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The History of Ulster
Linen and Latitudinarianism


Ulster unaffected by the Penal Laws—A Determined Effort to destroy the Woollen Industry—Address to the King on the Subject—The English promise to encourage and support the Linen Industry of Ulster—How the Promise was kept—The Case of Ireland, by Molyneux—Death of James II — Death of William III—James, Second Duke of Ormonde, Lord-Lieutenant—The Attitude of Ulster towards Jacobinism—Presbyterians and the Sacramental Test—The Bishops attack the Nonconformists—Wharton, the Viceroy, supports them—He is recalled—Death of Queen Anne.

During the later years of William's reign and during the whole period of Queen Anne's, Ulster, in the language of Wordsworth, was "as silent as a standing pool", or, to use imagery more exclusively Hibernian, she may perhaps be more appropriately likened to the famous Harp of Tara, which after a period of notable activity hung "mute on Tara's walls", leading those who had delighted in its strains to believe that the soul of music had for ever fled from its strings.

But if at this period Ulster, like Canning's needy knife-grinder, had no story to tell, it was because her career, like his, had become uneventful, not because she was no longer alert in the cause of freedom. Important matters like the Penal Laws, which greatly agitated the south and west of Ireland, did not affect the north, which, being almost wholly Protestant, did not to any great extent suffer from them. A matter, however, in which Ulster took an intense interest was referred to at the meeting of the Irish Parliament on the 27th of July, 1697, when the Lords Justices (the Marquis of Winchester, the Earl of Galway, and Viscount Villiers), addressing the House, said: "All think the present occasion so favourable for inviting and encouraging Protestant strangers to settle here, that we cannot omit to put you in mind of it, especially since that may contribute to the increase of the linen manufacture, which is the most beneficial trade that can be encouraged in Ireland".

The manufacturers in England had long been jealous of the success of the woollen manufactures of Ireland, and it was resolved to use every influence to make the industry subordinate to that of England. Some attempts with that view had been made in Strafford's time, but, notwithstanding these, the trade flourished; and now, as on that occasion, it was proposed to encourage the linen trade as a substitute, linen not being a staple commodity in England; although in this also, at a later period, Irish rivalry excited English jealousy. In June, 1698, addresses on the subject from the English Houses of Parliament were presented to the King. In these they represented that, being "very sensible that the wealth and power of this kingdom do in a great measure depend on the preserving the woollen manufacture as much as possible entire to this realm", they thought it became them like their ancestors to be jealous of the establishment and the increase thereof elsewhere, and to use their utmost endeavours to prevent it. They said that they could not without trouble observe that Ireland, "which is dependent and protected by England in the enjoyment of all they have, and which is so proper for the linen manufacture, the establishment and growth of which there would be so enriching to themselves and so profitable to England, should of late apply itself to the woollen manufacture, to the great prejudice of the trade of this kingdom, and so unwillingly promote the linen trade, which would benefit both nations. The consequence thereof would necessitate His Majesty's Parliament of England to interpose to prevent this mischief, unless His Majesty by his authority and great wisdom should find means to secure the trade of England by making his subjects of Ireland pursue the joint interest of both kingdoms." They therefore implored His Majesty's protection and favour in this matter, and expressed the desire "that he would make it his royal care, and enjoin all those he employed in Ireland to use their utmost diligence, to hinder the exportation of wool from Ireland (except to be imported hither), and for the discouraging the woollen manufactures and encouraging the linen manufactures in Ireland, to which the Commons of England should always be ready to give their utmost assistance."

William, in reply, said: "I shall do all that in me lies to discourage the woollen manufacture in Ireland, and to encourage the linen trade there; and to promote the trade of England"; and he sent instructions accordingly to the Lords Justices in Ireland. An Act had already existed during two years, having been passed by the English Parliament in 1696, prohibiting the exportation of wool and woollen manufactures (except to England), under very severe penalties; and this, confirmed and strengthened by a new Act during this period, had excited considerable agitation in Ireland, although the Irish Parliament acted with moderation, under the influence, no doubt, of the Lords Justices. The latter, when they opened the Parliament at the end of September, 1698, indicated the view which they wished to be taken of the matter.

