William Molyneux (1656-98)


Life
b. Dublin, br. of Sir Thomas; BA TCD; first sec. of TCD Phil. Soc., fnd. with William King; and Middle Temple, 1675; issued translation of Descartes’s Meditations (London 1680); appt. Surveyor-General. of the King’s Buildings, 1684-88; quit Ireland for Chester during the Jacobite administration, 1689; appt. Commissioner of Army Accounts, 1690; Dublin Univ. MP, 1692-95; fnd. member Dublin Philosophical Society with Sir William Petty and twelve others incl. Narcissus Marsh (among whom Mark Baggot was the sole Catholic), meeting first in a coffee house, 1683; developed the Dublin Hygroscope to measure moisture in the atmosphere; DPS reaches 34 members by 1685, with premisses in Crow St.;
 
commenced correspondence with Pierre Bayle, 1687; cessation of Society’s affairs when the ‘distracted state of the kingdom dispersed [the members] in 1688’ (TRIA, 1787), not to be renewed until 1707; exchanged letters with Locke, 1692-98; influenced by Locke’s theory of government by contract in Two Treatises of Government (1690); Irish MP for Dublin City, 1692, and for Dublin University, 1695; strenuously opposed prohibitory rights of English parliament affecting Irish woollen exports; conveyed the copy of Richard Plunkett’s Gaelic-Latin dictionary to Edward Lhuyd, under heavy conditions, c.1695;
 
author on optics, and also The Case of Ireland’s being Bound by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated (1698), arising from woollen laws of 1697 and treating of the effects of English legislation on Irish industry; purportedly burned by the common hangman, a rumour now know to have been started by Charles Lucas and reflecting its spurious identification with John Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious (1696); spent five weeks lodging with John Locke during the ensuing fracas; later wavered on question of the Union; died in Dublin on his return, Oct. 1698. RR CAB ODNB JMC DIB FDA OCIL

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Works
  • Dioptrica Nova (London: Benj. Tooke 1692), 4o [Wing M2405];
  • The Case of Ireland’s Being Bound by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated (Dublin: Joseph Ray 1698), 8o [Wing M2402; [details], and Do. [further edns.] (1706, 1719, 1720, 1725, 1749, 1770, 1773, 1776, and 1782);
  • Some Familiar Letters between Mr Lock and Several of His Friends (London 1708).

Bibliographical details
The Case for Ireland’s being Bound by Acts of Parliament in England Stated / by William Molyneux, of Dublin, Esq.; Dublin, printed by Joseph Ray, and are to be sold at his Shop in Skinner Row (MDC XC VIII) [see details of NLI presentation copy in Notes, infra]; Do. [rep. of 1st edn.] as J. G. Simms, ed. & intro., The Case of Ireland Stated by William Molyneux, with an afterword by Denis Donoghue [Irish Writings from the Age of Swift, 5] (Dublin: Cadenus Press 1977), 148pp., ill [lim. edn. 350 copies]

