A History of the Penal Laws against the Irish Catholics
Sir Henry Parnell
Citation Information:Sir Henry Parnell, A History of the Penal Laws against the Irish Catholics, . Fourth edition. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown and Greene. 1825.
Whereas various acts of Parliament have been passed, imposing on his Majesty’s subjects professing the Popish of Roman Catholic religion, many restraints and disabilities to which other subjects of this realm are not liable; and, from the peaceable and loyal demeanour of his Majesty’s Popish or Roman Catholic subjects, it is fit that such restraints and disabilities shall be discontinued; Be it therefore enacted by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that his Majesty’s subjects being Papists, or persons professing the Popish or Roman Catholic religion, or married to Papists, or persons professing the Popish or Roman Catholic religion, or educating any of their children in that religion, shall not be liable or subject to any penalties, forfeitures, disabilities, or incapacitates; or to any laws for the limitation, charging, or discovering of their estates and property, real or personal, or touching the acquiring of property, or securities affecting property, save such as his Majesty’s subjects of the Protestant religion are liable and subject to; and that such parts of all oaths as are required to be taken by persons, in order to qualify themselves for voting at elections for members to serve in parliament, as import to deny that the person taking the same is a Papist, or married to a Papist, or educates his children in the Popish religion, shall not hereafter be required to be taken by any voter, but shall be omitted by the person administering the same; and that it shall not be necessary, in order to entitle a Papist, or person professing the Popish or Roman Catholic religion to vote at an election of members to serve in parliament, that he should at, or previous to his voting, take the oaths of allegiance and abjuration, any statute now in force to the contrary of any of the said matters, in any wise notwithstanding.
2. Provided always, and be it further enacted, that all Papists, or persons professing the Popish or Roman Catholic religion, who may claim to have a right of voting for members to serve in Parliament, or of voting for magistrates in any city, town corporate, or borough, within this kingdom, be hereby required to perform all qualifications, registries, and other requisites, which are now required of his Majesty’s Protestant subjects in like cases, by any law or laws now of force in his kingdom, save and except such oaths and parts of oaths, as are herein before excepted.
6. Provided also, That nothing herein contained shall extend to authorize any Papist or person professing the Popish or Roman Catholic religion, to have or keep in his hands or possession any arms, armour, ammunition, or any warlike stores, sword blades, barrels, locks, or stocks of guns or fire arms, or to exempt such person from any forfeiture or penalty inflicted by any act respecting arms, armour or ammunition, in the hands or possession of any Papist, or respecting Papists having or keeping such warlike stories, save and except Papists or persons of the Popish or Roman Catholic religion, seized of a freehold estate of one hundred pounds a-year, or possessed of a personal estate of one thousand pounds or upwards, who are hereby authorized to keep arms and ammunition as Protestants now by law may; and also save and except Papists or Roman Catholics possessing a freehold estate of ten pounds yearly value, and less than one hundred pounds, or a personal estate of three hundred pounds, and less than one thousand pounds, who shall have, at the session of the peace in the county in which they reside, taken the oath of allegiance prescribed to be taken, by an act passed in the thirteenth and fourteenth years of his present Majesty’s reign, entitled, “An Act to enable his Majesty’s Subjects, “of whatever Persuasion, to testify their allegiance to him;” and also, in open court, swear and subscribe an affidavit, and also, in open court, swear and subscribe an affidavit, that they are possessed of a freehold estate, yielding a clear yearly profit to the person making the same, of ten pounds, or a personal property of thee hundred pounds above his just debts, specifying therein the name and nature of such freehold, and nature of such personal property; which affidavits shall be carefully preserved by the clerk of the peace, who shall have for his trouble a fee of sixpence, and no more, for every such affidavit and the person making such affidavits, and possessing such property, may keep and use arms and ammunition as Protestants may, so long as they shall respectively possess property of the annual value of ten pounds and upwards, if freehold, or the value of three hundred pounds if personal, any statute to the contrary notwithstanding.
7. And be it enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for Papists, or persons professing the Popish or Roman Catholic religion, to hold, exercise, and enjoy, and civil and military offices, or places of trust or profit under His Majesty, his heirs and successors, in this kingdom; and to hold or take degrees, or any professorship in, or be masters or fellows of any college to be hereafter founded in this kingdom, provided that such college shall be a member of the university of Dublin, and shall not be founded exclusively for the education of Papists, or persons professing the Popish or Roman Catholic religion, nor consist exclusively of masters, fellows, or other persons to be named or elected on the foundation of such college, being persons professing the Popish or Roman Catholic religion, or to hold any office or place of trust in, and to be a member of any lay body corporate, except the college of the Holy and undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth, near Dublin, without taking and subscribing the oath of allegiance, supremacy, or abjuration, or making or subscribing the declaration required to be taken, made, and subscribed, to enable any person to hold and enjoy any such places, and without receiving the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of Ireland, any law, statute, or bye-law, of any corporation to the contrary notwithstanding; provided that every such person shall take and subscribe the oath appointed by the act, passed in the thirteenth and fourteenth years of His Majesty’s reign, entitled, “An Act to enable His Majesty’s subjects, of whatever persuasion, to testify their allegiance to him;” and also the oath and declaration following, that is to say:
“I A. B. do hereby declare, that I do profess the Roman Catholic religion.”
