Page images
PDF
EPUB

close of the last century, have been all denied by law to the Catholics. Protestantism had every thing its own way - the crown, the laws, the taxes, forces, schools, estates, and churches. By every human calculation, the victory would be declared to the strong. Yet it is quite otherwise in this instance.

How a poor and insulated peasantry could have kept their ancient faith, against such odds, for three hundred years, is matter of wonder to those who are not Catholics. To those who are, it is a source of inquiry and reflection full of edification and encouragement. A book in which the facts of this contest would be set down briefly and intelligibly has long been wanted. Thirty years ago, Charles Butler considered it "the great literary desideratumin our language; and a desideratum it has remained.

If it is important to have such a book published, it is very difficult to compile it, even in summary style. . In Ireland, this must have been felt, where so many able Catholic writers have declined it, either from the greatness of the labor or the incompleteness of the authorities. In America, far removed from all who have made any portion of the subject their special study, with such authorities as are to be had or imported here, I have found the work very arduous indeed. For some facts I have had chiefly to rely on a large collection of manuscript notes, made partly in Dublin libraries and partly in that of the British Museum in the years 1846 and 1847.

The memoirs on which I have chiefly relied are of three classes :

I. Contemporary Catholic narratives of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries such as “ The

[ocr errors]

Four Masters,” Bishop O'Daly's Histories, O'Sullivan's, Bishop French's Tracts, the Jacobite Pamphlets and Memoirs, Hibernia Dominicana, and Father O'Leary's Letters.

II. Publications on the Penal Code and Catholic Relief Bills during the period of agitation; Curry's Civil Wars; Burke's Letters and Speeches; O'Conor's Pamphlets; Brookes's Letters ; Scully's Digest of the Penal Laws; William Parnell's Apology for the Irish Catholics; Sir Henry Parnell's History of the Penal Laws; Petitions and Reports of the successive Catholic Committees; the Debates in the Irish and English Parliaments; and the Diplomatic Correspondence of both governments as far as it relates to Ireland.

III. County and City Histories - such as those of Dublin, Armagh, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, and Galway; Biographies of the chief actors for and against the church — Henry VIII., Usher, Strafford, Ormond, Cromwell, Clarendon, Walpole, Chesterfield, George III., Pitt, and Castlereagh, of the 'Protestant side ; Hugh O'Neil, Bishop French, Primate Plunkett, James II., Patrick Sarsfield, Charles O'Conor, Edmund Burke, Henry Grattan, Wolfe Tone, John Keogh, Bishop Doyle, and Daniel O'Connell, of the Catholic side.

From these authorities I have endeavored to extract all the essential facts in relation to the Reformation" in Ireland.

I am deeply sensible, after all the care and time I could bestow on it, how far the work is from what it might be made in abler hands. Yet even as a substitute for a better, it is well it should go forth. One half the Irish race are in America, and need to have this History by them. If not in this way, in what other shall they be shown the cost at which our fathers purchased that “pearl beyond price,” the religion which, through the

grace of God, we still retain ? Here are no waysidecrosses or empty belfries, no Cromwellian breaches, no soil fruitful of traditions, to keep alive in their souls the story of their heroic and orthodox ancestors. For the monuments and memorials that abound in Erin, this little book is the only substitute I can offer them. It will be, I trust, an acceptable offering to those for whom it is chiefly intended.

This book I call “ A History of the Attempts" to establish the "Reformation” in Ireland, because it relates each attempt and failure. The variety and energy of these efforts may be well imagined from an abstract.

I. Attempts under Henry VIII. and Edward VI. to intimidate the existing hierarchy, by. punishing as treason the refusal to take the oath of supremacy; the confiscation of religious possessions, and the war upon the shrines, schools, and relics of the saints.

II. Attempts under Elizabeth, by armies and wholesale confiscations, as in the case of Desmond; by the endowment of Trinity College, and the theory of Usher, that the early Irish church was Protestant.

III. Attempt of James I., by colonizing Ulster with Presbyterians, the act of conformity, and the exclusion of Catholics from the Irish parliament.

IV. Attempt under Charles I., by ordering all priests and Jesuits to leave the kingdom; by the commission for inquiring into defective titles; by the enlargement of the school of king's wards.

V. Attempts of the Puritans, by the solemn league and covenant; by the Anglo-Scotch invasion ; by trans

portation to Barbadoes; by martial law; by the importation of Independents, Brownists, Anabaptists, &c.

VI. Attempt under Charles II., by the act of settlement, and swearing Ireland into “ the Popish plot.”

VII. Attempts under William and Anne, by banishing the Catholic soldiery, and colonizing German Protestants ; by violating the treaty of Limerick; by enlarging the penal laws into a complete code.

VIII. Attempts under the present dynasty, by state schools and a system of proselytism, to effect what confiscation, war, and controversy failed to effect in earlier times.

The work closes at the year of our Lord 1830. It might have been continued down to the present time, when we find new penal enactments added to the statutes of Westminster, new proselytizing societies ranging through Ireland, a successor of St. Patrick assailed with all the forces of British diplomacy, and a Catholic Defence Association sitting in Dublin. But remembering the advice of Ecclesiasticus, “ Judge no man while he is living," the narrative closes at 1830.

AMERICAN CELT OFFICE,

Buffalo, 1852.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »