). The latter landed at Kenmare in October, and proceeded almost immediately to Kilkenny. In the meantime Charles I. was being hard pressed in England, and as he could have no hope of inducing Ormond to agree to such terms as would satisfy the Catholics of Ireland, he commissioned the Earl of Glamorgan, himself a Catholic, and closely connected with some of the Irish families by marriage, to go to Kilkenny and to procure assistance from the Catholic Confederation at all costs. Shortly after his arrival he concluded a treaty in the name of the king (Aug. 1645) in which he guaranteed “the free and public exercise of the Roman Catholic religion.” All churches possessed by the Irish Catholics at any time since October 1641 were to be left in their hands, and “all churches in Ireland other than such as are now actually enjoyed by his Majesty’s Protestant subjects” were to be given back to the Catholics. All jurisdiction claimed by Protestant bishops or ministers over Irish Catholics was to be abolished, and all temporalities, possessed by the Catholic clergy since October 1641, were to be retained by them, two-thirds of the income, however, to be paid to the king during the continuance of the war. Charles had already addressed a letter to the nuncio promising to carry out whatever terms Glamorgan would concede, and adding the hope that though this was the first letter he had ever written to any minister of the Pope it would not be the last. The terms were to be kept a secret, but in October 1645 Archbishop O’Queely of Tuam was killed near Sligo in a skirmish between the Confederate and Parliamentary forces, and a copy of the treaty which he had in his possession fell into the hands of the enemy. As soon as it was published it created a great sensation in England, and Charles immediately repudiated it. Glamorgan was arrested in Dublin by Ormond, but was released after a few weeks, and returned coolly to Kilkenny to conduct further negotiations.
Since his arrival in Kilkenny (1645) the nuncio was anxious to break off negotiations with Ormond, and to devote all the energies of the country to the prosecution of the war. But the Anglo-Irish of the Pale were bent upon accepting any terms that Ormond might offer; and soon the Supreme Council was divided into two sections, one favoring the nuncio, the other supporting Ormond. Negotiations had been opened directly with Rome by Queen Henrietta through her agent Sir Kenelm Digby. In return for promises of men and money the latter signed a treaty even much more favorable to the Irish Catholics than that which had been concluded with Glamorgan (1645), but as the original of this treaty had not come to hand, and as it was feared that there was little hope of its being put in force, the Supreme Council patched up an agreement with Ormond (March 1646). Although the latter had got a free hand from the king he granted very little to the Catholics. The oath of supremacy was to be abolished in the next Parliament, as were to be also all statutory penalties and disabilities; “his Majesty’s Catholic subjects were to be recommended to his Majesty’s favor for further concessions;” all educational disabilities of Catholics were to be removed, and all offices, civil and military, were to be thrown open to them. Even this treaty was kept a secret, but in the meantime the Confederation should send troops to the assistance of the king. But before the troops could be sent Charles was driven to take refuge with the Scots at Newcastle (May 1646), from which place he wrote forbidding Ormond “to proceed further in treaty with the rebels or to make any conditions with them.”
Notwithstanding Rinuccini’s earnest entreaties the majority of the Supreme Council insisted on accepting Ormond’s terms. The Confederation had been so weakened by dissensions that General Monro thought he could march south and capture Kilkenny, but at Benburb he found his way barred by the forces of O’Neill, and he was obliged to retreat to Coleraine, having left a great portion of his army dead on the field, and his standards, guns, and supplies in the hands of O’Neill (5 June 1646). The news of the great victory was brought to the nuncio at Limerick, where the captured banners were carried in procession through the streets and deposited in the cathedral. General Preston had also scored some successes in Connaught, so that once again the tide seemed to have turned in favor of the Confederates. Rinuccini was more than ever determined to refuse half measures, such as were being offered by the terms of Ormond’s treaty. He summoned a meeting of the bishops in Waterford (Aug. 1646), and after long discussion it was agreed that those who accepted Ormond’s terms were guilty of perjury, because they had thereby broken the terms of the oath of confederation. According to this oath the members had pledged themselves to be content with nothing less than the free and public exercise of their religion, while Ormond left nearly everything to the good-will of the king, from whom nothing could be expected considering the state of affairs in England. In spite of all remonstrances the Supreme Council published the Peace in Kilkenny, but their messengers were refused admittance into several of the cities of the South. Ormond was invited to Kilkenny, where he received a royal reception from his friends. But O’Neill marched south and compelled Ormond to beat a hasty retreat towards Dublin. Rinucinni returned to Kilkenny, and some of the prominent adherents of Ormond were arrested. A new Supreme Council was chosen, and O’Neill and Preston were commissioned to march on Dublin, but, though they brought their armies close to the city, yet, owing to underhand communications carried on between Ormond’s agent, the Earl of Clanrickard, and Preston, and the jealousy between the generals, the attack was not made.
