Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sect. I.—: How, when England became Protestant, it must have desired that Ireland should become so likewise. - Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1
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Sect. I.—: How, when England became Protestant, it must have desired that Ireland should become so likewise. - Gustave de Beaumont, Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1 
Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, ed. W.C. Taylor (London: Richard Bentley, 1839). Vol. 1.
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How, when England became Protestant, it must have desired that Ireland should become so likewise.
The philosophic and religious movement which, in the sixteenth century, terminated in the Reformation, and produced such an immense effect in England and Scotland, did not reach Ireland: whilst England and Scotland became protestant, Ireland remained catholic.
From the first moment of its appearance on the stage of the world, the doctrine of Luther had divided nations, and this separation was not accidental.
Although the theory of the innovators was very far from freedom, it had been forced, if not to give it birth, at least to invoke its name, and that was sufficient to ensure the Reformation a natural sympathy among populations in possession of free institutions, whilst the countries subject to despotism naturally rejected a worship sprung from free examination, and attached themselves more closely than ever to the ancient faith, which was based on authority.
This, united with several other causes not connected with my subject, explains why France and Spain continued linked to the court of Rome, whilst England and Scotland separated from it. The religious dispute of the sixteenth century was not merely a dispute of ideas and creeds, struggling with each other in the arena of intelligence and faith; it was a political war of nations; it was a solemn contest between the principle of authority represented by the immovable power of the court of Rome, and the liberty of which the Reformation was the symbol.
I have already said that England took the side of the Reformation; hence the chief cause of the misfortunes of Ireland during the period which occupies our attention. England having become protestant, must have wished that Ireland should become so likewise, and this was to wish an impossibility.
England must have wished it; and, in fact, the spirit of proselytism which then animated the christian world, was not less ardent with her than the other countries of Europe. Her reformers were as enthusiastic and intolerant as the Catholics whom they had conquered; and religious fanaticism by itself would have impelled the English to attempt the conversion of Ireland; but they had, in addition, an imperious political reason: if they did not impose the reformed faith on Ireland, they had reason to fear that Ireland would re-establish the Catholic church. Whilst they stigmatised the Romish creed with the names superstition and idolatry, the Catholics repulsed the reformed doctrine as heretical and impious. In this season of ardent faith, one church could only be preserved by the destruction of the other. In truth, Ireland in the sixteenth century was not formidable to England except on account of foreigners. Scarcely had the great quarrel between Protestantism and Catholicism burst forth in Europe, when Ireland became the aim of all the Catholic countries, eager to overthrow Protestantism in England. It was the hope of the court of Rome, and the centre to which the intrigues of the Papacy, Spain, and France, tended. From the very beginning of the Reformation, the sovereign pontiff indicated his reliance on Ireland, by circulating an old prophecy, intimating that the throne of St. Peter would not be shaken so long as Ireland remained Catholic.*
Thus, though England had been led, by intolerant passions, to combat the Catholic religion in Ireland, it would have been compelled to the effort by care for its own defence, and interest in its own liberties.
But I have said, that in wishing to render Ireland Protestant, England desired an impossibility, and this is easily demonstrated.†
[*]Plowden, vol. i.
[†]The claim of England to supremacy over Ireland for four centuries rested on a papal grant, and that grant was conditional. This fact had been so repeatedly recognised by parliaments, ecclesiastical synods, and all other public authorities, that it was universally regarded as a first principle. By adopting the Reformed religion, England clearly voided the grant; and if Ireland remained Catholic, every Irishman acknowledged the pope’s right of resumption. England had, therefore, no alternative but to abandon the country, or to change the conditions of allegiance; which could not be done to all appearance at the time without subverting the ancient faith.—Tr.