Irish Race in the Past and the Present
Aug. J. Thebaud

Part 7 out of 14

avowedly one of blood and destruction.

Well-intentioned and otherwise well-informed writers, among them
Mr. Prendergast, seem to consider that the main object of the
atrocious proceedings we now proceed to glance at was "greed,"
and that the English Government merely connived at the covetous
desires of adventurers and undertakers, who wished to destroy
the Irish and occupy their lands; for, as Spenser says "Sure it
was a most beautiful and sweete country as any under heaven,
being stored throughout with many goodly rivers, replenished
with all sorts of fish most abundantly; sprinkled with many very
sweete islands, and goodly lakes like little inland seas;
adorned with goodly woods; also full of very good ports and
havens opening upon England as inviting us to come into them."

Such, according to those writers, was the policy of England from
the first landing of Strongbow on the shores of Erin, and even
during the preceding four centuries, when both races were
Catholic, and the conversion of the natives to Protestantism
could not enter the thoughts of the invaders.

This, to a certain extent, is true. Still, it seems very
doubtful to us that Elizabeth should have undertaken so many
wars in Ireland, which lasted through her whole reign, and on
which she employed all the strength and resources of England,
merely to please a certain number of nobles who wished to find
foreign estates whereon to settle their numerous offspring.

The chief importance, in her eyes, of the conquest was clearly
to establish her spiritual superiority in that part of her
dominions. She would have left the native nobles at peace, and
even conferred on them her choicest favors, had they only
consented, as English subjects, to break with Rome. Rome had
excommunicated her; Pius V. had released her subjects from their
allegiance because of her heresy, and Ireland did not reject the
bull of the Pope. This in her eyes constituted the great and
unpardonable offence of the Irish. And that, for her, the whole
question bore a religious character, will appear more clearly
from her conduct toward the Catholic Church throughout her reign.
Into this part of our subject the examination of the step taken
by Pius V. naturally enters, and, in examining it, we shall see
whether, and how far, the Irish can be called rebels and

In his history of the Reformation, Dr. Heylin says of Elizae's
supremacy could not stand together, and she could not possibly
maintain the one without discarding the other." This is
perfectly true, and furnishes us with the key to all her church

She pretended to be a Catholic during Mary's reign; but it was
merely pretence. To persevere in Catholicity required of her the
sacrifice of her political aspirations; for the Church could not
admit of her legitimacy, and consequently her title to the crown
of England. Hence, upon the death of Mary Tudor, the Queen of
Scots immediately assumed the title of Queen of England; and
although the Pope, then Pius IV., did not immediately declare
himself in favor of Mary Stuart, but reserved his decision for a
future period, nevertheless, the view of the case adopted by the
Pontiff could not be mistaken. Elizabeth's legitimacy, or, as
Heylin has it, "legitimation and the Pope's supremacy could not
stand together." No course was left open to her, then, than to
reject the pontifical authority, and establish her own in her
dominions, as she did not possess faith enough to set her soul
above a crown; and the success of her father, Henry VIII., and
of her half-brother, Edward VI., encouraged her in this step.
This fully explains her policy. It became a principle with her
that, to accept the Pope's supremacy in spirituals, was to deny
her legitimacy, and consequently to be guilty of treason against
her. This made the position of Catholics in England and Ireland
a most trying one. But their moral duty was clear enough, and
every other obligation had to give way before that. In the
persecution which followed they were certainly martyrs to their
duty and their religion.

That the question of the succession in England was an open one,
must be admitted by every candid man. Who was the legitimate
Queen of England at the death of Mary Tudor? The Queen of Scots
assumed the title, and, as the legitimate offspring of the
sister of Henry VIII., she had the right to it as the nearest
direct descendant in the event of Elizabeth's pretensions not
being admitted by the nation. The nation at the time was in fact,
though not in right, the nobles, who enriched themselves at the
expense of the Church, and were therefore deeply interested in
the exclusion of Catholic principles. A Parliament composed of
the nobles had already acknowledged Elizabeth to the exclusion
of the Queen of Scots, and the former decision was reaffirmed as
against a "female pretender" supported by a foreign power,
namely, France.

England, that is to say, the corrupt nobility of the kingdom, by
taking upon itself that decision, refused to submit the question
to the arbitration of the Pope; and thus, for the first time,
the principles which had guided Christendom for eight hundred
years, were discarded. Yet, under Mary, the Catholic Church had
been declared the Church of the state; at her death, no change
took place; the mass of the people was still Catholic. It took
Elizabeth her whole reign to make the English a thoroughly
Protestant people. The great mass of the nation came
consequently then, even legally, under the law of mediaeval
times, which surrendered the decision of such cases into the
hands of the Roman Pontiff.

Again, when we reflect that our preset object is the
consideration of who was the legitimate Queen of Ireland, the
question becomes clearer and simpler still. The supremacy of
Henry VIII. had never been acknowledged in the island, even by
those who had subscribed to the decrees of the Parliament of
1541 and 1569. The Irish chieftains had not only never assented,
but had always preserved their independence in all, save the
suzerainty of the English monarchs, and they were at the time,
without exception, Catholics. For them, therefore, the Pope was
the expounder of the law of succession to the throne, as, up to
that time, he had been generally recognized in Europe. Elizabeth,
consequently, as an acknowledged illegitimate child, could not
become a legitimate queen without a positive declaration and
election by the true representatives of the people, approved by
the Pope. Her assumption, then, of the supreme government was a
mere usurpation. The theory of governments de facto being obeyed
as quasi-legitimate had not yet been mooted among lawyers and
theologians. With respect to the whole question, there can be no
doubt as to the conclusion at which any able constitutional
jurist of our days would arrive.

Could usurped rights such as these invest Elizabeth with
authority to declare herself paramount not only in political but
also in religious matters? And, because she was called queen,
can it be considered treason for an Irishman to believe in the
spiritual supremacy of the Pope? Yet, unless we look upon as
martyrs those who died on the rack and the gibbet in Ireland
during her reign, because they refused to admit in a woman the
title of Vicar of Christ, to such decision must we come.

The policy of the English queen toward Catholic bishops, priests,
and monks, presents the question in a still stronger light. Its
chief feature will now come before us, and will show how all of
these suffered for Christ. We say all, because not only those
are included in the category who held aloof from politics and
confined themselves to the exercise of their spiritual functions,
but those also who, at the bidding of the Pope, or following
the natural promptings of their own inclinations, favored the so-
called rebellion of the Geraldine and of the Ulster chieftains.
The lives and death of both are now well known, and to both we
award the title of heroes and Christian martyrs.

As it would be too long to present here a complete picture of
those events, and trace the biography of many of those who
suffered persecution at that time, we content ourselves with two
faithful representatives of the classes above mentioned--Richard
Creagh, Archbishop of Armagh, and Dr. Hurley, Archbishop of
Cashel. The case of the great Oliver Plunkett, who suffered
under Charles II., and who was the victim of the entire English
nation, is beyond our present discussion.

The biography of the first of these has been written by several
authors, who, agreeing as to the main facts of his history,
differ only in their chronology. Dr. Roothe's account is the
longest of all and is intricate, and subject to some confusion
with regard to dates; but a sketch of that life, which appeared
in the Rambler of April, 1853, is the most consistent and easily
reconciled with the well-known facts of the general history of
the period, and therefore we follow it:

Richard Creagh, proposed for the See of Armagh by the nuncio,
David Wolfe, arrived at Limerick in the August of 1560, at the
very beginning of the reign of Elizabeth. Pius IV., who was then
Pontiff, had not come to any conclusion respecting the
sovereignty of England, and did not openly declare himself in
favor of the right of Mary Stuart to the crown. The Pope, not
having given any positive injunctions to Archbishop Creagh, with
regard to his political conduct, the latter was left free to
follow the dictates of his conscience. He came only with a
letter, to Shane O'Neill, who, at the time, was almost
independent in Ulster.

Not only did the archbishop not take any part in the political
measures of the Ulster chieftain, who was often at war with
Elizabeth, but he soon came to a disagreement with him on purely
conscientious grounds, and finally excommunicated him. In the
midst of the many difficulties which surrounded him, he resolved
to inculcate peace and loyalty to Elizabeth throughout Ulster,
asking of Shane only one favor, that of founding colleges and
schools, and thinking that, by remaining loyal to the queen, he
might obtain her assistance in founding a university. The good
prelate little knew the character of the woman with whom he had
to deal, imagining probably that the decree of her spiritual
supremacy would remain a dead letter for the priesthood, as had
been falsely promised to the laity.

But he was not left long to indulge in these delusions; for, in
the act of celebrating mass in a monastery of his diocese, he
was betrayed by some informer, and was arrested by a troop of
soldiers, who conducted him before the government authorities,
by whom he was sent to London and confined in the Tower on
January 18,1565. He was there several times interrogated by
Cecil and the Recorder of London, who could easily ascertain
that the prelate was altogether guiltless of political intrigue.

He escaped miraculously, passed through Louvain, went to Spain,
at the time at peace with England, and, wishing to return to
Ireland, wrote, through the Spanish ambassador, to Leicester,
then all-powerful with the queen, to protest beforehand that, if
the Pope should order him to return to his diocese, he intended
only to render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is
God's. Even then, after his prison experience of several months,
he thought that, if he could persuade Elizabeth that he was
truly loyal to her, she would forgive him his Catholicity.

Receiving no answer, he set sail for his country, where he
landed in August, 1566, and shortly after wrote to Sir Henry
Sidney, then lord-deputy, in the very terms he had used with
Leicester, and proposing in addition to use his efforts in
inducing Shane O'Neill to conclude peace.

What Sidney and his masters in London, Cecil and Leicester, must
have thought of the simplicity of this good man, it is
impossible to say. They condescended to return no answer to his
more than straightforward communication, save the short verbal
reply concerning O'Neill: "We have given forth speach of his
extermination by war."

The good prelate, after having so clearly defined his position,
thought he might safely follow the dictates of his conscience,
and govern his flock in peace; but he was soon taken prisoner,
in April, 1567, by O'Shaughnessy, who received a special letter
of thanks from Elizabeth for his services on this occasion.

Bv order of the queen, he was tried in Dublin; but, so clear was
the case before them, that even a Protestant jury could not
convict him. The honest Dublin jurors were therefore cast into
prison and heavily fined, while the prelate was once again
transferred to London, whence he a second time escaped by the
connivance of his jailor.