A new General Assembly had been elected and met at Kilkenny (10 Jan. 1647). After a long discussion the Ormond Peace was condemned, and a new form of oath was drawn up to be taken by all the Confederates. Ormond, who could have done so much for his master had he obeyed his instructions and made some satisfactory offers to the Irish Catholics, surrendered Dublin into the hands of the Parliamentarians, and fled to France. To make matters worse Preston was defeated by the Parliamentarians at Summerhill (Aug. 1647), and Lord Inchiquin was carrying all before him in the South. Everywhere he went he had acted with great savagery, and was especially violent in his opposition to the Catholic religion. But early in 1648 he changed his politics, and declared for the king against the Parliament. Immediately the former friends of Ormond on the Supreme Council insisted on making terms with Lord Inchiquin. Rinuccini opposed such a step as a betrayal, and his action was approved by a majority of the bishops. The nuncio left the city and went towards Maryborough, where O’Neill was encamped. In May 1648 the truce with Lord Inchiquin was proclaimed, and in a few days Rinuccini issued a sentence of excommunication against all who would receive it, and of interdict against the towns which recognized it. The Supreme Council replied by appealing to the Pope. The only result was that the division and confusion became more general. Several of the bishops and clergy were to be found on both sides. The Supreme Council dismissed O’Neill from his office, and afterwards declared him a traitor. The nuncio went to Galway, from which port he sailed in 1649. Though it is difficult to entertain anything but the greatest contempt for the Ormond faction on the Supreme Council, and though Rinuccini was an honest man who did his best to carry out his instructions, still he did not understand perfectly the situation. He allowed himself to show too openly his preference for O’Neill, and displayed too great an inclination to have recourse to high-handed methods. His arrest of the Ormondist faction on the Supreme Council and the censures which he leveled against his opponents, however justifiable these things might have been in themselves, were not calculated to restore unity and confidence.
Ormond returned to Ireland in 1648 and received a great welcome from those of the Supreme Council who were opposed to Rinuccini and O’Neill. In January 1649 he concluded a peace with them by which he guaranteed that in the next Parliament to be held in Ireland the free exercise of the Catholic religion should be conceded; that the Act of Uniformity and the Act of Royal Supremacy should be abolished; that all offices, civil and military, should be thrown open to Catholics provided they were willing to take a simple oath of allegiance; that all plans for any further plantations in Munster, Leinster, and Connaught should be abandoned, that all Acts of Attainder, etc., passed against Irish Catholics since October 1641 should be treated as null and void; that the clergy should not be molested in regard to the churches, church-livings, etc., until his Majesty upon full consideration of the desires of the Catholics, formulated in a free Parliament, should express his further pleasure; and that the regular clergy who would accept this peace should be allowed to continue to hold their houses and possessions. Further concessions were to be dependent on the king’s wishes. The Catholic Confederation as such was dissolved, and Ormond was installed as Lord Lieutenant to govern the country in conjunction with twelve Commissioners of Trust appointed by the Confederates. But O’Neill and his army still held out against any terms with Ormond, and a large number of the cities refused to hold any communications with him. Still he hoped to capture Dublin from the Parliamentarians before help could arrive from England, but he suffered a terrible defeat at Rathmines (2 Aug. 1649). Less than a fortnight later Oliver Cromwell arrived in Dublin with a large force to crush both the Royalists and the Catholics.
