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ians aimed to demonstrate instead that Protestantism was a return to the
Wrst principles of a Christianity undeWled by Romanist corruptions. This
in turn put the burden of apology back on to Roman propagandists who
had to defend their church against the charge that Roman corruptions
were the unwarranted novelties within the Christian tradition. Within
every national reformed tradition there was a strong ideological impetus
towards ancient ecclesiastical history which would provide particular
local case studies to support the basic Protestant contention that re-
formed religion rather than modern Catholicism better represented the
original model of Christian worship, doctrine and ecclesiastical polity.“’
In the case of Irish Protestantism there was an additional need to
appropriate the nation™s ecclesiastical antiquities. The Protestant Church
of Ireland was keen to downplay any sense that it was a sixteenth-century
Anglican transplantation. Protestant churchmen needed to demonstrate
that the established Church of Ireland was not an alien importation that
owed its status to the colonial relationship that existed between England
“À Christopher Sibthorp, A friendly advertisement to the pretended Catholickes of Ireland (Dub-
lin, 1622), p. 35. “Ã Ibid., ˜Preface™ and p. 35.
“• George Synge, A reioynder to the reply published by the Iesuites under the name of William
Malone (Dublin, 1632), pp. 10, 26.
“’ See the local historical arguments for the English and Scottish Protestant churches
outlined above in chs. 5 and 6.
166 The three kingdoms

and Ireland. Implicit in Ussherian argument was the need to disentangle
the Protestant Church of Ireland from modern Anglicanism (though not
from the historic Celtic Christianity of the ancient Britons). Rather it was
an indigenous and historic restoration of the true native tradition. In
substance, if not in name, Protestantism was the historic religion of
Ireland.““
Ussher™s primary aim was to establish institutional, doctrinal and sac-
ramental continuities, with scant regard for the ethnic implications of his
ideological construct. Nevertheless, this Old English Protestant did es-
tablish a plausible case for New English appropriation of ancient Gaelic
religious history. With considerable sophistication Ussher established the
ancient Hibernian credentials of Irish Protestantism, yet also managed to
accord a leading role in the Wrst Irish missions to the apostolic church of
the Britons, the forerunner of its modern sister, the Church of England.
The connected histories of the ancient Britons and early Gaels not only
provided particular local evidence to reinforce Ussher™s interpretation of
the church universal and its decline from primitive purity, but also
conferred on the Protestant Church of Ireland a compelling foundation
charter.““
Ussher was concerned to highlight the novelty of Roman Catholic
doctrine and worship. In the particular context of Ireland™s ecclesiastical
polity, he was keen to demolish the assertion of the Roman Catholic
Church to be the legitimate and historic institutional expression of Chris-
tianity in the island.“” In particular, Ussher brought Ireland within the
frame of his apocalyptic scheme of ecclesiastical corruption in Europe
after the thousand-year binding of Satan in the Wrst Christian millen-
nium. The corruption of Irish Christianity was largely a twelfth-century
phenomenon.“» The ˜reforms™ of St Malachy had put paid to the uncor-
rupted primitive Christianity of the Irish, and had Wrmly established the
Irish church™s subordination to Rome.“¦ Nor had there been any legatine
presence in Ireland until the appointment of Gille in the twelfth century.“ 
Above all, it appeared that the early Gaelic Christians had followed the
Protestant pattern in worship and doctrine. Had they not received the
Eucharist ˜in both kinds™, wine as well as wafer, and adhered to a predes-

““ A. Ford, ˜Dependent or independent? The Church of Ireland and its colonial context,
1536“1649™, Seventeenth Century 10 (1995), 163“87.
““ Parry, Trophies of time, pp. 136“41; J. McCaVerty, ˜St Patrick for the Church of Ireland:
James Ussher™s Discourse™, Bullan 3 (1997“8), 92. For the ˜British™ context of Ussher™s
´
researches into ecclesiastical history, see K. Sharpe, Sir Robert Cotton (Oxford, 1979),
pp. 33“4. “” Parry, Trophies of time, p. 131.
“» Ford, Protestant Reformation, pp. 221“2.
“¦ Ussher, Discourse, IV, pp. 274“5, 298; Knox, Ussher, p. 104; Ford, ˜Dependent or
independent?™, 171. “  Ussher, Discourse, IV, p. 319.
The weave of Irish identities, 1600“1790 167

