[Viscount]Nicholas Taaffe

Life
1677-1769 [6th Viscount]; b. O’Crean’s Castle, Co. Sligo; ed. Lorraine, lieutenant general in Austrian Army in 1752; succeeded to Irish title, Viscount Taaffe, in 1738; estate sold with bulk of value to Protestant relative; rallied Austrian cavalry at Kolin [?Cologne], 1757; introduced potato on his Silesian estate; issued Observations on the Affairs of Ireland (Dublin & London 1766), against penal laws and containing that the Pope was empowered to dissolve oaths made to heretical rulers; actually composed by Charles O’Conor and adapted to his own style by Taaffe, under whose name it appeared; d. Ellischau, Bohemia. ODNB DIB

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Commentary
Robert Ward & Catherine Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare (1988), refer to his part in O’Conor’s affairs, and particularly his efforts to get Daniel O’Conor a passport to Ireland subsequent to his service in the Austrian army (op. cit., p.140). For O’Conor’s response to the reception of Observations on the Affairs of Ireland (1766), written by him but signed by Taaffe, see letter of 7 Nov. 1766 (ibid., p.189).

Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th c., ed. Gerard O’Brien (1989), ‘Nicholas, Lord Taaffe, a catholic nobleman who had attained eminence in the service of the Holy Roman emperor, and whose exalted position gave him access to the court circles in London, where he frequently pleaded the cause of his catholic fellow-countrymen, went to London that year to make personal application on behalf of the Catholics [with the special object of] opposing quarterage legislation. To his activities and to the “benevolent intervention of Lord Townshend” O’Conor attributes the defeat of the measure. More likely it is indicative of the government policy of the day. any attempt to shut the majority out of full participation in commercial pursuits would run contrary to the principles of toleration and enlightenment stated by George III at the outset of his reign.’ [68] SEE n.79 (p.177 infra), quoting Dublin Mercury, 23 Jan. 1768: ‘Viscount Taaffe waited on their majesties in St James’s, being just returned from Germany.’ Further, ‘In 1768, Viscount Taaffe and prominent members of the Catholic Committee were in consultation with the Earl Bishop of Derry on the wording of a test oath; the Earl had the formulary printed, with four Gallican propositions of 1682 included to which the French clergy subscribed. Copies of the formulary were sent - probably by Dr. Thomas Burke, bishop of Ossory - to the papal nuncio Monsignor Ghilini at Brussels, who threatened public censures ...’ [111] [For a full account of this affair, see Thomas Burke, Rx supra.]. Further, ‘O’Conor’s Observations on affairs in Ireland [making] the case as usual for relaxation of the popery laws ... appeared under the name of Viscount Taaffe.’ [120] Finally, ‘Taaffe’s own Observations on affairs in Ireland (1766) appearing at this date, castigates the suggestion that the Munster troubles were stirred up as part of a French or a Jacobite conspiracy.’ [188, n.31].

Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression Prior To The Nineteenth Century (John Benjamins Pub. Co., Amsterdam & Philadelphia, 1986): O’Conor published an isolated pamphlet anonymously between 1761 and 1771 called A vindication of Lord Taaffe’s civil principals, written in defence of the Observations on affairs in Ireland from the settlement in 1691, to the present time, published in 1766 by Viscount Taaffe, living in Austria. That work was based on materials gathered for Taaffe by O’Conor (cf. O’Conor to Taaffe, 14 June 1766, Letters vol. 1, 200-1) [Leerssen 484; also ftn. 397].

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References
Dictionary of National Biography served in war of Polish succession, 1734-35, and against Turks, 1727-39; present, at eighty, at Kolin, 1757; ancestor of the late president of the Austrian ministry. [No entry DIW].

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Notes
Inconsistency? A correspondent to the Freeman’s Journal, 13-16 Dec. 1766) charged Taaffe with inconsistency on account of his assertion in Observations that an Irish Catholic could accept the Pope’s spiritual power to dissolve oaths sworn to heretical princes and still be a good citizen, in the light of Pope Clement XI’s statement that all stipulations made by Catholics in favour of Protestants are utterly null and void. (See Ward & Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor, 1988, p.192, n.1.)

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