Statutes of Kilkenny, 1367 A.D.

10. This is the real meaning of the famous Statutes of Kilkenny. They were promulgated in the year 1367, at the instance of Lionel Duke of Clarence, by an assembly, calling itself a parliament, of creatures of the English Crown, that met in the City of Kilkenny on the marches of the Pale. Since the first days of the invader, and the declaration of English law, Irishmen had been removed from any benefits under that law. It had been adjudged in a court of law no crime to kill an Irishman. That had been part of the procedure of the war to be waged. The significance of the Statutes of Kilkenny is very different. They were a new opposition of State against State, and on them, and on what they signified, all subsequent acts of a foreign government have been based. They sounded a voice that echoed in untold suffering down long centuries. By them all relations with the Irish nation were penalised. It was forbidden to speak the Irish language, to wear the Irish fashion of dress, to wear beards as did the Irish, to ride a horse barebacked, to have an Irish name, to take judgment by Irish law, to marry an Irish man or woman, to interchange children in fosterage as did the Irish, to entertain an Irish poet or minstrel, or to hear Irish history, to admit an Irishman to sanctuary, to permit an Irishman to graze cattle, or to graze cattle on an Irishman's land, to cease at any time to war upon the Irish, or to hold any manner of commerce with an Irishman. These things were declared high treason; and the penalty attached was the forfeiture of all property and imprisonment. The Statutes of Kilkenny were ostensibly, and in immediate application, meant to protect the Pale from absorption in the Irish State, but they intimated a procedure that found its logical culmination in the Penal Code of the eighteenth century.