Cromwell, having taken a little time for his troops to recruit, marched on Drogheda, then held for the king by Sir Arthur Aston, and so earnestly did he push forward the siege that in a short time he carried the city by assault, and put most of the garrison and a large number of the citizens to death. Over a thousand were slaughtered in St. Peter’s Church to which they had fled for refuge, and special vengeance was meted out to the clergy, none of them who were recognized being spared. Similar scenes of wholesale butchery took place at Wexford, into which his army gained admission by treachery. Ormond was unable to make headway against such a commander, and frightened at last by the prospect that opened out before him, he made overtures to O’Neill for a reconciliation. O’Neill agreed to lend his aid against Cromwell. He sent a portion of his army south, and he himself, though ill, was already on the march when he died at Cloughoughter (6 Nov. 1649). His death at such a time was an irreparable loss both to the Catholic religion and to Ireland. Had he lived, and had Ormond and his faction co-operated with him, the campaign of Cromwell might have had a very different termination. During the closing months of 1649 the situation in Ireland seemed hopeless. Though as an unscrupulous diplomatist Ormond had few equals, he was utterly worthless as a soldier, and to make matters worse he was still distrusted by the great mass of the Irish people. In the hope of restoring unity and of encouraging the people to continue the struggle a synod of the bishops and clergy assembled at Clonmacnoise (Dec. 1649). They issued a declaration warning the people that they could expect no mercy from the English Parliament, that the wholesale extirpation of Catholicism was intended, as was evidenced by the actions of Cromwell, and that the lands of the Irish Catholics were to be handed over to English adventurers. They called upon them to forget past differences, to sink racial and personal jealousies, and to unite against the common enemy. But the country distrusted Ormond, and refused to rally to his standard. Another meeting consisting of the bishops and of the Commissioners of Trust was held at Loughrea, in which it was agreed that there should be a general levy of all men fit to bear arms, and the monastery of Kilbegan was fixed as the place of rendezvous. Several of the cities and leading men refused, however, to take any part in a movement controlled by Ormond, and as a last desperate resort, at the meeting of the bishops held at Jamestown (12 Aug. 1650) the bishops declared that there could be no hope of unity unless Ormond surrendered his trust to some person in whom the entire country had confidence. Very reluctantly Ormond agreed to this request and left Ireland in December, having appointed the Earl of Clanrickard as his successor. The latter was a Catholic who had played a very ignoble part throughout the war. Had he displayed years before but half the energy he displayed in its later stages things might never have come to such a pass.
As it was, Cromwell made great progress in the South, though he was forced to raise the siege of Waterford, and suffered a bad defeat at Clonmel from the nephew of O’Neill. He left Ireland in May 1650, and entrusted the command to Ireton. Owing to the state of disunion Ireton was enabled to take city after city. Limerick was taken in 1651, and Terence O’Brien, Bishop of Emly, was put to death. Bishop MacMahon of Clogher, who had assumed the leadership of the army of Owen Row O’Neill after the latter’s death was defeated at Scarrifhollis (1650). Later on he was captured, and put to death, his head being impaled on the gates of Enniskillen as a warning to his co-religionists. The submission of Clanrickard in 1652 practically put an end to the war, and before another year had elapsed all effective resistance had ceased.
During the Kilkenny Confederation the Catholic Church was restored to its original position. In the districts controlled by the Confederates the bishops and clergy were allowed to occupy once more their houses and churches wherever these had not been destroyed, and religious communities of both men and women were set up again close to their former monasteries and convents, though at the same time the Catholic Lords of the Pale were alert lest they should be asked to return any of the ecclesiastical or monastic lands that had been granted to them by royal patent. In Dublin and wherever Ormond and the Royalists had authority, both clergy and people enjoyed complete toleration, but in certain portions of the North, and wherever the Puritans and Parliamentarians held sway, persecution was still the order of the day. When Dublin was surrendered to the Parliamentarians (1647) the priests, and later on, all Catholics, were expelled from the city. In the South of Ireland Lord Inchiquin acted in the most savage manner in Cashel and generally in the cities which he conquered, while the Parliamentarian party in the North showed no mercy to the Catholics who fell into their hands. After the arrival of Cromwell the prospect became even more gloomy. Though he announced that he would interfere with no man’s religion, he declared that on no account could he tolerate the celebration of Mass. The clergy were put to the sword in Drogheda and Wexford. The Archbishop of Tuam was killed during the war (1645); Boetius Egan, Bishop of Ross, fell into the hands of Lord Broghill and was put to a cruel death because, instead of advising the garrison of Carrigdrohid to surrender, he encouraged them to continue the struggle (1650); Terence Albert O’Brien, Bishop of Emly, was captured by Ireton after the siege of Limerick, and was hanged; Heber MacMahon, Bishop of Clogher, was put to death by the orders of Coote (1650); Bishop Rothe of Ossory died as a result of the sufferings he endured, and Bishop French of Ferns, after undergoing terrible trials in Ireland, was obliged to make his escape to the Continent.
