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The origins of the act of union: an examination of unionist opinion in Britain and Ireland, 1650-1800

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2016

James Kelly*
Department of History, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra


It has long become commonplace to observe that the act of union of 1800, which abolished the Irish parliament and established the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, has since its enactment exerted a formative influence on Irish history and remained the dominant issue in Anglo-Irish relations. In view of this, it is surprising that so little notice has been afforded the development of unionist sentiment in Britain and Ireland in the century and a half to 1800, and that the origins of and background to the union have received such cursory attention. There is, of course, an obvious historical and historiographical reason for this. Generations of Irish nationalists, and all too frequently their historians, have perceived the union as a malign termination of the constitutional arrangement known grandly but misleadingly as Grattan’s parliament and, consequently, have been little interested in investigating or understanding its origins.

Copyright © Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 1987

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1 The pamphlets cited are to be found in Tracts on the subject of an union (4 vols, Dublin, 1799-1800), iv. A good example of the traditional nationalist account is MacNeill, J.G. Swift, How the union was passed (London, 1887).Google Scholar

2 McDowell, R.B., Irish public opinion, 1750-1800 (London, 1944), pp 244-6;Google Scholar idem, Ireland in the age of imperialism and revolution, 1760-1801 (Oxford, 1979), pp 678-704; Johnston, E.M., Ireland in the eighteenth century (Dublin, 1974), pp 192-4Google Scholar; Butterfield, Herbert, George III, Lord North and the people (London, 1949), pp 104-8Google Scholar; Bolton, G.C., The passing of the Irish act of union (Oxford, 1966).Google Scholar

3 All but eight pages of Bolton’s study are devoted to the 1790s.

4 McDowell, , Ir public opinion, pp 244-6Google Scholar; idem, Ireland in the age of imperialism, p. 678.

5 The most recent account of the money bill dispute is Declan O’Donovan, ‘The money bill dispute of 1753’ in Thomas Bartlett and David Hayton (eds), Penal era and golden age: essays in Irish history, 1690-1800 (Belfast, 1979), pp 55-87

6 Kelly, James J., ‘The search for a commercial arrangement: Anglo-Irish politics in the 1780s’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University College, Dublin, 1985), 1, 7 Google Scholar; O’Donovan, Declan, ‘The money bill dispute of 1753’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University College, Dublin, 1977), pp 172, 177-8, 200-1, 205, 219.Google Scholar

7 Corish, P.J, ‘The Cromwellian régime, 1650–60’ in Martin, F.X., Moody, T W and Byrne, F.J (eds), A new history of Ireland, 3 (Oxford, 1976), p. 254 Google Scholar; Malcomson, Robert, The Carlow parliamentary roll (Dublin, 1872), pp ix-x.Google Scholar

8 Barnard, T.C., ‘Planters and policies in Cromwellian Ireland’ in Past and Present, no. 61 (1973), pp 6065; idem, Cromwellian Ireland: English government and reform in Ireland, 1649–1660 (Oxford, 1975), pp 16, 28–9, 34.Google Scholar

9 Barnard, , ‘Planters & policies’, p. 66 Google Scholar; Domville’s disquisition (N.L.I., MS 40). The most recent consideration of the general convention is J.I. McGuire, ‘The Dublin convention, the protestant community and the emergence of an ecclesiastical settlement in 1660’ in Art Cosgrove and McGuire, J.I. (eds), Parliament and community: Historical Studies XIV (Belfast, 1983), pp 121–46.Google Scholar

10 According to the anonymous pamphlet Some thoughts towards an union between Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1708), p. 25, ‘a paper signed by most of the considerable persons’ in Ireland solicited a union from Charles II in 1668.

11 Barnard, T.C., ‘Sir William Petty, his Irish estates and Irish population’ in Irish Economic and Social History, 6 (1979), pp 64–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Andrews, J.H. , ‘William Petty’ in Irish Geography, 9 (1970), pp 102–3, provide an introduction.Google Scholar

12 ‘Heads of a treatise proposing a union between England and Ireland’, cited in Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond, The life of William Petty (London, 1895), pp 277–8.Google Scholar

13 ‘Of uniting England and Ireland by a common parliament’, ‘An expedient in order to an union of England, Ireland and Scotland’ in Marquis of Lansdowne (ed.), The Petty papers (2 vols, London, 1927), i, 13–16. In terms of representation Ireland would have surpassed Scotland but have been greatly inferior to England. One scheme suggested 40 Irish M.P.s and 480 English; the second 90 Irish, 60 Scots and 450 English.

