Tensions Between Anglicans and Presbyterians in Ireland after the Glorious Revolution

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
This is a bit of work that I am doing as part of revision for an exam on Friday morning (please remember to :pray2:).

Here is a report on sectarian animosities in Ireland after the Glorious Revolution (below the cited text is my analysis):

I should be very easy in this kingdom [Ireland], but we are unhappily divided here and consist of a people made up of three nations which almost mortally hate one another, viz. English, Scotch and Irish. The English interest is the least, but supported by the government being with them; the Scotch are much more numerous here, and daily swarming in upon us by vast multitudes coming over daily to plant here, whereas the English spend their people in the plantations in America. The Irish are more numerous, but at present very low and can never rise without a resolution in our government or a powerful invasion from abroad. Their gentlemen for the greatest part destroyed or have left the kingdom, besides vast multitudes of their people killed or starved in the late wars.

Judge Eyre to [Sir William Trumbull?], 12 May 1695

This extract is part of a private correspondence outlining the continuing sectarian animosities that exited in Ireland after the Glorious Revolution and the Williamite wars. After King William’s victory over James II in 1690, the Anglicans were established as the Church of Ireland, even though they were numerically smaller than both the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian communions. Because of this religious division, and the continuing animosities that resulted, the author comments that, in Ireland, ‘we are unhappily divided here and consist of a people made up of three nations which almost mortally hate one another.’ While it is not a surprise that both Protestant groups hated the Catholics, it is, however, surprising to find that, in spite of their recent co-operation in opposing James II, the Anglicans and Presbyterians remained bitter enemies. This alerts us to the continuing tensions between Protestant Dissenters and the established church. The document in question was written by Judge Eyre, who was an English Judge with Whiggish political sympathies. Eyre is writing to Sir William Turnball, who was Secretary of State for Irish affairs, yet had a reputation for being anti-Irish. Eyre is writing to Turnball in order to inform him about the present condition of Ireland, and to relate to him the precise nature of the religious and ethnic divisions that existed within that particular kingdom.

Eyre’s main contention is that there is not one Irish nation, but three residing within the same kingdom. Moreover, these three nations ‘mortally hate one another’, which implies that - if it were possible - they would gladly blot each other out of existence. Eyre then goes on to explain the condition of each of these nations. He reminds Turnball that the English ‘interest is the least, but [is] supported by the government’ which highlights the strange position of Anglicans who, despite being a numerical minority in Ireland, were the established church. This was a totally different scenario from England, where they were the overwhelming majority. As for the Scottish (who of course were Presbyterians), Eyre says that they are ‘daily swarming in upon us by vast multitudes coming over to plant here.’ It would appear that, following the Revolution, there was almost a second plantation of Ulster as many Scots moved to Ireland to the point that it was almost a Scottish colony (Eyre compares it to the English plantations in America). As for the native Irish, Eyre points out that their gentlemen have left the kingdom, while vast multitudes of their people were killed or had starved as a result of the recent wars. This indicates that the Irish Catholics are a defeated and downtrodden minority. Yet the fact that Eyre refers to them as ‘the Irish’ is interesting, as it lends weight to the claim that they are the native inhabitants of Ireland. Nevertheless, his comments give us a concise picture of the socio-religious scene in Ireland in the years immediately following the Glorious Revolution.
 
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