Patriot Parliament

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The Patriot Parliament is the name given to the Irish Parliament called by James II during the 1689 to 1691 war in Ireland. The first since 1666, it held only one session, from 7 May 1689 to 20 July 1689.

The Commons was 70 members short since there were no elections in the northern provinces and its members overwhelmingly Old English and Catholic.[1] Sir Richard Nagle was elected Speaker while the Lords was led by Baron Fitton and included five Protestant peers and four Church of Ireland bishops; Anthony Dopping, Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath was leader of the opposition.[2]

Irish nationalist historian Sir Charles Gavan Duffy first used the term "Patriot Parliament" in 1893 but in reality, it was deeply divided.[3]


Despite his Catholicism, James II became king in 1685 with widespread support in all three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, largely due to fear of civil war if he were bypassed; by 1688, it seemed only his removal could prevent one and he was sent into exile after the November 1688 Glorious Revolution.[4]

There was wider support for James in Ireland, where around 75% of the population were Catholic, with Protestant influence concentrated in Ulster, where they comprised nearly 50% of the population. In addition, many were NonConformists, a group James tried to attract in England and Scotland and who shared Catholic opposition to the established Church of Ireland.[5] For many, land reform was more important than religion; the proportion owned by Irish Catholics declined from 90% in 1600 to 22% by 1685, most of it concentrated in the hands of the Catholic Old English elite. Catholic and Protestant merchants alike objected to commercial restrictions that prevented trading with North America and imposed tariffs on Irish exports.[6]

Demands for greater autonomy by those allied with the Earl of Tyrconnell clashed with James' vision of a unitary state of England, Scotland and Ireland, where the role of Parliament and the church was simply to obey their monarch.[7] Contrary to normal practice, James also claimed the right to appoint Catholic bishops and clergy in his kingdoms, which caused conflict with Pope Innocent XI.[8]


Earl of Tyrconnell, member of the Old English Catholic elite whose main objective was Irish autonomy

In March 1689, James landed in Ireland and issued writs for the first Irish Parliament since 1666. In 1843, Thomas Davis described the result as a "patriot Senate" in his essay "The Irish Parliament of James II".[9] "Patriot Parliament" was first used in 1893 by Irish nationalist historian Sir Charles Gavan Duffy.[10]

The Commons was 70 members short, since no elections were held in northern counties like Fermanagh and Donegal. Those elected were almost entirely Catholic, of whom only a minority were Gaelic Irish, the majority being members of the Old English minority.[11] The Speaker or leader was Sir Richard Nagle, a wealthy lawyer and close ally of Tyrconnell.[12]

The Lords was led by Baron Fitton, who had spent 1664 to 1684 in prison for criminal libel; allegedly selected by James because he was a Protestant, he promptly converted to Catholicism.[13] Five Protestant peers and four Church of Ireland bishops sat in the Lords, with Anthony Dopping, Bishop of Meath acting as leader of the opposition.[2]

For James, the main prize was the English throne and he viewed Irish policy in terms of impact on that objective. One motive for calling Parliament was to offset the damage done by suspending the English and Scottish houses in 1685 but he showed few signs of having learned from the experience. Concessions potentially weakened his position in England and Scotland, while in the early stages of the war, Protestant Jacobite support was more significant than often appreciated. These included many members of the established Church of Ireland, the most prominent being Viscount Mountjoy.[14] James made concessions on Irish autonomy with great reluctance and despite his own Catholicism insisted on maintaining the rights of the Church of Ireland.[15]

Tyrconnell viewed the restoration of James as secondary to an autonomous Ireland. He was among the minority who benefited from the 1662 Land Settlement and had no desire to change it; led by the Earl of Limerick, this faction urged a compromise settlement with William in January 1689.[16] This conflicted with the aims of the Gaelic or 'Old Irish', a minority in Parliament but a majority in the country. They demanded a greater share of government appointments and restoration of lands confiscated after the Cromwellian conquest.[11]

Key Legislation[edit]

The Act of Recognition recognised James's right to the Crown of Ireland and compared the usurpation by William III to the murder of James' father Charles I. It emphasised indefeasible hereditary rights and the Divine right of kings; these contradicted the 1689 English Bill of Rights and Scottish Articles of Grievances which made dependent on an assumed Social contract between a king and his subjects.[17]

The Declaratory Act affirmed the Kingdom of Ireland had always been "distinct" from that of England, and no Act of the English Parliament was binding unless ratified by the Irish Parliament.[18] However, Poynings' Law, remained on the books; created in 1494, this effectively allowed the English Parliament to legislate for Ireland and James was unwilling to repeal it.[10] It was a major grievance for the Protestant-controlled Parliaments of the 19th century and not formally repealed until 1878.