14 Fitzmaurice, , Life of Petty, p. 148 Google Scholar; ‘Political observations, 1671 ’ in Lansdowne (ed.), Petty papers, ii, 232; Petty, William, Economic writings, ed Hull, C.H. (2 vols, Cambridge, 1899), i, 300–1Google Scholar

15 A treatise of Ireland’, 1687 in Petty, , Economic writings, 2, 551–8.Google Scholar

6 ‘Political observations’, 1671, ‘The state of the case between England and Ireland’, [1686], ‘A problme’, 1687; ‘Of reconciling the English and Irish and reforming both nations’, 1686 in Lansdowne, (ed.), Petty papers, pp 57–9Google Scholar, 64–7, 60–63; The political anatomy of Ireland from A collection of tracts and treatises illustrative of Ireland (2 vols, Dublin, 1856), ii, 28–34, ‘A treatise of Ireland’, 1687 in Petty, , Economic writings, 2, 551–8.Google Scholar

17 ‘The state of the case between England and Ireland’, [1686], ‘Of reconciling the English and Irish and reforming both nations’, 1686 in Lansdowne, (ed.), Petty papers, 1, 5763.Google Scholar

18 ‘Advantages humbly offered to the king’ in ibid., i, 257

19 Lalor, Paul, ‘Irish parochial records as a source for historical research’ in Ulster Local Studies, 9 (1985), p. 163.Google Scholar

20 [Bonneil, James] to Harley, 3 Nov 1691 (The manuscripts of the duke of Portland, 3 (H.M.C., London, 1894), pp 479–81)Google Scholar; ‘Considerations concerning Ireland in relation to England and particularly in respect of an union’, c. 1690 (P.R.O.I., Wyche papers, 2nd ser., no. 143). I should like to thank James McGuire for the first reference.

21 ‘Remarks shewing that it is not to the interests of England that Ireland should be a separate kingdom’ (Cal. S.P dorn., 1690–91, pp 201–6).

22 The meeting of the Irish parliament was described in July 1692 as ‘necessary for the peace of [Ireland] as well as their own service’ (Nottingham to lords justices, 5 July 1692, Cal. S.P dorn., 1692, p. 367; see also ibid., 1691–2, pp 66, 67–71, 77).

23 ‘Memorandum of the grievances of Ireland’, [1691], ‘Some considerations relating to Ireland’, [ 1691 ], Nottingham to lords justices, 2 Apr 1691 (Cal. S.P dorn., 1691–2, pp 67–71, 77, 214–15).

24 Shrewsbury to Capel, 7 May 1695 (Cal. S.P dorn., 1695, p. 461); Methuen to Vernon, 15 June 1697 (ibid., 1697, p. 197). For parliamentary politics in the 1690s, see McGuire, J.I., ‘The Irish parliament of 1692’ in Bartlett & Hayton (eds), Penal era & golden age, pp 132 Google Scholar; James, F.G., Ireland in the empire, 1688–1770 (Cambridge, Mass., 1973), pp 3036.Google Scholar

25 [Southwell] to William III, c.1695 (B.L., Southwell papers, Add. MS 21136, ff 13–14).

26 Lord Gal way noted that it had ’alienated public opinion’ (Gal way to Vernon, 24 July 1699, Cal. S.P dom, 1699, p. 241).

27 On Molyneux’s tract, see Simms, J.G., Colonial nationalism (Cork, 1976), esp. p. 48 Google Scholar; idem., William Molyneux of Dublin (Dublin, 1982), pp 102–18, and the pamphlet itself, republished, ed. J.G. Simms (Dublin, 1977); [ Johnston, William], Reasons for adopting an union between Ireland and Great Britain (Dublin, 1799), appendix, p. 59.Google Scholar

28 Simms, J.G., ‘The establishment of protestant ascendancy, 1691–1714’ in Moody, T W and Vaughan, W.E. (eds), A new history of Ireland, 4 (Oxford, 1986), p. 7 Google Scholar; Cox to Southwell, 14 Nov 1699 (B.L., Southwell papers, Add. MS 38153), printed in Kiernan, T.J., History of the financial administration of Ireland to 1817 (London, 1930), pp 297–8 n.Google Scholar

29 Southwell to bp of Deny, 14 Mar. 1701/2 ( sirKing, Charles Simon (ed.), A great archbishop of Dublin, William King (London, 1908), p. 101)Google Scholar; Lords justices to lord lieutenant, 30 Jan. 1703 (Cal. S.P dorn., 1703, p. 563).

