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16 - Conquest versus consent as the basis of the English title to Ireland in William Molyneux's Case of Ireland … Stated (1698)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 July 2009

Patrick Kelly
Affiliation:
Senior lecturer in Modern History, Trinity College, Dublin
Ciaran Brady
Affiliation:
Trinity College, Dublin
Jane Ohlmeyer
Affiliation:
Trinity College, Dublin
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Summary

William Molyneux's The Case of Ireland's being bound by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated (1698) is generally regarded as the key text in discrediting the claim that English rights over Ireland rested on the conquest carried out by Henry II in 1171–72, a presumption then widely current, not only in England but also amongst those whom for reasons of convenience (if perhaps not strict accuracy) we may term the Anglo-Irish. In its place Molyneux argued that the submission of the Irish kings to Henry had been entirely voluntary and that in return Henry had conferred upon them the benefits of English laws and customs, including the right of holding parliaments. Moreover, by terming the agreement between Henry and the Irish the ‘Original Compact’ of the English government in Ireland, Molyneux assimilated his narrative to the language of Revolution principles which carried such weight in both England and Ireland after 1688. Finally, he sought to ground Ireland's status as a possession of the English crown, but independent of the English parliament, on the universal, natural right to consent to government, thereby making Ireland's case not just a local issue but an assertion of what he termed ‘the Inherent Right of all Mankind’ (p. 3). However, closer examination shows Molyneux's arguments to be considerably less transparent than they might at first seem.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2005

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