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Protestant and that the Old English had to choose between conforming
in religion or facing the rigour of the law.
This choice was stark in 1605 when the Dublin government, seeing its
chance to enforce conformity, mandated named prominent people from
the Pale to attend divine service on specified dates or face fines and
imprisonment.18 This action, which aroused public protests and created
some martyrs, persisted until the king ordered a cessation lest it drive
subjects into rebellion. However, it had a sobering effect on the Old
English community who from 1605 to 1641 advanced no further
demands for public Catholic worship, and ensured that all future

17 18
Jones 1958, pp. 163À73. McCavitt 1990; McCavitt 1998, pp. 111À28.
Intersections between Irish and British Political Thought 75
negotiations over grievances were conducted by lay delegations chosen
by Catholic landowners. With time, these Old English delegations began
to speak for the entire Irish Catholic population, Gaelic as well as Old
English, seeking only the right of private Catholic worship and tolerance
for their priests to engage in pastoral work. Further ambitions that
emerged at opportune moments were that an oath of allegiance should be
substituted for the supremacy oath as proof of their loyalty, that, like
subjects in England, they should enjoy secure title to estates which they
had occupied for sixty years, and that the legal penalties to which
Catholic landowners were exposed for not attending Protestant service
should be disregarded. Later, the Old English sought, in return for their
allegiance, to be appointed to government office and to plead before
the bar.19
The willingness of the Old English to extend their protective umbrella
to all Catholics provided but limited solace to Gaelic lords who were
threatened by the government™s intention to proceed with formal planta-
tion schemes such as had been recommended in Spenser™s View. The most
intensive plantation was that in Ulster where the rebellious Ulster lords
had once been dominant, but this was but a step towards proceeding with
plantations aimed at the dispossession of Gaelic lords in all provinces.
Faced with this challenge, individual lords had to choose between
following into exile those Ulster lords who had already abandoned the
country in 1607, or seeking an accommodation with the government.20
Many, particularly from west Munster, fled to Galicia and Brittany,21
while most who remained in the country took advice from their Old
English co-religionists. On a secular level, the Old English provided legal
advice and financial support (the latter backed by mortgages on
property), while many Old English seminary priests accepted support
from Gaelic landowners, and their wives, to further spread Tridentine
Catholicism into these localities.
Thus, the political priorities previously associated with the Old English
became common to all Catholics. The Catholic spokesmen were
originally lawyers from the Pale but their efforts were later augmented
by Galway lawyers (the most noteworthy, Patrick Darcy) whose education
at the English Inns of Court was sponsored by the Catholic, but
anglicized, Earl of Clanricard.22 The ambitions of the Catholics, studied

19 20
Clarke 1966. Canny 2001, pp. 187À242.
´ ´´ ´ ´´
21
O Scea 2004; O C±osain 1994; O C±osain 2001; Lyons 2003.
22
Cregan 1970a; Cregan 1970b; Cregan 1995.
76 nicholas canny
masterfully by Aidan Clarke, were couched in the language of English
common law, and their pronuncements were constitutional when it came
to defending the rights of the Irish parliament against incursions upon
privileges by the Dublin executive, or challenging the pretensions of
the Westminster parliament to legislate for Ireland. The texts of these
authors, and especially those by Darcy, have been identified as pre-
cedents for the better-known political writings of Protestant authors
of a future generation, especially William Molyneux and Jonathan
Swift.23 Ultimately, Catholics perceived that the principal challenge to
them came from the Dublin executive, and their victories were in
persuading successive monarchs, and especially Charles I, to hearken to
their professions of loyalty and grant them concessions through his
prerogative power, and against parliamentary wishes in England, Scotland
and Ireland.
The Old English were concerned to maintain unity within the ranks of
Catholics who remained in Ireland. They did this by both positive and
negative means. On the positive side, the most potent text was Foras Feasa
´
ar Eirinn [A Compendium of Knowledge about Ireland] composed in the
Irish language in 1634À1635 by Geoffrey Keating, a continentally-trained
priest of Old English lineage from County Tipperary. The text gained
instant popularity in Catholic Ireland and circulated extensively in
manuscript form, including in English translation. Here, Keating
constructed an alternative antique past for Ireland to that depicted by
Gerald of Wales and Geoffrey of Monmouth. His version of the past
showed that social conditions in ancient Ireland were so humane that
Christianity took root immediately following St Patrick™s arrival. This
interpretation enabled Keating to detail the exemplary Christian
community that flourished until it was threatened by the onslaught of
the Viking invaders who were eventually repulsed. Religion, in Keating™s
narrative, again prospered and, through a sequence of synods, the Irish
church was brought into such conformity with Roman best practice that
it merged successfully with the church of the Norman conquerors of
Ireland. Thus, as Keating represented it, Irish society had always been in,
or close to, a Christian condition until its tranquillity, as elsewhere in
Europe, was disturbed by the Protestant Reformation. Thus he could
argue that his own ancestors, ˜the old foreign settlers in Ireland™, and
the Gaelic inhabitants were a single Christian people opposed by

