literary transcript




The Irish in Portugal


"Let us all gather here and fight in the service of God and to defend our lands, for it is right that we should have a good understanding and that we should help one another for that purpose."


- Red Hugh O'Donnell, address urging the Irish residing in Portugal to prepare for an invasion of Ireland, 1605.





      The expanding business opportunities arising from the extensive Portuguese explorations during the close of the Middle Ages drew Irish merchants to Lisbon.  Throughout the 15th century, Portuguese explorers sailed far into the Atlantic, discovering the Azores, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands.  They also sailed south along the African coast, rounding the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 and reaching India in 1497.  From trade outposts in these newly discovered lands, exotic goods flowed into Lisbon; where they were then distributed to the growing market for them in France, Spain, England, Italy and other parts of Europe.  The Irish merchants became involved in this 15th-century trade, and the prospered.  With their success, the merchants set up permanent operations in Lisbon, and encouraged other Irish to come to Lisbon to start businesses or take part in the adventure of Portuguese exploration.  After the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, Portugal was even more attractive to the Irish because it was a Catholic country where they could freely practise their religion after leaving Ireland to escape the English laws suppressing it.  The émigrés concentrated in Lisbon, which was the only major city and areas of worthwhile commercial activity in the small country of Portugal at the time.  As their numbers in Lisbon grew and their wealth increased, the influence of the Irish in Portugal also grew.

      The blossoming relationship between the Irish and the Portuguese at the beginning of the early modern period was not an extension of a medieval tradition, as it was in Spain or France.  Prior to 1143, when Portugal gained its independence from the Kingdom of Castile, it was considered a province of Spain by everyone in Europe, including the Irish.  During the Middle Ages when wandering Irish monks came to Spain, few of them actually lived in the territory that would eventually become Portugal.  In the 1400's, Irish merchants became interested in Portugal as the Portuguese built a large fleet of ships for exploration and trade under the leadership of Prince Henry, called "the Navigator" for his keen interest in maritime affairs.  In Galway, Cork and Waterford, the sight of Portuguese ships was common.  Irish merchants purchased the Madeira wine and blocks of cork that the Portuguese crews offloaded onto the quays.   Then the Irish paid the ship's captain for the transport of their own butter, wool and beef to the vessel's next port of call.

      As Portugal discovered new lands and established colonies around the world, Lisbon grew into a bustling commercial port.  It attracted a polyglot assortment of adventurers and merchants from all over Europe.  A record exists from 1462 granting permission to reside in Lisbon to Richard May, Geoffrey Galway, and the brothers John and Dominic Lynch, all born in Ireland.  They were merchants acting as agents for Irish importers, most likely in the wine trade.  Some of the Irish in Lisbon also entered royal service because they had impressed the Portuguese rulers with their learning.  In the 1450's, Prince Henry sent a captured African lion to Galway as a gift for an unnamed Irish retainer who had left the Prince's service and returned to his homeland.

      By the middle of the 16th century, there was a thriving Irish community in Lisbon.  Because all of the goods from the vast Portuguese Empire had to first pass through Lisbon on their way to other European ports, Irish merchants could eliminate the need for a Portuguese broker by establishing permanent offices in the city.  Usually they sent their younger sons to Portugal to act as agents for the family import-export business.  These Irish agents bought spices from Asia, teak wood from the Amazon Basin and other exotic goods, and arranged for their shipment not only to Ireland, but also to other European ports for distribution throughout the Continent.  Lisbon also provided commercial opportunities for Irish émigrés who had only limited capital.  A relatively small investment in a Portuguese overseas voyage could reap an enormous profit if the ship successfully returned laden with goods from the Far East or the Americas.

      The Irish merchants residing in Portugal became increasingly important to the country's economy after the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.  Since the Irish remained Catholic, they were acceptable in Portuguese society.   But because the Irish were technically English subjects, they could trade more easily with the Protestant nations of Europe.  This was crucial for Portugal's economic relationship with England and the Netherlands.  As England prospered, its demand for Madeira wine, spices from the Orient and other items from Portuguese colonies increased sharply.  The Dutch cities of Antwerp and Bruges were also vital to Portuguese commerce because they provided access to the markets of central Europe for imports from the Portuguese colonies.  During times of war with Portugal, the English and Dutch ports were closed to Portuguese ships.  Even during times of peace, religious and economic rivalries could prevent Portuguese merchants from selling their goods in important northern European markets.  But as "Englishmen", the Irish of Lisbon were readily granted permission to dock and offload their cargoes in the ports of England and other Protestant nations.

