[Sir] John Davies

Life
1569-1626; ed. Winchester and Oxford; Attorney Gen. for Ireland and poet; appointed chief justice by Charles I, but died without taking office; letters to Cecil recording miserable state of the country; MP Fermanagh; A Discovery of the True Causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued (1612); and Speaker of Irish Parliament, 1613; issued A Contention betwixt a Wife, a Widdow, and a Maide (1656, earlier performed before the Queen in 1602; issued a treatise on taxation, and a discussion of recent Irish discontent (1612); also wrote poetry, Orchestra (1594), Hymnes of Astrae (1599), and Nosce Teipsum (1599), on the immortality of the soul. ODNB OCEL ODQ OCIL FDA

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Works
A Discovery of the True Causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued [1612], in Henry Morley, ed., Ireland under Elizabeth and James (London 1980), pp.213-342; John Barry, ed., The Discovery [… &c.] (1969) [see details]; J. P. Myers, ed., A Discoverie of the True Causes … &c. (Washington 1988).

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Bibliographical details
Historical Tracts by Sir John Davies (Dublin: printed by William Porter, for Mess. White, Gilbert, Byrne, Whitestone, W. Porter, and Moore MDCCLXXXVII [1787]), 313pp. 4o. [Title-page:] Attorney General and Speaker of the House of commons in Ireland, consisting of A discovery of the True Cause by Ireland was never brought under obedience of the crown of England’ [1-213]; A letter to the Earl of Salisbury on the State of Ireland in 1607 [touching the state of Monaghan, Fermanagh, and Cavan; wherein is a discourse concerning the Corbes and Irenahs of Ireland [M DC VII; 1607] [217-71]; A letter to the Earl of Salisbury in 1610, giving an account of the Plantation in Ulster’ [1610]; A speech to the Lord Deputy in 1613, tracing the Ancient Constitution of Ireland [290], to [all of] which is prefixed A New Life of the Author, from authentic documents [i-xxxvii]. Victi victoribus leges dedere [the vanquished gave laws to the conquerors]. A just punishment to our nation, that would not give laws to the Irifh when they might, and therefore, now the Irish gave laws to them. [125.] ‘And though heretofore it hath been like the lean cow of Egypt, in Pharoah’s dream, devouring the fat of England, and yet remaining as lean as it was before, it will hereafter be as fruitful as the land of Canaan; the description whereof, in the eighth of Deuteronomy, doth in ever part agree with Ireland, being, Terra rivorum, aquarumque, & fontium, in cujus campus, & montibus, erumpunt fluviorum abyssi … &c.’ [Text retains s/f font passim.]

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Criticism
C. L. Falkiner, ‘Sir John Davis’ [sic] in Papers Relating to Ireland (1909), pp.32-55; Hans S. Pawlisch, Sir John Davies and the Conquest of Ireland: A Study in Legal Imperialism (Cambridge UP 1985).

See also Thomas Herron & Michael Potterton, eds., Ireland in the Renaisance c.1540-1660 (Dublin Four Courts Press 2008), for case study of Sir John Davies; Anne Fogarty [on Davies' Irish writings], in Timothy R. Foley, Lionel Pilkington, Sean Ryder & Elizabeth Tilley, ed., Gender and Colonialism [Nineteenth-Century Ireland Conference 1992] (Galway UP 1995), q.pp.

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Commentary
Rudolf Gottfried, ed., Spenser’s Prose Works, Vol. 10, Commentary on A View of the Present State of Ireland, l.379-82; p.287: Davies denied that Ireland was really conquered in the reign of Henry II (Discoverie, pp.14-24) and later historians support this opinion rather than Spenser’s (vide Bagwell, I.56-7) Further: Davies explains at some length that the laws apply only to English, though repeatedly sought for themselves.' (Discoverie, p.110-32.)

T. Crofton Croker: in Researches in the South of Ireland [... &c.] (1824), Croker writes: Sir John Davies mentions that “fosterage was considered a stronger alliance than blood, and that foster-children do love and are beloved of their foster-fathers and their septs more than of their natural parents and kindred.” (p.10.)
W. E. H. Lecky: In History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (Cabinet Edn. 1892, &c.), W. E. H. Lecky devotes a chapter-section to “The Description of Ulster by Sir John Davis” [sic] (pp.25-26.)

Russell Alspach, Irish Poetry [ … &c.] (1959): In 1603 Sir John Davies could announce ‘an universal and absolute conquest of all the Irishrie’. (Alspach, p.7; see further under Quotations, infra.)

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John Barry, Introduction to Discovery [… &c.; 1612] (Shannon: IAP 1969): ‘Davies starts with an encomium of the land of Ireland, including ‘“he bodies and minds of the people endued with extraordinary abilities of nature.” Further quotes: ‘If the king would not admit them to the condition of subjects, how should they learn to acknowledge and obey him as their Sovereign. [The next generation] will in tongue and heart and every way become English.’ Barry paraphrases Davies’s historical perspective: ‘Conquest was not the exploitation of a subject people, but rather their Anglicisation, and the consequent extension to them of the benefits, as he would style it, of English law and culture.’ The first edition bears the imprint, ‘Iohn Iaggard at the Signe of the hand and Star’.

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Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce (Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972): ‘Less sensitive than Spenser, the lawyer-poet Sir John Davies applauded himself for his establishment of the plantation system, the settlement of English exploiters (rightly termed “undertakers”) on lands confiscated from their Irish owners. To the Attorney General this system of organized robbery could be regarded as “the masterpiece, the most excellent work of reformation,” in which glorious activity and natives were, “with sword, pestilence and famine,” prepared to become proper “admirers of the Crowne of England.” (p.110.)

