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DIGEST OF THE POPERY LAWS, . BY THE HON. SIMON BUTLER.
KSrtHRED TO If tAGE II.
On the 2] st of January, 1792, the society of United Irish, men of Dublin, with the Hon. Simon Butler in the chair, received the report of its committee appointed to enquire into the popery laws, at that time in force in the realm. This able and striking digest of the statutes enacted by British power and influence, against the great majority of the inhabitants of Ireland, brought the whole of that monstrous code under one view, made a reference to its detailed enormities easy, and effected more in bringing the system and its authors into abhorrence, than had been ever done by any other publication. The report classed the popery laws under the following general heads, viz:
ENJOYMENT AND DISPOSITION OF PROPERTY,
ACQUISITION OF PROPERTY,
A second edition of this work being almost immediately called For, the following view, divested as much as could be of technical expressions, was prefixed to it by way of introduction.
"As the Irish popery laws have at length become a subject of so much notorious consideration as well as abhorrence, and as their violence has of late years undergone some mitigation through the liberality of the times, and the deep impression made by the exemplary good conduct of the great catholic body, it is thought necessary to prefix to this second edition of our report, a simple view of the actual state of the popery laws, for the reader, less habituated to the intricacies of statute reading. In doing this We wave all observation except what is necessary to render the intention of the legislature distinct and evident, and we forego that x method in which the legislature has arranged the various regulations of which those statutes are composed, wishing to state their present operation in a short and familiar manner.
"In every well regulated community, the education of youth has been an object of the greatest notice.
^ '' The Irish popery laws have not been inoperative on this point.
"Those who are acquainted with the constitution of our university, need not be informed, that none, except those who conform to the established church, can be admitted to study there, and that none can obtain the degrees therein, who have not previously taken all the tests, oaths and declarations; so that papists are entirely excluded from education in the authorized establishment for learning in their own country.
"No "No popish university or college can be erected or endowed. "No popish school can be endowed.
"But, if we truly conceive the sense of the legislature, (which from the obscurity of its language in this as in other instances is not easy,) a papist, on taking the oath of allegiance, and subscribing the declaration prescribed by the 13th and 14th Geo. 3. ch. 35. does thereby qualify himself to instruct in learning, publicly and privately, youth of his own persuasion ; but lest he should educate any protestants, and thereby have opportunity of making proselytes, the law has provided that he shall not receive into his school any protestant, or become an usher, under-master or assistant to a protestant schoolmaster.
Protestants and converts from popery, educating or permitting their children (not already papists, and above fourteen years of age) to be educated papists, shall be subject to such disabilities as papists are.
"Any convert, if a justice of peace, who educates any of his children under sixteen years of age in the popish religion, shall, on conviction of acting as such, suffer one year's imprisonment, forfeit Jeioo, and be incapable of being an executor, administrator or guardian.
«' The children of papists are deemed papists until they conform, except such as from the age of twelve years have been constantly bred up in the protestant religion, and received the sacrament according to the church of Ireland, who shall be reputed protestants, unless they at any time after the age of eighteen years declare themselves of the communion of the church of Rome, or be present at mattins or vespers according to the practice of that church, in which case they shall be subject to all the penalties affecting converts relapsing to popery.
"Upon this view of the law concerning education, the nation may judge of the liberal indulgence afforded to the Reman catholics bt/ admitting them to the benefits of education.
"The law concerning guardianship stands simply thus :— Papists, other than ecclesiastics, taking the oath of allegiance, .and subscribing the declaration prescribed by the 13th and 14th Geo. 3. ch. 35, are thereby qualified to be guardians of their own children or of the child of a papist, but not of the child of a protestant.
"As to the law concerning marriage, it is extremely simple in its severity, as it consists of but one regulation for every marriage celebrated by a popish priest, between two protestants or between a papist and any person who has been or has professed him or herself to be a protestant at any time within twelve months before such marriage, shall be null and void without any process, judgment or sentence of law whatsoever; and nevertheless, the popish priest who celebrates such marriage shall on conviction be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy or of the statute, and suffer death accordingly: for, says the lawyer, the celebration and not the marriage, constitutes his offence.—In order to obtain evidence of the fact, two justices of the peace are impowered to summon any persons whom they suspect to have been present at any marriage, which they svspect to have been made contrary to this law, as well as the parties suspected to be married, and such suspected parties and suspected witnesses declining to appear, or refusing to declare upon oath their knowledge of the facts, or refusing after declaration of the facts to enter
T into into recognizance to prosecute, shall be imprisoned for three years.
"It must be admitted,that the legislature has lately declared, that it shall and may be lawful to and for protestants and persons professing the popish religion to intermarry, provided the marriage be celebrated by a clergyman of the established church; but when it is considered that, in the Roman catholic persuasion, marriage is a sacrament, and ought to be celebrated according to the rites and ceremonies of that church, it will be readily granted, that by establishing the legality of inter-marriages no very liberal indulgence was offered to the Roman catholics, the more especially as there is a saving in favour of the law that enacts, " that a protestant married to a papist, or a con"vert married since his conformity to a papist, shall not be en"titled to vote, at any election of members to serve in parlia"ment, in right of being a freeholder or protestant inhabitant of "a borough."
"There is another head upon which the legislature has thought proper £o change the course of the common law: it is the rig/it of self-defence, which is complicated with the use of arms. Now this right, though one of the laws of nature, and indeed the first of them, is yet so liable to so many dangerous abuses, that wise communities have found it necessary to set several restrictions upon it, especially temporary ones, on some imminent danger to the public from foreign invasion. The method which the statute law of Ireland has taken upon this delicate article is, to get rid of all the difficulties at once, by an universal prohibition to all persons, who are not protestaiits, at all times, and under all circumstances, to use or keep any kind of weapons whatsoever. In order to inforce this regulation, severe penalties, without any