“I A. B. do swear, that I do abjure, condemn, and detest, as unchristian and impious, the principle that it is lawful to murder, destroy, or any ways injure any person whatsoever for or under the pretence of being a heretic; and I do declare solemnly before God, that I believe, that no act in itself unjust, immoral, or wicked, can ever be justified or excused by or under pretence or colour that it was done either for the good of the church, or in obedience to any ecclesiastical power whatsoever. I also declare, that it is not an article of the Catholic faith, neither am I thereby required to believe or profess that the Pope is infallible, or that I am bound to obey any order in its own nature immoral, though the Pope, or any ecclesiastical power, should issue or direct such order; but, on the contrary, I hold that it would be sinful in me to pay any respect or obedience thereto: I further declare, that I do not believe that any sin whatsoever committed by me can be forgiven at the mere will of any Pope, or of any priest, or of any person or persons whatsoever; but that sincere sorrow for past sins, a firm and sincere resolution to avoid future guilt, and to atone to God, are previous and indispensable requisites to establish a well-founded expectation of forgiveness; and that any person who receives absolution without these previous requisites, so far from obtaining thereby any remission of his sins, incurs the additional guilt of violating a sacrament; and I do swear that I will defend, to the utmost of my power, the settlement and arrangement of property in this country as established by the laws now in being; I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present church establishment, for the purpose of substituting a Catholic establishment in its stead; and I do solemnly swear, that I will not exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb and weaken the Protestant religion and Protestant government in this kingdom. “So help me God.”
8. And be it enacted, That Papists, or persons professing the Popish or Roman Catholic religion, may be capable of being elected professors of medicine upon the foundation of Sir Patrick Dunn, any law or stature to the contrary notwithstanding.
11. And be it enacted, That no Papist, or person professing the Popish or Roman Catholic religion shall be liable to, or subject to any penalty for not attending divine service on the Sabbath-day, called Sunday, in his or her parish church.
12. Provided also, and be it enacted, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to extend to authorise any Popish priest, or reputed Popish priest, to celebrate marriage between Protestant and Protestant, or between any person who hath been, or professed himself or herself to be a Protestant at any time within twelve moths before such celebration of marriage, and a Papist, unless such Protestant and Papist should have been first married by a clergyman of the Protestant religion; and that every Popish priest, or reputed Popish priest, who shall celebrate any marriage between two Protestant, or between any such Protestant and Papist, unless such Protestant and Papist shall have been first married by a clergyman of the Protestant religion, shall forfeit the sum of five hundred pounds to his Majesty, upon conviction thereof.*
13. And whereas it may be expedient, in case his Majesty, his heirs and successors, shall be pleased to alter the statutes of the college of the holy and undivided Trinity, near Dublin, and of the university of Dublin, as to enable persons professing the Roman Catholic religion to enter into or take degrees in the said university to remove any obstacle which now exists by statute law; be it enacted, That from and after the first day of June, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three, it shall not be necessary for any person upon taking any of the degrees usually conferred by the said university to make or subscribe any declaration, or to take any oath save the oaths of allegiance and abjuration, any law or statute to the contrary notwithstanding.
14. Provided always, That no Papist or Roman Catholic, or persons professing the Roman Catholic or Popish religion, shall take any benefit by or under this act, unless he shall have first taken and subscribed the oath and declaration in this act contained and set forth, and also the said oath appointed by the said act passed in the thirteenth and fourteenth years of his Majesty’s reign, entitled, “An act to enable his Majesty’s subjects, of whatever persuasion, to testify their allegiance to him.”
15. And be it further provided and enacted, That from and after the first day of April, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three, no freeholder, burgess, freeman, or inhabitant of this kingdom, being a Papist or Roman Catholic, or person professing the Roman Catholic or Popish religion, shall at any time be capable of giving his vote for the electing of any knight or knights of any shire or county within this kingdom, or citizen or burgess to serve in any Parliament, until he shall have first produced and shown to the high sheriff of the said county, or his deputy or deputies, at any election of a knight or knights of the said shire, and to the respective chief officer of officers of any city, borough, or town corporate to whom the return of any citizen or burgess to serve in Parliament, such certificate of his having taken and subscribe the said oaths and declaration.
