I am presently working on an essay on why Ulster Presbyterians became more theologically and politically conservative following the failed United Irish uprising against the Protestant Ascendancy run Irish Parliament in 1798. However, I challenge the idea that the rebellion was a Presbyterian revolt. Anyway the introduction is posted below.
It is widely accepted that after the failed United Irish rebellion in 1798 that Ulster Presbyterians became more conservative both politically and theologically. This is due to the fact that, in the decades following the rising the vast majority of Presbyterians supported legislative union with Britain and the Synod of Ulster was purged of its Arian and New Light elements. Consequently, Ulster Presbyterianism is thought to have undergone an ideological revolution in the years following the rebellion, resulting in a conservatism that was at the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum from the views of their forebears. Yet, it shall be the purpose of this essay [I will split this over a number of threads for Puritan Board readers] to analyze a number of key assumptions that underlie this interpretation of history.
Writing in 1847, the New Light leader Henry Montgomery asserted that ‘the rebellion, at the close of the last century was, in its origin and almost to its end…a Presbyterian rebellion.’ While acknowledging that Presbyterians were involved in 1798, one shall challenge the idea that Ulster Presbyterianism in general was revolutionary. Then we shall consider how Presbyterians adopted the new political climate after the suppression of the rebellion and the union with Britain in 1801. Furthermore, with reference to the Arian controversy in the 1820s, the link between theological and political conservatism shall be examined to see whether or not political and theological liberalism necessarily went hand in hand. Additionally, the role and importance of the conservative minister Henry Cooke shall be evaluated to find out if his views were representative of all orthodox Presbyterians. Finally, we shall consider why Presbyterians rejected Daniel O’Connell’s attempts to repeal the act of union.