George Downame (c. 1566—1634), otherwise known as George Downham, was an author of influential philosophical and religious works who served as Bishop of Derry during the early years of the Plantation of Ulster. He is said to have been a chaplain to both Elizabeth I and James I.
Early life and education
George Downame was a son of William Downame, Bishop of Chester, and an elder brother of John Downame. He matriculated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, in November 1581, graduated B.A. in 1584/5, obtained the further degree of B.D. in 1595, and was made D.D. in 1601. In the early 1580s he was, although a bishop’s son, briefly a "zealous espouser of puritan principles" and it was only after "mature study" that he "heartily embraced episcopy".
Career to 1601
Downame was elected a Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1587 and shortly afterwards was chosen to be Professor of Logic in the University. Thomas Fuller considered "no man was then and there better skilled in Aristotle or a greater follower of Ramus". The supremacy of Aristotle in the study of Logic (or Dialectics) was in decline and the writings of Petrus Ramus became increasingly dominant, in large part due to Downame’s role as "the Cambridge apostle" for Ramus’s approach. In 1601 he published an 800-page commentary on Ramus’s 95-page Dialecticae, the eloquence of Downame so opening the "clenched fist" of the subject matter as to "smooth and stroke one with the palm thereof".
By 1593 he was Divinity Lecturer at St Paul’s Cathedral, where he held the prebend of Caddington Major, and on appointment to the vicarage of Sandbach in the following year he also became a prebendary of Chester. In September 1596 he was preferred by Elizabeth I to the rectory of St Margaret’s, Lothbury, continuing there until 1601 when his brother John succeeded him in the living.
Among his parishioners at Lothbury was the diplomat Sir Henry Killigrew, to whom Downame dedicated the printed text of his Easter Sermon of 1602, declaring that "to your Worship, your loving brother and the virtuous Lady your wife I am for great benefits exceedingly bound". Both Sir Henry and his brother Sir William Killigrew were on intimate terms with the Earl of Essex, which may have contributed to Downame’s appointment as chaplain to the ill-fated Earl by 1599. He is said also to have served as a chaplain to Elizabeth I and James I.
Career from 1601
In 1616 he was appointed Bishop of Derry. His diocese, comprising 45 parishes, was potentially valuable but in a state of decay. Little remained of the fabric of its old cathedral and 34 of its churches were ruinous or roofless.
Downame’s seventeen years as bishop saw the commencement and completion of Derry’s new Cathedral Church of St Columb (the first non-Roman Catholic cathedral to be built in Western Europe) and, following his failure to agree terms with the Irish Society for a suitable site within the city, he built a new Bishop’s Palace overlooking Lough Swilly at Fahan.
Downame’s appointment to the See of Derry was a fitting sequel to the Church of Ireland’s adoption of its own confession of faith (the "Irish Articles") in the previous year. Although he had embraced the episcopalian tradition, his theology chimed with the Calvinist tone of the Irish Articles and he brought to Ireland a deep-seated antipathy and hostility to the Church of Rome, which he declared had been controlled by Antichrist since the accession of Boniface III as Pope in 607.
His beliefs made him particularly acceptable to the Scots Presbyterian settlers in Ulster and he was vehement in opposing toleration of Roman Catholic practice. He spoke the Irish Bishops’ declaration of opposition when preaching before Lord Deputy Falkland in April 1627, saying toleration made one "an accessory to superstition and idolatry and to the perdition of a seduced people".
Catholic priests had a strong hold over the native population in Downame’s diocese and, in despair at the civil and military authorities’ acquiescence in this, he obtained from Dublin a special commission allowing him to arrest and detain all within his jurisdiction who refused obedience to him on spiritual matters. He favoured the appointment of clergy who could catechise and preach in Irish in those parishes where it was the most spoken language, and it was perhaps on such account that Fuller declared "This learned bishop was the greatest beauty [of his diocese], endeavouring by gentleness to cicurate and civilise the wild Irish, and proved very successful therein".
In 1631, Downame published, at Dublin, The Covenant of Grace in which, observed Archbishop James Ussher, he "handleth at full the Controversy on Perseverence [sic] and the Certainty of Salvation". Passages within this exposition (written in 1604) were in conflict with the Arminian tendencies of Archbishop William Laud who, in the King’s name, ordered all copies of the book to be seized. By the time Laud’s instruction reached Dublin, most copies had already been distributed.
Downame had arrived in Derry three years after agreement had been reached between the King and the City of London for the latter’s conduct of the Londonderry Plantation. The City’s progress with the enterprise was slow and in 1623 Sir Thomas Phillips was appointed to oversee reform of the Plantation. To encourage the Londoners’ implementation of remedial work, their rents were sequestrated in 1625; the sequestration order was quashed in 1627 and a Royal Commission was established to investigate the Plantation’s progress and problems. Downame became actively involved in these events, being appointed one of the 1625 sequestrators and a member of the 1627 Commission.