In arranging the terms of surrender the Cromwellian generals sometimes excluded the bishops and clergy from protection, and at best they granted them only a short time to prepare for leaving the country. The presence of the priests was regarded as a danger for the projected settlement of Ireland, and hence the order was given (1650) that they should be arrested. In 1650 a reward of £20 was offered to any one who would betray the hiding place of any Jesuits, priests, friars, monks, or nuns. At first those clergy who were captured were sent into France and Spain, but later on large numbers of them were shipped to the Barbados. Thus, for example, in 1655 an instruction was sent to Sir Charles Coote that the priests and friars then captive in Galway who were over forty years of age should be banished to Portugal or France, while those under that age were to “be shipped away for the Barbados or other American plantations.” For those who returned death was the penalty that was laid down. Since the priests still contrived to elude their pursuers by disguising themselves as laborers, peasants, beggars, gardeners, etc., an order was issued in 1655 that a general search should be made throughout Ireland for the capture of all priests. Five pounds was to be paid to any one who would arrest a priest, and more might be awarded if the individual taken were of special importance. When the jails were well filled, another instruction was issued that the priests should be brought together at Carrickfergus for transportation. Here it was claimed that some offered to submit to the terms of the government rather than allow themselves to be sent away, but as the statement comes from an unreliable source it should be received with caution. In 1657 Major Morgan, representative of Wicklow in the United Parliament of England and Ireland, declared: “We have three beasts to destroy that lay heavy burthens upon us. The first is the wolf, on whom we lay five pounds a head of a dog, and ten pounds if a bitch. The second beast is a priest, on whose head we lay ten pounds, and if he be eminent, more. The third beast is a Tory, on whose head, if he be a public Tory we lay twenty pounds, and forty shillings on a private Tory.” Towards the end of the Protectorate the government, instead of transporting the priests abroad, sent them in crowds to the Island of Aran and to Innisbofin. “The Lord Deputy and Council,” wrote Colonel Thomas Herbert (1658), “did in July last give order for payment of £100 upon account to Colonel Sadleir, to be issued as he should conceive fit for maintenance of such Popish priests as are or should be confined to the Isle of Boffin, according to six-pence daily allowing, building cabins and the like. It is not doubted but care was taken accordingly, and for that the judges in their respective circuits may probably find cause for sending much more priests to that island, I am commanded to signify thus much unto you that you may not be wanting to take such care in this business as according to former directions and provision is made.”
Already in 1642 the English Parliament had passed measures for the wholesale confiscation of Catholic Ireland, and had pledged the land to these “adventurers” who subscribed money to carry on the war. In 1652, when the reduction of Ireland was practically complete, it was deemed prudent to undertake the work of clearing Leinster and Munster of its old owners to prepare the way for the adventurers and for the soldiers, whose arrears were paid by grants of farms or estates. According to the terms of the Act and of the Instructions issued in connection with it all Irish Catholics were commanded to transplant themselves to Connaught before the 1st May 1654 under pain of being put to death by court-martial if they were found after that date east of the Shannon. Exceptions were indeed made in the case of those women who were married to English Protestants before December 1650, provided that they themselves had become Protestant; in case of boys under fourteen and girls under twelve in Protestant service and who would be brought up Protestants, and lastly in case of those who could prove that for the previous ten years they had maintained “a constant good affection” towards the Parliament. The order to transplant was notified throughout Ireland, and a commission was set up at Loughrea to consider claims and to make assignments of land in Connaught, all of which was to be at the disposal of the Irish except a prescribed territory along the sea-board. Even the inhabitants of Galway, who had submitted only on the express condition of retaining their lands, were driven out of the city, and the city itself was handed over to the corporations of Gloucester and Liverpool to recoup them for the losses they had suffered during the Civil War. Petitions began to pour in for mercy or at least for an extension to the time-limit, but though on the latter point some concessions were made, few individuals were allowed any reprieve. The landowners were marked men, and they were obliged to go. It would be impossible to describe the hardship and miseries suffered by those who were forced to leave their own homes, and to seek a refuge in what was to them a strange country. To ease the situation large numbers of the men capable of bearing arms were shipped to Spain, or to others of the Continental countries, but soon it was thought that this was bad policy likely only to serve some of England’s rivals. It was then determined to transport large numbers to the West Indies, Barbados, Jamaica, and the Caribbean Islands. Ship-loads of boys and girls were seized according to orders from England, and were sent out of the country under the most awful conditions to a land where a fate awaited many of them that was worse than death. The magistrates had no scruple in committing all Catholics who remained east of the Shannon and who were brought before them, as vagrants, and then they were hurried off to the coast.
