The Church of Ireland, too, was a 'national' church - albeit one which paradoxically antedated its 'nation' and which was continually debating issues of continuity. The Church of Ireland had, like the Church of England, been subjected to reorganization by sixteenth-century legislation. Its members had a similar monopoly of political office after the test law of 1704; its archbishops and bishops sat in the Irish House of Lords, participating in state ceremonial and offering an endorsement of the political order. Its clergy, too, unavailingly sought to voice their views in a Convocation which enjoyed meetings only between 1703 and 1714 and which was resisted by Irish Protestant MPs; despite Convocation's general abeyance, the network of church courts continued to function. The Irish church, like the English, was bitterly divided on political lines after 1688, the Whigs denouncing their Tory and High Church opponents as standing for the independence of the church from the civil power, the Tories denigrating Whig landowners for being irreligious as well as anticlerical, and Low Church clergy for being Erastian or latitudinarian. From this system no fundamental reform of church finances, pluralism, or patronage was to emerge. The preoccupations of the Church of Ireland were too often with political threats to its very survival.
The political events of the seventeenth century served to place emphasis on the premise that Catholics, if given power, would seek the total expropriation, and perhaps the deaths, of Protestants. By 1700, about a quarter of the population was polarized into the identity of'Protestant', half ofthem members ofthe
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