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to Xirt with diVerent ideological defences of their historic liberties.
Though Irish institutions had a curious dual identity both as essential
components of the Gothic heritage of that portion of the English nation
which had settled in Ireland, and as Xowers of the constitution of the
Gothic kingdom of Ireland, these were easily accommodated. Gothicism
reinforced Anglo-Irish aspirations to full self-government in the face of
English assertions of Irish ˜dependence™: Ireland™s political nation was
able to claim government by consent as a fundamental part of its Gothic
libertarian inheritance. Ã However, the English Gothic heritage also func-
tioned, particularly in the early eighteenth century, as a vehicle for union-
ist aspiration. • For instance, during the constitutional debates generated
by Molyneux™s assertion of Irish regnal autonomy, Henry Maxwell
(1669“1730) was able to concede the case of Ireland™s dependence on
England without rejecting the fundamental principles of patriot ideology.
Maxwell wanted the Protestant English community to enjoy to the full
their legitimate freedoms as Englishmen through incorporation with the
political institutions of England. In particular, Maxwell utilised Gothicist
kinship to the full in his argument for union. His argument for an
Anglo-Irish union played on the common ethnicity “ ˜blood™ “ of the
English and Irish political nations:
it was more diYcult to unite Wales, than it is now to unite Ireland. For at the time
of the Union the language, custom and laws of Wales, were very diVerent from
those of England; whereas in Ireland they are all the same. And Ireland has
   J. Hill, From patriots to unionists (Oxford, 1997), pp. 10“11; C. Leighton, Catholicism in a
Protestant kingdom (Houndmills, 1994), pp. 36“7. See also the distinction drawn from
colonial America between Ireland™s landholding ˜whites™ and Catholic ˜blacks™, in Hill,
˜Ireland without union™, p. 293.
 À Beckett, Anglo-Irish tradition, pp. 40, 52; F. G. James, Lords of the Ascendancy (Dublin,
1995), pp. 52, 99“100; Bartlett, Fall and rise, p. 23. See also Clarke, ˜Colonial constitu-
tional attitudes™, and the precedent related in Hill, ˜Ireland without union™, pp. 280“1.
Moreover, for a revisionist Catholic identiWcation from the middle of the eighteenth
century with the coming of the ˜Strongbonian race™, see Leighton, Catholicism in a
Protestant kingdom, p. 123.  Ã Hill, Patriots to unionists, pp. 87“9.
 • Henry Maxwell, An essay towards an union of Ireland with England (London, 1703), p. 18.
Varieties of Gothicism in the British Atlantic world 257
already for some ages been acquainted with the English government . . . the
people of Ireland are naturally the oVspring of England, the Welsh are not; and
therefore the Irish have a better claim to the portion of a child. ’
Maxwell would have been happy to see an Ireland incorporated ˜into the
nature of a county of England™. “ Later, when Irish unionists had clearly
been spurned by the motherland, Gothicism reinforced the sense of
genuine hurt and grievance at Anglo-Irish exclusion from what they
claimed was rightfully theirs. The protean character of their Gothic
identity helped to break down Anglo-Irish inhibition about such mercur-
ial revisions of their attitudes to the relationship with England.
Despite their Gothic commitments, the Anglo-Irish were not conWned
to a particular version of Englishness. There was a strong Norman compo-
nent to Irish Gothicism, but this did not preclude a commitment to an
Anglo-Saxon identity. Hayton has aptly described as ˜Anglo-Norman
constitutionalism™ the language used by patriots such as Molyneux to
defend the interests of the Irish Protestant nation. “ This discourse con-
stituted the multifaceted core of Anglo-Irish identity. It associated the
Anglo-Irish nation not only with England™s Gothic tradition of mixed
constitutionalism, but also with the imported version established in Ire-
land. Moreover, while it had been only in the twelfth century that the
Norman freebooters had settled in Ireland, the Anglo-Irish, on occasions,
delved back beyond this era of English history, to the ancient Anglo-Saxon
constitution, which they celebrated as part of their ethnic and institutional
heritage. The Anglo-Saxon past was as much a standard shibboleth of the
Anglo-Irish community as of mainland English identity. The Dublin
radical of the middle of the eighteenth century, Charles Lucas (1713“71),
spoke the language of Anglo-Saxon constitutionalism. Like Molyneux,
Lucas denied that Ireland had been conquered by the English crown, but
he placed greater emphasis upon the Saxon component of the Anglo-
Norman patriot tradition, celebrating the allodial tenures of Anglo-Saxon
England, the antiquity of the witenagemot and the restoration through
Magna Carta of the ancient constitution in post-Conquest England.
However, Lucas exploited to the full the ambiguities in the Irish Gothicist
tradition. He spoke both of ˜our forefathers, in this kingdom™ “ the
Anglo-Normans “ and of ˜our Saxon ancestors™. There was even a hint of
immemorialism in his radicalism. According to Lucas, juries were ˜not
unknown to the ancient Britons . . . practised by the Saxons and conWrmed
since the invasion of the Normans, by Magna Carta™. ”

