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Daniel O'Connell, "The Liberator"
The Campaign for Catholic Emancipation
Most members of the political classes believed that it would be unwise to give full political rights to the Roman Catholics.
Weren't their loyalties divided between allegiance to the Crown and to the Pope at the same time?
Therefore, all the bills that were introduced to the House of Commons by supporters of the Emancipation before 1920 were
rejected by large majorities.
Leaders of the Emancipation in Ireland were mainly the Roman Catholic upper class, unwilling to seek active popular support
and were cautious and conciliatory with their dealings with the authorities. They were even willing to support a compromise
Emancipation Bill which, while granting political and civil rights to the Catholics, included what became known as "the veto"
The veto would allow the British government to vet appointments to the Roman Catholic Church in the UK in order to ensure
that only "loyal" clerics were appointed.
Daniel O'Connell vigorously rejected the veto, believing it was vital to keep out British government interference in the
Catholic Church. To do otherwise would be a step back to the days of the Penal code.
The 1821 Catholic Emancipation Bill
Obtained a majority in the House of Commons, but was rejected by the Lords.
This was a major turning point for O'Connell in some ways as he believed that the Emancipation movement in Ireland must
reconsider their aims and methods if their deadlock was to be broken. This was to be accomplished with the formation of the
Catholic Association in 18234.
The Catholic Association (formed May 1823) pg 31
Formed by O'Connell and his supporters as a constitutional organisation for the achievement of Catholic political and civil
Expanded in 1824 after the introduction of the "Catholic Rent" of 1 penny a month for supporters instead of the high
subscription earlier proposed.
This enabled the Association to become a truly national organisation with strong roots among the peasantry and transformed
the old ineffective group into "the crusade of an irresistible mass movement"
Aims of the Catholic Association
Emancipation (main aim)
Reform of the Church of Ireland
Rights to advance the interests of the Catholic community
To make the Irish Catholic Church an integral part of the whole movement, as O'Connell realized that the role of the
Parish priests was of crucial importance in spreading the message and collecting the Catholic rent.
Money was mainly used to finance the Association's work as a national organisation of protest and agitation.
Methods of the Catholic Association
Run from Dublin with O'Connell and a committee of his friends and supporters
The organisation of great open air public meetings often addressed by O'Connell himself were an important and effective part of
the Association's work
O'Connell was a very effective public, his background as a lawyer meant that he knew his audiences and his conversational
style helped him to build a rapport with his listeners. O'Connell was the incarnation of the peasant's hopes and ambitions, not
just in a material sense but in an almost religious sense.
He became known as "the Deliverer" because of this
Peasant traditions of secret societies and local agitation helped to reinforce the work of the Association at a grassroots level.
O'Connell as a public orator spoke with two voices. One voice he addressed to his fellow countrymen, demanding the redress
of Catholic grievances and emancipation by peaceful means. The other was addressed to the British government, threatening
that if these demands were not met, this would result in mass violence and disobedience in Ireland. This strategy is called
"brinkmanship" a risky strategy but was successful, as seen later
Used the press and public posters to build up support. In many ways therefore, the Association was a sophisticated political
organisation "a pioneer...of mass constitutional politics and pacific popular democracy" in the words of Oliver MacDough,
O'Connell's major biographer
Mainly in Munster, SW Ireland and then later in the SE
The North where O'Connell was seen by the powerful Protestant community as a Roman Catholic demagogue (a popular orator
who appeals to the passions and the prejudices of the audience) proved to be largely barren territory
Three main groups provided organizational support for the Association
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The urban middle class particularly lawyers who hoped to gain most, economically and professionally from the Emancipation
The rural middle classlinks to the peasantry and local politics were particularly important
The parish priestsbecame the most important emissaries of the Association at local level.
O'Connell was arrested in 1824 on a charge of incitement to rebellion, though the prosecution failed. In 1825 the government
managed to suppress the association, but it was soon reorganised by O'Connell.…read more
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It helped to precipitate the break up of the old Tory party and the rise of the Conservative party and
The triumph of the Whigs and their allies at the general election of 1830, and subsequently the passage of the Great Reform
Act of 1832
These years also saw the emergence of an Irish party in the House of Commons, led by O'Connell, who was able to use his
commanding position as leader of a small but significant third party to play off Whigs against…read more
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Fears of more unrest in Ireland, together with an acceptance of the legitimacy of many irish grievances, made the Whigs
agreeable (amenable ) for further Irish reform:
Catholics were appointed to high offices in the Irish judiciary and the castle
A new national police force was established, with Catholics encouraged to join.
The political powers of the extremist protestant Orange Order group were curbed(A protestant organization founded in 1793.…read more
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Though O'Connell occasionally hinted at violence, the Repeal Association was a vast pressure group which aimed to arouse
and channel opinion through propaganda and large scale agitation, and thus force the governement to repeal the Act of Union.…read more