Reasons for the Penal Laws Essay

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Reason for the penal laws to be enacted 1: Assess the reasons and justifications for the enactment of the penal code relating to Roman Catholics in Ireland in the period 1695-1750, and consider the main intended purposes of those laws. The aim of this essay is to show that the reasons and justifications for the enactment of the penal laws in Ireland where logical and rational from the perspective of the ruling classes in both Ireland and Britain. It will be argued throughout this essay the penal laws were necessary to subdue and suppress population that was inherently rebellious and disloyal to the crown. The penal laws were not a ‘rag-bag’ concoction put together by the Irish parliament but were instead a thought out and effective measure to curtail the Catholics’ rebellious spirit.[1]The fear of the Catholic threat was very real at the time in England. It has been argued by John Miller that Catholics were blamed for numerous incidents, including ‘the rise of puritanism ,the civil wars, the rise of Cromwell, the fire of 1666,the regicide, the fifth monarchy and on and on’[2].Combined these events created an atmosphere of anti popery in England that was ,’powerfull’ among the protestant upper classes and population in general[3]. However this fear of a resurgent Catholic population was very real and the steps taken to nullify the Catholic threat were logical, especially after the nine years war. At the time French privateers were ravaging the coast of Ireland and although military victory had been achieved with the treaty of limerick the threat of James returning and formenting rebellion was very real[4]. Firstly the penal laws themselves and the effect they had must be studied to understand the reasons for these laws and their purposes. In the year 1697 the Irish parliament passed an act to confirm the article of limerick[5], the article of limerick

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