Retaken in 1567, he was handed over to the queen's officers,
under a pledge that his life would be spared. And, in
consequence of this pledge alone, was he never brought to trial,
but kept a close prisoner in the Tower for eighteen years, until
in 1585 he was, according to all reliable accounts, deliberately

This simple narrative certainly proves that in Elizabeth's eyes,
the mere sustaining the Pope's spiritual supremacy was treason,
and every Catholic consequently, because Catholic, a traitor
deserving death. True, the Irish prelates, monks, and people,
might have imitated the majority of the English nobles and
people in accepting the new dogma. In that case, they would have
become truly loyal and dutiful subjects, and been admitted to
all the rights of citizenship; the nobles would have retained
possession of their estates, the gentry obtained seats in the
Irish Parliament; while the common people, renouncing clanship,
absurd old traditions, the memory of their ancestors, together
with their obedience to the See of Rome, would not have been
excluded from the benefits of education; would have been allowed
to engage in trades and manufactures; would have been permitted
to keep their land, or hold it by long leases; would have
enjoyed the privilege of dwelling in walled towns and cities, if
they felt no inclination for agriculture. They would have become
no doubt "a highly-prosperous" nation, as the English and Scotch
of our days have become, partakers of all the advantages of the
glorious British Constitution, cultivating the fields of their
ancestors, and converting their beautiful island into a paradise
more enchanting than the rich meadows and wheat-fields of
England itself.

On the other hand, they would have obtained all those temporal
advantages at the expense of their faith, which no one had a
right to take from them; in their opinion, and in that of
millions of their fellow-Catholics, they would have forfeited
their right to heaven, and the Irish have always been
unreasonable enough to prefer heaven to earth. They have
preferred, as the holy men of old of whom St. Paul speaks, "to
be stoned, cut asunder, tempted, put to death by the sword, to
wander about in sheep-skins, in oat-skins; being in want,
distressed, afflicted, of whom the word was not worthy;
wandering in deserts, in mountains, in dens, and in the caves of
the earth, being approved by the testimony of faith:" that is to
say, having the testimony of their conscience and the approval
of God, and considering this better than worldly prosperity and
earthly happiness.

Turning now to those prelates, monks, and priests, who during
Elizabeth's reign took part in Irish politics against the queen,
can we on that account deny them the title of martyrs to their

Dr. Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel, whose memoirs were published
by Miles O'Reilly, may be taken as a type of this class. Suppose,
as well grounded, although never proved, the suspicion of the
English Government with regard to his political mission.
Prelates and priests, generally speaking, were put to death
under Elizabeth, or confined to dungeons on mere suspicion, and,
as we have seen in the case of the Archbishop of Armagh, even
clear proofs of their innocence would not save them.

On his father's side, Dr. Hurley was naturally in the interest
of James Geraldine, Earl of Desmond; and, on his mother's, he
belonged to the royal family of O' Briens of Munster.
Consecrated Archbishop of Cashel at Rome in 1550, under Gregory
XIII., during the Geraldine rebellion, he was compelled to use
the utmost precaution in entering Ireland. The police of
Elizabeth was particularly active at that time in hunting up
priests and monks throughout the whole island, but particularly
in the south.

The archbishop escaped all these dangers, and he avoided the
certain denunciation of Walter Baal, the Mayor of Dublin
probably, who was then actually persecuting his mother, Dame
Eleanor Birmingham; he fled to the castle of Thomas Fleming, who
concealed him in a secret chamber in his house and treated him
as a friend. But when everybody thought the danger past, and
that it was no longer imprudent for him to mix in the society of
the castle, he was suspected by an Anglo-Irishman of the name of
Dillon, denounced by him, and finally surrendered by Thomas
Fleming, and conveyed to Dublin, where proceedings were set on
foot against him by the Irish Council and the queen's ministers
in England.

His imprisonment was coincident with the suppression of the
rising in Munster, and the Earl of Desmond was beginning that
frightful outlaw-life which only ended with his miserable death.

The object of the archbishop's accusers was to connect him with
the designs of Rome and the Munster insurrection; and the state
papers preserved in London have disclosed to us the
correspondence between Adam Loftus, the Protestant Archbishop of
Dublin, on the one side, and Walsingham and Cecil on the other.

The only proofs of the Archbishop's having joined the southern
confederacy were: 1. Suspicions, as he was consecrated in Rome
about the time of the sailing of the expedition under James
Fitzmaurice; 2. The information of a certain Christopher
Barnwell, then in jail, who was promised his life if he could
furnish proofs enough to convict the prelate. The value of the
testimony of an "informer" under such circumstances is
proverbial; yet all Barnwell could allege was, that "he was
present at a conversation in Rome between Dr. Hurley and
Cardinal Comensis, the Pope's secretary, and, the result of the
whole conversation was, "that the doctor did not know nor
believe that the Earl of Kildare had joined the rebellion of
Fitzmaurice and Desmond, and he was rebuked by the cardinal for
not believing it."

This was considered overwhelming proof against him, in spite of
his positive denial. Torture was applied, but the most awful
sufferings could not wring from him the acknowledgment of having
taken part in the conspiracy. Yet Loftus and Wallop were of
opinion that he was a "rebel" and ought to be put to death. The
only difficulty which presented itself to the "Lords Justices"
of Ireland was, that there was no statute in Ireland against
"traitors" who had plotted beyond the seas, and they asked that
the archbishop should either be sent to be tried in England, or
tried in Ireland by martial law, which would screen them from

This last favor was granted them; and the holy archbishop was
taken from prison at early dawn, on a Friday, either in May or
June, 1584. He was barbarously hanged in a withey (withe)
calling on God, and forgiving his torturers with all his heart.

Our purpose is not to inveigh against this judicial murder, and,
by further details, increase the horror which every honest man
must feel at the narrative of such atrocious proceedings. We
will suppose, on the contrary, that the cooperation of the
Archbishop of Cashel with Fitzmaurice and Desmond, and even with
the Pope and King of Spain, had been clearly proved--as it is
certain that, if not in this case, at least in some others,
during the reign of Elizabeth, the bishops or priests accused
had really taken part in the attempt of the Irish to free
themselves from such tyranny--and insist that, even then, the
murdered Catholic ecclesiastics really died for their religion,
and could be called "rebels" in no sense whatever.

First, the question might arise as to how far the Irish were
subject to the English crown. We have seen how, a few years
before, Gillapatrick, of Ossory, asserted his right of making
war on England, when he felt sufficient provocation. Under
Elizabeth the case was still clearer, at least for Catholics,
after the excommunication of the queen by Pius V. As we have
seen, the chief title of England to Ireland rested on two
pretended papal bulls: another Pope could and did recall the
grant, which had been founded on misrepresentation. Up to that
time, there had been no real subjection by conquest, outside of
the Pale, which formed but an insignificant part of the island.

Under such circumstances, it must at least be admitted that a
radically and clearly unjust law, imposed by a foreign though
perhaps suzerain power, could be justly resisted by force of
arms. And such was the case in Ireland. The Queen of England--
the Irish Parliament of 1539 had no other authority than that of
the queen, and represented no part of the people--had made it
rebellion for the Irish to remain faithful to their religion.
What could prevent the Irish from resisting such pretension,
even at the cost of effusion of blood? The early Christians,
under the Roman Empire, it is true, never rose in arms against
the bloody edicts of the Caesars or the Antonines; but the cases
are not parallel.

Suppose that Greece or Asia Minor had never succumbed to the
Roman power, and had become entirely Christian: no one would
refuse to admit their right to offer armed resistance to the
extension of the edicts of persecution into their territory. On
the contrary, it would have been their duty to do so: and every
one of their inhabitants, who was taken and executed as a rebel,
would have been crowned with the martyr's crown.

At this point, indeed, comes in the consideration of the special
motive which animated each belligerent, even when fighting on
the right side. We are far from saying that all the Irishmen,
particularly the leaders and chieftains who at that time ranged
themselves under the banners of the Desmonds or the O'Neills,
fought purely for Christ and religion. Many of them, no doubt,
engaged in the contest from mere worldly motives, perhaps even
for purposes unworthy of Christians; and in this case, those who
fell in the struggle were in no sense soldiers of Christ.

But how many such are to be found among the bishops, priests, or
monks, who perished under Elizabeth? May it not be said of them
that, to a man, they fell for the sake of religion? We may even
be bold enough to say that the majority of the common Irish
people who lost their lives in those wars may be placed in the
same category as their spiritual rulers, being in reality the
upholders of right and the champions of Catholicity.

Let it be remembered that, at the period of which we speak, the
only real question involved in the contest was gradually
assuming more and more a religious character. Henry VIII. and
his deputy, St. Leger, had struck a fatal blow at clanship and
Irish institutions in general, by bestowing on and compelling
the chieftains to accept English titles, and by investing them
with new deeds of their lands under feudal tenure. By Elizabeth,
the same policy was steadily and successfully pursued, her court
being always graced by the presence of young Irish lords,
educated under her own eyes, and loaded with all her royal
favors. All she asked of them in return was that they should
become Queen's men. The repugnance once felt by Irishmen for
that gilded slavery was each day becoming less marked. But,
while every thing was seemingly working so well for the
attainment of Elizabeth's object at the commencement of her
reign, a new feature suddenly shows itself, and grows rapidly
into prominence --the attachment of the Irish to their religion,
and the violent opposition to the change always kept foremost in
view by the queen, namely the substitution of her spiritual
supremacy for that of the Pope.

Thus we find the Irish leaders, when proclaiming their
grievances, either on the eve of war, or the signing of a treaty
of peace, always giving their religious convictions the first
place on the list. The religious question, then, was becoming
more and more the question, and, notwithstanding all her fine
assurances that she would not infringe upon the religious
predilections of the laity, Elizabeth's great purpose, in
Ireland and in England, was to destroy Catholicity, by
destroying the priesthood, root and-branch.

The nobles showed how fully convinced they were of this, when
they carne to adopt a system of concealment, even of duplicity,
to which Irishmen ought never to have been weak enough to submit.
Not only were the practices of their religion confined to
places where no Englishman or Protestant could penetrate, but
gradually they allowed their houses--those sanctuaries of
freedom--to be invaded by the pursuivants of the queen,
searching for priests or monks "lately arrived from Rome."

Secret apartments were constructed by skilful architects in
noblemen's manors; recesses were artfully contrived under the
roofs, in roomy staircases, or even in basements and cellars.
There the unfortunate minister of religion was confined for
weeks and months, creeping forth only at night, to breathe the
fresh air at the top of the house or in the thick shrubbery of
the adjoining park. All the means of evading the law used by the
Christians of the first centuries were reproduced and resorted
to in Catholic Ireland by chieftains who possessed the "secret
promise" of the queen that their religion should not be
interfered with, and that her supremacy should not be enforced
against them.