30 [ Maxwell, Henry], An essay towards an union of Ireland with England, most humbly offer’d to the consideration of the queen’s most excellent majesty and both houses of parliament (London, 1703).Google Scholar

31 Southwell to Nottingham, 2, 4, 9, 15 Oct. 1703 (Cal. S.P dorn., 1703–4, pp 141, 144, 149–50, 156); Commons’jn. Ire., ii, 333; Hayton, D.W, ‘Ireland and the English ministers, 1707–16’ (unpublished D.Phil. thesis, University of Oxford, 1975), p. 98.Google Scholar

32 The text of the addresses is in Commons’ jn. Ire., ii, 341–2, and Lords’ jn. Ire., ii, 29. See also Punch, Patricia, ‘Queen Anne’s first Irish parliament, 1703–04: the first session’ (unpublished M.A. thesis, University College, Dublin, 1982), pp 45–6.Google Scholar

33 Punch, , ‘Queen Anne’s first Irish parliament’, pp 4851.Google Scholar

34 See, e.g., Cox to Nottingham, 13 Feb., Southwell to Nottingham, 26 Feb. 1704 (Cal. S.P dorn., 1703–04, pp 531, 534); King to McCausland, 14 Oct. 1708, cited in Beckett, J.C., Protestant dissent in Ireland (London, 1949), pp 4950.Google Scholar

35 The queen an empress, and her three kingdoms one empire; or brief remarks upon the present, and a prospect of the future of England, Scotland and Ireland in a happy union (Dublin, 1706). Another pamphlet of the same date and probably advancing the same argument was A union between England and Scotland, .prejudical to England except also that Ireland is included (n.p., 1706). I have been unable to trace a copy of this. One person to chide Irish opinion for ‘sleeping’ in 1706 when it should be urging a union was Francis Annesley (Annesley to King, 1706, in King (ed.), A great archbishop, p. 117).

36 Commons’ jn. Ire., iii, 367–8; Lords’ jn. Ire., ii, 161; the replies are in the respective volumes, pp 420, 180.

37 Godolphin to Marlborough, 16 May, 21 July 1707 ( Synder, H.L. (ed.), The Marlborough–Godolphin correspondence (3 vols, Oxford, 1975), ii, 781, 854).Google Scholar

38 Nokes, David, Jonathan Swift: a hypocrite reversed (Oxford, 1985), p. 74 Google Scholar; Some thoughts humbly offer1 d towards an union between Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1708); Lords’ jn. Ire., ii, 244.

39 Robbins, Caroline, The eighteenth–century commonwealthman (Cambridge, Mass., 1959), ch. VCrossRefGoogle Scholar

40 For Dobbs, see Clarke, Desmond , Arthur Dobbs esquire, 1689–1765 (London, 1958)Google Scholar, and Robbins, , The eighteenth–century commonwealthman, ch. V His recommendations of union are to be found in [Arthur Dobbs], An essay upon the trade of Ireland (2 pts, Dublin, 1729–31Google Scholar), esp. pt 2, and the unpublished MSS ‘Some thoughts in relation to an union of Britain with Ireland’, Ά short essay to shew the expediencey, if not political necessity of an incorporating union betwixt Britain and Ireland’ (P.R.O.N.I., Dobbs papers, D162/58, 59) and ‘An essay on the expediency of a union between Great Britain and Ireland’ (N.L.I., Thorn MS 1).

41 Madden, Samuel, Reflections and resolutions proper for the gentlemen of Ireland (Dublin, 1738), pp 120–22.Google Scholar

42 Downie, J.A., Jonathan Swift: political writer (London, 1984), pp 233–49.Google Scholar

43 Walpole to Mann, 15 Dec. 1771 ( Lewis, W.S. et al. (eds), The Yale edition of the correspondence of Horace Walpole (42 vols, Oxford, 1937–80), xxiii, 359).Google Scholar

44 A letter to Sir R[obert] W[alpole] with a proposal for a union between G[rea]t B[ritai]n and I[relan]d (n.p., n.d., 1730?); Ellice to Price, 14 Dec. 1742 (H.M.C, rep. 15, app. vii, The manuscripts of the Rev. Sir T.H.G. Puleston, Bart, p. 326).

45 Fox to Pelham, 28 May 1750 (Nottingham University Library, Newcastle (Clumber) papers, no. 1213); Clark, J.C D., ‘Whig tactics and parliamentary precedent: the English management of Irish politics, 1754–6’ in Hist. Jn., 21 (1978), p. 276.Google Scholar

46 The pamphlet was published anonymously, but there is no doubt that Hillsborough was the author (cf. B.M. cat., McDowell, , Ir. public opinion, pp 244, 266)Google Scholar. It was republished in 1800 and there is a copy in N.L.I., P618/17

47 An answer to the late proposal for uniting the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland (Dublin, 1751), passim.

48 An humble address to the nobility, gentry and freeholders of the kingdom of Ireland (Dublin, 1751), passim.

49 Archdali, Nicholas, An alarm to the people of Great Britain in answer to a late proposal for uniting these kingdoms showing the fatal consequences of such an union (Dublin, 1751), pp 56 Google Scholar, 18 and passim. A biographical sketch of Archdall can be found in McCracken, J.L., ‘Central and local government in Ireland under George II; (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Queen’s University of Belfast, 1948), p. 230.Google Scholar

50 Sir Dudley Ryder’s diary, 28 Mar [1756] (P.R.O.N.I., Harrowby papers, T3228/1/74); ‘Memoir of events attending the death of George ΙΓ in Countess of II–chester and Lord Stavordale (eds), The life and letters of Lady Sarah Lennox (2 vols, London, 1901), i, 18; Notes on Ireland dating from the 1750s (B.L., Lansdowne abstracts, Add. MS 24137); Gordon to [Newcastle], [Jan. 1756] (B.L., Newcastle papers, Add. MS 32877, ff 32–5).

