Thomas Bartlett
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The penal laws against Irish Catholics
Were they too good for them?
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This chapter investigates why many Irish Protestants continued to defend the penal laws against Irish Catholics in terms that increasingly made little sense at the end of the eighteenth century. Sean Connolly regarded the penal laws rather as 'a declaration of commitment to Protestant supremacy than as a detailed plan of action'. It was during the period of the penal laws that the Catholic 'strong farmer' emerged as a key player in rural Irish politics. The penal laws against English Catholics lasted longer and were much tougher, they had to pay a double land tax, for example: while French laws against the Huguenots were quite draconian. It has been argued that even if there had been no penal laws against Irish Catholics the profile and composition of the governing class in the eighteenth century would not have been much altered.

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