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the Statutes of Kilkenny, it was enacted, “ that marriage, nurture of infants, and gossipred with the Irish should be considered and punished as high treason ;” and “it was also made highly penal to the English to permit their Irish neigh. bors to graze their lands, to present them to ecclesiastical benefices, or to receive them into monasteries and religious houses.” Even the poverty and misery of the poor Irish were proscribed, and it was made penal“ to entertain their bards, who perverted the imagination by romantic tales.”
“In the reign of Edward the Third," says Leland,“ pride and self-interest concurred in regarding and representing the Irish as a race utterly irreclaimable.” Four hundred years after, in the time of Swift, it was the fashion, he tells us, in England,“ to think and affirm that the Irish cannot be too hardly used.”
The Reformation in religion by Henry the Eighth was said to be a great good accomplished by most wicked means. However beneficial in its consequences, its origin and principal features bore the marks of its capricious, cruel, and rapacious author.
The Abbė Millot says, in his history, that England, in embracing the Protestant faith, went astray from the road to salvation, but the change was greatly for her temporal advantage.
It is important for a man's temporal salvation at least, to select the right time for changing his religion or politics. The same is true of sovereigns and nations. When the star of Napoleon was on the decline, the king of Saxony, more grateful than prudent, adhered too long to the cause of his imperial benefactor. He was punished for his unseasonable fidelity by the loss of half his dominions. It was said that the only difference between him and his brother sovereigns who had been arrayed under the same banner, was in his watch being slower than theirs. Their watches, we may suppose, were regulated by the rising sun, and pointed to the happy moment for deserting the falling fortunes of the emperor, and thus they not only preserved their old inheritances, but acquired new territories.
Henry the Eighth, by uniting in his own person all civil and ecclesiastical authority, became one of the most absolute monarchs that England or Europe has ever seen. He was not only king of England, but, what none of his predecessors had ever been, he was also the supreme head of the Church of England and the Church of Ireland. He assumed all the power of king and pope in both countries, and was well disposed to exercise to the full extent his prerogative in both these capacities. As supreme head of the Church, he determined all creeds and articles of faith to be received by his subjects; and any deviation from the prescribed faith of the day — for it was frequently changed, according to the king's caprice, -subjected the offender to capital punishment. Parliaments and courts of justice were always disposed to do his bidding, and were in fact most convenient instruments to execute his will. The Parliament even went so far as to enact that the king's proclamation should have the force of law.
Thus, Lords and Commons, judges and juries, were equally submissive, and ready to condemn to the stake or the scaffold all who had incurred the king's displeasure. Queens, chancellors, dukes, lords, bishops, abbots, clergy, and laymen were liable at any time, at the pleasure of the sovereign and supreme head of the Church, to be hanged for treason or burnt for heresy as the occasion might require.
One of the most curious incidents of the American Revolution, was the English government's calling in aid the criminal code of Henry the Eighth to quell the disaffection in the colonies. Near the close of IIenry's reign, and not long after “ the bloody statute” was passed, and when the criminal legislation of this great reform may be supposed to have been brought near to its perfection, a law was passed to extend the king's jurisdiction beyond the sea, and bring to England for trial persons charged with treason committed out of the realm. When, during the seventeenth century, the Spanish statesmen were at a loss what to do, it was usual to say, “ Let us consult the genius of Philip the Second.” So the British ministry of George the Third, in their difficulties with the colonies, after trying in vain various measures of their own, thought it best to consult the genius of Henry the Eighth, who was so successful in putting down treason and rebellion, and whose will no man braved with impunity. The Parliament, accordingly, in order to try the efficacy of the criminal code of this formidable legislator upon the Americans, petitioned the king to cause the colonists charged with treason in America to be brought to England and tried under the statute of Henry the Eighth.
No wonder it was thought the Americans would at once 'be frightened into submission by the prospect of being transported to England and tried under the criminal code of Henry the Eighth. The experiment would undoubtedly have been successful, and have completely extinguished treason and rebellion in America, if the king and his ministers had only been able to bring the culprits to England for trial.
Ilume remarks that, in the reign of Henry the Eighth, the English were so thoroughly subdued that, like Eastern slaves, they were inclined to admire those acts of violence and tyranny which were exercised over themselves and at their own expense. By an act of Parliament, Henry was recognized to have been always, by the word of God, supreme head of the Church of England, and it was also declared by the act that archbishops and bishops have no manner of jurisdiction but by the royal mandate, and that to him alone, and such persons as he should appoint, full power and authority are given, from above, to hear and determine all manner of causes ecclesiastical, and to correct all manner of heresies, errors, vices, and sins whatsoever.
The English nation, in general, seem to have displayed much more facility than the Irish in abandoning the faith of their fathers and adopting the creed prescribed by Henry. The great body of the people seemed ready to follow him in all the successive changes which he made, and to embrace the orthodox standard of the day, any deviation from which was a capital offence. The Irish, perhaps as much from hatred to the English as from any other cause, seemed resolved to persevere in the religion of their ancestors.
