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that a future Catholic ruler in England, especially one with the Duke of
York™s temperament, would rule in exactly the same way. In much Whig
political thought, there is more of a continental European dimension
than a Britannic one. Moreover, Whig writers and polemicists were
able to point to political trends and developments in England under
Charles II and allege that popery and arbitrary government were already
on the increase at home, needing neither Ireland, Scotland, nor France to
make their points.14 Of course, given that certain Whig spokesmen had
already done their best to bring the situations in Ireland, Scotland and
continental Europe to the public™s awareness, others could choose not to,
confident in the knowledge that British and European developments
would still form part of the conceptual framework within which people
would interpret their arguments. It was not necessary for all Whigs always
to make the same points. Thus we might conclude that the terms of
discourse in which the debate over Exclusion was conducted might fairly
be characterized as British (and European), even if far from all of the
sources we examine in order to reconstruct this discourse make reference
to the British (or European) dimension. Yet, at most, what we are dealing
with here is surely an enriched English history. The perspective
presented enables us to understand how concerns, in England, about

13 14
Willman 1974. Harris 2005, pp. 164À7, 174À83.
In Search of a British History of Political Thought 95
Irish, Scottish or continental European developments affected the way
the English thought about the problems facing them À a still highly
Anglo-centric British history at best.
Similar observations might be made about the Glorious Revolution.
Critics of James II were all the more alarmed about what the Catholic
king was doing in England because of what he was up to in Ireland and
Scotland. In England, in fact, James was relatively cautious in his efforts
to help his co-religionists and remained careful not to lay claim to an
arbitrary or absolute power that the English monarchy could not be said
to possess. In Ireland, by contrast, moves were rapidly made to
Catholicize the military establishment and civil administration,15 while
in Scotland James unabashedly proclaimed his absolute prerogative to
break or annul laws and his right to be obeyed ˜without reserve™, as he did
in his Scottish Declaration of Indulgence of February 1687 (something
he was able to do in part because the Scottish Parliament had itself
acknowledged in an Act of 1685 that the Scottish monarch was
absolute).16 It was certainly possible for English people to regard James
as a Catholic despot bent on overturning the rule of law and undermining
the Protestant religion just by looking at what James was up to in
England. The situation nevertheless looked much worse when set against
what James was doing in the other two kingdoms over which he ruled.
Here again, then, we have a British history of political thought that offers
us a significantly enriched English history.17
Yet the situation is a little more complicated. This is in part related
to the way that James II used Scotland as a laboratory for what he wanted
to achieve in England: as his own daughter observed in June 1688, what
˜has been done there [in Scotland], has been but a fore-runner of what in
a short time has been done here [in England]™.18 Because James knew he
was theoretically absolute in Scotland, and because the crown in Scotland
possessed greater control over the Scottish parliament than the crown
in England did over the English parliament, he tried to force through
his more controversial measures north of the border first, hoping
that Scotland would provide a model that England would feel
under pressure to follow. James was quite explicit about this. When he
invited his Scottish Parliament in 1686 to grant liberty of conscience

15
Miller 1977.
16
Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland 1814À1875, viii, p. 459.
17
For a further exploration of these themes, see Harris 2006, chs. 3À5.
18
Dalrymple 1790, ii, ˜Part I. Continued. Appendix to Book V™, p. 176.
96 tim harris
to Scottish Catholics, he told Scottish MPs that he expected them to ˜cast
England a good copie and example™, as they had done, for example, back
in 1681, when they had declared in favour of his ˜right of succession™.19 In
fact, the Scottish parliament proved unexpectedly obstructive; hence
James had no choice but to grant religious toleration to Scottish Catholics
by dint of his prerogative. And with no ˜good copie and example™ for
English MPs to follow, James had to abandon his English parliament and
proceed by way of his prerogative also in England. Hence his Scottish
Declaration of Indulgence of February 1687 and his English one of the
following April. James™s religious policies in Scotland and England were
coordinated: James was pursuing a British strategy and the views
expressed to criticize that strategy might thus justifiably be styled British
political thought; certainly, our history of the political thinking about
James™s strategy has to be a British history. The situation is further
complicated by the fact that the two most outspoken critics in print at
this time were Gilbert Burnet and Robert Ferguson À both Scotsmen.
In fact, both were writing from exile in the Low Countries, both were
writing in the main for an English audience, and although they both
addressed developments in Scotland it is difficult to see that there was
anything distinctively Scottish about their arguments and there is no
reason to suppose that the same arguments could not equally well have
been made by Englishmen. Burnet condemned the Scottish Indulgence
for its ˜new designation™ of the king™s ˜Absolute Power™, implying, as it
did, that there was ˜an Inherent Power in the King, which can neither be
restrained by Lawes, Promises, nor Oaths™, and warned that ˜we here in
England™ could now ˜see what we must look for™.20 Ferguson argued that
the ˜Absolute Power™ asserted in the Scottish Indulgence amounted to ˜an
unpresidented exercise of Despoticalness, as hardly any of the Oriental
Tyrants or even the French Leviathan would have ventured upon™, and
that it revealed James™s true intentions for England, even though ˜shame
or fear™ had prevented his ministers from putting the same claims to
˜Absolute Power™ into ˜the Declaration for Liberty of Conscience in
England™.21
Indeed, we might wonder how easily we can distinguish between
English and Scottish (or indeed Irish) political thought when we
are dealing with thought about a single monarch within a multiple-
kingdom polity. The trickiness of the issue becomes readily apparent