tinarian theology?“À On the other hand, Ussher did not deny the reality of
a strong Catholic tradition in Ireland. Instead, he argued that the Celtic
founders of the Irish church, whom he claimed as ˜our ancestors™, had
been to all intents and purposes close kindred of modern Irish Protes-
tants:

the religion professed by the ancient bishops, priests, monks and other Christians
in this land, was for substance the very same with that which now by public
authority is maintained therein, against the foreign doctrine brought in thither in
later times by the Bishop of Rome™s followers. I speak of the more substantial
points of doctrine, that are in controversy betwixt the Church of Rome and us at
this day; by which only we must judge, whether of both sides hath departed from
the religion of our ancestors.“Ã

However, there are further complications to this story. Scholars today are
still divided over Ussher™s attitude to the language of these ˜ancestors™.
William Bedell (1571“1642), Bishop of Kilmore, clearly made strenuous
but unavailing eVorts towards evangelising in the vernacular (to the
extent that he embarked upon a Gaelic translation of the Old Testament),
a mission revitalised later in the seventeenth century under the auspices of
the Calvinist Narcissus Marsh (1638“1713), who would succeed to the
archbishopric of Armagh in 1703; by contrast, Ussher, in other respects
committed to the spirit of Protestantism and willing to assume the philo-
logical burdens imposed by Biblicism, was less enthusiastic “ at best “
about establishing a Gaelic Protestantism where word and worship were
available in the native tongue.“•
On the other hand, there were clear limits to Ussher™s desire to preside
over an Anglicising church. Although the ancient British past was import-
ant to Ussher™s argument for the similar Protestant traditions indigenous
to Britain and Ireland, he was far from suggesting that the Church of
Ireland was subject to the Church of England. He stoutly resisted any
notion that the Anglican primate enjoyed a patriarchate over the British
Isles. Anglican“Hibernian conformity should not infringe the distinctive
traditions and identity of the historic Church of Ireland. Witness Ussher™s
stance against the attempt to make the Church of Ireland adopt the
“À Ibid., IV, chs. 2“4; William Nicolson, The Irish historical library (Dublin, 1724), p. 68;
Knox, Ussher, p. 159; A. Capern, ˜The Caroline church: James Ussher and the Irish
dimension™, HJ 39 (1996), 80“1. “Ã Ussher, ˜Epistle to Sibthorp™, pp. 238“9.
“• Parry, Trophies of time, p. 151; R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland 1600“1972 (1988: Harmon-
dsworth, 1989), p. 49 n.; Barnard, ˜Protestants and the Irish language™, esp. 248“9;
J. Leerssen, ˜Archbishop Ussher and Gaelic culture™, Studia Hibernica 22“3 (1982“3),
50“8; Leerssen, Mere Irish, pp. 283“5; Ford, Protestant Reformation, p. 141; Connolly,
Religion, law, and power, p. 294. Despite the imperative to make Scripture available in the
vernacular, the Reformation went hand-in-hand with Anglicisation throughout the Brit-
ish Isles; see V. Durkacz, The decline of the Celtic languages (Edinburgh, 1983).
168 The three kingdoms