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Criticism
  • Simon Clement, An Answer to Mr Molyneux his case of Ireland … stated: and his dangerous notion of Ireland’s being under no subordination to the parliamentary authority of England refuted (London 1698);
  • Robert Burrowes, Preface to Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 1 (1787);
  • Sir Capel Molyneux, Anecdotes of the life of ... William Molyneux (Dublin 1803);
  • Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, pp.433-37,
  • J. G. Simms, ed, The Case &c., with an afterword by Denis Donoghue (Dublin: Cadenus 1977);
  • M. J. Morgan, Molyneux’s Questions (Cambridge UP 1977).
  • J. G. Simms, William Molyneux of Dublin, A Life of the Seventeenth-century Political Writer and Scientist (Dublin: IAP 1982);
  • C[aroline] Robbins, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealth Man [sic, but vide Molesworth] (Harvard UP 1979), espec. Chap. V;
  • P. H. Kelly, ‘Molyneux and Locke: The Anatomy of a Friendship’, in Hermethena, CXXVI (Summer 1979), pp.38-53;
  • [...]
  • Patrick Kelly, ‘Recasting a tradition: William Molyneux and the sources of The case of Ireland ... stated (1698)’, in Political Thought in Seventeenth-century Ireland: Kingdom or Colony?, ed. Jane H. Ohlmeyer (Cambridge UP 2000) [Chap. 3];
  • Patrick Kelly, ‘Conquest versus consent as the basis of the English title to Ireland in William Molyneux’s Case of Ireland ... stated (1698)’, in British Interventions in Early Modern Ireland, ed. Ciaran Brady & Jane Ohlmeyer (Cambridge UP 2005) [Chap. 15].
  • Bryan Fanning & Tom Garvin, ‘Chap. 3: William Molyneux, The Case of Ireland’s being bound by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated (1698)’, in Books That Define Ireland (Sallins: Merrion 2014), Chap. 3.
 

See also J. G. Simms, Colonial Nationalism, 1698-1776 (Cork: Mercier 1976); D. George Boyce, Nationalism in Ireland (London: Routledge 1982; 1991 Edn.), p.102; Jim Smyth, ‘Anglo-Irish Unionists Discourse, c.1656-1707: From Harrington to Fletcher’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Summer 1995), esp. p.24-26; Bryan Fanning, ‘William Molyneux and the case for Ireland’, in Histories of the Irish Future (London: Bloomsbury 2015), pp.27-40 [Chap. 3; partially available at Google Books - online].

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Commentary

Jonathan Swift, “Drapier’s Fourth Letter”: ‘’Tis true indeed, that within the memory of man, the Parliaments of England have sometimes assumed the power of binding this kingdom by laws enacted there, wherein they were at first openly opposed (as far as truth, reason and justice are capable of opposing) by the famous Mr. Molyneux, an English gentleman born here, as well as by several of the greatest patriots, and best Whigs in England; but the love and torrent of power prevailed. Indeed the arguments on both sides were invincible; for in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery; but in fact, eleven men well armed will certainly subdue one single man in his shirt. But I have done. For those who have used power to cramp liberty have gone so far as to resent even the liberty of complaning, although a man upon the rack was never known to be refused the liberty of roaring as loud as he thought fit.’ (Quoted in Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The Man, His Works and the Age, vol. 2, Methuen 1983, p.255; citing Drapier, p.79.)
 
Cf. Molyneux: ‘We are in a miserable condition indeed, if we may not be allow’d to complain, when we think we are hurt.’ (Quoted in, Declan Kiberd, ‘Jonathan Swift: a Colonial Outsider?’, in Irish Classics, London: Granta 2000, p.84.)

Russell Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 (Phil: Pennsylvania UP 1959), pp.75ff; incls. bibl.: Robert Burrowes, ‘Preface’ to Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 1 (1787), p.xiii; also Samuel Ayscough, ‘Minutes and Register of the Philosophical Society of Dublin, from 1683 to 1687, with copies of the papers read before them’, itemising Molyneux’s contributions as ‘Concerning Lough-Neagh, and its petrifying quality’; ‘A way of viewing pictures in miniature’; and ‘Queries relating to Lough Neagh’ (Transactions, 1787, pp.473-74). Note that Alspach holds that The Case of Ireland was ordered to be burnt in the palace yard in Dublin, ‘for it was to be many years before Englishmen stopped looking askance at Irshmen who had the temerity to stand up for their country. But Molyneux’s pamphlet circulated widely; it pointed the way to eventual independence.’ (Alspach, p.76).