51 This preliminary episode is recorded by Horace Walpole ( Brooke, John (ed.), Horace Walpole’s memoirs of the reign of George II (3 vols, London, 1985), iii, 86).Google Scholar

52 The pamphlets were A letter to the lords and commons on the subject of taking away the parliament (Dublin, 1759), and The whole scheme of the union laid open (Dublin, 1759).

53 The above account of the anti–union riots is based on Brooke, (ed.), Walpole’s memoirs, pp 86–8Google Scholar; Walpole to Montagu, Dec. 1759 ( Lewis, et al. (eds), Walpole corres., 9, 265)Google Scholar; A dialogue between a protestant and a papist concerning some late strange reports about an union and the seditious consequences of them (Dublin, 1759), pp 1–8; A comment on a late extraordinary letter from the e [ari] ofC[lanricarde] to the d[uke] of B[edford] .in which an union between the two kingdoms is impartially considered (London, 1760), pp 23–4.

54 The controversy was sparked off by the publication of a Copy of a letter from the e[arl] of C[lanricarde] to the d[uke] of B[edford] (Dublin, 1760); copy in P.R.O., Chatham papers, 30/8/83, ff 48–9. A comment on a late extraordinary letter from the e [ari] of C[lanricarde] to the d[uke] of B[edford] lately handed about in London in which an union between the two kingdoms is impartially considered (London, 1760) followed and advocated a union; but both An answer to the comments on a letter from the earl of Clanricarde to the duke of Bedford with some occasional thoughts upon the relative merits of an union. (Dublin, 1761), esp. pp 15–22, and Lysimachus, or a dialogue concerning the union of Great Britain and Ireland (Dublin, 1760), rejected the idea of a union.

55 See Murphy, Sean, ‘The Lucas affair: a study of municipal and electoral politics in Dublin, 1742–9’ (unpublished M.A. thesis, University College, Dublin, 1981).Google Scholar Lucas described a union in 1760 as a ’most violent and desperate remedy’ (ibid., pp 155, 226).

56 See, e.g., An answer to the comments on a letter from the earl of Clanricarde pp 15–22.

57 Decker’s views are taken from An essay on the causes of the decline of the foreign trade, consequently of the value of the lands of Britain and on the means to restore both (4th ed., Dublin., 1751), pp 75, 154–7

58 Postlethwayt’s sentiments can be gleaned from Britain’s commercial interest explained and improved, .also the great advantages which would accrue to this kingdom from an union with Ireland (2 vols, London, 1757), ii, 61–5, 378–93). See also the pertinent criticisms in Sir James Caldwell to John Ponsonby, 20 Oct. 1763 (B.L., King’s MS 439, ff 3–4).

59 [Tucker, Josiah], A brief essay on the advantages and disadvantages which respectively attend France and Great Britain with regard to trade (London, 1750), pp 43, 58–62Google Scholar; Four tracts together with two sermons on political and commercial subjects (Gloucester, 1775), pp 20–28; also Tucker to Knox, 28 Oct. 1778 (Report on manuscripts in various collections, vi, Knox MSS (H.M.C., London, 1909), p. 236). Tucker’s views on the merits of a union are to be found in Reflections on the present matters in dispute between Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1785), and Arguments for and against an union between Britain and Ireland considered (London, 1798).

60 Smith’s views are to be found in An enquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations (2 vols, Dublin, 1785), ii, 286 ff; Mossner, E.S. and Ross, I.S., Correspondence of Adam Smith (Oxford, 1977), pp 240–44.Google Scholar

61 Rigby to Wilmot, 1 Jan. 1760 ( Russell, Lord John (ed.), The correspondence of John, .duke of Bedford (3 vols, London, 1842–6), ii, p. xxix).Google Scholar

62 Young, Arthur, A tour in Ireland, ed. Hutton, A.W (2 vols, London, 1892), i, 68–9Google Scholar; Campbell, Thomas, A philosophical survey of the south of Ireland (Dublin, 1778), p. 332.Google Scholar

63 Halifax to Egremont, 19 Feb. 1762 (P.R.O., S.P 62/421); T.F Moriarty, ’The Irish absentee tax of 1773’ in Amer. Phil. Soc. Trans., cxviii (1974), pp 393, 388–90, 403, 405. In 1775, rumours of a ‘land tax’ excited a ’great murmuring that a union was imminent’ (Moore to Fraser, 19 Oct. 1775, Reports on the Laing manuscripts, ii (H.M.C., London, 1925), p. 481).

