Thursday, April 18, 2024

David Hume on William of Orange's 1688 'Declaration' - "... a full declaration of all the rights of the subject in a free parliament ..."

David Hume (1711-76) was a pupil of Francis Hutcheson of Saintfield (1694-1756), who, even though an Ulsterman, is known as The Father of the Scottish Enlightenment. Hume wrote these words in his landmark History of England (published 1754; online here) about William Prince of Orange's Declaration which was brought to England in 1688 and first read aloud in Newton Abbot, where a monument in the town centre commemorates the event (see previous post here) –

"... The Prince of Orange's declaration was dispersed over the kingdom, and met with universal approbation. All the grievances of the nation were there enumerated: The dispensing and suspending power; the court of ecclesiastical commission; the filling of all offices with catholics, and the raising of a Jesuit to be privy-counsellor; the open encouragement given to popery, by building every where churches, colleges, and seminaries for that sect; the displacing of judges, if they refused to give sentence according to orders received from court; the annulling of the charters of all the corporations, and the subjecting of elections to arbitrary will and pleasure; the treating of petitions, even the most modest, and from persons of the highest rank, as criminal and seditious; the committing of the whole authority of Ireland, civil and military, into the hands of papists; the assuming of an absolute power over the religion and laws of Scotland, and openly exacting in that kingdom an obedience without reserve; and the violent presumptions against the legitimacy of the prince of Wales.

In order to redress all these grievances, the prince said, that he intended to come over to England with an armed force, which might protect him from the king's evil counsellors: And that his sole aim was to have a legal and free parliament assembled, who might provide for the safety and liberty of the nation, as well as examine the proofs of the prince of Wales's legitimacy. No one, he added, could entertain such hard thoughts of him as to imagine, that he had formed any other design than to procure the full and lasting settlement of religion, liberty, and property. The force, which he meant to bring with him, was totally disproportioned to any views of conquest; and it were absurd to suspect, that so many persons of high rank, both in church and state, would have given him so many solemn invitations for such a pernicious purpose.

Though the English ministers, terrified with his enterprise, had pretended to redress some of the grievances complained of; there still remained the foundation of all grievances, that upon which they could in an instant be again erected, an arbitrary and despotic power in the crown. And for this usurpation there was no possible remedy, but by a full declaration of all the rights of the subject in a free parliament..."

Revolutionary words. Anyone caught spreading them was regarded as a rebel and traitor.

• More on Hutcheson to follow...

Monday, April 08, 2024

William Drennan and the Glorious Revolution of William of Orange - 1784 & 1795

Having been reminded that I have Drennans in my ancestry, it's been serendipitous to fall upon the following references in recent reading.

William Drennan (1754-1820) is best known today for his involvement with the Society of United Irishmen, but following his arrest in May 1793 he stepped back from direct participation. His Letters of Orellana (1784) were what brought him to public attention, published in the Belfast News-Letter. Letter VI, directed to King George III, contains rich references to William, Prince of Orange, his 1688 Glorious Revolution and 1689 Bill of Rights:

"... To reform the constitution is in this case to restore it. But little studious of names in a subject so deeply interesting, we are ready to call the attempt to renovate our constitution an innovation, if the same term be applied to those changes in our government which form the brightest pages in the annals of its history to Magna Charta, to the Bill of Rights, to that religious revolution distinguished, by the name of Reformation: and to what we shall ever deem a glorious innovation on the usage of the realm - the settlement of the illustrious House of Hanover on the throne of these kingdoms. 

At the same time in which we lay our grievances before our Sovereign and our Father, we call upon the shades of an Alfred, an Edward, and a William, to hover at this instant over your honoured head, and to pour down upon you: the inspiration of their just, generous, and extensive counsels. We call upon Him who first founded the constitution, and mixed the genius of so many nations into a rich tide of personal valour and public glory, upon Him, who carried on the glorious work, tempered monarchy with popular privilege, and made the greatest happiness of the greatest number the policy of the state; upon Him, who rescued this constitution from perdition, and wrote upon his flag those golden words, “I will maintain the liberties of the empire”.

We call upon you, illustrious Sovereign, in their great names, to vindicate your crown and to save your people. There are certain eras in the history of this nation when the elastic spirit of freedom struggles to throw off the incumbent weight which oppresses it, and which the lapse of time, or the abuses of the constitution had accumulated with slow and almost imperceptible additions. When a James, or a Charles, happens to mount the throne in these critical periods, they disobey or shut their eyes against the signal of Heaven  press the people with as still heavier hand, and force the tortured nation into convulsion. Yet the crimes of the prince become the immediate or remote means of general good, and tyrants themselves, the unwilling instruments of divine benevolence. But, blessed be God, he often condescends to signalize such momentous periods by sending as his messengers patriot kings, who unite with the nation in bringing about a bloodless revolution; and thus restoring the empire to its original grandeur. In such a period appeared the immortal WILLIAM, whose conquest was without a groan, and whose triumph was without a war.

That great and good monarch George the First, seconded in: the same manner the designs of Heaven, and rescued the crown once more from a race that polluted it  It is yours, royal Sir, to rise not only above the crowd of kings, but above even these our most illustrious monarchs, and to become our greatest deliverer. In your power is it placed, O King! to usher in a new order of things, to perfect the glories of the constitution, and to make the name of George the Third, luminous in the historic page to remotest generations..."


In 1795, in A Letter to His Excellency Earl Fitzwilliam, Lord Lieutenant Of Ireland (page 41, online here) Drennan also referred to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and John Locke, and their influence upon the American Revolution of 1776:

"...You will be told , that the people in the North of Ireland are deeply infected with what are called French principles ... I do believe them most obstinately attached to the principles of Locke, as put in practice at the (Glorious) revolution... ... the very same principles of Locke were illustrated in the plains of America..."


In 1810, Drennan wrote a biography of renowned Whig Alexander Henry Haliday (see previous post here) again using vocabulary that is most often associated with the Glorious Revolution, which the Whig Club of Dublin which was founded in 1789 had avowed to 'support and maintain' (see previous post here).


It has been a surprise to me to find these connections, which I have stumbled into as an offshoot of reading about the links between 1688 and 1776, and of the forthcoming booklet about 'The Break of Killyleagh' of 1689. These uncovered histories don't slot neatly into our 2024 assumptions, or of how people like Drennan, Henry Grattan and Archibald Hamilton Rowan are usually portrayed in our times. But that isn't the issue – our present-day categories, and manipulated simplifications, are the issue.

These were intelligent, educated and committed people living and writing in complex times. Be wary of those today who too easily mesh the complex past with the agendas of the present.

