Front Page Titles (by Subject) Special Character of the Penal Laws. - Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1
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Special Character of the Penal Laws. - 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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Special Character of the Penal Laws.
The more this collection of laws is studied, the more clearly we see that the constant design of the legislator was to attack the Catholics by a double interest; one interest acting to withdraw them from Catholicism, the other to lead them to Protestantism. Persecution is always double-edged—it employs fear and hope, menaces and promises. If terror fails, bribes may succeed.
The peculiarity of these persecuting laws was, that, though political in their consequences, they always contained a principle exclusively religious. Thus it was only because the Irish were Catholics that they were excluded from parliament, the corporations, the elective franchise, and public employments. If they ceased to be Catholics, and abjured their religion, the exclusion ceased. The law did not directly say, “Irish Catholics shall be excluded from parliament;” it expressed itself thus—
“And be it further enacted, that no person shall vote or sit in the House of Lords or House of Commons of Ireland, who shall not first have taken the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and subscribed a declaration against transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, the idolatry of the church of Rome, the invocation of the Virgin Mary and the saints,” &c.
The greater part of the political laws are conceived in the same terms; the same spirit predominates in the civil laws; the Catholic excluded from property, incapable of purchasing lands, or inheriting by succession, gift, or devise, became on his conversion immediately capable of acquiring property and estate.
We see that these laws were constructed so as to strike obliquely; their blows were indirect, and therefore the more dangerous and treacherous; they did not say, we forbid the Catholics to practise their worship; but they banished the priest, without whom the worship could not be performed. They did not say, no Catholic shall enjoy the benefits of instruction and education, but they inflicted a severe punishment on every Catholic who exercised the profession of a teacher.
Furthermore, if we only look at the surface, we find them apparently full of solicitude for the education of the Catholics. Schools were founded for the education of poor Catholics;* but these schools were Protestant, and Catholics did not want a Protestant education for their children.
It follows that the Catholics were deprived of religious worship and moral instruction, though no law forbade them to worship God according to their conscience, and schools were provided for their education.
There is no real difference between direct and indirect persecution; but the first, more open and frank, has fewer chances of being endured, because it is comprehended by all; the second, not being avowed, escapes the numerous multitudes in every country, who only see what is pointed out to them, and comprehend what is told.
[*]The charter-schools, founded in 1747. These schools were infamously managed, and became perfect nuisances. After many and repeated complaints, their state was investigated by a royal commission, and the parliamentary grants, by which they were chiefly supported, were withdrawn.—Tr.