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32
O Buachalla 1996; O Ciardha 2002; Canny 2001, p. 428.
33
Davies 1612, p. 272.
34
Pocock 1987a, esp. pp. 32À5; Pawlisch 1985.
Intersections between Irish and British Political Thought 81
be appealed for final resolution to their ˜parent™ institutions in England;
a proposition that went undisputed until Thomas Wentworth, Earl of
Strafford, began to use such appeals to challenge Protestant interests.
Therefore, during the first half of the seventeenth century, Protestants no
less than Catholics in Ireland, represented themselves as supporters of
monarchical rule, and they association legal quibbling with Old English
evasions. However the strident anti-Catholicism of Protestants, no less
than the vehement anti-Protestantism of Catholics, indicated that, as with
Catholics, their obedience to King Charles was conditional. The limit to
Protestant deference to monarchical authority was exposed whenever the
king (James VI and I as well as Charles I) sought, for political reasons, to
concede religious tolerance to Catholicism. This raised a public outcry
both within and without Protestant churches in Ireland with clergy
sermonizing on such topics as the ˜scandal of toleration™ and religion
being for sale.35
Protestant support for kingly rule became even more tentative when,
as they perceived had happened during the government of Wentworth
(a prominent supporter of King Charles), Protestants suffered persecu-
tion and Catholicism was tolerated. By this time also, the character and
political outlook of Protestants had been transformed because many of
the Scots planted in Ulster identified with the political and religious
positions adopted by their Covenanter kinsfolk in Scotland, even to the
point where the firebrands of militant Scottish Calvinism found refuge in
Ulster. This led Wentworth to impose disciplinary measures upon Ulster
Protestants and to raise an army in Ireland, which included Catholics,
that he would convey into Scotland to suppress the Covenanters there.
These events forced all Protestants to decide if they could continue to
support the king™s governor and his master; a choice that became more
urgent when the rift between the king and his Scottish subjects became
more acute, and when the king was at loggerheads with the English
parliament. Ultimately, few Protestant leaders in Ireland gave unqualified
support to monarchical rule, and those who did so experienced difficulty
in controlling Protestant troops who, as well as being reluctant to fight
against co-religionists, were frequently bound under oath by their clergy
to withdraw from actions that were deemed to be in conflict with
Protestant principles and interests.36 Such obstruction points to the
existence among Protestants in Ireland, including Protestants of modest
35
Canny 2001, p. 267; Armstrong 2005.
36
Forkan 2003; Armstrong 2005.
82 nicholas canny
social position, of a keen awareness of political developments in England
and Scotland as well as in Ireland. Moreover, in the increasingly uncertain
circumstances of the 1640s, Irish Protestants began to commit their
opinions to print at an unprecedented level in a deluge of political
propaganda, much of it filed among the Thomason tracts.37 Many
pamphlets, addressed to English and Scottish readers, were sponsored by
Protestants of high rank with an interest in Ireland. Most, however, was
composed by clergy, merchants, officers, soldiers, and others who had
been dispossessed by the insurrection of 1641, and who wanted their
interpretation of what had occurred made available to the widest possible
audience.
Most of this splenetic Protestant outpouring impresses by its quantity
rather than its quality but it culminated in 1646 in Sir John Temple™s
A History of the Irish Rebellion which established itself as a fundamental
pronouncement on the political preferences of many Irish Protestants.
The ˜execrable rebellion™, was that of 1641 in Ireland which, according
to Temple™s interpretation, had been designed by the Papacy through
its instruments the Catholic priests, and their pawns, the Catholic
landowners of Ireland, to effect an extirpation of Irish Protestants ana-
logous to the St Bartholomew™s Day Massacre of 1572. The immediate
occasion that provoked Temple to publish his History was the attempt
in 1646 by the government of King Charles I to effect a cessation of
hostilities between the royal army, commanded by the Marquis of
Ormond, and the armies of the Catholic Confederates. These latter
had been formed to maintain discipline within Catholic ranks in the
aftermath of the insurrection of 1641, to uphold Catholic interests and
to assist the king against his opponents in England and Scotland.
Temple, opposed in principle to the political rehabilitation of those he
held responsible for the deaths of Protestants in 1641, demonstrated the
impropriety of any settlement with Catholics by citing selectively from
Protestant eye witness accounts of the onslaught they had suffered in
1641.38 Much of Temple™s narrative fitted into previous Protestant
presentations or presumptions: he shared Spenser™s idea that Irish society
had been corrupt from the outset; he endorsed Davies™s argument
that the English of the twelfth century had been the first to introduce
civil conditions to the country; and he concurred with the presumption
of both Spenser and Davies that evil would always prevail unless it was