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Liberty for Ireland: the 'Resolutions and Declarations' of the Whig Club of Dublin - 9 August 1789

"RESOLVED, that the great object of this Society is the Constitution of the Realm as settled by the Revolution in Great Britain and Ireland in 1688 - and re-established in Ireland 1782.
That we will support and maintain, as a principal object and fundamental part of that Constitution –
the 'Sacred Rights of the People...'

More on the Whigs. The National Library of Ireland has the Whig Club's 'Resolutions and Declarations' on their website here

This looks massively important, connecting 1688 with 1782 and 1789 - and eventually of course feeding in to 1798 and 1801. The emerging picture with the sources I've been posting about here is that narrow nationalism is an inadequate concept, and that these generations were more interested in an broader liberty, whatever that meant at that time. Why did Ireland's establishment class want to lay claim to 1688? Did they actually believe these words, or were they saying what their 'masters' in London wanted to hear? Were they trying to preserve their power? Was it just a stepping stone on a longer strategy? Were they responding to events in America? Were they adopting the vocabulary and philosophy which had worked for Samuel Adams & co in re-claiming the liberties of the 13 British Colonies, which had become the United States in 1776?

The Chair for this meeting was William Robert Fitzgerald (1749-1804), the brother of  Edward Fitzgerald (1763-1798), whose family crest became part of the flag of the new United Kingdom in 1801 (previous blog post here). The Secretary was Thomas Connolly (portrait here).

The 'logo' of The Whig Club: the Irish female harp, surmounted by the 5 pointed Irish crown (see previous post here)

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Family Tree - The Drennans and Hamills of Donaghadee and Millisle

• Above: Millisle Presbyterian Church, photos from The notes below are posted here in case anyone out there is searching. My thanks to Shirley Cochrane for her help with these.


Over the past few weeks we have had two family funerals, for an aunt and also an uncle. My aunt Eleanor Wilson's funeral service was at Millisle Presbyterian Church on 9 March. Her husband, Vincent, survives her - he was named for his grandfather. This has set me to thinking again about the family tree for that side of the family, my maternal side.

My late mother told me that there was a family Bible which had all of the details about the various generations - but, there was a story in it which outraged my great aunt Charlotte / Lottie Hamill (d. 28.05.2006), so she took it upon herself to burn it, decades ago. The oral tradition was that there were various skeletons in the closet - maybe Protestant/Catholic, maybe 'out of wedlock'.

Good research has clarified some of it. Everyone involved in this particular story was a Presbyterian, from the congregations of Millisle, Ballycopeland, and Ballyfrenis. I have generations of family involvement in all three congregations, of which only Millisle still exists today.


My maternal great-grandfather, Vincent Hamill, was born in Donaghadee, on 21 April 1888.
He was illegitimate.

His mother was 21 year old Agnes Hamill (24.05.1866 – 23.02.1942)
His biological father was a Robert Bryce from Millisle. They never married.

Family oral tradition was that a David Drennan (05.12.1875 - 14.10.1948) a 'sailor & clothier' from Donaghadee 'took pity' on Agnes, gave her a job in his tailor's shop and they married in 1896 when Vincent was 8 years old. David was just 21 and Agnes was 30. 

• Here are David and Agnes, with two new daughters of their own, five years later in the 1901 Census of Ireland.

• By the time of the 1911 Census of Ireland they had three new sons.

• Vincent had married Martha Ann Wallace, on 19 March 1909, and she was who my mother was named for. Here they are.

• David and Agnes were living at 9 Victoria Gardens in Donaghadee when they both died in the 1940s.

• Martha died 24.10.1954 and Vincent died nearly ten years later on 16.04.1964. Bizarrely, the dates on their gravestone, at Ballycopeland, are wrong. 


• David's parents were John Drennan (c. 1838–1886) and Margaret Robinson (c. 1840-1921).
• Agnes's parents were Peter Hamill and Charlotte Stewart.
• Agnes' brother Peter Hamill was a well-known publican/spirit merchant in Millisle, and may have owned either the 'First and Last' or the 'Masonic Arms' which was later the 'Woburn Arms'. He died 08.09.1948.
• Agnes' nephew, also called Peter Hamill, was a grocer in Donaghadee.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Scottish settlement in Lecale, County Down - after 'The Break of Dromore', 1689

This is from an article by Downpatrick historian John William Hanna (d. 1879) entitled "The Anglo-Norman Families of Lecale: In the County of Down" in Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Volume 1 (1853).

"... At the period of the Revolution, in 1688, after the "Break of Dromore", Lecale was overrun by the regiment of Magenis, Lord Iveagh, who had his head-quarters at Downpatrick; when many of the adherents of King William, previous to the blockade of the ports, were taken prisoners, and others fled to England and the Isle of Man. Several petty skirmishes ensued; the Iveagh troops were defeated, and Iveagh's prisoners liberated by Captain Hunter, who, in turn, was overthrown by Major General Buchan. 

In August 1689, Schomberg landed in Groomsport, when many of the inhabitants of the barony, who had been supporters of King James, abandoned the country for Connaught. Amid such scenes it is only natural to expect that the country would become desolate and greatly depopulated; and though, when peace was restored, many families returned to their former homes, yet numbers deserted it altogether.

To remedy this, several English and Scots, and some farmers from the Ards, were invited here, and had large tracts of land allotted to them. Of the English families the principal were Moore, Hunter, Swail, Porter, Jennings, Hunter, Neill. Nesbitt and Cochran; to which we may add the families of Seeds, Polly, Elsinor, (now changed to Nelson,) Coates, and Quaile, who were brought over from England, early in the 18th century, by the Hon. Justice Ward, and several of whose descendants are still very numerous in the parish of Ballyculter.

The second colony of the Scots were chiefly Martins, Henrys, Lowres,(now Lewis), Hoggs, Carsons, and Newells, whose descendants are also numerous in different parts of Lecale; and it is remarkable that, although the Scottish idiom never prevailed here,— owing, no doubt, to the English and Scots "mixing, intermarrying, and communicating with each other, in so many different ways" so as to become one people — yet they preserved intact some of their native customs, habits, modes of life and agriculture, up to a recent period, to such an extent, that by looking at the face of the country and observing its plantations, it could be told whether the proprietor was of Scotch or English descent, the Scotch principally planting ash trees, the English oak, elm, birch and beech.