      Like their counterparts in Spain, France, and the other countries of Europe, the Irish merchants living in Portugal were never isolated from the people and culture around them.  They intermarried with the Portuguese, weaving an intricate pattern of family relationships.  One series of marriages linked Christopher Columbus with Patrick Sarsfield, the leader of the Wild Geese.  Columbus married a Portuguese woman when he lived in Lisbon to try to interest King Joao II of Portugal in his project for sailing the Atlantic.  When he moved on to the court of Aragon in pursuit of his dream, he left his children behind.  His descendant Catalina Colón, as the surname Columbus was spelled in Portuguese, married James Fitzjames Stuart in the early 1700's, the illegitimate son of Patrick Sarsfield's widow, Lady Honoré Sarsfield.

      The Irish merchants in Lisbon also took part in the Great Armada launched by Spain in 1588 to invade England.  Eight years before, the death of King Sebastao without an heir left Philip II of Spain with a claim to the Portuguese throne since he was Sebastao's cousin.  He quickly annexed Portugal, making it a part of the Spanish Empire.  The change of monarchs and political structure had little impact on the business affairs of the Irish merchants living in Portugal.  When the call went out for pilots and interpreters to sail with the Armada, many Irish merchants volunteered.  Spanish records listed the master gunner John Lynch, the mariners William Brown and Cahill MacConnor among the Irish who sailed on the flagship of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, the commander of the expedition.  As seamen and merchants, the émigrés were familiar with both English and Irish waters.  Although their native tongue was Irish, many were fluent in the English language, which would be useful for the planned Spanish invasion of England.  With the addition of the services of the Irish émigrés in Lisbon, Philip II felt that his preparations to invade England were complete.  Few of the émigrés could have guessed that the mighty Spanish fleet would be turned back by the English navy.  Ironically, a few of the Irish volunteers found themselves shipwrecked in Ireland when a storm drove some of the ships of the Armada onto the rocks of the Irish coastline.

      At the time of the Flight of the Irish Earls in 1605, Portugal's fortunes were waning.  The land was a province of Spain, distinguishable from other Spanish provinces only by the dialect spoken by its inhabitants.  Many of the other nations of Europe had established colonies around the world, depriving Portugal of its virtual monopoly over the exotic spices and goods from its Asian and South American colonies.  Yet Lisbon remained an important Atlantic port for distribution of goods from Portugal's Asian and American colonies.

      Despite the ability of the Irish to freely move between both the Protestant and Catholic marketplaces of Europe, they were not numerous enough to stem Portugal's gradual economic decline in the 17th century.  The Irish merchants of Lisbon did, however, help to keep alive a Portuguese tradition of international commerce which proved essential to the economy of the tiny nation when it regained its independence in 1640.





      In 1640, a group of Portuguese nobles stages a coup d'etat in Lisbon and arrested the Spanish governor.  They then declared Portugal to be once again an independent nation and invited the Duke of Bragança to reign as King Joao IV.  Spain did not immediately challenge the revolution.  At the time, the province of Cataluña was also in rebellion, and Spain did not have the military forces to fight two wars on its home territory.  So by default, Portugal achieved its independence.

      The task facing King Joao IV was formidable.  After sixty years of Spanish rule, Portugal no longer had an army, a navy or even an efficient method of collecting taxes.  At any moment, Spain might resolve its dispute with Cataluña and march its army towards Portugal.  To be prepared for this possibility, the new king made each region responsible for raising a military force and collecting revenues for the central government in Lisbon.  Concerned that the forces he was raising might not be equipped or trained in time to challenge any Spanish invasion, in 1648 King Joao sent an Irish priest, Father Daniel O'Daly, O.P., on a secret mission to Ireland to try to recruit Irish soldiers with experience in fighting the English to form the nucleus of the Portuguese army.

      Daniel O'Daly was a well-known Irish émigré figure in Lisbon, where he was known by his Portuguese name of Frei Domingo de Rosario.  He was an active member of the Dominican order of monks who founded the monastery of Corpo Santo as well as an Irish College in Lisbon.  O'Daly also became the confessor of Joao's wife, Queen Luisa.  In those days, confessors were more than spiritual advisors.  In the royal palace of Lisbon, O'Daly often discussed matters of state with Luisa.  So when the King decided to recruit Irish soldiers for the Portuguese Army, Father O'Daly naturally came to mind.

