During the greater part of the reign of Elizabeth, the means relied upon for the propagation of the reformed doctrines were more exclusively those of force and coercion than even in the time of Edward VI. Thus, when Sir William Drury was Deputy, in 1578, he bound several citizens of Kilkenny, under a penalty of 40 pounds each, to attend the English Church service, and authorized the Anglican Bishop "to make a rate for the repair of the Church, and to distrain for the payment of it"--the first mention of Church rates we remember to have met with. Drury's method of proceeding may be further inferred from the fact, that of the thirty-six executions ordered by him in the same city, "one was a blackamoor and two were witches, who were condemned by the law of nature, for there was no positive law against witchcraft [in Ireland] in those days." That defect was soon supplied, however, by the statute 27th of Elizabeth, "against witchcraft and sorcery." Sir John Perrott, successor to Drury, trod in the same path, as we judge from the charge of severity against recusants, upon which, among other articles, he was recalled from the government. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, however, it began to be discovered by the wisest observers that violent methods were worse than useless with the Irish. Edmund Spenser urged that "religion should not be forcibly impressed into them with terror and sharp penalties, as now is the manner, but rather delivered and intimated with mildness and gentleness." Lord Bacon, in his "Considerations touching the Queen's Service in Ireland," addressed to Secretary Cecil, recommends "the recovery of the hearts of the people," as the first step towards their conversion. With this view he suggested "a toleration of religion (for a time not definite), except it be in some principal towns and cities," as a measure "warrantable in religion, and in policy of absolute necessity." The philosophic Chancellor farther suggested, as a means to this desired end, the preparation of "versions of Bibles and Catechisms, and other works of instruction in the Irish language." In accordance with these views of conversion, the University of Trinity College was established by a royal charter, in the month of January, 1593. The Mayor and Corporation of Dublin had granted the ancient monastery of All Hallows as a site for the buildings; some contributions were received from the Protestant gentry, large grants of confiscated Abbey and other lands, which afterwards yielded a princely revenue, were bestowed upon it, and the Lord Treasurer Burleigh graciously accepted the office of its Chancellor. The first Provost was Archbishop Loftus, and of the first three students entered, one was the afterwards illustrious James Usher. The commanders and officers engaged at Kinsale presented it with the sum of 1,800 pounds for the purchase of a library; and at the subsequent confiscations in Munster and Ulster, the College came in for a large portion of the forfeited lands.
Although the Council in England generally recommended the adoption of persuasive arts and a limited toleration, those who bore the sword usually took care that they should not bear it in vain. A High Commission Court, armed with ample powers to enforce the Act of Uniformity, had been established at Dublin in 1593; but its members were ordered to proceed cautiously after the Ulster Confederacy became formidable, and their powers lay dormant in the last two or three years of the century. Essex and Mountjoy were both fully convinced of the wisdom of Bacon's views; the former showed a partial toleration, connived at the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice, even in the capital, and liberated some priests from prison. Mountjoy, in answer to the command of the English Council "to deal moderately in the great matter of religion," replied by letter that he had already advised "such as dealt in it for a time to hold a restrained hand therein." "The other course," he adds, "might have overthrown the means of our own end of a reformation of religion." This conditional toleration--such as it was--excited the indignation of the more zealous Reformers, whose favourite preacher, the youthful Usher, did not hesitate to denounce it from the pulpit of Christ Church, as an unhallowed compromise with antichrist. In 1601, Usher, then but 21 years of age, preached his well-known sermon from the text of the forty days, in which Ezekiel "was to bear the iniquity of the house of Judah--a day for a year." "From this year," cried the youthful zealot, "will I reckon the sin of Ireland, that those whom you now embrace shall be your ruin, and you shall bear their iniquity." When the northern insurrection of 1641 took place, this rhetorical menace was exalted, after the fact, into the dignity of a prophecy fulfilled. After the victory of Kinsale, however, the Ultra Protestant party had less cause to complain of the temporizing of the civil power; the pecuniary mulct of twelve pence for each absence from the English service was again enforced at least in Dublin, and several priests, then in prison, were, on various pretences, put to death. Among those who suffered in the capital was the learned Jesuit, Henry Fitzsimons, son of a Mayor of the city, the author of Brittanomachia, with whom, while in the Castle, Usher commenced a controversy, which was never finished. But the terms agreed upon at Mellifont, between Mountjoy and Tyrone, again suspended for a short interval the sword of persecution.