Not thus did the people act: their keen sense of injustice took
in at once all the circumstances of the case. It was a religious
persecution, nothing else; and this the nobles also felt in
their inmost souls. The people saw the ministers of religion
hunted down, seized, dragged to prison, tried, convicted,
barbarously executed; they recognized it in its reality as a
sheer attempt to destroy Catholicity, and as such they opposed
it by every means in their power. They beheld the monks and
friars treated as though they had been wild beasts; the soldiers
falling on them wherever they met them, and putting them to
death with every circumstance of cruelty and insult, without
trial, without even the identification required for outlaws. Mr.
Miles O'Reilly's book, "Irish Martyrs," is full of cases of this
kind. Hence the people frequently offered open resistance to the
execution of the law; the soldiers had to disperse the mob; but
the real mob was the very troop commanded by English officers.

When at length the Irish lords no longer dared offer asylum to
the outlawed priesthood in their manors and castles, the hut of
the peasant lay open to them still. The greater the quantity of
blood poured out by the executors of the barbarous laws, the
greater the determination of the people to protect the oppressed
and save the Lord's anointed.

Then opened a scene which had never been witnessed, even under
the most cruel persecutions of the tyrants of old Rome. The
whole strength of the English kingdom had been called into play
to crush the Irish nobility during the wars of Ulster and
Munster; the whole police of the same kingdom was now put in
requisition for the apprehension and destruction of church-men.
Nay, from this very occupation, the great police system which
since that time has flourished in most European states, arose,
being invented or at least perfected for the purpose.

Then, for the first time in modern history, numbers of "spies"
and "informers" were paid for the service of English ministers
of state. Not only did the cities of England and Ireland, harbor
cities chiefly, swarm with them, but they covered the whole
country; they were to be found everywhere: around the humble
dwelling of the peasant and the artisan, in the streets and on
the highways, inspecting every stranger who might be a friar or
monk in disguise. They spread through the whole European
Continent--along the coast and in the interior of France and
Belgium, Italy and Spain, in the churches, convents, and
colleges, even in the courts of princes, and, as we have seen in
the case of Dr. Hurley, in the very halls of the Vatican. The
English state papers have disclosed their secret, and the whole
history is now before us.

To support this army of spies and informers, the soldiers of
that other army of England, who were employed either in keeping
England under the yoke or in crushing freedom and religion out
of Ireland, did not disdain to execute the orders which
converted them into policemen and sbirri. And it may be said, to
their credit, that they executed those orders with a ferocious
alacrity unequalled in the annals of military life in other
countries. If, during the most fearful commotions in France, the
army has been employed for a similar purpose, it must be
acknowledged that, as far as the troops were concerned, they
performed their unwelcome task with reluctance, and softened
down, at least, their execution, by considerate manners and
respectful demeanor. But these soldiers of Elizabeth showed
themselves, from first to last, full of ferocity. They generally
went far beyond the letter of their orders; they took an inhuman
delight in adding insult to injury, uniting in their persons the
double character of preservers of public order and ruffianly
executioners of innocent victims. Many and many a record of
their barbarity is kept to this day. We add a few, only to
justify our necessarily severe language:

"The Rev. Thaddeus Donald and John Hanly received their martyr's
crown on the 10th of August, 1580. They had long labored among
the suffering faithful along the southwestern coast of Ireland.
When the convent of Bantry was seized by the English troops,
these holy men received their wished-for crown of martyrdom.
Being conducted to a high rock impending over the sea, they were
tied back to back, and precipitated into the waves beneath."

"In the convent of Enniscorthy, Thaddeus O'Meran, father-
guardian of the convent, Felix O'Hara, and Henry Layhode, under
the government of Henry Wallop, Viceroy of Ireland, were taken
prisoners by the soldiers, for five days tortured in various
ways, and then slain."

"Rev. Donatus O'Riedy, of Connaught, and parish priest of
Coolrah, when the soldiers of Elizabeth rushed into the village,
sought refuge in the church; but in vain, for he was there
hanged near the high altar, and afterward pierced with swords,
12th of June, 1582."

"While Drury was lord-deputy, about 1577, Fergal Ward, a
Franciscan, . . . fell into the hands of the soldiery, and,
being scourged with great barbarity, was hanged from the
branches of a tree with the cincture of his own religious habit."

In order to find a parallel to atrocities such as these, we must
go back to the record of some of the sufferings of the early
martyrs--St. Ignatius of Antioch, for instance, who wrote of the
guards appointed to conduct him to Italy: "From Syria as far as
Rome, I had to fight with wild beasts, on sea and on land, tied
night and day to a pack of ten leopards, that is to say, ten
soldiers who kept me, and were the more ferocious the more I
tried to be kind to them."

Instances of such extreme cruelty are rare, even in the Acts of
the early martyrs, but they meet us every moment in the memoirs
of the days of Elizabeth. Both the police-spies and the soldier-
police were animated with the rage and fury which must have
possessed the soul of the queen herself; for, after all, the
cruelty practised in her reign, and mostly under her orders, was
not necessary in order to secure her throne to her, during life;
and, as she could hope for no posterity of her own, it was not
the desire of retaining the crown to her children which could
excuse so much bloodshed and suffering. She evidently followed
the promptings of a cruel heart in those atrocious measures
which constitute the feature of the home policy of her reign.
The persecution which raged incessantly throughout her long
career, in Ireland and England, is surely one of the most bloody
in the annals of the Catholic Church.



It cost Elizabeth the greater part of her reign in time, and all
the growing resources of a united England in material, to
establish her spiritual supremacy in Ireland; and yet, when, at
her death, Mountjoy received orders to conclude peace on
honorable terms with the Ulster chieftains, her darling policy
was abandoned; and failure, in fact, confessed.

On the 30th of March, 1603, Hugh O'Neill and Mountjoy met by
appointment at Mellifont Abbey, where the terms of peace were
exchanged. O'Neill, having declared his submission, was granted
amnesty for the past, restored to his rank, notwithstanding his
attainder and outlawry, and reinstated in his dignity of Earl of
Tyrone. Himself and his people were to enjoy the "full and free
exercise of their religion;" new letters-patent were issued
restoring to him and other northern chieftains almost the whole
of the lands occupied by their respective clans.

O'Neill, on his part, was to renounce forever his title of
"O'Neill," and allow English law to prevail in his territory.

How this last condition could agree with the full and free
exercise of the Catholic religion, the treaty did not explain;
but it is evident that the new acts of Parliament respecting
religion were not to be included in the English law admitted by
the Ulster chiefs.

Meanwhile, the descendants of Strongbow's companions had been
completely subdued in the south, Munster having been devastated,
and the Geraldines utterly destroyed. Yet, even there,
Protestantism was not acknowledged by such of the inhabitants as
were left.

It may be well to compare here the different results which
attended the declaration of the queen's supremacy in England and

At the commencement of Elizabeth's reign, England was still,
outwardly at least, as Catholic as Ireland. Henry VIII. had only
aimed at starting a schism; the Protestantism established under
Edward had been completely swept away during Mary's short reign.
Could Elizabeth only have hoped to be acknowledged queen by the
Pope, there can be little doubt that, even for political motives,
she would have refrained from disturbing the peace of the
country for the sake of introducing heresy. Religion was nothing
to her--the crown every thing.

It was not so easy a matter for her to establish heresy as for
Henry to introduce schism. All the bishops of Henry's reign,
with the exception of Fisher, had renounced their allegiance to
Rome, in order to please the sovereign; all the bishops of
Mary's nomination remained faithful to Rome; and so difficult
was it to find somebody who should consecrate the new prelates
created by Elizabeth, that Catholic writers have, we believe,
shown beyond question that no one of the intruding prelates was
really consecrated.

Nevertheless, at the end of Elizabeth's reign, there is no doubt
that the English people, with a few individual exceptions, were
Protestant; and Protestants they have ever since remained.

In Dr. Madden's "History of the Penal Laws," we read "Father
Campian was betrayed by one of Walsingham's spies, George Eliot,
and found secreted in the house of Mr. Yates, of Lyford, in
Berkshire, along with two other priests, Messrs. Ford and
Collington. Eliot and his officers made a show of their
prisoners to the multitude, and the sight of the priests in the
hands of the constables was a matter of mockery to the unwise
multitude. This was a frequent occurrence in conveying captured
priests from one jail to another, or from London to Oxford, or
vice versa, and it would seem, instead of finding sympathy from
the populace, they met with contumely, insult, and sometimes
even brutal violence. This is singular, and not easily accounted
for; of the fact, there can be no doubt."

Dr. Madden probably considered that, within a few years after
the change of religion, the English people ought to have shown
themselves as firm Catholics as did the Irish. But the
explanation of the contumely and violence is easy: it was an
English and not an Irish populace. The first had altogether
forgotten the faith of their childhood, the second could not be
brought to forsake it. The difficulty, in accounting for the
difference between them, is in getting at its true cause; and to
us it seems that one of the chief causes was the difference of

The English upper classes, as a whole, were utterly indifferent
to religion; the one thing which affected them, soul and body,
was their temporal interests, and, to judge by their ready
acquiescence in all the changes set forth at the commencement of
the last chapter, they would as soon have turned Mussulmen as
Calvinists. The lower classes, at first merely passive, became
afterward possessed by a genuine fanaticism for the new creed
established by the Thirty-nine Articles; so that, from that
period until quite recently--and the spirit still lives--an
English mob was always ready to demolish Catholic chapels, and
establishments of any kind, wherever the piety of a few had
succeeded in erecting such, however quietly.

It is evident from the facts mentioned that, prior even to that
extraordinary religious revolution called the Reformation, the
Catholic faith did not possess a firm hold upon the English mind
and heart, whatever may have been the case in previous ages. It
is clear that even "the people" in England were not ready to
submit to any sacrifice for the sake of their religion.

There is small doubt that Elizabeth foresaw this, and expected
but little opposition on the part of the English nobility and
people to the changes she purposed effecting. Had she imagined
that the nation would have been ready to submit to any sacrifice
rather than surrender their religion, she would at least have
been more cautious in the promulgation of her measures, even
though she had determined to sever her kingdom from Rome. She
might have rested content with the schism introduced by her
father, and this indeed would have sufficed for the carrying out
of her political schemes.

