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Loyalism in Ireland, 1789-1829

Loyalism in Ireland, 1789-1829

Allan Blackstock
Volume: 5
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Loyalism in Ireland, 1789-1829
    Book Description:

    Irish loyalism is often neglected in the historical literature or misrepresented as an ideologically rigid and narrowly sectarian foil to emerging nationalism. Yet, in the French Revolutionary wars, loyalism was a recognisable counter-revolutionary ideology with recent parallels in Britain, Europe and America. This book examines the Irish variant in a comparative context and analyses its military, political, cultural and religious dimensions to reveal distinctive strands. A 'liberal' version was receptive to Catholics as loyalists and open to constitutional reform, while an exclusively Protestant version monopolised public expressions of loyalty to politically undermine the campaign for Catholic emancipation. Cultural manifestations of loyalism, including ballads, sermons and Orange parading rituals, are analysed to address questions of popular spontaneity or elite manipulation and changes in Protestant identity. The study reveals that exclusive loyalism needed a physical threat, so the 1828-9 Brunswick Clubs combined militant 1798-style rhetoric with innovative mass petitioning. They failed to prevent emancipation but left a template for Irish Conservatism. ALLAN BLACKSTOCK is a reader at the Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages, School of History and International Affairs at the University of Ulster.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-566-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    At the beginning of the twenty-first century, loyalism in Ireland is understood as a product of the recent ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland. As such, it has distinctive connotations of paramilitarism, sectarianism, illegality and a form of tribal identity displayed in territorial markers like flags on lamp-posts, gable-end murals and kerbstones painted red, white and blue. The boundaries between loyalism and unionism are vague; it is common to refer to the political representatives of paramilitary groups as ‘loyalist’ politicians in distinction not only to republicans and nationalists, but also to the various unionist parties. Moreover, with loyalist flags including the union...

  6. Section 1. LOYALISM DEFINED

    • 1 Antecedents: Loyalty and disaffection in Ireland before 1789
      (pp. 23-38)

      In Ireland, as in Britain, disloyalty was usually defined negatively by legal prescriptions for treason, which first received statutory definition in 1352 as the commission of treasonable acts against the king rather than the state or the government. This mediaeval statute applied in Ireland as sister kingdom under the same monarch.¹ Treason has been described as the Janus face of allegiance, sovereignty and identity. Yet in eighteenth-century Ireland such conceptual polarities were problematic as the loyalties they represented were shifting, making Proteus a better metaphor for the resultant complexities. This situation had historical roots: the Protestant Reformation’s failure ensured that...

    • 2 The Brethren of Britons: The emergence of Irish counter-revolutionary loyalism, 1789–96
      (pp. 39-69)

      The 1790s have been described as ‘a crucial decade for Ireland, witnessing the rebellion of 1798, a marked polarisation on sectarian lines, and the act of union’.¹ Counter-revolutionary loyalism was, as we have seen, a recognisable feature in Britain by 1792. As Irish loyalists played a vital part in the ‘convergences and conflicts’ of this pivotal decade, and as loyalty in Ireland was a changing and multi-faceted phenomenon before 1789, if the subject is freed from its anachronistic straitjacket, questions arise about the extent to which the Irish variant of this broad ideology drew on indigenous and established patterns of...

    • 3 ‘The first up will carry the day’: The mobilisation and militarisation of Irish loyalism, 1796–8
      (pp. 70-96)

      The scale of conflict against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France necessitated the mobilisation and militarisation of civilians to an unprecedented degree, swamping all traditional emergency expedients like militia and making Britain an ‘armed nation’.¹ Ireland was not exempt. By mid-1796, reports of an imminent invasion attempt forced Camden to grasp the nettle of home defence, despite his dread of renewed volunteering. Time was short. From the north came Thomas Knox’s warning that the rapidly militarising revolutionaries made some scheme for ‘arming the loyalists’ urgently necessary as ‘the first up will carry the day’.² From Camden’s perspective there were two choices: armed...

