Penal Laws: “full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts”

And nice piece on that greatest of Irish parliamentarian, Edmund Burke:

For all his rise to political fame, and nearly to power, in the greatest imperial corridors of his time, he never forgot that his native land was essentially enslaved by the very government for which he labored with such skill and flair.

On the January day he was born Éamon de Búrca, in the old tongue, in 1729, on Arran Quay on the River Liffey in Dublin, the English penal laws forbade Catholics from holding public office, marrying Protestants, owning weapons, serving in the military or as a lawyer or judge, voting, receiving public education of any sort or redress from arrest without cause by a representative of the king, purchasing land, inheriting land from Protestants, leasing land for more than 31 years, owning a horse worth more than five pounds, speaking their native Irish language, and building churches.

(In the few cases where churches were allowed to be built, imperial law forbade the use of stone.) The subtlety of such laws, the devious genius! If you set out to destroy a culture, could you do better than that? A system of “vicious perfection,” wrote Burke many years later; “I must do it justice: it was a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts” for the purpose, as he elsewhere wrote, of making “three millions of people … enslaved, beggard, insulted, degraded.”

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty