Religious Controversy

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXVII

The "second reformation" was commenced in 1827. The Catholic priests were challenged to controversy; even laymen interfered. Theology and theological differences became the town and table-talk of Ireland. Bibles and tracts were distributed in all directions amongst the starving poor, food and clothing were occasionally added; yet, notwithstanding these powerful inducements, the people starved and remained Catholics. Writs of ejectment were then tried; and the Irish poor had their choice between the Bible and beggary—but they chose beggary.

So far did the Bible craze go, that it almost amounted to a monomania. One noble lord, to show his reverence for that book, and to convince his tenantry of the estimation in which he held it, flung every volume of his library into the lake of his demesne, and with the Bible in his hand, which commanded him to feed the hungry, refused to feed them unless they complied with his commands. Moore's satires were, unquestionably, the best weapons against such fanaticism. Sheil wrote in the Gazette de France, and hundreds of pens wrote in the American papers. A loud cry of "Shame!" arose in every quarter of the world; the echo reached the ears of the promoters of the movement; and the force of public opinion succeeded in suppressing the futile attempt.