Parliament also passed legislation or resolutions for additional purposes:

  • Liberty of Conscience; this allowed freedom of worship and civic and political equality for Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters, and repeal of the Oath of Supremacy. However, it retained the Act of Uniformity; while James sought the abolition of penalties against liberty of conscience, he viewed the Church of Ireland as an essential element of his support and remained its head, despite his Catholicism.[19]
  • A Bill of Attainder; between 1,800 to 2,200 individuals were named as traitors, subject to confiscation of property and their lives.[20] After 1690, this was used by William's supporters to justify doing the same.

The historian Firth wrote James opposed the last two measures, but was "overborne by Tyrconnell and the Irish nationalists".


After defeat at the Boyne in July 1690, the Jacobites abandoned Dublin and retreated to Limerick, while James left Ireland. After the October 1691 Treaty of Limerick ended the war, all legislation enacted by the Patriot Parliament was declared void by the Parliament of England.[21] The 1695 Irish Parliament passed an Act declaring all actions of the "late pretended Parliament" void and ordered its records destroyed.[22]

Its declaration of autonomy made the Parliament of great interest to 19th century Irish nationalists, in particular Young Ireland leader Thomas Davis.[23] He later wrote a history of the Parliament as an inspiration to his fellow countrymen.[24]


  1. ^ Harris 2006, p. 437.
  2. ^ a b Moody, Martin and Byrne 2009, p. 489.
  3. ^ Szechi 1997, p. 44.
  4. ^ Wormsley 2015, p. 189.
  5. ^ Harris 2006, pp. 88-90.
  6. ^ Harris 2005, pp. 106-108.
  7. ^ Stephen 2010, pp. 55-58.
  8. ^ Miller 2001, p. 153.
  9. ^ Davis 1843.
  10. ^ a b Bartlett 2010, p. 135.
  11. ^ a b Szechi 1994, pp. 47-48.
  12. ^ McGuire 2004, p. Online.
  13. ^ Slater 2007, p. Online.
  14. ^ Harris 2006, p. 435.
  15. ^ Moody, Martin and Byrne 2009, p. 490.
  16. ^ Harris 2006, p. 436.
  17. ^ Harris 2006, p. 439.
  18. ^ Simms 1970, p. 80.
  19. ^ Harris 2006, p. 441.
  20. ^ Firth 1937, pp. 212-213.
  21. ^ Hill 1961, p. 256.
  22. ^ Davis, Thomas Osborne. "The Irish Parliament of James II". CELT. University College Cork. p. 54. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  23. ^ Moody 2009, p. 491.
  24. ^ Sullivan 1979, pp. 25-26.


  • Bartlett, Thomas; Jeffery, Keith (1997). A Military History of Ireland. Cambridge UP.
  • Davis, Thomas Osborne (1843). The Irish Parliament of James II. University College Cork.
  • Firth, CH (author), Davies, Godfrey (ed) (1937). A Commentary on Macaulay's History of England (2008 ed.). Hesperides Press. ISBN 978-1443725637.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Harris, Tim (2006). Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy, 1685–1720 (2007 ed.). Penguin. ISBN 978-0141016528.
  • Hill, Christopher (1937). The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714 (2002 ed.). Psychology Press. ISBN 9780415267397.
  • McGuire, James (2004). Nagle, Sir Richard (Online ed.). Oxford DNB.
  • Miller, John (1978). James II; A study in kingship (1991 ed.). Methuen. ISBN 978-0413652904.
  • Moody; Martin; Byrne (eds.) (2009). A New History of Ireland: Volume III: Early Modern Ireland 1534-1691. OUP. ISBN 9780198202424.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Simms, JG (1970). Jacobite Ireland, 1685-91. Routledge. ISBN 978-0710064462.
  • Slater, Victor (2004). Fitton, Alexander [styled Sir Alexander Fitton], Jacobite Baron Fitton (Online ed.). Oxford DNB.
  • Sullivan, Eileen (1979). Thomas Davis (Irish Writers Series). Bucknell University Press. ISBN 978-0838712344.
  • Szechi, Daniel (1994). The Jacobites: Britain and Europe 1688-1788. Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719037740.
  • Wormsley, David (2015). James II: The Last Catholic King. Allen Lane. ISBN 014197706X.

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