19 20 21
Fountainhall 1840, p. 234. [Burnet] 1687?, pp. 1, 5. [Ferguson] 1687, p. 28.
In Search of a British History of Political Thought 97
when we begin to explore the ways in which the legitimacy of the
Restoration Stuart regime was defended by its champions and supporters.
Let us start by asking where this defending was being done. The press in
both Scotland and Ireland was far less developed than it was in England,
but that did not prevent the emergence of vibrant Scottish and Irish
public spheres, especially in the major urban centres.22 People in Scotland
and Ireland were reading what was coming out of London. We can
reconstruct the contours of Tory political thinking about divine-right
royal absolutism, indefeasible hereditary right, loyalty and allegiance, and
the principles of non-resistance from an exhaustive examination of the
outpourings of the London press, and we might well think of this as
being English political thought; yet in fact this material was reaching
people in Scotland and Ireland and was most certainly intended to
influence opinion there as well.
To illustrate the point further, let us return to James II™s effort to
induce the Scottish parliament to grant Catholic toleration in 1686. The
initiative was preceded by a government propaganda campaign: several
pamphlets appeared in support of the policy, which were ˜carefully
spread . . . about™, we are told, in an attempt to sway Scottish MPs.23
There was clearly a powerful Scottish dimension to the political thought
advanced. Thus Thomas Burnet, professor of philosophy at the Marischal
College of Aberdeen, produced a short Latin work, published in
Aberdeen, arguing that the king of Scotland was absolute and could
abrogate and annul laws, and that the three estates could not question his
pleasure.24 Such views accorded with the lengthy vindication of Scottish
monarchical absolutism published in Edinburgh and London in 1684 by
the Scottish lord advocate, Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh,25 and
with the assertion in the preamble of the Scottish Excise Act of 1685 that
the Scottish monarchy had historically always been absolute. Another
pamphlet, this one in English and known to have circulated among
Scottish members during the parliamentary session, sought to argue
that since ˜Kings in Scotland were before Parliaments . . . all the
legislative, as well as executive Power, did reside sovereignly in them™
and thus that James could grant relief to his co-religionists
without parliament™s consent. It was an argument made in this context

22
Pincus 1995; Mann 2000; Raymond 2003, ch. 5; Gillespie 2005a; Harris 2005.
23
Wodrow 1721À1722, ii, 594.
24
Burnet 1686; Fountainhall 1759À1761, i, 415À16.
25
Mackenzie 1684.
98 tim harris
about Scottish history; but it was also one that could have been
`
made À and indeed had been made À about the sovereign™s power vis-a-
vis English parliaments. Interestingly, the tract was said to have been
written by Sir Roger L™Estrange (albeit with the aid of ˜the Jesuits and
Popish Priests, in and about Edinburgh™); L™Estrange, who hailed from
Norfolk and was educated at Eton and Cambridge, was controller of the
press in England and a key Tory ideologue in England during the
Exclusion Crisis and the first couple of years of James II™s reign.26
Although this particular pamphlet did develop distinctively Scottish
arguments for justifying the absolute power of the Scottish crown,
appealing as it did to the specific nature of the royal supremacy over the
Scottish church established under the Scottish Supremacy Act of 1669, the
general principles articulated were similar to those which L™Estrange
advanced in an English context, notably in his long-running London
periodical The Observator.27 Furthermore, as part of the same government
propaganda campaign to promote Catholic toleration in Scotland,
various pamphlets that had been published in England as part of the
English debate over the dispensing power, and which set out to champion
the royal prerogative and to show why Catholics deserved toleration,
were circulated north of the border in order to influence Scottish public
opinion.28
The question of subjects™ allegiance and loyalty to the crown is
especially useful for shedding light on the difficulties in trying to
distinguish between English and Scottish or Irish political thought
because of the ways in which allegiance and loyalty were rooted in a
particular strand of Protestant episcopalian religious thinking that was
common to all Three Kingdoms. We must caution against pushing
comparisons between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England
in the Restoration era too far: doctrinally and ceremonially the Scottish
Church remained still quite Calvinist. Nevertheless, when it came to
opposing Presbyterian resistance theory Anglicans and Scottish episco-
palians thought along very similar lines. With respect to Ireland,
the Church™s teachings on allegiance and non-resistance were identical