But she knew her countrymen too well to accredit them with a
religious devotion which, if they ever possessed, had long ago
died out. She saw that England was ripe for heresy, and the
result confirmed her worldly sagacity. How came it, then, that
the change which was absolutely impossible in Ireland, was so
easily effected in the other country? Or, to generalize the
question: How is it that, to speak generally, the nations of
Northern Europe embraced Protestantism so readily, while those
of Southern Europe refused to receive it, or were only slightly
affected by it? Ranke has remarked that, when, after the first
outbreak in the North, the movement had reached a certain point
in time and space, it stopped, and, instead of advancing further,
appeared to recede, or at least stood still.

Many Protestant writers have attempted a weak and flippant
solution of the question, and we are continually told of the
superior enlightenment of the northern races, of their
attachment to liberty, of their higher civilization, and other
very fine and very easily-quoted things of the same kind, which,
at the present moment, are admitted as truths by many, and
esteemed as unanswerable explanations of the phenomenon.
According to this opinion, therefore, the southern races were
more ignorant, less civilized, more readily duped by priestcraft
and kingcraft; above all, readier to bow to despotism, and
indifferent to freedom.

Catholic writers, Balmez principally, have often given a
satisfactory answer to the question; yet, the replies which they
have made to the various sophisms touched upon, have seemingly
produced no effect on the modern masses, who continue steadfast
in their belief of what has been so often refuted. It would be
presumptuous and probably quite useless, on our part, to enter
into a lengthened discussion of the question. But, when confined
to England, it is a kind of test to be applied to all those
subjects of civilization and liberty, and is so clear and true
that it cannot leave the least room for doubt or hesitation:
moreover, as it necessarily enters into the inquiry which forms
the heading of this chapter, it cannot be entirely laid aside.

All that we purpose doing is, discovering why the northern
nations fell a prey more readily to the disorganizing doctrines
of Protestantism than the southern. The general fickleness of
the human mind, which is so well brought out by the great
Spanish writer, does not strike us as a sufficient cause; for
the mind of southern peoples is certainly not less fickle, on
many points at least, than that of other races.

In our comparison between the North and the South, we class the
Irish with the latter, although, geographically, they belong to
the former, and, indeed, constitute the only northern nation
which remained faithful to the Church.

First, let us state the broad facts for which we wish to assign
some satisfactory reasons.

After the social convulsions which attended the change of
religion had subsided somewhat, it was found that Protestantism
had invaded the three Scandinavian kingdoms, to the almost total
exclusion of Catholicism, to such an extent, indeed, that, until
quite recently, it was death or transportation for any person
therein to return to the bosom of the mother Church.

The same statement is true, to almost the same extent, of
Northern Germany, where open persecution, or rather war, raged
until the establishment of "religious peace" toward 1608. Saxony,
whence the heresy sprang, was its centre and stronghold in
Germany; and the Saxons were Scandinavians, having crossed over
from the southern-borders of the Baltic, where, for a long time,
they dwelt in constant intercourse with the Danes, Norwegians,
and Swedes.

Saxon and Norman England was found to be, at the end of the
sixteenth century, almost entirely Protestant, and the
persecution of the comparatively few Catholics who survived
flourished therein full vigor.

A singular phenomenon presented itself in the Low Countries.
That portion of them subsequently known as Holland, which was
first invaded and peopled by the Northmen of Walcheren, became
almost entirely Protestant, while Belgium, which was originally
Celtic, remained Catholic.

Bavaria, Austria, and Switzerland, were divided between
Protestantism and Catholicity, and the division exists to this

In France a section only of the nobility, which was originally
Norman as well as Frank, and under feudalism had become
thoroughly permeated by the northern spirit, was found to have
embraced the new doctrines, which were repudiated by the people
of Celtic origin. It is true that, later on, the Cevennes
mountaineers received Protestantism from the old Waldenses; but
we are presenting a broad sketch, and do not deny that several
minor lineaments may not fall in with the general picture.

In Italy only literary men, in Spain a few rigorist prelates and
monks, showed any inclination toward the "reform" party.

On the whole, then, it is safe to conclude that the Scandinavian
mind was congenial to Protestantism.

We say the Scandinavian mind, because the Scandinavian race
extended, not only through Scandinavia proper, but also through
Northern Germany, along the Baltic Sea and German Ocean; through
Holland by Walcheren; through a portion of Central and Southern
Germany, as far down as Switzerland, which was invaded by Saxons
at the time of Charlemagne, and after him, until Otto the Great
gave them their final check, and subdued them more thoroughly
than the great Charles had succeeded in doing.

Common opinion traces the Scandinavians and Germans back to the
same race. In the generic sense, this is true; and all the Indo-
Germanic nations may have originally belonged to the same parent
stock; but, specifically, differences of so striking a nature
present themselves in that immense branch of the human family,
that the existence of sub-races of a definite character,
presupposing different and sometimes opposite tendencies, must
be admitted.

Who can imagine that the Germans proper are identical with the
Hindoos, although by language they, in common with the greater
part of European nations, may belong to the same parent stock?
In like manner, the Germanic tribes, although possessing many
things in common with the Scandinavian race, differ from it in
various respects.

The best ethnographic writers admit that the Scandinavian race,
which they, in our opinion improperly, name Gothic, differed
greatly in its language from the Teutonic. The language of the
first, retained in its purity in Iceland to this day, soon
became mixed up with German proper in Denmark, Sweden, and even
in Norway to a great extent. The languages differed therefore
originally, as did, consequently, the races. Even at this very
moment an effort is being made by Scandinavians to establish the
difference between themselves and the Teutons with respect to
language and nationality.

How far the religion of both was identical is a difficult
question. We believe it very probable that the worship of Thor,
Odin, and Frigga, was purely Scandinavian, and penetrated
Germany, as far as Switzerland, with the Saxons. Hertha,
according to Tacitus, was the supreme goddess of the Germans.
She had no place in Scandinavian mythology. Ipsambul, so
renowned among the Teutons, was quite unknown in Scandinavia.
The Germans, in common with the Celts, considered the building
of temples unworthy the Deity; whereas, the Scandinavian temples,
chiefly the monstrous one of Upsala, are well known. Many other
such facts might be brought out to show the difference of their

The Germans showed themselves from the beginning attached to a
country life; and we know how the Frankish Merovingian kings
loved to dwell in the country. The Scandinavians only cared for
the sea, and manifested by their skill in navigation how they
differed from the Germans, who were less inclined even than the
Celts for large naval expeditions.

All this is merely given as strong conjecture, not as proof
positive amounting to demonstration, of the real difference
between the two races--the Germanic and Scandinavian.

But how was Protestantism congenial to the Scandinavian mind?
This second question is of still greater importance than the

In the earlier portion of the book, we passed in review the
character of the tribes, once clustered around the Baltic, with
the exception of the Finns, who dwelt along the eastern coast;
and, grounding our opinion on unquestionable authorities, we
found that character to consist mainly of cruelty, boldness,
rapacity, system, and a spirit of enterprise in trade and

When they embraced Christianity, it undoubtedly modified their
character to a great extent, and many holy people lived among
them, some of whom the Church has numbered among the saints. But
the conquest of these ferocious pirates was undoubtedly the
greatest triumph ever achieved by the holy Spouse of Christ.

Yet, even after becoming Christian, they preserved for a Iong
time--we speak not now of the present day--deep features of
their former character, among others the old spirit of rapacity,
and that systematic boldness which, when occasion demands, is
ever ready to intrench upon the rights of others. They soon
displayed, also, a general tendency to subject spiritual matters
to individual reason, and the great among them to interfere and
meddle with religious affairs. The Dukes of Normandy, the Kings
of England, and the Saxon Emperors of Germany, seldom ceased
disputing the rights of spiritual authority; and the learned
among them were forward to question the supremacy of Rome in
many things, and to argue against what other people, more
religiously inclined, would have admitted without controversy.
That spirit of speculation, to which the Irish Four Masters
partly ascribed the introduction of Protestantism into England,
was rampant in the schools of these northern nations, when a
superior civilization gave rise to the erection of universities
and colleges in their midst.

But over and above that systematic philosophical spirit, their
character was deeply imbued with a material rapacity which,
after all, has always constituted the great vice of those
northern tribes. It is unnecessary to remind the reader that, in
England chiefly, Protestantism was particularly grateful to the
avaricious longings of the courtiers of Henry VIII. and
Elizabeth. The confiscation of ecclesiastical property and its
distribution among the great of the nation was the chief
incentive which moved them to adopt the convenient doctrines of
the new order, and subvert the old religion of the country. This
rapacious spirit showed itself also in Germany, though not so
conspicuously as in England; and certainly, in both countries,
the universal confiscation of the estates of religious houses,
and the robbery of the plate and jewels of the churches, are
prominent features in the history of the great Reformation.

William Cobbett has written eloquently on this subject, and
marshalled an immense array of facts so difficult of denial that
the defenders of Protestantism were compelled to resort to the
petty subterfuge of retorting that the great English radical was
a mere partisan, who never spoke sincerely, but always supported
the theory he happened to take up by exaggerated and distorted
facts, which no one was bound to admit on his responsibility.
Such was their reply; but the awkward facts remained and remain
still unchallenged.

But, since Cobbett, men who could not be accused of partisanship
and exaggeration have published authentic accounts of the
unbounded rapacity of the Reformers of the sixteenth century, in
England particularly, which all impartial men are bound to
respect, and not attribute to any unworthy motive, since they
are supported even by Protestant authorities. We quote a few,
taken from the "History of the Penal Laws" by Dr. R. R. Madden:

"The Earl of Warwick, afterward Duke of Northumberland, was the
first of the aristocracy in England who inveighed publicly
against the superfluity of episcopal habits, the expense of
vestments and surplices, and ended in denouncing altars and the
'mummery' of crucifixes, pictures and images in churches.

"The earl had an eye to the Church plate, and the precious
jewels that ornamented the tabernacles and ciboriums. Many
courtiers soon were moved by a similar zeal for religion--a lust
for the gold, silver, and jewels of the churches. In a short
time, not only the property of churches, but the possession of
rich bishopries and sees, were shared among the favorites of
Cranmer and the protector (Somerset): as were those of the See
of Lincoln, 'with all its manors, save one;' the Bishoprie of
Durham, which was allotted to Dudley, Duke of Northumberland; of
Bath and Wells, eighteen or twenty of whose manors in Somerset,
were made a present of to the protector, with a view of
protecting the remainder."

A number of similar details are to be found in the pages of the
same author.