64 [Knox, William], Considerations on the present state of Ireland (Dublin, 1778), pp 7, 15–16Google Scholar. From internal evidence it is clear that the pamphlet was written in 1772 though it was not published until 1778. North to Buckinghamshire, 13 Oct. 1777 (N.L.I., Heron papers, MS 13035/13).

65 Buckinghamshire to North, 20 Aug., Buckinghamshire to Germain, 7 Sept. 1778 (B.L., Mackintosh collection, Add. MS 34523, ff 221, 223–7); Buckinghamshire to Germain, 23 Aug. 1778 (H.M.C, rep. 9, app. iii, The manuscripts of Mrs Stopford–Sackville, p. 60); Martin to Shannon, 29 May 1779 (P.R.O.N.I., Shannon papers, D2707/A2/2/39); Waite to Townshend, 3 Dec. 1779 (P.R.O.I., Townshend letterbook, MS 5040, ff 182–3).

66 Buckinghamshire to Heron, 29 Mar 1779 (N.L.I., Heron papers, MS 13047/6); see also Buckinghamshire to Germain, 7 Sept., 6 June 1779 (B.L., Mackintosh collection, Add. MS 34523, ff 223–4, 254–5).

67 Germain to Buckinghamshire, 7 Aug. 1779 (B.L., Mackintosh collection, Add. MS 34523, f. 187).

68 Lucan to Pery, 21 Aug. 1779 (H.M.C., rep. 8, app. i, Emly, p. 202); Floyd to Herbert, 30 Sept. 1779 (H.M.C., rep. 9, app. ii, Pembroke papers, p. 382); Butterfield, George III, pp 104–5.

69 Knox to [Thurlow], 14 Nov 1779 (H.M.C, rep. var. coll., vi, Knox MSS, pp 237–8).

70 The term ’incorporation’ is used by Knox (as above, n. 69), Lucan (as above, n. 68) and Townshend (Townshend to Gardiner, 29 Oct. 1779, P.R.O.I., Townshend letterbook, MS 5040, ff 55–6).

71 Buckinghamshire to Germain, 30 Sept. 1779 (Report on the manuscripts of Mrs Stopford-Sackville (H.M.C., London, 1904), i, 258–9); Gardiner to Townshend, 25 Sept. 1779 (P.R.O.I., Townshend letterbook, MS 5040, f. 18).

72 Hillsborough to Buckinghamshire, 4 Oct 1779 (N.L.I., Heron papers, MS 13038/14).

73 Sir Henry Cavendish’s parliamentary diary, xvi, 212–13 (Library of Congress, Washington); A letter to the people of Ireland on the expediency and necessity of the present associations in Ireland in favour of our own manufacturers, with some cursory observations on the effects of a union (Dublin, 1779), pp 60–71. This pamphlet is variously attributed to Henry Flood and Henry Grattan.

74 Blaquiere to Townshend, 2 Dec. 1779 (P.R.O.I., Townshend letterbook, MS 5040, ff 124–5).

75 Germain to Buckinghamshire, 7 Aug. 1779 (B.L., Mackintosh collection, Add. MS 34523, f. 187); North to Buckinghamshire, 13 Oct. 1777 (N.L.I., Heron papers, MS 13035/13). For resistance to commercial concession to Ireland in Britain in 1778, see Butterfield, , George III, p. 79.Google Scholar

76 Walpole to Mann, 30 June, 28 Nov., Walpole to Lady Ossory, 14 Nov 1779 (Lewis et al. (eds), Walpole corres., xxiv, 435, 490–91, xxxiii, 127); Townshend to Beresford, 27 Nov., 2 Dec. 1779 (William Beresford (ed.), The correspondence of John Beresford (2 vols, London, 1854), i, 97, 99); Hertford to Hely–Hutchinson, 16 May 1780 (H.M.C, rep. 12, app. ix, Donoughmore, p. 296).

77 Macartney to North, 8 Jan. 1780 ( Bartlett, Thomas (ed.), Macartney in Ireland, 1768–1772 (Belfast, 1978), p. 325)Google Scholar; Bartlett, Thomas, ‘Ireland, 1769–72’ in Roebuck, Peter (ed.), Macartney of Lisanoure (Belfast, 1983), p. 87 Google Scholar

78 Hillsborough to Carlisle, 3 Dec. 1781 (P.R.O., S.P. 63/477, ff 133–5); Ferguson to [Eden], 2 Jan. 1780 (B.L., Auckland papers, Add. MS 34417, ff 3–11).

