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book, as in the said chapter plainly doth appear; for after his opinion, thus (this?) is the land that th' angel understood; for there is no land in this world of so long continual war within himself, ne of so great shedding of Christian blood, ne of so great robbing, spoiling, preying, and burning, ne of so great wrongful extortion continually, as Ireland.” Nor is there any reason to suppose that between the period here spoken of and the proclamation of the King's supremacy in 1536, the state of the Irish Church had been much improved. The faith of the poorer Irish was kept alive, not so much by the self-denying efforts of their native clergy, as by the irregular missionary activity of Spanish, French, and English friars. These men naturally obtained over the poor and uneducated an influence they could hardly have hoped to acquire in any other Christian country. The great mass of the population was indebted for the little instruction it received to those who were the national enemies of England; to men, now inclined more than ever to regard with implacable bitterness that country which had treated themselves and their brethren with remorseless severity. As for the Irish chiefs, they scrupled not to burn churches and cathedrals dedicated to the service of the old religion, with as little compunction as they would have destroyed a Protestant barn or a Protestant sanctuary. An O'Neil in Armagh, or a FitzGerald in Kildare, would have been as little withheld by religious considerations from sparing churches or cathedrals, had it suited his purpose, as Bale of Ossory, or George Brown of Dublin, would have been tender of a friars' house or the shrine of our Lady at Trim. When, therefore, the royal supremacy was enforced, although the chiefs might make little scruple in accepting an obligation which did nothing to diminish their peculiar
* State Papers of Henry VIII, Vol. II., pp. 10, 11.
privileges,” it was otherwise with the mass of the Irish population. In their estimation, it was reason sufficient to condemn whatever England approved; to hate a doctrine propagated by English bishops, to whom they had never been accustomed to listen, and with whose residence among them they had associated much of their miseries and their misfortunes. If Irish Catholics had been lukewarm before, this alone was enough to inflame their zeal in defence of their ancient faith; to bring out in prominent relief the papal tendencies of Ireland; to induce them to regard their priests, whether of their own nation or other nations, with a veneration and respect they had never paid even to their chiefs; to cling with unalterable attachment to a class of men who, like themselves, had been exposed to the hostility of England, and had drunk, like themselves, of the same cup of persecution. Priest and people had been subjected to the same fiery baptism, from which both never flinched under the strongest temptations which policy or anger could suggest. So the cause of the priesthood became the cause of their nation. Their nationality was bound up with their faith. And no one at all acquainted with the spirit of the Irish people can wonder at their imperishable devotion to those who had, as it were, been trodden down in the same mortar and been welded in the same blood and suffering with themselves. In no country on earth has the priesthood been so completely identified with the sacred cause of nationality and suffering as in Ireland. Nowhere else has the priest been considered the sole depository and guardian of truths hallowed by ages of holy memories and happier times;–at once the temporal and spiritual guide of his
* Sec Carew Papers, Vol. I. pp. 183 ct seq.
people, carrying, as it were, the keys of Heaven and of earth at his girdle. It is not surprising that the English government should have felt sore and disappointed at the result of an experiment as unsuccessful in Ireland as it had proved prosperous in England. It was the fond hope of Henry VIII. that, by severing the connexion between Ireland and the Pope, he should find that kingdom more obedient, more manageable. It was not to be doubted that popish emissaries in Ireland possessed great influence; nor was that influence used, either with chiefs or with people, to bring the natives into a better state of obedience. It was not forgotten, at least by the Irish, that Ireland was held by the English sovereigns as a fief from the Pope; and it seemed anomalous to them that England should pretend to exercise authority over Ireland when it had thrown off its obedience to the papacy, on which that right was founded. Little as such an argument might appear cogent now, it proved no ineffectual instrument in the management of Observant friars and papal emissaries among a poor and unsophisticated population, especially when the shape which the Reformation assumed under Henry VIII. turned more on the respective limits of the papal and royal authority than on matters of faith and doctrine. Even Irish bishops, though appointed by Henry in opposition to the Pope, were not always inclined to surrender at discretion this article of their ancient creed; and Dowdall, the Archbishop of Armagh, withdrew with his suffragans rather than admit the King's supremacy. Is it then surprising that the mass of the Irish people who had never known what it was to be ruled by a King, to whom the supremacy of the Pope had been the mainstay of their religion, above all, who had never been prepared for the change, should have obstinately resisted P Is it strange that their obstinacy should have grown in proportion to the severity of the measures employed to enforce the obnoxious maxim In vain the highest ecclesiastical preferments in Ireland were offered to the most able and most uncompromising advocates of the new doctrine. Few in number, unaided by their clergy, coldly supported in general by the Deputy, the cardinal doctrine of English Protestantism fell unheeded from the lips of a few right reverend preachers. Received with menaces and defiance even in the cathedral of Dublin, guarded as it was by the Deputy and his soldiers, it found no hearers beyond those walls, it made no proselytes.* Sick of the fruitless attempt, Protestant bishops yielded to the storm of opposition they encountered, and either were silent altogether, or only roused into occasional exertion by a sharp rebuke from England. The letters of Brown, the Archbishop of Dublin, an active promoter of Protestant doctrine, furnish a most curious and striking illustration of this subject.f Originally an Augustinian
* See Abp. Brown's account of a riot in church on one of these occasions,—not the only one,—in Carew Papers, I. 135, 139.
f “Your humble servant (meaning himself), receiving your mandate, “as one of his Highness’ Commissioners, hath endeavoured almost to the “ danger and hazard of this temporal life, to procure the nobility and “gentry of this nation (Ireland) to due obedience, in owning of his “Highness their supreme head, as well spiritual as temporal, and do “find much oppugning therein, especially by my brother Armagh, who “ hath been the main oppugner, and so hath withdrawn most of his “suffragans and clergy within his see and jurisdiction. He made a speech “ to them, laying a curse on the people whosoever should own his Highness' “supremacy, saying that this isle, as it is in their Irish chronicles, Insula “Sacra, belongs to none but the Bishop of Rome, and that it was the “Bishop of Rome's predecessors [who] gave it to the King's ancestors. “. . . . The common people of this isle are more zealous in their “blindness than the saints and martyrs were in truth at the beginning “ of the gospel.” (Abp. Brown to Cromwell, Nov. 28, 1535. Life in the Phoenix, p. 121.)
friar, and provincial of his order, Brown had embraced the
theless, as we do both partly perceive, and partly by sundry advertisements and ways be informed, the good opinion that we
* Vol. I., p. 56.
f Carew, I. 141. See also State Papers, III. 1. And see note f on p. xxii.
f State Papers, II. 465.