Front Page Titles (by Subject) [CHAPTER XII]: Of the Religion, Diet, Cloaths, Language, Manners, and Interest of the several Present Inhabitants of Ireland. - The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1
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[CHAPTER XII]: Of the Religion, Diet, Cloaths, Language, Manners, and Interest of the several Present Inhabitants of Ireland. - Sir William Petty, The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, vol. 1 
The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty, together with The Observations upon Bills of Mortality, more probably by Captain John Graunt, ed. Charles Henry Hull (Cambridge University Press, 1899), 2 vols.
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Of the Religion, Diet, Cloaths, Language, Manners, and Interest of the several Present Inhabitants ofIreland.
WE said, that of the 1100 M. Inhabitants of Ireland, about 800 M. of them were Irish; and that above 600 M. of them lived very simply in the Cabbins aforemention'd2 . Wherefore I shall in the first place describe the Religion, Diet, &c. of these, being the major part of the whole; not wholly omitting some of the other species also.
The Religion of these poorer Irish, is called Roman Catholick, whose Head is the Pope of Rome, from whence they are properly enough called Papists. This Religion is well known in the World, both by the Books of their Divines, and the Worship in their Churches: wherefore I confine my self to what I think peculiar to these Irish. And first, I observe, that the Priests among them are of small Learning; but are thought by their Flocks to have much, because they can speak Latin more or less; and can often out-talk in Latin those who Dispute with them. So as they are ‖ thereby thought both more Orthodox and Able than their Antagonists.
Their Reading in Latin is the Lives of the Saints, and Fabulous Stories of their Country. But the Superior Learning among them, is the Philosophy of the Schools, and the Genealogies of their Ancestors. Both which look like what St. Paul hath Condemned3 .
The Priests are chosen for the most part out of old Irish Gentry; and thereby influence the People, as well by their Interest as their Office.
Their Preaching seems rather Bugbearing of their flocks with dreadful Stories, than persuading them by Reason, or the Scriptures. They have an incredible Opinion of the Pope and his Sanctity, of the happiness of those who can obtain his Blessing at the third or fourth hand. Only some few, who have lately been abroad, have gotten so far, as to talk of a difference between the Interest of the Court of Rome, and the Doctrine of the Church. The Common Priests have few of them been out of Ireland; and those who have, were bred in Covents, or1 made Friars for the most part, and have humble Opinions of the English and Protestants, and of the mischiefs ‖ of setting up Manufactures, and introducing of Trade. They also comfort their Flocks, partly by Prophecies of their Restoration to their Ancient Estates and Liberties, which the abler sort of them fetch from what the Prophets of the Old-Testament have delivered by way of God's Promise to restore the fews, and the Kingdom to Israel. They make little esteem of an Oath upon a Protestant Bible, but will more devoutly take up a Stone, and swear upon it, calling it a Book, than by the said Book of Books, the Bible. But of all Oaths, they think themselves at much liberty to take a Land-Oath, as they call it: Which is an Oath to prove a forg'd Deed, a Possession, Livery or Seisin, payment of Rents, &c. in order to recover for their Countrey-men the Lands which they had forfeited. They have a great Opinion of Holy-Wells, Rocks, and Caves, which have been the reputed Cells and Receptacles of men reputed Saints. They do not much fear Death, if it be upon a Tree, unto which, or the Gallows, they will go upon their Knees toward it, from the place they can first see it. They confess nothing at their Executions, though never so guilty. In brief, there is much Superstition among them, but formerly much ‖ more than is now; for as much as by the Conversation of Protestants, they become asham'd of their ridiculous Practices, which are not de fide. As for the Richer and better-educated sort of them, they are such Catholicks as are in other places. The Poor, in adhering to their Religion, which is rather a Custom than a Dogma amongst them, They seem rather to obey their Grandees, old Landlords, and the Heads of their Septes and Clans, than God. For when these were under Clouds, transported into Spain, and transplanted into Connaught, and disabled to serve them as formerly, about the year 1656, when the Adventurers and Soldiers appeared to be their Landlords and Patrons, they were observ'd to have been forward enough to relax the stiffness of their pertinacity to the Pope, and his Impositions. Lastly, Among the better sort of them, many think less of the Pope's Power in Temporals, as they call it, than formerly; and begin to say, that the Supremacy, even in Spirituals, lies rather in the Church diffusive, and in qualified General-Councils, than in the Pope alone, or than in the Pope and his Cardinals, or other juncto.
The Religion of the Protestants in Ireland, is the same with the Church of England ‖ in Doctrine, only they differ in Discipline thus, viz.
The Legal Protestants hold the Power of the Church to be in the King, and that Bishops and Arch-Bishops, with their Clerks, are the best way of adjusting that Power under him. The Presbyterians would have the same thing done, and perhaps more, by Classes of Presbyters National and Provincial. The Independents would have all Christian Congregations independent from each other. The Anabaptists are Independent in Discipline, and differ from all those aforemention'd in the Baptism of Infants, and in the inward and spiritual Signification of that Ordinance. The Quakers salute not by uncovering the Head, speak to one another in the second Person, and singular Number; as for Magistracy and Arms, they seem to hold with the Anabaptists of Germany and Holland; they pretend to a possibility of perfection, like the Papists; as for other Tenents, ‘tis hard to fix them, or to understand what things they mean by their Words.
