Charles OConor: Commentary
|C. P. Meehan, The Rise and Fall of the Irish Franciscan Monasteries [...] (Dublin: J. Duffy 1869)
[Of the Franciscan Convent at Creevelea, destroyed by fire and rebuilt by the Franciscans in 1641]:
As for the monastery, it was leased to one Harrison, who, in consideration of an annual and exorbitant rent, allowed the friars to cover a protion of the church with thatch, and themselves, now reduced to four or five, to live as best they may in miserable shielings near the ancient monastery. A truculent, grasping wretch is this Harrison: for he no sooner discovered a peculiar trait of the Irish character - I mean their hereditary love of being interred in the graves of their forefathers, or within the precincts of some hallowed ruin - than he erected a gate at the entrance of the cemetery, and levied toll on every corse that was brought to be buried there.
As for the friars, they continued to live in thatched cabins in the neighbourhood of the monastery; and be it recorded to their honour, one of them taught, in 1718, the venerable Charles OConor, of Belenagare [sic], the first rudiments of Latin, as he himself tells us in his memoirs.
|—Meehan, op. cit., pp.85-86 (quoting in extenso from the papers of one Father Mooney).
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Lady Morgan, ODonnel: An Irish Tale (London: Colburn MDCCCXXXV  edn.) - see her Notes, on the celebrated Charles OConnor [sic] of Ballinagar (p.434): [...] Although he afterwards became so distinguished as the author of many beautiful tracts, and as a man of science, he was of necessity, from the nature of the times, educated by stealth, and, like ODonnel, by a man who had once lived in courts, been distinguished by princes, and who in his old age found no refuge from misfortune but in the solitude of rocks, morasses, and mountains. Shuch was ORoark, Bishop of Killala, and uncle and preception of OConnor. After having lived in the imperial court as secretary to a prince, love of couorntry brought him back to Ireland whenthe penal statutes were in full force. Though protected by letters from the French sovereign to the leading nobility of Ireland, nothing could save him from persecution: he [wandered] for years among the wilds and bogs of the Joyce country: he at last found refuge in the solitudes of Ballinagar, and being a man of great learning and science, devoted himself to the education of his nephew. Carolan, the famous Irish bard, was sometimes present at their studies, and the following anecdote is no bad picture of the times it relates to. / Nor would the good bishop allow him (his nephew) to neglect the study of the Irish language. One day, when he had succeeded very happily in describing to friend in Vienna the miseries of the old Irish, a task pointed out to him by the bishop, he told him he would never more write in Irish, since he had succeeded so well in English. / No, said the bishop, what you have once learned, you must never forget; and you must not go to rest till you have translated the Miserere into Irish. He complied, and his translation was superior to Bedels [recte Bedell, q.v.]. Carolan, who was present when it was read by the bishop in a solemn, affecting voice, burst into tears, and seizing his harp, in a fit of raputurous affection for the family of Ballinagar, swept along the strings in a a sudden fit of inspiration his Donagh-Cahilloig; singing extempore the fall of the Milesian race, the hospitality of the old OConnor, and his greatness of soul, who, in the midst of crosses and calamities, harboured that very night in his house a crowd of reduced gentlemen, and had hired a number of harpers to strike up a solemn concert at midnight mass; for it was Christmas-eve. (See The Life of Charles OConnor, of Ballinagar, Esq. M.R.I.A.; Lady Morgan, op. cit., p.434; note to p.156.) [Cont.]
Lady Morgan, ODonnel: An Irish Tale (London: Colburn MDCCCXXXV  edn.), of the Abbé who educates the ODonnel, and the family circumstances we are told that the younger ODonnel entered the Austrian army [in the wake of the Treaty of Limerick] while the elder, with an early imbibed taste for philosophical diplomacy, became an efficient agent of the court of Madrid, before turning from the narrow and illiberal views of a crooked and intricate policy to abandon the world and thr[o]w himself into the Abbey of La Trappe. [Here a ftn. directs us to the account of Abbé Hussy in Cumberlands Life.  [... S]uch was the event which hailed the Abbés return to this country - the youngest of this two nephews had abjured a faith which only entailed misfortune; and reaping the fruits of his apostacy by taking the letter of the law, left his family and its natural heir destitute. The injured brother, maddened with the double wrongs of himself and his infact son, gave vent to natures bitterest indignation. The brothers fought - fratricide was added to apostacy; and the guilty survicor, not able to appear on the scene of his crimes, left his country forever. / “He who was thus at once bereaved of property and life - was my father!” / “The venerable exile, thus welcomed to his native land, sought his lost asylum among these mountains; and, with the poor remains of his hard earnings, raised this shed, in a region over which his ancestors har reigned, and at no great distance from the rock, on which, in ruder times, they were inaugurated. / Here, too, he watched over the infancy and boyhood of his orphan grand-nephew; and gave up the first sixteen years of his solitude to my education. Thus, but for him, I should have remained for ever, one of the wild shrubs of the wilderness; to his learning and science I am indebted for whatever information I possess; to his taste I owe that cultivation of mind and love of letters which is now almost my only enjoyment. [156; see note at end of volume, as supra].
Michael Reilly [a cousin], letter held in OConor Papers (Royal Irish Academy, Dublin): I saw lately a Manuscript, intitled, An Answer to the Bishop of Cloynes Exhortation to the Roman Catholics of this Kingdom; it is written by a Clergyman, who shows himself a person of sound reason, and well acquainted with his Subject. He has, in my opinion, given a full and just Answer to the Paper I mentioned, and in a natural and just light detailed the Obstructions which the Bishops Scheme must meet with, while the Laws which have been enacted against us continue in Force: He has incontestably showed that Sloth and Idleness are no more peculiar to our Countrymen, than they are to any other People on Earth, and that those who are now remarkable, for example, the Dutch, French, &c., for [sic] their industry and Oeconomy woud in our Circumstances be whatever we are. He will indeed, if he appears in Print, rescue us in the Judgmt of the Candid from the Obloquy and Scandal thrown upon us by those whom self-interest has biased agt us. But alas, Sir, to what purpose is it to lay open Sores which our Passiveness to the ruling Power has long since closed! Can we hope for Redress from those whose determined resolution it has been for many years past, and still is to render us poor and miserable, nay, to absolutely extirpate us, to make room for a general Reformation in these Kingdoms
If we demonstrate to our Masters that a little more indulgence to us woud be [to] their Advantage as well as ours, they will not receive any Hint from us: So that in our passiveness alone can we expect any happiness, or rather quietness in our misery. This Answer is in a Printers Hands, who I believe, is too cautious to publish it; He tells me the Authr is determined to be at the expense of an Impression and take copies with him to the Country he lives in (the North) rather than it shoud be totally suppressed. (Quoted in David Berman, A Note on Berkeley and his Catholic Countrymen, in Long Room, Nos. 16 & 17 (Spring-Autumn 1978), pp.26-36; p.26-27; further contains quotations from pamphlets of OConor including complements to Berkeley.