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W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1984), Sir John Davies, Historical Relations, or a Discovery of the True Causes by Ireland was never Intirely Subdued (1613), investigating the failure of conquest and colony, sadly contrasted with the efficient methods of the Romans. Citing the remark of Agricola that Ireland could be conquered with one legion, he said, ‘I make no doubt, but that if he had attempted the conquest thereof with a far greater arm, he would have found himself deceived in his conjecture’.

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Quotations

Darrell Figgis, The Historic Case for Irish Independence (Maunsel 1920):
‘Even the most venal English lawyer of the time, the Attorney-General, Sir John Davies, under whose crafty manipulation of law the plantations were prosecuted, was compelled to admit: “There is no nation of people under the sun that doth love equal and indifferent justice better than the Irish.”’ (Figgis, op. cit., Chap. 18: ‘Contrast of the Two Contending Conceptions of Civilisation 1550-1641’; for full text, see RICORSO Library, “Writers”, via index or direct.)

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Discoverie of the True Causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued (1612) [1]: ‘The Irish generally, were held and reputed Aliens [within the Pale during reign of Henry II], or rather enemies to the Crowne of England; insomuch, as they were not only disabled to bring anie actions, but were so farre out of the protextion of the Lawe, as it was often adiudged no fellony to kill a meere Irish-man in the time of peace (Discoverie [1612], p.102.)

Discoverie [. .. &c.] (1612) [2]: ‘I note as a great defect in the Civill policy of this kingdom … the English lawes were not communicated to the Irish, nor the benefit and protection thereof allowed unto them, though they earnestly desired and sought the same … If the king would not admit them to the condition of Subjects, how could they learn to acknowledge and obey him as their Sovereigne? When they might not converse or Commerce with any Civill men, nor enter into any Towne or Citty without perrill of their Lives; whither should they flye but into the Woods and Mountains, and there live in a wilde and barbarous maner?’ (A Discovery of the True Cause [… &c.], 1612; IUP edn. 1969, p.116-17; quoted in Andrew Hadfield, ‘Rethinking Early-Modern Colonialism: The Anomalous State of Ireland’, in Irish Studies Review, April 1999, p.20).

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Discoverie [. .. &c.] (1612) [3]: ‘[T]he English, both Lords and Free-holders, became degenerate and meer Irish in their language, in their apparell, in their armes and maner of fight […] They did not only forget the English language and scorne the use thereof, but grew to bee ashamed of their very English Names, though they were noble and of great Antiquity; and tool Irish Surnames and Nickenames.’ (q.p.; quoted in Russell Alspach, Irish Poetry [ … &c.], 1959; see Loreto Todd, The Language of Irish Literature,1989, pp.13-4.)

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Discoverie [... &c.] (1612) [4]: ‘Because the [the Irish] find inconvenience in moving their suits by an Interpreter, they do for the most part send their children to Schools especially to learn the English language; so as we may conceive a hope that the next generation will in tongue, and heart, and every way else, become English; so as there will be no difference or distinction but the Irish Sea betwixt us.’ (Q.p.; q.source.)

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Discoverie [. .. &c.] (1612) [5]: ‘Idlesnesse, together with fear of imminent mischiefes, which did continually hange ouver their heads, haue bin the cause, that the Irish we euer the most inquisitive people after newed, of any Nation in the world’ (p.176).

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References
Margaret Drabble , ed., Oxford Companion of English Literature (OUP 1985), omits any reference to his Irish works. Oxford Dict. Quot. selects from Nosce Teipsum, Orchestra, and Respice Finem [‘Judge not the play until the play be done’].

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1: Discovery … (1612); Le Primer Report des Cases in les Courts del Ray (Dublin 1615); Robert Kreuger, ed., The Poems of Sir John Davies (Oxon. 1975). Incls. remarks: The conquest of Ireland as envisaged by Sir John Davies in 1603 [when he proposed the establishment of a parliament in Ireland to mark the replacement of the old Gaelic order by a new English political system] was intended to ensure that the whole Irish people would, in a relatively short time, become in every way a part of English civilisation. [FDA ed.]

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TCD Library holds Les reports des cases & matters en ley resolves & adjudges en les Courts del Roy en Ireland[e] (Dublin 1674), 2o.; Une exact table al report de Sir John Davys (Dublin 1677), 2o. [both reissues of other editions than those stated, the latter in London after 1700; see Long Room, 1978.]

Belfast Public Library holds Discoverie of the true Causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued … (1747); Historical Tracts (1787); also Irish Parliament; Letters to Lord Salisbury; Plantation of Ulster [in H. Morley, Ireland under Elizabeth and James (1890).

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Belfast Linen Hall Library holds Discoverie of the True Causes Why Ireland was Never Subdued (1761); Historical Tracts (1787); A Report of Cases and Matters in Law (1762)

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Notes
George Story: Story made extensive use of The Discovery in his An impartial history of the Wars of Ireland (1693).

Daniel O’Connell: O’Connell’s A Memoir on Ireland Native and Saxon (1844), and its recurrent source, Matthew Carey’s Vindiciae Hiberniae, both quote extensively from Davies as giving a frank account of the atrocities of the Tudor conquest.

Seamus Heaney quotes ‘Sir John Davies’s dispatch on his progress from Glenshane Pass with Chichester in 1608: ‘The wild inhabitants wondered as much / To see the King’s deputy, as Virgil’s ghosts / Wondered to see Aeneas alive in Hell.’ (“A Retrospect”, in Seeing Things, 1991, pp.42-43.)

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