At first the idea was to remove the native population entirely from Leinster and Munster lest the soldiers and “adventurers” might be contaminated, and stern measures were taken to prevent any of the officers or men from taking Irish wives. Ireton laid it down that any officer or soldier who dared to marry an Irish girl until she had been examined by a competent board to see whether her conversion flowed “from a real work of God upon her heart,” should be punished severely. But later on petitions poured in from the new Protestant landowners to be allowed to keep Catholics as servants and laborers, and on the understanding that the masters would utilize this opportunity to spread the true religion, their requests were granted. Some obtained dispensations or at least managed to secure delays; others probably were able to come to terms with the soldiers to whom their farms had fallen in the general lottery, and others still preferred to risk the danger of transportation by remaining in their own district rather than to seek a new home. Had the Protectorate lasted long enough the policy of transplanting might have succeeded, but as it was the Cromwellian planters soon disappeared or became merged into the native population, and in spite of all the bloodshed and robbery, the people of Ireland generally were as devoted to the Catholic religion in 1659 as they had been ten years before.
When it became clear from the course of events in England that Charles II. was about to be restored to the throne Lord Broghill and Sir Charles Coote, both of whom had helped to crush the Irish Royalists and had profited largely by the Revolution, hastened to show their zeal for the king’s cause. The Catholics who had fought so loyally for his father hoped that at last justice would be done to them by re-instating them in the lands from which they had been driven by the enemies of the king. But Charles was determined to take no risks. He sent over the Duke of Ormond, the most dangerous enemy of the Catholic religion in Ireland, as Lord Lieutenant (1660). A Parliament was called in 1661, and as the Catholics had been driven from the corporate towns during the Cromwellian régime and as the Cromwellian planters were still in possession, the House of Commons was to all intents and purposes Protestant. An Act of Settlement was passed whereby Catholics who could prove their “innocence” of the rebellion were to be restored, but the definition of innocence in the case was so complicated that it was hoped few Catholics, if any, would succeed in establishing their claims (1661). A Court of Claims composed of five Protestant Commissioners, was set up to examine the individual cases, but in a short time, when it was discovered that a large number of Catholics were succeeding in satisfying the conditions laid down by law for restoration to their property, an outcry was raised by the planters, and the Court of Claims was suspended (1664). The Act of Explanation was then passed to simplify the proceedings, as a result of which act two-thirds of the land of Ireland was left in the hands of the Protestant settlers. Close on sixty of the Catholic nobility were restored as a special favor by the king, but a large body of those who had been driven out by Cromwell were left without any compensation.