From 1725 to 1758, Primate Boulter states, in his letters, there was a continuous series of bad harvests all over Ireland, but principally in Ulster; where provisions, particularly oatmeal, (which ho mentions as the staple subsistence of the inhabitants) rose to a high price; which, conjoined to uneasiness about the exactions of the tithe farmers, induced great numbers of the northern farmers to emigrate to America and the West Indies. The emigrants, it appears, were chiefly Presbyterians, and, it may be assumed, of Scottish origin; which circumstance contributed largely to the reduction of that class of colonists, and the increase of the old English and native population in Lecale..."

Monday, April 01, 2024

The Intertwining of Ulster and America in 1775 & 1776: The Bigwigs versus the Whigs

The 1776 Revolution was birthed in America but its umbilical cord reached back across the Atlantic. Crowned in 1760, King George III did a very good job of creating social upheaval, and common cause, among the populations of the 13 colonies in America, and also in Ireland. Much of the community opposition to the policies which he and his governments introduced were aimed at Parliament, and him personally, but not necessarily at the institution of the monarchy. This is a critical distinction, but one which few today are aware of.

The story of 1776 needs to be viewed from both sides of the ocean. Here are two examples from our side –

"The Presbyterians of the North, who in their hearts are Americans, are gaining strength every day; and, by letters written by designing men, whom I could name, from your side of the water, have been repeatedly pressed to engage Ireland to take an adverse part in the contest, telling them the balance of the cause and the decision of the quarrel was on this side St. George's channel. The subject would then have been pressed upon me with such advantage as I should have had difficulty in resisting."
— Lord Harcourt (Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; DIB entry here) to Lord North (Prime Minister, Wikipedia entry here), Oct. 11, 1775. 

"In Ireland, though those in office and the principal nobility and gentry declared against America, by far the majority of the Protestant inhabitants there, who are strenuous and declared Whigs, strongly leaned to the cause of the colonies."
— The Annual Register for 1776, London p. 39 (online here)

The people were 'whigs', not 'republicans' as some might think, or claim, nowadays. A limited monarchy, not anti-monarchy. Various voices pointed out that the reign of King George III had damaged the civil liberties of the people.

In Philadelphia, a son of Ulster emigrants, David Ramsay was the first to craft the narrative of the new nation. In 1789 he wrote the History of the American Revolution in which he described the Colonists in America having their liberties (which were legally founded in the Glorious Revolution of 1688), eroded –

“... they had enjoyed English revolutionary liberty for eighty years and in that time grown to the size and strength of a nation, the measures of the James's and Charles's in the seventeenth century, for curbing them by mutilating their charters and other arbitrary acts, were revived under George the third in an advanced period of the eighteenth...”

Fascinatingly, in Ireland in a 1792 speech Wexford-born Henry Grattan, (that's him in the statue above), who was a member of the Church of Ireland, made very similar observations about how King George III had treated Catholics in Ireland –

"... they had that elective right near half a century after the Revolution (of 1688); they had it in the Parliament that sat in the reign of William; they had it in the Parliament that sat in the reign of Anne; they had it in the Parliament that sat in the reign of George I, and they had it in the Parliament that sat in the reign of George II. The first Parliament that sat in Ireland since the Revolution in which the Roman Catholics had not the elective franchise was the first of the present reign (of George III). It follows from this example that the elective franchise, so far from securing to them the right of sitting in Parliament, was not able to secure the right of voting at elections; they lost that right in the commencement of George II's reign after having possessed it for 37 years since the Revolution..." 

Grattan secured a new constitution for Ireland in 1782, the famous Wheatley painting which is associated with Grattan's Parliament of 16 April 1782 is above, although the painting actually depicts the Irish House of Commons in 1780. In his speech that day he made these interesting references to the Glorious Revolution, and to William Prince of Orange as 'Prince of Nassau' - which looks like he was offering something of a soft defence of William:

"... I am not afraid to turn back and look antiquity in the face. The Revolution (of 1688) that great event – whether you call it ancient or modern I know not – was tarnished with bigotry. The great deliverer – for such I must ever call the Prince of Nassau was blemished by oppression; he assented to – he was forced to assent to acts which deprived the Catholics of religious, and all the Irish of civil and commercial rights, though the Irish were the only subjects in these islands who had fought in his defence; but you have sought liberty on her own principles. See the Presbyterians of Bangor petition for the Catholics of the South! ..."

Seven years later and Grattan was a founding member of the Whig Club in Dublin in August 1789. Among their Resolutions and Declarations was this statement -

"... the great object of this Society is the constitution of the realm as settled by the revolution in Great Britain and Ireland in 1688 and re-established in Ireland in 1782..."

Most politicians choose their words carefully, and strategically. So maybe this was all just rhetoric on Grattan's part, and he did have a penchant for rewriting his speeches for publication. Conceptually, these are very similar to the ideas that Samuel Adams and others had campaigned for in Massachusetts. Perhaps Britain's loss of America had, at this stage at least, made them slightly more lenient in their relationship with Ireland.

Also in 1782, the same year as Grattan's Parliament, was the Great Convention in Dungannon. That's another huge thread to pull one day... 


About a century later, in his A History of England in the Eighteenth Century: Volume 4 (published in 1882, online here), historian WEH Lecky (who like Grattan also has a statue in Dublin) did a brilliant job at showing the complex interconnectedness. He put it like this:

"... Protestant Ireland [in 1776] was indeed far more earnestly enlisted on the side of the Americans than any other portion of the Empire. Emigrants from Ulster formed a great part of the American army, and the constitutional question of the independence of the Irish Parliament was closely connected with the American question. The movement of opinion, however, was confined to the Protestants. The Catholic gentry on this, as on all other questions of national danger, presented addresses to the King attesting in strong terms their loyalty..."

Friday, March 29, 2024

"Every Man is Born Free" 1644 / "All Men Are Created Equal" 1776. Really?

These two similar-looking quotes – firstly from Samuel Rutherford's 1644 Lex Rex, and secondly from the Declaration of Independence of 1776 – are in fact very different.The whole question of free will was a major debate for Erasmus and Martin Luther in the early years of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther masterfully argued that while free will was desirable, it was impossible, because our will is not truly free, but it is in fact warped and fallen, and subject to its own inherent distortedness. Only Christ, as the only perfect righteous human, was truly free. Luther published his case in On The Bondage of the Will (1525). Another way to look at this is the old adage by Thomas Cranmer "what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies." What our heart loves directs our behaviour.

Here's an article about it, on the Lutheran website

Robert Sapolsky has recently published Determined: Life Without Free Will (Guardian review here).


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Henry Joy, Belfast, 1792 – "America did not acquire her love of liberty in the new world, but carried it out from the old" - linking 1688 with 1776, and 1789.

