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had been taken by James™s Protestant subjects in Scotland and Ireland,
though significantly not by Catholics). The act then proceeded to
rehearse the classic theories of indefeasible hereditary right and divinely-
ordained, irresistible monarchy: James had succeeded his brother,
Charles II, ˜by Inherent Birth Right, and Lawful and Undoubted
Succession™, and James™s ˜Right™ to his ˜Imperial Crown™ was ˜originally by
Nature, and descent of Blood, from God alone, by Whom Kings Raign,
and not from [his] People, nor by virtue or pretext of any Contract made
with them™. Neither the peers, the commons, parliament nor the people

33
Harris 2006, pp. 437À8.
In Search of a British History of Political Thought 101
had ˜any Coercive Power over the Persons of the Kings of this Realm™
(an argument about Ireland now) and allegiance to the king was
˜Indissoluble™ and could not ˜be renounced by us, or our Posterities™.
In short, the act concluded, it was ˜Utterly unlawful for your Majesties
Subjects of this, or any of your Kingdoms™ À now specifically a Three-
Kingdoms argument À ˜actually to resist your Majesty, or our Lawful,
Hereditary King for the time being, by Violence, or Force of Arms; or to
withdraw their Allegiance from your Majesty, your Heirs and Lawful
Successors™. Instead, ˜a misused Authority by our Lawful, Hereditary
King (if any such should happen) must be left to the sole Judgment of
God, the King of Kings, and only Ruler of Princes.™ The ideology offered
here was entirely conventional. It could well have been voiced by Tory-
Anglicans in England during the final years of the reign of Charles
II À only, of course, here it was being voiced by Irish Catholics in
Ireland.34
How, then, should we categorize the ideology of loyalism we find
articulated in tracts, pamphlets, sermons, and other writings during the
1680s? To style it simply English political thought is too restrictive. This
political thought clearly applied, in crucial respects, across the whole of
the Atlantic archipelago: at times it might be fashioned to fit distinctive
Scottish or Irish contexts, but we are dealing with what was in essence the
same ideology. One might make an argument about English intellectual
and cultural hegemony, and maintain that this particular ideology of
Stuart loyalism emanated from England and was imposed on the
Irish and the Scots. (Certainly we should recognize the simultaneous
co-existence of distinctive Irish and Scottish languages of Stuart
loyalism.)35 Yet this returns us to the thorny issue of the intellectual
roots of divine-right theory: were they not, at least in part, continental
rather than English? Do we label this ideology British? Perhaps, though it
is not really thought about Britain À even if the ideology pervaded all
Three Kingdoms and writers from one kingdom might on occasion relate
their arguments to developments in the others. Pan-archipelagic might
make more sense, apart from the ugliness of the word. One might call
this ideology Tory-Anglican, except for the facts that Anglican cannot
work for Scotland, Tory meant something very different in Ireland
and Irish Catholics might on occasion embrace it. Yet perhaps we do
not need to search for a label; we can recognize the processes at work


