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ARCHBISHOP KING, THE BANK SCHEME (1720–21), AND WOOD’S HALFPENCE (1722–25) GORDON HUTTON The aim of this essay is to establish a picture of Archbishop William King’s political aims and strategy during the period 1720–25, the years following the Declaratory Act (Act 6 of George I), the passage of which would have appeared to have put an end to King’s lifelong cherished aspiration to achieve autonomy for the Irish parliament—whether as a supreme legislative or judicial authority. In delineating such a picture, I hope to demonstrate that it is by no means the case that King’s political career came to an end in 1720, when he had reached seventy years of age, but that he continued to be very actively involved in the public agitation surrounding the two highly contentious episodes with which this essay is concerned. William King embraced Whig principles at the Revolution of 1688 and openly espoused the cause of William of Orange. The basis of King’s prestige among the settler community rested on a combination of his courageous behavior during the Jacobite regime in Ireland, 1689–90, and his authorship of The State of the Protestants in Ireland under the late King James’ Government (1691). This publication was the most influential justification of the Irish Protestants’ repudiation of allegiance to the Catholic King James II, on the basis of the natural right to liberty and self-preservation . Consecrated Bishop of Derry in 1691, King entered into a lawsuit with the London Society in order to prevent the letting of lands to Presbyterians . The case raised the constitutional question of the juridical independence of the Irish House of Lords. King strongly resented and opposed the growing interference of the English parliament in Irish affairs. Appointed Archbishop of Dublin in 1703, King was an advocate of the doctrines advanced in 1698 by William Molyneux, and he was in effect the leader of the opposition to the party of the English interest in Ireland. The principles that King advanced included Ireland’s claim to equality with England, the sovereign rights of the Irish parliament, condemnation of the ARCHBISHOP KING, THE BANK SCHEME, AND WOOD’S HALFPENCE 81 appointment of Englishmen to lucrative posts in Ireland (whether civil or ecclesiastical) and of all restraints placed on Irish trade. Having labored all his life to advance the welfare of the church in Ireland by improving its revenues and by raising up a body of efficient clergymen, he was vexed by the unconcern with which the English ministry conferred the best preferments in the church on Englishmen as reward for their political subservience , thereby passing over worthy Irish-born clergy. A schism in the church steadily grew between Irish-born and English-born prelates. By controlling the royal prerogative and the nomination of bishops, the ministry in London was able to manipulate the strings of the whole Irish ecclesiastical structure easily and effectively, and, much to King’s annoyance , they took advantage of the fact to exercise political control over the Church of Ireland. King held the conviction that the well-being of the church was bound up with the maintenance of its privileges, hence his resolute position on the maintenance of the Sacramental Test. According to his view of church-state relations, it was the duty of the civil power to protect the church, not to legislate for it or destroy its freedom and independence . He was in favor of toleration for existing sects, provided that they were excluded from political power and prevented from proselytizing. In the final analysis, the question of the jurisdiction of the Irish parliament was one of power, not of argument. King might boldly declare that acts of the British parliament signified no more than the bylaws of an extraneous court until confirmed by both houses in Dublin,1 but in fact the Anglo-Irish were compelled to bend to the will of Westminster. They could resist British rule by argument, maneuver, and evasion, but they could not afford to do so by force. The Protestant Ascendancy rested on British arms. The Anglo-Irish settlers exemplified by King were concerned to assert their control over Irish affairs, but...


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