Dr. Heylin, a Protestant, says: "That the consideration of
profit did advance this work--of the Reformation--as much as any
other, if perchance not more, may be collected from an inquiry
made two years after, in which (inquiry) it was to be
interrogated: `What jewels of gold, or silver crosses,
candlesticks, censers, chalices, copes, and other vestments,
were then remaining in any of the cathedral or parochial
churches, or, otherwise, had been embezzled or taken away? '. . .
The leaving," adds Dr. Heylin, "of one chalice to every church,
with a cloth or covering for the communion-table, being thought
sufficient. The taking down of altars by command, was followed
by the substitution of a board, called the Lord's Board, and
subsequently of a table, by the determination of Bishop Ridley.

"Many private persons' parlors were hung with altar-cloths,
their tables and beds covered with copes, instead of carpets and
coverlets, and many made carousing cups of the sacred chalices,
as once Belshazzar celebrated his drunken feasts in the
sanctified vessels of the Temple. It was a sorry house, not
worth the naming, which had not something of this furniture in
it, though it were only a fair large cushion made of a cope or
altar-cloth, to adorn their windows, and to make their chairs
appear to have somewhat in them of a chair of state."

Could such scenes as these have been surpassed by what took
place during the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, in the
rude towns of Norway and Denmark, at the return of a powerful
seakong, with his large fleet, from a piratical excursion into
Southern Europe, when the spoils of many a Christian church and
wealthy house went to adorn the savage dwellings or those
barbarians? Adam of Bremen relates how he saw, with his own eyes,
the rich products of European art and industry accumulated in
the palace of the King of Denmark, and in the loathsome
dwellings of the nobility, or exposed for sale in the public
markets of the city.

But rapacity formed only one characteristic of the Scandinavians;
the mind of the people, moreover, showed itself,
notwithstanding the intricate and monstrous mythology which it
had created when pagan, of a rationalistic and anti-supernatural
tendency. Their mind was naturally systematic and reasoning; it
discussed spiritual matters in all their material aspects, and
thus gave rise to those speculations which soon became the
source of heresy. Hence, in England and the north of Germany,
the power of Rome was always called in question; and as the
English mind was altogether Scandinavian, while that of the
Germans was mixed with more of a southern disposition, the chief
trouble in Germany, between the empire and the Roman Church, lay
in the question of investitures, which combined a material and
spiritual aspect, whereas, in England, the quarrel was almost
invariably of a pecuniary nature, as, for instance, Peter's

Even in the most Catholic times, the English made a bitter
grievance of the levying of Peter's pence among them, and of the
giving of English benefices to prelates of other nations, which
also resolved itself into a question of revenue or money. And so
characteristic was the grievance of the whole nation that it was
restricted to no class, churchmen and monks being as loud in
their denunciations of Rome as the king and the nobles; and thus
the theological questions of the papal supremacy and of
ecclesiastical authority generally took with them quite a
material form. The diatribes of the Benedictine monk Matthew
Paris are well known, and their worldly spirit can only excite
in us pity that they should have been the chief cause of the
destruction of his own order in England and Ireland, and of the
total spoliation of the religious houses in whose behalf he
imagined that he wrote.

If the harms done by those contemptible wranglings about Peter's
pence and benefices had been confined to depriving the
pontifical exchequer of a revenue which was cheerfully granted
by other nations to aid the Father of the Faithful, the result
was to be regretted; but, after all, Christendom would not have
suffered in a much more sensible quarter. But in England the
question passed immediately to the election of bishops and
abbots, and thus the opposition to Rome gradually assumed much
vaster proportions.

The nation, also, in the main, sided with the kings against the
popes. Every burgher of London, York, or Canterbury, got it into
his head that Rome had formed deep designs of spoliation against
his private property, and purposed diving deep into his private
purse. In such a state of public opinion, respect for spiritual
authority could not fail to diminish and finally die out
altogether; and, when the voice of the Pontiff was heard on
important subjects in which the best interests of the nation
were involved, even the clearest proof that Rome was right, and
desired only the good of the people, could not entirely dispel
the suspicious fears and distrusts which must ever lurk in the
mind of the miser against those he imagines wish to rob him.

It is not possible to enter here into further details, but, if
the reader wish for stronger proofs of the "questioning spirit,"
"reasoning mistrust," and "systematic doggedness," natural to
the Scandinavian mind, he has only to reflect on what took place
in England at the time of the Reformation. Every question
respecting the soul, every supernatural aspiration of the
Christian, every emotion of a living conscience, appears to be
altogether absent from all those English nobles, prelates,
theologians, learned university men, even simple priests and
monks often, save a very few who, with the noble Thomas More,
thought that "twenty years of an easy life could not without
folly be compared with an eternity of bliss." The reasoning
faculty of the mind, nourished on "speculations," had replaced
faith, and, every thing of the supernatural order being
obliterated, nothing was left but worldly wisdom and material
aspirations for temporal well-being.

By reviewing other characteristics of the Scandinavian race, we
might arrive at the same conclusion; but our space forbids us to
go into them. After what has been said, however, it is easy to
see how well prepared was the English nation for accepting the
change of religion almost without a murmur.

There was, indeed, some expression of indignation on the part of
the people at the beginning of the reign of Edward VI., when the
desecration of the churches began. "Various commotions," says Dr.
Madden, "took place in consequence of the reviling of the
sacrament, the casting it out of the churches in some places,
the tearing down of altars and images; in one of which tumults,
one of the authorities was stabbed, in the act of demolishing
some objects of veneration in a church.

"The whole kingdom, in short, was in commotion, but particularly
Devonshire and Norfolk. In the former county, the insurgents
besieged Devon; a noble lord was sent against them, and, being,
reenforced by the Walloons--a set of German mercenaries brought
over to enable the government to carry out their plans--his
lordship defeated these insurgents, and many were executed by
martial law."

But this remnant of affection for the religion of their fathers
seems to have soon died out, since at the death of Edward the
people appeared to have become thoroughly converted to the new
doctrines. At the very coronation of Mary, a Catholic clergyman
having prayed for the dead and denounced the persecutions of the
previous reign, a tumult took place; the preacher was insulted,
and compelled to leave the pulpit. What wonder, then, that, at
the death of Elizabeth, England was thoroughly Protestant?

We are very far from ignoring the noble examples of attachment
to their religion displayed by Christian heroes of every class
in England during those disastrous days. The touching
biographies of the English martyrs, told in the simple pages of
Bishop Challoner, cannot be read without admiration. The feeling
produced on the Catholic reader is precisely that arising from a
perusal of the Acts of the Christian martyrs under the Roman
emperors, which have so often strengthened our faith and drawn
tears of sorrow from our eyes. At this moment, particularly when
so many details, hitherto hidden, of the lives of Catholics,
religious, secular priests, laymen, women, during those times,
are coming to light in manuscripts religiously preserved by
private families, and at last being published for the
edification of all, the story is moving as well as inspiring of
the heroism displayed by them, not only on the public scaffold,
but in obscure and loathsome jails, in retreats and painful
seclusion, continuing during long years of an obscure life, and
ending only in a more obscure death, when the victim of
persecution was fortunate enough to escape capture. There is no
doubt that, when the whole story of the hunted Catholics in
England shall be known, as moving a narrative of their virtues
will be written as can be furnished by the ecclesiastical annals
of any people.

Nevertheless, what has been said of the nation, as a nation,
remains a sad fact which cannot be doubted. Those noble
exceptions only prove that the promptings of race are not
supreme, and that God's grace can exalt human nature from
whatever level.

How different were the nations of the Latin and Celtic stock!
With them the attachment to the religion of their fathers was
not the exception, but the rule, and it is only necessary to
bear in mind what the Abbe McGeoghegan has said--that, at the
death of Elizabeth, scarcely sixty Irishmen, take them all in
all, had professed the new doctrines--in order at once to
comprehend the steady tendency toward the path of duty imparted
by true nobility of blood. Nor did the Irish stand alone in this
steadfastness; it is needless to call to mind how the people
generally throughout France, and particularly in Paris, acted at
the time when the Huguenot noblemen would have rooted in the
soil the errors planted there before, and already bearing fruit
in Germany, Switzerland, and England.

It looks as though we had lost sight of the interesting question
proposed at the outset, and of which so far not a word has been
said--whether Protestantism spread so readily in the North,
because it found that region peopled with races better disposed
for civilization, if not taking the lead already in that respect,
and men ardent for freedom and impatient of servitude of any
kind. We stated that the solution of this question, particularly
in the case of England, is clear, and consequently not to be
discarded on account of previous solutions of the same question,
which have scarcely met with any attention from the adverse side.

One thing certainly undeniable is, that neither in its origin,
nor even in its consequences, can Protestantism be esteemed as
in any sense the promoter of freedom and civilization in the
British islands.

It has always struck us as strange that sensible men, acquainted
with history, could maintain that an aspiration after freedom
and a higher civilization gave to Germany and England a leaning
toward Protestantism. We can understand how the state of Europe
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries may give a coloring
to the statement of a partisan writer, desirous of explaining in
these modern times the greater amount of freedom really enjoyed
in England, and the advanced material prosperity visible
generally among Protestant Northern nations. So much we can
understand. But, to make Protestantism the origin of freedom and
civilization, and ascribe to it what happened subsequent to its
spread indeed, but what really resulted from very different
causes, passes our comprehension.

As far as freedom goes, the most superficial reader must know
that there was not a particle of it left in England when
Protestantism commenced; and it were easy to show that there was
less of it in Germany than in Italy, Spain, and even France.

Who can mention English freedom in the same breath with Henry
and Elizabeth Tudor? How could the actions of those two members
of the family advance it in the least degree, and was it not
precisely the slavish disposition of the English people at the
time which prepared them so admirably for the reception of
German heresy? The people were treated like a set of slaves, and
stood for nothing in the designs of those great political rulers.
In the very highest of the aristocracy, there lingered not a
spark of the old brave spirit which wrung Magna Charta from the
heart of a weak sovereign. The king or queen could fearlessly
trample on every privilege of the nobility, send the proudest
lords of the nation to the block, almost without trial, and
confiscate to the swelling of the royal purse the immense
estates of the first English families. There is no need of
proofs for this. The proofs are the records, the headings, as it
were, of the history of the times which one may read as he runs;
it constitutes the very essence of their history; and events of
the sixteenth century in England scarcely present us with any
thing else. This state of things was the natural result of the
general anarchy which prevailed during the "Wars of the Roses."

A more interesting and intricate question still might be raised
here: how to explain the appearance of such a phenomenon in so
proud a nation? Had the Catholic religion, which, up to that
time, had been the only religion of the country, anything to do
with the matter? These questions might furnish material for a
very animated discussion. But, with regard to the fact itself--
the slavish disposition of Englishmen at that time under kingly
and queenly rule--no doubt can possibly exist.