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[Andrew Carpenter], details of the presentation copy of Case of Ireland to the National Library of Ireland in commemoration of Sybil le Brocquy, supplied in ‘A Personal Appreciation’ of Sybil le Brocquy (Cadenus Press 1976): King, the dedicatee, was in dispute with the London companies during his incumbency in Derry, bringing a case to the House of Lords are regards their land and fishing rights, which was then overturned in London, finding that the Irish judgement was coram no iudice, i.e., that the Irish house had no appellate jurisdiction and, in effect, that the Irish parliament could always be overruled and had no effective power. The main argument is the government can only be carried on with the consent of the governed: ‘I have no other notion of slavery but being bound by a law to which I do not consent’; ‘To tax without consent is little better than downright robbing me. I am sure the great patriots of liberty and property, the free people of England, cannot think of such a thing but with abhorrence.’ The book was found to be ‘of dangerous consequence to the crown and people of England by denying the authority of the king and parliament of England to bind the kingdom of Ireland and people of Ireland […]’.

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W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; 1984), William Molyneux founded Dublin Philosophical Society in 1683, lasted only six years [see also seq., under Thomas Molyneux and James Caulfeild, Earl of Charlemont] [70]. Further: William Molyneux, scientist, Dioptrica Nova, &c (London 1692), in the introduction condemns ‘the commentators on Aristotle’ for rendering ‘Physics an heap of froathy Disputes’ though Aristotle was ‘certainly himself a most diligent and profound investigator of Nature’. He also explains that he has written in English because he is ‘sure that there are many ingenious Heads, great Geomaters and masters in Mathematics, who are not so well skill’d in Latin.’ [190]

A. N. Jeffares, W. B. Yeats, A New Biography (1988), notes that Yeats links Swift with Molyneux. in his Introduction to Words Upon the Window-Pane (1934; Jeffares p.300).

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D. George Boyce, Nationalism in Ireland (London: Routledge 1982), quoting his Case to the effect that the ‘original compact’ between Henry II and the people of Ireland was ‘tht they should enjoy the like liberties and immunities, and be governed by the same … laws, both civil and ecclesiastical, as the people of England.’; further insisting on the connection to the imperial crown to which ‘we must ever owe our happiness’, while Ireland had always enacted statutes relating to this succession ‘by which it appears that Ireland, to annexed to the Crown of England has always been looked upon to be a Kingdom complete in itself, and to have all jurisdiction to an absolute kingdom belonging and subordinate to no legislative authority on earth’. (p.102; remarking furrther that Swift took up this theme.)

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Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression Prior To The Nineteenth Century (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. Co. 1986), remarks on William Molyneux, The case of Ireland’s being bound by acts of parliament in England (1698), arising from the trade restrictions and especially the wool bill being discussed in the House of Commons. Molyneux was also translated Descartes’ Meditations into English and was a correspondent of John Locke. His argument regard the rights of the Irish parliament turns on the difference between planters and Gaels, ‘supposing Henry II had Right to invade this Island, and that he had been oppos’d therein by the Inhabitants, it was only the Ancient Race of the Irish, that could suffer by their Subjugation; the English and Britains, that came over and Conquer’d with him, retain’d all the Freedoms and Immunities of Free-born Subjects. (p.19-20). The dedication asserts, ‘Your Majesty has not in all Your Dominions a People more United and Steady in your Interest than the Protestants of Ireland.’ But those Old English who had established parliamentary practice had generally remained Catholic and Stuart supporters [342]. The Case of Ireland elicited criticism in English responses such as Case of Ireland, An Answer to Mr Molyneux (London 1698), where the inference was ironically made that if Molyneux was right the Irish parliament should be filled with Old English. Molyneux’s book can be counted as one of the first instances of the effect of Enlightenment thought on British politics, since it addresses questions of the reciprocal rights and duties of citizen and government. The celebrated core of Molyneux’s declamatory view is this, ‘that Ireland should be bound by Acts of Parliament made in England, is against Reason, and the Common Rights of all Mankind. All men are by Nature in a State of Equality, in Respect of Jurisdiction or Dominion, this I take to be a Principle in it self so evident, that it stands in need of little Proof. ... [a maxim] so inherent to all Mankind, and founded on such Immutable laws of Nature and Reason, that ‘tis not be be Alien’d or Given Up, by any Body of Men whatsoever.’ The source is his friend Locke’s [anonymous] Treatise on Government, and a number of Molyneux’s arguments echo that text almost verbatim. (Leerssen, op. cit., pp.343-45]

