The only period – and it was a very short period – in which Liberty of Conscience was recognized in Ireland by express law, from the time of Henry VIII., until the reign of Queen Victoria – the only bright moment of respite – was that in which the Parliament of King James II. sat in Dublin. And this was the only Parliament that ever represented the Irish nation even unto this day. For the Parliament elected after “Emancipation,” upon the basis of wholesale disfranchisement, certainly did not represent Ireland; and neither has any one of the Parliaments from that time to the present moment. The famous Assembly convened by King James, was composed indifferently of Catholics and Protestants, but Catholics in the great majority. Some exclusive Protestant boroughs, whose Corporate authorities did not admit a Catholic to live within their bounds, did not, indeed, send any members. There was no representative from Derry, from Coleraine, from Enniskillen, nor from Carrickfergus. But Bandon sent two gentlemen of the MacCarthy clan; Dublin, City and County, and the University were represented, the County by Simon Luttrell and Patrick Sarsfield; the City by Sir Michael Creagh, Lord Mayor; and by Terence Dermot, Alderman; the College by Sir John Meade and Michael Coghlan; the Borough of Belfast by Marcus Talbot and Daniel O’Neill; Newry by Rowland White and Rowland Savage; Down County by two of the MacGennises. On the whole, I find in the roll of that famous Parliament, – the only genuine Parliament Ireland ever saw – a largo and liberal admixture of gentlemen of English race and of Irish families; a list which it does one good to read: Fitzgeralds and O’Reillys, O’Briens and Nugeiits, Aylmers, Eustaces, and Archbolds. The borough of Wicklow was represented by an O’Byrne and an O’Toole – very proper members for that constituency. Naas, in Meath, returned Charles White and Walter, Lord Dongan, a near relative of that Thomas Dongan (properly O’Donegan), who had been obliged, a year before, to resign his office as Governor of New York; and he was the best Governor New York ever had.
There were but six or seven Protestants in the House of Commons; but in the House of Peers we find, besides the temporal Lords, four Protestant Bishops – Meath, Ossory, Limerick and Cork. Mr. Froude counts amongst them the Bishop “of Munster;” (I quote Scribner’s edition); but there never was any Bishop of Munster: and the Historian must mean Dr. Dopping, Bishop of Meath, who is his especial favorite amongst all the Irish episcopacy, being in fact the very Bishop who shortly afterwards, on the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace, preached before the Court, in Christ Church Cathedral, on the sinfulness of observing any compacts or treaties with Papists. The greater number of the Protestant Peers absented themselves, as they were generally devoted adherents to the usurper, the Prince of Orange. Substantially, however, there was a good and respectable representation of the Irish nation at that day.
This is a matter perplexing, and even disgusting, to the Impostor Historian: so he passes it over very lightly. Yet the acts of that Assembly deserve to be held in remembrance a little. One of its earliest enactments was “an Act for securing Liberty of Conscience, and repealing such acts or clauses in any act of Parliament which are inconsistent with the same.” I need not here dwell upon the other measures passed by that excellent Parliament, – an Act declaring the Parliament of England incapable of binding Ireland; an Act repealing the unjust Navigation Laws; an Act for attainder of rebels; that is, of persons who had borne arms against their Sovereign, King James; an Act for removing all incapacities and disabilities of the natives of this Kingdom; etc. For the present, it is enough to attend to the Act for Liberty of Conscience, and to see how the English Historian deals with that: –
“We hereby decree that it is the law of this land of Ireland, that neither now, nor ever again, shall any man be prosecuted for his religion.”
This looks plain enough; sounds fair and straightforward: but the British Historian, has found out the secret and malign intention: he says in his book and it is the only notice he takes of the Act for Liberty of Conscience: –
“In harmony with the language which James had ingeniously used to advance Romanism behind principles which were abjured in every Catholic country of Europe, laws interfering with liberty of conscience were declared repealed.”
What an artful tyrant! Not only to invent such ingenious language, declaring that no man should be punished for his religion, but also to impress this cunning artifice of speech upon his Parliament in Ireland! There are some persons who might wish that Oliver Cromwell could have learned this sort of ingenious language, instead of saying to General Taaffe, who attempted to stipulate for Liberty of Conscience before surrendering Ross: “I meddle,” said Cromwell, “with no man’s conscience; but if, by liberty of conscience, you mean liberty to exercise the Mass, I judge it best to use plain dealing, and let you know that where the Parliament of England has power, that will not be allowed.” And what a blessing it would have been if the grandfather of this same James the Second had learned, in his day, the use of that “language” (for there was nothing init, Mr. Froude assures us, but empty words) instead of issuing his famous proclamation of the 4th of July, 1605, wherein he “declared to his beloved subjects of Ireland that he would not admit any such liberty of conscience as they were made to expect!”