On the 4th of March 1704, the royal assent was given to the Act to prevent the further growth of Popery; being the first of those two famous acts, which have, most deservedly, been termed by Mr. Burke, the ferocious acts of Anne.
By the third clause of this act, the Popish father though he may have acquired his estate by descent from a long line of ancestors, or by his own purchase, is deprived of the power, in case his eldest son, or any other son, becomes a Protestant, to sell, mortgage, or otherwise dispose of it, or to leave out of it any portions or legacies.
By the 4th clause, the Popish father is debarred, under a penalty of 500L from being a guardian to, or from having the custody of his own children; but if the child, though ever so young, pretends to be a Protestant, it is to be taken from its own father, and put into the hands of a Protestant relation.
The 5th clause provides that no Protestant shall marry a Papist, having an estate in Ireland, either in our out of the kingdom.
The 6th clause renders Papists incapable of purchasing any manors, tenements, hereditaments, or any rents or profits arising out of the same, or of holding any lease of lives, or other lease whatever, for any term exceeding 31 years. Even with respect to this advantage restrictions are imposed on them, one of which is, that if a farm produced a profit greater than one-third of the amount of the rent, the right in it was immediately to cease, and to pass over entirely to the first Protestant who should discover the rate of profit.
The 7th clause deprives Papists of such inheritance, devise, gift, remainder, or trust, of any lands, tenements, or hereditaments, of which any Protestant was, or should be seized in fee simple, absolute, or fee tail, which, by the death of such Protestant, or his wife, ought to have descended to his son or other issue in tail, being Papists, and makes them descend to the nearest Protestant relation, as if the Popish heir and other Popish relations were dead.
By the 10th clause, the estate of a Papist, for want of a Protestant heir, is to be divided, share and share alike, among all his sons; for want of sons, among his daughters; and, for want of daughters, among the collateral kindred of the father.
By the 15th clause, no person shall be exempt from the penalties of this act, that shall not take and subscribe the oath and declaration required by this act to be taken.
By the 16th clause, all persons whatsoever who shall receive any office, civil and military, shall take and subscribe the oath and declaration required to be taken by the English act of 3d William and Mary; and also the oath of abjuration required to be taken by another English act of 1st Anne; also shall receive the sacrament.*
The 23d clause provides, that no Papist, except under particular conditions, shall dwell in Limerick or Galway.
The 24th, that no persons shall vote at elections without taking the oaths or allegiance and abjuration.
And the 25th clause, that all advowsons possessed by Papists shall be vested in Her Majesty.
However great was the ingenuity of the legislators who produced that master-piece of oppression, the act to prevent the farther growth of Popery, it was found that another act was still wanting to explain and amend it. Such an act passed in the year 1709.*
The 1st clause provides, that no Papist shall be capable of taking any annuity for life.
The following is the 3d clause, every word of which is of value, in order to show the vexations to which the unfortunate Catholics of Ireland have been exposed: “And, be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that where and as often as any child or children of any Popish parent or parents hath, or have heretofore professed or conformed him, her, or themselves, to the Protestant religion, as by law established, and enrolled in the High Court of Chancery a certificate of the bishop of the diocese in which he, she, or they shall inhabit or reside, testifying his, her, or their being a Protestant, and conforming him, her or themselves, to the church of Ireland, as by law established, it shall and may be lawful for the High Court of Chancery, upon a bill founded upon this act, to oblige the said Papist, parent, or parents, to discover upon the oath the full value of all his, her or their estate, as well personal as real, clear, over and above all real incumbrances and debts contracted, bona fide, for valuable consideration, before the enrolment of such certificate, and thereupon to make such order for the support and maintenance of such Protestant child or children, by the distribution of the said real and personal estate, to and among such Protestant child or children, for the present support of such Protestant child or children; and also to and for the portion or portions, and future maintenance or maintenances, of such Protestant child or children, after the decease of such Popish parent or parents, as the said court shall judge fit.”
The 12th clause provides, that all converts in public employments, members of parliament, barristers, attornies, officers of any courts of law, shall educate their children Protestant s.
By the14th clause, the Popish wife of a Papist, having power to make a jointure, conforming, shall, if she survives her husband, have such provision, not exceeding the power of her husband, to make a jointure, as the chancellor shall adjudge.
By the 15th clause, the Popish wife of a Papist, not being otherwise provided for, conforming, shall have a proportion out of his chattels, notwithstanding any will or voluntary disposition, and the stat.7W.III.6.
The 16th clause provides, that a Papist teaching school publicly, or in a private house, or as usher to a Protestant, shall be deemed and prosecuted as a Popish regular convict.
The 18th clause provides, that Popish priests, who shall be converted, shall receive 30L. per annum, to be levied and paid by grand juries.
The 20th clause provides, whimsically enough, for the reward of discovering Popish clergy and schoolmasters, viz.