37 38
Lindley 1972; Armstrong 2005. On the composition, see Gillespie 2005b.
Intersections between Irish and British Political Thought 83
restrained by a superior force. But he differed from these in abandoning
the notion that Irish Catholics could be transformed into useful subjects
through a programme in social engineering such as had been detailed
in Spenser™s View. The History of the Irish Rebellion established that
Irish Catholics were a perfidious, ungrateful and unregenerate people on
whom Irish Protestants and the English Crown might rightfully wreak
vengeance but must never admit into their society.
Some Protestants, English and Irish alike, of future generations, and
including even some Cromwellians, aspired to contain Irish Catholics
within their communities or even to reform them. However, most Irish
Protestants had been convinced by Temple™s argument that it was at their
peril that Protestants would admit Catholics to positions of trust.39 His
opinions seem to have impacted also on English and Scottish Protestant
thought if we are to judge from James Harrington™s Oceana of 1656. Here
Harrington displayed familiarity with Spenser™s thinking on degeneracy,
but instead of seeking in Spenserian fashion to improve the Irish through
social manipulation, Harrington (in line with what Petty would
recommend later) advised that the natives be removed to make way for
Jews who might be invited from all parts of Europe to make Ireland their
promised land.40
Such opinions were admissible into English, and indeed Scottish,
political discourse because what happened in Ireland in 1641 and, more
poignantly, what thousands of Protestant refugees from Ireland (who
made their way to their home parishes in England and Scotland in the
aftermath of the insurrection) alleged had happened to them during the
course of the insurrection, made an impression upon the populations of
those two kingdoms of a kind that no previous Irish episode had done.
This explains why, from the outset, money had been made available by
the Scottish Covenanters to recover Protestant authority in Ulster and
why the military conquest of Ireland became the first priority of the
parliamentary forces in England once victory over the king was assured.
And what happened (or was believed by Protestants to have happened) in
1641, and the prolonged turmoil that stemmed from it, made it clear how
closely bound were the destinies of the Three Kingdoms.
Perhaps most revelatory is the light that these actions and their
legitimizations shed upon the political ideas, principles and expectations

39
Temple 1646; Barnard 1993, pp. 173À86; Barber 2005; Barnard 2005; Gillespie 2005b.
40
Harrington 1992, pp. 6À7.
84 nicholas canny
of a broad cross-segment of the Catholic population of Ireland; glimpses
that are as insightful as those offered by the Putney debates on the
political priorities of common English soldiers. The first political idea
universally shared by all Irish Catholics was that they had never been
rewarded for their loyalty to the Crown, that they had been treated
unfairly throughout the seventeenth century and that they had suffered
the ultimate betrayal when Wentworth had denied landowners security in
land which was the most tangible benefit promised by the Graces. Such
factors added to their knowledge of how the Scots had taken their destiny
into their own hands and their fear of what the English parliament was
plotting against them indicates why such a large spread of Irish Catholics
took up arms supposedly in support of the king. The shallow roots to
such royalism were exposed by subsequent claims by the insurgents that
they were the queen™s soldiers (Queen Henrietta Maria being a Catholic)
or that they wished to change their allegiance to a Catholic monarch,
mentioning both the Kings of Spain and France as candidates, or that
they would have one of the O™Neills as king, or that they would, ˜have
a free state of themselves as they had in Holland, and not to be tied to any
king or prince whatsoever™.41
Any, or all, of such stated ambitions point to the widely shared desire
among Catholics in Ireland for innovation, and particularly for a change
that would restore power to Catholics and cancel that of the hated
government in Dublin. Thus, unlike in England where leaders of the
political nation showed a marked reluctance to take up arms either for or
against their king, many discontented Catholic lords in Ireland took
advantage of the first chink in the government™s armour to seek after
innovation and, by force of arms, to recover the property and positions
that had come into the possession of English and Scottish newcomers
either through plantation or commercial transactions. Moreover, as has
been established by scholarly work of the past decades, those in England
who did challenge the authority of the king in arms were responding to
contingency and in the interest of upholding the status quo, and most
did not acknowledge that they were seeking a new order until after the
king™s actions forced them to imprison him and ultimately to put him on
trial and to death.42 By way of contrast, those in Ireland who took up

