The act to prevent further growth of popery (1704)
Series of anti-Catholic laws introduced by the Dublin Parliament 1695–1727 in defiance of the Treaty of Limerick. The measures were gradually repealed in the late 18th century, although the penal laws were not completely removed until the Catholic emancipation of 1829. The purpose of these laws was partlypunishment for the support given by Irish Catholics to King James II between 1688 and 1690, and partly to ensure the domination of Ireland by the Protestant settlers.
The first Irish penal laws were two statutes in 1695. One forbade Catholics not covered by the treaty of Limerick to keep weapons. The second, concerned mainly to sever links between Irish Catholics and their continentalallies, forbade Catholics to go overseas for purposes of education, but also banned Catholics from teaching or running schools within Ireland. The Bishops' Banishment Act (1697) required all regular clergy, and all bishops, vicars-general, and others exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction, to leave the kingdom by 1 May 1698. Other clergy were permitted to remain, but an act of 1704 required them toregister with the authorities, limited their number to one per parish, and forbade the entry of further priests into the kingdom. Also, Catholics were excluded from parliament (under an English act) from 1691, but did not completely lose the right to vote until 1728.
The penal laws were traditionally seen as victimizing the entire Catholic population.
The Catholic aristocracy and gentrywere both the main targets of the legislation and its main victims. Over the next few decades most of these surviving Catholic landowners, deprived of the opportunity to extend their estates by marriage or purchase, excluded from local and national politics, and threatened with the progressive fragmentation of their properties, conformed to the Church of Ireland. By contrast the laws did notseriously affect the wealth of the Catholic mercantile and manufacturing classes.
Strictly enforced, the banishment of Catholic bishops, combined with the ban on ordained priests entering the kingdom, should have caused the Irish clergy to die out in a generation.
An Act to prevent the further growth of popery – 1704
The initiative for this anti-Catholic legislation had been taken in England. Asearly as 1691 Westminster passed a law that no MP could sit in the Irish parliament or hold public office without swearing against transubstantiation – that is, the actual turning of bread and wine at the Eucharist into the body and blood of Christ. No Catholic could take such an oath since it denied the validity of the Mass.
No longer held back by William of Orange, and encouraged by QueenAnne, both parliaments set about drafting fresh laws to restrict the rights of Catholics. The 1704 Act to Prevent the Further Growth of Popery was the crowning piece of this legislation.
These laws – known as the Penal Code – were enacted over a long period of 39 years. The final penal law, depriving Catholics of the vote, did not enter the statute book until 1728. The laws can be summarised asfollows:
• No Catholic could buy land.
• No Catholic could have a lease on a farm for longer than 31 years. The rent was to be at least two-thirds of the holding’s yearly value.
• When a Catholic died his estate was not be inherited by the eldest son, but be divided equally amongst all the sons. If one son became a Protestant, he could inherit the entire estate.
• No Catholic could become abarrister, a solicitor, a judge or a member of a Grand Jury.
• Catholics could not sit in Parliament or vote in elections.
• Catholics could not hold public office – for example, a Catholic could not be a civil servant, a sheriff or be a member of a town council.
• Catholics could not send their children abroad to be educated or open schools at home.
• Catholics could not be guardians of...