´
34 35
Anno V. Jacobi II. Regis. 1689, pp. 1À5. O Buachalla 1993; Canny, in this volume.
102 tim harris
and the variegated intellectual dimensions of the ideology and proceed
to write its history, without seeking to compartmentalize it.
So much for the ideology of loyalism. What about those who opted
not to stay loyal? When James II™s regime in England collapsed in late
1688, it provoked a crisis that engulfed all three kingdoms. The vast
majority of Protestants in England, Scotland and Ireland had found
James™s political and religious initiatives unwelcome, and they were faced
with the question of whether they could legitimately engage in acts of
resistance to their sovereign and/or renounce their allegiance to James II.
The crisis inevitably prompted considerable speculation on these issues in
print across the British Isles; whether in Scotland, Ireland or England,
writers confronted the same basic problem. Among the more prominent
protagonists in the debate were: Gilbert Burnet and Robert Ferguson
(Scotsmen writing mainly about England); James Canaries (a Scotsman
writing about Scotland who later retired to England and served in the
English Church); William King (an Ulsterman of Scottish descent
writing mainly about Ireland); Edward Wetenhall (an Anglo-Irishman
writing mainly about Ireland); and Charles Leslie (an Ulster Anglican
Jacobite writing in response to King who sought to explore the flaws
in his adversary™s arguments by examining how they might apply to
Scotland). All of them recognized, in various ways, that the crisis they
were discussing was a Three-Kingdoms one. Yet although their thinking
was about a British problem, their thought was not always British. Each
tilted their particular arguments to address the concerns of the particular
national interest group they saw as their primary audience.
However, categorizing their political thought along national lines does
not make sense either. Let us take the three Scots on our list. Ferguson, an
Independent divine, embraced a brand of contractarian resistance that
fitted uncomfortably with Burnet™s particular style of episcopalian
churchmanship. Burnet™s views were closer to those of the Scottish
Williamite episcopalian Canaries, since both had to decide how their
support for the Williamite coup accorded with the Church™s traditional
teachings on non-resistance. Canaries™ arguments had more in common
with those of King and Wetenhall (for Ireland) than they did with those
of Ferguson À or of other Scottish writers who sought to apply contract
theory to the Scottish situation.36 All of the above-named writers used
natural law arguments which they would have seen as being universalist,

36
Examples of which being Short Historical Account 1689; Salus Populi 1689.
In Search of a British History of Political Thought 103
along with constitutionalist arguments that were particularist (though
in fact the constitutionalist arguments could have applied equally well
to England, Scotland and Ireland, since all the writers mentioned
believed that the Stuart monarchy À whichever kingdom they were
writing about À was limited by law). We have a discourse, in other words,
about a crisis that had British and Irish origins and British and Irish
implications, a discourse that recognized distinctive national particular-
ities to the crisis but which nevertheless oftentimes sought to transcend
national particularities. There were, to be sure, different types of
argument advanced by different authors. When labelling this political
thought, however, it perhaps makes most sense to use the categories
developed by Mark Goldie in his analysis of the allegiance controversy
in England in 1689 À contractual resistance; possession; abdication;
conquest; providence; and resistance in extremis À and apply them
across all Three Kingdoms.37
A brief examination of some of the more central tracts will help to
illustrate what I mean. Let us start with Canaries, a Williamite
epsicopalian who articulated his thoughts in a sermon preached in
Edinburgh on 30 January 1689 (the anniversary of the regicide) which was
subsequently printed in extended form. At the time of the accession of
James II in 1685, Canaries had in fact preached a sermon against
resistance,38 and in 1689, like the good episcopalian he was, he began by
affirming the Pauline doctrine of non-resistance. Yet subjects, he said,
were ˜upon their Conscience to yield their Soveraign all those Rights and
Dues which by the peculiar Constitution in which they live, He can
Legally exact of them™. The king could claim no more ˜than what by the
established Form of the Government he has a just Title to™, and although
the king was ˜Superiour to the whole Body of the Subjects, when he Rules
according to Law, when he deserts the Laws . . . then the Subjects may
look to themselves™. No ˜private Subject™ was allowed ˜to resist™ the
government for any private act of injustice suffered; but ˜when
the Subject™s Right in general is Invaded, and the Injustice reaches
the Publick Interest of them all™, then ˜every particular Subject not
only may™, Canaries said, but ˜ought to do whatever he can to contribute
the relieving the whole Subjects Right in the Laws, from that Tyranny
and Oppression it is falling, or fallen under™. The argument is made
at the general level, a theoretical abstraction divorced from any