 ’ Ibid., p. 19.  “ Ibid., p. 56.  “ Hayton, ˜Anglo-Irish attitudes™, 153.
 ” Charles Lucas, The political constitutions of Great-Britain and Ireland, asserted and vin-
dicated (London, 1751), pp. 28, 66, 171; Hill, Patriots to unionists, pp. 86“90. For
tensions in Lucas™s position on ˜conquest™, see Leighton, Catholicism in a Protestant
kingdom, pp. 78“9.
258 Points of contact

Their Gothic identity enabled the Anglo-Irish to identify both with the
English nation and with the wider family of Gothic peoples across
Europe. Anglo-Irish historians made a signiWcant contribution to the
history of English liberty. Temple, Swift, Goldsmith and Burke all em-
barked on histories of England.À» On the other hand, Molesworth pro-
duced an edition of the classic French Gothicist treatise of ancient consti-
tutional liberties, Hotman™s Franco-Gallia (1573).À¦ The wider history of
the Goths in Europe was also a concern, as we saw in an earlier chapter, of
Henry Brooke and Francis Sullivan.À  These twin English and European
aspects of their Gothic inheritance enabled the Anglo-Irish nation to
press for their full inheritance of rights as Englishmen, and, when these
were not forthcoming, to assert the privileges of the kingdom of Ireland™s
historic twelfth-century Gothic constitution. The accepted discourse of
legitimation by descent could be exploited in both Anglocentric and
regnalist directions without internal contradiction. Gothicism exerted a
unionist pull, but also allowed the Anglo-Irish to protect themselves as
one of medieval Europe™s Gothic kingdoms from excessive English minis-
terial interference in their constitutional arrangements.
In particular, the Anglo-Irish felt themselves to belong to the shrinking
and largely British body of survivors of the Gothic family of nations.
Sullivan argued in his treatise on the feudal law how important its study
was ˜for the understanding the nature of the Gothic forms of government,
which, until these last three hundred years, prevailed universally through
Europe™.ÀÀ This European perspective contributed to the emergence of an
Irish patriotism in which there was an assimilation of Ireland™s particular-
istic privileges with the wider cause of the traditional Gothic liberties to
those of the sort which were being eroded all across Europe. The Irish
were keenly aware of the decline of the Gothic mixed constitutions, and “
from the middle of the eighteenth century in particular “ of the peculiar
threat to their own institutions posed by the Poynings™ Law procedure,ÀÃ
by the sharp practices adopted by the English administration to control
the Irish parliament and by the claim of the English parliament to legislate
for Ireland. Unsurprisingly, Gothicist anxiety took on a special Xavour in
Anglo-Irish political culture. The classic version of the Gothicist domino
À» William Temple, An introduction to the history of England, in Temple, Works (2 vols.,
London, 1731); Jonathan Swift, ˜An abstract and fragment of the history of England™, in
Swift, Miscellaneous and autobiographical pieces, fragments and marginalia (Oxford, 1969);
Oliver Goldsmith, The history of England (4 vols., London, 1771); Edmund Burke, An
essay towards an abridgement of English history, in Burke, Works (16 vols., London,
1803“27), X.
À¦ Fran§ois Hotman, Franco-Gallia (trans. Robert Molesworth, London, 1711).
À  Henry Brooke, Gustavus Vasa (London, 1739); Francis Sullivan, An historical treatise on
the feudal law (London, 1772). See above, ch. 9.
ÀÀ Sullivan, Historical treatise, p. 19. ÀÃ Hill, ˜Ireland without union™, p. 290.
Varieties of Gothicism in the British Atlantic world 259

theory was the work of an Irish commentator: Molesworth made a
signiWcant and highly inXuential contribution to the analysis of the appar-
ently relentless corruption and decline of the mixed Gothic constitutions
of Europe in his Account of Denmark (1694).À• Moreover, Molyneux™s
resounding conclusion to The case of Ireland drew on the perception of a
Europe-wide decline of limited Gothic institutions to highlight the need
for the English parliament to show some sensitivity to the privileges and
claims to autonomy of the Protestant Irish nation:

The rights of parliament should be preserved sacred and inviolable, wherever they
are found. This kind of government, once so universal all over Europe, is now
almost vanished from amongst the nations thereof. Our king™s dominions are the
only supporters of this noble Gothic constitution, save what little remains may be
found thereof in Poland. We should not therefore make so light of that sort of
legislature and as it were abolish in one kingdom of the three wherein it appears,
but rather cherish and encourage it whenever we meet it.À’

Maxwell, arguing in 1703 for an Anglo-Irish incorporating union, warned
Englishmen that if, instead of governing the Irish by consent within a
united body politic, England attempted to rule Ireland by force, then the
Anglo-Irish relationship might threaten England™s Gothic constitution.
According to Maxwell, the creation and perpetuation of standing armies
had foreshadowed the fall of ˜all the free monarchies that were lately in
Europe™.À“ Later, during the Wood™s Halfpence controversy of the 1720s,
Swift was, somewhat pointedly, to declare a keen interest in ˜the several
Gothic institutions in Europe; and by what incidents and events they
came to be destroyed™.À“
This intensely felt interest in the fate of Europe™s Gothic polities lapsed
over the course of the eighteenth century.À” Unionism was another victim
of changes in political culture, a casualty in particular of the new version
of Anglo-Irish patriotism which emerged in the middle of the eighteenth
century. From the late 1760s there was a growing desire for reform and
autonomy, often still couched in terms of the rights of Englishmen, but no
longer hitched to unionism.û Moreover, this was also a period when, as
well as upholding their strong Gothic identity, a section of the Anglo-Irish
À• See above, ch. 9. À’ Molyneux, Case of Ireland, p. 174.
À“ Maxwell, Essay towards an union, p. 12.
À“ Jonathan Swift, A letter to the right honourable the lord viscount Molesworth (1724), in
McMinn, Swift™s Irish pamphlets, p. 96.
À” However, for an exception, see [The ghost of Trenchard], Northern revolutions (London,
1757), which explored the English metropolitan threat to Ireland™s Gothic liberties by
way of discussing the treatment by Denmark of its Norwegian province. See Robbins,
Commonwealthman, p. 155, who establishes the Irish context.
û J. Kelly, ˜The origins of the Act of Union: an examination of unionist opinion in Britain
and Ireland, 1650“1800™, IHS 25 (1987), 236“63.
260 Points of contact

elite began to dabble in Gaelic cultural pursuits, and to identify with some
of the aspirations of the more enlightened cultural leaders of Ireland™s
Catholic community.æ Nevertheless, the Irish patriot revolution of 1780“
2 owed nothing to the antiquarian discovery of the Gaelic past or to a
renewed sense of ethnic or national distinctiveness. Indeed, in the late
eighteenth century, critics of Gaelic Ireland™s Milesian legends, such as
Edward Ledwich, endowed ancient Ireland with a Gothic history, argu-
ing that the pre-Milesian colonists, the Tuatha-De-Danaan, had been
´
Danish, and that a later wave of Goths in the twelfth century had contrib-
uted enormously to civilising Ireland™s Gaelic barbarians.à
Revisionist historians such as Gerry O™Brien have become increasingly
sceptical of the motivations of the Irish patriots of the late eighteenth
century. The totemic Wgures of colonial nationalism, Flood and Grattan,
have become victims of Namierite iconoclasm. The decision by Town-
shend as viceroy to dispense with the system of parliamentary manage-
ment by the ˜undertakers™ and the factions under their control created a
situation whereby ambitious men of talent lost the opportunity to ascend
the ladder of oYce through enlistment in a connection; instead, there was
a recourse to parliamentary rhetoric and making a such a nuisance of
oneself that one had to be bought oV with oYce. O™Brien shows how this
amendment to the rules of the high political game contributed substan-
tially to the escalation of political grievance in the post-1767 Irish parlia-
ment.ÃÀ Nevertheless, the historian of political ideas and identities can
still learn a great deal from the rhetoric deployed by ostensible ˜patriots™
as they ascended the greasy pole.
The reformed constitutional settlement of 1780“2 included the
amendment of Poynings™ Law, the repeal of the Declaratory Act and
important measures securing the independence of the judiciary and limit-
ing the duration of the mutiny act.ÃÃ This patriot revolution consisted
largely of an attempt to replicate the full portfolio of English liberties in an
Irish setting. Patriotism was a compelling melange of excluded English-
´
ness, natural rights and Gothicist particularism, the latter focused on
Ireland™s historic parliamentary privileges.Õ The patriots were inspired
æ J. T. Leerssen, Mere Irish and F±or-Ghael (1986: 2nd edn, Cork, 1996), pp. 361“73.
´
à R. B. McDowell, Ireland in the age of imperialism and revolution 1760“1801 (Oxford,
1979), pp. 150“1; C. O™Halloran, ˜Golden ages and barbarous nations: antiquarian
debate on the Celtic past in Ireland and Scotland in the eighteenth century™ (University of
Cambridge Ph.D thesis, 1991), pp. 126“35, 248“9. The argument for the Danish
provenance of the round towers had been around since Thomas Molyneux™s Discourse
concerning the Danish mounts, forts and towers in Ireland (1726).
ÃÀ G. O™Brien, Anglo-Irish politics in the age of Grattan and Pitt (Dublin, 1987).
ÃÃ McDowell, Ireland in the age of imperialism and revolution, ch. 6.
Õ F. G. James, ˜Historiography and the Irish constitutional revolution of 1782™, Eire“
Ireland 18 (1983), 8.
Varieties of Gothicism in the British Atlantic world 261

