Who paid for the Glorious Revolution?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.


“People who used the epithet revealed how narrow and myopic was their perspective, for obviously ‘Glorious Revolution’ could apply only to England, not to Scotland or Ireland” 2. But is this entirely true? As noted above, the English Parliament took pains to portray the bloodless coup in England as passing on the crown post abdication. But this argument could not be used in Ireland. The war that raged from 1689 to 1690 was called in the Irish language Cogadh an Dá Rí, the War of Two Kings, reflecting the fact that both James II and William III were on the battle fields. In England adherents of passive obedience (that is, the idea that absolute obedience or submission of a subject to the authority of a ruler was mandatory, even to a tyrannical ruler) could argue their king had abandoned his kingship. For the likes of William King, then Dean of St Patrick’s and representing Archbishop Marsh in Dublin, no such argument was possible when James II arrived on the spot in March 1689. A private manuscript survives in which William King works through the question of what it would take to justify a break between church and state. The key question: “What if our governours and bishops should be persecuted and has’d away by force and popery establish’d without a legall method?” That, for King, justified a break and meant that, for him at least, the link was not a matter of divine law (or divine right), but a contingent political settlement3 Thus, it’s unsurprising the event was seen in Ireland as a revolution, and for Irish protestants (both of the Established Church and dissenters) the preservation from “popery” was readily called glorious.

Because of this, it is unsurprising that the first use in print of “Glorious Revolution” seems to be in Willam Molyneux’s Case of Ireland. The Case of Ireland makes an extended historical and philosophical argument for Ireland’s parliament making laws for Ireland without the interference of the parliament at Westminster. While arguing that the method of repaying the cost to England of suppressing rebellion should be left to the Irish parliament, Molyneux says “We have an Example of this in Point between England and Holland in the glorious revolution under King William the Third: Holland, in assisting England, expended 600000 Pounds, and the English Parliament fairly repaid them” 4

Another example comes from the non-juror Charles Leslie. He had certainly read Molyneux’s Case, since he replied to it in Considerations of importance to Ireland in a letter to a member of Parliament there; upon occasion of Mr Molyneaux’s late book. In his 1708 A Letter from a Gentleman in Scotland to His Friend in England Leslie uses the term a number of times, including the following: “It is a principle of undoubted certainty, and on which the late glorious Revolution turn’d, That the Civil Constitution is founded upon contract” 5. The only other descriptor he uses for “revolution” is “happy” (once). Given Leslie was a non-juror (he refused to swear allegiance to William and Mary) it is unlikely the usage reflects his feelings.

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