      Daniel of O'Daly arrived in Ireland at a time when Oliver Cromwell's war against Irish Catholics was devastating the country.  Famine and pestilence followed in the wake of crop burnings and livestock slaughtering by Cromwell's armies.   The defeated Irish soldiers hiding in the countryside were eager to join the service of England's enemies abroad.  Even so, O'Daly did not attract a large number of Irish with his recruitment drive.  The pay scale that he could offer was far lower than the wages for service in the armies of France or Spain.  When Portugal regained its independence, there was no royal treasury and King Joao depended on a tax on imports and exports for most of the funds necessary to rule the nation.  Revenues from the import-export trade tried up because Spanish markets were closed to Portugal; and because the Netherlands was at war with Spain and continued to regard Portugal as a Spanish province.  Portuguese merchants were forbidden from trading in Bruges or Antwerp.  So O'Daly could entice the Irish soldiers only with the promise of glory and the hope of eventual financial rewards.  When the small number of Irish recruits he attracted arrived in Portugal, they were scattered throughout the army as junior officers and drill sergeants.  O'Daly did manage to convince the experienced field commander Murrough O'Brien, Lord Inchquin, to accept a general's commission in Joao's army.  But when he arrived in Portugal, O'Brien quickly grew dismayed by the state of the army and returned to Ireland.

      King Joao IV considered O'Daly's mission a success even though he did not persuade many Irishmen to join the Portuguese army.  The small number of Irish soldiers who did join the Portuguese army were given the task of training the inexperienced Portuguese troops in the tactics and strategy the Irish had developed in their conflicts against the English.  The Irish military trainers taught the Portuguese the flanking manoeuvres they used against enemy formations so the Irish could bring their superior swordsmanship into play.  This tactic had helped the Irish overcome the English advantage in having artillery batteries and the most advanced muskets.  The Irish also stressed the use of cavalry to break up enemy formations or to reinforce weak positions.  This instruction and drill by the Irish was appropriate for Joao's incipient Portuguese army because, like the Irish fighting the English, the Portuguese did not have the funds to be able to purchase the latest artillery, muskets and other military equipment.  By following the tactics and strategy taught to them by their Irish trainers recruited by O'Daly, the Portuguese army would be able to be an effective fighting force on the battlefields of 17th-century Europe.  Under the Irish instruction, the Portuguese army was turned into a fighting force that would deter Spain from believing that it could easily reclaim Portugal - which was King Joao's primary aim for O'Daly's mission.

      A few years after O'Daly's return to Lisbon, Joao IV entrusted him with another diplomatic mission of great importance to the survival of Portugal.  O'Daly was sent to France and the Netherlands to try to obtain international recognition for the independent status of Portugal and, if possible, establish military alliances.  Because France and the Netherlands were at war with Spain and regarded Portugal as a province of Spain, Portuguese ships were denied access to French and Dutch ports.  Once Portugal achieved international recognition, Joao IV could then make treaties which would allow the goods from Portuguese colonies to be delivered in markets closed to Spain.

      At the time of O'Daly's mission to France and the Netherlands, only England accepted Portugal as a sovereign nation because of a treaty signed in 1642 by Charles I in one of his last acts in office.  The treaty was ratified by the new English government after Charles I was deposed by Cromwell.  England hoped to benefit from an alliance with Portugal by using Lisbon as a naval base.  With England recovering from many years of civil strife, however, Joao IV could expect little military assistance if Portugal was attacked by Spain in an effort to win back its wayward province.

      In 1656, O'Daly went to Paris for talks about forming an alliance against Spain with the Prime Minister of France, Cardinal Mazarin.  O'Daly strongly urged Mazarin to take the lead in forming a league among Portugal, France and the Netherlands against Spain.  O'Daly proposed that this league would include Portugal as a full ally of France and the Netherlands, but would not require that Portugal declare war on Spain unless attacked.  Such a league would not only gain recognition for Portugal from two major European powers, but would also allow Portugal to trade with France and the Netherlands as well as provide military assistance if attacked by Spain.  Although France was already at war with Spain, Mazarin initially told O'Daly that he saw no advantage to France from such a league because he believed that continued Portuguese independence depended on Joao IV, and would not endure if the King should die.  Mazarin changed his mind, however, after Joao IV died in November of 1656 and the crown passed to the King's young son with Queen Luisa as regent without provoking a rebellion or an attack from Spain.  Mazarin granted O'Daly a partial alliance by agreeing to provide military aid to Portugal, but on the condition that Queen Luisa took the initiative and attacked Spain.  Since Portugal did not have the resources to challenge Spain, the compact had very little substance as a military alliance, but it did gain French recognition of Portugal's sovereignty and open French ports to Portuguese shipping.  Other nations quickly followed the lead of France, including the Netherlands with its markets that were essential for the Portuguese economy.