In consequence of the Cromwellian persecution nearly all the bishops and a large body of the clergy, both secular and regular, had been driven from Ireland, but after the accession of Charles, who was known to be personally friendly to the Catholics, many of them began to return. It would be a mistake, however, to imagine that the persecution had ceased, or that the laws against the clergy were not put in force in several districts. Ormond returned to Ireland as hostile to Catholicity as he had been before he was driven into exile; and as he thought that he had a particular grievance against the Irish bishops he was determined to stir up the clergy against them, to divide the Catholics into warring factions, and by favoring one side to create a royalist Catholic party as distinct from the ultramontane or papal party. For this work he had at hand a useful instrument in the person of Father Peter Walsh, a Franciscan friar, who had distinguished himself as a bitter opponent of the nuncio and as a leader of the Ormondist faction in the Supreme Council. In 1661 it was determined by some leading members, both lay and clerical, to present an address of welcome to Charles II., but by the influence of Walsh and others the address, instead of being a mere protestation of loyalty, was framed on the model of the Oath of Allegiance (1605), which had been condemned more than once by the Pope. Many of the Catholic lords indicated their agreement with this address or Remonstrance, as it was called, and some of the clergy, deceived by the counsels of Father Walsh, expressed their willingness to adhere to its terms. Ormond, who spent money freely in subsidizing Walsh and his supporters, had good reason to be delighted with the success of his schemes. Grave disputes broke out among the clergy, which the government took care to foment by patronizing the Remonstrants and by wreaking its vengeance on the anti-Remonstrants on the grounds of their alleged disloyalty. To bring matters to a crisis it was arranged by Walsh and Ormond that a meeting of the bishops, vicars, and heads of religious orders should be held in Dublin (June 1666). In addition to Dr. O’Reilly, Archbishop of Armagh, Bishops Plunkett of Ardagh, and Lynch of Kilfenora, there were present a number of vicars of vacant dioceses together with representatives of the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Capuchins, and Jesuits. Dr. O’Reilly spoke strongly against the terms of the Remonstrance as being highly disrespectful to the Pope, and the majority of those present supported his contention. They expressed their willingness to present an address of loyalty from which the objectionable clauses should be omitted. But Walsh, dissatisfied with anything but a complete submission, shifted the ground of the debate, by endeavoring to secure the acceptance of the assembly of the pro-Gallican declaration of the Sorbonne (1663). Even still his efforts were far from being successful, and the meeting was dissolved by Ormond. The primate was kept a prisoner in Dublin for some months, and then transported to the Continent, while the other members present were obliged to make their escape from Ireland or to go into hiding. By orders of Ormond close watch was kept upon the clergy who sided against the Remonstrance, and many of them were thrown into prison.
In 1669 Ormond was recalled, and after a short time Lord Berkeley was sent over as Lord Lieutenant. Though he was instructed to “execute the laws against the titular archbishops, bishops, and vicar-generals, that have threatened or excommunicated the Remonstrants,” yet, as the personal friend of the Duke of York, and as one who knew intimately the king’s own views, he acted in as tolerant a manner towards Catholics as it was possible for him to do considering the state of mind of the officials and of the Protestant bishops and clergy. From 1670 till the arrival of Ormond once more in 1677, though several proclamations were issued and though here and there individual priests were persecuted, Catholics as a body enjoyed comparative calm. The Holy See took advantage of this to appoint to several of the vacant Sees. Amongst those appointed at this time were Oliver Plunket to Armagh (1669), Peter Talbot to Dublin, which had not been filled since the death of Dr. Fleming in 1655, William Burgat to Cashel (1669), and James Lynch to Tuam. Dr. Plunket had accompanied Scarampi to Rome (1645), where he read a particularly brilliant course as a student of the Irish College, and afterwards acted as a professor in the Propaganda till his nomination to Armagh. Dr. Talbot was born at Malahide, joined the Society of Jesus, was a close personal friend of Charles II. during the latter’s exile on the Continent, and after the Restoration enjoyed a pension from the king. Shortly after his appointment an outcry was raised against him because he and his brother, Colonel Talbot, were supposed to be urging a re-examination of the Act of Settlement, and Charles II. was weak enough to sign a decree banishing him from the kingdom. He returned to Ireland only in 1677, the year in which Ormond arrived for his last term of office as Lord Lieutenant.