Anglican articles in 1634. Ussher was not only suspicious of Laudianism
for its departure from Calvinism, but also for its strategy to enforce
ecclesiastical uniformity within the Stuart realms.“’ Moreover, Ussher™s
protege Sir James Ware (1594“1666) continued Ussher™s antiquarian
´´
interest in the ancient Gaelic church, including the argument for the
similarities and close connections of ancient British and Irish Christians.
In the long run, it was through Ware, whose works appeared in English
translation between 1739 and 1746, that Ussher™s inXuence would be felt
upon the hobby-horsical Gaelicism of the late eighteenth-century As-
cendancy.““
The crisis of the Caroline regime also witnessed a vigorous assertion of
New English political identity which bore marked similarities to the
amphibious Old English patriotism of Darcy. In a speech of 1641 assert-
ing the privileges of the Irish parliament, Audley Mervyn (d. 1675), a
recent colonist from Hampshire, began by discussing the ancient English
constitution, referring back not only to the institutions of the Anglo-
Saxons “ invoked as ancestors, majores nostri “ but also to the laws of 441
BC granted by the ancient British king Dunwallo Molmutius. The privi-
leges of the Irish parliament were indeed ˜of most ancient birth and
extraction™, being the immemorial rights inherited from the parliaments
of the Britons and Saxons (the Norman Conquest notwithstanding), and
guaranteed to Ireland in the reign of King John, who in the twelfth year of
his reign went to Ireland, where ˜attended with the advice of grave and
learned men in the laws (whom he carried with him) de communi omnium
de Hybernia consensu, which is to be understood of parliament, ordained
and established that Ireland should be governed by the laws of England™.
The Irish legislature, therefore, enjoyed the ˜title of coheir with the
parliament of England™.““ English history validated Irish constitutional-
ism.
In the aftermath of the civil wars, this ˜Anglo-Irish™ position, coined by
the Old English, but now adopted by the New English colonists, would
become the sole monopoly of the New English Protestant community.
SigniWcantly, a key Wgure in the appropriation of this Anglo-Irish consti-
tutionalism was William Domville, father-in-law of the future patriot


“’ Ford, ˜Dependent or independent?™, 176“80; A. Milton, Catholic and Reformed: the
Roman and Protestant churches in English Protestant thought 1600“1640 (Cambridge,
1995), p. 339 n.
““ Walter Harris (ed.), The whole works of Sir James Ware concerning Ireland (1739“46:
2 vols., Dublin, 1764); Leerssen, Mere Irish, pp. 56“7, 322; Parry, Trophies of time,
pp. 153“6.
““ Captaine Audley Mervin™s speech, delivered in the upper house to Lords in parliament, May 24,
1641 concerning the judicature of the high court of parliament (London, 1641), pp. 4“6, 8“9.
The weave of Irish identities, 1600“1790 169

William Molyneux.“” The dominant Protestant elite engrossed not only
the institutional fabric of Irish nationhood, such as church and parlia-
ment, but also began to claim exclusive title to be seen as the Irish political
nation. Two main strategies were advanced by the New English Protes-
tants during the eras of Restoration and Revolution. There was a political
argument to the eVect that in the twelfth century the indigenous inhabit-
ants had been conquered by King Henry II of England, and that only the
unconquered English settlers of Ireland could enjoy political rights as the
Irish nation.”» However, while this argument strengthened the arm of the
ascendancy over the Irish peasantry, it threatened to undermine the
status of the Irish parliament relative to the English crown. In 1667
Arthur Annesley (1614“86) put the case that, although Ireland was a
˜conquered nation™, it should ˜not be so treated, for the conquerors
inhabit there™.”¦ This ambiguous argument from conquest coexisted with
the genealogical claim that most of the people of Ireland “ in deWance of
the realities of demography and the uncomfortable fact that the Old
English remained mostly Catholic “ were of English descent.”  ˜Four
parts in Wve of the inhabitants in Ireland are of English extraction™,
calculated Richard Cox (1650“1733), ˜and have settled there since the
conquest, and by virtue of it.™”À Molyneux appeared oblivious of the
existence of another community with a better title to an exclusive pos-
session of Irish identity:
™tis manifest that the great body of the present people of Ireland, are the progeny
of the English and Britons, that from time to time have come over into this
kingdom; and there remains but a mere handful of the ancient Irish at this day; I
may say, not one in a thousand.”Ã
However, Molyneux was unusual in rejecting the dangerous but conven-
tional argument that Ireland had been conquered by Henry II. Instead
Molyneux believed that the chieftains of the indigenous Irish had submit-
ted voluntarily to Henry II, which meant that the Anglo-Irish relationship
was founded upon a contract.”•
“” Clarke, ˜Colonial constitutional attitudes™, 363; Boyce, Nationalism in Ireland, p. 103;
C. Robbins, The eighteenth-century commonwealthman (Cambridge, MA, 1959), p. 140;
N. L. York, Neither kingdom, nor nation: the Irish quest for constitutional rights, 1698“1800
(Washington, DC, 1994), pp. 19“20, 22.
”» P. Kelly, ˜Ireland and the Glorious Revolution: from kingdom to colony™, in R. Beddard
(ed.), The revolutions of 1688 (Oxford, 1991), p. 183; J. Smyth, ˜Anglo-Irish unionist
discourse, c. 1656“1707™, Bullan 2 (1995), 19; Hill, ˜˜˜Ireland without union™™™, p. 279.
´
”¦ Smyth, ˜Anglo-Irish unionist discourse™, 19.
”  Smyth, ˜˜˜Like amphibious animals™™™, 790.
”À Richard Cox, Hibernia anglicana (2 vols. London, 1689“90), I, p. 8; Smyth, ˜˜˜Like
amphibious animals™™™, 790.
”à William Molyneux, The case of Ireland™s being bound by acts of parliament in England, stated
(1698: n.p., 1706), pp. 20“1. ”• Ibid., esp. p. 13.
170 The three kingdoms

