Trade Restriction

Justin McCarthy
Chapter VIII | Start of Chapter

Before the era of the Drapier's Letters there had indeed been an attempt made by an eminent man to assert in argumentative and statesmanlike form the claim of Ireland to have a Parliament which could bring forward measures of its own, subject to the same constitutional authority as the Parliament of England. This man was William Molyneux, a distinguished writer on philosophic and scientific subjects, an intimate and valued friend of John Locke. He was born in Dublin in 1656, and held many successive appointments under the Government. Molyneux sat in the Irish Parliament for the University of Dublin, and was strongly opposed to the laws passed for the repression of Irish trade. Early in 1698 he published a work which may be called famous—"The Case of Ireland, being bound by Acts of Parliament made in England, Stated." In this he contended that England and Ireland were two separate kingdoms under the same Sovereign. The purport of this work may be told in one of its sentences. "If the religion, lives, liberties, fortunes, and estates of the clergy, nobility, and gentry of Ireland may be disposed of without their privity or consent, what benefit have they of any laws, liberties, or privileges granted unto them by the Crown of England?" The book was not intended to plead the cause of the democracy, or to champion in especial the cause of those lower orders for whom the agitator is usually supposed to work. Molyneux dedicated it to the reigning Sovereign, and his pleading was mainly for the rights of the clergy, nobility, and gentry. This book created a profound sensation; it was condemned by the English Parliament as libellous and seditious, and was ordered to be burned by the common hangman. Molyneux died soon after its publication, at the age of forty-two.