23
Clarke 1966; Clarke 2000; Simms 1983; Kelly 2000.
Intersections between Irish and British Political Thought 77
unprincipled foreign freebooters who lacked respect for the society and its
traditions.24
Keating™s text was, obviously, a refutation of ˜the matter of Britain™,
that has been delineated by Colin Kidd, since Keating challenged all
writers, including Stanihurst, Camden, Spenser, Fynes Moryson, and Sir
John Davies, who wrote within that paradigm.25 More particularly,
Keating contended that his history was more authoritative that that of his
opponents due to his superior citation of evidence, a point he sustained
both by alluding to the inaccuracy of his rivals when they invoked
authority, and their malevolent purpose when they vilified the Irish
without evidence.26
With the appearance of Keating™s Foras Feasa, history writing in
Ireland became an equivalent of religious controversy with rivals from
either camp claiming a monopoly on truth about Ireland™s and Britain™s
pasts.27 Historical writing, like theological disputation, was political, and
Keating™s purpose, besides discrediting the maligners of Ireland™s
populations was to argue (for reasons opposite to those of Spenser)
that the two principal elements of stock À the Old English and the Gaelic
´
Irish À were a single people. For these he coined the term Eireannaigh
[Irish people], united by religion, consanguinity, and long sharing of the
same space, against whom the New English (and the Scots) would always
be foreign intruders. When exhorting his co-religionists to abandon their
past differences he suggested that it was those of noble lineage from both
the Old English and Gaelic Irish populations who were most likely to
hearken to his call, thus implying his lack of confidence in social inferiors.
Further such evidence emerged in another Irish language text, Pairlement
´
Chloinne Tomais [The Parliament of Clann Thomas], which, together with
some Irish language poems expressing contempt for peasants who had
risen above their station, suggests that wealthy Catholics feared their
community would divide horizontally. It also establishes that those living
in comfortable circumstances understood that English political ideas,
practices, and vocabulary were being used by their social inferiors


24
Keating 1902À1914, i, pp. 2À3; Cunningham, 2000.
25
Kidd, in this volume; Keating, 1902À1914, i, pp. 12À13 where he specifically refutes the claim
that Ireland paid tribute to King Arthur.
26
Keating™s references to Spenser™s View, were specific, but it is unclear whether he was citing
from a manuscript copy or the bowdlerized printed version of 1633, published in Dublin for the
Protestant antiquarian Sir James Ware; Keating 1902À1914, i, pp. 24À31.
27
On the parallel religious controversy of this time see Ford 1995, pp. 193À242.
78 nicholas canny
to uplift themselves even as the peasants™ imitation of English pro-
cedures provided the authors with material for ribald mockery.28
It is unsurprising that Old English lawyers and landowners feared that
their control over Catholic political discourse should be occasionally
challenged from below, especially since priests were essentially muzzled
after the debacle of 1605. Neither is it surprising, given the fluidity of Irish
society during decades of plantations, that some from the lower orders
should ride on the coat-tails of successful Protestants. However, the Old
English leaders proved themselves skilful at mobilizing delegations at
short notice either when danger threatened or opportunity beckoned.
Negotiations took place, sometimes, but not always, at fringe gatherings
to the Irish parliament in 1613À1615, 1634 and 1640. At these assemblies
they appraised policy and raised money to finance agents to lobby the
Privy Council, or individual Councillors, or the royal court. Moreover
they were also able, during the reign of King Charles I, to combine their
canvassing with that of Clanricard (or Viscount St Albans as he was in the
English peerage) who usually resided at Tonbridge in Kent, enjoyed
access to the Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria, and who, as a Catholic
and the largest landowner in the province of Connacht, was a prime
target for government-planned plantation.
The pinnacle of Old English achievement was their negotiating from
King Charles I the package of concessions known at the Graces, conceded
in 1628 when war between England and Spain threatened. These
promised a tolerance, rather than a toleration, of Catholicism within
a Protestant state. This was an exceptional arrangement by European
standards, was considered implausible by some Catholics as well as by
Protestants and rested entirely on the promise of a monarch. The
shallowness of the Old English accomplishment was exposed when
Wentworth contemptuously dismissed the royal promises and when, in
the 1640s, the English parliament decided to legislate for Ireland without
reference to the Irish parliament. It was in response to these challenges
that Patrick Darcy put pen to paper, and formulated arguments on the
constitutional relationship between the two jurisdictions to which
reference would be made for generations to come.29
If the leaders of the Catholic community in Ireland refrained from
formulating fresh challenges, their exiled kin were attracted by every
political argument that might hasten their return to Ireland and their