above all by the potent rhetoric of an English liberty which embodied the
natural rights of man. Although by this stage a desire for union was no
longer a prominent aspect of Anglo-Irish political culture, the strong
sense of Irishness manifested during the Revolution stemmed from a
spurned unionism and the failure of the English nation to allow their
overseas cousinry to enjoy their ancestral English liberties to the full.
Grattan captured the continuing importance of an English inheritance to
the emergence of the Anglophobic assertiveness of late eighteenth-cen-
tury Irish patriotism: ˜we are too near the British nation, we are too
conversant with her history, we are too much Wred by her example, to be
any thing less than her equal; any thing less, we should be her bitterest
enemies “ an enemy to that power which smote us with her mace, and to
that constitution from whose blessings we were excluded™.Ã’ Yet these
blessings were a legitimate part of Ireland™s Gothic inheritance: ˜The
same laws, the same charters, communicate to both kingdoms, Great
Britain and Ireland, the same rights and privileges; and one privilege
above them all is, that communicated by Magna Charta, by the 25th of
Edward III, and by a multitude of other statutes, ˜˜not to be bound by any
act except made with the archbishops, bishops, earls, barons and freemen
of the commonalty™™, viz. of the parliament of the realm.™Ã“
Nevertheless, there was a major departure from the earlier phases of
Anglo-Irish patriotism. The 1782 republication of Molyneux™s Case of
Ireland omitted the pro-unionist aspiration, which had been a widely
desired alternative to autonomous self-government for the Anglo-Irish
political nation.Ó By the 1780s the Anglo-Irish nation had lost much of its
desire for a union, but retained its ethnic and historical links with the
English nation and its past. Only a minority of the Protestant Irish elite
indulged itself in Celtic rediscovery. Nevertheless, Gothic kinship was no
guarantee of any warmth on the part of cadet branches towards the main
line of the English ethnie. As the Anglo-Irish asserted their historic
Gothic liberties in deWance of the mother country, colonial Americans
were taking the defence of their proud Anglo-Saxon heritage a crucial
stage further.


Defending Saxon America
By the middle of the eighteenth century British North America already
comprised a rich ethnic mixture of English, Scots-Irish and Germans,
with smatterings of Scots, Welsh, Dutch, Swedes and other Europeans.
Ã’ Henry Grattan, ˜Speech moving a Declaration of Irish rights, 19th April, 1780™, in The
speeches of the Right Honourable Henry Grattan in the Irish, and in the imperial parliament (4
vols., London, 1822), I, p. 51. Ó Ibid., I, p. 50. Ó Simms, Molyneux, p. 118.
262 Points of contact

In addition, many of these groups exploited the labour of a large under-
caste of African slaves. It was not uncommon for these nationalities to
retain aspects of their Old World identities. Indeed, in recent years

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