79 Shelburne to Portland, [May 1782] (B.L., Lansdowne abstracts, Add. MS 24138, f. 93); George III to Shelburne, 16 May ( Fortescue, John (ed.), Correspondence of George III (6 vols, London, 1927–8), vi, 25)Google Scholar; Shelburne to Portland (2), 18 May 1782 (P.R.O., H.O. 100/1, ff 203–6, 213–22).

80 Portland to [Shelburne], 26 May 1782 ( Williams, W.E.H., The Irish parliament from the year 1782 to 1800 (London, 1879), p. 102)Google Scholar; Portland to Ogilvie, 26 May 1782 ( Grattan, Henry Jr, Memoirs of the life and times of Henry Grattan (5 vols, London, 1839–46), ii, 289)Google Scholar; for Ogilvie, see Malcomson, A.P W, In pursuit of the heiress: aristocratic marriage in Ireland, 1760–1820 (Belfast, 1982), p. 10.Google Scholar

81 ‘A plan for a foederal union between Great Britain and Ireland delivered to the duke of Portland by W[illiam] 0[gilvie]\ 20 May 1782 (N.L.I., Dundas papers, MS 54/24).

82 [Pembroke] to [Carmarthen], 2–11 Aug. 1782 ( Herbert, Lord (ed.), The Pembroke papers, 1782–94 (London, 1950), p. 203)Google Scholar; Richmond’s opinion is cited in Williams, W.E.H., The Irish parliament . .1782–1800, pp 27–8Google Scholar; see also [ Lawless, Valentine], Thoughts on the projected union between Great Britain and Ireland (Dublin, 1797), p. 9 Google Scholar. The Morning Chronicle of London cited Josiah Tucker’s plan for a ’foederal union’ in late 1783 (Volunteer Journal (Dublin), 14 Nov 1783).

83 The quote is from Volunteer Journal (Dublin), 4 Apr. 1784; see also ibid., 29 Dec. 1783, 26 Apr., 3, 5, May 1784.

84 See, e.g., Cornwallis to Ross, 19 Sept. 1784 ( SirRoss, Charles (ed.), Correspondence of . .Cornwallis (3 vols, London, 1859), i, 175)Google Scholar; Fitzgibbon to Eden, 28 Aug. 1784 (P.R.O.N.I., Sneyd papers, T3229/1/2).

85 Rutland to Pitt, 16 June 1784 ( Stanhope, Philip, Manon, Lord (ed.), Correspondence between William Pitt and Charles, duke of Rutland, 1781–87 (London, 1890), p. 19)Google Scholar; Temple to [Rutland], 25 Aug. 1784 (The manuscripts of.. .the duke of Rutland, iii (H.M.C., London, 1894), p. 134); Proposition from J[ohn] Pfarnell] for a commercial arrangement, 6 Sept. 1784 (N.L.I., Bolton papers, MS 16351/5); Sinclair to Pitt, 22 Aug. (P.R.O., Chatham papers, 30/8/178, ff 130–31). Other advocates of a union at this date include Vernon of Clontarf (N.L.I., Bolton papers, MS 15817/1) and Williams, a correspondent of William Bruce (P.R.O., Chatham papers, 30/8/328, f. 359)’.

86 Pitt to Lady Chatham, 7 Oct. 1784 ( Stanhope, Earl, Life of William Pitt (4 vols, London, 1861–2), 1, 233)Google Scholar.

87 Pitt to Rutland, 6 Jan. 1785, (Pitt–Rutland corres., pp 55–75).

88 Kelly, ‘Search for a commercial arrangement’, p. 259.

89 The parliamentary history of England from the Norman conquest to 1803 (36 vols, London, 1804–20), xxv, 848.

90 For Wedgwood’s views, see his letter to Edgeworth, 3 Oct. 1785, in Ann Finer and George Savage (eds), Selected letters of Josiah Wedgwood (London, 1965), pp 265–6; The correspondence of Josiah Wedgwood, 1781–94 (privately published, 1906), p. 25; Eden to Wedgwood, 16 Apr. 1785 in Meteyard, S.M., The life of Josiah Wedgwood (2 vols, London, 1865), i, 544 Google Scholar. These sentiments were shared by Mathew Boulton ( Smiles, Samuel, Lives of Boulton and Watt principally from the original Soho MSS (London, 1865), p. 345).Google Scholar

91 [ Tucker, Josiah], Reflections on the present matter in dispute between Great Britain and Ireland, pp 33–4.Google Scholar

92 Parl. hist. Eng., xxv, 837, 651–5.

93 Coutts to Crawford, 18 Sept. 1785 ( Coleridge, E.H. (ed.), The life of Thomas Coutts (2 vols, London, 1920), i, 198)Google Scholar; Kingsman to Pitt, 22 June 1785 (P.R.O., Chatham papers, 30/8/149, ff 216–17). Kingsman was M.P for Granard in the 1776–83 parliament. Lord Llandaff, too, favoured a union (Llandaff to Pitt, 26 Aug. 1785, N.L.I., F.S. Bourke collection, MS 10715).