"Amongst the Bills", said the Lords Justices, "there is one for the encouragement of the linen and hempen manufactures. At our first meeting, we recommended to you that matter, and we have now endeavoured to render this Bill practicable and useful for that effect, and as such we now recommend it to you. The settlement of this manufacture will contribute much to people in the country, and will be found much more advantageous to this Kingdom than the woollen manufacture, which being the settled staple trade of England, from whence all foreign markets are supplied, can never be encouraged here for that purpose; whereas the linen and hempen manufactures will not only be encouraged as consistent with the trade of England, but will render the trade of this Kingdom both useful and necessary to England."

In their reply the Irish Commons stated that they should heartily endeavour to establish the linen industry and to render it useful to England as well as advantageous to Ireland; and that they hoped so to regulate their woollen trade that it should not be injurious to England. In the session of 1689 they passed a law imposing on the exportation of Irish woollen goods duties which amounted to a prohibition; and in the same year a law was passed in England restraining the exportation of Irish woollen manufactures, including frieze, to any country except England and Wales. The Irish woollen industry was carried on almost exclusively by Protestants in the north of Ireland, and large numbers were reduced to poverty by its destruction. The promises of support from England for the linen trade proved to be a mockery, for Arthur Young, in his Tour in Ireland, proves how, in direct breach of the compact, in the reign of George II, a tax was laid on sailcloth made of Irish hemp, and how bounties were given to English linens to the exclusion of Irish, and also how certain Irish fabrics were not admitted into England.

A matter which affected the entire country was the publication, in 1698, of The Case of Ireland being bound by Acts of Parliament in England stated, by William Molyneux, one of the Members for the University of Dublin. The author of this famous book with a clumsy title was a friend and disciple of John Locke, whose essay "On the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government" served as the basis for his treatise, in which he reviewed the history of the Pale from

the Anglo-Norman invasion, and from the whole connection of the two kingdoms drew strong inferences in support of their reciprocal legislative independence. The English House of Commons resolved unanimously "that the book published by Mr. Molyneux was of dangerous tendency to the Crown and people of England, by denying the authority of the King and Parliament of England to bind the Kingdom and people of Ireland, and the subordination and dependence that Ireland had and ought to have upon England as being united and annexed to the Imperial Crown of England". They also condemned in the strongest terms the practice of the Irish Parliament to re-enact laws made in England expressly to bind Ireland; and went in a body to present an address to the King, to whom the book had been dedicated by the author, praying His Majesty "to take all necessary care that the laws which directed and restrained the Parliament of Ireland should not be evaded, but strictly observed; and that he would discourage all things which might in any degree lessen the dependence of Ireland upon England".

King James II, after a tedious illness, died at St. Ger-mains, on the 16th of September, 1701; upon which the King of France publicly acknowledged his son, the nominal Prince of Wales, as King of England, to the great indignation of King William and his loyal subjects. William did not long survive his rival. He suffered from his old enemies headaches and shivering fits, but as of old endeavoured to throw them off. He still rode and even hunted, but his seat in the saddle was no longer what it had been, and his hold on the bridle was feeble. Riding in Hampton Court Park, on the 20th of February, 1702, the King, mounted on his favourite horse, Sorrel, was badly thrown, owing to his steed stumbling on a mole-hill. The King's collar-bone was broken. To one never robust this was the beginning of the end. William died on the 8th of March, in the fifty-second year of his age. "Ever a fighter", he fought to the last, and relinquished life with regret, for he deemed his work but half finished. He was succeeded by James's second daughter, Anne.

In 1703 James, the second and last Duke of Ormonde, was appointed Lord-Lieutenant, and on his arrival the House of Commons waited on him in a body, with a Bill, "for preventing the further growth of Popery", praying, says Burnet, with more than ordinary vehemence to intercede so effectually for them that it might be returned under the Great Seal of England. This Ormonde undertook to do, and we learn from the same authority that he fulfilled his promise punctually. To this Bill was added a clause known as the Sacramental Test, which excluded from every public trust all who refused the Sacrament according to the rites of the Established Church, and which, therefore, militated against Presbyterians and other Protestant dissenters, as well as against Roman Catholics. The Presbyterians were at first alarmed; but on being assured that the clause would never be put in force against themselves, and that it was only the "Papists" who were aimed at, they withdrew their opposition. The Bill passed without a dissentient voice.

In the year 1708, when the Pretender sailed for Scotland to raise the standard of rebellion in that country, we have a curious document showing the extent of disaffection in Ireland, in a report in French addressed to the wife of the Pretender, who is addressed as Queen of England. The author of this document was Father Ambrose O'Connor, the head of the Irish Dominicans, who had been sent to Ireland as an agent of the Jacobites, to gauge the feelings of the Irish Catholics. In some things we cannot but come to the conclusion that Father O'Connor was misinformed with regard to persons with whom he had not corresponded personally, but his report is singularly interesting on account of the fact that we possess but little information on the movements of the Jacobites in Ireland at this period.

