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Response to Review no. 293a

In the introduction to my book I have attempted to account for and explore the absence of any thorough examination of Jacobitism, the main political ideology among Irish Catholics for the greater part of the eighteenth century. Like Professor Connolly I have highlighted the singular importance of Breandán Ó Buachalla’s Aisling Ghéar: na Stíobhartaigh agus an t-aos Léinn (Dublin, 1996). This is without doubt one of the most important books published on early modern Irish literature and history in the last 50 years. Unfortunately the inability of many Irish historians of the period to read this work or engage with the massive corpus of source-material upon which it is based means that it is the most referenced yet least read and reviewed work on Irish history.

The author would not wish to be seen to censure Irish historians of the eighteenth century who have failed to acknowledge the existence of Jacobitism. However, I would contend that many of those who have written about Irish Catholics after 1691, particularly in relation to their politics, ideology, religion, literature and the penal legislation imposed against them, have failed to locate Jacobitism, the main political ideology on the island, at the centre of their discussions. They have also tended to over-emphasise the ‘shipwreck’ of Jacobite Ireland after 1691. This is not of itself an invalid historiographical position, but it is at odds with the evidence of Jacobite and anti-Jacobite sources. Brían Ó Cuív offers an overview of political themes in Gaelic literature. I have attempted to provide a thorough examination of Irish Jacobite poetry in its Irish, ‘British’ and European military and political contexts. J. G. Simms, the doyen of Irish Jacobite studies, drew the curtain on Jacobite Ireland after 1691. Moreover, his sections on the Irish in continental Europe in the New History of Ireland do not view the Irish clerical and military diaspora as an integral part of the Irish Jacobite ‘nation’, as they were perceived by Jacobites and anti-Jacobites alike. By his own admission Louis Cullen understated the level of politicization in Irish poetry in his seminal re-appraisal of Daniel Corkery’s The Hidden Ireland. A Study of Gaelic Munster in the Eighteenth Century (M. H. Gill & Son; Dublin, 1925). The ‘underground culture’ which Roy Foster speaks of is only often ‘underground’ and the ‘Hidden Ireland’ is only really hidden to the monoglot English-speaking populace of the time and to those historians who have not or cannot engage with its literary remains. Foster can hardly really be commended for mentioning it in a history of modern Ireland. Furthermore, it is by no means ‘visionary’ by the mid-eighteenth century, as he would have us believe, if examined in its proper political context. In the period covered by my book, Catholics were both unwilling and unable to build on the ‘New Foundations’ upon which David Dickson constructed his masterful survey of Ireland from the Restoration (1660) to the Act of Union (1800). Thomas Bartlett defined the Catholic question as ‘the issue of the re-admission of Catholics to full civil, religious and political equality in both Britain and Ireland’. Although Jacobitism undoubtedly provided one of the main impediments to their participation, and the single most important ideology of his Irish Catholic ‘Nation’, it is ignored in his work.

This book has sought to show that Jacobitism was central to Irish political life as well as to the Irish Catholic community. I have traced its emergence, extent, and evolution from the succession of James II to the death of James Francis Edward in the context of Irish, ‘British and European politics. Due to reasons of space and mindful of Zhou Enlai’s cautious utterance on the significance of the French revolution, much more remains to be done on Jacobitism before we can fully evaluate its importance. However, the work of Ó Buachalla and, more recently, Vincent Morley’s seminal study of Ireland and the American Revolution have both influenced and supported my postscript remarks. As well as stifling the emergence of a popular Hanoverian royalism, Jacobitism was crucial to the ease with which American and French-sponsored republicanism penetrated Irish society in the 1790s. I also subscribe to Ó Tuathaigh’s and Ó Buachalla’s thesis that a messianic Jacobite residue survived the collapse of United Irish republicanism and manifested itself in the popular cult of O’Connell. However, much more needs to be done. An examination of Jacobite influence on, and the motivation behind, late-eighteenth and nineteenth-century literature and folklore might also shed light on its political, literary and cultural legacy. This would necessitate a thorough investigation of the published works and writings of Charlotte Brooke, John O’Daly, Edward Walsh, Thomas Davis, Thomas Moore, James Clarence Mangan, Douglas Hyde and Emily Lawless, among others. There is obvious scope for comparison with Scottish poets and writers such as Robert Burns, Joseph Ritson, Lady Carolina Nairne and Sir Walter Scott.