The Diet of the poorer Irish, is what was before discoursed in the illegible Chapter1 . ‖
The Cloathing is a narrow sort of Frieze, of about twenty Inches broad, whereof two foot, call'd a Bandle, is worth from 3½ to 18 d. Of this, Seventeen Bandles make a Man's Suit, and twelve make a Cloak. According to which Measures and Proportions, and the number of People who wear this Stuff, it seems, that near thrice as much Wooll is spent in Ireland, as exported; whereas others have thought quite contrary, that is, that the exported Wooll is triple in quantity to what is spent at home.
As for the Manners of the Irish, I deduce them from their Original Constitutions of Body, and from the Air; next from their ordinary Food; next from their Condition of Estate and Liberty, and from the Influence of their Governours and Teachers; and lastly, from their Ancient Customs, which affect as well their Consciences as their Nature. For their Shape, Stature, Colour, and Complexion, I see nothing in them inferior to any other People, nor any enormous predominancy of any humour.
2 Their Lazing seems to me to proceed rather from want of Imployment and Encouragement to Work3 , than from the natural ‖ abundance of Flegm in their Bowels and Blood; for what need they to Work, who can content themselves with Potato's, whereof the Labour of one Man can feed forty; and with Milk, whereof one Cow will, in Summer time, give meat and drink enough for three Men, when they can every where gather Cockles, Oysters, Muscles, Crabs, &c. with Boats, Nets, Angles, or the Art of Fishing; can build an House in three days? And why should they desire to fare better, tho with more Labour, when they are taught, that this way of living is more like the4 Patriarchs of old, and the Saints of later times, by whose Prayers and Merits they are to be reliev'd, and whose Examples they are therefore to follow? And why should they breed more Cattel, since ‘tis Penal to import them into England? Why should they raise more Commodities, since there are not Merchants sufficiently Stock'd to take them of them, nor provided with other more pleasing foreign Commodities, to give in Exchange for them? And how should Merchants have Stock, since Trade is prohibited and fetter'd by the Statutes of England? And why should Men endeavour to get Estates, where the Legislative Power is not agreed upon; and ‖ where Tricks and Words destroy natural Right and Property?
They are accused also of much Treachery, Falseness, and Thievery; none of all which, I conceive, is natural to them; for as to Treachery, they are made believe, that they all shall flourish again, after some time; wherefore they will not really submit to those whom they hope to have their Servants; nor will they declare so much, but say the contrary, for their present ease, which is all the Treachery I have observed; for they have in their hearts, not only a grudging to see their old Proprieties enjoyed by Foreigners, but a persuasion they shall be shortly restor'd. As for Thievery, it is affixt to all thin-peopled Countries, such as Ireland is, where there cannot be many Eyes to prevent such Crimes; and where what is stolen, is easily hidden and eaten, and where ‘tis easy to burn the House, or violate the Persons of those who prosecute these Crimes, and where thin-peopled Countries are govern'd by the Laws that were made and first fitted to thick-peopled Countries; and where matter of small moment and value must be try'd, with all the formalities which belong to the highest Causes. In this case there ‖ must be thieving, where is withal, neither encouragement, nor method, nor means for Labouring, nor Provision for Impotents.
As for the Interest of these poorer Irish, it is manifestly to be transmuted into England, so to reform and qualify their housing, as that English Women may be content to be their Wives, to decline their Language, which continues a sensible distinction, being not now necessary; which makes those who do not understand it, suspect, that what is spoken in it, is to their prejudice. It is their Interest to deal with the English, for Leases, for1 Time, and upon clear Conditions, which being perform'd they are absolute Freemen, rather than to stand always liable to the humour and caprice of their Landlords, and to have every thing taken from them, which he pleases to fancy. It is their Interest, that he2 is well-pleased with their Obedience to them, when they see and know upon whose Care and Conduct their well-being depends, who have Power over their Lands and Estates. Then, to believe a Man at Rome has Power in all these last mentioned Particulars in this World, and can make them eternally happy or miserable hereafter, ‘tis ‖ their Interest to joyn with them, and follow their Example, who have brought Arts, Civility, and Freedom into their Country.
On the contrary, What did they ever get by accompanying their Lords into Rebellion against the English? What should they have gotten if the late Rebellion had absolutely succeeded, but a more absolute Servitude? And when it fail'd, these poor People have lost all their Estates, and their Leaders encreas'd theirs, and enjoy'd the very Land which their Leaders caus'd them to lose. The poorest now in Ireland ride on Horse-back, when heretofore the best ran on foot like Animals. They wear better Cloaths than ever; the Gentry have better Breeding, and the generality of the Plebeians more Money and Freedom.‖
1 Tim. i.4.
Chapter XI. p. 191.
No paragraph in S.
 Cf. the similar opinion of Sir W. Temple, Observations upon the United Provinces (1673), p. 188, also Temple's Works (1770), 1. 184.
S omits ‘the.’
S, ‘English for leases for.’
S omits ‘he.’ The passage may be made approximately intelligible: ‘It is [rather] their interest that he is well-pleased with their Obedience to him, when [etc. to] estates, than to believe [etc. to] hereafter. ‘Tis their interest’ [etc.].