Notwithstanding its manifold losses by exile and the scaffold, the ancient Church was enabled, through the abundance of vocations, and the zeal of the ordained, to keep up a still powerful organization. Philip O'Sullivan states, under the next reign that the government had ascertained through its spies, the names of 1,160 priests, secular and regular, still in the country. There must have been between 300 and 400 others detained abroad, either as Professors in the Irish Colleges in Spain, France, and Flanders, or as ecclesiastics, awaiting major orders. Of the regulars at home, 120 were Franciscans, and about 50 Jesuits. There are said to have been but four Fathers of the Order of St. Dominick remaining at the time of Elizabeth's death. The reproach of Cambrensis had long been taken away, since every Diocese might now point to its martyrs. Of these we recall among the Hierarchy the names of O'Hely, Bishop of Killala, executed at Kilmallock hi 1578; O'Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel, burned at the stake in Dublin in 1582; Creagh, Archbishop of Armagh, who died a prisoner in the Tower in 1585; Archbishop McGauran, his successor, slain in the act of ministering to the wounded in the engagement at Tulsk, in Roscommon, in 1593; McEgan, Bishop of Ross, who met his death under precisely similar circumstances in Carberry in 1603. Yet through all these losses the episcopal succession was maintained unbroken. In the early part of the next reign O'Sullivan gives the names of the four Archbishops, Peter Lombard of Armagh, Edward McGauran of Dublin, David O'Carny of Cashel, and Florence Conroy of Tuam. On the other hand, the last trying half century had furnished, so far as we can learn, no instance of apostacy among the Bishops, and but half a dozen at most from all orders of the clergy. We read that Owen O'Conor, an apostate, was advanced by letters patent to Killala in 1591; that Maurice O'Brien of Ara was, in 1570, by the same authority, elevated to the See of Killaloe, which he resigned in 1612; that Miler Magrath, in early life a Franciscan friar, was promoted by the Queen to the Sees of Clogher, Killala, Anchory and Lismore successively. He finally settled in the See of Cashel, in which he died, having secretly returned to the religion of his ancestors. For the rest, "the Queen's Bishops" were chiefly chosen out of England, though some few natives of the Pale, or of the walled towns, educated at Oxford, may be found in the list.
Of the state of learning in those troubled times the brief story is easily told. The Bardic Order still flourished and was held in honour by all ranks of the native population. The national adversity brought out in them, as in others, many noble traits of character. The Harper, O'Dugan, was the last companion that clung to the last of the Desmonds; the Bard of Tyrconnell, Owen Ward, accompanied the Ulster chiefs in their exile, and poured out his Gaelic dirge above their Roman graves. Although the Bardic compositions continued to be chiefly personal, relating to the inauguration, journeys, exploits, or death of some favourite chief, a large number of devotional poems on the passion of our Lord and the glories of the Blessed Virgin are known to be of this age. The first forerunners of what was destined to be a numerous progeny, the controversial ode or ballad, appeared in Elizabeth's reign, in the form of comparisons between the old and new religions, lamentations over the ruin of religious houses, and the apostacy of such persons as Miler Magrath and the son of the Earl of Desmond. The talents of many of the authors are admitted by Spenser, a competent judge, but the tendency of their writings, he complains, was to foster the love of lawlessness and rebellion rather than of virtue and loyalty. He recommended them for correction to the mercies of the Provost Marshal, whom he would have "to walk the country with half a dozen or half a score of horsemen," in quest of the treasonable poets.
As this was the age of the general diffusion of printing, we may observe that the casting of Irish type for the use of Trinity College, by order of Queen Elizabeth, is commonly dated from the year 1591; but as the College was not opened for two years later, the true date must be anticipated. John Kearney, Treasurer of St. Patrick's Church, who died about the year 1600, published a Protestant Catechism from the College Press, which, says O'Reilly, "was the first book ever printed in Irish types." In the year 1593, Florence Conroy translated from the Spanish into Irish a catechism entitled "Christian Instruction," which, he states in the preface, he had no opportunity of sending into Ireland "until the year of the age of our Lord 1598." Whether it was then printed we are not informed, but there does not seem to have been any Irish type in Catholic hands before the foundation of the Irish College at Louvain in 1616.