O'Connor first visited Connaught, where he visited "the principal people in the Province", but he does not appear to have got much satisfaction. He then proceeded to Dublin, where he met Lords Fingall, Dillon, and Trimblestown, who assured him of their "fidelity"; "but Lords Limerick and Fingall", he says, "gave me to understand that, it would be useless to talk to them on the subject, since the descent upon Scotland had failed". He then says: "I tried to discover how those people were disposed living in the north of Ireland, who were distinguished by the name of the Scotch residents of the Province of Ulster or Ultonia, and I learned from persons of credit and distinction, that they were generally well affected towards the King [i.e. the Pretender], and when they heard that His Majesty was going to Scotland, they secretly assembled in retired situations to pray for his success. I heard this for a certainty from Lord Fingall, who travelled into that Province last June with Lord Antrim, and I have been assured the same thing by persons of equal veracity, such as the Bishop of Down and Colonel Conone-ville, who have great interest in Ulster, and upon whose fidelity we may rely; they are either related to, or staunch friends of, many old and attached families in this northern Province, and that is the reason I made myself known so particularly to these two gentlemen. As to Lord Granat [Granard], I knew he was as much attached to the King as any person in Ireland; but Lord Limerick persuaded me not to call upon him, for fear of exciting suspicion either against him or myself, his residence being surrounded by Protestants and Presbyterians, who frequently visited him; but Lord Limerick promised, on the first opportunity, to deliver to Lord Granat the message with which I had been entrusted by the King."

The depressed and declining state of trade, and the emigration of the most energetic and independent of the artisans, many, indeed most, of whom were at this time Presbyterians, convinced the Government that the imposition of the Sacramental Test was a blunder; accordingly the Earl of Pembroke was sent over in the summer of 1707 to replace Ormonde and endeavour to get rid of the Test; with him came as secretary George Dodington, whose correspondence throws much light on the state of things at the time. Ulster was dissatisfied with Pembroke, so in May, 1709, he was replaced by Thomas, Earl of Wharton, who endeavoured to bring about a good understanding among all denominations of Protestants. A Bill to explain and amend an Act entituled "An Act to prevent the further growth of Popery" was passed without delay. This Act was heralded by a Proclamation ordering all registered priests to take the Abjuration Oath before the 25th of March, 1710, under pain of praemunire.

While the Roman Catholics were the chief objects of penal legislation, the Presbyterians, who constituted at least two-thirds of the whole interest in Ulster, suffered from many disabilities inflicted upon them by their brethren, the dominant minority of the Established Church. They were hopelessly in the grip of the Bishops, who put the laws in force against them. The Bishops soon cleared out the Presbyterian magistrates of Ulster, and put in their place, "men of little estate, youths, newcomers and clergymen", the sole qualification being regular attendance at church. Out of the twelve Aldermen in Londonderry, ten were Presbyterians, and these were deprived of their offices. The entire Corporation of Belfast were superseded. The Presbyterian rite most objectionable in the eyes of the Bishops was that of marriage, which they regarded simply as a licence to sin. It was even announced that the children of all Protestants, whether Nonconformists or not, who were not married in the parish church would be regarded as illegitimate, and some Bishops even went further and prosecuted many persons of repute who married according to the Presbyterian rites.

The Presbyterians, encouraged by the support of the Government, roused the anger of the Bishops by addressing " base persons, coopers, shoemakers, and tailors", who were threatened with the stocks, and for so doing they were arrested on one occasion at Drogheda, and were bound over by the Mayor to take their trial at the assizes. Wharton, the Lord-Lieutenant, ordered a nolle prosequi to be entered. Swift now entered the field against the Dissenters, arguing that they were the only real political danger to which Ireland was exposed. The House of Lords complained to the Queen that the Presbyterians were the cause of all the disorders in Ireland, and that the Viceroy supported them. In their defence the Presbyterian General Assembly charged the Bishops with "having placed an odious mark of infamy upon at least half the Protestants of Ireland". Wharton was recalled in 1711, and at the request of the House of Lords the Regium Donum was withdrawn.

On the 1st of August, 1714, Queen Anne died, and a few hours later George Augustus, Duke of Cambridge, son of the Elector of Hanover, was proclaimed King under the title of George I.


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