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Paul Walsh, Irish Men of Learning (1947): In any re-examination due account should be taken of marginal or interlinear notes, particularly those of Roderic OFlaherty and Charles OConor of Belangare. OConor has been severely criticised for his additions in various manuscripts, though the additions are mostly correct, and, after all the minor men have said about him, it must be borne in mind that C.iii.I was his own book.//He was not, it must be conceded, a trained chronicler, but, as the old saying has it, he had met the scholars. There was no one during his time, half as competent as he, to add any commentary to our ancient chronicles. Indeed he must be acknowledged the chief custodian of Irish native learning during the dark century that followed the Williamite wars. (p.24.) [Cont.]
Paul Walsh (Irish Men of Learning, 1947) - cont.: Gan aon a nErinn aniú so acht mé féin um aonar [not one in Ireland but myself alone is engaged on work of this kind]. Indexed as Cathal Óg (C. OConor of Belanagare), with other remarks at 2, 22-27 [owned and knew Annals of Connacht as Annals of Kilronan], 31, 126-32 [under discussion of Ó Coirnín, OConors hand is distinguished and very easily recognised. This remarkable man was born in the parish of Kilmactranny, Co. Sligo, on the first day of Jan. 1710; his father had settled there pending the rstoration of his estate in co. Roscommon, forfeited after the Jacobite war; he resided at Knockmore. Note, Prionnsias Ó Coirnín was tutor to the young Charles in 1719-20, when the little lad was betweeen the ages of nine and eleven years. See also pp.234, 267, 272 and longer extracts from Walsh, as infra.]
Russell K. Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania UP  1959), p.96; OConor demonstrates Macphersons forgeries in Dissertations, 2nd edn. (1766); therein also quotes without citing exact source (acc. Alspach) Dr. Johnstons view on Irish antiquarian studies (Preface, pp.iv-v); OConor criticises Keating in these terms: Keatings work is a most injudicaious Collection; the historical Part is degraded by the fabulous, with which it abounds. Keating was one of the ose laborious Readers, who, in making Extracts, do it without Selection or Discernment; and such Works ... ought never to be published. (Dissertations, 2nd edn. 1766, Preface, p.x.)
Robert Welch, A History of Verse Translation from the Irish 1789-1897 (Gerrards Cross 1988), Chap. 3, Walker and Brooke, [pp.28-43]. Note that an appendix to J. C. Walkers Historical Memoirs (1786) contains personal letters from OConor ; The second ed. of OConors Dissertations on the History of Ireland (1766) contained a factual refutal of Macphersons manufactured history . Welch, p.174, ftn.26, comments on OConors no-nonsense approach to Irish legendary material in Dissertations, and refers to TW Moody and FX Martin, eds., The Course of Irish History, p.227, for further information.
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Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986): Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn addressing Seán, the Mac Uilliam Iochtar, claims that sovereignty in Ireland is won by force of arms, and exonerates the latest invaders in terms of the invasions of their predecessors, Gi bé adéaradh gur deóraidh /Búrcaigh na mbeart n-inleóghain-/faghar dfhuil Ghaoidhil nó Ghoill/nách fuil na aoighidh agoinn. [Should any say that the Burkes of lionlike prowess are strangers - let one of the blood of Gael or Gall be found who is not a sojourner amongst us.] To the ensuing verse, Gan adhbhar le a mbiodhgfadh bean/gan leattrom Ghoill ag Gaoidheal/gan éadáil Ghaoidil ag Gall/gan éagáir aoinfhir dfhulang [without anything which might make a woman tremble, no Gael committing injustice against any English-man, nor any Englishman despoiling a Gael, no wrong of any man permitted], Charles OConor added the marginalia, mo mallacht or[t] a thaidhg is naireach an dan é so do dhiaidh [curse you, Tadhg, this is a shameful poem you have left (The Bardic Poetry of Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn, ed. Eleanor Knott, [2 vols], Vol. 1, 120n. and Vol. 2, 255). Leerssen, however, interprets the poem in the context of cultural fraternisation between Hiberno-Normans and Gaelic culture as represented, and presided over, by the poets ... stimulated by the appearance of Tudor policy as a common threat to both. But poem has more often been interpreted as a betrayal of the foreigner, Eleanor Knott remarking on its political cynicism as somewhat astounding at first sight and not to be taken seriously (TD Vol. 1, xlvii-xlviii). In ftn. 155, Leerssen adds that OConors irritation was the more understandable since the Burkes had occupied the ancestral territory of the OConor kings of Connacht. (Leerssen, p.199.) [Cont.]
Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986) - cont.: OConors history of Ireland, in the tradition of MacCurtin, printed as Dissertations on the antient history of Ireland, wherein an account is given of the origins, government, letters, sciences, religion, manners and customs of the antient inhabitants. The book won Dr. Johnsons positive interest, having been show it - as he wrote to OConor in an unsolicited letter of appreciation - by the favour of Mr. Faulkner. [But see real circumstances of the connexion with Johnson in Ward and Ward, supra]. After his remarks encouraging researches into the history of a nation once so illustrious, Johnson continued, What relation there is between the Welsh and the Irish languages, or between the language of Ireland and that of Biscay, deserves enquiry. Of these provincial and unextended tongues, it seldom happens that a fair comparison can be made. I hope you will continue this kind of learning, which has lain too long neglected, and which, if it be suffer to remain in oblivion, &c. [And note that FDA, supra, omits the above sentence without marking the hiatus.] (Leerssen, p.382.)
Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986), - cont.: Charles OConor, in Dissertations, holds Irish to be a close approximation of the language of Japhet and descendants (p.37) and to resemble Hebrew (p.50). His outlook is optismistic, It is certain that the untowards fortune of Ireland, for several Ages past, hath at length relented. The first Men of the Nation have distinguished themselves throughout Europe, by the Encouragement of every art extensive of its Happiness and Reputation, they have expelled its evil genius, by weeding Prejudice from Patriotism, hateful Distinctions from the common Interest, and all Schemes of Engrossment from Liberty (p. xxxix). Note: the Dissertations successfully reissued in 1766 with additions attacking Macpherson, Johnsons arch-enemy. Dr. Johnson next encouraged OConor to take up a history of Ireland dealing with the period before Thomas Lelands. Johnson wrote, Leland begins his history too late, the ages which demand an exact enquiry are those times (for such there were) when Ireland was the school of the west, the quiet habitation of sanctity and literature. If you could give a history, however imperfect, of the Irish nation, from its conversion to Christianity to the invasion from England, you would amplify knowledge with new views and new objects. Set about it, therefore, if you can, do what you can easily do without anxious exactness. Lay the foundation and leave the superstructure to others. (Johnson to OConor, 19 May 1777; also in Boswell.) OConor began working on a history of his own, which he never completed. See also ftn. 397: OConor published an isolated pamphlet anonymously between 1761 and 1771 called A vindication of Lord Taaffes civil principals, written in defence of the Observations on affairs in Ireland from the settlement in 1691, to the present time, published in 1766 by Viscount Taaffe, living in Austria [material supplied by OConor (acc. Leerssen, or actually written by him - vide Wall, op. cit., infra]. That work was based on materials gathered for Taaffe by OConor (cf., OConor to Taaffe, 14 June 1766, Letters Vol. I pp.200-1. OConor then published in 1771 his Observations on the popery laws, posing again as a Protestant. His identity became known, to his mortification, making further anonymous publications of this kind impossible. [Cont.]
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See also ...
Christopher Anderson, Historical Sketches of the Native Irish and Their Descendants [2nd Edn., Enl.] (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, Tweedale-court and Simpkin & Marshall, London 1830).
In the year 1757, we find Dr Johnson writing to Dr OConnor [sic]: I have long wished that the Irish literature were cultivated. Ireland is known by tradition to have been the seat of piety and learning ; and surely it would be very acceptable to those who are curious, either in the original of nations, or the affinity of languages, to be further informed of the revolutions of a people so ancient, and once so illustrious. I hope you will continue to cul- tivate this kind of learning, which has lain so long neglected, and which, if it be suffered to remain in oblivion for another century, may, perhaps, never be retrieved. Twenty years after this, Johnson is writing to the same individual, and on the same subject : If I have ever disappointed you, give me leave to tell you that you have likewise disappointed me. I expected great discoveries in Irish antiquity, and large publications in the  language; but the world still remains as it was, doubtful and ignorant. What the Irish language is in itself, and to what languages it has affinity, are very interesting questions, which every man wishes to see resolved that has any philological or historical curiosity. Dr Leland begins his history too late; the ages which deserve an exact inquiry are those times, for such there were, when Ireland was the school of the west, the quiet habitation of sanctity and literature. If you could give a history, though imperfect, of the Irish nation from its conversion to Christianity to the invasion from England, you would amplify knowledge with new views and new objects. Set about it, therefore, if you can; do what you can easily do without anxious exactness. Lay the foundation, and leave the superstructure to posterity.* (pp.29-30.)
Ftn.: *Boswells Life, anno 1777. The words in Italics were misquoted by Dr Campbell in his Strictures, if such times there were, although he was actually the bearer of the letter to OConnor.
|[ Available at Internet Archive - online; accessed 13.02.2015; notification by Frank Callery on Facebook. ]
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Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986) - cont.: Charles OConor issued The Protestant interest considered as to the operation of the popery laws (1757), and The danger of popery to the present government examined (1761), both masquerading to some extent as the writings of a liberal Protestant. Then for a decades his pamphleteering ceased, and he turned to hacks like Brooke to write for him. . Pamphleteering - especially anonymous pamphleteering - gave way to lobbying with the formation of the Catholic Committee by OConor, Curry, and Wyse, aided cautiously by Lord Trimleston and Fingall. At the same time, they sought to influence other writers, such as David Hume and Ferdinando Warner. Charles OConors letter to Curry, remarking on his encouragements to the historian Warner, commissioned by public subscription to write a History of Ireland (London 1763), is to be found in his Letters, ed, C.E. & R.E. Ward, 2 vols. (Ann Arbor, Mich.; Irish Am. Cult. Inst./Univ. Microfilms 1980). [386-87]. When the first volume of Warners soi-distant impartial history (nothing argued for with a partial affection to one country, or with a prejudice to the other) appeared in 1763, OConor saw through this astutia historica, as he called it (letter to Curry, 19 Aug, 1763; Letters, Vol I, p.172) . For OConors involvement with Lelands History and the sequel, see Leland (q.v.). Further: OConor wrote an open letter to David Hume on some misrepresentations in his history of Great Britain, that is, regarding 1641. The letter appeared in the Gentlemans magazine in 1763. Hume toned down his account of 1641 in the 1770 ed. of his History. But note, ftn.406, Hume became harsher in the 1778 ed., thinking - according to Berman - at that date that OConor and Curry had overstated their claim; though Leerssen believes that the history (1771) issued by Leland in the interim was the real cause of his change of heart. (Leerssen, p.388). [Cont.]
Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986) - cont.: Charles Topham Bowden, A tour through Ireland (Dublin 1791), visited Charles OConor and reported that he has been, for many years of his life, employed in collecting materials and writing a history of Ireland, which was anxiously wished for by the public, whom I am sorry to inform they never are to behold that interesting work, as he has committed it to the flames, from an apprehension that his bad state of health would not permit him to complete it agreeable to his wishes, or worthy of the rank he has long supported in the literary world (p.218-19; Leerssen, p.391]. For OConors coaching of Ferdinando Warners Remarks on the history of [Macphersons] Fingal (1762), see under Warner, infra. [Cont.]
Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986), cont. - OConor, friend and mentor to Vallancey; OConor was invited to become a corresponding member of the Select Committee (founded 1772 [precursor of RIA]) of the Dublin Society, as was Sylvester OHalloran and Carpenter, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, under the presidency of Sir Lucius OBrien. At the first meeting, OConor was entrusted with publishing OFlahertys answer to Mackenzie, in The Ogygia vindicated, which duly appeared in 1775 with an introduction by OConor on the origin and antiquity of the ancient Scots of Ireland and Britain (pp.xxv-xlviii) and an appendix containing John Lynchs anti-Dempsterian letter to Boileau. In this way, as OConor wrote to Curry, he hoped to have the latter as well as the former hypothesis of North British writing demolished in one book and under the same cover (letter to Curry 25 Mar 1772). [Cont.]
Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986) - cont.: Letters of invitation from Sir Lucius to Charles OConor are quoted in Charles OConor S.J., The early life of Charles OConor 1710-91 (unpublished thesis, NLI 1930). Note also, a poem by one Richard Lewis, A Defence of Ireland, in Answer to the Partial and Malicious Accounts given of it by Mr. Twiss containing an appeal to OCONNOR [sic] to defend his country against such cowardly Scribblers [see Lewis, q.v.] Charlotte Brooke refers modestly to the example of OConor, with OHalloran and Vallancey, in the preface to her Reliques of Irish Poetry (1789). FURTHER, OConors correspondence with Patriot dramatist Gorge[s] Howard. Note letter to John Pinkerton from J. C. Walker, A few years ago, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the late Charles OConor were printed in Dublin, which, when ready for publication, it was thought prudent to suppress. The work, it is true contains some curious historical facts, and some interesting particulars of the ancient Irish families; but it breathes the spirit of bigotry, broaches dangerous doctrines, and reflects with acrimony on the English settlers, and the Irish parliament, &c. Through the kindness of a friend, I am indulged with the use of this publication for a few days. I have already run my eye through it, and found honorable mention of you, and some severe attacks on Ledwich and Campbell. (Walker to Pinkerton, March 1800; in Pinkertons Literary Correspondence, 1830, Vol. 2., 137-8.)
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Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th c., ed. Gerard OBrien (1989), Catholic apologists - among them Charles OConor of Belanagare - [who] wished to make a case for repeal of the popery laws continually asserted that the severe restrictions on Catholics in regard to mortgatges and leases aggrevated economic distress by discouraging capital investment among Catholics ... [who] held a considerable share of the available money ; Charles OConor and Dr John Curry had met in 1756 and remained close friends for the remainder of their lives ... of Gaelic stock ... they both accepted the conquest and they combined loyalty to the old faith with loyalty to the house of Hanover. Theirs was the argument from history - a defence of the ancient Irish race and Irish Catholics against Protestant polemicists and historians of earlier times and their own day. ... furnished material for the lengthy speeches of those prepared to support Catholic relief ... but also had the effect in a pamphleteering age of stimulating opponents ... [lending accidental support] to the two nations theory of their day ; OConor lent heavily on the argument from expediency to elicit Protestant support  ... Much of the argument in The Case of the Roman Catholics of Ireland (1755), probably his most important pamphlet, stresses the economic advantages of relaxation of property laws. At the same time he was convinced that Catholics should demonstrate their loyalty ... by swearing a test oath. He concluded this pamphlet, Let them acquit themselves, not of guilt (for they have none to answer for) but of the most distant suspicion of guilt, with regard to our political government; and let them not incur the blame of such an omission in this reign, the mildest and happiest, and the longest we enjoyed, since the commencement of the sixteenth century. [Cont.]
Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th c., ed. Gerard OBrien (1989) - cont:A copy of this pamphlet was presented to the Marquis of Hartington on his arrival as lord lieutenant in 1755, and dedicated to him and the lords and commons. ; Letter of Charles OConor of Belanagare to John Curry, Aug. 1756. The present set of men either in the adminstration or in parliament impose no bondage on us ... When those laws were passed, there was a recent change in the properties, as well as great rage in the minds of the people ... Violence had its day. Time gave at last the security which force gave at first. ... The prosperity of both parties are now in a different situation; and difference of sitation will undoubtedly more or less beget a difference of principles, and dispose consequently to a difference of conduct. With regard to the administration, I believe you will allow that none can be more indulgent than the present; and if those who sit in parliament permit the operation of laws, which themselves would not pass, I think motives could be assigned for such a circumstance, distinct from those prejudices which still have a great share in it. ... Many ... will choose to let those evils remain, rather than expose themselves to the odium of unpopular motion ... And let all this  account for the continuation of party, not national laws, such as anger finds much easier to establish than moderation to repeal. . [Cont.]
Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th c., ed. Gerard OBrien (1989), cont - quotes: Will the expression of our gratitude for the relaxation of many penal laws be of no weight at court? Will it offend the monarch on the throne to find his Popish subjects at this time joining in a testimony to the equity of his adminstration, the lenity of his government? MORE, On the outbreak of war in 1756, Curry, OConor and George Faulkener [sic] were in correspondence on the question of publishing a declaration of Catholic civil principles. Catholic vicars general in Dublin were unwilling to acceded to the principle that no act of the Roman court, no spiritual power of the Roman See can dispense with legal obligations to legal government. This OConor attributed to personal ambition, foreign connexions, subservient maxims, and future prospects overriding the general good of the poor people who  support them and every other burden they lie under.; Wall comments, Later generations were to sneer at the efforts made by Catholics to prove their loyalty ... but viewed in the light of previous history and of the situation in the 18th c. it seem the logical course if they were ever to be freed from legal disabilities. ... OConor and Curry realised that there could be no question of granting legal redress ... until Catholics were prepared to give satisfactory proof of their political orthodoxy. ; Lord Clanbrassil (who examined Michael OReilly, archb. of Armagh in 1756) urged a bill of registration which was seen as threatening the extirpation of Catholic ecclesiastical organisation, in conjunction with a reform programme for the ministry of the established Church in Ireland. The bill was opposed by Archb. Stone, the Protestant Primate. OConor believed his opposition was less due to liberal principles than on principle of persecution, that he represented it not as an indulgence only, but as a toleration of popery by law, which he thought should never be admitted. (OConor to Curry, 23 Dec. 1757; HMC pre. 8, app. i, 460.) [?100]. [Cont.]
Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th c., ed. Gerard OBrien (1989) - cont: ON CATHOLIC PETITION, Ever since the outbreak of the war Charles OConor and Dr Curry had been endeavouring without success to launch a representative committee of catholics and OConor had frequently advocated the need for assuring the government of their loyalty ... early in Dec. 1759 the address, signed by four hundred names, was given to the Speaker of the House of Commons for presentation to the lord lieutenant [Cf. 11f infra, The petition, instigated by Bedfords telling the commons that the king relied on the zeal of his faithful protestant subjects to rally to the countrys defence, was called the humble address of the Roman Catholic gentlemen, merchants, and citizens of the city of Dublin] [Sources as per Wall, n.5, letter, Anthony [Mac]Dermott to Charles OConor, 15 Dec. 1759, RIA OConor MSS; Matthew OConor, History of the Irish Catholics, pp.254-5; Curry to OConor 24 Nov., 1 Dec. 1759, RIA OConor MSS.] //It began by tendering congratulations on the glorious successes, by sea and land, which have attended his majestys arms, in the prosecution of this just and necessary war, and expressed thanks for the protection afforded to Catholics by the king and by his late father. Now that a foreign enemy is meditating desperate attempts to interrupt the happiness, and disturb the repose, which these kingdoms have so long enjoyed the Catholics are ready to assist in supporting his majestys government against all hostile attempts whatsoever. [n.6, Dublin Gazette, 15 Dec 1759; the address and a reply are published in Plowden, An historical review of the state of Ireland, I, 269-70.] [Cont.]
Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th c., ed. Gerard OBrien (1989) - cont: With attacks from the French expected in Munster, Cork, Limerick and Waterford Catholics subscribed to declarations of loyalty disowning the attachments of our deluded predecessors. Charles OConor was savage in denunciation of these criticisms of the French, the asylum of our poor fugitives, lay and clerical, for seventy years past, and thought France would not be much to blamed if she decided to stop up those fountains  from which our exiles derived their existence. [n.7, OConor to Curry, 25 Dec. 1756, HMC rep. 8, app. i. 464 ; From 1751 Charles OConor wrote several pamphlets ... in 1755 with war threatening between England and France, he published his Case for the Roman Catholics of Ireland, The Roman Catholics revere our constitution, and have been long obedient to this government by principle as well as practice; or, if there be any among them in enmity to either, a legal test may be framed to distinguished the elect of government from the reprobate. ; [On the adulteration of the test act proposed by the Catholic committee and passed as law June 1774 ad 13 & 14 Geo. III c.35] OConor spoke despairingly of emigrating to Canada, but soon recovered his usual optimism. Lord Trimleston led a party of 60 jurors, including Curry, who took the oath at the court of kings bench, following a meeting at the Musick Hall in Fishamble St., on 28 June 1775. The Catholic Committee, split between jurors and non-jurors, ceased to function for 3 years.  [For a full account of the sequel of this affair, see Thomas Burke, supra.] [Cont.]
Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th c., ed. Gerard OBrien (1989) - cont: OConors Observations on affairs in Ireland [making] the case as usual for relaxation of the popery laws ... appeared under the name of Viscount Taaffe. ; In October 1777 Charles OConor was suggesting to Curry a mass emigration on the lines of Lord Baltimores scheme in the 1620s, at a time when Charles Carroll, a catholic member of the American Congress was distributing handbills promising land and religious toleration. [NOTE that, by 192 n.87, quoting a Curry/OConor letter (1 Oct. 1777) at Clonalis, it is clear that Maureen Wall has been a visitor there; ditto 189, n.44 , et al.]; A letter in Clonalis shows OConor aware that the catholics held the balance (coinciding with the British policy to free the catholics as a counter-balance to the protestants of Ireland, so that the country would not go the way of America); Should the Puritans of the present time, continue their republican publications ... government should be confirmed in the important idea, that a passive party among us, deserves protection, not only from the moral justice due to all parties, but from the political justice due to the nation, who must be interested in some counterbalance to our modern Republicans (30 Dec.1776; Clonalis MSS.) [c.126]. [Cont.]
Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th c., ed. Gerard OBrien (1989) - cont:OConor thought it unlikely that anyone would materially benefit from the 999 year lease, since these were generally unobtainable even by Protestants in practice (letter to Curry, I Oct. 1777, Clonalis.) In so far as it effected Catholics in general, it slightly increased the exploitation by graziers of co-religionists. ; Charles OConor wrote to Curry approving an address to the new lord lieutenant, adding, Should the Puritans of the present time, continue their republication publications ... government should be confirmed in the important idea, that a passive party among us, deserve protextion, not only from the moral justice due to all parties, but from the political justice due to the nation, who must be interested in some counter-balance to our modern Republicans (30 Dec. 1776; OConor MSS, Clonalis). Bibl. (Maureen Wall, op. cit.), Wall remarks that there is no adequate biography of this remarkable man (OConor); see Dictionary of National Biography, HMC, rep. 8, app. i, 441-92; Charles OConor, Memoirs of the life and writings of the late Charles OConor of Belanagare (Dublin 1796) [this is apparently the work withdrawn in Walkers account]; Charles Owen OConor Don, The OConors of Connaught (Dublin 1871); Matthew OConor, The History of the Irish Catholics (Dublin 1813); portions of his diaries, written in Irish, have been published in two articles, Dha leabhar notaí le Searlas Ó Conchubhair and Dialainn Ó Chonchuir, in Galvia I and IV, ed., Sile Ní Chinnéide. Also Walter D. Love, Charles OConor of Belanagare and Thomas Lelands philosophical history of Ireland, in Irish Historical Studies, XIII (n.d.), [184, n.3]. TO THESE, notes to Essay-chapter 8, add, Charles OConor Don, SJ, Charles OConor of Belanagare; A Scholars Education [punct. sic], and George Faulkner and the Irish Catholics, in Studies Vol. 23 (1934) and Vol. 28 (1939). Also Fr. OConors thesis on The life of Charles OConor of Belanagare 1710-1791, MA thesis NUI 1931.
