Popery Act

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An Act to prevent the further Growth of Popery (commonly known as the Popery Act or the Gavelkind Act.[1]) was an Act of the Parliament of Ireland passed in 1703 and amended in 1709, one of a series of penal laws against Roman Catholics.

The aim was to ensure that, when a Roman Catholic died, his estate was divided equally among his sons, unless the eldest son converted to the Protestant faith, in which case he could inherit all the land. The law was intended to reduce the size, and therefore influence, of Catholic landed estates.[1]

Its citation is 2 Ann c.6.

Catholic land holdings:

  • 1688: 25% of land
  • 1704: 14% of land
  • 1776: 5% of land

Sir Toby Butler, former Solicitor General for Ireland, and a Roman Catholic, made a celebrated speech at the bar of the Irish House of Commons denouncing the Act as "against the laws of God and man...against the rules of reason and justice". Other eminent Catholic lawyers like Stephen Rice also denounced the measure, but to no avail.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Andrew Lyall; Land Law in Ireland; ISBN 1-85800-199-4

See also[edit]