26
˜Reasons for Abrogating the Penal Statutes™, in Wodrow 1721À1722, appendix no. 118, pp. 164,
166. For the attribution to L™Estrange, see ibid., ii, p. 595. For similar arguments in the English
context, see Weston and Greenberg 1981, ch. 8.
27
L™Estrange 1684À1687.
28
Fountainhall 1759À1761, i, 416. These tracts included: Cartwright 1686; Popery Anatomis™d 1686;
C. 1686; [Gother] 1685; Sheridan, William (1686).
In Search of a British History of Political Thought 99
to those of the Anglican Church, for the simple reason that the Church of
Ireland was indeed the Church of England in Ireland. Many of the clergy
who staffed the Church of Ireland were Englishmen who had been
ordained in England. And the oaths of allegiance that were required in
Ireland by dint of Irish Acts of 1560 and 1666 were the same as those oaths
enshrined in the English Acts of 1559 and 1662. Church of Ireland clerics
made precisely the same arguments about non-resistance from the pulpit
during the years of the Tory Reaction as did their counterparts in
England. For example in July 1683 Anthony Dopping, Bishop of Meath,
a Dubliner of English parentage who was educated at St. Patrick™s
Cathedral school and Trinity College Dublin, preached in Christ Church
Dublin that the principles of passive obedience and non-resistance had
been the ˜constant opinion of the Church of England™ and endorsed by
the Irish Act of Uniformity of 1666, insisting that those who justified
resistance to oppose the inundation of popery were not sons of the
Church but borrowed their principles from Rome, Scotland, or Geneva.29
At the time of James™s accession Bishop Edward Wetenhall, an
Englishman educated at Cambridge and Oxford who moved to Dublin
in 1672 and became bishop of Cork and Ross in 1679, travelled through
his diocese preaching sermons on the duties of obedience, offering the
self-same conventional Anglican pieties heard so often from English
pulpits at this time.30 Loyal addresses that came out of Ireland during the
latter years of Charles II™s reign (signed almost exclusively by Church of
Ireland Protestants) paralleled those of the loyal addresses drawn up in
England at the same time (signed almost exclusively by Church of
England Protestants).31 In short, Protestant loyalist ideology in England
and Ireland was largely the same. Irish Protestants were, of course, to
rethink their positions on allegiance in the wake of the Glorious
Revolution, an issue to which we shall return shortly. What is worth
emphasizing here is that when Wetenhall, in 1691, discussed whether Irish
Protestants were free from the oaths they had taken against resisting the
king or anyone commissioned by him, the oath he specifically referred to
was that embodied in the English Act of Uniformity of 1662 (not the Irish
Act of Uniformity of 1666 ).32 Wetenhall, it appears, was unaware of any
need to distinguish between English and Irish political thought on this
issue. Not that Wetenhall was being careless. While it is true that the

29
Trinity College Dublin, MS 1688/1, pp. 61À77. 30 [Wetenhall] 1686.
31
Harris 2005, pp. 390À95, 403À5. 32 [Wetenhall] 1691.
100 tim harris
Irish Act simply adopted the oath enshrined in the English Act, the Irish
Act in fact required the oath only of clerics and teachers. However in the
absence of an Irish Corporation Act requiring such an oath of members
of corporations, many corporations in Ireland chose to adopt the non-
resistance oath themselves as a test for membership. Since the oath was
originally an English formulation and was adopted by some corporations
in Ireland before the passage of the Irish Act, Wetenhall was technically
correct in citing the English legislation.
To illustrate further the problems of how we might categorize loyalist
political thought in the 1680s, let us examine the Irish Act of Recognition
of 1689. This was passed by the parliament which James II summoned
to meet in Dublin in the spring of 1689 after he had already been
dethroned in England and Scotland. The parliament was an over-
whelmingly Catholic body: only six Protestants sat in the House of
Commons, and five Protestant lay peers and four Protestant bishops (one
of whom was Bishop Dopping of Meath) in the House of Lords.33
In recognizing James™s ˜Just and Most Undoubted Rights™ to his ˜Imperial
Crown™, the act offered a forthright condemnation of the Glorious
Revolution in England À something which surely immediately qualifies it
as evincing British political thought. Thus it opened by complaining
about how James™s treasonous subjects in England had ˜forced [him] to
withdraw™ from London and condemning the ˜execrable™ usurpation by
William of Orange as being ˜against the Law of God, Nature and
Nations™ (note the use of universalist language here, implying that the law
applied to all nations). Most of those who were guilty of helping to bring
it about, the act correctly alleged, had ˜sworn that it was not lawful to take
up Arms against [James II] on any pretence whatsoever™ (an English
particularist argument in this context; similar oaths renouncing resistance

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