Other means of evaluating its overall strength and significance would be an extensive examination of the Irish Catholic episcopate, recruitment for the Irish Brigades, and clerical and mercantilist networks in continental Europe, all of which have been highlighted in my introduction. The rumours of alleged and real links between Irish Jacobites and their counterparts on the continent might be further assessed by more comprehensive work on the correspondence of James, 2nd duke of Ormond, Arthur Dillon, Daniel O’Brien, John O’Rourke and other prominent Irish Jacobites, which survives in the Stuart Archives and other national repositories of France, Spain and Austria. Exciting new research on Irish recruitment in France and Spain is already in hand, under the auspices of the Irish-Scottish Research Institute at Trinity College Dublin. It is unlikely that the many different motives of recruits will be greatly odds with those laid out in the introduction, nor will Jacobitism be totally discounted as a motivating factor. One should also be careful not to over-emphasise the importance of the religious bar in preventing large numbers of Irish soldiers from recruiting into the British Army in the eighteenth century. Allan Macinnes and Andrew McKillop have conclusively shown that the Scottish Gaels, upon whom there was no religious objection, did not join the British Army in any great numbers until the late 1750s. Moreover, those Highland regiments who had already taken King George’s shilling were often mistrusted by the British government in Scotland or Ireland, not without some justification given the Black Watch’s mutiny in 1743.

Irish Jacobitism has loyalty to the House of Stuart at its core but it is certainly more complex than that. Many Irish Jacobites looked to the Stuarts to restore their confiscated lands, reverse the political, social and cultural domination of the Protestant ascendancy and to rehabilitate the Roman Catholic church and Irish culture. The Irish tailored Jacobitism to suit their communities’ particular needs: the cause was invoked to demand the right to bear arms, to drive out Protestantism, to take out leases, to vote in elections and promote Irish language and culture. Of course, English and Scottish Jacobites also had their own agendas. One should not dismiss the rejuvenation of the Irish language and culture (in the event of a Stuart restoration) as totally unrealistic. It is often forgotten that Irish was still the main language and literary culture on the island in the period. Moreover, a restoration of sorts had already taken place after the Cromwellian era, in the lifetime and memory of many Jacobite poets. Some 200 years later Eamonn deValera, more often associated with Machiavellianism than messianism, put the restoration of the Irish language and the promotion of Irish culture at the centre of the Fianna Fáil political agenda. However, unrealistic or unsuccessful this might have been (Zhoi Enlai’s advice might also be followed here) few Irish politicians would dare publicly consign the Irish language to the dustbin of history.

I would also strongly contend that Jacobitism was not a ‘British’ ideology, either in a geographical, political or literary sense. There were Jacobites of Irish, Scottish and English origin in every port, city and country from Cadiz to St. Petersburg. No political entity called Britain existed before 1707, it never included Ireland during the Jacobite period and Jacobites of all hues opposed the union. That a pre-revolutionary ‘British’ ideology existed in the mind of James VI and I and some of his subjects is beyond doubt. However, it would prove a problematic ideological bequest to Charles I. Moreover, it never really gained popular currency in the early modern period. It was certainly not prevalent in Jacobite Ireland or within Scottish Gaeldom. I have uncovered no evidence to suggest that Irish royalists or Jacobites saw themselves as holding any sort of ‘British’ ideology. The poet Eoghan Rua Mac an Bhaird alluded to the three crowns in king James’s charter (‘trí coróin i gcairt Shéamais’) on the Stuart accession to the thrones, not to some sort of three-tiered imperial British tiara. His Irish Jacobite successors at home and abroad realised that their exiled king would need to be restored to his English inheritance before the Irish crown could be secured. However, it was the Irish kingdom and the political, military, economic and cultural welfare of its subjects which was their main preoccupation.