There was a time when Belfast's 'thought leaders' – as demonstrated in the recent posts here about the Northern Whig Club – understood that the American Revolution of 1776 (which was for them within living memory) had been inspired by the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

However, when I mention this today, the reaction is usually one of shock and incredulity, and that's from people right across our present day political spectrum. Trapped within the reinforced binary of nationality, many find the larger concept of liberty hard to comprehend. 

In a 1794 volume dedicated to 'Alexander Henry Haliday, a lover of liberty' (who has been mentioned in these recent posts) is the following quote, from the author and newspaper man Henry Joy (1754-1835). In an article that was first printed in the Belfast News-Letter on 6 December 1792, Joy expressly connected 1688 with 1776, and also with the French Revolution of 1789:

“At a period when republics are exhibited as models of perfection, I am persuaded it is consistent with the spirit of a free press, to recommend the principles of the British Constitution…

America did not acquire her love of liberty in the new world, but carried it out from the old. In forming a Constitution for herself, she retained several of the finest branches of the British, lopping off with a careful hand what she deemed excressences that had formed round the parent stem …

It is the fashion of the hour, and as ridiculous as most fashions are, to depreciate the Revolution of 1688—and to despise the securities for our liberty, which that great transaction afforded. That Revolution expelled a Prince from the throne for attempting to govern without law. It preserved a spirit of freedom in these countries, which burst out again in America near ninety years afterwards; and travelling back, communicated its flame to Gallic slaves, converted in these latter days into free men, and become the hope of the world…”

• From Thoughts on the British Constitution, Henry Joy, dated 6 December 1792. Published in the 1794 compilation Belfast Politics, online here.

PS: 1792 was also the year that Henry Joy was one of the organisers of the Belfast Harp Festival, and 1794 was also the year that he visited Robert Burns in Dumfries.

PPS: Alexander Haliday's father, Rev Samuel Haliday, was a lifelong friend of Francis Hutcheson, the Saintfield-born 'Father of the Scottish Enlightenment'.

Even though these were 'New Light' Presbyterians, Patrick Griffin asserts that "New Lights did not seek to create an established Presbyterian church for Ulster. They contended that the very notion of an establishment, compelling individuals to act against dictates of conscience, contradicted the liberating rhetoric of the Glorious Revolution".

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Northern Whig Club, Belfast, 1790 – "steady friends of the Revolution", celebrating the Revolution of 1688

So here's another treasure trove to challenge present-day preconceptions. On page 348 of his Historical Collections Relative to the Town of Belfast (online hereHenry Joy (DIB entry here) reprinted an article from the Belfast News Letter, on how Belfast marked the second anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille in 1789, which they connected back to both the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the American Revolution of 1776.


July 14, 1791

"...The Inhabitants of Belfast and its neighbourhood the more strongly to mark their abhorrence of despotism their love of liberty and their attachment to their brethren of mankind dedicated this day to the commemoration of the greatest event in human annals commemoration of the greatest event in human annals.

In the striking serious and splendid manner which they adopted for celebrating the destruction of the BASTILE they were actuated by the same principle which in the last century taught them to rejoice in the dethronement of a despot James II by the Revolution of 1688 and attached them to the line now on the throne by the same principle that led them to deprecate an unjust war on their then fellow subjects in America that prompted them to take the lead in forming a Volunteer army that made them declare their sentiments in the most decided tone on the subject of restoring to imperial Ireland her independency as a Sovereign State and that determined them to assert the necessity of purifying the tainted parts of the Constitution by giving the People their due influence in the legislation of this kingdom..."


And, below, are just two of a number of newspaper reports from the British Newspaper Archive which show the Northern Whig Club celebrating the Glorious Revolution of 1688, even holding a meal in the Donegall Arms on the 4th November to mark William of Orange's birthday. They also commemorated 1776, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.

In this list of the club's original members from April 1790 there are quite a few who have only been remembered to popular history as having been United Irishmen. Even in this acclaimed book, no mention is made of these wider connections.

Yet again it seems that there are important, missing, chapters in our history. To change your reality you have to change your story. More to follow...

Friday, March 22, 2024

The Northern Whig Club, Belfast, 1790 "zealous friends of liberty" – Alexander Henry Haliday, Archibald Hamilton Rowan, and William Drennan

I'm chipping away at a big forgotten story around Killyleagh in County Down. In working on that, I have been re-reading the 1840 autobiography of Archibald Hamilton Rowan. I read it just over a year ago, and posted these thoughts on how revolted AHR was by what he witnessed in the bloodbath of the French Revolution. In that autobiography, he refers to being a founder member of the Northern Whig Club, an organisation which predated the formation of the Society of United Irishmen in Belfast in 1791. There is a large overlap between the two organisations. Here is an extract:

In 1790, the Northern Whig Club was formed in Belfast by some zealous friends of liberty, at the suggestion of Lord Charlemont, who had been chiefly instrumental in forming the Whig Club of Dublin. His friend and correspondent, Dr. Haliday, entered warmly into his views, and the club was formed under the most favourable auspices; and with the hope that by promoting the cause of constitutional freedom, the progress of the wild democratical notions, which now began to prevail, might be arrested. Of this society, which soon comprehended some of the most distinguished names in the north of Ireland, Gawin Hamilton, Esq. was appointed president, and Dr. Haliday secretary.

William Hamilton Drummond suggests that it was another United Irishman, William Drennan, who wrote this short biography of Haliday, which was published in the Belfast Monthly Magazine of September 1810:

Alexander Henry Haliday, M.D. a gentleman, who, for the space of half a century, illustrated his native town of Belfast by a character distinguished for private worth, consistent public spirit, much elegant accomplishment, and high professional reputation… In his political principles he was a genuine Whig; not understanding by that denomination, the mere factionary of a powerful party, but the hearty hater of arbitrary power, whether exercised by individuals or by parties; the zealous, yet the judicious advocate of civil and religious freedom; the strong upholder of those popular principles which form the living spirit of the British constitution, and which, at different periods, have called forth all the heroism of British story. It was at the civic commemoration of those illustrious epochs, in which Haliday gave his head and heart to the social celebration, while he supported at the same time the just prerogatives of the crown, as perfectly compatible with the original and ultimate sovereignty of the people.