37 38
Goldie 1980, p. 259; compare Jackson 2003, ch. 8. Canaries 1685.
104 tim harris
specifically Scottish context; indeed, Canaries explicitly states that he has
˜not presumed to condescend upon the particular Constitution of our
own Nation™, believing it inappropriate ˜to mingle the Minister and the
Lawyer together™ À although he does add that ˜it may be easie for every
body concerned, to compare what has been said with our special Form;
and so satisfie their Consciences™.39 Interestingly, Canaries™ main intel-
lectual adversary À the author with whose ideas he engages most
directly À is the English Anglican cleric William Sherlock, who had
published a famous defence of non-resistance in 1684.40 Sherlock™s tract is
normally (and correctly) seen as a classic articulation (by an Englishman)
of the ideology of the Tory Reaction (in England). No one, to my
knowledge, has ever styled it a text in British political thought. Yet, as
Canaries makes apparent, it was undoubtedly a work that exercised
considerable influence on Scottish episcopalian thinking. Canaries was
confronting the English Sherlock in order to assure Scots that their
scruples over resisting the king (of Scotland) could be overcome.
Canaries™ views of 1689 are close to those articulated by Burnet as to
why English Protestants might be free to resist James II. In his Enquiries
into the Measures of Submission of the autumn of 1688, Burnet wrote that
although ˜Considerations of Religion™ did ˜indeed ˜bring Subjects under
stricter Obligations, to pay all due Allegiance and Submission to their
Princes™, they did ˜not at all extend Allegiance further than the Law carries
it™. Under the English system of government, the king™s authority was
limited: if the king acted ˜beyond the limits of his Power™, subjects lay
under no obligation to obey; and if any one, acting illegally in the king™s
name, sought to ˜Invade our Property™ they were ˜Violent aggressours™
and the principle of self-preservation allowed for ˜as Violent a resistance™.
Burnet was also adamant that England was ˜a free Nation™ with ˜its
Liberties and Properties reserved to it by many positive and express Laws™;
if ˜we have a right to our Property, we must likewise be supposed to have
a right to preserve it . . . against the Invasions of the Prerogative™.41 Burnet
might have been a Scot, but there was nothing particularly Scottish about
his line of argument. A tract defending the northern resistance movement
of November 1688 À attributed to the Yorkshireman and Tory-Anglican
politician the Earl of Danby À argued in a similar vein to both Canaries
and Burnet. In answer to the Pauline injunction that the powers that be
were ordained of God and thus could not be resisted, the author

39 40 41
Canaries 1689, pp. 22, 28, 38, 39, 40. Sherlock 1684. [Burnet] 1688, pp. 2, 4.
In Search of a British History of Political Thought 105
maintained that governments had ˜God™s warrant to proceed according to
the Frame of the Government, to the End of the Government, which is
the publick Good™, but ˜if the Governor proceed neither according to the
frame of the Government, nor to the End, but against it, such Process
cannot be the Ordinance of God™. Just ˜because I may not resist the
Ordinance of God™, it did not follow ˜that I may not resist the powerless
and inauthoritative, unjust, Attempts of Superiors upon me™.
Understandably, our author seeks to apply his arguments directly to
England, which he claimed was a limited monarchy, where the king was
bound, by his coronation oath, ˜to Govern by the Laws™. However, the
argument would clearly apply to any limited monarchy À and thus by
implication also in Scotland and Ireland, if the Stuart monarchy were
deemed limited there.42
William King™s State of the Protestants of Ireland of 1691 offers a detailed
analysis of why Irish Protestants were justified in endeavouring to free
themselves from James II™s government and submitting themselves
to William and Mary. Most of the tract is about the situation in Ireland.
Nevertheless, before introducing the particularities of the Irish situation,
King pitches his argument at the universal level. ˜It is granted by some of
the highest assertors of Passive Obedience™, he states, ˜that if a King design
to root out a people, or destroy one main part of his Subjects in favour of
another whom he loves better, that they may prevent it even by opposing
him with force™. In such a case, the prince ˜is to be judged . . . to have
Abdicated the Government of those whom he designs to destroy contrary
to justice and the Laws™, and his ˜Subjects may desert their Prince, decline
his Government and Service, and seek Protection where they find it™.
Resistance was therefore justifiable ˜in some cases of extremity™: when the
mischiefs of submitting to tyranny were more dangerous to the
commonwealth than a war, then ˜people may lawfully resist and defend
themselves™. Irish Protestants were justified in renouncing their allegiance
to James, King claimed, because ˜James designed to destroy and utterly
ruin the Protestant Religion, the Liberty and Property of the Subjects in
general, the English Interest in Ireland in particular, and alter the very
Frame and Constitution of the Government™ À an argument which King
chose to develop specifically in the Irish context but which is scarcely a
specifically Irish argument. At one stage King asserts that ˜It is a Maxim
in our Law that the King can do no wrong, because he executeth nothing