There were two main reasons why the New English eagerly appro-
priated the political identity of the Old English who had accompanied
Henry II in his Irish venture. The Old English past yielded an ancient
constitution for Protestant Irish parliamentarians. In 1692 Anthony Dop-
ping (1643“97), Bishop of Meath and Molyneux™s brother-in-law, pub-
lished an edition of the Modus tenendi parliamenta in Hibernia, a document
“ purporting to be a charter of Henry II™s “ which appeared to justify the
antiquity and status of the Irish parliament.”’ More importantly, identiW-
cation with the Old English obviated the argument that the English crown
enjoyed a title to Ireland by conquest. If Henry II had indeed conquered
Ireland “ which Molyneux of course denied “ then his Norman warrior-
companions would surely have been among Ireland™s aristocratic con-
querors, rather than among the mass of the conquered.”“ Although Irish
Protestants exploited the Norman“Irish heritage as their own, they had
scant regard for the actual confessional preferences of the majority of the
authentic descendants of the Old English. Cox complained that many of
the Old English were ˜so blinded with an ignorant zeal for Popery, that
they have endeavoured to cut the bough they stand on™, namely the
twelfth-century English conquest.”“ The medieval Old English were use-
ful to advance the constitutional claims of the Anglo-Irish nation, but the
harsh facts of contemporary Old English culture in the raw provoked only
anathemas.
The Protestant Irish nation identiWed not only with the twelfth-century
settlers and the early Celtic Christians, but also with a couple of the
recognised pre-Milesian peoples of Ireland, the Fir-Bolg and the Tuatha-
De-Danaan. English and Protestant Irish literati exploited the potential
´
of an early wave of Anglo-Irish colonists who preceded the Gaels to
undermine the historical supports of Old Irish ideology. The link with the
ancient Britons also added a further complicating strand to the political
identity of the Anglo-Irish nation. Though in most ideological contexts
the Anglo-Irish deployed a Gothicist self-image drawn from the twelfth-
century invasion, on certain occasions they identiWed themselves with the
settlement of the island by the ancient British Belgae and Damnonii,
supposedly the parent tribes of the Fir-Bolg and the Tuatha-De-Danaan.
´
The Fir-Bolg and Tuatha-De-Danaan were conXated with these ancient
´
British tribes in order to establish English claims to priority of settlement
in Ireland. Relying on this equation, Cox contended that it was ˜certain
”’ Modus tenendi parliamenta in Hibernia (1692: Dublin, 1772); York, Neither kingdom, nor
nation, pp. 19“20 n.; Robbins, Commonwealthman, p. 140; Boyce, Nationalism in Ireland,
p. 101.
”“ Molyneux, Case of Ireland, pp. 19“20. See also the various Protestant discussions of
conquest in Leighton, Catholicism in a Protestant kingdom, pp. 36“7, 67, 78“9.
”“ Cox, Hibernia anglicana, I, p. 8.
The weave of Irish identities, 1600“1790 171

that most of the original inhabitants of Ireland came out of Britain™, a
claim supported by the practice of Irish gavelkind which appeared to be
the relic of an ancient British custom.”” With more precision, the English
historian Nathaniel Crouch argued in 1693 that, while the Gaelic west of
Ireland had Wrst been settled by the Scythian“Milesians, the east of
Ireland, the area of the Anglicised Pale, had been ˜Wrst planted by the old
Britons, several of their words being still in use™.¦»» Belgic priority of
settlement exploded the argument for ancient Milesian possession and
sovereignty, and hence provided an immemorial pedigree to justify Eng-
lish authority over early modern Ireland.

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