94 See Camden to Pitt, 18 Aug. 1785 (N.L.I., MS 10715); Camden to Stewart, 4 Oct. 1785 (P.R.O.N.I., Camden papers, T2627/4/176); Buckingham to Grenville, 18, 25 Aug. 1785 (The manuscripts of J.B. Fortescue, i (H.M.C., London, 1892), pp 254–6); Kelly, ‘Search for a commercial arrangement’, pp 405–7

95 The parliamentary register or history of the proceedings and debates of the house of commons of Ireland (17 vols, Dublin, 1782–1801), v, 347–64.

96 Dublin Evening Post, 28 Aug. 1785; Volunteer Journal (Dublin), 14 Nov 1785; Kelly, ‘Search for a commercial arrangement’, pp 410–13, 427–41.

97 Cooke to Eden, 21 July 1785 (B.L., Auckland papers, Add. MS 34420, ff 47–8); Conyngham to Sydney, 26 Apr. (N.L.I., Sydney papers, MS 52/L/4); Tyrone to Beresford, 15 June (Beresford corres., i, 268); Patterson to Townshend, 15 Dec. (B.L., Townshend papers, Add. MS 38497, ff 74–5); Bernard to Boswell, 14 Aug. 1785 (F W Hilles et al. (eds), The correspondence of James Boswell (3 vols, London, 1966–76), iii, 210).

98 Patterson to Townshend, 15 Dee. 1785 (B.L., Townshend papers, Add. MS 38497, ff 74–5).

99 A Friend to the Prosperity of Ireland, Letters to the people of Ireland on the subject of an union with Great Britain (Dublin, 1786); Williams, John, An union of England and Ireland proved to be practicable and equally beneficial to each kingdom (Dublin, 1787)Google Scholar; A Friend to Both Countries, The utility of an union between Great Britain and Ireland considered (London, 1788).

100 Flood to Charlemont, 6 Nov 1786 (R.I.Α., Charlemont papers, 12/R/14/78); Charlemont to Flood, 12 Nov 1786 (B.L., Flood papers, Add. MS 22930, f. 171); Dublin Evening Post, 14 Nov 1786.

101 Grenville to Buckingham, 10 Dec. 1788, 7 Feb. 1789 (Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (ed.), Memoirs of the courts and cabinets of George III (4 vols, London, 1853–5), ii, 44, 103–4); Jupp, P.J., William Grenville, 1759–1834 (Oxford, 1985), pp 83–5.Google Scholar

102 Parl. reg. Ire., ix, 53 (for Fitzgibbon); Life of Grattan, ii, 68 (for Yelverton).

103 Sir John Dalrymple’s Hints respecting a union with Ireland, 8 July 1790 (N.L.I., Melville papers, MS 54/35); also B.L., Miscellaneous papers relating to Ireland, 1770–90, Add. MS 35919, f. 33ff.

104 For a consideration of the use of this term in the 1780s, see McCormack, W.J., Ascendancy and tradition in Anglo–Irish literary history from 1789 to 1939 (Oxford, 1985), pp 6196 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; James Kelly, ’The genesis of “protestant ascendancy": the Rightboy disturbances of the 1780s and their impact upon protestant opinion’ (publication forthcoming).

105 Dundas to [Westmoreland], 26 Dec. 1791 (S.P.O., Westmoreland papers, carton I, no. 29); see also ’Memorandum of the conversation with Mr Dundas, .on 21 and 22 Jan. 1793 in the presence of Mr Pitt’ (N.L.I., Melville papers, MS 54A/74).

106 Westmoreland to Pitt, 18 Feb., 13 Nov 1792 (P.R.O.N.I., Pitt–Pretyman papers, T3319/12; P.R.O., Chatham papers, 30/8/331, ff 90–95). Some maintained that the catholic franchise was inconsistent with the British connexion ( O’Regan, William, Memoirs of . .John Philpot Curran (London, 1817), p. 238)Google Scholar; others that it was a strategem to produce a union by promoting ’such a disunion as may possibly end in an union’ (Charlemont to Haliday, 21 Jan. 1792, cited in Schweitzer, D.R., ‘The whig political connection between Great Britain and Ireland, 1784–1801’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1982), p. 197)Google Scholar or by winning the good will of catholics (Drennan to McTier, Feb. 1792, cited in Stewart, A.T.Q., ‘The transformation of presbyterianism in the north of Ireland, 1792–1825’ (unpublished M.A. thesis, Queen’s University of Belfast, 1956), p. 21).Google Scholar

107 Pitt to Westmoreland, 18 Nov 1792 (S.P.O., Westmoreland papers, carton I, no. 71); Westmoreland to Pitt, 13, 28 Nov 1792 (P.R.O., Chatham papers, 30/8/331, ff 90–95; N.L.I., Union correspondence, MS 886, ff 17–26).

