History Hub


Connecting past and present

This post features a recording of Adjunct Prof. Jess Velona’s (Columbia Law School) paper at the 2012 Tudor and Stuart Ireland conference. His paper was entitled Sir Audley Mervyn’s speech demanding reforms in the Court of Claims – A reinterpretation through the lens of legal history.

About the paper (from the conference programme).

This paper will reinterpret from the perspective of legal history a significant political event in Restoration Ireland: the February 1663 speech about the Court of Claims by Sir Audley Mervyn, Speaker of the Protestant-dominated House of Commons.

The Court of Claims’ challenge, as a newly-created legal institution, was to impartially implement the Act of Settlement amidst deep political conflict. Historians have properly situated Mervyn’s speech in this political struggle. The Commons, alarmed the Court was finding many Catholics innocent of rebellion and restoring them to Protestant-held land, sought to change the Court’s rules. While Charles II’s government rebuffed Mervyn, the Court soon was allowed to expire without hearing most Catholic claims.

Still, what did Mervyn say? The political account has portrayed his speech as a mere list of demands, mentioned a few with an apparent Protestant bias, and quoted some inflammatory language. This paper will portray Mervyn’s speech as it was: a 38-page document making 20 proposals, notably about jury trial, burden of proof, and admitting historical documents. Crucially, Mervyn defended his proposals with detailed legal reasoning, citing cases and interpretative rules to demonstrate Court deviations from English legal principles. The paper will assess examples of those arguments, concluding some were legally reasonable by the standards of Mervyn’s time. His political bias should not obscure plausible criticism of the Court. Further research should consider whether the Court, by modifying some procedures, might have muted Protestant opposition enough to buy time to continue its work, benefiting Catholics in the long run.

About Jess Velona.

Jess Velona is an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School and an M.A. candidate in world history at New York University, where he has studied Irish history with Professor Joe Lee. He is a senior attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission and was a law clerk to Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who now serves on the U.S. Supreme Court. An honours graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School, his research explores the competing spheres of law and politics. He has published articles on how ideology and the presidential appointments process influence judicial decision-making..

About the Tudor and Stuart Ireland Conference.

The first and second Tudor and Stuart Ireland Conferences took place in University College Dublin in 2011 and 2012. In all over eighty speakers have participated in the two conferences. Podcasts of fifty-seven of those papers are currently available for download on iTunes for free.

Highlights from the 2011 and 2012 podcast series include the 2011 plenary address presented by Professor Marian Lyons (NUIM) and the 2012 plenary address presented by Professor John Patrick Montaño (University of Delaware). Other podcasts available for download include papers by Professor Andrew Carpenter, Professor Steven Ellis, Professor James McGuire, Dr Tadhg O’hAnnracháin, Dr Gerald Power, Dr John Cunningham, Dr John Bergin and Dr Marie Louise Coolahan amongst many others.

The third Tudor and Stuart Ireland conference will take place in University College Dublin on the 30-31 August 2013. For more information on the conference go to tudorstuartireland.com.

Image: Audley Mervyn’s signature.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top