Davis Coakley, Irish Masters of Medicine (Town House ?1993), William Molyneux, Robert Boyle, and Allen Mullen founded the Dublin Philosophical Society along Baconian lines - Molyneux’s rules are like a extract from Novum Organum and his economic plan for Ireland was as a range for sheep and beef supplying England. [Mullen, RX.]

Jim Smyth, ‘Anglo-Irish Unionists Discourse, c.1656-1707: From Harrinton to Fletcher’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Summer 1995), esp. p.24-26: […] Moylneux’;s reputation rests on the influence which the Case exercised amongst eighteent-century Irish na American patriots and on its contribution to the [24] history of political thought. But, as a cononical, free-standnig text, the Case presents certain puzzles, notably the stray single-sentence endorsement of union and the rehetorical near-elimination of the Catholic population. … it is celar that union as a means to an end did not necessarily conflict with the defence of the Irish parliament, viewed as a means to the same end. It is equally clear that the minimising of Catholic numbers was not quite a “bare-faced” “evasion”, or at least not an original or even an unusual one. [Discusses contempoary criticisms brought to bear on the Case by William Atwood and Simon Clement.] ‘Atwood and Clement … were no more troubled by the inconsistency of excludnig the colonists (or natives) from the liberaties which they claimed for themselves, than was Molyneux by the inconsistency of excluding Catholics from the liberties which he claimed for all mankind. Colonies were perceived as a potential threat […]’ (pp.24-25.)

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Mary Manning, ‘A Personal Appreciation’ of Sybil le Brocquy, 1976 gives an account of the copy of The Case for Ireland’s being Bound by Acts of Parliament in England Stated by Molyneux,: presented to the National Library of Ireland in honour of Sybil le Brocquy originally belonged to William King and later passed to William Shaw Mason who had it bound, prob. by George Mullen, and presented it to Earl of Charlemont when Lord Lieutenant. Dark Green Morocco. King, the dedicatee, was in dispute with the London companies during his incumbency in Derry, bringing a case to the House of Lords are regards their land and fishing rights, which was then overturned in London, finding that the Irish judgement was coram no iudice, i.e., that the Irish house had no appellate jurisdiction and, in effect, that the Irish parliament could always be overruled and had no effective power. The main argument is the government can only be carried on with the consent of the governed: ‘I have no other notion of slavery but being bound by a law to which I do not consent’; ‘To tax without consent is little better than downright robbing me. I am sure the great patriots of liberty and property, the free people of Englan, cannot think of such a thing but with abhorrence.’ The book was found to be ‘of dangerous consequence to the crown and people of England by denying the authority of the king and parliament of England to bind the kingdom of Ireland and people of Ireland ’. Grattan 1782, called out: ‘Spirit of Swift! Spirit of Molyneux! Your genius has prevailed. Ireland is now a nation. In that new characters I hail her, and bowing to her august presence, I say, Esto perpetua!’ (See bibliographical notice by Andrew Carpenter.)