      O'Daly travelled on to Rome, to the court of Pope Alexander VII.  There he obtained official papal recognition for the independent state of Portugal.  In staunchly Catholic Portugal, the approval of the Pope was necessary to defuse a growing conflict between the civil government and the Portuguese Inquisition.  Before his death, Joao IV attempted to reduce the severity of the methods used by the Inquisition, which retaliated by questioning his authority to rule.  Papal recognition would restore some of the support that the Portuguese government had lost because of the frequent challenges of the Inquisition.  In order to gain the Pope's recognition, however, O'Daly had to assure the Pope that the new Queen Luisa had no intention of continuing Joao IV's policies of interfering with Church matters in Portugal.

      A few months later, in 1657, Spain sent its army across the Portuguese border to reclaim what it still regarded as a rebellious province and captured the city of Olivença.  The invasion caused a crisis in the high command of the Portuguese Army, and for a time it appeared as if Spanish soldiers would soon be marching through Lisbon.  But France, England and the Netherlands were also at war with Spain in a dispute over economic and territorial interests in the Caribbean.  The threat to Spain's holdings in Flanders and the West Indies, and the possibility of invasion along its northern border with France limited the number of Spanish troops available to fight on the Portuguese front.  Spain eventually lost the war with France, England and the Netherlands, and the victorious allies insisted that Spain  abandon its claim of sovereignty over Portugal and recognize it as an independent nation.  Spain acquiesced, withdrawing its troops from Portuguese territory.

      During the first two decades of Portuguese independence, Daniel O'Daly's Irish heritage opened diplomatic doors that might have been closed to someone of Portuguese birth.  The Irish émigrés in Europe, particularly in France and the Papal States of Italy, had a reputation for honouring their word.  Many of O'Daly's fellow émigrés were in positions of power in the French government and were certain to have smoothed his negotiation with Mazarin.  The international relationships that O'Daly forged for Portugal were critical for the nation's commercial and political survival.  For these accomplishments, Daniel O'Daly entered Portuguese history as a key figure in maintaining the independence of his adopted land.





      In the early 18th century, the Irish émigré Michael Hogan played a key role in a crucial moment of Portuguese history.  Leading a brigade of Portuguese cavalry, Hogan drove a Spanish invasion force from Portuguese territory.  In accomplishing this, Hogan employed tactics that he had used successfully against the English in Ireland.  In Ireland, Hogan's extraordinary skill as a horseman had earned him the name the "Galloping Hogan".  His skill and leadership were especially evident after the Irish defeat in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.  Hogan led the rearguard protecting the retreat of the defeated Irish to Limerick, keeping the retreat from becoming a rout.  During the subsequent siege of Limerick by the English army led by King William, Hogan led a daring midnight raid on the English artillery train approaching the city.  While the artillerymen were bivouacked for the night, Hogan attacked the English camp, captured or drove off the English soldiers, and blew up the cannon.  This prevented the English from using their artillery to destroy the walls of Limerick.  Eventually, however, the Irish were forced to surrender.  Hogan was a member of the body of Irish troops who chose exile rather than take an oath of loyalty to King William and became known as the Wild Geese.  In 1691, Hogan went to France where he became an officer in the Irish Brigade and was promoted to general after distinguishing himself in several battles in Flanders.

      Hogan's duel with a fellow officer of the Brigade in 1705 was the incident which led to his going to Portugal.  Although Louis XIV had issued an edict in 1679 prohibiting duelling, the nobility flaunted the law and continued to duel whenever they believed their honour was compromised.  Because duelling was such a common practice in French society and involved many prominent nobles, despite his ban, Louis XIV frequently granted pardons or reduced the punishments of surviving duellists.  In the military, there were additional regulations against duelling to prevent soldiers of lower rank from challenging their superiors, thereby undermining military discipline.  Hogan's opponent in the duel was Captain James Conway, whom Hogan later discovered was his cousin.  When they faced each other with pistols, Hogan mortally wounded Conway, causing a scandal in the Irish Brigade.  In 1706, a court-martial tried Hogan and demanded his resignation from the army, but ordered no additional punishment.  Since Hogan's duel had also violated the King's edict against duelling, he faced civil charges as well.  But Louis XIV decided to grant Hogan a pardon because of his exemplary service in the Irish Brigade while in Flanders.  His career as an officer in the French army was at an end, however.  Louis XIV suggested to Hogan that his military skills and leadership could be put to good use in Portugal, and gave Hogan a letter of recommendation to King Joao V.