Froude’s account of the matter is that King James had committed to memory certain vile, hypocritical phrases about freedom of conscience, – probably under the tuition of some Jesuit in order “to advance Romanism behind those principles.” What advancing of Romanism did lie ever seek, either in England or in Ireland? He did wish to be at liberty to go to church himself, behind those principles: he wished such of his subjects as chose to be Catholics to be free to hear Mass, and make Confession without being fined, whipped, pilloried, or transported. But, neither he, nor any government official in his reign, whether in England or in Ireland, ever sought to injure, punish, or disfranchise any Protestant for not going to Mass.
In fact, the thing which offends our English Historian the most, and admonishes him to touch lightly on that whole subject, and drop it like a hot potato, is the fact that King James’ own actions, and the measures of the Parliament which he called, and the administration of law in the High Courts of the Kingdom, were all guided and governed by the very same ingenious “language.” Here was the infernal cunning of it. That Jesuit who tutored the King, I dare say, thought himself a deep schemer; but no Romish devices can escape the searching probe of Fronde. In his last New York lecture he says of King James: –
“He was meditating the restoration of Popery in England, and he took up with toleration that he might introduce Catholics, under cover of it, into high offices of state, and bribe the Protestant Nonconformists to support him.”
And so he advanced the treacherous declaration for liberty of conscience only to advance Romanism behind that principle! And what did James the First, what did Oliver Cromwell, then wish to advance behind those opposite principles of no liberty of conscience? It must have been Protestantism they wanted to advance; or, at any rate, the Protestant interest. But, after all, what was this insidious form of words which the Jesuits had invented for King James? Mr. Froude does not give it; but here it is: –
KING JAMES’S SPEECH TO BOTH HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT IN IRELAND, PUBLISHED BY HIS MAJESTY’S ORDER, MAY 10TH, 1689.
“MY LORDS AND GENTLEMEN, – The exemplary loyalty which this nation express to me, at a time when others of my subjects so undutifully behaved themselves to me, or so basely betrayed me; and your seconding my deputy as you did, in his bold and resolute asserting my right, and preserving this kingdom for me, and putting it in a posture of defence, made me resolve to come to you, and to venture my life with you, in the defence of your liberty, and my right; and to my great satisfaction I have not only found you ready and willing to serve me, but that your courage has equalled your zeal. I have always been for liberty of conscience, and against invading any man’s property; having still in my mind the saying of holy writ, ‘Do as you would be done by; for that is the law arid the prophets.’ It was this liberty of conscience I gave, which my enemies both at home and abroad dreaded, especially when they saw that I was re solved to have it established by law in all my dominions, and made them set themselves up against me, though for different reasons; seeing that if I had once settled it, my people in, the opinion of the one would have been too happy, and in the opinion of the other too great. This argument was made use of to persuade their own people to join with them, and too many of my own subjects to use me as they have done; but nothing shall ever persuade me to change my mind as to that: and wheresoever I am master, I design, God willing, to establish it by law, and to have no other test or distinction, but that of loyalty.
I expect your concurrence in so Christian a work, and in making effectual laws against profanings and debauchery. I shall also most readily consent to the making such good and wholesome laws as may be for the general good of the nation, the improvement of trade, and the relieving such as have been injured by the late acts of settlement, as far forth as may be consistent with reason, justice, and the public good of my people. And as I shall do my part to make you happy and rich, so I make no doubt of your assistance, by enabling me to oppose the unjust designs of my enemies, and to make this nation flourish. And to encourage you the more to it, you know with how great generosity and kindness the Most Christian King gave a secure retreat to the Queen, my son, and self, when we were forced out of England, and came to seek protection and safety in his dominions; how he embraced my interest, and gave supplies of all sorts, as enabled me to come to you, which, without his obliging assistance, I could not have done: this he did at a time when he had so many and so considerable enemies to deal with; and so still continues to do. I shall conclude as I began, and assure you, I am as sensible as you can desire me, of the signal loyalty you have exprest to me, and shall make it my chief study, as it always has been, to make you and all my subjects happy.”
Here the designing creature actually says that he had been, at all times, for liberty of conscience; and the puzzling matter to the Froudes, is, that he had been so in fact; of which one illustration was seen, even here on Manhattan Island, – such was the malign cunning of that artful tyrant, in spreading far and wide over the dependencies of the British Crown, that same shocking delusion of liberty of conscience.