He died on 17 April 1634, aged 67, and was buried in his cathedral four days later.
Downame was one of the leading controversialists of his day, writing numerous treatises that were printed or reprinted after this death. His most enduring work was his Commentary on Ramus’s Dialecticae which, in original or digest form, was standard reading for students at both English and American universities in the late seventeenth century. In 1858 Augustus de Morgan, perhaps the leading British logician of the mid-19th century, could still acknowledge the book as "an excellent work". It provided the basis, and most of the text, for John Milton’s Art of Logic (1672) and, to the extent that exercises in logic are said to have played a part in shaping Milton’s other works, Downame’s thinking may have indirectly reached a wider audience.
Downame’s library, including books that had been his father’s and more than one hundred volumes previously owned by his father-in-law William Harrison, forms an important part of the present Derry and Raphoe Diocese Library Collection.
Downame was three times married. His first wife, Ann Harrison, was a daughter of the antiquarian William Harrison and bore him at least eleven children. She died on 18 March 1616, and on 20 April 1617 he married, at St Margaret’s, Lothbury, Jaell (née de Peigne), the widow of Sir Henry Killigrew, being the "Virtuous Lady" whose benevolence Downame had acknowledged fifteen years earlier; the marriage, which was solemnised by his brother John, had been expected since the previous December. Jaell Downame was ill and made her will on 16 October 1617 but it was not proved until 1623. Following her death the Bishop married Margery Roe, a natural daughter of Sir Nicholas Bagenal and widow of Sir Francis Roe of Co. Tyrone.
Of Downame’s children, James (1611-81) became Dean of Armagh, Mary married George Downing (a Member of the Dublin Parliament of 1634), Jane married a son of Bishop Andrew Knox, Elizabeth married Major Dudley Phillips (son of Sir Thomas), and Dorothy became the wife of Rev. Charles Vaughan, D.D., Prebendary of Comber, Londonderry.
All Downame’s marriages and the names of his children and their spouses were recorded in his Funeral Certificate of 1634.
His A Treatise of Justification, published in 1633, was his outstanding work of theology. Downame's other publications in this vein included:
- A Treatise Concerning Anti-christ (1603)
- An Abstract of the Duties Commanded and Sins Forbidden in the Law of God (1620)
- The Christian's Freedom (1635)
- A Godly and Learned Treatise of Prayer (1640).
- John Peile (compiler), Biographical Register of Christ’s College 1505-1905, Vol.I, 1448-1665, Cambridge University Press, 1910, p. 166.
- John Strype, Annals of the Reformation and establishment of Religion during Queen Elizabeth’s Reign, New Edition, Clarendon Press, 1824, Vol. III, Part I, pp. 719-720; Peter Ivan Kaufman, The Godly, Godlier and Godliest, The Elizabethan World (ed. Susan Doran, Norman Jones), Routledge, 2014, pp. 245-247. Heated debate among Fellows of Christ’s on such matters in the 1580s may account for the conformist Richard Clerke, a future translator of the King James Version, having been charged with striking the more radical Downame: see the entry for Richard Clerke at kingjamesbibletranslators.org.
- Thomas Fuller, The History of the Worthies of England, New Edition (ed. F. Austin Nuttall), Vol. I, 1840, p. 291. Fuller classed Downame (rendered "Dounham") as "the top-twig of the branch" in the Aristotelian-Ramist school of thought.
- Augustus de Morgan, "On the Syllogism III, and on Logic in General", Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Vol. X (1864), p. 181 (reprinted in On the Syllogism and Other Logical Writings, Routledge, 1966, p. 84). It is likely the dominance of Ramus at Cambridge did not long outlive Downame’s personal career there: ibid.
- Commentarius in Rami Dialecticam. First publication was at Frankfurt, where four more editions were printed between 1605 and 1631; the first London edition dates from 1669: Jameela Lares, "The Ghost of Rhetoric: Milton’s Logic and the Renaissance Trivium", in A Concise Companion to the Study of Manuscripts, Printed Books and the Production of Early Modern Texts, ed. Edward Jones, John Wiley & Sons, 2015, p.194.
- Fuller, The History of the Worthies of England.
- John Ingle Dredge, Dr George Downame, Bishop of Derry, Manchester, 1882, pp. 4-5.
- Downame, "Abraham’s Tryall: a Sermon preached at the Spittle in Easter weeke, Anno Domini 1602", London, 1602. Sir Henry’s brother, Sir William Killigrew, was also influential at Court.
- In December 1599 Downame was summoned to explain himself to the Privy Council for publicly praying for the Earl, whose health and favour were both in decline: Notes and Queries, Second Series, Vol.II (1856), p. 61.
- Peile, Biographical Register of Christ’s College; Downame’s father had been chaplain to Elizabeth before her succession.
- Henry Cotton, The Succession of the Prelates and Members of the Cathedral Bodies of Ireland, Hodges & Smith, Dublin, 1850, Vol. III, p. 317.
