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and honour of the Koman Catholic religion are likely to be most considered by the bishops of that persuasion, by the ancient families who profess that religion, and who have resisted every temptation to relinquish it, or by a set of desperate and profligate men, availing themselves of the want of education and experience in those whom they seek to use as instruments for gratifying their own wicked and interested views." They added that the accomplishment of the views held by the deluded of their persuasion, "if effected, must be effected by the downfall of the clergy, of the ancient families, and respectable commercial men of the Roman Catholic religion," &c.
This remonstrance was signed by the Catholic Lords Fingal, Gormanstown, Kenmare, Southwell, and Sir Edward Bellew, and also by the Rev. Patrick Flood, D.D., President of the Royal College of St. Patrick at Maynooth, for himself, professors, and students of said college. While Lords Fingal, Kenmare, and others, made good their words by leading armed yeomanry against the insurgents, Archbishop Troy, of Dublin, and Bishop Caulfield, of Wexford, vainly laboured to dissuade the Catholic peasantry from joining the rebellion.
Bishop Caulfield, in a remarkable letter to the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, mentions those priests who joined the rebellion as chiefly men of irregular conduct and out of favour with their spiritual superiors. The historian Plowden states he had this letter in the handwriting of that prelate, giving the names of those priests as having acted in complete disobedience to him.
The fact was that the educated Irish Catholics at this time, composed chiefly of their few gentry and prelates, perceived that among British Protestants there was growing, though slowly, a wish to improve their social and political position. None knew better than the Irish Catholic nobility and chief prelates that the result of their long period of subjection had proved exactly the reverse of the desires of their British Protestant rulers. Instead of making the Irish peasantry Protestant, it had always rendered them all the more devotedly Roman Catholic* They natu
* "Yet these (Irish Catholics) only clung the closer to their faith on account of the storms which assailed it.
rally associated British Protestant rule with gross oppression, rather than with that religious and political freedom which most Protestants believed would accompany the supremacy of their religion.
Thus, at the French Revolution, when the Romish clergy were attacked, both in France and Italy, by a union of republican revolution with infidel doctrine—when the Pope was driven from Rome by insurgent atheists, and Catholic priests exposed to contempt, hatred, and death by French and Italian republicans—the Irish priesthood firmly retained moral and political influence over their people, not only unimpaired, but materially strengthened, by the severity of British Protestant rule.* To this cause, in a great
In common parlance, the Penal Laws date from the treaty of Limerick, but the legislative assaults on Irish Catholics began with Elizabeth."—Lecky's Rationalism, vol. ii.
* "The teachers of Prance were the teachers of Europe. At length the revolution came. Down went the old Church of Prance, with all its pomp and wealth. Some of its priests, rejoicing in the new licence, proclaimed that their whole life had been an imposture. Others, more faithful to their principles, were butchered by scores without a
measure, the Irish Catholic clergy owed preservation of their spiritual authority amid the general, though temporary, revolt of European opinion against it.
Yet, although this religious influence remained intact, it was beyond the power of the Catholic nobility or prelates to prevent a vast number of their people, including some ignorant, fanatical priests, from joining the rebellion.
But this revolution was planned and headed by persons who, of all Irishmen, had least cause of complaint, and the least reason to view British rule with hostility. Of all the "United Irish" leaders, the most talented and influential were Lord Edward Fitzgerald, son of the Duke of Leinster, Theobald Wolfe Tone, the brothers Emmett, the brothers Sheares, Bagenal Harvey, Russell, and M'Cracken. These men were all Protestants or Presbyterians, and, as their names indicated, of British origin.
That such persons incited Roman Catholic
trial, drowned, shot, hung on lamp-posts. The churches were closed, the bells were silent, the shrines were plundered, the silver crucifixes were melted down."— Macaulay's Essay on Eanke's History of the Popes.
fellow-subjects to revolt against England in behalf of Irish Nationality, while all the chief Catholics, lay and clerical, were either loyal or passive, is a very remarkable fact. Ardent proclamations appeared, denouncing British rule in eloquent English, chiefly addressed to a Koman Catholic population, yet composed and signed mostly by Protestants of British descent. The republican spirit, excited and roused by the late French and American revolutions, seems to have mainly influenced these new leaders of Irish popular opinion.* Thus, to the dismay of the chief Irish Catholics, the peasantry "were thrown," as Macaulay says, "into the hands of the Jacobins."
Ireland, at the beginning of 1798, presents a perplexing spectacle, even to an attentive student of its sanguinary and troubled ancient history. The Viceregal office was held by Lord Camden, aided by Lords Castlereagh and Clare, whose
* "A considerable proportion of them held deistical principles; some of them were habitual drunkards, and not a few of them were barristers, of much talent but of no fixed principles in religion, and who had little to lose in the scramble of a revolution."—Eeid's Presbyterian Church in Ireland, vol. iii.