The economic constraints imposed by the English protectionist legislation at the end of the 17th century led to political debate and historical justification. William MOLYNEUX (1656-1690) echoes these facts in The Case of Ireland’s Being Bound by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated, 1698 (doc. A, p. 88-89). Permission to coin money granted by Royal Patent by England underlines how executive decisions made in England held sway over Irish Privy Council decisions. Jonathan SWIFT came to the conclusion that « government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery” (Draper’s Letters, no. 4) (doc. B).
17th century penal laws
The penal laws voted by the Irish Parliament under English Ascendancy, ensured not only the exclusion of Catholics from the Administration (in place in England and Scotland from 1607) but also fines if Catholics did not attend Anglican mass every Sunday. In addition, following the 1641-42 rebellion and the invasion and conquest led by Cromwell (1649-1653), most Catholics were excluded from Parliament.
Following the Jacobite rebellion and the Treaty of Limerick (1691), in order to sit or accept a nomination in the affairs of the Kingdom, an oath of allegiance to the Crown, head of the Anglican Church, which was unacceptable not only for Catholics, but also, from 1707, for the many non-Anglican protestants (Quakers, and, particularly in Ireland, Presbyterians), which effectively excluded them from political affairs. The Irish Parliament in Dublin, under the control of the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, representing the king, expressed its allegiance to the British Protestant king (doc. C) even when it was the Irish Parliament in Dublin which ruled on enquiries (doc. D).
Anglican ascendancy in the 18th century
A series of laws passed by the Irish Parliament, dominated by Protestant landowners, divested Catholics of political and civil rights – the right to vote, to practice as a lawyer or judge, to be educated abroad, to have a higher education, to build stone elementary schools, to inherit or leave one’s property without restriction, to adopt or be wards of orphans, to own a horse. It was only from1775 that measures allowing exceptions were introduced, culminating in the 1828-1829 laws for the Emancipation of Catholics and Dissenters in England, Scotland and Ireland.
Property and power
The Rev. Dr. Clarke concluded thus that “The State of Ireland has been truly peculiar in many points. The Protestants who were least numerous, had the property and the power; while the Catholics, who were most numerous, had neither power nor property. It was deemed necessary therefore to support the Protestants, lest the Catholics should get the power, and consequently the property: and hence a great oppression had arisen in former times” (doc. E, p. 52-53).