To show that Catholicity had nothing to do with the introduction
of such a despotism, would give rise to a dissertation too long
for us to enter upon. We merely offer a few suggestions, which,
we think, will prove sufficient and satisfactory for our purpose
to every candid reader:

I. Catholic theology had certainly never brought about such a
state of affairs. In all Catholic schools of the day, in England
as on the Continent, St. Thomas was the great authority, and his
work, "De Regimine Principum," was in the hands of all Catholic
students. Luther was the first to reject St. Thomas.

In this book, all were taught that, if, among the various kinds
of government, "that of a king is best," in the opinion of the
author, "that of a tyrant is the worst." And a tyrant he defines
as "any ruler who despises the common good, and seeks his
private advantage."

In that book of the great doctor, all may read: "The farther the
government recedes from the common weal, the more unjust is it.
It recedes farther from the common weal in an oligarchy, in
which the welfare of a few is sought, than in a democracy, whose
object is the good of the many. . . . But farther still does it
recede from the common weal in a tyrannous government, by which
the good of one alone is sought."

The general consequence which St. Thomas draws from this
doctrine is, that, "if a ruler governs a multitude of freemen
for the common good of the multitude, the government will be
good and just as becomes freemen."

Such was the political doctrine taught in the Catholic
universities of Europe until the sixteenth century; but, in all
probability, this golden work, "De Regimine Principum," was no
longer the text-book in the English schools of the time of Henry

But, when, entering into details, the holy and learned author
goes on to contrast the contrary effects produced by freedom and
despotism on a nation, how could Henry willingly permit the
circulation of such words as the following?

"It is natural that men brought under terror" (a tyrannical
government) "should degenerate into beings of a slavish
disposition, and become timid and incapable of any manly and
daring enterprise--an assertion which is proved by the conduct
of countries which have been long subjected to a despotic
government. Solomon says: 'When the imperious are in power, men
hide away' in order to escape the cruelty of tyrants, nor is it
astonishing; for a man governing without law, and according to
his own caprice, differs in nothing from a beast of prey. Hence,
Solomon designates an impious ruler as a roaring lion and a
ravenous bear.'

"Because, therefore, the government of one is to be preferred --
which is the best--and because this government is liable to
degenerate into tyranny--which has been proved to be the worst --
hence, the most diligent care is to be taken so to regulate the
establishment of a king over the people, that he may not fall
into tyranny."

Finally, St. Thomas epitomizes the doctrines of this whole book
in his "Summa," as follows: "A tyrannical government is unjust,
being administered, not for the common good, but for the private
good of the ruler; therefore, its overthrow is not sedition,
unless when the subversion of tyranny is so inordinately pursued
that the multitude suffers more from its overthrow than from the
existence of the government."

The subject might be illustrated by any quantity of extracts
from the writings of other great theologians of the middle ages;
but what we have said is enough for our purpose. It is manifest
that Catholic doctrine cannot have brought about the state of
England under the Tudors.

II. Another, and a very important suggestion, is the following:
it certainly was not the Catholic hierarchy, least of all the
pontifical power, which produced it.

Whatever may have been written derogatory to the institutions
existing in Europe during the mediaeval period, several great
facts, most favorable to the Catholic religion, have been
commonly admitted by Protestant writers, from which we select
two. The first of these was originally stated by M. Guizot, in
his "Civilization in Europe," namely, that the kingdom of France
was created by Christian bishops. Since that first admission,
other non-Catholic writers have gone further, and have felt
compelled to admit that, as a general rule, the modern European
nations have all been created, nurtured, fostered, by Catholic
bishops, and that the first free Parliaments of those nations
were, in fact, "councils of the Church," either of a purely
clerical character and altogether free from the intermixture of
lay elements, such as the Councils of Toledo, in Spain, or
acting in concert with the representatives of the various
classes in the nations.

The clergy, as all readers know, the clerks, were the first to
take the lead in civil affairs, being more enlightened than the
other classes, and holding in their body all the education of
the earlier times. It is unnecessary to add to this fact that,
among really Christian people, the voice of religion is listened
to before all others. And is it not to-day a well-ascertained
fact that, in the main, the influence exerted by the clergy on
the formation of modern European kingdoms was in favor of a well-
regulated freedom based on the first law--the law of God--that
primal source of true liberty and civilization? To the clergy,
certainly, and to the monks, is chiefly due the abolition of
slavery; and the bishops took a very active and prominent part
in the movements of the communes, to which the Third Estate owes
its birth.

A malignant ingenuity has been displayed by many writers, in
ransacking the pages of history, in order to fasten on certain
prelates of the Church charges of despotism and oppression. But,
apart from the fact that the narratives so carefully compiled
have, in many cases, turned out to be perversions of the truth,
and granting even that all these allegations are impartial and
true, the general tenor and tendency of the history of those
times is now admitted to be ample refutation of such accusations,
and impartial writers confess that the ecclesiastical influence,
during those ages, was clearly set against the oppression of
the people, and finally resulted in the formation of those
representative and moderate governments which are the boast of
the present age; and that the principles enunciated by the great
schoolmen, led by Thomas Aquinas, founded the order of society
on justice, religion, and right. The more history is studied
honestly, investigated closely, and viewed impartially, the more
plainly does the great fact shine forth that the Catholic
hierarchy, in the various European nations, constituted the
vanguard of true freedom and order.

With regard to the papal power, it is a curious instance of the
reversal of human judgment, and a very significant fact, that
those very Popes who, a hundred years ago, were looked upon,
even by Catholic writers, as the embodiment of supercilious
arrogance and sacrilegious presumption, namely, Gregory VII.,
Innocent III., and Boniface VIII., are now acknowledged to have
been the greatest benefactors to Europe in their time, and true
models of supreme Christian bishops.

But, if these two facts be admitted, the question recurs, How is
it that the governments of several kingdoms, and that of England
in particular, had, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries,
merged into complete and unalloyed despotism? As our present
interest in the question is restricted to England, we confine
ourselves to that country, and proceed to treat of it in a few

Under the Tudors, the government grew to be altogether
irresponsible, personal, and despotic, chiefly because under
previous reigns, and constantly since the establishment of the
Norman line of kings, the authority of Rome, which formed the
only great counterpoise to kingly power at the time, had been
gradually undermined, while the bishops, being deprived of the
aid of the supreme Pontiff, had become mere tools in the hands
of the monarchs.

The particular shape which the opposition to Rome took in
England, compared with a similar opposition in Germany, has been
already touched upon; it was found to be involved chiefly in the
question of tribute-money and benefices, the latter being also
reduced to a money difficulty. It was seen that the monks and
the people sided generally with the kings, and gradually took a
dislike and mistrust to every thing coming from Rome; the
authority of the monarch, though not precisely strengthened
thereby, was left without the control of a superior tribunal to
direct him, and consequently the kings, if they chose, were left
to follow the impulse of their own caprice, which, according to
St. Thomas, forms the characteristic of tyranny.

Other causes, doubtless, contributed to pave the way for and
consolidate the despotism of the Kings of England. Among such
causes may be mentioned the extraordinary successes which
attended the English arms, led by their warrior kings in France,
and the frightful convulsions subsequently arising from the Wars
of the Roses; but we doubt not the one mentioned above was the
chief, and, of itself, would in the long-run have brought about
the same result.

Protestantism, therefore, was neither the growth of freedom in
England, nor did it plant freedom there at its introduction,
inasmuch as the royal power became more absolute than ever by
its predominance, and by the first principle which it laid down,
that the king was supreme in Church as well as in state. Can its
origin in England, then, be accounted for by the existence of a
higher civilization, anterior to it in point of time, out of
which it grew, or, at least, by a true aspiration toward such.

This question is as easy of solution as the first: There can be
no doubt that the nations which remained either entirely or in
the main faithful to the Church, in point of learning and
civilization, ranked far beyond the Northern nations, where
heresy so early found a permanent footing, and that in the South
also the tendencies toward a higher civilization were at that
time of a most marked and extraordinary character, so much so
that the reign of Leo X. has become a household phrase to
express the perfection of culture.

England, as a nation, was at that period only just beginning to
emerge from barbarism, and in fact was the last of the European
nations to adopt civilized customs and manners in the political,
civil, and social relations of life.

In politics she was, until that epoch, plunged in frightful
dynastic revolutions, and as yet had not learned the first
principles of good government. In civil affairs, her code was
the most barbarous, her feudal customs the most revolting, her
whole history the most appalling of all Christendom. In social
habits, she had scarcely been able to retain a few precious
fragments of good old Catholic times; and the fearful scenes
through which the nation had passed, which, according to J. J.
Rousseau, for once expressing the truth, render the reading of
that period of her history almost impossible to a humane man,
had sunk her almost completely in degradation. The reader will
understand that the England here spoken of is the England of
three centuries ago, and not of to-day.

If by civilization is understood learning and the fine arts,
what, in general phrase, is expressed by culture and refinement,
how could England compare at the time with Italy, Flanders,
Spain, France, all Latin or Celtic nations? How can it be
pretended that she was better fitted for the reception of a more
spiritual and elevating religion than any of the countries

Two great names may be brought forward as proving that the
expressions used are harsh and ill-founded--Shakespeare and
Milton; a third, Bacon, we omit for reasons which our space
forbids us to give.

Shakespeare, whose name may rank with those of Homer and Dante,
was not a product of those times. He was a gift of Heaven. At
any other epoch he would have been as great, perhaps greater.
What he received from his surroundings and from the
"civilization" with which he was blessed, he has handed down to
us in the uncouth form, the intricacy of plot and adventures,
which would have rendered barbarous a poet less naturally gifted.
And, although the question has never been definitely settled,
it is probable that he was born and lived a Catholic; and it is
strange how Elizabeth, who, tradition tells us, was present at
some of his plays, could endure his faithful portrayal of friars
and nuns, while she was persecuting their originals so
barbarously at the time; strangest of all, how she could bear to
look upon the true and noble image of Katherine of Aragon, whom
Henry in his good moment pronounces "the queen of earthly queens,
" contrasted with her own mother, to whom the shrewd old court
lady tells the story:

"There was a lady once ('tis an old story), That would not be a
queen, that would she not, For all the mud in Egypt :--Have you
heard it?"

Thus did Shakespeare contrast Elizabeth's wanton mother with the
noble woman whom Henry discarded for a toy. And some critics can
only find a reason for the composition of the "Merry Wives of
Windsor" and the "Sonnets" as an offering to the lewd queen.
Nothing more did he owe to his time.

