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Higgins, Francis (1669-1728) (DNB00)


HIGGINS, FRANCIS (1669–1728), archdeacon of Cashel, who has been styled ‘the Irish Sacheverell,’ born in 1669, was son of an apothecary of the city of Limerick. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a sizar, 4 May 1685; obtained a scholarship in 1688, and graduated B.A. 1691, and M.A. 1693. He was ‘reader’ in Christ Church Cathedral in 1690; rector of Gowran in 1694; and became prebendary of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, 14 July 1705. In 1706 Higgins made himself notorious in London by violently asserting in sermons that the church was in danger, and by expounding extreme high-church views. On Ash Wednesday (February 1706–7) he preached at Whitehall Chapel, and denounced the favour shown in high places to champions of heterodoxy like Asgill, Toland, and Emlyn, and to puritans and presbyterians. On 28 Feb. Higgins was arrested on the secretary of state's warrant, and in April the grand jury of Middlesex found a true bill against him for preaching sedition, but in May the attorney-general entered a ‘nolle prosequi’ (Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 164, 177). Archbishop Tenison seems to have summoned Higgins to Lambeth before his arrest and urged him to alter his tone (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. p. 244). Higgins was obdurate, and published not only his sermon, but a separately issued ‘Postscript’ (for a penny), giving a very partial report of the interview with the archbishop. A rhyming version of the ‘Postscript’ also appeared as ‘a new song.’ On 29 July 1707 the Irish parliament directed the common hangman of Dublin to burn Higgins's ‘Postscript.’ Higgins was again prosecuted in 1712 as ‘a disloyal subject and disturber of the public peace.’ He was collated to the archdeaconry of Cashel in 1725, and dying in August 1728, was interred in his prebendal church. Both as a member of the lower house of convocation in Ireland and as a magistrate for the county of Dublin Higgins showed great activity and stormy temperament. He was of coarse tastes, and is described in a satirical poem as ‘the son of pudding and eternal beef.’ A contemporary pamphlet speaks of him as ‘a plump red-faced man, zealous, talkative, very fond of quoting law (not always accurately), who thinks too little and who talks too much.’

[Matriculation Book, Trin. Coll. Dublin; Cotton's Fasti Eccles. Hib. vol. v.; Webb's Irish Biography; Hearne's Collections, Oxf. Hist. Soc. i. 337, 395, ii. 25, 37, 57, 412.]

W. R-l.