- Dredge, Dr George Downame, p. 5. These volumes included A Treatise concerning Antichrist (in two books), 1603, and Lectures on the XV Psalme, 1604, both dedicated to James I. Downame also prepared a Treatise on the Ten Commandments containing the sum of his lectures at St Paul’s; from this was extracted "Abstract on the Duties commanded and Sins forbidden in the Law of God", published in 1620: see Dredge, p. 12.
- Cotton, The Succession of the Prelates and Members of the Cathedral Bodies of Ireland, giving the date of his presentment as 6 December 1616 followed by consecration in January 1617. The Ordnance Survey of the County of Londonderry, Vol. I, Dublin, 1837, p. 60, states his letter of appointment under the Privy Seal was dated 28 October and his patent 6 December 1616.
- Londonderry Sentinel, 14 July 1945. Downame’s own account of the condition of his See in 1622 survives in An Account of the State of the Diocese of Derry. This was very much his own work - written in the first person and with candid comment on personalities - and forms part of The Ulster Visitation Book preserved at Trinity College Dublin.
- David Dickson, Derry’s Backyard: The Barony of Inishowen 1650-1800, Donegal History and Society, eds. William Nolan and ors, Geography Publications, 1995, p. 412.
- George Downame, Treatise concerning Antichrist, divided into two books, the former proving that the Pope is Antichrist; the latter maintaining the same assertion against all the objections of Robert Bellarmine, Jesuit and Cardinal of the Church of Rome, London, 1603; and see Alan Ford, "Force and Fear of Punishment: Protestants and Religious Coercion in Ireland 1693-33", in "Enforcing Reformation in Ireland and Scotland 1580-1700", ed. Crawford Gribben and Elizabethanne Boran, Aldgate Press, Aldershot, 2006.
- Charles Pastoor, Galen K. Johnson, Historical Dictionary of the Puritans, Scarecrow Press, 2007, p. 108.
- Samuel R. Gardiner, History of England from the Accession of James I to the Outbreak of Civil War, 1603-1642, New Edition, Longman Green & Company, London, 1891, Vol. VIII: 1635-1639, pp. 15-16.
- "Though they be rude, ignorant and vicious fellows, yet carry the Natives after them": Downame’s assessment in the concluding section of his Visitation.
- Dredge, Dr George Downame, p. 6; Rev. John Graham (writing as "Statisticus"), "Desiderata Curiosa Derriana", No. 72, Londonderry Sentinel, 5 November 1842, citing Loftus No. 85, Trinity College Dublin; and see Alexander Gordon, Dictionary of National Biography, 1908-9, Vol.4, pp. 1300-1301 (entry for Downham or Downame, George).
- Alexander Gordon, DNB, p. 1301.
- Fuller, The History of the Worthies of England.
- James Ussher to Dr Samuel Ward, 10 December 1630 (Richard Parr, The Life of the Most Reverend James Ussher, late Lord Archbishop of Armagh... with a Collection of three-hundred letters..., London, 1686, Letter CLIX at p. 438).
- James Seaton Reid, History of the Presbyterian Church In Ireland, Waugh & Innes, Edinburgh, 1834, p. 163.
- James Stevens Curl, The Londonderry Plantation 1609-1914, Phillimore, 1986, pp. 72-84.
- Dredge, Dr George Downame, p. 8, citing Funeral Certificate taken by Alban Leverett, Athlone Pursuivant. Downame’s marriage licence appears in London Marriage Licences 1521-1869, ed. Joseph Foster (Quaritch, 1887), column 416; it is dated 19 April 1617 and states his age as 50.
- Arthur T. Russell, Memorials of the Life and Works of Thomas Fuller, D.D., William Pickering, London, 1884, p. 138.
- See, e.g., Rick Kennedy and Thomas Knoles, "Increase Mather’s Catechismus Logicus: A Translation and an Analysis of the Role of a Ramist Catechism at Harvard", Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Vol. 109 (1999), pp. 150-151.
- de Morgan, "On the Syllogism III, and on Logic in General".
- Thomas S. K. Scott-Craig, "The Craftsmanship and Theological Significance of Milton’s Art of Logic", Huntingdon Library Quarterly, No. 1 (1953), pp. 1-6. Computational analysis by Francine Lusignan (PhD thesis, University of Montreal, 1974) shows that about 82% of the first book of Milton’s Ars Logica and 73% of the second book are directly taken, without acknowledgement, from Downame: Gordon Campbell & ors, Milton and the Manuscript De Doctrina Christiana, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 81.
- Joe McLaughlin, "A Bibliographical Archaeological Site", History Ireland, Vol. 17, No. 6 (2009), pp. 36-37. See also Nicholas Pickwoad's paper on the library. 
- Letter of John Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton, 7 December 1616: for which see 'James 1 - volume 89: December 1616', in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1611-18, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1858), pp. 411-421. Accessible at British History Online .
- The National Archives, PROB11/161/378.
- Dredge, Dr George Downame, pp. 8-9.