Rev. William Bruce (1757-1841) And Henry Joy (1754-1835) were leading cultural and political figures in late eighteenth-century Belfast, prominent in the Irish Volunteer movement and with many links to the British parliamentary reform cause. While retaining their commitment to substantial Parliamentary reform, Bruce and Joy eventually joined the Belfast yeomanry corps before the outbreak of the 1798 rebellion to resist domestic insurrection and foreign invasion and subsequently also became supporters of the Act of Union. John Bew is completing a PhD in history at Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Belfast Politics, arguably one of the most important texts in modern Irish history, appeared in 1794 as a collection of twenty essays outlining a moderate political position in the increasingly polarised politics of 1790s Ireland. It contains the seeds of the so-called 'transformation' of so many late eighteenth-century Ulster radicals into the Unionists of the early nineteenth-century. Although sharing many of the political principles and much of the language which inspired the United Irishmen, including support for the American Revolution and the use of civic humanist and Enlightenment discourse, Bruce and Joy maintained that these ideas were consistent with, and best served within, the framework of the British constitution, and their book was unique in bringing an inclusive notion of 'Britishness' to the mainstream Irish reform movement.
Introduction by John Bew
Preface by William Bruce and Henry Joy
Thoughts on the British Constitution I-XX
"University College Dublin Press has now published over thirty ‘Classics of Irish History'. These contemporary accounts by well known personalities of historical events and attitudes have an immediacy that conventional histories do not have. Introductions by modern historians provide additional historical background and, with hindsight, objectivity."
"In recuperating the work for the ‘Classics of Irish History' series published by University College Dublin Press, John Bew has provided a valuable snapshot of a current in Northern political thinking in the years before the 1798 Rising that developed into the pro-Union position dominant among the Northern majority in the nineteenth century."
Robert Mahony, Catholic University of America, Washington DC
Irish Studies Review 13 (4) 2005
"Scholars of nineteenth-century Irish and Irish-American politics should reacquaint themselves with these classics, part of a long running and immensely useful series from University College Dublin Press."
Irish Literary Supplement