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“My men should use their swords and bucklers…but if John Stanshaw is in one alehouse then I will be in another.”
To historians of medieval and Reformation England, these lines should not be all that surprising. Throughout the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the heyday of livery and maintenance, ritualized effrontery was in vogue among the affluent and they often employed large retinues of armed servants as signs of potency and prestige. However, it may surprise some to learn that the above statement was uttered by a priest, Geoffrey Elys, vicar of Thatcham (Berks.), around the beginning of the sixteenth century. Though the medieval Church tirelessly struggled to convince its flock of the wickedness of interpersonal aggression, its own servants were not immune to bouts of conflict and strife. As R. N. Swanson cautions in his study of parish priests, the clergy “can be considered as a group; but they were also individuals who created their own careers and had their own personal relations with their parishioners.” Indeed, the conduct of clerics in their parish communities, especially their violent conduct, can be quite baffling if one only evaluates it by the criteria of ecclesiastical proscription and fails to recognize that such proscription was just one thick strand of an intricate web of relations and expectations. In his examination of thirteenth-century parish priesthood, J. Goering has traced the transition of pastors from merely members of the village to semi-detached individuals who were compelled to abide by both village customs and the values of a more unified and doctrinally authoritative Church.
In the violence over Protestant marches in Northern Ireland in the late 1990s much of the debate centered on two towns, Portadown and Drumcree. Students of seventeenth-century Irish history will note that those towns were sites of some of the most infamous stories of rebel atrocities in the 1641 uprising. The continuity of such images reinforces the notion that ethnic and religious conflicts are immutable and perhaps inevitable. A certain fatalism surrounds the acrimony of Arab and Jew, Muslim and Christian, English and Irish arising from the conviction that such conflicts have raged, as if unchanging, over centuries. However, when viewed over time, the struggles between such groups are dynamic rather than static and have helped construct how each group sees the other and how it identifies itself. In the dynamism surrounding Anglo-Irish relations a number of important turning points can be identified. One of the most important is of course the seventeenth century, particularly the 1641 uprising. More than thirty years ago W. D. Love noted how for three centuries Irish historiography and Anglo-Irish intercourse had been molded by the events of the mid-seventeenth century and had compelled historians to support or deny the charges made by each side about the events of the 1640s. In trying to understand the searing nature of those events, and how they came to frame political as well as historical debates from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, a number of historians have noted the importance of Sir John Temple and his propagan distic piece, The Irish Rebellion. Temple's work offered not just an interpretation of the 1641 uprising but a portrait of the two peoples, English and Irish, as basically and permanently incompatible—a thesis that has had remarkable staying power. Published in 1646, Temple's work was a departure from the Tudor and early Stuart canon on Ireland. While Temple borrowed much from earlier commentators such as Edmund Spenser and Sir John Davies, his analysis differed from them and set out in a new direction by defining the Irish as ethnically distinct. Spenser and Davies suggested that the problem of Ireland arose not from the land, or even its people (although Spenser devoted considerable discussion to the ways Irish customs undermined English success), but from foolhardy or poorly executed English policy. Even though the late Tudor and early Stuart commentators saw the Irish as barbaric, the Irish were thought to be amenable to the benefits of English culture and rule, although their reformation might require draconian measures. Even the divisive issue of religion was not thought insurmountable. Davies and Spenser argued that a religious reformation begun after peace and stability had been secured in Ireland would succeed. In contrast, Temple viewed the 1641 revolt as conclusive evidence that the Irish were irredeemable and posed a deadly threat to England and its people.
This article investigates the influence of the Maynooth and Repeal crises on Conservative politicians after 1846 and the putative maintenance of their identity as defenders of the Church after the Disruption of the party. Historians of the Conservative party have long realized that it suffered from a crisis of identity for a long time after 1846. Some of the leading Peelites were heading more and more towards the Liberal party, and most backbench Peelites gradually joined the Protectionist party; but the Protectionists did not have enough experienced leaders to qualify for the inheritance. Norman Gash has argued that “the Protectionists were not a political party in the sense of one able to provide and sustain a Government in the circumstances of the mid-nineteenth century…. The weakness of the Protectionists was not merely that after 1846 they represented the Conservative party with most of the brains knocked out, but that until they could shake off the monolithic character implied by their title, they could scarcely hope to become a national party or form a viable Government.” Likewise Robert Stewart and John Ramsden consider that the Protectionists were unable to take the place of the Conservative party, given their lack of effective and experienced leaders. It is undeniable that the Protectionist party was not as strong as the Conservative party had been in terms of executive capacity or party organization. But to say also that it was unable to inherit the mantle of Conservatism is to fall into the same trap as Gash and to exaggerate the importance of Peelite executive ability. More significant is the fact that the party of Stanley and Disraeli maintained fidelity to the core principles of the Conservative party—i. e. the constitution of Church and State, and the principle of protectionism. In this sense, the Protectionist party did become the sole inheritor of the Conservative party during the later 1840s.