      Following the King's suggestion, Hogan went to Lisbon in 1708 to present himself to King Joao V.  Recognizing Hogan's value to his own inexperienced army, the King immediately gave him a commission as Brigadier General in the Portuguese army.  As a sign that he now considered Portugal his home, Hogan changed his name to André Miguel Hogan.

      Hogan arrived in Portugal during the War of Spanish Succession.  In this conflict, an alliance of England, the Netherlands and Austria was trying to preserve the European balance of power by preventing the new Spanish King, Philip V, from also becoming the King of France.  Although Portugal was not a part of the alliance against Spain, King Joao V was nonetheless concerned that Spain might find the war against the other European powers an excuse to try to annex parts of Portugal.

      Hogan's first assignment as Brigadier General was the command of a cavalry brigade stationed along the border with Spain in central Portugal.  Although it was not until the war was almost over that Hogan's brigade came into combat, it was not idle in its defensive position.  For more than three years, Hogan had been teaching his cavalry troop the hit-and-run tactics he had used so effectively against the English in Ireland.  Hogan especially emphasized the night manoeuvring and attack the English found difficult to defend against.  Such night-time tactics for a fairly large force were based on stealth and silence and on the ability of the force to stay together in the darkness.  Such tactics were rare in the warfare of the early 1800's.  This training proved its worth in the closing stage of the War of Spanish Succession when Spain made a bold, forceful attempt to seize a portion of Portuguese territory in order to strengthen its position in the peace negotiations which had opened in Utrecht in Belgium.

      The Marquis de Bey of Spain led the attack on Portugal.  During this invasion, his savagery towards both soldiers and civilians earned him the title "The Scourge of Portugal".  The sole barrier between the Marquis and Lisbon and the court of King Joao V was the fortified town of Campo Maior garrisoned by a small infantry unit under the command of the Count de Riberia.  As the Spanish approached, de Riberia sent a courier to Hogan at the headquarters of the Portuguese cavalry requesting reinforcements.  Although dusk was gathering when the news arrived, Brigadier General Michael Hogan mustered a force of 500 men and led the mounted troop through the darkness in a ride reminiscent of his raid on King William's artillery train during the siege of Limerick.  Hogan's men reinforced the garrison at Campo Maior at dawn; and although badly outnumbered, Hogan's troops and de Riberia's garrison repulsed the Spanish assault.

      Not only as a dramatic military feat, but also as a model of advanced tactics, Hogan's night-time manoeuvre and role in the defeat of the Spanish invasion force became a part of military history.  Hogan's feat became so noteworthy that the historian John O'Callaghan was prompted to include it in his The History of the Irish Brigade in the Service of France, not only because of Hogan's one-time service in the Brigade, but also as an example of the fighting spirit and innovative tactics typical of the Brigade.

      The last affair of arms in this war between Spain and Portugal occurred in the campaign of 1712, under circumstances so creditable to the Irish officer as to deserve notice here, though that gentleman was not of the Irish Brigade.  Notwithstanding the negotiations for peace at Utrecht, no truce having taken place by September between the two peninsular kingdoms, the Marquis de Bey (styled "The Scourge of the Portuguese") appeared on the 28th, with nearly 20,000 men before Campo Maior in Portugal and broke ground, October 4th-5th, the place being then in anything but a condition to make suitable resistance.  As, however, it was of the utmost consequence to preserve it, the Count de Riberia and a gallant French Protestant engineer officer, Brigadier de Massi, contrived a day or two after to make their way into the town with 200 or 300 Portuguese grenadiers, and 400 or 500 more Portuguese subsequently succeeded in doing so likewise under an Irish Officer, Major General Hogan - apparently the same M. Hogan, Irlandaise Lieutenant Colonel in the Bavarian Guards tried by Court Martial in 1706 at Mons for killing a Captain and countryman of his own in a duel, and hence, most probably, obliged to enter another service.  Having assumed command of the garrison, the Major General [At the time of Campo Maior, Hogan was a Brigadier General.] took due measures for the defence.  After battering and bombing the place from October 4th with 33 cannons and mortars, the Marquis de Bey ordered a grand assault to be made on the 27th, in the morning, by 15 battalions, 32 companies of grenadiers and a regiment of dismounted dragoons, under Lieutenant General Zuniga.

