On Oct. 13, 1691,
the Treaty of Limerick was signed. Under this all Irish soldiers
who wanted to leave the country were allowed to do so, several thousand
of them accompanied Sarsfield to France. Many of them became mercenarys
and later distinguished them selves on the battlefields of Europe
All who submitted under the Treaty of Limerick
were allowed to keep their lands, if they took an oath of allegiance.
One clause of the treaty seemed to promise that Roman Catholics
would be free to practice their religion. However the English did
feel predisposed to honour the terms of the treaty.
Immediately following the Williamite
War, the government
confiscated another 405,000 hectares of land. By 1704, Roman Catholics
owned no more than one-seventh of the land. Even this amount was
later reduced by the operation of the extremely harsh religious
laws that were passed between 1692 and 1727 these laws were in violation
of the Treaty of Limerick. Known as the Penal
Laws under them Bishops and members of religious orders were banished.
Parish priests were allowed to remain, but no new priests could
be ordained. The government expected that Roman Catholicism would
Other laws aimed to keep Roman Catholics
poor and without power were as follows. When a Roman Catholic landowner
died, his estate had to be divided equally among his sons. No Roman
Catholic could purchase land or lease land for more than 31 years.
A Roman Catholic could not carry arms or own a horse worth more
than five pounds. Roman Catholics could not teach in a school or
send their children abroad to be educated. No Roman Catholic could
sit in Parliament or vote in a parliamentary election. Also, they
could not take part in local government, or serve on a jury, hold
any government office, or become a lawyer or army officer.
The religious laws could not be enforced
fully, but the other penal laws were. By the 1770's, Roman Catholics
had been disposed to the extent that they held only one-twentieth
of the land. A few prospered in trade, but most of them were tenant
farmers, paying high rent to their Protestant landlords and tithes
to the Protestant state church, or land less labourers, living in
great poverty. As the population grew, competition for land increased.
More poor people relied on potatoes alone as their staple diet.
The Decline of Irish
After the Irish aristocracy lost their lands,
a decline in Gaelic learning set in the poets and chroniclers were
reduced to poverty. But Irish was still spoken by poor people particularly
in the west and western islands. Though the ruling class and the Protestants
in Ulster used English.
The Presbyterians of Ulster were allowed
to vote in parliamentary elections, and a few of them became Members
of Parliament. But they did not have full civil rights, and they
had to pay tithes. Thousands of them became discontented and emigrated