We come now to the reign of Elizabeth, which, howerer glorious for England, was most disastrous for the Emerald Isle :
“ In the time of Elizabeth, however, the wars with O'Neil and Desmond, which were carried on, on both sides, with frightful barbarity, terminated in the absolute confiscation of all the possessions of those great chiefs, comprehending the whole provinces of Ulster and Munster, and much of the adjoining country; and the whole of this vast region was immediately divided among the English adventurers, who had flocked to the distracted land for the purpose of enriching themselves by its plunder, and had undoubtedly sought both to provoke and to perpetuate the wars, with a view to this desirable result."
It is enough for us to remark that, under the sway of Sydney, Grey, and Essex, not only were the most inhuman butcheries practised upon the Irish, but a disposition unequivocally manifested, by these and other provocations, to goad them into irreconcilable hostility, with a direct view to the profit to be derived from their forfeitures. It is also certain that Eliza
66 If it goes on,
beth herself, though ignorant perhaps of the cruelties actually perpetrated by her officers, was perfectly aware of this detestable principle, and of its efficacy in reconciling her armies to the continuance of the war.
,” she is known to have said to her council, “it will be the better for you, for there will be estates for you all.”—(Ed. Review of 0. Driscoll's History of Ireland, No. 92, Article 7.)
The following quotations are froin the poet Spenser's“ State of Ireland.” Spenser was secretary of the Lord Deputy Grey, and held a grant of the forfeited lands in Ireland, where he resided several years, and had a thorough knowledge of its concerns :
“ The governors are usually envious of one another's greater glory, which, if they would seek to excel by better government, it would be a most laudable emulation. But they doe quite otherwise. For this is the common order of them, that who cometh next in place will not follow that course of government which his predecessors held, either for his disdaine of himself, or doubt to have his doings drowned in another man's praise, but will straight take a way quite contrary to the former, as if the former thought, by keeping under the Irish, to reform them; the next, by discountenancing the English, will curry favor with the Irish, and so make his government seem plausible, as having the Irish at his command. But he that comes after will perhaps follow neither the one nor the other, but will dandle the one and the other in such sort as he will sucke sweet out of them both, and leave bitternesse to the poor country.”
The desolation brought upon the province of Munster by the war into which the great Irish leader, the Earl of Desmond, was driven, by those who wished for his vast possessions, is thus described by Spenser :
“ Notwithstanding,” says Spenser, “that the same was a most rich and plentiful country, yet, ere one year and a half, they were brought to such wretchedness as that any stony heart would rue the same. Out of every corner of their woods and glynns they came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs could not bear them; they looked like anatomies of death; they spake like ghosts crying out of their graves; they did eat the dead carrions, happy where they could find them; yea, and one another soon after; insomuch, as the very carcasses they spared not to scrape out of their graves, and if they found a plot of water-cresses or shamrocks, there they flocked as to a feast for the time, yet not able to continue there withal; that in short space there was none almost left, and a most populous and plentiful country suddenly left void of man and beast.”
The same system was adopted in Leinster and Ulster, as famine was supposed the most speedy and effectual method of reducing the Irish to submission, and to acquiescence in the confiscation of all their lands:
“ The soldiers,” says Moryson, “encouraged by the example of their officers, everywhere cut down the standing corn with their swords, and devised every means to deprive the wretched inhabitants of all the necessaries of life. The like expedient was practised in the northern provinces. The governor of Carrickfergus, Sir Arthur Chichester, issued from his quarters, and, for twenty miles round, reduced the country to a desert.”
Thus, for about four hundred and forty years, during the reigns of all the Plantagenets and all the Tudors, the Irish, with very few and short exceptions, did not have the protection of law or the common rights of humanity.
The English kings, during the whole of this period, claimed the allegiance of the Irish, and the homage of their chiefs; yet, with a strange inconsistency, refused them that regular government and administration of justice which they earnestly sought, and which all rulers owe to their subjects. By the wars, massacres, famines, and confiscations, both the native Irish and also the Anglo-Irish had become so much broken, subdued, and weakened, as to cease their resistance to the English, and to wait passively, hoping for better things in the next reign.
These hopes were doomed to disappointment. James the First, before his accession to the English throne, had made favorable promises to the Catholics, in which they placed much confidence. But he soon took care to undeceive them. One of his early proclamations ordered a general jail delivery, with the exception of murderers and papists. To prevent the Irish from making any mistake as to his intentions, a proclamation was issued, stating:
“ Whereas his majesty is informed that his subjects in Ireland have been deceived by a false report, that his majesty was disposed to allow them liberty of conscience and the free choice of religion, he hereby declares to his beloved subjects of Ireland that he will not admit any such liberty of conscience as they were made to expect by such report.”
His majesty kept his word, in this instance. The priests were banished, and the exercise of the Catholic religion pro