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Seamus Deane, in Cannon Fodder, Literary Mythologies in Ireland, in Styles of Belonging, Cultural Diversity in Ulster, ed. ed. Jean Lundy and Aodan Mc Poilín (Belfast: Lagan Press 1992): In 1760 Charles OConnor [sic] of Belnagare, one of the disregarded but very important figures of Irish history, founded the Catholic Committee and began his researches into Gaelic culture. His cultural initiative was followed by 50 or 60 years of investigation before it was stopped for a moment by Edmund Ledwidge [sic, for Edmund Ledwich], a Protestant archbishop, who recognised very intelligently what the political purpose of all this was. ... to claim that the Catholics had a noble and ancestral and long-standing cultural and literary tradition ... To assert that Catholics were not barbarians as described by open fanatics like John Temple and subtle fanatics like Edmund Spenser, but cultivated people ... that you should give the Catholics civil rights because, according to the standards of the British system of the time, a cultivated people deserved to have civil rights. [p.28-29]
C[adoc] D. A. Leighton, Catholicism in a Protestant Kingdom: A Study of the Irish ancien regime (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan 1994), makes reference to OConor as noted in Marianne Elliott, reviewing in Linen Hall Review (Winter 1995-96): The strength of mid-century catholic pamphleteers like Charles OConor - generally credited with kick-starting the campaign for catholic emancipation - was that in addressing Protestant fears and treating them as more than a simple ploy to maintain ascendancy, the Catholics could (and did) enter into constructive dialogue on how they could join an essentially Protestant state without endangering its existence. At least this book can stand as a morality tale for the present. It is not for the fainting hearted. (Elliott, pp.21-22.)
Cathy Swift, John ODonovan and the Framing of early Medieval Ireland in the Nineteenth Century, in Bullán, 1, 1 (Spring 1994): refers to a transaction in which Dr. OConor gets the use of some twenty pages of a certain Irish MSS lately acquired by Lord Jocelin, which he intends to restore (as reported in the preface to the Dissertations). John ODonovan, examining the MSS in the possession of Lord Roden at Bryansford, establishes that the pages were indeed returned since the originals and a copy are both bound together in it and writes OConor has restored these pages. (M. Flanagan, ed., Letters containing Information Relative to the Antiquities of the Country of Roscommon [
&c.], 2 vols., Bray 1927; Swift, op. cit., p.95.)
Katie Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire, Princeton UP 1997) - having quoted OConors Dissertations [1766 Edn.], as infra: Over the following decade, the publication of Thomas Grays poem The Bard (1757) and James Macphersons Poems of Ossian (1760-65) would stir up English enthusiasm for bardic poetry and for the picturesque landscapes of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Yet its newfound popularity in England endangered the bardic tradition in a new way, as English poets tried to impersonate the bardic voice and to imitate bardic materials, without grasping their historical and cultural significance. For nationalist antiquaries, the bard is the mouthpiece fora whole society, articulating its values, chronicling its history, and mourning the inconsolable tragedy of its collapse. English poets, in contrast, imagine the bard (and the minstrel after him) as an inspired, isolated, and peripatetic figure. Nationalist antiquaries read bardic poetry for its content and its historical information; their analyses help to crystallize a new nationalist model of literary history. The English poets are primarily interested in the bard himself, for he represents poetry as a dislocated art, standing apart from and transcending its particular time and place. The late-eighteenth-century bardic revival gives new emphasis to the social rootedness and political function of literature, as to the inseparability of literary performance from specific institutions and audiences. English writers insist, in contrast, on literatures social and political autonomy. / These differences of emphasis reflect the very different circumstances under which Irish, Scottish and Welsh nationalist antiquaries (usually gentlemen scholars, clergymen, professors or other professionals) investigate the cultural history of their countryies, and those under which Londons new professional men of letters attempt to earn their living in the literary market, in the absence of the aristocratic patrons who had supported and pensioned their forebears. [...] The London literati increasingly understood literature as a vehicle of individual conscience and individual expression, newly independent of aristocratic mandates, but therefore fully aware of its own social marginality. Each group uses the pard to express is very different yearnings for independence and a lost feudal culture - and each locates the bard at a different moment of cultural and literary crisis. (pp.6-7.)
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|Thomas Moore, Memoirs of Captain Rock, the Celebrated Irish Chieftain, with some Account of his Ancestors, Written by Himself [3rd Edn.] (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown & Green 1824), includes a footnote: Mr. OConnor [sic for OConor], the learned Irish antiquary, used to relate, as his biographer tells us, that his father, after the Revolution, was obliged to plough his own fields, and that he would often say to his sons, Boys, you must not be insolent to the poor. I am the son of a gentleman, but ye are the children of a ploughman. (p.146.)
Dissertations on the History of Ireland.  (Dublin: G. Faulkner 1766): The English were far from mistaken, when the allotted the severest Penalties for these incendiary Bards; a Race of men who were perpetually stirring up the Natives to Rebellion; and as constantly giving Rebelliono another Name, Nothing less than the Rights of the Nation, and the Spirit of Liberty. Poetry preserved the Spirit of our Language, the Force of Elocution, and in some Degree, the antient Genius of the Nation, even in Ages of Anarchy ... in the worst, it preserved the People from degenerating into Savages. (p.12; quoted in Katie Trumpener, Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire, Princeton UP 1997, p.6; see her remarks, supra.)
On James Macpherson (1): Let us confess, that no Gentleman, or Sharper, ever knew less of the Trade of an able Imposter, than the most memorable Mr James Mac Pherson. Charles OConor, concluding his analysis of the work in 1766. [Quoted in MacCraith, Macpherson in Linen Hall Review (1991).]
On James Macpherson (2): On the works fathered on Ossian are undoubtedly grounded on fables still recited among the common people of Ireland and Scotland; they refer chiefly to the exploits of Fin macCumhal and the heroes who acted under him in the third century. Some of those tales Mr MacPherson has set off with his own embellishments and, having succeeded to his wish, it may for the future pass for what it really is, an ingenious forgery, which as it proved entertaining to many, can be injurious to none, except to those who believe it useful in their researches concerning British antiquities./ You cannot but perceive that I have written the above observations in a hurry. I would wish however that had you approved of them in their loose dress, you would get them inserted in the St Jamess or London Chronicle on your arrival in England. They should in any form be published anonymously. (Letter to OGorman; 4 July 1781; Letters, p.409.)
