The Palles Law Library in UCD Library Special Collections holds four extremely rare late 17th century Irish printings relating to the Irish parliament called by King James II in 1689. These are 4 Acts of that parliament which met for one session between May and July 1689 in Dublin.
James II supporters were hopeful that the parliament would lead to the repeal of anti-catholic laws and to the restoring of lands to the families that had held them before 1641. James, the last Stuart and the last Catholic King of England would be defeated the following year by his son-in-law, William of Orange, at the battle of the Boyne, and flee to France.
In 1695 the parliament was declared illegal. All of the acts passed by the parliament were declared void and were ordered to be burnt. The parliament was described by William as ‘An unlawful and rebellious assembly’. Because they were ordered to be destroyed they became extremely scarce and often only one or two copies of the acts survive.
James Joyce Library Special Collections holds four of these original Acts, published in Dublin at Ormond Quay by Benjamin Tooke in 1689. These acts are printed in the gothic black-letter typeface and are preceded by a title page. They are bound with other items printed between 1673 and 1716.
These Acts are:
- The recognition of the just and most undoubted rights of His Majesties imperial crown
- An act concerning tythes, and other ecclesiastical duties
- An Act for the taking away benefit of clergy in certain cases of felony for two years
- An act for liberty of conscience, and repealing such Acts or clauses in any act of parliament which are inconsistent with the same
A total of thirty-five Acts were supposedly published but extant copies of only twenty-five remain. The UCD copy of An act for taking away benefit of clergy may well be unique. All the Acts are printed in the rather daunting black-letter gothic script, usual for official documents at this time. It is unclear whether the Acts held in UCD were printed together or were bound together later. The foxing on the paper on which is printed the Act Concerning Tythes… and the Act for the taking away benefit of clergy… would suggest that they were not printed together as the paper is most probably not from the same ream.
The Acts of the parliament are valuable documents as they point towards a quite different direction for Ireland (and England) had James survived as monarch. His granting of freedom of conscience and a redress of the Irish land confiscations of the past would, almost two centuries later, prompt Young Irelander, Thomas Davis, to exclaim:
‘The Parliament which passed those Acts was the first and the last which ever sat in Ireland since the English invasion, possessed of national authority, and complete in all its parts.’
This is because it was principally Catholic and therefore more representative of the general population. In his 1893 edition of articles published by Thomas Davis, Charles Gavan Duffy labelled James II Irish parliament ‘The Patriot Parliament’.
The Acts come from the Christopher Palles Collection, but it is not known how they came into his possession. They may be a little yellowed but the Acts are looking well as they enter their fourth century of existence; relicts of a reign that never got the opportunity to prosper.
- This post was researched and written by Evelyn Flanagan, Head of Special Collections, UCD Special Collections.
The Irish parliament of James II from Thomas Davis, selections from his prose and poetry by Thomas Davis and T. W.Rolleston (1914)
The Acts of James II’s Irish parliament of 1689 /edited by: John Bergin & Andrew Lyall. Irish Manuscripts Commission (2016)
The Jacobite parliament of 1689 by J.G Simms, The Dublin Historical Association, Dundalk, 1966
Jacobite Ireland by J.G. Simms, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1969