Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Irish Parliament of James II (Author: Thomas Osborne Davis)

chapter 2


James landed at Kinsale, 12th March, 1689, about a month after the election of William and Mary by the English convention. He entered Dublin in state on the 24th March, accompanied by D'Avaux, as Ambassador from France, and a splendid court. His first act was to issue five proclamations — the first, requiring the return and aid of his Irish absentee subjects; the second, urging upon the local authorities the suppression of robberies and violence which had increased in this unsettled state of affairs; the third, encouraging the bringing provisions for his army; the fourth, creating a currency of such metal as he had, conceiving it preferable to a paper currency (a gold or silver currency was out of his power, for of the two millions promised him by France, he only got £150,000); the fifth proclamation summoned a parliament for the 7th May, 1689.

James also issued a proclamation promising liberty of conscience, justice and protection 13 to all; and, after receiving many congratulatory addresses, set out for Derry to press the blockade. On the 29th April he returned to Dublin. On the 7th May Ireland possessed a complete and independent government. Leaving the castle, over which floated the national flag, James proceeded in full procession to the King's Inns, where the Parliament sat, and the Commons having assembled at the bar of the Peers, James entered, ‘with Robe and Crown,’ and


addressed the Commons in a speech full of manliness and dignity. At the close of the speech, the Chancellor of Ireland, Lord Gosworth, directed the Commons to retire and make choice of a Speaker. In half an hour the Commons returned and presented Sir Richard Nagle as their Speaker, a man of great endowments and high character. The Speaker was accepted, and the Houses adjourned.

The peers who sat in this parliament amounted to fifty-four. Among these fifty-four were six dignitaries of the Protestant Church, one duke, ten earls, sixteen viscounts, and twenty-one barons. It contained the oldest families of the country — O'Brien and DeCourcy, MacCarty and Bermingham, De Burgo and Maguire, Butler and Fitzpatrick. The bishops of Meath, Cork, Ossory, Limerick, and Waterford, and the Protestant names of Aungier, Le Poer, and Forbes sat with the representatives of the great Roman Catholic houses of Plunket, Barnewell, Dillon, and Nugent. Nor were some fresher honours wanting; Talbot and Mountcashel were the darlings of the people, the trust of the soldiery, the themes of bards.

King's impeachment of this parliament is amusing enough. His first charge is, that if the House were full, the majority would have been Protestant. Now, if the majority preferred acting as insurgents under the Prince of Orange, to attending to their duties in the Irish house of peers, it was their own fault. Certain it is, the most violent might safely have attended, for the earls of Granard and Longford and the bishop of Meath not only attended, but carried on a bold and systematic opposition. And so far was the House from resenting this, that they committed the sheriff of Dublin to prison for billeting an officer at the bishop of Meath's. Yet the bishop had not merely resisted their favourite repeal of the Settlement, but, in doing so, had stigmatized their fathers and some of themselves as murderous rebels.


King's next charge is, that the attainders of many peers were reversed to admit them. Now this is unsupported by evidence against fact, and simply a falsehood. Then he complains of the new creations. They were just five in number; and of these five, two were great legal dignitaries — the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland; the third was Colonel MacCarty, of the princely family of Desmond, and a distinguished soldier with a great following; the others, Brown, Lord Kenmare; and Bourke, Lord Bofin (son of Lord Clanricarde), men of high position in their counties.

Fitton Lord Gosworth, occupied the woolsack. That he was a man of capacity, if not of character, may be fairly presumed from his party having put him in so important an office in such trying times.14 He certainly had neither faction nor following to bring with him. Nor was he treated by his party below what his rank entitled him to. The appointments in his court were not interfered with: his decrees were not impeached, and in the council he sat above even Herbert, the Lord Chancellor of England. Yet, King describes this man as ‘detected of forgery,’ one who was brought from gaol to the woolsack — one who had not appeared in any court — a stranger to the kingdom, the laws, and the practice and rules of court; — one who made constant needless references to the Masters to disguise his ignorance, and who was brought into power, first, because he was ‘a convert papist, that is, a renegade to his country and his religion;’ and, secondly, because he would enable the Irish to recover their estates by countenancing ‘forgeries and perjuries,’ which last, continues the veracious archbishop, he nearly effected, without putting them to the trouble of repealing the Acts of Settlement. King staggers from the assertion that Fitton denied justice to Protestants, into saying it was got from him with difficulty.