Already Shaftesbury’s two subordinates, Titus Oates and Tonge, were concocting the infamous story of the Popish Plot in the hope of securing the exclusion of the Duke of York from the throne. In this plot, according to the account of its lying authors, the Catholics of Ireland were to play an important part, the Jesuits and the Archbishops of Dublin and Tuam being supposed to be particularly active. In October 1678 a proclamation was issued ordering all archbishops, bishops, vicars, abbots, and other dignitaries of the Church of Rome, and all others exercising jurisdiction by authority of the Pope, together with all Jesuits and regular priests, to depart from the kingdom before the 20th November, and all Popish societies, convents, seminaries, and schools were to be dissolved at once. This was followed by a number of others couched in a similar strain, and large numbers of priests were sent to the coast for transportation. The chapels opened in Dublin and in the principal cities were closed, and the clergy who remained were obliged to have recourse to various devices to escape their pursuers. Dr. Talbot was arrested and thrown into prison (1678), where he remained till death put an end to his sufferings in November 1680. Though both the king and Ormond were convinced of his innocence, yet such was the state of Protestant frenzy at the time that they dare not move a hand to assist him. Dr. Plunket, after eluding the vigilance of his pursuers for some time, was arrested in 1679. He was brought to trial at Dundalk, but his accusers feared to trust an Irish court, the case was postponed, and in the meantime his enemies arranged that he should be brought to London for trial. Every care was taken to obtain a verdict. The judges refused a delay to bring over witnesses for the defense, and made no attempt to conceal their bias and their hatred for the Catholic religion, the very profession of which was sufficient to condemn him in their eyes. He was executed at Tyburn (1681), and he was the last victim to suffer death in England on account of the plot of Oates and his perjured accomplices. But in Ireland Ormond had no intention of dropping the persecution. Several of the bishops and vicars-general were arrested and either held as prisoners or banished, and spies were sent through the country to track down those who defied the proclamation of banishment by remaining to watch over their dioceses.
On the accession of James II. (Feb. 1685) the Catholics of Ireland had reason to hope for an improvement of their position, and this time at least they were not disappointed. The Duke of Ormond was recalled, and the Earl of Clarendon was sent over as Lord Lieutenant. He was instructed to maintain the Act of Settlement, but at the same time to allow Catholics full freedom of worship, and to consider them eligible for civil and military appointment. With him was associated as military commander Colonel Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, brother of the late Archbishop of Dublin. In accordance with the well-known wishes of the king, Catholic officers were appointed in the army, Catholics were allowed once more to act as sheriffs, magistrates, and judges, and steps were taken to see that the corporations, which had been closed against Catholics for years, should be no longer safe Protestant boroughs. The Irish bishops hastened to present an address of welcome to the king, and they were assured of his Majesty’s favor and protection. Religious communities of both men and women were re-opened in Dublin, and in the principal cities throughout Ireland,
and synods of the clergy were held to restore order and discipline. Irish Catholics as a body were delighted with the royal edicts in favor of religious toleration, but the small Protestant minority in the country were alarmed at seeing Catholics treated as equals, and particularly at the prospect of seeing the Act of Settlement upset, and their titles to their estates questioned by the real owners whom they had despoiled twenty years before. Their fears were increased when the Earl of Clarendon, whom they regarded as in some sort their protector, was recalled (1687) to make way for the Earl of Tyrconnell as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The new Lord Lieutenant was far from being perfect, nor was he always prudent in his policy or his actions, but if his conduct towards the small body of Protestants in Ireland be compared with that of his predecessors for more than a century, or with that of his successors, towards the Irish people, he ought to be regarded as one of the most enlightened administrators of his age.
The revolution that broke out in England (1688), the arrival of William of Orange (1688), and the flight of King James to France were calculated to stir up strife in Ireland, though it is remarkable as showing the fair treatment they had received that a great body of the Irish Protestant bishops were in favor of supporting James against the usurper, and that it was necessary to have recourse to lying stories of an intended general massacre to stir up opposition to the king. Tyrconnell, who had long foreseen such a course of events, had made wonderful preparations, considering the situation of the country and the constitution of his council. Had James II. contented himself with inducing Louis XIV. to send arms and ammunition to Ireland and to utilize to the fullest the splendid French navy, Tyrconnell, aided by the able Irish officers who flocked to his standard from all parts of Europe, might have bidden defiance to all invaders.