41
The course of events in 1641 and the explanations offered by Catholics for their actions are
detailed in Canny 2001, pp. 461À550; deposition of William Fitton, Limerick, 1643 (Trinity
College, Dublin, MS 829, ff 310À11 ).
42
Russell 1991; Morrill 1980; Hughes 1987.
Intersections between Irish and British Political Thought 85
arms in 1641 (like those in Scotland who had done so some years
previously) proceeded with alacrity and with ready-made explanations for
their actions. Moreover it has been shown that in following the course
they did, landowners were often driven by their social inferiors who
seemed ready to overthrow their betters if they did not embrace
revolution.
A reconstruction of events has indicated that the Catholic clergy,
always depicted by Protestant propagandists as firebrands, were silent
witnesses to the events of 1641. This is not surprising given that since 1605
the Catholic laity had insisted that they, rather than priests, should speak
on matters political. However, once the insurrection was underway,
priests became involved to discipline those they regarded as extremists
and to direct the action towards godly purposes. They persisted in
recognizing Charles I as their monarch, and the more his prerogative was
challenged in Scotland and in England, the more they endorsed him as
king of Ireland. But it soon became clear that their support for the king
was conditional upon him accepting that Catholics were entitled to
worship publicly, would recover property and churches confiscated at the
time of the Reformation, and that Catholic clergy would be assigned
official livings, presumably at the expense of existing Protestant ministers.
What would be the position of Protestants within this Catholic Ireland
was not clear.43 However Catholic clergy were the prime movers
throughout 1642 behind the creation of the Catholic Confederacy, which,
with its armies, was to restore order, and secure a final agreement with
King Charles after they had assisted him in overcoming his enemies.44
This package indicates the political gulf that separated the Irish
Catholic clergy from the most accommodating politicians in England,
Scotland and Protestant Ireland. It also highlights the differences that had
always existed between clerical and lay interests within the Irish Catholic
community that now came to the fore. Essentially, Old English leaders
feared a Catholic church that would challenge them as natural leaders of
their communities, and that would set demands that the king could
not concede. This conflict of interest produced stalemate, with the
Confederacy becoming divided, the king attempting to negotiate secretly
with what he saw as the moderate faction, and the clergy using their
powers of excommunication to enforce their political will.45


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´ ´
43 44 45
Armstrong 2005. O Siochru 2005. O Siochru 1999.
86 nicholas canny
Therefore the Confederacy episode is significant because it exposes the
range of incompatible political ideas that had enjoyed currency in Ireland
for a time before the mid-seventeenth century. Some potent Catholic
ideas had been quiescent, at which times ideas anchored in English
common law gained prominence. However the prospect of reversing
the plantations, attaining a public status for Catholicism or achieving a
Catholic jurisdiction for Ireland, had never been forgotten by those in
exile, by seminary priests, or by the wider populace. Rather, it seems that
the dream of a Catholic Ireland continued to hold appeal, and that the
text best representing what Catholics might have wanted in 1641 (but not
openly in the years of the Confederacy) is the Disputatio Apologetica
(1645) by the Jesuit, Conor O™Mahony. This, like the pronouncements of
those involved in the ˜popular™ insurrection, advocated the expulsion
of all heretics from Ireland as the pre-requisite for making it a godly
and Catholic society, and contemplated severing the connection with
a Protestant monarchy.46 The existence of such desires, however camou-
flaged, explains why the Catholic Confederacy could never arrive at
a political consensus, and why the effort of Charles I to reach an accom-
modation for his three kingdoms was a forlorn hope.


conclusion
The study of political thought in Ireland has frequently been approached
from a British perspective with attention given to authors who identified
themselves with political discourse in England and even in Scotland. This
chapter has remedied this bias by drawing upon the full range of
historical writing on Ireland over time, and upon more recent writing
that has been situated in wider contexts. The surprise has been that
while political discourse in Ireland at mid-sixteenth century was but
a provincial echo of political culture in Britain, that which flourished
there a century later was radically different from British norms both
in form and ambition. This conclusion has been enabled, first by a study
of radical political arguments formulated by the servants of an expanding
English/British state; arguments that had no equivalent in domestic
English discourse previous to Hobbes. A second study, leading to the
same conclusion, has been of the alternative political models inspired
by writing in Catholic Europe and deployed by Catholics in Ireland to

46
O™Mahony 1645.
Intersections between Irish and British Political Thought 87
counter the actions and ideas of British officials. In both investigations
this chapter has demonstrated the relevance to the history of political
thought of a wider range of sources than is customarily employed:
histories, theological tracts, law tracts, oral legitimizations of political
action and published and unpublished poetic compositions in several
languages, in addition to political pamphlets (again in several languages)
that conventionally fall within the purview of historians of political
thought.

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