Thomas Nugent, Baron Riverstown, second son of the Earl of Westmeath, was chosen chairman of committees. King, who is the only authority at present accessible to us, states that Nugent had been out in 1641, but considering that he did not die till 1715, he must have been a mere boy in '41, if born at all; and, at any rate, as his family, including his grandfather, Lord Delvin (first Earl of Westmeath), and his father, carried arms against the Irish up to 1648, and suffered severely, it is most improbable that he was, as a child, in the opposite ranks.

The Irish had never ceased to agitate against the Acts of Settlement and Explanation. Thus Nicholas Plunket had done legal battle against the first, till an express resolution excluded him by name from appearing at the bar of the council. Then Colonel Talbot (Tyrconnell) led the opposition effort for their repeal or mild administration. In 1686, Sir Richard Nagle went to England, as agent of the Irish, to seek their repeal. But the greatest effort was made in 1688. Nugent and Rice were sent expressly to London to press the repeal. Rice is said to have shown great tact and eloquence, but Nugent to have been rash and confused. Certain it is, they were unsuccessful with the council, and were brutally insulted by the London mob, set on by the very decent chiefs of the Williamite party.

Of the eighteen prelates, ten were Englishmen, one Welsh, and only seven Irish. Several had been chaplains to the different lords lieutenant. Eleven out of the eighteen were in England during the session. Of these, some were habitual absentees, such as Thomas Hackett, bishop of Down, deprived in 1691 by Williamite commissioners for an absence of twenty years. Others had got leave of absence during '87 and '88. Some, like Archbishop John Vesey of Tuam, and Bishop Richard Tennison of Killala, fled in good earnest, and accepted lecturerships and cures in London.


There was one man among them who deserves more notice, Anthony Dopping, lord bishop of Meath. He was born in Dublin, 28th March, 1643, and died 24th April, 1697. He was educated in St. Patrick's schools, and won his fellowship in T.C.D. in 1662, being only 19 years old. He led the opposition in the parliament of '89 with great vigour and pertinacity. He resisted all the principal measures, and procured great changes in some of them, as appears by The Journal. He had a fearless character and ready tongue. He continued a leader of the Ultras after the battle of the Boyne, and quarrelled with the government. King William , finding how slowly the Irish war proceeded, had prepared and sent to Ireland a proclamation conceding the demands of the Roman Catholics, granting them perfect religious liberty, right of admission to all offices, and an establishment for their clergy.15 While this was with the printers in Dublin, news came of the danger of Limerick. The proclamation was suppressed by the Lords Justices, who hastened to the camp, ‘to hold the Irish to as hard terms as possible. This they did effectually.’ Still these ‘hard terms’ were too lenient for the Ultras, who roared against the treaty of Limerick, and demanded its abrogation. On the Sunday after the Lords Justices had returned, full of joy at having tricked the Irish into so much harder terms than William had directed them to offer, they attended Christ Church, and the bishop of Meath preached a sermon, whose whole object was to urge the breaking of the treaty of Limerick, contending (says Harris, in his Irish Writers in Ware, p. 215) that ‘peace ought not to be kept with a people so perfidious.’


The Justices, and the Williamite or moderate party, were enraged at this. The bishop of Kildare was directed to preach in Christ Church on the following Sunday in favour of the treaty; and he obtained the place in the privy council from which the bishop of Meath was expelled; but ultimately the party of the latter triumphed, and enacted the Penal Laws.

The list of the Lords Temporal has been made out with great care, from all the authorities accessible.

Ireland had then but two dukes, Tyrconnell and Ormond. Ormond possessed the enormous spoils acquired by his grandfather from the Irish, and was therefore largely interested in the success of the English party. He, of course, did not attend. His huge territory and its regal privileges were taken from him by a special act.

Considering the position he occupied, the materials on the life of Tyrconnell are most unsatisfactory. Richard Talbot was a cadet of the Irish branch of the Shrewsbury family, and numbered in his ancestors the first names in English history. His father was Sir William Talbot, a distinguished Irish lawyer, and his brother, Peter Talbot, was R.C. Archbishop of Dublin, and was murdered there by tedious imprisonment on a false charge in 1680. He was a lad of sixteen when Cromwell sacked Drogheda in September 1649, and he doubtless brought from its bloody ashes no feeling in favour of the Saxon. He was all his life engaged in the service of the Irish and of James. He was attached to the Duke of York's suite from the Restoration, and was taken prisoner by the Dutch, on board the Catharine, in the naval action at Solebay, 29th May, 1672. 16 After the Acts of Settlement and Explanation were passed, he acted as agent for the Irish Roman Catholics, urging their claims with all the influence his rank,


abilities, and fortune17 could command. His zeal got him into frequent dangers; he was sent to the Tower in 1661 and 1671 for having challenged the Duke of Ormond, and the English Commons presented an address in 1671, praying his dismissal from all public employments. He was selected by James, both from personal trust and popularity, to communicate with the Irish; and though Clarendon was first sent as Lord Lieutenant in '85, Tyrconnell had the independent management of the army,18 and replaced Clarendon in 1686.