On James Macpherson (3): I thank you for the information in your last letter concerning the detection of Mr MacPhersons literary forgery. it was a pleasing imposition on the public, and the author must be rejoiced to find all the panegyrics on Ossian revert back to himself. Had he published those poems in his own name, those exaggerated praises of the work would undoubtedly never appear; and on the whole, critical sagacity was never more egregiously duped. (Letter to OGorman, [13 July, 1781]; Letters, p.411).
On Charles Vallancey (1): [P]ained and ashamed by the ungenerous attacks on my learned friend Colonel Vallancey [by] adversaries [who have] nibbled at some of his etymologies of oriental and Irish terms [...] he has shown that the first colonies who took possession of this island were of Scythian extraction, not from the wild Hyperborean Scythians who roamed through the countries bordering on the Baltic Sea but from the oriental Scythians who in early times roamed from the confines of the Euxine sea and spread themselves in several hordes over the countries of Persia, Chaldea, Phoenicia, Egypt, Libya, and, skilled in the art of sailing, made some establishments in the west of Spain, and from thence emitted some swarms which contained a recess on the western coasts of Gaul, Germany, and the eastern coasts of Britain, and DeDanans entered Ireland and settled here. Finally the Colonel has shown that a fresh colony of Scythians from Spain subdued this island to their power and continued in power here before the Christian era and for more than eleven hundred year after that. Those Scythians imported hither the elements of literature and arts; and instead of being lost or neglected as other northern countries, the natives have improved them in favourable conjunctures. Unacquainted with Greek or Roman science, they became a singular people among the northern nations by the improvement of their mental faculties, of which we have a demonstrable proof in the copiousness, regularity, and vigour of their language, replete with terms for their abstract ideas and mixed modes, while the northern countries were indebted to the Greeks and Romans for such terms on their conversion to Christianity. These vernacular terms continue in our old writings to the present time and defeat the gratuitous assertion that the heathens of Ireland were savages till the fifth century of Christianity. With great labour Col. Vallancey has paralleled the earliest tradition of the old Irish with oriental documents ... (5 May 1790; pp.500-02; p.501).
Charles Vallancey  (his final letter, being addressed to Vallancey, on receipt of his Collectanea, Vol. 5: Antiquaries, from the nature of their object, must sometimes work in a kind of visible darkness, and many will lose their way even in the twilight ... (6 Aug. 1790; Ward & Ward, p.503.)
Henry Brooke  (On receiving Brookes pamphlet The Farmers Case of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, 1760]: I like it extremely. I only dread that our own people, by putting a slight on this first attempt, may discourage the author from proceeding in so useful an undertaking. I beg you will use your influence with your friends ... to keep this spirit alive by all possible encouragements till we can extract all the good out of it that it can bear in these times of prejudice and popular error. The author as a Protestant writer must write surely on Protestant principles and could not serve us so effectively had he written on any other. (Letter to John Curry, 29 Feb. 1760.)
Henry Brooke  The Farmers fourth letter is an excellent piece, and neither party give it attention. We Protestants and Papists are united on the principle of indolence, however we may be separated on every other. (Letter to Curry, 13 May 1760; R. E. & C. Ward, eds., Letters of Charles OConor of Belanagare, Washington 1988, p.83).
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Edmund Burke  (draft version of a letter to Burke): At no time since the great Revolution in religious affairs were the Roman Catholics in Ireland more sensible of their civil duty than at present; at no time were they more united in the discharge of it. To royal indulgence alone they owe their existence in the land of their nativity; and while a sense of all this quickens their allegiance, it excites their gratitude also; for they are protected by the sovereign, not by the laws. to ch[a]rge such men therefore with treasonable intentions against the government is a game which I confess can be well played to increase the popular odium against them, but in no way whatever will it be played for the advantage of the players or that of the nation, which can not well bear the trouble or expense of any sham plots in its present state. Till legislative wisdom interposes for the relief of our cottages, the law must, no doubt, takes its course against such as are too impatient to die a slow death. it is, however, a melancholy consideration that laws should lose their efficacy when their penalties are considered by many desperate men rather as means of relief than terror. (Ward & Ward, eds., Letters, 1988, p.178).
Edmund Burke  (letter to Joseph Walker, 20 Nov. 1785): I return thanks for Mr Burkes speech on the affairs of the East India Company. His eloquence charms, but it distresses at the same time. In his historical details we find a large kingdom turned into graves for human carcasses, desolation and silence through an extent of 300 miles; the mercy, so to speak, of killing men, women, and children all at once suspended for the unexampled cruelty of seeing them perish slowly by hunger! Good God! Can such wickedness be compatible with human, with British feelings! A tear is filling my eye for the fate of the victims who were a majority and who certainly were innocent. God permitted the evil, and in his own time will dispense the punishment! (Ward & Ward, pp. cit., p.456).
John Curry  (Letter on 21 July 1761): Your labouring to fan the spirit you infused into our people and some part of the flame you must keep alive will make a part of the history you want from me, if ever it should be undertaken by me or some abler person. The truth is, our people, broken by long habits of general distress, give up all hope of relief. Fair weather once in sixty years was made for them, they came within cables length of good anchoring, but a new storm arose; they put to sea again without rudder, without oars, without a compass. No wonder if, in a state of desperation, they should give themselves up for lost. This condition must increase the difficulty of rousing any spirit in the majority when you see it dying away in the least desponding of men among us; for my part I am a desponder by nature, and about for you would throw up my game long ago. (Letters, p.127.)
John Curry : (Letter of 20 Aug. 1760): I am thankful to my worthy friend, Dr Reddy, who would bring me back from the consideration of our present unfortunate times to the past from which I first started to the study of more ancient and better times within the limits of our own island. Any assistance I can afford in giving a clearer notion of those times than we have had hitherto us at his disposal. Alas! My assistance is next to nothing, not only because my studies relative to our ancient history have been long interrupted, but because materials at this distance from libraries are extremely few. (Letters, 1988, p.88.)
