Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

natives, -reaching out to them the Act of Uniformity, not a word of which they could read, requiring them to adopt a liturgy, not a word of which they could understand ;--and attempting to force their obedience by such severities, “ that " the least of them,” to use the words of lord deputy Mountjoy, “ had many times been sufficient ? to drive the best and most quiet states into con“ fusion;"-—may not some horror and astonishment be expected? · In a few lines, lord Clare expresses his opinion of the injustice and impolicy of the system of government carried on by the ministers of queen Elizabeth in Ireland. “ It seems difficult,"

says his lordship, “to conceive any more unjust or im

politic act of government, than an attempt to “ force new modes of religion, faith, and worship,

by severe penalties, upon a rude, superstitious, “ and embittered people. Persecutions, or attempts “ to force conscience, will never produce conver

sion; they are calculated only to make hypocrites “ or martyrs; and accordingly, the violence com“ menced by Elizabeth, to force the reformed reli

gion into Ireland, had no other effect than to “ foment a general dissatisfaction to the English

government.'

P.S. In addition to the few lines in this letter, which describe the wretchedness of the Irish people, permit me to mention the five or six famines, with which Ireland, in the reign of George II. was visited during the short period of twenty years. -See Mr. Mat. Conor's Hist. of Ireland, p: 223.-On the Massacre in 1641, see Hist. Memoirs, lxxx. 7.

LETTER XVI.

JAMES 1.

SIR, THE part of your chapter on the reign of James I, which relates to the roman-catholics, is extremely limited : it is confined,-1. To the Gunpowder Plot ;—11. And the Oath of Allegiance prescribed by James to the roman-catholics : Both are important, and I shall successively consider them.

XVI. 1.

The Gunpowder Plot. JUSTICE to the roman-catholics evidently required of you, to mention their many loyal advances to king James, on his accession to the English throne; the dutiful addresses to him, both from the roman-catholicclergy, and the roman-catholic laity; and the humble supplication presented to him from the priests in exile. You should also have mentioned the communications between him and the roman-catholics, both in the life-time of Elizabeth, and subsequently to her decease ; his fair words, and even promises to them, particularly during the negotiations for the marriage of Charles, his son and successor, with the infanta of Spain ; his explicit avowals, after these negotiations ceased, of his resolution to persecute the roman-catholics; and the declaration of Bancroft, the bishop of London, that the time was come, “ when the protestants might act against “ the catholics without dissimulation or mercy; that “ is,exterminate them :" and the statute of the first year of his reign, which directed, that the laws against jesuits and seminary priests should be put into execution ; that two-third parts of the real estates of every offender, should be seized for recusancy; and that persons educated in foreign seminaries should be incapable of taking lands by de? scent. Should you not have brought forward all these circumstances ? Observing, as you have done, a total silence upon them, can you yourself say, that you have fairly stated their case ?

You cite James for saying, that, “ he was bút “ half a king to the papists, being lord of their

bodies, while their souls were the pope's.". Why should the roman-catholics be incessantly insulted by a repetition of those taunting expressions? what foundation is there for them? When all the protestant colonies in America revolted against England, catholic Canada alone preserved her allegiance to her. What would be the solitude of her

camps and her armies, if the brave and loyal romancatholics did not fill them? Have not ministers? has not the legislature of Great Britain, repeatedly acknowledged their loyalty and worth ? Did not the earl of Liverpool, in the debate on the Irish petition, say,_“I have heard allusions, “ this night, to doctrines, which, I do hope,

no man now believes the roman-catholics to :"entertain; nor is there any ground, that the question is opposed upon any such pretence.”—

.

This is the language of a statesman, and a gentleman.-How much better,-better in every sense of the word, is it,—than general, ungrounded, and illiberal abuse ! You proceed to the gunpowder plot :

“ That “ atrocious treason,” you say, “was devised by a “ few bigots, who had become furious, when their

hopes of bringing about a Spanish invasion were “ frustrated by the peace with Spain. The English

catholics, às a body, were innocent of it; but the “ opprobrium which it brought upon their church

was not unjust; because Guy Fawkes and his “ associates acted upon the same principles as the “ head of that church," on the occasions which you enumerate, and which we have already mentioned.

But, -how many catholics were concerned in the plot? Sixteen at the most; and nine only of these were privy to the powder part of it. In what estimation were the conductors of the plot held by the catholics ? A contemporary writer* informs us, that “they were a few wicked" and desperate “ wretches, whom many protestants termed papists, “ although the priests and true catholics knew them not to be such ; nor could any protestant say, that

any one of them was such as the law terms popish

recusants.” Who would have been the victims of the plot, if it had succeeded? The roman-catholic as well as the protestant peers: twenty romancatholic peers had then their seats in the upper house. Who revealed the conspiracy ? Lord

* Protestants Plea for Priests, p. 56, published in 1621.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

o that

Mounteagle, a roman-catholic.—Who were parti-
cularly active in detecting and exposing it? The
earl of Northampton and the earl of Suffolk, both
roman-catholics.--As soon as the particulars of
the plot became generally known, did not the
catholics universally express their horror of it?
Blackwell, the catholic archpriest, and the other
leading clergymen, immediately circulated a pas-
toral letter, in which they called it “ detestable and
damnable ;" and assured the catholics,
“ the pope had always condemned such unlawful

practices.”—They presented an address to the king, another to both houses of parliament, and a third to Čecil, the chief secretary of state, declaring in each their abhorrence of the plot, asserting their innocence, and urging inquiry *. Soon after the archpriest and the leading clergy had published their letter, the former received a brief from the pope to the same effect; on the receipt of it, he, with the leading clergy, announced it to the catholics, by a letter, in the same spirit as the preceding.

You say, that, “if the conspirators felt any com“punctious scruples, the sanction of their ghostly “ fathers quieted their doubts.” To this, permit me to give an absolute denial. So far was it from being the case, that the histories published by More and Bartoli show, that the jesuits exerted themselves to sooth the general irritation, which James's conduct had naturally occasioned. This was known so generally, that some ardent spirits insinuated,

* The Advocate of Conscience and Liberty, &c. p. 230.

« VorigeDoorgaan »