I am not advocating a return to some sort of an Irish ideological monolith of the type advocated by Daniel Corkery in The Hidden Ireland. Throughout the Jacobite period tensions continually bubbled beneath the surface of the Irish polity. These included the ideological and personality clashes between the old Irish and old English. They are manifested in the writings of Thomas Sheridan, Nicholas Plunkett, Charles O’Kelly, John Riley, the anonymous writer of the Groans of Ireland, the Lettre d’un officier Irlandais à son fils and in numerous letters and memoirs to the Stuart court. They occasionally surfaced in struggles between the regular and secular clergy, doctrinaire Jacobites and Hanoverian accommodationalists and in the ‘court poetry’ of Ó Bruadair and Mac Cárthaigh and the folkloric verse of those who dismissed James II as a coward who had failed Ireland. However, it should be remembered that what Lords Fingall and Delvin had in common with the Jacobite poet Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabhain, who decried the indignity of the penal laws or the Galway peasant who ‘loved King James in his heart’, was that they suffered political and religious discrimination in their own country for most of the eighteenth century. More importantly for Jacobitism, their spiritual leader (the Pope) recognized James Stuart as the true king of Ireland, England and Scotland (not Britain) and gave him exclusive rights to nominate all bishops who would serve on the Irish mission. Furthermore, I would contend that of the three Irish Catholic writers who engaged in political pamphleteering, neither Nary nor O’Conor can be deemed unequivocally anti-Jacobite. Nary’s support for the de facto Hanoverian establishment did not invalidate his commitment to the dynastic legitimacy of the House of Stuart. O’Conor’s diary entries for 1745 are not exactly vocally pro-Hanoverian and he did not adopt his pro-Hanoverian stance in public until the early 1750s, when many believed that the Jacobite spectre had been finally exorcised. Along with Arthur O’Leary, these three pamphleteers do not constitute an ideological chasm in eighteenth-century Ireland. Conversely, there is no monolithic Protestant entity in the eighteenth century. I have sought to show that the complacency and smug attitude of some Protestants contrasted with those who scanned the horizon for French or Spanish ships, those living in isolated, predominantly Catholic areas who baulked at the insolence and expectation of the majority.

There is often a narrow and grey area between perception and actuality, particularly when dealing with a proscribed ideology or political movement such as Jacobitism. One has to look no further than the so-called ‘war against terrorism’ and Saddam’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ for modern comparisons. Not even Tom Ridge, despite drawing on the seemingly infinite resources of the C.I.A, F.B.I. and the most sophisticated intelligence and spy technology, can really evaluate the extent of the threat from either quarter. This problem is massively amplified for the historian of Jacobitism. However, the first two Georges and their wily prime minister Walpole could only marvel at George W.’s success in convincing a traumatized American electorate of the threat which terrorists and Iraq pose to America. Only the most muted voices (incurring the ultimate slur of anti-Americanism and anti-patriotism) have accused his administration of scare-mongering to hide corporate corruption, eroding the rights and liberties of freeborn Americans and massively inflating military spending and homeland security. Walpole could only have dreamed of such timid political opposition. At least he could point to three or four serious invasion attempts, a dangerous fifth column within Britain and a seething discontent and disloyalty among a sizeable minority of King George’s subjects. Bin Laden and Saddam may indeed threaten but ‘regime change’ looks unlikely; George W. looks much steadier that George I or II, even if his legitimacy had earlier been in doubt. Unlike Charles Edward Stuart neither Bin Laden nor Saddam can depend on any sort of an American rally to their standard. They cannot even rely on the opportunistic support of China or Russia. On reaching America it is highly improbable that either will be proclaimed in the south, west or mid-west. Neither is likely to capture Chicago or San Francisco and march within 100 miles of Washington, forcing Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to take 10,000 back from Afghanistan.