- from the Autobiography of Archibald Hamilton Rowan, p 149 (online here)

Alexander Henry Haliday is on the Dictionary of Irish Biography here. Terminology like "hearty hater of arbitrary power... advocate of civil and religious liberty ... the living spirit of the British constitution" are not to be expected from the modern portrayals of Hamilton Rowan, Drennan, and the United Irishmen. There are further, seemingly pro-British, remarks in AHR's autobiography. Not at all what I expected to see there. Here are two:

"... equal representation of the people in parliament, which I conceive to be the essence of the British constitution, and which I esteem to be of absolute necessity for the peace and liberty of Ireland..." -  a letter to the United Irishmen from Newgate Prison, written 5 February 1794

"...that tree, to flourish, must grow out of the famed equality of rights under the British constitution, and a real representation of the people in parliament ; it must be fostered by brotherly love and universal benevolence, and not be transplanted from a foreign soil..." - a message to his neighbours of Killyleagh, 24th April 1816

Maybe I am missing a level of irony or subtlety that is way over my head. Maybe he was writing under duress. Maybe the meaning and context of these words carried different meaning then than they do for us reading them today. Or, maybe Archibald Hamilton Rowan's story has been simplified and he has been co-opted as a "mascot" for others' purposes long after his lifetime. There is always more to learn.

More on The Northern Whig Club to follow. 

• Upon Haliday's death, William Drennan wrote that he had been "A genuine Whig ... nurtured under the philosophy of Hutcheson ... in the principles of civil and religious liberty he lived and in them be died". That's Francis Hutcheson of Saintfield. 

• The photos here are of the impressive Northern Whig newspaper building in Bridge Street in Belfast. The newspaper of the same name was founded in 1823; the building is now a restaurant. It is just across the road from the more renowned Assembly Rooms.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Lord Chief Justice Nugent, November 1688 - they'll be "hung up all over England in bunches like ropes of onions"

We live in a country where the public have the freedom to complain about the state. This is, at least to some extent, due to the 1689 Bill of Rights which was introduced as the first package of laws by King William III and Queen Mary II at their coronation on 18 April (which, if the country was run by people who cared about liberty, should be an annual national holiday. It is, after all, carved into the old city wall in Geneva - pic above).

The previous regime was not so keen on such things, they preferred summarily rounding people up who opposed them. Check this out, from the Dublin government and Lord Chief Justice Thomas Nugent, in November 1688, when they received news of William's arrival –

“… a ship came from Amsterdam to Dublin, with letters from a friend of Tyrconnel's, to acquaint him that he did imagine the Prince of Orange had a design against England since none in Holland could guess what else the great and hasty preparations made there should mean; Tyrconnel sent this letter to the secretary of state who shewed it the King; but they made no other use of it than to scorn and ridicule his intelligence as the secretary did in a letter sent back to him.

But fresh suspicions daily arose, and the matter seemed still more probable; whereupon the huffing Irish called the English, rebels, saying they were sure they would join with the Prince, and as certain that they would be beaten, and be served the same sauce as Monmouth was; and bloodily and maliciously expressed themselves against the Prince, whose head they threatened to stick on a pole, and carry it round the kingdom; and after King James's proclamation came to them, Lord Chief Justice Nugent, that confident ignorant Irishman, in his charge to the jury, among other villifying reproaches upon the Prince of Orange, audaciously and impudently added:

“that now the states of Holland were weary of their Prince they had sent him over to be dressed as Monmouth was but that was too good for him and that he doubted not before a month passed to hear that they were hung up all over England in bunches like ropes of onions”.

• This account was by John Oldmixon of Bristol, a supporter and survivor of the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion of 1685. He had seen hundreds of his neighbours treated in the same manner, by the kangaroo courts and executioner butchers sent to south west England by King James II. His 1730 History of England is online here. Here is an illustration from a grisly set of playing cards which were produced to maintain the memory of those times.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Another revolution?

It's not 1688 any more, or 1776, or even 1916 or 1921. But if this is what a present-day revolution against arbitrary power looks like, sign me up. Echoes of the famous quote from the American commentator Dick Tuck. Today's ivory towered cultural élites lecture, punch down and 'gaslight' everyone beneath them about "privilege" - whilst every one of their own pronouncements evidences their own privilege, their own "luxury beliefs" which they espouse but have no impact upon them themselves, and their own control of social and cultural power. Imperialism and colonialism in 2024 is both cultural and ideological. Well done to the people down south who refused to comply.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Don't take it from me, take it from Winston Churchill - 1776 was based upon 1688

He has repeatedly been voted the Greatest Ever Briton, and the very first of just 8 Honorary Citizens of the United States. He wrote this:

"The Declaration (of Independence) was in the main a restatement of the principles which had animated the Whig struggle against the later Stuarts and the English Revolution of 1688, and it now became the symbol and the rallying centre of the Patriot cause"

– from History of the English Speaking Peoples, Volume II (1956). The final chapter of Volume II is entitled 'The Revolution of 1688'; the first chapter of Volume III is entitled 'William of Orange'. It's brilliant stuff, and very far removed from the narrow Northern Ireland version of events.

He paints a scene of a pan-European alliance of Protestants / Calvinists and all mainstream Catholics, united against James II and Louis XIV. 

“Diverse interests and creeds united in a strategy far-seeing and broad-minded”

Churchill’s ancestor, Sir John Churchill, was one of the first group of nobles in SW England to defect/mutiny from James II in rebellion.

History goes full circle: Sir John Churchill joined a pan-European allied force which crossed English Channel to overthrow a tyrant in 1688. His descendant Winston Churchill co-led a pan-European (&US) allied force which crossed English Channel to overthrow a tyrant in 1940s.


Here is another source about William's 1688 Declaration:

"...Having brought matters to a great forwardness, the Prince of Orange, to justify his under-taking to the world, published a Declaration divided into 26 articles, in which all the mischiefs and grievances of this unhappy Reign are particularly enumerated, and a redress proposed by a free Parliament; which Declaration, as it would give too great an interruption to the thread of the narrative, is omitted here, and placed at large in the Appendix, more especially as the matter of it is particularly set forth in the several parts of this life.

The said Declaration was ready to be sent over to England, with another of the same import to Scotland, when the Prince being informed, that K. James by granting most of the Bishops demands, and retracting many of the arbitrary and despotick actions he had assumed to exercise, had taken measures to render it ineffectual; and as the Partizans of K. James had industriously spread it abroad, that the Prince intended to conquer and enslave the nation, his Highness to obviate these new pretences caused 14 days after an addition to be made to it, shewing the imperfectness of the redress offered, since the King might resume at pleasure, what he then seemed willing to lay down, and that there could be no secure remedy but from a free Parliament; and arguing from the disposition of his forces, and the numbers of the principal nobility and gentry attending him in his expedition, how vain the pretence was that he intended a conquest.

With those Declarations the Prince ordered a letter to be written in his name, inviting the soldiers, seamen, and others, to join him, in order to secure their Religion, Laws and Liberties..."

