Vol. 3: Kelly, Patrick

Type: Article

Kelly, Patrick ‘William Molyneux and the Spirit of Liberty in Eighteenth-Century Ireland’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 3 (1988), pp 133-148.

This essay provides evidence in support of the popular notion of William Molyneux was one of the most important patriot figures in eighteenth-century Ireland. Kelly offers Molyneux’s The Case of Ireland and the subsequent nine re-printings of the book from 1706-1782 as evidence of his significant contributions to Irish political discourse. Kelly discusses the release of each edition in terms of the socio-political context at the time and considers how publishers and political figures viewed the book at each reprinting. Molyneux’s theory of ‘Natural Rights’ was of importance to Irish patriot thinking, and appealed also to the American colonists. Molyneux’s name was often invoked in parliamentary speeches and in political pamphlets, particularly in the 1780’s by Grattan and Flood and in the debate on the union, when Molyneux became “the standard of political orthodoxy in Ireland”.