42
[Danby] 1689, pp. 4À5, 7À8.
106 tim harris
in his own person, but has Officers appointed by Law to execute his
Commands, who are obliged not to obey him if he command any thing
that is illegal: If any Officer obey him in such unlawful Commands it is at
his own peril, and he is accountable for it; the King™s Command being no
excuse or protection to any Man for his doing an illegal thing™.43 This was
an English maxim; indeed it is classic Sherlock. In 1688 Sherlock had
written: ˜It is a Maxime in our Law, That the King can do no wrong; and
therefore if any wrong be done, the Crime and Guilt is the Minister™s
who does it; for the Laws are the King™s publick Will, and therefore he is
never supposed to command any thing contrary to Law™.44 The British
dimensions to King™s political thought are revealed when he comments
upon how James had issued a ˜Declaration for Liberty of Conscience
in Scotland™, in which he had insisted he was to be obeyed ˜without
reserve™, and how James in England had ˜granted without any apparent
Necessity . . . several Dispensations™, albeit (in contrast to Ireland) with
˜some colour or form of Law™.45 So is King™s political thought Irish,
English, or British? In some respects it is all three, yet by themselves none
of these labels seems quite to fit.
The very fact that King™s thinking, to be logically consistent, had to
work equally well across England, Scotland and Ireland À given that the
dynastic shift he was seeking to justify occurred not just in Ireland but
also in England and Scotland À was picked up on by Charles Leslie.
If King™s fundamental premise À ˜That if a King design to destroy one
main Part of his People, in favour of another whom he loves better, he
does abdicate the Government of those whom he designs to destroy™ À
were true, then it followed that ˜the Episcopal Party in Scotland™, who
had lost out as a result of the Presbyterian settlement in the Church that
accompanied the Glorious Revolution in Scotland, should be free ˜from
all Obligation to K. William™s Government™. Moreover, Leslie points out,
although King alleged that it had been James™s intention in Ireland to
overturn the established Church, in fact in Scotland William actually
did overturn the Church ˜by law established™. The Scottish Presbyterians
might seek to justify their revolution settlement in the Church by
saying that this was in accord with what the majority of the people had
wanted, yet by this logic the Jacobites could argue ˜That it was as just to
set up Popery in Ireland, as Presbytery in Scotland™. Referring to King™s
doctrine of abdication, Leslie asserted that ˜not only the Papists in

43 44 45
[King] 1691, pp. 1À2, 3, 4À6, 20À21. [Sherlock] 1688, p. 2. [King] 1691, pp. 21, 70.
In Search of a British History of Political Thought 107
England, and Episcopal Party in Scotland, and the present Papists in
Ireland, may justifie their taking Arms against the Present Government
when they please™, but ˜the Irish Papists in 41 might have justified their
Rebellion against King Charles I by this Author™s Principles™.46 In short,
Leslie™s tract demonstrates that one cannot justify the Glorious
Revolution on King™s grounds because King™s reasoning does not fit all
Three Kingdoms: implied is a recognition that a Three-Kingdoms
problem needs to be discussed at the Three-Kingdoms level and the
solution has to be found in British political thought (only, of course,

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