When King James was Duke of York, in the reign of his brother, Charles, he was “Proprietary Governor” of the Province of New York; and, in the year 1682, he commissioned Colonel Thomas Dougan, of an ancient Irish family, who had commanded a regiment in the French service, to proceed to New York as his Lieutenant, or Resident Governor, he proceeded at once, according to his instructions, to issue his warrants for the election of a General Assembly. This was an auspicious beginning of his administration, as it was a concession from the Duke of York for which the people had long struggled. This illustrioxis body, consisting of the Governor, ten Councillors, and seventeen Representatives elected by the people, assembled in the City of New York, on the 17th of October, 1683. As he was the first, so he was the most liberal and friendly Royal Governor that presided over the popular legislatures of New York; and the contests between arbitrary power and popular rights, which distinguished the administration of future Governors, down to the Revolution, did not have their origin under his administration. The first act of this General Assembly was the framing of a charter of liberties – the first guaranty of popular government in the province. This noble charter ordained:
“That supreme legislative power should forever reside in the Governor, Council, and people, met in General Assembly; that every freeholder and freeman might vote for Representatives without restraint; that no freeman should suffer but by the judgment of his peers, and that all trials should be by a jury of twelve men; that no tax should be assessed, on any pretext whatever, but by the consent of the Assembly; that no seaman or soldier should be quartered on the inhabitants against their will; that no martial law should exist; that no person, professing faith in God, by Jesus Christ, should, at any time, be in any way disquieted or questioned for any difference of opinion in matters of religion”
So Colonel Dongan also had learned the ingenious language which King James had been taught by that “Jesuit!”
There had been penal laws in force against Catholics in all these provinces; and seeing that Governor Dongan was, himself, a Catholic, and desired the liberty of going to church without penal consequences, just as James himself always wished; he thought it would be no harm if the people of New York could be prevailed upon to let one another alone on that one matter, at least. He had a great amount of popular prejudice and ignorance to encounter; and there was plenty of jealousy and ill-will against him as a “Papist:” yet as he was, in fact, not only a very good and honorable gentleman, but also a most zealous and efficient Governor, as all authorities agree, he did succeed in procuring the adoption of that famous charter. The clause assuring religious liberty was found to hurt nobody; and people lived peaceably enough under it, until what is called the abdication of King James, in England, and the invasion by William of Orange. Then the Governor retired from office. He perceived that the days of “Ascendancy” and the Protestant interest were returning; and he went to live quietly on Staten Island, where he had a cottage and a mill. But he was not to be allowed to escape observation in this retreat. A revolutionary government, called a “Committee of Safety,” was established in the city; Catholics were hunted down in every direction; and orders were issued for the arrest of Governor Dongan.
He took refuge on board a vessel in the harbor, where he remained in concealment many weeks. In the meantime, his servants were arrested, and his effects seized at his residence. The “Charter of Liberties,” passed in 1683, under a Catholic governor, was repealed, with all other laws passed by the late General Assembly of New York, in 1691, and a so-called “Bill of Rights ” passed, which expressly deprived Catholics of all their political and religious rights. In 1697 this “Bill of Rights” was repealed, “probably as being too liberal,” says Bishop Bayley; and, in 1700, an act was passed which recited that “Whereas, divers Jesuits, priests, and Popish missionaries have, of late, come, and for some time have had their residence in the remote parts of this province, and others of his Majesty’s adjacent colonies, who, by their wicked and subtle insinuations, industriously labored to debauch, seduce, and withdraw the Indians from their due obedience to his most sacred Majesty, and to excite and stir them up to sedition, rebellion, and open hostility against his Majesty’s government;” and enacted that every priest, etc., remaining in or coming into the province, after November 1st, 1700, should be “deemed and accounted an incendiary and disturber of the public peace and safety, and an enemy of the true Christian religion, and shall be adjudged to suffer perpetual imprisonment;” that, in case of escape and capture, they should suffer death; and that harborers of priests should pay a fine of two hundred pounds, and stand three days in the pillory.
In short, the Penal Laws of England and Ireland were carefully copied by the Colonists on this side the Atlantic. Even in Maryland, whose Catholic founders had made liberty of conscience an organic law, the same scenes of persecution were now enacted; and it need not be said that New England was ready to go all lengths against Papists, and against Protestants, too, if they were not the right kind of Protestants.
It may not be so generally known as it ought to be, how zealously and steadily our worthy Protestant Colonists followed the examples set them across the ocean, for the greater part of a century. Many persons vainly suppose that the series of Penal Laws in Ireland, with which we are all so familiar, were invented for the sole sake of our countrymen. Let such persons read the following, from the Statute Books of Virginia: –
1753. – An Act for reducing the several laws made for establishing the General Court, and for regulating and setting the proceedings therein into one Act of Assembly.
Recusant Convict, disabled to be a Witness.
