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Leadership Of Oconnell Won Catholic Emancipation History Essay

Info: 1887 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in History

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This essay aims to examine how the Irish Catholics, under the leadership of O’Connell, won Catholic emancipation while also detailing his influence on negro emancipation in America. The political event which will be examined in detail is the quest for “Catholic Emancipation” and referring also to the campaign for “The Repeal of the Union”. In theory the Protestant minority were the governing body of the State they controlled economics, social and legal aspects of the country. However, men such as O’Connell ignored the theory and dealt with the fact that the majority should rule their own country! This essay will examine the life of this Irish hero and will also look at the political events which occurred during his lifetime, in particular the search for Catholic Emancipation in Ireland. This was a question that dominated the Irish society from 1801 to 1829. However, the British public, Irish Protestants and the monarchy of Britain, were seriously opposed to granting Catholic Emancipation to Ireland and Roman Catholics in the country. The influence of Irish Americans and Americans will also be looked at as they had a major involvement in the achievement in gaining Catholic Emancipation, through funding, campaigns and meetings.

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These events paved the way for the whole ideology of O’Connellism and made Daniel O’Connell the iconic figure he is to Ireland now, as being regarded as the ‘Liberator’ and ‘The Father of his Country’. Many historical books and newspapers will also be examined to determine the man’s overall status in Ireland and his impact on Irish culture and society throughout the years. It is important to give a brief summary and account of O’Connell’s early life and background to gain a full understanding of this subject.

Early life and Background:

Daniel O’Connell was born at Carhen beside Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry on the 6 August, 1775. Although he was born into the native ascendancy, he was raised among the Catholic peasantry and thus learned not only the Gaelic language, but also the many tribulations faced by the poorer class. He was sent to France to further his education and witnessed the French Revolution which can be said to have reinforced his views on violence, warfare and revolution as the wrong methods to achieving justice. This gave him a lifelong commitment to peaceful means to achieve social change. After his studies, he qualified as a barrister through studying in Dublin and became very successful and known throughout the country at how good he was at his job. This in which sparked his involvement and legacy in politics. O’Connell was fully committed to democracy, religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. Throughout his life, O’Connell did not believe in rebellion and bloodshed, he believed the Irish would have to gain emancipation and freedom from the union politically, rather than using force. It is clear that O’Connell hated any violence and detested the 1798 rebellion led by Wolve Tone due to its massive brutality rate. O’Connell was essentially a realist, whose main goal in life was the repeal of the union between Great Britain and Ireland, but he believed that a major step to breaking this union would be to gain Catholic Emancipation, as the Irish Catholics so dearly needed their say in the parliament at the time to gain political and religious equality.

The history of the Act of Union (why CE)

Following the 1798 Rebellion, the British Prime Minister, William Pitt, was convinced that the only course of action was a legislative union between Britain and Ireland. It was believed this would have five main effects: constitutional, religious, commercial, financial and legal.

The constitutional effects outlined that Great Britain and Ireland would be forever united under the one name; United Kingdom and represented by one parliament namely Westminster. There were 658 members in Westminster and Ireland was to be represented by 100 MPs. In religious issues, the Church of England and Ireland was to be amalgamated into one Protestant Episcopal Church, possessing a fundamental part of the union. Commercial concepts favoured Ireland, free trade a significantly positive, opening world markets to Ireland and protection for certain specified exports from Ireland, thereby raising Irish living standards. The financial agreements meant that each Kingdom had to pay off their own debts and when completed the two exchequers were to be merged. All laws and the civil and ecclesiastical courts were to remain established. Taking everything into account, the conditions of the Union were not unfavourable to the Irish. [1] The aim of the Union was, “to provide such measures as might best strengthen and consolidate the connection between the two kingdoms; to promote and secure the essential interests of Great Britain and Ireland; and to consolidate the strength, power and resources of the British Empire.” [2] 