    • 4 Closing the ranks: Loyalism monopolised, 1798–1805
      (pp. 97-130)

      On Monday 4 June 1798, three days before a Belfast Presbyterian, Henry Joy McCracken, lit the flame of rebellion at the Battle of Antrim, Thomas Percy, the scholarly Anglican bishop of Dromore, watched bonfires blaze on the Belfast mountains during the short summer night. Below, candles in house windows illuminated the town’s streets and narrow entries in a celebration. The United Irish society had originated amongst Belfast’s heavily Presbyterian population and the town had a reputation as the citadel of Irish radicalism. Belfast had notoriously commemorated the French Revolution and support for the United Irishmen survived the change from a...

  7. Section 2. LOYALISM IN LIMBO

    • 5 ‘Ceremonial pageantry’: The politics of parading and public display, 1805–15
      (pp. 133-168)

      Amongst the problems Robert Peel faced in 1813 – the second year of his Irish chief-secretaryship – was that of yeomanry bands participating in ‘the ceremonial pageantry ... that occurs before certain anniversaries’, meaning Orange parades on 12 July. The commander-of-the-forces, Sir John Hope, agreed and wanted the practice banned. Peel knew that this custom encouraged ‘animosity between the parties’; but also understood that it was ‘a very delicate point to interfere with old-established cases’. The use of yeomanry bands in Orange ceremonial occasions symbolised the militarised Protestant loyalism of 1798. Any interference, especially by public order, would, Peel reckoned,...

    • 6 The first dissolution and the Second Reformation: Loyalism in decline, 1815–25
      (pp. 169-194)

      As the Napoleonic war entered its final stages in 1814, Snowdon Cupples’s pamphlet refuting accusations against Philip Johnson included a retrospective account of loyalism on the Hertford estate, stressing its military and defensive nature. Cupples linked the loyal associations of 1793 with contemporary Orangeism by tracing an institutional genealogy through the armed associations of 1796, Johnson’s service as an active magistrate and the estate’s preponderance of yeomen. The version of loyalism he articulated could have appeared at any time during the eighteenth-century, with its Erastian understanding of the Church and State relationship in ‘our excellent constitution’, and its old Whig...


    • 7 Protestant politics, popular loyalism and public opinion, 1825–8
      (pp. 197-224)

      The ‘True Blue’ loyalist lauded in the ballad for making a defiant speech at the annual commemoration marking the shutting of Derry’s gates in December 1825 was the County Londonderry M.P. George Robert Dawson. The ritual heart of the ceremony was the burning of an effigy of Lundy, the treacherous city governor who had defected to the Jacobites during the 1689 siege. In the year of Orange dissolution this local ceremony assumed wider significance as the Protestant cause appeared trapped between the Catholic Association and its own internal tensions. These problems underlay Dawson’s fiery speech, so belligerent that it attracted...

    • 8 The Star of Brunswick
      (pp. 225-262)

      The Irish Brunswick club movement of 1828–9 has been as badly served by posterity as by hostile contemporaries. O’Connell dismissed the clubs and their intention to unite all strands of Protestantism against emancipation with sanguinary and stereotypic euphemisms like ‘Bloodhound Clubs’ implying that they were merely the militant loyalism of 1798 resurrected. In July 1829 George Dawson damned the Brunswick ‘union’ as ‘a rope of sand’. Writing retrospectively, Colonel Blacker dismissed Brunswickism as an aristocratically dominated phenomenon which ignored plebeian concerns: ‘The thing flashed for a moment, and went out.’² Later historians of Orangeism agree, stressing Brunswick’s social and...

    • 9 Epilogue
      (pp. 263-272)

      In 1814 John Giffard made an extraordinary retrospective claim about Irish loyalism. He equated Orangeism’s spread from Ulster to the rest of Ireland in 1797–8 with the fact that Dublin Protestants had an already extant model, having previously ‘observed the advantages which London derived from Mr. Reeves’s association at the Crown and Anchor.’¹ Made as the French wars neared their end, Giffard’s implication that Irish loyalists became ‘the Brethren of Britons’ at their commencement begs questions about the role of counter-revolutionary loyalism in shaping Protestant identity during the tumultuous years which saw two wars with France, two rebellions in...

  9. Select bibliography
    (pp. 273-284)
  10. Index
    (pp. 285-296)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 297-297)