A Thanksgiving Remembrance


Harvard Professor and historian Arthur Schlesinger once called prejudice against the Catholic Church . . . the deepest bias in the history of the American people.  American historians are reluctant to admit to such bias, so it is understandable that no history books carry the story of Ann Glover.  Ann was an American Martyr, and her story puts an entirely different slant on the holiday that we celebrate in November.

The story begins with the Puritans, who were probably the most intolerant Christians to ever crack a bible.  They overthrew the monarchy in England, beheaded the King, and attacked Ireland under the ruthless Cromwell.  Any Irishman knows the result of Cromwell’s incursions into Ireland.  His fanatically anti-Catholic Puritan religion denounced any who enjoyed the simple pleasures of life such as singing, dancing, games of chance and drinking.  When they got to Ireland, they were horrified by the life style of the Irish which basically included all of the above, and hundreds of thousands of Catholic men, women, and children were slaughtered in the name of Christ.

After the monarchy was restored, the Puritan’s descendants were chased to America where, modern revisionist historians would have us believe that they befriended the Indians and hosted the first Thanksgiving.  In the years that followed, they have become the icons of civilized Christian behavior.  But hold on!  Let’s go back to the history books!  Aren’t these the same benevolent Christians who turned on those in their own community who were different, and hanged them or burned them at the stake as witches?  It sure is, and one of them was Anne Glover, an Irish laundress who was caught up in a witch mania that was part of the rigid Puritanism of the time.  The superstitious Puritans attached supernatural causes to anything they couldn’t explain – even medical conditions.

Glover had been an Irish slave, sold to the Barbados by Oliver Cromwell after his wars in Ireland in the 1650s. Persecuted for his religious beliefs, her husband died there.  By 1680 she and her daughter had either escaped or were sold, but ended up in Boston, employed as housekeepers by a Puritan, John Goodwin.  In the summer of 1688, four of the five Goodwin children fell ill.  Their doctor, who was unable to diagnose a legitimate cause, covered his own inability by concluding that nothing but a hellish Witchcraft could be the origin of these maladies.  Martha, the 13-year-old Goodwin daughter, confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis by claiming she became ill right after an argument with ‘Goody’ Glover.

Glover was accused of practicing witchcraft by the infamous Reverend Cotton Mather, pastor of the old North Church, – a name familiar to most school children who never heard of Anne Glover.  She was arrested and tried as a witch.  Mather alleged that Anne was a witch because, among other things, she had the artifacts of a witch.  The truth is that she was Irish and Catholic and that put her at a decided disadvantage among the bigoted Puritans who denounced the veneration of images.  Of necessity, Ann Glover had practiced her religion in secret, but when accused, her home was searched and pictures of Jesus Christ were found.  These artifacts were enough to condemn her in the eyes of Cotton Mather, but the final argument against her was given when a witness said that she overheard Ann speaking in a strange language.  Her accuser assumed that Ann was conversing with the devil.  The truth is that the poor woman was simply praying in private in the way she knew best – in her native Irish tongue.  During the trial Cotton Mather called her a scandalous old Irishwoman, very poor, a Roman Catholick (sic) and obstinate in idolatry.   In the courtroom there was confusion over Glover’s testimony, since she refused to speak English.  According to Mather, the court could have no answers from her, but in the Irish, which was her native language.  The court convicted Glover of witchcraft and sentenced her to be hanged.

Robert Calef, a Boston merchant who knew her, said Goody Glover was a despised, crazy, poor old woman, an Irish Catholick (sic) who was tried for afflicting the Goodwin children. Her behavior at her trial was like that of one distracted. They did her cruel. The proof against her was wholly deficient. The jury brought her guilty. She was hung. She died a Catholick (sic).   The cause of her ‘distraction’ at trial was no doubt due to the torturous treatment she had undergone during her pre-trial confinement.  Author James B. Cullen wrote, she was drawn in a cart, a hated and dreaded figure, chief in importance, stared at and mocked at, through the principal streets from her prison to the gallows . . . The people crowded to see the end, as always; and when it was over they quietly dispersed, leaving the worn-out body hanging as a terror to evil-doers.

A decade after Glover’s death, Mather was still preaching against idolatrous Roman Catholicks, trying to preserve a dying society in a world that was quickly changing.  Many other Irish immigrants came to America as slaves, indentured or otherwise; some were not as firm in their Faith as Goody Glover, and drifted into Protestantism.

On November 16, 1988, the Boston City Council finally recognized the injustice done to Ann Glover 300 years earlier and proclaimed that day “Goody Glover Day”, condemning the injustice done to her.  They even erected a memorial to her.  Maybe this Thanksgiving, when we gather around a table heaped with the bounty of the harvest, instead of remembering the Puritans, we can remember Anne Glover, who when offered freedom by Cotton Mather if she rejected Catholicism, refused and became Massachusetts first Catholic martyr.  Isn’t it curious that eight of America’s early 17th century martyrs were canonized, but not Anne?  But then the eight canonized were all killed by Indians and Anne Glover, who died for her faith in Boston, was murdered by Englishmen.  Is that why her memory is suppressed by history and by her church?

Flight of the Earls

Four hundred years ago the last of Irish royalty left Ireland and the Gaelic system of government came to an end. It would be known in history as the Flight of the Earls and it happened on September 4, 1607. Most are familiar with the English incursions into Ireland over the years since the Norman invasion and the opposition of the Irish Chieftains. Some led rebellions, others sought cooperation, and a few tried both.