And Milton, who, though his father was a Catholic, was himself a
rank Puritan, something of what we have said of Shakespeare may
be said of him. At all events, all his cultivation and taste
came from Italy. The poets of that really civilized country had
polished his uncouth nature, as it were in spite of itself, and
added to the depth of his wonderful genius the beauty and soft
harmony of verse that ever flowed freely, and the strength of a
nervous and sonorous prose.

Now comes the question: If the origin of Protestantism in
England cannot be attributed to freedom and civilization, may it
not, at least, be maintained that the natural result of
Protestantism was the acquisition of true freedom and of a
higher civilization? Is it not true that to-day Protestant
nations are in advance of others in both these respects? And to
what other cause can such advancement be ascribed than to the
"reformed religion?" Is it not the freedom which has come to the
human mind, after the rejection of the yoke of spiritual
authority, and the proclamation of the rights of individual
reason, that has brought about the present advanced state of

We know all these fine-sounding phrases which are so
continuously dinned into our ears, and republished day after day
in a thousand forms. The question, we admit, is not so easy of
solution as the first, and might, indeed, without suspicion of
evasion, be discarded as not coming under the head of this
chapter, which spoke of origin and not of consequences.
Nevertheless, a few words may be devoted to the subject, to
prove that the answer must still be in the negative.

The first result of Protestantism was undoubtedly to extinguish
as completely as possible the remaining sparks of truly liberal
thought promulgated in Europe by the Catholic doctors of the
middle ages. Wherever the new doctrines spread, secular rulers
were not only freed from pontifical control, but were themselves
invested with supreme ecclesiastical power. The effective check
which the paternal and bold voice issuing from the Vatican had
exercised on kings and princes was in a moment taken away. In
Germany, England, and Scandinavia, the kings and petty princes,
and dukes even, became each so many popes in their own dominions.
And this took place with the consent and frequently at the
earnest request of the Reformers.

Even the European states which did not fall away from the old
faith of Christendom took advantage, it might almost be said, of
the difficult position in which the Holy Father found himself,
to countenance new doctrines with respect to the limits of the
authority of the Supreme Pontiff; and the new errors which so
suddenly appeared in France and elsewhere, during the prevalence
and at the extinction of the great schism, limiting the power of
the Popes in many matters where it had been considered binding,
broke out again, in France principally, under the lead of
Protestant or Erastian parliamentarians and legists, under the
name of Gallican liberties--pretended liberties, which would
really make the Church a subordinate adjunct of the State,
instead of what it is, a spiritual living body ruled exclusively
by a spiritual head.

How could the cause of true liberty in Europe be promoted by
such altered circumstances as these?--to say nothing of the
disastrous imprudence with which those blind rulers and so-
called theologians took away the key-stone of the European
social edifice, which grew weaker from that day forth, until now
we see it tottering to its fall.

The introduction of Protestantism, then, was one of the chief
causes of the change by which a much greater personal power was
transferred to the hands of the sovereign than he had ever
before held, and it is no surprise to see the absolutism of
emperors and kings, in Christian Europe, date from its coming.

As time passed on, the cause acting on a larger scale, embracing
a wider circumference, and drawing within its circle vaster
territories, the world saw absolute rule established in England,
France, Spain, and Germany. Previous to the sixteenth century,
the word 'absolutism' was unknown in Christendom, as was the
doctrine of the "divine right of kings" understood and preached
as it has since been in England.

But, to furnish details which should render these reflections
more striking, would require an unravelling of the whole tangled
skein of history during those times.

Nevertheless, we must come to consider the last refuge of
Protestant liberalism. Did not the Reformation really emancipate
modern nations, and gradually bring about the whole system of
representative governments, which, starting from England, have
now, in fact, become, more or less, general throughout Europe?

Our answer is, Yes and No. It may be granted that Protestantism
did give rise to a certain kind of liberalism very prevalent in
our days; but such liberalism is very far from bestowing on
nations true liberty and stability; hence their constant
agitation, and the perils of society which threaten all, even
the specially favored Protestant nations themselves as much as

It was indeed the new doctrines which brought about the
"Commonwealth" in England, and the subsequent Revolution of 1688;
between which two events, however, great differences exist.

The destruction of monarchy under and in the person of Charles I.
was the just retribution dealt by Providence to the English
kings, who had been the first openly to shake off from a great
nation the wise and beneficent yoke of Rome. At all events, one
thing is certain, that under the "Protector," the child of the
Revolution, as little as under the Protestant Tudors, could the
English scarcely be regarded as freemen.

Cromwell banished from their hall the representatives of the
people. He could scarcely find epithets opprobrious enough for
Magna Charta, which the people considered, and rightly, as the
palladium of English liberty. In his scornful order to "take
away that bawble," though the "bawble" immediately referred to
was the Speaker's mace, the word meant the freedom of the nation.
He was as absolute a monarch as ever ruled England. The liberty
enjoyed under his regime was as meaningless for every class as
for the Catholics, whom he more immediately oppressed, and was
ill compensated for by the material prosperity which his genius
knew so well how to secure.

It was his despotic rule, in fact, and the fear of anarchy which
affrighted the minds of the people at his death--the dread of a
government of rival soldiers--which rendered so easy the
triumphant restoration of the worthless Stuarts, in the person
of the most worthless of them all, Charles II.

The true constitutional liberty of which England may fairly
boast was the work of a long series of years subsequent to the
Revolution of 1688. It was the work of the whole eighteenth
century, in fact, and was grounded on the fragments of old
Catholic doctrines and customs. In no sense can it be called the
result of Protestantism, save as coming after it in point of

Whoever is acquainted with the state of religion and society in
England, during the latter part of the seventeenth and the whole
of the eighteenth century, needs not to be told that, among the
ruling classes, faith in a revealed religion had ceased to exist.
The yoke of Rome once shaken off, the human mind was quick to
draw all the consequences of the principle of entire
independence in religious matters. Tindal, Collins, Hobbes,
Shaftesbury, and other philosophers, had openly denounced
revelation, and that portion of the nation which esteemed itself
enlightened embraced their new doctrines. It would be false to
imagine that, in 1700 and afterward, the English were as firm
believers in the Church of England's Thirty-nine Articles as
they seemed to be at the beginning of this century. The whole of
the last century was for all Europe, with the exception of the
two peninsulas of Italy and Spain, a period of avowed disbelief.

Even Presbyterian Scotland did not escape the contagion, and
some theologians and preachers of the Kirk at that time are now
praised for their liberal views of religion, that is, for their
want of real faith. The influence of Wesley and his fellow-
workers on the English mind, and the dread of the spread of
French infidelity and jacobinism, were more extensive and
effectual than people are apt to imagine; and there is no doubt
that, seventy years ago England was far more of a believing
country than she had been for a hundred years before.

But, if even Scotch Presbyterian ministers and Church of England
men, such as Laurence Sterne, were unworthy of the name of
Christian, what are we to think of those who had to profess no
outward faith in Christianity, because of ministerial offices?
There is no doubt that, in the mass, they were almost completely
void of any faith in revealed religion.

To such men as these is England indebted for the development of
her constitution. If Protestantism had any share in it at all,
it did not go beyond preparing the way for the destruction of
Christianity in the mind and heart of the people; or, rather,
constitutional liberty in England has no connection whatever
with religion. The English, left to their own ingenuity and
skill, displayed a vast amount of statesmanlike qualities in
devising for themselves a system of check and counter-check,
which protected the subject and defined the rights of the ruler;
and this gave the nation an undoubted superiority over their
neighbors on the Continent. But it cannot be attributed, except
in a very remote manner, to the Protestant doctrine of the
independence of the human mind.

Were we to examine the effect which the example of England
produced on other nations, we should find that, instead of
spreading liberty, it was the cause of the diffusion of an
unbridled license under the name of liberalism.

In England itself; the lower orders of society having been kept
in ignorance, and consequently in subjection to the ruling
classes, and the latter finding it to their interest to preserve
order and stability in the state, no frightful commotions could
ensue to threaten the destruction of society.

In Continental countries, the middle and even the lowest classes
were more readily caught by doctrines which, when kept within
due bounds, may be promotive of exterior prosperity, but which,
pushed to their extremes and logical consequences, may embroil
the whole nation in revolution and calamities.

Such has been the case in our own days, and in days immediately
preceding our own; and England is now experiencing the recoil of
those convulsions, and seems on the eve of being convulsed
herself more terribly, perhaps, than any other nation has yet

These few reflections must suffice, as to extend them would go
beyond our present scope. But now comes the question, Why was
Ireland unprepared for the reception of Protestantism? Why did
she reject it absolutely and permanently?

According to the theorists who attribute the success of
Protestantism in the North of Europe to a higher civilization
and a more ardent love of freedom, the contrary characteristics
should distinguish those nations which remained faithful to the
Church, and particularly the Irish. Was the lack of a higher
civilization and more ardent love for freedom really the cause,
then, for Ireland's undergoing so many fearful sacrifices merely
for the sake of her religion?

We should not dread entering upon a comparison of the
Scandinavian and Celtic races in these two articular points, as
they existed at the time of the Tudors. We are confident that a
detailed survey of both would result in a glorious vindication
of the Irish character, although, owing to six hundred years of
cruel wars with Dane and Anglo-Norman, the actual prosperity of
the country was far inferior to that of England. But the outline
of so vast a subject must content us here.

In judging of the elevation of a nation's sentiments, the first
thing that strikes us is the motive assigned by the Irish
representatives for refusing to pass the bill of supremacy.
"Five or six changes of religion in twelve years were too much
for conscientious people." Such was the answer sent back to
Elizabeth, and spoken as though easy of comprehension. Had they
deemed that their language could have been misunderstood, they
would undoubtedly have expressed themselves in stronger terms.

Strange that such an obvious and common-sense remark had never
occurred to the intelligent and highly-civilized members of the
English Parliament--those ardent lovers of freedom--when applied
to by a new English monarch to acknowledge and confirm, as law,
the religious system he had determined to establish!

Apparently, then, at this time, Ireland possessed a conscience
which England either laid no claim on, or made no pretensions to;
and it might not be too much to lay this down as the first
reason why Ireland remained faithful to her religion. In fact,
the whole history of the period bears out this general
observation. The subserviency of the proud English aristocracy,
of those pretended statesmen and legislators, in matters so
intimately connected with the soul, its convictions and its
morality, shows conclusively that the word "conscience" had no
meaning for them, or that, if they were aware of the existence
of such a thing, they made so little account of it that they
were ready at all times to barter it for position, what they
considered honor, and wealth.

