In seventeenth-century Ireland the law increasingly defined and regulated relationships: between government and governed; between landlord and tenant; between master and servant; among the propertied; and even, by the end of the century, between Catholics and Protestants. This situation, similar to that throughout western Europe, signalled — at least superficially — England’s success in assimilating Ireland. The system of courts, centred on Dublin, and, through regular assizes and quarter sessions, borough, sheriffs’, church and manorial courts, reaching deep into the localities, was celebrated as a prime benefit, as well as the principal means, of anglicisation. The English policies which had progressively dismantled indigenous institutions, including the brehon law of Gaelic and gaelicised society, and replaced older Catholic with new Protestant élites, rested on statute, proclamation and judicial decree or process. Sincethe law was essential to England’s rule in Ireland, its opponents countered through the courts and legal argument: as a result, the functioning of the law, especially the quasi-judicial commissions which redistributed land, was politicised. Not only did the law accomplish, it also reflected these changes; for, bit by bit, Catholics were edged from the judicial bench and then disqualified from practising as barristers and attorneys. By the early eighteenth century the courts — publicly at least — were manned by and run for the burgeoning Protestant interest in Ireland.