“XXIV. That Popish recusant convicts, (that is, convicted of recusancy,) shall be incapable to be witnesses in any cause whatsoever.”
1756. – An Act for disarming Papists and reputed Papists, refusing to take the oaths to the government.
No Papist to keep Arms, etc.
“III. And for the better securing the lives and properties of his Majesty’s faithful subjects, Be it further enacted and declared, That no Papist or reputed Papist, so refusing or making default as aforesaid, shall or may have or keep in house or elsewhere, or in the possession of any other person to his use, or at his disposition, any arms, weapons, gunpowder, or ammunition, other than such necessary weapons as shall be allowed to him, by order of the Justices of the Peace, at their court, for the defence of his house or person.”
No Papist to keep any Horse above the Value of £5
“VIII. And be it further enacted, That no Papist or reputed Papist, so refusing or making default as aforesaid, at any time after the first day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifty-six, shall or may have, or keep in his own possession, or in the possession of any other person to his use or at his disposition, any horse or horses which shall be above the value of five pounds, to be sold; and that any two or more Justices of the Peace, from time to time, by warrant under their hands and seals, may and shall authorize any person or persons, with the assistance of the constable where the search shall be (who is hereby required to be aiding and assisting herein), to search for, and seize for his Majesty and his successors, all such horses, which horses are hereby declared to be forfeited to his Majesty and his successors.” The Acts of Assembly now in force in the Colony of Virginia, Williamsburg, 1769.
“Negroes, mulattoes, and Indians not to be sworn as witnesses against whites.”
But Catholics could not be witnesses, even against negroes. But all this is a mere digression, scarcely worth dwelling upon in this place, but that we happen to be here, in the State of New York; which is now happily under the fair regime imagined by the Catholic Governor, Dongan; and also that the story of this estimable Governor, coinciding, as it does, with the efforts made for freedom by King James at home, may help to illustrate a truth which is an ugly one to have to admit – namely, that religious persecution is of the very essence of Protestantism. Perhaps this is natural, and all right: for we, being the enlightened portion of Christendom, must feel ourselves authorized, and indeed called, to make others think our thoughts, and go our way, or else “to burn them and to boil them.”
It is time to drop this offensive and irritating subject. Nothing would be easier than to demonstrate the excessive bud faith and malign intention which the “Historian” has brought to the narration of the reign of King James the Second, and the measures of his excellent Parliament. Of course the principal witness to all the cruelties alleged to have been inflicted upon “the Protestants,” in that reign, is Archbishop King (“State of the Protestants of Ireland”). According to his usual system, Mr. Froude palms off upon his readers a bad and discredited authority, suppressing all others. It need not be said that the author who cited Sir John Temple without telling how that wretch afterwards attempted to suppress his own book, should a little further on give us the frightful fables of King, without telling that the man had composed his book, after King James’s fall, to help the confiscations, to stimulate the penal laws, and to win his mitre; and without mentioning that Dr. Leslie, a worthy clergyman of King’s own church, who dwelt in Ireland and had full knowledge of passing events, was seized with a sacred wrath on reading that bad book of the Archbishop, and demonstrated (to use his own words) that it contained “scarcely a true word.” The Archbishop never replied to, nor noticed Leslie’s scorching book for thirty years, – that is as long as he lived: he was content with the service it had done: he had his mitre; the Protestant interest was thriving; and, like Sir John Temple, he did not care to stand by his book any more. Such is precisely the species of authority that Froude chooses to rely upon: and, therefore, when his next, and last, volume comes forth, his readers may expect that he will dose them with plenty of Sir Richard Musgrave.
Perhaps I should never have undertaken to expose any of the delinquencies of Froude, but that the excellent Father Burke, in his most admirable course of lectures, dealt so gently with the Impostor, and even admitted his honesty and good faith. Father Burke’s lectures, as I read them now in their collected form, appear to me a most complete answer, and most scathing rebuke; a work, indeed, which will live while the Irish race lives. If I have ventured to come forward into the same field, it has been mainly with a view of exhibiting not the honesty and good faith, but the determined dishonesty and treachery of that pretended “Historian;” and to show that all this has been perpetrated with the odious intention of affronting and scandalizing a whole race and nation. I am not so good a Christian as Father Burke; and it gives me pleasure to think that I may have contributed a little to destroy such remnant of credit as Froude had, whether at home or abroad.
He has done evil as he could: he has sought grievously to injure a people that had done him no wrong; and I would now counsel him after the example of his Cromwellian heroes to fall clown upon his knees, and “seek the Lord,” and wrestle nightly with the Lord, so that, peradventure, grace might be given him to repent, and confess, and receive absolution of his sin.