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Quotations
The Case of Ireland’s Being Bound
by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated
(1698): ‘The subject therefore of our present disquisition shall be How far the Parliament of England may think it reasonable to intermeddle wiwth the affairs of Ireland and bind us up by Laws in their House’ (1725 Edn.,p.36.) ‘It seems not to have the least Foundation or Colour from Reason or Record: Does it not manifestly appear by the Constitution of Ireland, that ’tis a compleat Kingdom within it self? Do not the Kings of England bear the Stile of Ireland among the rest of their Kingdoms? Is this agreeable to the Nature of a Colony? Do they use the title of Kings of Virginia, New England, or Mary-Land? Was not Ireland given by Henry the Second in a Parliament at Oxford to his Son John, and made thereby an absolute Kingdom, separate and wholly independent of England, ’till they both came United again in time, after the Death of his brother Richard without Issue? have not Mulititudes of Acts of parliament both in England and in Ireland declared Ireland a compleat Kingdom? Is not Ireland stiled in them all, the Kingdom or Realm of Ireland? Do these Names agree to a Colony? Have we not a Parliament, and Courts of Judicature? Do these things agree with a Colony? (p.100.) ‘We are supremely bound to obey the Supream Authority over us; and yer we are not permitted to know Who or What the same is; whether the Parliament of England, or that of Ireland, or Both; and in what Cases the One, and in what the Other: Which Uncertainty is or may be made a Pretence at any time for Disobedience. It is not impossible but the different Legistlations we are subject to, may enact different, or contrary Sanctions: Which of these must we obey?’ (p.116.) [All quoted in A. N. Jeffares, ‘Swift and the Ireland of His Day’, in Images of Invention, Gerard Cross: Colin Smythe 1996, p.4ff.)

The Case of Ireland’s Being Bound by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated (1698), written from the standpoint of the ‘Publick Principle’, insists that ‘All men are by nature in a state of equality’ and therefore ought be ‘free from all subjection to positive laws till by their own consent they give up their freedom by entering into civil societies’; and further that ‘we [in Ireland] have had Parliaments in Ireland since very soon after the invasion of Henry II’ and should continue to do so. [&c.] Further: ‘[T]hat Ireland should be bound by Acts of Parliament made in England, is against Reason, and the Common Rights of all Mankind. All men are by Nature in a State of Equality, in Respect of Jurisdiction or Dominion, this I take to be a Principle in it self so evident, that it stands in need of little Proof. ... [a maxim] so inherent to all Mankind, and founded on such Immutable laws of Nature and Reason, that ‘tis not be be Alien’d or Given Up, by any Body of Men whatsoever.’ (Quoted in Joep Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael, 1986 [see infra].)

The English in Ireland: ‘If the English in Ireland be treated as Englishmen, they will be Englishmen still in their hearts and inclinations, but if they be oppressed, they will turn Irish, for fellowship in suffering begets love and unities interests.’ (Marsh’s Library Mss. Z.3.25, 312, No.79; quoted Caroline Robbins, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman, 1961, Harvard UP, p.146; cited in Denis Donoghue, We Irish: Essays in Irish Literature and Society, Cal. UP, 1986, p.17 [note O’Donoghue’s previous writings on Molyneux, supra.]).

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References
D. J. O’Donoghue, Poets of Ireland (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1912), asserts that Canon O’Hanlon edited The Case of Ireland [n.d.], not so listed under O’Hanlon in BML.

Dictionary of National Biography, Molyneux family members Edmund, Richard, and Richard Viscount Maryborough. Extract from The Case in Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (1904). NOTE also, The Case is summarised enthusiastically in Thomas Campbell, Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland (1778).