      "By help of a prodigious fire from the cannons and small arms, observes my English narrative of the Compleat History of Europe for 1712, with respect to the enemy, they made a descent into a part of the ditch that was dry and gave 3 assaults with a great deal of fury; but they were as bravely repulsed by the Portuguese under Major General Hogan, and forced to retire after an obstinate fight that lasted 2 hours, though the breach was very practicable, and so wide that 30 men might stand abreast in it.  Their disorder was so great that they left most of their arms and 6 ladders behind.  This action cost them 700 men killed and wounded, whereas the Portuguese loss did not amount to above 100 killed and 87 wounded, and such was their ardour that they pursued the enemy into their very trenches without any manner of order (notwithstanding the endeavours of Major General Hogan to put a stop to them), which might have proved very fatal to them, if the enemy had courage to improve the opportunity."

      The next day, the Spanish lifted the siege and moved back into Spanish territory, ending the threat to Portugal.  A short time later, the delegates to the peace conference in Utrecht signed a treaty and the War of Spanish Succession ended with Portuguese territory intact.  King Joao recognized Portugal's debt to Michael Hogan by promoting him to Major General and awarding him a villa and an annual stipend.  Hogan continued to serve in the army of Joao V, teaching other officers horsemanship and cavalry tactics.  He married a woman related to the royal family of Bragança and was a frequent visitor to the King's court in Lisbon.

      Michael Hogan's night ride to Campo Maior became legendary in the Portuguese cavalry.  From the success of this action, other army officers came to view cavalry as a highly mobile strike force that could quickly be sent to the point of greatest threat.  As obvious as relying on the mobility of cavalry may seem today, it required Hogan's extraordinary achievement to make the tactic a part of Portuguese military operations.





      In both Portugal and Spain, the Irish rarely became targets of the Inquisition.  Nearly all of them were devout Catholics.  In addition, since they were considered refugees from Protestant persecution, they were given a higher status by the clergy than individuals who had not suffered for the sake of their Catholic beliefs.  But as the 18th century unfolded, a series of events occurred that placed the Hogan family in direct conflict with the Portuguese Inquisition.

      On the basis of his important role in the War of Spanish Succession, Michael Hogan came to have considerable influence on the political affairs of Portugal as well as its military affairs.  His brother, John, and a relative, Jacob (probably a cousin), also rose to the rank of general.  Like Michael Hogan, they married women with ties to the royal family of Bragança.  Portuguese historical records encapsulating the patrimony and achievements of the Hogans also hint at the reason the Hogan family came into such a serious confrontation with the Portuguese Inquisition.

      An entry from a document in the Portuguese National Archives in Torre do Tombo concerning Dennis Hogan, the son of Michael Hogan, reads:


Dennis (or Dionysius) Hogan, 30 years old, Irish, native of Vilanova county of Tipperary, lieutenant of cavalry in the Alcantara regiment, resident of Janelas Verdes {Green Windows}, parish of Santos.  This Dennis Hogan came to Portugal in 1724 and was appointed cavalry lieutenant on November 5, 1734, in recognition of services rendered to our country during nine years, by his uncle John Hogan; ... Dennis Hogan became a Mason in 1737.


      The incidental notation that Dennis Hogan became a Mason discloses the cause of the Hogan family's troubles with the Inquisition.  The Masonic brotherhood was a particular target of the Portuguese Inquisition during the 1730's.  The secret society embraced atheism and republicanism, concepts that the Catholic Church believed undermined its authority.  The Masonic Order began during medieval times as a guild of builders who recognized no religion and paid homage to no king.  Despite their controversial nature, because of their unique architectural skills, the Masons were welcomed by the nobles in the major cities of Europe to build cathedrals and universities.  The society flourished and used its wealth to influence kings and nobles by making secret loans to finance military campaigns.  The growing political power of the Masonic Order attracted ambitious men who had little to do with construction, but hoped to benefit from the powerful, yet clandestine brotherhood.  By the 18th century, its members were known as Freemasons and the order was growing rapidly.  It was becoming popular particularly among the aristocracy and political leaders of Catholic nations who resented the interferences of the Church in civil affairs.  In a time when oaths were taken very seriously, the vow to secrecy taken by each Freemason was intended to prevent infiltration of the organization by agents of the Catholic curia.  Recognizing the Freemasons as a dangerous movement, Pope Innocent VIII strongly condemned them in the 1720's.