On the other hand, the constant, unshaken, and emphatic refusal
of the Irish to renounce their religion for the novel
"speculations" of pretended theologians-- in reality, heretical
teachers --at the beck of king or queen; their willingness to
submit to all the rigor of extreme penal laws rather than
disobey their sense of right, proves too well that they
possessed a conscience, knew what it meant, and resolved to
follow it. There is not a single fact of their, history, general
or particular, taking them collectively as a nation, when, by
their actions, they spoke as one people or individually, when
priest and friar, great man or mean man, chose to lose position,
property, name--life itself--rather than be false to their
religion and God--which does not prove that they owned a
conscience and obeyed its voice.

Can a nation, deprived of this, be esteemed really free and
truly civilized? and can a nation which possesses it be
considered barbarous? The answer cannot be doubtful, and is of
itself a sufficient solution of the question under examination.

But, to come to more special details. The Irish idea of
civilization was certainly of a very different character from
that of the English; but was it the less true? From the landing
of the first invasion, the Norman nobles and prelates looked
down on the invaded people as barbarous and uncouth, as they
previously looked down upon the Anglo-Saxons. Later on, they
spoke of the Irish customs as "lewd;" and, later still, the
majority of them adopted those "lewd customs."

If the question be merely one of refinement of outward manners,
and aquaintance with the artificial code established by a
society with which the Irish, up to that time, had never come in
contact, the Normans may be granted whatever benefit may accrue
to them from such, though, even here, the Irish chieftains might
later on compare favorably with their foes. For instance, if is
doubtful whether Hugh O'Donnell and O'Sullivan Beare, one of
whom went to Spain, and the other to Portugal--and the second,
Philip II. commanded to be treated as a Spanish grandee --were
not as courteous and dignified as Cecil or Walsingham, or Essex
or Raleigh, at the court of Elizabeth. And, if we take the case
of the descendants of Strongbow's warriors, who became "more
Irish than the Irish," there is no reason why we should not
prefer the manners and bearing of young Gerald Desmond, when,
after leaving Rome, he appeared at the court of Tuscany, to
those of the young lords who danced at Windsor, under the eyes
of Henry, with Anne Boleyn. But, treating the subject seriously,
and examining it more closely, we may find a necessity for
reversing the opinion which is too commonly entertained.

Civilization does not consist only, or chiefly, in refinement of
manners, but in all things which exalt a nation; and, after the
"conscience" of which we have spoken, nothing is so important in
making a nation civilized as the institutions under which it

The laws are the great index of a people's civilization, chiefly
as regards their execution. Nothing can be more indicative of it
than the criminal code of a people.

The law of England at that time compares poorly with the Irish
compilation known as the "Senchus Mor," which scholars have only
recently been able to study, and which is being printed as we
write, and to be illustrated with learned notes. From all
accounts given by competent reviewers, it is clear that wisdom,
sound judgment, equity, and Christian feeling, constitute the
essence of those laws which Edmund Campian found the young
Irishmen of his day studying under such strange circumstances
and with such ardor and application as to spend sixteen or
eighteen years at it.

And in what manner were those very Christian enactments which
lay at the foundation of the English legislation executed at the
same period? What, for instance, were the features of its
criminal code? It is unnecessary to depict what all the world

In extenuation of the barbarous blood-thirstiness which
characterized it, it may be said that torture, cruel punishments,
and fearful chastisement for slight offences, formed the
general features of the criminal code of most Christian nations.
They had been handed down by barbarous ancestors, the relics of
Scandinavian cruelty for the most part, added to the Roman slave
penalties, which were the remnants of pagan inhumanity. This
answer would be insufficient when comparing the English with the
Brehon law, but it does not hold good even with reference to
other Continental nations. In no country at that time was
punishment so pitiless as in England. The details, now well
known, can only be published for exceptional readers; to find a
comparison for them Dr. Madden says:

"We must come down to the reign of terror in France, to the
massacres of September, to the wholesale executions of
conventional times; to find the mob insulting the victims, and
the executioner himself adding personal affront to the
disgusting fulfilment of his horrible office."

Passing from the laws to the usages of warfare, and chiefy to
domestic strife, here the most vulnerable point in the Irish
character shows itself. The constant feuds resulting from the
clan system furnish a never-failing theme to those who accuse
the Irish of barbarism. Yet is there no parallel to them in the
horrors of those dynastic revolutions which preceded the Tudors
in England, and which the Tudors only put an end to by the
completest despotism, and by shedding the best blood of the
country in torrents? The Irish feuds never depopulated the
country. It is even admitted by most reliable historians that,
while those dissensions were rifest, the land was really teeming
with a happy people, and rich in every thing which an
agricultural country can enjoy. The great battles of the various
clans resulted often in the killing of a few dozen warriors.
Such, in fact, was the manner in which chroniclers estimated the
gains or losses of each of those victories or defeats.

But, in the Wars of the Roses, England lost a great part of her
adult population; so much so, that she was altogether
incapacitated from waging war with any external nation. She
could not even afford to send any reenforcements to the English
Pale in Ireland--not even a few hundred which at times would
have proved so serviceable. It was in fact high time and almost
a happy thing for England that the crushing despotism of the
Tudors came in to save the nation from total ruin.

Finally, can it be said that the Irish were inferior in
civilization to the English by reason of their social habits,
when Danes, Anglo-Saxons and Normans, in turn, invariably
adopted Irish manners in preference to their own, after living a
sufficient time in the country to be able to appreciate the
difference between the one and the other?

The writers of whom we speak ascribe the spread of Protestantism
not only to a higher civilization, or at least a special aptness
and fitness for it, but also say that it was due to the greater
love for freedom which possessed those who accepted it; whereas
the Irish, as they allege, have been forever priest-ridden and
cowered under the lash.

The connection between English Protestantism and freedom has
been sufficiently touched upon. But in Ireland the whole
resistance of the Irish people to the change of religion is the
most conspicuous proof which could be advanced of their inherent
love for freedom.

What is the meaning of this word "priest-ridden?" If, as
attached to the Irish, it means that they have remained
faithfully devoted to their spiritual guides, and protected them
at cost of life and limb against the execution of barbarous laws,
this epithet which is flung at them as a reproach is a glory to
them, and a true one.

Are they to be accused of cowardice because they were never bold
enough to demolish a single Catholic chapel--a favorite
amusement of the English mobs from Elizabeth's reign to
Victoria's--or because they could not find the courage in their
hearts to mock a martyr at the stake, or imbrue their hands in
his blood, as did the nation of a higher civilization and a more
ardent love for freedom?

The Irish cower under the lash! It could never be applied, until
calculating treachery had first rendered them naked and
defenceless, and removed from their reach every weapon of
defence. And the man who in such a case receives the lash is a
coward, while he who safely applies it is a hero!

Our observations so far have cleared the ground for the right
solution and understanding of the present question. It may now
be said that the Irish were not prepared for the reception of
Protestantism, and remained firm in their faith because--

1. They possessed a conscience.

2. There had existed no religious abuses, worthy of the name, in
their country which called for reform. Such abuses had in
England and Germany furnished the pretext for a change of
religion. It was a mere pretext, for the alleged abuses might
all be remedied without intrenching on the domain of faith, and
unsettling the religious convictions of the whole nation. There
is no greater crime possible than to introduce among people
enjoying all the benefits resulting from a firm belief in holy
truth a simple doubt, a simple hesitating surmise, calculated to
make them waver in the least in what had previously been a solid
and well-grounded faith. But to consider that crime carried to
the extent of so sapping the foundation of Christian belief as
to bring about the inevitable consequence of opening under
nations the fearful abyss of atheism and despair--there is no
word sufficiently strong to express the indignation which such a
course of action must naturally excite. And that the ultimate
result of the new heresy was to carry men to the very brink of
the abyss is plain enough to-day, and was foreseen by Luther
himself. In all probability he had a clear perception of it,
since the latter half of his life was devoted to propping up the
crumbling walls of his hastily-erected edifice by whatever
supports he could steal from the old faith, and fighting hard
against all those who had already drawn the ultimate conclusions
of his own principles.

For those, then, who in the sixteenth century set in motion the
chaos which threatens to overwhelm us to-day, the religious
abuses existing at the time can offer no excuse for their
destruction of Religion, because stains happened to sully the
purity of her outward garment.

But in Ireland no such abuses existed; and consequently there
was there not even a pretext for the introduction of
Protestantism, and by the very reason of their sense of good and
right the Irish were unprepared for heresy.

3. Even had it entered into their minds to wish for a
reformation of some kind, they were certainly unprepared for the
one offered them. The first reform of the new order was to close
the religious houses which the people loved, which were the
seats of learning, holiness, and education. Their Catholic
ancestors had founded those religious houses; they themselves
enjoyed the spiritual and even temporal advantages attached to
them, for they constituted in fact the only important and useful
establishments which their country possessed; they had been
consecrated by the lives and deaths of a thousand saints within
their walls; and they suddenly beheld pretended ministers of a
new religion of which they knew nothing, backed by ferocious
Walloon or English troopers, turn out or slay their inmates,
close them, set them on fire, pillage them, or convert them into
private dwellings for the convenience of an imported aristocracy.
This was the first act of the "introduction " of the
"Reformation " into Ireland. The people were enabled to judge of
the sanctity of the new creed at its first appearance among them.
And this alone, apart from their firm adherence to the faith of
their fathers, was quite enough to justify them in their
resistance to such a substitute.

But, above all, when they beheld how the inmates of those holy-
houses were treated, when they saw them cast out into the world,
penniless, reduced to penury and want, persecuted, declared
outcasts, hunted down, insulted by the soldiery, arrested,
cruelly beaten, bound hand and foot, and hung up either before
the door of their burning monastery, or even in the church
itself before the altar--what wonder that they were unprepared
to receive the new religion?

The barbarity displayed throughout England and Ireland toward
Catholicism was specially fiendish when directed against
religious of both sexes; and, as in Ireland no class of persons
was more justly and dearly loved, what wonder that the Irish
literally hated the religion that came to them from beyond the

Without going over the other aspects of the religious question
of the time, and comparing article with article of the new and
old beliefs, this single feature of the case alone is sufficient.
The process might be carried out with advantage, but is not

4. The new order of things, in one word, resolved itself into
rapacity and wanton bloodshed. And, despite whatever may be said
of Irish outrages by those who are never tired of alluding to
them, Irish nature is opposed to such excesses. If they are ever
guilty of such, it is only when they have previously been
outraged themselves, and in such cases they are the first to
repent of their action in their cooler moments. On the other
hand, the men who first set all these outrages going never find
reason to accuse themselves of any thing, are even perfectly


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