But James insisted on returning to Ireland. He landed in March 1689 and proceeded to Dublin, where a national Parliament was summoned to meet in May. As a result of allowing the majority of the people to have some voice in the selection of the members, the House of Commons in 1689 was almost as Catholic as that of 1662 had been Protestant. In the House of Lords the Protestants might have been in the majority had all the spiritual and temporal peers taken their seats, but as several of the bishops were absent from the country, and as many of the lay lords had either joined the party of William or were waiting to see how events would go, few of them put in an appearance. From the beginning it was clear that the ideals of James were not the ideals of the Irish Parliament. He wished merely to make Ireland the stepping-stone to secure his own return to England, while the representatives of Ireland were determined to provide for the welfare and independence of their own country. They began by laying down the principle that no laws passed in England had any binding force in Ireland unless they were approved by the king, lords, and commons of Ireland. They next affirmed the principle of liberty of conscience for all, whether Catholic or Protestant, thereby setting an example which unfortunately was not followed either in England or in later parliamentary assemblies in Ireland. They decreed further that for the future Catholics should not be obliged to pay tithes for the support of the Protestant ministers, but rather that both Catholics and Protestants should contribute to the support of their respective pastors, a system which no impartial man could condemn as unfair. They repealed the Acts of Settlement and Explanation, and declared that those who held estates in Ireland in October 1641 should be restored to them, or if they were dead that their heirs should enter into possession. The soldiers and adventurers were deprived thereby of the property which they had acquired by legalized robbery and had held for over twenty years, but it was provided that those who had purchased lands from the Cromwellian grantees should be compensated from the estates of those who were then in rebellion against the king. In view of what had taken place in Ulster under James I., of what the Earl of Wentworth had in contemplation for portions of Munster and Connaught had his plants not miscarried, and of what had been done by Cromwell in nearly all parts of Catholic Ireland, the action of the Parliament of 1689 was not merely justifiable. It was extremely moderate. An Act of Attainder was also passed against those persons who had either declared for William of Orange, or who had left the country lest they should be regarded as taking sides with James II. Such men were called upon to return within a certain time unless they wished to incur the penalty of being regarded as traitors and punished as such. It is not true to say that there was any secrecy observed in regard to this act, or that knowledge of it was kept from the parties concerned till the time-limit had expired. It was discussed publicly in the presence of the Protestant bishops and Protestant representatives, and its provisions were well known in a short time in England and Ireland.Derry and Enniskillen had declared against King James towards the end of 1688, and all efforts to capture these two cities had failed. In August 1689 the Duke of Schomberg arrived at Bangor with an army of about fifteen thousand men, but little was done till the arrival of William of Orange in June 1690. Had the Irish and French military advisers had a free hand they might easily have held their own, even though William’s army was composed largely of veteran troops drawn from nearly every country of Europe. Had James taken their advice and played a waiting game, by retiring behind the Shannon so as to allow time to have his own raw levies trained, and to hold William in Ireland when his presence on the Continent against Louis XIV. was so urgently required, the situation would have been awkward for his opponent; and even when James decided to advance had he gone forward boldly, as was suggested to him, and insisted upon giving battle north of Dundalk in the narrow pass between the mountains and the sea where William’s cavalry would have been useless, the issue might have been different. But with a leader who could not make up his mind whether to give battle or to retreat, and who, having at last decided to fight in the worst place he could have selected, sent away his heavy guns towards Dublin with the intention of ordering a retirement almost when the decisive struggle had begun, it was impossible for his followers to expect any other result but defeat. In the battle of the Boyne the brunt of the fighting fell upon the Irish recruits, and both the Irish cavalry and infantry offered a stubborn resistance. James fled to Dublin, and in a short time left Ireland (1690). The Irish and French commanders then fell back on the line of the Shannon, according to their original scheme. They defended Limerick so bravely that William was obliged to raise the siege, but the capture of Athlone (1691) and the defeat of the Irish forces at Aughrim turned the scales in favor of William. Towards the end of August 1691 the second siege of Limerick began. Sarsfield, who was in supreme command, made a vigorous defense, but, as it was impossible to hold out indefinitely, and as there seemed to be no longer any hope of French assistance, he opened up negotiations with General Ginkle for a surrender of the city. As a result of these negotiations the Treaty of Limerick was signed on the 3rd October 1691.
Copyright © World Spirituality · All Rights Reserved