      Dennis Hogan was attracted to the Freemasons because of their desire to limit the power of the Catholic Church in Portugal.  For centuries, the Catholic clergy maintained a political grip on Portugal by using the Inquisition to accuse even the highest-born nobles of heresy whenever they attempted to interfere with Church laws or property.  Like many other Irish in Portugal, Dennis considered this Catholic religious oppression little different from the Protestant religious oppression in Ireland.

      The Holy Inquisition was a Church institution created by Pope Gregory IX in 1231 to discover and punish heresy throughout Europe.  A special branch of the Holy Inquisition was created in Spain and Portugal by papal decree at the close of the 15th century.  The Catholic hierarchy of the Iberian Peninsula believed that the large numbers of Moslem Moors and Jews residing in their land increased the possibility that Christians would hear and respond to heretical teachings.  Rooting out and eliminating the Jewish and Moslem religions required sterner measures than were usually employed by the Holy Inquisition in other parts of Europe.  This was the origin of the infamous Spanish Inquisition, which was intended to ensure conformity with Catholicism.  It terrorized not only the Moors and Jews, but also many Christians of Spain and Portugal until the 19th century.

      Dennis Hogan knew that the methods used by the Inquisition were as terroristic and brutal in Portugal as they were in Spain.  Regardless of social rank, a man or woman could be arrested by the Inquisition on the faintest suspicion of heresy and subjected to torture if they did not immediately confess.  If the prisoner confessed, his or her life might be spared, providing it was a first offence.  If prisoners failed to confess to heresy, or if it was a second conviction, they were turned over to the civil authorities for execution because the Catholic Church prohibited the clergy from carrying out a death sentence.  To demonstrate their support of Catholic doctrine, government officials organized public burnings of heretics, which the Portuguese termed the auto da , the act of faith.  Sometimes the men and women sentenced to death were kept in prison until the authorities had enough condemned people to stage a mass execution.  These public spectacles were meant to warn others of the consequences of deviating from Catholic doctrine.  Afterwards, all of the property of the executed heretic was confiscated by the Church, thus creating a financial incentive for the Inquisition.

      Along with many other educated Portuguese, Dennis Hogan believed that the activities of the Portuguese Inquisition unreasonably harmed innocent people and severely hampered the economic development of the nation.  Foreign merchants from Protestant lands hesitated to invest in Portugal for fear that their agents would be arrested and their goods confiscated.  Special permission was required from the Inquisition for a Protestant foreigner to live in Lisbon, but they were not immune from arrest if they spoke an ill-considered word that conflicted with Catholic teachings.  Any native Portuguese who amassed wealth automatically came under the scrutiny of the Inquisitors.  A single ancestor who was Moslem or Jewish, no matter how remote, could bring the charge that a person was a "lapsed Christian" who secretly practised another religion.  The activity of the Inquisition in northern Portugal, where Dennis Hogan lived, was especially virulent in the 1730's.  So many people were arrested that whole towns were deserted and prosperous businesses were ruined by neglect and mismanagement following confiscations.

      Although Dennis Hogan opposed the Inquisition, he did not take the dangerous step of taking the Freemason's oath until after the great auto da in Lisbon in 1737.  At this spectacle, twelve people were burned at the stake and thousands of others stripped of their property and condemned to lesser punishments.  All of the accused were from the northern province where Dennis lived, and among them were many of Dennis' friends and acquaintances.  The population of his native city of Bragança and the surrounding region had been decimated by the Inquisition a few years before.  Many of the aristocrats, including his stepmother related to the royal House of Bragança, felt that there should be an end to the Inquisition, but few of them dared speak their thoughts openly.  By joining the secret society of Freemasons, Dennis Hogan was able to collaborate with others opposed to the injustices of the Inquisition.


      Before long, Dennis Hogan was named a Freemason to the Inquisition.  He may have been named by one of the many informers the Inquisition had throughout Portugal; or by someone in the hands of the Inquisition hoping for mercy by giving the Inquisition the names of other heretics.  Hogan was arrested on the ecclesiastical charge of heresy and the civil charge of treason.  At the same time, the Inquisition arrested seven other Irish military officers for the same crimes.  To save himself from torture, Dennis immediately confessed and gave lengthy depositions in which he claimed ignorance that the Pope in Rome had outlawed Freemasonry.