´ ´
28 29
Williams 1981. Clarke 2000; Caldicott 1992; O Siochru 2005.
Intersections between Irish and British Political Thought 79
recovery of the estates they had abandoned. Some who recorded their
views were laymen such as Philip O™Sullivan Beare who, publishing from
Portugal, rehearsed developments in sixteenth-century Ireland portraying
the sequence of insurrections as a continuous war for the defence of
Catholicism. For him, therefore, the issues that had been fought over
would remain unresolved until Ireland had a Catholic ruler.30
This idea, consonant with Catholic political teaching, did not always
enjoy support from Catholic clerics who offered political as well as
spiritual advice to the exiled lords while acting as their agents to the
Spanish court. These tailored their political doctrines to whatever strategy
was favoured in Rome or Madrid for restoring Britain (as opposed to
Ireland) to the Catholic fold. Consequently, the policies recommended by
the clergy oscillated between advising people at home to take an Oath of
Allegiance to the Stuart monarchy (hoping this would result in some
tolerance of Catholicism both in Britain and Ireland), and rejecting the
authority of the Stuarts because, logically, Catholics could not swear
allegiance to monarchs who had previously taken an oath to uphold
Protestantism. Historians frequently suggest that clerics from Gaelic
background favoured the intransigent position, and that Old English
priests were more conciliatory, but priests were usually guided by their
superiors; thus, for example, the Old English Peter Lombard shifted from
wishing to have Tyrone™s rebellion declared a crusade, to expounding the
merits of the Old English position of the mid-seventeenth century.31
Moreover, all who were seminary-trained, whether they were in Ireland or
on the Continent, knew that the conciliatory line went against Catholic
norms.
If priests were inconsistent in their directives, Irish people also received
mixed messages mediated through Gaelic literature. Some poets
implicitly recommended loyalty to the Stuart monarchy (but not to the
government in Dublin), and others rehearsed the wrongs that Irish
Catholics had recently suffered, and they indicated that they hoped for
´´
redress. Thus while Breandan O Buachalla, in his monumental Aisling
´
Ghear (1996), identifies three Irish language poems congratulating King
James on adding the crown of Ireland to those of Scotland and England,
and can trace to 1788 a Gaelic literary tradition of loyalty to the Stuarts,
all such professions (which after 1689 À and certainly after 1715 À were

30
O™Sullivan Beare 1850; Carroll 2001.
31
Silke 1955a; Silke 1955b; Lombard 1868.
80 nicholas canny
statements of disloyalty to ruling monarchs) were counterbalanced by
poems attributing Ireland™s plight to particular rulers including James I
and Charles I as well as Cromwell.32 Also, Gaelic verse, like Catholic
apologetics, was political in being laden with invective against Protestants
who had come to Ireland with the plantations. Further political messages
were transmitted in government proclamations (which were sometimes
translated from English into Irish). Residents in Ireland would also have
witnessed legal and parliamentary rituals evincing loyalty to the state,
while those returning to Ireland from Catholic countries of Europe would
have known alternate political pageants and symbols.
Protestant Ireland produced few who composed original political texts
during the first half of the seventeenth century. One author who moved
beyond regurgitation was Sir John Davies, a poet of distinction who held
the posts of Solicitor and then Attorney General for Ireland during the
reign of King James VI and I. Irish historians have long credited
Davies with composing legal rationalizations for plantation in Ulster,
and with designing the Irish circuits of assize. Also, in his best-known
text A Discovery of the True Causes . . . (1612), Davies devised a new
chronology for Ireland™s history discarding the antique past and com-
mencing with the Normans, who had brought the Irish into historical
time that was about to end when, as Davies predicted, the Irish would ˜in
tongue & heart and every way else become English so there [would] be
no difference or distinction but the Irish sea between us™.33 Davies, as
John Pocock has suggested, was, like Sir Edward Coke, an upholder of
the authority of immemorial custom, but it has been made clear by Hans
Pawlisch that not all custom was considered by Davies to be of equal
merit.34 Rather he, like Spenser before him, condemned Gaelic custom
as corrupt and corrupting, and concluded that any claims legitimized
by such custom should enjoy no standing in common law. Again, like
Spenser, Davies invoked the right of conquest (which was anchored in
Roman civil law) to justify his assertion, and he enforced it by judicial
decree rather than by an act of the Irish parliament.
The authoritarian Davies is the more convincing figure because his
views won acceptance from Protestants in Ireland, including his belief
that decisions of Irish institutions, whether legal or parliamentary, might

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