• From Walter Harris The History of the Life and Reign of William-Henry, Prince of Nassau and Orange, Stadtholder of the United Provinces (1749) p 136-7 : online here

Saturday, March 16, 2024

The Siege of Derry, Bishop William King, and concepts of Liberty: "if liberty be lost it is never to be retrieved"

The gates of Londonderry were closed on 7 December 1688, in the face of an army bearing down upon them which was led by the Earl of Antrim. In late February 1689, the Dublin government of King James II received a leaked intel report which said that the northern civilian population:

"... were untrained, and had few experienced officers: that the most part were without arms; and, such as had them, their arms were unfixt and unfit for service; that they were very much scattered, and their number not near what had been written, and was confidently reported in Dublin; and that they wanted all ammunition and necessary provisions for appearing in the field..." (online here). 

So, it was time for the government to strike. Derry was in rebellion. King James II was on his way to Ireland to try to build a counter-offensive to reclaim his throne. A new King and new Queen had been offered the crown, but coronation hadn't yet happened. Any potential opposition needed to be crushed. Now.

Just over a week later on 7 March 1689, the government issued 'A Proclamation' (online here) which pretty much criminalised the entire population of "the province of Ulster ... no less offence than high treason" and announced that the army had been approved "to march into the province of Ulster to reduce the rebels there by force of arms". It offered pardon to any who would surrender, except for ten named individuals.

The proclamation probably gave the government a degree of legal cover for what they planned to do (although in the age of the king having 'arbitrary power', and long before the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the King could do whatever he wanted). It promised leniency towards the civilian population, but in fact there are widespread accounts of army brutalisation and 'perfidious acts' unleashed upon against the general public in a campaign of oppression. James recruited men with skills in civilian persecution elsewhere, such as Conrad Von Rosen, who wrote –

"... the wives and children of the rebels in Londonderry have retired to Belfast and the neighbouring places, and the hardiness of their husbands and fathers deserves the severest chastisements ... make an exact research in Belfast and its neighbourhood, after such subjects as are rebellious to the will of the king, whether men, women, boys, or girls, without exception, and whether they are protected or unprotected, to arrest them and collect them together, that they may be conducted by a detachment to this camp, and driven under the walls of Londonderry, where they shall be allowed to starve, in sight of the rebels within the town ..."

King James II himself arrived at the historic walls on 18 April 1689, beginning the formal Siege of Derry. The siege ended 105 days later on 1 August.  If we count the whole period, from the shutting of the gates on 7 December 1688 right through until 1 August it makes a grand total of 237 days.

It is impossible for us to imagine the conditions that 30,000 people within the walls had to endure; these were experiences which drove emigration to America, the stories of which were handed down to the American-born generations that followed.

One of those who knew many of the survivors was Bishop William King. On page four of his 1691 publication The State of the Protestants of Ireland (online here), he makes this statement –

"… If we look back into history we shall find the best the happiest most prosperous people most jealous of their liberty and while they continued firm in their resolution of maintaining it against the encroachment of their governors even with the hazard of their lives they have continued great and happy; but no sooner did they degenerate from this zeal, but they became contemptible and dwindled into nothing: 

and at this day let us look into the whole world and we shall find every nation happy and thriving at home and easy to their neighbours abroad according as they have preserved themselves from slavery whereas all countries under unlimited monarchies decay in their strength and improvements and though they may flourish for a little time by the ruin of their lesser neighbours yet they at last unpeople their own countries and seem to be permitted by God to come to that exorbitant power for their own ruin and for a plague to mankind.

And indeed the greatest mischief of a civil war is the danger of subjecting the state to the absolute power of some potent general as it happened in Rome, Florence, and in England in the late civil war: for to lose even half the subjects in a war is more tolerable than the loss of liberty since if liberty and good laws be preserved an age or two will repair the loss of subjects and improvements though they be ever so great but if liberty be lost it is never to be retrieved but brings certain and infallible destruction*; as it did to Rome, and has brought in a great measure to Florence, and will to England if ever the prerogative do swallow up the liberties and privileges of the subjects. So far it is from truth that the allowing of resistance in some cases of extremity has greater inconveniences than absolute subjection ..."

The Boston Revolt in Massachussetts began 18 April 1689 on the same day as the Siege of Derry. When the 13 British colonies of America sought liberty - and eventually a new revolution - in the 1770s many of their writers and thinkers pointed back to the Glorious Revolution.

Agreed concepts - and actual experiences - of liberty bound the transatlantic community together. The only solution to the tyrannies they endured was liberty, which was backed up by a legally binding Bill of Rights to protect the citizenry.


A famous quote at the time, from the diary of soldier John Hunter, says this:

“I am sure it was the Lord kept the city, and none else; for there were many of us that could hardly stand on our feet before the enemy attacked the walls, who, when they were assaulting the out-trenches, ran out against them most nimbly and with great courage. Indeed, it was never the poor, starved men that were in Derry that kept it out, but the mighty God of Jacob, to whom praise for ever and ever.” 


In The Declaration of the Inhabitants of Derry of December 1688 (online here), there are echoes of their descendants' thinking in the 13 Colonies in the 1770s. Each community demanded their liberties whilst at the same time expressing their loyalty to the King:

"...Wherefore we do declare and remonstrate to the world that, as we have resolved to stand upon our guard, and defend our walls, and not to admit of any Papists whatsoever to quarter among us, so we have firmly and sincerely determined to persevere in our duty and loyalty to our sovereign Lord the King, without the least umbrage of mutiny or seditious opposition to his royal commands..."  


John Graham, in Ireland Preserved, records the kindnesses of some local Catholic parish priests towards their Protestant neighbours who were in distress - see p 283-4 here.

The critical lesson here is that your relationship to institutional power - a state, a church, a monarchy, etc - is not the same as your relationship with your neighbour. However, some form of institutional power is probably trying to emotionally recruit you, while a competing one is trying to emotionally recruit your neighbour - and thereby to set you against each other.

As Rev Thomas Witherow said in his 1873 book about Derry, 'Every admirer of King William should remember that, as that great monarch often said, he had come over "to deliver the Protestants, but not to persecute the Papists." To tolerate honest difference of opinion, is the spirit that William always aimed to promote.' 


* this all sounds much like Patrick Henry's famous 'give me liberty or give me death' (Wikipedia here). Patrick Henry's father was from Aberdeen; his sister Elizabeth was married to Ulster descended William Campbell, one of the signatories to the Fincastle Resolutions of 20 January 1775 (see previous post here).