108 Westmoreland to Pitt, 18 Apr. 1793 (P.R.O., Chatham papers, 30/8/331, ff 124–5); further evidence of protestant opinion accepting a union can be found in Westmoreland to Pitt, 28 Nov. 1792 (N.L.I., Union correspondence, MS 886, ff 17–26).

109 Midleton to Brodrick, 21 Dec. 1793 (N.L.I., Midleton papers, MS 8889/10).

110 There are many examples: an expression used by the duke of Portland in a letter to FitzWilliam cited indirectly in apologia, Fitzwilliam’s, A letter from a venerated nobleman.. (Dublin, 1795)Google Scholar, was interpreted as signalling an imminent union (Pollock to Westmoreland, 15 Apr. 1795 (S.P.O., Westmoreland papers, carton I, no. Ill); Midleton to Brodrick, 29 Apr 1795 (N.L.I., Brodrick papers, MS 8889/14)). A Mr Mackelney of Dublin wrote Pitt seven letters in March and April 1796 urging and justifying a union (P.R.O., Chatham papers, 30/8/324, ff 1–22). The celebrated French traveller Latocnaye had a conversation on the subject near Dundalk (A Frenchman ’s walk through Ireland, 1796–7, translated from the French of de Latocnaye by John Stevenson (Belfast, 1917), p. 270).

111 [George Dallas] to —, 20 Sept. 1797 (N.L.I., Dundas papers, MS 54A/111); Earl of Minto to Lady Minto, 23 May 1797 (Countess of Minto (ed.), Life and letters .of earl of Minto (3 vols, London, 1874), ii, 294).

112 A.P W Malcomson, ’The Conolly family’, introduction to P.R.O.N.I. calendar of the Conolly papers, T2825, p. 33; Analysis of opinion on a union, Nov 1798 (N.L.I., Union correspondence, MS 887, ff 23–32).

113 Analysis of opinion on a union, Nov 1798 (N.L.I., Union correspondence, MS 887, ff 23–32); for Clare and Knox, see Clare to Mornington, 20 Apr. 1797 (B.L., Wellesley papers, Add. MS 37308, f. 34) and Knox to Pelham, 19 Apr., 28 May 1797 (B.L., Pelham papers, Add. MSS 33103, f. 382, 33104, f. 139); for Annesley, see Greig, John (ed.), The Farington diary (3 vols, London, 1922–4), i, 228 Google Scholar; and for Bla–quiere, see Blaquiere to Rutland, 7 Jan. 1799 (N.L.I., Blaquiere papers, MS 877/19).

114 [Dallas] to –, 10 Sept. 1797 (N.L.I., Dundas papers, MS 54A/111).

115 Ponsonby to Fitzwilliam, 18 Sept. 1795 (Sheffield City Libraries, Wentworth–Woodhouse muniments, F30/45), cited in Schweitzer, ’The whig political connection’, p. 292.

116 Bickley, Francis (ed.), Diary of Sylvester Douglas (2 vols, London, 1928), i, 34–6.Google Scholar

117 Lawless was present at discussions, in which Pitt participated, on the subject of a union in 1796 or 1797 (Personal recollections of the life and times .of Valentine, Lord Cloncurry (Dublin, 1849), p. 38; [ Lawless, Valentine], Thoughts on the projected union between Great Britain and Ireland, (Dublin, 1797) p. 26).Google Scholar

118 Pitt was notoriously disinclined towards Irish affairs (Camden to Pitt, 7 May 1796, P.R.O., Chatham papers, 30/8/326, ff 76-7).

119 Pakenham, Thomas, The year of liberty (London, 1969), pp 242-3.Google Scholar

120 Bolton, , Act of union, p. 54 Google Scholar; Pitt to Auckland, 4 June 1798 ( Eden, Robert , bishop of Bath and Wells (ed.), Journal and correspondence of William, Lord Auckland (4 vols, London, 1861-2), iv, 2).Google Scholar

121 Lawless’s, Valentine Thoughts on the projected union was published in 1797 Google Scholar

122 Minto to Lady Minto, 27 June 1798 (Minto letters, iii, 8-9).

123 Auckland to Beresford, 1 Aug. 1798 (B.L., Auckland papers, Add. MS 34454, ff 324-5).

124 Greig, (ed.), The Farington diary, 1, 250 Google Scholar; Granville-Leveson-Gower to Lord Stafford, 14 Jan. 1799 ( Granville, Countess (ed.), Lord Granville-Leveson-Gower, private correspondence, 1781-1821 (2 vols, London, 1916), i, 237).Google Scholar

125 Johnston, , Ireland in the eighteenth century, p. 192.Google Scholar

126 I should like to thank James McGuire for his comments on an earlier version of this paper.