The prominent religion amongst the Scots-Irish in the 17th Century was Prebyterianism. Its teachings were radical by the standards of the day and this placed it firmly outside the teachings of the established (Anglican) church.
Cromwell had barely tolerated them but when Charles II restored the monarchy in 1660 full-scale persecution began. The Presbyterian faith was outlawed and the practice of their services was reduced to open-air meetings at secret locations.
The situation of the Scots-Irish was further eroded with the accession of James II in 1685 and the gradual restoration to power of Roman-Catholics in Ireland. Protestants were replaced by Roman-Catholics in the judiciary and army as well as many other positions of public office. However help appeared to be at hand as James was deposed by William of Orange (William III) in 1688 and before long war raged in Ireland.
In probably the most prominent battle of the war, the city of Derry was sieged by the army of James II. It resulted in terrible hardship for those in the city and many stories abound from that time.
However the seige was broken after 3 months on 28 July 1689 and the beginning of the end was sounded for James II. A number of major battles followed between the opposing armies, the most significant of which was fought on the banks of the river Boyne and imortalised ever since in the Orange parades of July.
William III (Prince of Orange) surveys the battlefield at the Boyne.
Within 2 years James's armies would finally be defeated at Limerick. Many had seen the war as a religious one as is still the case today. However the mainly Presbyterian scots-irish would soon discover that William IIIs success would be a double-edged sword.
The rallying of protestants together to defeat the Roman Catholic King James was only to be a temporary union. The scots-irish were mainly Presbyterian and few held positions of power and influence whereas power and influence lay in abundance with the minority english, Church of Ireland (Anglican) settlers. With this imbalance the scots-irish continued to be the subject of attack by the established (Anglican) church.
A parliamentary act of 1704 effectively made it impossible for Presbyterians to hold public office as this required them to take communion in the Church of Ireland. This was added to the fact that from 1661 meetings of Presbyterians as well as Roman Catholics had been forbidden by the Lord Justices of Ireland.
Despite the persecution the stubbornness and determination of the scots-irish was implacable. When meetings were outlawed they resorted to secret open-air services like their irish Roman Catholic neighbours. This then led to the building of 'meeting houses' as places of worship; a development that would become enshrined within the beliefs of their faith.
Although some repeals occurred in the Toleration Act of 1719 the Presbyterian scots-irish continued to have their lives and marriages regarded as unholy by the authorities. Of particular note was the fact that were a Presbyterian marriage was fornication a Roman Catholic one was not, even though both were ilegal.
This persecution was to lay deep scars in the scots-irish. Some would seek a new life in America whereas within others the seeds of a new thinking would begin to grow, one which would call for a separation of the settlement from a crown and parliament that had betrayed them.