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Declaration of Independence - Part Two: The 'Declaration' of William Prince of Orange, 10 October 1688


Last weekend while visiting family in Devon, we stayed at Parliament Cottage which nestles in the hollows near Totnes in Devon. A place of treason and Revolution. An area where, in 1685, locals had been rounded up and executed for their part in a defeated rebellion. So I made this very rough video. In the front garden is a monument commemorating that William, Prince of Orange, held his very first Parliament here in November 1688, having landed with his vast armada on the coast at Brixham just 8 miles away. The cottage has been beautifully restored in recent years by its current owners and is now available via Air BNB as holiday accommodation. Present at William's 1688 Parliament were various English nobles such as Sir Edward Seymour; some sources say that they all then went to Seymour's nearby castle of Berry Pomeroy to be entertained.

I brought the iPad with me, and read William's Declaration through a few times at the very same fireside that William himself had sat beside in 1688. I've just written an 11,000 word paper on the multiple interconnections between William's 1688 Declaration and the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, which will soon be published in the Journal of the Museum of Orange Heritage. Renowned American authorities on the period such as Gary Wills and Michael Barone have written about those indisputable links; I touched on some of those links in some of the similar 'selfie' videos I made when in Boston just before Christmas.

Thomas Jefferson was the most prominent of the five authors of the Declaration of Independence. He studied at the College of William and Mary (website here), in Williamsburg in Virginia, from March 1760-1767.  1776 was the ultimate outworking of the British colonists' desire for their full liberties as defined in law – on both sides of the Atlantic – by the Glorious Revolution in 1688, 1689 and 1691. The two Declarations use remarkably similar introductory vocabulary, and structure. Perhaps Jefferson and co knew that, when King George III saw it, he would realise instantly that it mirrored the prior Declaration of William, on which the British monarchy was founded. 

Back in 1772 the renowned writer ‘Junius’ had already reminded, and warned, King George III by invoking the 1688 Revolution in a letter in the Public Advertiser newspaper in London:

“…The people of England are loyal to the house of Hanover, not from a vain preference of one family to another, but from a conviction that the establishment of that family was necessary to the support of their civil and religious liberties … The name of Stuart by itself is only contemptible; armed with the sovereign authority their principles are formidable. The prince who imitates their conduct should be warned by their example; and while he plumes himself upon the security of his title to the crown, should remember that, as it was acquired by one revolution it may be lost by another.

Jefferson's first personal library at his mother's home at Shadwell outside Charlottesville, Virginia, had burned down in February 1770. There are only partial records of what he had there, which include William Robertson's History of Scotland During the Reigns of Queen Mary and of King James VI and also the plays of Londonderry born playwright George Farquhar, and various volumes by John Locke.

Six years after the devastating fire Jefferson was polishing the historic prose of the final version of the Declaration of Independence which he then handed to Ulsterman Charles Thomson to sign off, who then took it to Ulsterman John Dunlap to be printed.

More to follow....

A round table, fit for an aspiring King to hold his first Parliament.

Below: Michael Barone's book, connecting 1688 and 1776, also made the trip with me.

Below: Sir Edward Seymour's Berry Pomeroy Castle today, owned by English Heritage.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Another set of 'Resolves' - The Tryon Association/Resolves - Lincoln County, North Carolina, 14 August 1775

(this is from Historyman on LinkedIn)

The Tryon Association/Resolves was yet another document of the sentiments of the people prior to the Declaration of Independence. On August 14, 1775, the leading men in present-day Lincoln county, NC, penned a decree and signed their names at hazard to themselves and their fortunes.

An Association.
The unprecedented, barbarous and bloody actions committed by the British Troops on our American Brethren near Boston on the 19th of April & 20th of May last, together with the Hostile operations & Traiterous Designs now Carrying on by the Tools of Ministerial Vengeance & Despotism for the Subjugating all British America, suggest to us the painful necessity of having recourse to Arms for the preservation of those Rights & Liberties which the principles of our Constitution and the Laws of God, Nature, and Nations have made it our duty to defend.

We therefore, the Subscribers Freeholders & Inhabitants of Tryon County, do hereby faithfully unite ourselves under the most sacred ties of Religion, Honor & Love to Our Country, firmly to Resist force by force in defence of our Natural Freedom & Constitutional Rights against all Invasions, & at the same time do solemnly engage to take up Arms and Risque our lives and fortunes in maintaining the Freedom of our Country, whenever the Wisdom & Council of the Continental Congress or our Provincial Convention shall Declare it necessary, & this Engagement we will continue in and hold sacred ’till a Reconciliation shall take place between Great Britain and America on Constitutional principles which we most ardently desire. And we do firmly agree to hold all such persons Inimical to the liberties of America, who shall refuse to subscribe to this Association.

Resolved, that we will Continue to profess all Loyalty and attachment to our Sovereign Lord King George the Third, His Crown & Dignity, so long as he secures to us those Rights and Liberties which the principles of Our Constitution require.

Resolved, and we do Impower every Captain or other Officer in their Respective Companies to raise sufficient force in order to detain and secure all powder and Lead that may be removing or about to be Removed out of the County; and that they do prevent any of such powder and Lead from being sold or disposed of for private uses; but to be under the direction of this Committee until the Delegates shall return from the provincial Convention; Provided nevertheless that this Resolution is not meant to hinder any persons Inhabitants of other County’s from Carrying powder and Lead through this County to their respective abodes unless there is just Cause to suspect that they Intend such Powder and Lead for Injurious purposes; ...

*Minutes of the Proceedings of Committee Tryon County 1775,” State Archives of North Carolina. A comprehensive study is Kathy Gunter Sullivan, Tryon County Documents 1769-1779: A North Carolina County (Forest City, North Carolina: Genealogical Society of Old Tryon County, 2000).

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Declaration of Independence - Part One: "Every Man is Born Free" (1644) = "All Men are Created Equal" (1776)

It's well established, but little-known today, that in the 13 Colonies of America (during their decade of activism and protest from the Stamp Act of 1765 through to the summer of 1776), what the colonists sought were their full British liberties, but not independence. When the Crown rejected those demands, independence was the necessary last resort for the colonists to secure their liberties. 

In Professor Garry Wills' landmark 1978 book Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence he says that independence was only eventually agreed by all of the representatives of the colonies on the 2 July 1776. The book is a brilliant phrase-by-phrase analysis of the language in the 1776 Declaration of Independence, the story of its development, and of the literary influences which shaped the thinking of 33 year old Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wasn't the sole author of the Declaration - there was a Committee of Five - but he is credited with being the key figure among them.

It takes many streams to form a river, and as Wills shows, the Declaration can be seen as the confluence of a wide range of classical thought.

