‘Darkness must be expell’d by bringing in the light’
The conversion of Irish Catholics, c.1721–34
in Witchcraft and Whigs
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In the early to mid-eighteenth century, the majority of Irish Protestants would have given lip service to the benefits of converting the native Irish Catholic population to the Protestant religion. Early modern Irish Protestants took one of two approaches to the problem of conversion. The first mooted that Catholics would convert in large numbers if their religion was suppressed by penal legislation. When Francis Hutchinson reached Ireland in 1721, Catholics were able to practise their religion, primarily because those Penal Laws that related to religious worship were enforced at times of acute political crisis, in particular during Jacobite invasion or rebellion scares. The second approach to conversion adopted by Irish Protestants was the use of the Irish language to evangelise the native population. The political pacification of the native population may have been foremost in Hutchinson's mind when advocating conversion, but he also noted its economic benefits.

Witchcraft and Whigs

The life of Bishop Francis Hutchinson, 1660–1739

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