Britain’s main goal for the Union was an immediate military need due to their old enemy, France, who were very threatening with the revolutionary leader Napoleon. Britain had no support from other European countries; therefore Ireland was their only option for increased protection. Among the British hierarchy there was a sense of uneasiness after the regency crisis that Ireland might appoint a regent who would have full sovereign powers and attempt to go its own independent way. So there was a surge from Pitt to agree on the Union as soon as possible to remove fears of Catholic emancipation since Irish Protestants, although a minority in Ireland would find themselves part of the United Kingdom’s Protestant majority. [3] 

All was not as it seemed, as the Irish were bitterly disappointed when they learned that their high hopes of a New Ireland were dashed with no social or political input or change which might have saved Irish society from the chaos and suffering of the Great Famine. Their continuous fear of a French attack also caused distress among the Irish. The Act of Union came into effect on 1st January 1801, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Many believed this would lead to Catholics being allowed to sit in parliament, particularly since Pitt had assured Roman Catholics that penal codes would be repealed. However, on 1st February 1801 King George III rejected emancipation, because the British argued that the Catholics first allegiance was the Pope and they would never be loyal British subjects. “It was in a post-union context that Ireland was to experience great and prolonged social distress.” [4] In these circumstances a new leader of Catholic Ireland emerged, Daniel O’Connell.

Why they wanted Catholic eman: How O’Connell got CE- the influence of the Americans

In 1823 Catholic Emancipation was taken to the people by Daniel O’Connell as their concern and as a popular campaign when he established the Catholic Association. The Catholic association was the catalyst in his quest for Catholic Emancipation. It was founded in 1823 and all Irish citizens were encouraged to join, with the aim of winning Catholic Emancipation and looking after the general issues of the Catholic population. The membership fee for the association was one penny per month; this was very affordable for every Irish citizen from middle class to peasants. The introducing of the “Catholic Rent” in February 1824 was well received and funding from abroad was a huge boost to the emancipation campaign. “It was this penny-a-month scheme that transformed the Catholic Association from a small middle-class political club into a mass movement which politicised the countryside”. [5] Thus O’Connell’s non-violent tactics adopted from his experience in France and inclusion of every citizen regardless of class were proving to be effective. The British Government were alarmed by his mass meetings with the public for Catholic Emancipation and international support from America. “Without Irish-American fury and money, Irish nationalist movements would have found it difficult to survive, much less succeed”. [6] Within the Catholic Association it was clear that support was growing for the organisation, particularly abroad. Irish-Americans had founded societies in many states across America in order to raise money and support for emancipation.

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The American interest in O’Connell’s campaign was created from Irish American newspapers namely, “The Irish Shield” and “The Truth Teller” that carried the story of O’Connell’s campaigns and the troubles the Irish back home were going through with the British Empire. O’Connell’s speeches were printed and circulated around America in a bid to ignite a reaction from the American and Irish American people. Thus, these newspapers proved to be very informative to the Irish Americans and Americans, which urged them to support and help Catholics in Ireland from the political unrest that was occurring. The ‘Catholic Rent’ that was being collected in Ireland, was seen as a good idea by the Americans as they too started to collect a rent at church for the Catholic Association. We see this from a letter addressed to John England, Bishop of Charlestown in that a “Catholic Rent” was proposed to be collected at church gatherings to assist the Catholic Association in Ireland. [7] The projected gross from the Catholic Rent was fifty thousand per annum. O’Connell proposed to distribute fifteen thousand to press coverage which was a great investment as it promoted the intentions they had for the Catholic people of Ireland and gaining more credit from Catholics abroad. MAYBE

The rent therefore made an available fighting fund for the emancipation movement. Initially O’Connell did not have the support of the nobility and clergy, but quickly won them over through his association’s goals and tactics.

The campaign was non-violent and diplomatic that used pressure and agitation to get results for the association and Catholics in Ireland. The association grew so big and threatened the English, that it was declared illegal as there was an overshadowing threat of religious civil war.


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