It's not a purely Scottish / Scotch-Irish / Ulster-Scots document (but the many preceeding, regional, Resolves and Resolutions from across the 13 Colonies are). Of the three names printed on the first edition, two were Ulster-born - Charles Thomson and John Dunlap. But the Scotch-Irish / Ulster-Scots, of all of the British Isles immigrant groups in the 1700s, brought with them a 'lived experience' which made them uniquely equipped to insist upon liberty, before loyalty. They had been, literally, scarred by the Siege of Derry, and were instilled with philosophical fortitude. As my old slogan says, they were Mined in Scotland, Forged in Ulster, Exported Worldwide.

So, I'm piecing together a brief outline of the Scottish and Ulster-Scots philosophical strain - not just airy-fairy hypothetical cerebral concepts, but from actual documents which had already been written down at previous key moments of conflict between the Crown and the People.


There had long been a tension between the reach of the Crown and the rights of the people, and two centuries before the Declaration of Independence that tension was a central theme of the Scottish Reformation. John Knox and Andrew Melville confronted Scottish monarchs, at risk of their lives.

The publication of the Geneva Bible in 1560 included marginal notes, which, around 400 times, informed its readers that the word king can be translated as tyrant. The Bible is packed with kings and rulers who were precisely that, so all that the Geneva translators were doing was emphasising the point. Over and over and over again.

Back in 1579, in his De Jure Regni: The Rights of the Crown in Scotland, the 73 year old Scot George Buchanan (Wikipedia here) defined the limits of the monarchy. This was radical stuff in that he was the highly-educated personal tutor of both Mary Queen of Scots and also her young son and future King, James. Buchanan asserted that a monarch only reigns with the consent of the people. So, 'loyalty' is always conditional in that it is based upon a two-way bond. A 'social contract'. A covenant. One translation from Buchanan's original Latin puts it like this –

"... the people, from whom he derived his power, should have the liberty of prescribing its bounds; and I require that he should exercise over the people only those rights which he has received from their hands."

Or, as this book explains

"... the Scottish people have always retained the right of calling bad kings to their account. In virtue of their relation to the law, the people may deal with the king who breaks it. There is one law for king and private citizen. If the king refuse to submit to a trial, force may be applied, as in that case he has broken his compact with the people and become a tyrant."

It's impossible to understate Buchanan's influence. He was a major figure in Scottish society - not only for his roles with the Scottish Royal family, but also as a Principal of one of the colleges at St Andrews University, and also Moderator of the Church of Scotland.


These Crown v People issues simmered away for decades, and reached boiling points when various kings interfered in how the people wanted to operate their local churches, resulting in The King's Confession of 1581, and the two national momentous declarations of Scotland's National Covenant of 1638 and the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. These two covenants had Ulster fingerprints on them, and were circulated and signed at public events in Ulster too.

In the heat of these times, in 1644 a Scottish Episcopalian bishop, John Maxwell (Wikipedia here - who was from Kirkcudbright, was a graduate of St Andrews University, and who held various clerical positions in Ireland) published Sacro-Sancta Begum Majestas, or the Sacred and Divine Right, and Prerogative of Kings (online here). 


In response to this, 44 year old Rev Samuel Rutherford went to print. He was a Scottish Presbyterian who had been minister of the tiny rural hamlet of Anwoth between Kirkcudbright and Dumfries, close to Bishop Maxwell's birthplace.

Rutherford had already tangled with the King and bishops, and had been sent to Aberdeen for six months exile, during which he was banned from preaching. Soon after, Rutherford's impressive intellect saw him appointed Professor at John Maxwell's alma mater of St Andrews University; around this time Rutherford married for a second time – a widow called Joan McMath/Montgomery, who had lived among fellow Scots settlers near Newtownards in County Down for a while. 

Rutherford's reply to Maxwell was the momentous 1644 book Lex Rex, the format of which was 44 questions followed by detailed answers to each. In it, Rutherford pulled no punches. He specifically named Bishop John Maxwell and invoked the memory of George Buchanan: "Buchanan and Mr Melvin were doctors of divinity; and could have taught such an ass as John Maxwell... Buchanan knew the power of the Scottish parliament better than this ignorant statist".

Rutherford had worked on Lex Rex when he had been in London taking part in the Westminster Assembly. He asked Rev Robert Blair, formerly of Bangor, to review and critique the manuscript. Blair told him to not waste his energy on it, and to stick to theology.

Rutherford had it published anyway. Lex Rex developed the arguments that Buchanan had laid out 65 years before, back in 1579. It included this statement –


Another response to Maxwell written by Rutherford was subtitled A plea for the peoples rights (see here). Rutherford had shaken the kingdom and was accused of treason.

A new King, Charles II, came to the throne in May 1660. Almost immediately he began arresting his opponents. On 19 September 1660, a royal proclamation was published against Lex Rex for 'laying the foundation and seeds of rebellion', and a one month deadline was issued for anyone who owned a copy to deliver it to Robert Dalgliesh, the King's solicitor. Anyone who retained a copy would be 'esteemed enemies of the King, and punished accordingly'.

Copies of Lex Rex were publicly burned at the market cross in Edinburgh, at the gate of the New College of St Andrews University, in London and at Oxford University. 

Rutherford was charged with high treason. Soldiers were sent to his home to arrest him, only to find him already on his death bed - his message to them was ‘I have got a summons already from a superior Judge’. 

Rutherford died of natural causes on 29 March 1661, before he could be put on trial. His grave is at St Andrews. Two months later, royal-decreed public executions began in Edinburgh, commencing with the beheading of the Marquess of Argyll at Edinburgh's Grassmarket. This began the 27 years known as 'The Killing Times'.

In 1664 the state banned Buchanan's writings too – by then De Jure Regni had been translated into English by Rev John Crookshanks of Raphoe in Donegal. Crookshanks would be killed on the slopes of the Pentland Hills outside Edinburgh in 1666.


Many of Rutherford's writings are known to have made their way to New England in America, because he corresponded directly with people on that side of the Atlantic who were grappling with similar issues over there, such as Cotton Mather. Rutherford was also aware of the 1636 voyage of Eagle Wing from County Down to Massachusetts, and wrote to the minister of Holywood in County Down, Rev Robert Cunningham, that “if I saw a call for New England, I too would follow it”. Rutherford didn't cross the Atlantic, but his ideas did.

Rutherford's 1644 statement – "Every Man is Born Free" – is almost identical to a part of the Declaration of Independence's opening sentence in 1776, "All Men are Created Equal".

Here is a 2016 article by David Kopel in the Washington Post: 'Origins of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Rutherford’s ‘Lex, Rex’

• Part Two to follow soon.....