Up to the reign of Henry VIII (1509-47), southern Ireland had been divided into properties ruled by ‘earls’ created by the Crown. They were mostly independent but Henry VIII introduced a new dimension to the status quo when he broke with the church in 1534 and declared himself the head of the Church of England. The Pope excommunicated him and many of Ire-land’s earls sided with the Catholic Church. The earl of Kildare, “Silken” Thomas Fitzgerald, denounced his allegiance to Henry, arguing that excommunication had stripped him of legitimacy. Henry responded with force and in 1537 Fitzgerald and five of his uncles were executed in London. Henry made the Protestant faith a priority of his reign, a policy continued by his successors. Thus was the centuries-old struggle between the Irish and English transformed into one between Irish Catholic and English Protestant.

Henry’s plan for Ireland led to many conflicts. His successors, Mary (1553-58) and Elizabeth (1558-1603), fought many up-risings trying to impose British authority and the Church of England on the Irish earls. They fought Shane O’Neill (1560-67) and the Desmond Fitzgeralds (1569-73, and 1579-83), as well as daily violence against Crown loyalists. In 1587, Spain was preparing her Armada to invade England and Elizabeth realized she could not muster her full resources against the Spanish while the threat of rebellion existed in Ireland. Though Anglo Normans con-trolled the south, the major clans of the north remained un-conquered, and she was deter-mined to resolve that issue. The English decided to capture Enniskillen, Hugh Maguire’s fort at the Gap of the North the main access to Ulster. Hugh O’Donnell, Chieftain of Tyrconnell, answered his call for aid, and the two Hughs swept across Ulster driving the Eng-lish before them; they broke through the Gap of the North, and recaptured Enniskillen, then routed the English at the Ford of the Biscuits. They next moved on Fort Monaghan, and the English sent reinforcements. They met at the Battle of Clontibert, where the English saw, for the first time, the Red Hand of O’Neill among the clan standards. Clan O’Neill had taken the field, and at their head was Hugh O’Neill, England’s trusted Earl of Tyrone. He had announced at last, destroying an English company in the bargain. The last remaining Irish War Chieftains, the three Hughs of Ulster were now a national force with O’Neill commanding; he had 1,000 horse soldiers and 7,000 foot soldiers at a time when the entire English force in Ireland was less than 2,000. In 1596, O’Neill swept through the north and each blow was echoed by O’Donnell and Maguire in the west. The Nine Year’s War had begun. O’Neill took the title, “The O’Neill,” essentially proclaiming himself high king – a position not held since Brian Boru’s death in 1014. His goal, he made clear, was to gain protection for the Catholic religion and to ensure that Ireland be ruled by the Irish.

The three Hughes scored victories against Crown forces, most notably at the Battle of Yellow Ford in 1598. But a huge British force under Lord Mountjoy eventually ended the Nine Years War at the Battle of Kinsale in late 1601 in which Hugh Maguire was killed. O’Neill kept up guerilla raids while O’Donnell went to Spain to negotiate aid hoping to outlive the aging Elizabeth who would be succeeded by the Catholic James Stuart. Offers of leniency were refused by O’Neill, but when he learned that O’Donnell had been poisoned in Spain, the greatest Irish Chieftain of his age came in, on March 30, 1603, to surrender to Lord Mountjoy. He pledged obedience before the Irish Parliament on April 3. Then, after the ceremony of submission he was told: Elizabeth of England had died on March 24! James Stuart of Scotland was now James I of England. O’Neill had won and never knew it. He and his nation had outlasted the Queen only to be tricked into submission by Lord Mountjoy before agreements with James could be ratified. O’Neill was allowed to keep his land, and his earldom, but lost his lordship over Ulster’s chieftains who were all made earls of the Crown, ending the Irish title of High King forever.

In the years that followed O’Neill’s rebellion, the restored earls of Ulster still possessed clan lands, but faced a growing number of English settlers and a hostile administration. Then, in 1607, London summoned O’Neill and O’Donnell’s successor to answer charges of planning another rebellion. Knowing that English planters were ready to seize their lands, O’Neill and O’Donnell surmised that their destruction was at hand. Their only course was escape. The hearts of the Irish were broken as the noblest princes of Erin Ruari O’Donnell and his brothers; Conor Maguire, brother of the slain Hugh; Hugh O’Neill and his three sons and 100 other earls sailed from Lough Swilly in what became known as The Flight of the Earls. The last Irish defense against English tyranny went with them.

They eventually landed in the Spanish Netherlands and from there proceeded to Rome. Their hopes of returning to liberate Ireland with a Catholic army soon dissipated and they lived out their years on meager papal pensions. O’Neill died there in 1616. The English government seized the opportunity and the fleeing earls were tried in absentia and convicted of treason, the penalty for which was forfeiture of their land. With 500,000 acres of land now in its possession, the Crown began a settlement program known as the Ulster Plantation. Its ultimate goal was to create a loyal population in Ulster through the settlement of thousands of non-Irish Protestants. Although it took a few decades to take hold, the Plantation of Ulster had a dramatic impact on the course of Irish history. Not only did it wipe out much of the province’s native Irish leadership by eliminating the holdings of the 101 Irish Earls who fled, but it threw open the province to settlement by tens of thousands of English and Scottish Protestants. By the 1630s, in six Ulster counties, Protestants owned 3 million out of the 3.5 million acres of land.