Sarsfield, who was at the head of the French party, and most of the great Irish officers, thought him undecided, hardly bold enough, and with a selfish leaning towards England. Of his selfishness we have now a better proof than they had, a proof that might have abated his master's enlogy, given further on. We say might, for possibly Tyrconnell was in communication with James as to the French offers.

‘It is now ascertained that, doubtful of the king's success in the struggle for restoring popery in England, he had made secret overtures to some of the French agents, for casting off all connection with that kingdom in case of James's death, and, with the aid of Louis, placing the crown of Ireland on his own head. M. Mazure has brought this remarkable fact to light. Bonrepos, a French emissary in England, was authorised by his court to proceed in a negotiation with Tyrconnell for the separation of the two islands, in case that a Protestant should succeed to the crown of England. He had accordingly a private


interview with a confidential agent of the Lord Lieutenant at Chester in the month of October, 1687. Tyrconnell undertook that in less than a year everything should be prepared.’19

Tyrconnell was made Baron Talbotstown, Viscount Baltinglass, and Earl of Tyrconnell in 1686, and Duke and Marquis, 30th March, 1689.

From his coming to Ireland, he worked hard for his master and his countrymen. He gradually substituted Jacobite soldiers for the Oliverians, who till then filled the ranks. He increased the army largely, and lent the king 3,000 men in '88. Mischief was done to James's cause by this employment of Irish troops in England. He was active in calling in the corporation charters, and was exposed to much calumny on account of it. The means, doubtless, were indefensible (for the change should have been effected by act of Parliament, as it has at length been in our times), but the end was to put the corporations into the hands of the Irish people. And even in those new corporations, one-third of the burgesses were of English descent and Protestant faith; but this moderation is attempted to be shaved away by the Williamites, who insist that most of these Protestants were Quakers, whom they describe as a savage rabble, originally founded by the Jesuits20 — with what injustice we need hardly say. James describes him ‘as a man of good abilities and clear courage, and one who for many years had a true attachment to his majesty's person and interest.’21

Lord Clanrickarde represented the Mac William Uachdar, one of the two great branches of the De Burgos, who


usurped the chieftaincy on the death of the Earl of Ulster in the year 1333. His father was the great Lord Clanrickarde, who held Connaught in peace and loyalty, from 1641 to 1650; when the troops for which he had negotiated with the Duke of Lorraine not arriving, he too yielded to the storm.

Mac Donnel Lord Antrim, also the representative of a great house (the Lord of the Isles), was equally dependent on his predecessor for notoriety. His elder brother, the Marquis and Earl of Antrim, played a notorious and powerful part on the Irish side, in the war, from 1642 Up to 1650. This Earl Alexander also commanded an Irish regiment during the same war. He was within the treaty of Limerick, and saved his rank and fortune.

Lords Longford and Granard were Williamites in fact. This does not follow from their having acted so vigorously in the opposition in 1689, but from their having joined William openly the year after. Lord Granard had been offered the command of the Williamites of Ulster in 1688, and on his refusal, Lord Mount Alexander was appointed.

Among the earls, one naturally looks for the two famous names of Taaffe and Lucan. But Taaffe was then on an embassy to the emperor, and Patrick Sarsfield was not made Earl of Lucan till after. Indeed his patent is not entered in the rolls, from which 'tis probable he was not titled till after the battle of the Boyne.

Viscount Iveagh held Drogheda at the battle of the Boyne, and was induced to surrender it by William's ruffianly and unmilitary threat of 'no quarter.'

Lord Clare was father to the famous Lord Clare, whose regiment was the glory of the Irish Brigade, and who was killed at Ramillies in 1706. He was descended from Connor O'Brian, third earl of Thomond.

Lord Mountcashel, by his rapidity and skill, completely broke the Munster insurgents, and made that province,


till then considered the stronghold of the English, James's best help. To him was intrusted the Bill repealing the Settlement in the Commons, where he sat as member for the county of Cork till that Bill passed the Commons, when he was called to the Upper House as Lord Mountcashel.

Lord Kinsale represented the famous John De Courcy, Earl of Ulster, and had the blood of Charlemagne in his veins. He served as Lieutenant-Colonel to Lord Lucan. His attainder under William was reversed, and he appeared at court, where he enforced the privilege peculiar to his family of remaining covered in the king's presence.