Protest of a Protestant

Justin McCarthy
Chapter VII | Start of Chapter

A phrase of Burke's was applied to this penal code:

"It was," he said, "a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, and as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment, and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man."

No one needs to be told that Burke was a devoted member of the Protestant Church, but he regarded the penal code with the detestation which must have been felt for it by every enlightened man of his day. The governing systems of Europe had not yet learned that there was anything to be done with a creed to which they objected except to inflict heavy legal penalties on its practice. It is well, however, to bear in mind that even in the days of William III. there were numbers of Protestants in Ireland who did their very best to protect their Catholic neighbours against the oppression of this penal code, and ran much risk and made many sacrifices by doing so.