Roy Foster, Modern Ireland (London: Allen Lane 1988), p.118, b. Dublin, ed. TCD; first sec. of TCD Phil. Soc. [fnd. by William King]; surveyor general, 1684; retired to Chester, 1689; Army Accounts Commissioner, 1690; Dublin Univ. MP, 1692-95; Case of Ireland Stated (1698) on effects of English legislation on Irish industry, purportedly burned by the common hangman [a rumour started by Charles Lucas, acc. to Sean Connolly]. See Samuel Molyneux, supra, and also Patrick D’Arcy, whose Argument (1643) anticipates the Case.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day Co. 1991), Vol. 1, selects Two Letters to John Locke [768-70]; The Case of Ireland’s Being Bound ... Stated [871-73]. Remarks: Francis Hutcheson discusses the Molyneux problem [regarding a blind man and colours], 786; [eds. Carpenter et al., Molyneux remote from racialist nationalism, 856, 858]; Domville compared to, 862; note to The Case, Introduction & Conclusion [870]; Lucas espouses principals of [903]; Henry Grattan, ‘The excellent tract of Molyneux was burned - it was not answered; and its flame illumined posterity’ (Speech of 16 April, 1782) [921]; [biogs, 956]; Dublin Philosophical Society fnd. Molyneux and Petty, 1683, 967. WORKS & CRIT [as supra]. FDA3 incls. remarks of Seán O’Faolain: ‘you will not find as much as the word “Gael” in Swift, Molyneux, &c. [570]. Also Marianne Elliott: ‘Molyneux’s Case &c portrayed the bitter disappointment at the outcome of the Glorious Revolution for Ireland and became one of the key documents in the protestant ‘patriot’ campaign culminating in ... legislative independance in 1782-83’[.] Molyneux had argued that the orginal compact had been made between the Irish peole and the English king at the time of Henry II’s conquest of Ireland ... consequently they owed no allegiance to any intermediary bodies and that the English parliament had no right ... Molyneux applied the concept of no taxation without representation similiar to the American situatation ... in that golden age of confident protestant liberalism, the 1770s and 1780s’ [Marianne Elliott, ‘Watchmen in Zion: The Protestant Idea of Liberty’ (Field Day Pamphlet, 1985); FDA3, p.606]. Further, the resurgence of the Irish nation primarily a Protestant affair, owing its origins to the writing of William Molyneux (et al.) [Luke Gibbon, ed., FDA3, p.954.]

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Library Catalogues

Marsh’s Library holds Case of Ireland’s being Bound &c (1698; rep. London 1720; rep. Dublin: Cadenus 1977); copy of 1698 octavo edn. presented by the author to Dr. Bouhéreau.

Belfast Linenhall Library holds The Case against Ireland’s being bound by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated (1698, also 1725, 1749, 1782).
Belfast Central Public Library holds Case of Ireland (1725); de Burca Cat, Case, printed Ray, Dublin 1698, 275.00.

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Notes
Spirit of Molyneux!
: Grattan called out in the triumphal peroration of his speech on legislative independence in 1782: ‘Spirit of Swift! Spirit of Molyneux! Your genius has prevailed. Ireland is now a nation. In that new characters I hail her, and bowing to her august presence, I say, Esto perpetua!’

Sybil le Brocquy Commemorative Committee: a presentation copy of was acquired by the Sybil le Brocquy Commemorative Committee and presented to the National Gallery of Ireland in 1974. Bibl., The Case for Ireland’s being Bound by Acts of Parliament in England Stated / by William Molyneux, of Dublin, Esq.; Dublin, printed by Joseph Ray, and are to be sold at his Shop in Skinner Row (MDC XC VIII). The copy belonged to William King and later passed to William Shaw Mason who had it bound in dark green Morocco (prob. by George Mullen), before presenting it to Earl of Charlemont when Lord Lieutenant[ top ]

Jonathan Swift described Molyneux as ‘an English gentleman born in Ireland’ who ‘never grew tired of proclaiming the fact’ (quoted in Joep Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor Ghael, Amsterdam, 1986, p.350.

Dublin Philosophical Soc. : founded by Molyneux et al., given in Muriel McCarthy, Hibernia Resurgens: Catalogue of Marsh’s Library (Dublin 1994), p.10: In 1667 they began a correspondence with Pierre bayle, but this lapsed when “the jealousy, suspition & prospect of troubles in this kingdome have such unhappy influence on our philosophical endeavours,that little of worth has of late been done among us.’ (St. George Ashe to Wm. Musgrave, sec. of the Oxford Soc., 15th July 1687).

Patrick D’Arcy’s Argument (1643) anticipates the substance of Molyneux’s Case (1698).

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