For discovering an archbishop, bishop, vicar-general, or other person exercising any foreign ecclesiastical jurisdiction L 50 0 0
For discovering each regular clergyman, and each secular clergyman, not registered 20 0 0
For discovering each Popish schoolmaster or usher 10 0 0*
The 21st clause empowers two justices to summon any Papist of 18 years of age, and if he shall refuse to give testimony where and when he heard mass celebrated, and who and what persons were present at the celebration of it, and likewise touching the residence and abode of any priest or Popish schoolmaster to commit him to jail, without bail, for 12 months, or until he shall pay 20L.
By the 25th clause, no priest can officiate except in the parish for which he is registerd, by 2 Anne, c.7.
The 30th clause provides for the discovery of all trusts agreed to be undertaken in favour of Papists; and enables any Protestant to file a bill in chancery against any person concerned in any sale, lease, mortgage, or incumberance, in trust for Papists, and to compel him to discover the same; and it further provides, that all issues to be tried in any action founded upon this act, shall be tried by none but known Protestants.
The 37th clause provides that no Papist in trade except in the linen trade, shall take more than two apprentices.
The following are the other acts passed in this reign concerning the Catholics.
An act to prevent Popish clergy from coming into the kingdom.*
An act for registering Popish clergy. By which all the Catholic clergy then in the kingdom were required to give in their names and places of abode at the next quarter sessions: by this act they are prohibited from employing curates.+
*Com. Jour.3. 289. + Ib. 319.
The following acts of parliament were passed in this reign, for the purpose of strengthening the system which had been adopted by William and Anne, for preventing the growth of Popery.
An act to make the militia of this kingdom more useful.*
By the 11th and 12th clauses of this act, the horses of Papists may be seized for the militia.
By the 4th and 18th clauses, Papists are to pay double towards raising the militia.
By the 16th clause, Popish house-keepers in a city, are to find fit Protestant substitutes.
An act to restrain Papists from being high or petty constables, and for the better regulating the parish watches.
An act for the more effectual preventing fraudulent conveyances, in order to multiply votes for electing members to serve in parliament, &c.
By the 7th clause of this act, no Papist can vote at an election, unless he takes the oaths of allegiance and abjuration.
An act for the better regulating the town of Galway, and for strengthening the Protestant interest therein.
An act for the better regulating the corporation of the city of Kilkenny, and strengthening the Protestant interest therein.
An act by which Papists resident in towns, who shall not provide a Protestant watchman to watch in their room, shall be subject to certain penalties.
By 12G.I. c.9.S7. no Papist can vote at any vestry held for the purpose of levying or assessing money for rebuilding or repairing parish churches.
These acts of parliament originated in the same
In this reign, the following additional disabilities were imposed upon the Catholics.
By the 1 Geo. II. C. 9. Sect. 7. No Papist can vote at an election without taking the oath of supremacy. However great the oppression which the Catholics had experienced during former reigns, this measure altogether completed their entire exclusion form the benefits of the constitution, and from the opportunity of regaining their former just rights. It was because this privilege had begun to operate amongst Protestants in a manner very favourable to the Catholics, and to bring about a feeling of regret for their sufferings, and a coalition between the two parties to oppose the influence of the English Government as a common cause of grievances, that Primate Boulter advised the Ministers to pass this law. His principle of government for Ireland, was to uphold the English interest by the divisions of the inhabitants; and, on this occasion, it induced him to adopt the desperate resolution of disfranchising, at one stroke, above five-sixths of its population. *
By the second clause all converts, &c. are bound to educate their children as Protestants.
By 7 Geo. II. C.5. sect 12. Barristers or solicitors, marrying Papists, are deemed Papists, and made subject to all penalties as such.
By 7 Geo. II. C.6. no convert can act as a justice of the peace, whose wife, or children under 16 years of age, are educated Papists.
The 13 Geo. II. C.6. is an act to amend former acts for disarming Papists.
By the 6th clause of this act, Protestants educating their children as Papists, are made subject to the same disabilities as Papists are.
By 9 Geo. II. C. 3. No person can serve on a petty jury, unless seized of a freehold of 5L. per annum, or, being a Protestant, unless possessed of a profit rent of 15L per annum under a lease for years.
By 9 Geo. II. C.6. sect. 5. Persons robbed by privateers, during war with a Popish prince, shall be reimbursed by grand jury presentment, and the money be levied upon the goods and lands of Popish inhabitants only.
The 19 Geo. II. C. 5. Is an act for granting a duty on hawkers and pedlars to the society of Protestant charter schools.*
The 19 Geo. II. C.13. is an act to annul all marriages between Protestant s and Papists, or celebrated by Popish priests.*
By the 23 Geo. II. C. 10. Sect. 3. Every Popish priest who shall celebrate any marriage contrary to 12 Geo. I. C. 3. And be thereof convicted, shall be hanged.