The merit of first giving to the press, in the native language of the country, a version of the Sacred Scriptures, belongs clearly to Trinity College. Nicholas Walsh, Bishop of Ossory, who died in 1585, had commenced, with the assistance of John Kearney, to translate the Greek Testament into Gaelic. He had also the assistance of Dr. Nehemiah Donnellan, and Dr. William Daniel, or O'Daniel, both of whom subsequently filled the See of Tuam. This translation, dedicated to King James, and published by O'Daniel in 1603, is still reprinted by the Bible Societies. The first Protestant translation of the Old Testament, made under Bishop Bedel's eye, and with such revision of particular passages as his imperfect knowledge of the language enabled him to suggest, though completed in the reign of Charles I., was not published before the year 1680. It was Bedel, also, who caused the English liturgy to be recited in Irish, in his Cathedral, as early as 1630.
Ireland and her affairs naturally attracted, during Elizabeth's reign, the attention of English writers. Of these it is enough to mention the Poet Spenser, Secretary to Lord Grey de Wilton, Fynes Moryson, Secretary to Lord Mountjoy, and the Jesuit Father, Campian. Campian, early distinguished at Oxford, was employed as Cambrensis had been four centuries earlier, and as Plowden was two centuries later, to write down everything Irish. He crossed the Channel in 1570, and composed two books rapidly, without accurate or full information as to the condition or history of the country. The nearer view of Catholic suffering and Catholic constancy exercised a powerful influence on this accomplished scholar; he became a convert and a Jesuit. For members of that order there was but one exit out of life, under the law of England: he suffered death at Tyburn in 1581. Richard Stanihurst, son of the Recorder of Dublin, and uncle of Archbishop Usher, went through precisely the same experiences as his friend Campian, except that he died, a quarter of a century later, Chaplain to the Archdukes at Brussels, instead of expiring at the stake. His English hexameters are among the curiosities of literature, but his contributions to the history of his country, especially his allusions to events and characters in and about his own time, are not without their use. Stanihurst wrote his historical tracts, as did Lombard the Catholic and Usher the Protestant Primate, O'Sullivan, White, O'Meara, and almost all the Irish writers of that age, without exception, in the Latin language. The first Latin book printed in Ireland is thought to be O'Meara's poem in praise of Thomas, Earl of Ormond and Ossory, published in 1615. The earliest English books printed in Ireland are unknown to me; the collection of Anglo-Irish statutes, ordered to be published while Sir Henry Sidney was Deputy, was the most important undertaking of that class in the reign of Elizabeth.
As to institutions of learning, if we except Trinity College, which increased rapidly in numbers and reputation under the patronage of the Crown, and the College of Saint Nicholas, at Galway--protected by its remote situation on the brink of the Atlantic--there was no famous seat of learning left in the island. In the next reign 1,300 scholars are stated to have attended that western "school of humanity," when the Ecclesiastical Commissioners despotically ordered it to be closed, because the learned Principal, John Lynch, "would not confirm to the religion established." But the greater number of the children of Catholics, who still retained property enough to educate them, were sent beyond seas, a fact with which King James, soon after his accession, reproached the deputation of that body. A proclamation issued by Lord Deputy Chichester, in 1610, alludes to the same custom, and commands all noblemen, merchants, and others, whose children are abroad for educational purposes, to recall them within one year from the date thereof; and in case they refuse to return, all parents, friends, &c., sending them money, directly or indirectly, will be punished as severely as the law permits. It was mainly to guard against this danger that "the School of Wards" was established by Elizabeth, and enlarged by James I., in which the great Duke of Ormond, Sir Phelim O'Neil, Murrogh, Lord Inchiquin, and other sons of noble families, were educated for the next generation. Early in the reign of James there were not less than 300 of these Irish children in the Tower, or at the Lambeth School,--and it is humiliating to find the great name of Sir Edward Coke among those who gloried in the success of this unnatural substitution of the State for the Parent in the work of education.