      During the time of Dennis' imprisonment, his father, Michael, worked tirelessly to obtain his release.  Michael knew he was placing himself in jeopardy since any persons who tried to help those accused by the Inquisition were themselves automatically suspect.  But Major General Michael Hogan was well into his sixties and had never before succumbed to his personal fears.  When his political connections at the royal court proved powerless to intervene, he tracked down the Scotsman named Gordon who had recruited Dennis and the other Irish officers for the Freemasons.  Gordon gave him a signed statement showing that Dennis agreed to an addendum to the Mason's oath that guaranteed his loyalty to the King of Portugal and to the Roman Catholic Church.  Perhaps this document conveyed the truth.  Perhaps it was a crafty invention by a frantic father.  Whatever Dennis actually swore to was never known since Michael arranged for Gordon to flee from Portugal to prevent any further testimony.  Yet this statement combined with the prestige of the three Hogan generals and the royal house of Bragança secured the release of Dennis Hogan.  The young Lieutenant returned to military service with no apparent prejudice to his career.  He eventually advanced to the rank of Major General by the time he retired.

      The brief misadventure of Dennis strengthened the Hogan family's resolve to support any movement to loosen the grip of the Inquisition over the Portuguese people.  This resolve was rooted in their oath as military officers to defend the monarchy and the nation against internal enemies as well as foreign ones.  By the 1740's, the Hogans, along with many other leaders of Portuguese society, viewed the Inquisition as a threat to Portugal.  The Inquisition not only undermined their authority, it also threatened them personally with arrest, imprisonment and confiscation of their property.  The Hogan generals became part of a secret group of government ministers and military officers who met to plan the best way to limit the power of the Inquisition.  A prominent member of the group was Sebastian Cavalho e Mello, the Marquis de Pombal, who was related to Dennis Hogan by marriage.  Although this group failed to agree on any specific plan, the members agreed to support one another if any opportunity arose to challenge the authority of the Inquisition.

      It was several years before circumstances presented themselves so that the group was in a position to take effective action towards their aim of curtailing the Inquisition's power.  During the 1740's, the Marquis de  Pombal was Portugal's ambassador to England, and then Austria.  While in England, he gained a reputation as a liberal statesman for his regular assurances that Portugal was ready for the economic and political reforms which would make it attractive for investments.  While posted in Vienna, he observed that the Catholic monarchy of Empress Maria Theresa remained popular, strong, and effective without oppressing Protestant sects and other religious minorities.  In 1751, the Marquis returned to Lisbon to be appointed Prime Minister.  One of the first acts after his appointment was to order that all prison sentences imposed by the Inquisition had to be confirmed by the civil government.  The Marquis put himself at risk of being charged with heresy by the Inquisition.  But the Marquis was able to take this risk because he had the full support of the Army.  By this time, Dennis Hogan had risen to the rank of Major General.  Dennis informed the leaders of the Inquisition that he would use his troops to protect the Marquis from arrest, and he used his influence among other generals to persuade them to back the civil government's challenge to the power of the Church.  Faced with defiance from both the government and the military, the Inquisition agreed to accept the Marquis' order to allow its prison sentences to be confirmed by the government.

      The Marquis de Pombal continued to issue decrees to end the power of the Inquisition in Portugal.  But the Inquisition was so entrenched in Portuguese society that in many areas local civil authorities continued to approve executions of heretics for another ten years.  It was not until 1771 that the government was able to permanently outlaw the public burning of religious dissenters.  Dennis Hogan played an important part in curtailing the power of the Inquisition.  His encouragement of the Marquis de Pombal and his open support of the Marquis at the critical hour in 1751 helped Portugal shed the yoke of religious oppression.

      In other European countries, Irish émigrés influenced societies in specific areas such as education, military affairs, or agriculture.  But in Portugal, the Irish had a direct and identifiable involvement in shaping events that affected all parts of Portuguese society.  Daniel O'Daly secured international economic and political ties for Portugal in a time when its survival as an independent nation was in doubt.  The markets he opened and the alliances he established benefited all of the people of Portugal, from the peasant ploughing a field to the dragoon patrolling the border.  Michael Hogan helped preserve Portuguese independence.  Dennis Hogan helped to alter the course of Portuguese society by curbing the abuses of the Inquisition, an institution which hampered the economic and intellectual development of the nation and unjustly killed thousands of Portuguese citizens.  The Irish in Portugal were able to play such a prominent role in the development of Portuguese society because the nation was small, allowing their actions to have an immediate, widespread effect.