On Archb. Lincoln of Dublin: The gentleman above-mentioned threatened to anathematise the citizen who should aver, that no authority can absolve us from our allegiance to the civil government we live under. Is allegiance a civil duty commanded by Him who ordered the tribute for Tiberius, the abandoned and tyrannical Tiberius! If it be (by the Gospel) a religious as well as a civil duty, does that require any absolution. It were to be wished that the Hyper-doctor gave us his reasons for anathematising in such a case ... In revolutions indeed where government is transferred from one to another, and changed from this to that form, subjects in that case are from the nature of things absolved from their former allegiance and begin on the terms of a new compact; but where no such case exists I would gladly know where that authority resides which shall dispense with the duty of active obedience and absolve us also from what never yet was sin! In the year 1727 the R[oman] C[atholic] here addressed the King on his ascension [sic; but see accession in the copy of the Loyal Address to George III given in Letter 79, Ward & Ward, eds., 1988, p.93], and they made use of the very words here censured by the Hyper-doctor. I request you will look into Pues Occurrences for that year to satisfy yourself and to convince you also how much a better sense of things the worthy A[rch] B[ishop] of that time entertained. (Letter to Curry, 8 Dec. 1759).
What we suffer ...: What we suffer and what we may yet suffer will be for our good, if it be not our own fault. After the many shipwrecks which for ages have ruined my family and after the last of all which left us but a bare plank to come to shore upon, I am now on the score of my religion called upon to deliver it up to a younger brother by a right of primogeniture in Protestancy (being the first of the family who has got his birth in it). But happily for me (I hope) my father gave up or was forced to give up the fee of Belanagare in 1720 to John French Esq., who foreclosed or paid off an old mortgage on that land in 1699. On the agreement then made, Mr French admitted my father to possess this land ... and therefore not open to the operation of the Gavel Act ... my brother, however, has filed a bill suing for a Gavel; but lest that should not succeed he has armed himself with another bill against me, suing for the whole property of Belanagare as a Protestant Discover, pretending that my fathers agreement with Mr French was in the nature of a lease wherein a Papist can have o perpetuity nor a tenure above thirty-one years. [Letter to Curry, 25 Feb. 1777; Letters, p.340).
Bill of Discovery: My unhappy brother Hugh has run out of his whole fortune through [corrupt]ness and want of industry. He conformed to the religion established here and filed a Bill of Discovery (as a Protestant) against me to wrest from me the poor plank that brought my father to shore after the great wreck of the family fortune in 1688 ... I have no crime to answer for but professing the religion of my ancestors; as this circumstances includes no civil delinquency, it is hard that I should, in so obnoxious a state, be exposed, to civil punishment. Indeed, it the case is so hard, to say not worse, that our Parliament here have lately repealed our Laws of Discovery and Disqualification, but those only regard the future; have no retrospect to the past. The other branches of my family have not departed from the rules of moral conduct and are well; but most are in a state of distress, a state which it seems we are tied down to by a prescriptive and hereditary right ... [Letter to unknown; summer 1777] (Letters, p.347).
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Irish savages? In a savage state the conversion of the heathen Irish to Christianity would be very difficult, but the quick progress of the gospel among them demonstrates that they were long and well prepared for its reception through intellectual researches (Letter to Vallancey, 12 March 1779; Letters, p.377.) Further, I endeavour to show that we had a system of local civilisation and local literature in this country four centuries, at least, before the introduction of foreign literature along with the Gospel ... (Letter to Walker, 31 Jan. 1786; p.460).
Imitatio Christi: I request that you will every day of your life read a chapter or two in the little book entitled The Imitation of Christ. There you will find united the sublime and the affecting in Christian philosophy, recommended by the noble simplicity which adorns every species of good composition. In that summary of Christ of Christian piety, you will everywhere meet with the most lucrative reflections and which warm the heart while they improve the head. [&c.] (Letter to Charles OConor, the Younger, 2 Oct. 1779; Letters, p.385).
Annals of Connacht: In this province I know of none but myself who can read or explain them [the Conaght Annals], and this difficulty being likely to increase every day, it will be the more necessary for your copyist to transcribe them exactly as he finds them. Let his transcription be what we call facsimile, for otherwise corruptions will creep into the text and consequently your copy, far from being of use, will only have the effect of multiplying mistakes. In trust, as our originals will be soon lost, I dread that our copies, falling into unskillful hands, will have this effect. (Letter to OGorman, 8 Nov. 1783; Letters, p.431).
Catholic relief: Very lately we became a free and independent people, and that description alone comprises the happiest revolution we had [here] for 700 years past. We have obtained that change without the loss of a single drop of blood. We are united in a single creed of politics. May we make a wise use of the prospect before us and of the real power we gained. Cited in Norman Vance, Irish Literary Traditions and the Act of Union, in Cyril J. Byrne and Margaret Harry, eds., Talamh an Eisc: Canadian and Irish Essays [Irish Studies St. Marys Coll.] (Halifax Can.: Nimbus Publ. Co. 1986), pp.29-47.
On Temporising: The mariner does not always steer directly to the place of his destination; he steers as the wind permits him; I know that in many instances, and almost in all, the temporiser partakes of the guilt. But I say that there may be, and there are, instances in which even temporising is justifiable [quotes St. Paul, omnibus omnia et omenes lucrifaceret] (Letter to Daniel OConor, his br., 3 March 1756].)
Rebellion of 1641: [F]or my own part I can not [...] but think their war a just and necessary one. I am sure much smaller provocation than they received in the forty years preceding the year 1641 brought about the Revolution in 1688 [...] (Letter to Curry, 29 Aug. 1757).
Papal Supremacy: But in Protestant countries the H[oly] See will not forbid us to take the Popes supremacy in the idea it as conceived in during the first ages of the Church and no other. Is it not here therefore a true principle of Catholic doctrine, that the Pope has no power direct or indirect over the jurisdiction of George the Second? God forgive those who are an instrument of raising a schism among us in this day of trial and tribulation! (Letter to Curry, 2 Nov. 1757).
King Billy: You dislike, perhaps to see so much said of King William, but truth warrants most of it and our little astutia politica warrants the rest. We must take our adversaries in their own way and ply them as you must some of your weak patients, with such remedies as will lessen the evil when the constitution will not bear such as are more effectual or when obstinacy will not yield to them. (Letter to Curry, 27 April 1757; Letters, ed., Ward and Ward, 1988, p.31).
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