Succession to Crown
In 1688 and again in 1714, the rules of succession to the Crown were altered so that a Roman Catholic monarch could not succeed to the throne. Catholics were accordingly incapable of inheriting, possessing or enjoying the Crown and government of the realm.
The Act of Settlement 1701 provided that the throne would pass to Sophia, Electress of Hanover and her protestant descendants. Sophia was granddaughter of James I.
Sophia died weeks before Queen Anne in 1714. Over 50 persons who were closer relatives to Queen Ann but were Catholic were passed over in favour of Sophia’s son, George of Hanover, who became King George I of Great Britain and Ireland that year.
Act of Union
The Act of Union, 1 August 1800 ended the Irish Parliament and created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 1st January 1801. Political union had taken place with Wales in 1536 and Scotland in 1707.100 MPs were sent from Ireland to Westminster.
The Union was largely motivated by the uprisings in Ireland in 1798. The protestant minority felt particularly vulnerable and the Union made them part of a majority within the United Kingdom.
Many of the penal laws had been removed in the 1790s by the Irish Parliament. Pitt. the Prime Minister had considered making Catholic emancipation part of the scheme, but this was abandoned.
Catholic relief had been promised as a part of the negotiations for the Act of Union. However ultimately the King opposed it. Catholic relief measures were proposed in the early 19th century. They were defeated, by narrow a margins in 1805, 1812 and 1819 (by just two vote).
The issue of Catholic emancipation was the dominant political issue in the early years of the 19th century. Many Protestant members of the Parliament sought to achieve it by parliamentary moves. The Monarch and conservative Protestant and British public opinion opposed the proposal.
Daniel O’Connell was central in the political pressure for Catholic emancipation. He was elected to parliament within months of enactment of the legislation.
In 1823 Daniel O’Connell, formed the Catholic Association seeking to achieve emancipation and promote the interests of Catholics. Although the achievement of emancipation would be of little relevance to the vast majority of the population, he succeeded in engaging an enormous popular organisation with the assistance of the Catholic Church.
Large peaceful meetings were held. O’Connell stood in an election in County Clare in 1828 prior to the emancipation. He refused to take the oath and was not admitted to Parliament. The government dropped its previous opposition to emancipation and the Emancipation Act was passed in 1829.
However, the Act had certain negative implications for the Catholic population. The Catholic Association was suppressed after it. The franchise and right to vote was increased from £2 to £10 land value.
Catholic Relief Act
The Catholic Relief Act 1829 repealed anti-Catholic and penal laws dating back centuries. Catholics were assumed to have a divided loyalty between the King and the Pope, and this was justification was offered for a penal legislation. The Catholic Relief Act repealed declarations against certain Catholic thesis required as a condition of a taking seat in Parliament.
An Oath of Allegiance to the King and the Hanoverian succession which declared that the Pope had no right to depose heretical monarchs was substituted for the historic oath of allegiance supremacy and abjuration. This oath was ultimately abolished in 1871.
Catholics agreed to accept the land settlements of the 17th century and undertook not to use any privilege or disturb the protestant religion in the United Kingdom.
Catholics were allowed to hold all civil and military offices other than Lord Chancellor, Lord Lieutenant, King and Regent. The Lord Chancellorship was open to Catholics in 1867 by the Oath and Office Act. Catholics are permitted to be Lord Lieutenant under the Government of Ireland Act 1920.
Certain offices were excluded from Catholics. The Act declared that it was lawful for a Roman Catholic to be a peer or a Member of Parliament and the above-mentioned oath was provided for. It was declared that it was lawful for Roman Catholics to vote in elections for Parliament in England and Ireland.
Electoral and Muncipcal Reform
The electoral reforms of 1832 increased the number of voters to some extent. However, the franchise was still largely based on property ownership. The number of Irish MPs was increased to 105 by the 1832 Act.
Municipal reform was instituted with the Municipal Corporations Act 1840. The number of voters was significantly increased, although it was more limited than in Britain where all rate payers had the right to vote. In Ireland it applied to householders of £10 valuation and higher. Despite the restricted franchise, O’Connell was voted Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1841 being the first Catholic to hold the office since the late 17th century
The Orange Order was formed in 1795 initially as a Church of Ireland, Anglican organisation but later incorporating Presbyterians. It commemorated the memory of William III and commenced holding parades on 12 July.
The parades were sources of clashes from the early days. Many were routed to Catholic areas. A parliamentary report in 1835 was critical of some of the Orange Order’s activities.
Political parades were banned in 1832 as they had become an occasion for sectarian conflict. The 1830s saw a wave of evangelical Protestantism. Conservative Protestant theology and politics moved closer together to oppose Catholic advancement. They were legalised by 1845 as a gesture of goodwill to Protestants and in particular the Orange Order.
In 1849, a march in Dolly’s Brae, County Down through a Catholic village caused fighting in which five or perhaps many more Catholics were killed, and others wounded. 35 Catholics and no Orangemen were arrested. The incident caused anger and affected in public opinion in Britain and Ireland and the lodges were condemned. The Party Processions Act banned parades in 1850.
The Repeal Movement
Daniel O’Connell commenced a movement for repeal of the Union in the 1830s. 30 repeal supporters were returned to Parliament in 1830 but could not engage any significant support. The precise meaning of repeal as intended was unclear. It was not apparent whether repeal would mean meaning association with the British Empire or total separation. In any event the repeal was totally unacceptable to British politicians and failed to win support from British MPs. Even the majority of Irish MPs did not support it.
In 1835 O’Connell changed his tactics and reached an informal agreement with the Whigs in return for reforming legislation in Ireland. Peel’s government was defeated over the issue of Irish Church revenues and resigned.
Following Catholic emancipation, the Tithe War against tax on agricultural products paid to the established church commenced. It was largely paid by Catholic peasant tenants. The Tithe Rent Charge Act 1838 passed the charge to landlords and which was accordingly no longer directly charged on tenants
In 1840, after disillusionment with the Whigs, O’Connell sought to make repeal a popular cause in the same way as emancipation. A Repeal Association was launched, and a number of large meetings were held. Robert Peel was re-elected Prime Minister and was generally unsympathetic to the demand.
A number of large “monster” meetings were held. O’Connell had linked the movement to the Catholic Church and alienated the support of most moderate Protestants. There was little support in the north of Ireland. The government strongly opposed repeal and declared that civil war would be preferable to the dismemberment of the Empire.
Peel banned a Monster Meeting in 1843 in Clontarf. O’Connell cancelled the meeting and lost popular support. O’Connell was prosecuted, found guilty of conspiracy and imprisoned. He was released following an appeal to the House of Lords. His reputation was damaged as he was seen to back down in the face of government confrontation.
Failure of Repeal Movement
After the failure of the repeal movement, the Prime Minister Peel sought to appease Catholic opinion and reinforce support for the Union. The Charitable Bequests Act established a Board of Charitable Bequests with Roman Catholic members. The annual grant to Maynooth College was increased. A bill was established for the establishment of Queens Colleges in Galway, Cork and Belfast. They caused controversy. The Famine quickly overtook events and by 1850, O’Connell and Peel were dead.
The failure of the Repeal Movement motivated a more violent nationalist movement in the late 1840s, reflecting nationalist and revolutionary movements on the Continent of Europe. The Young Ireland movement was non-sectarian less Catholic than the Repeal Movement and more republican. O’Connell had opposed the so-called “godless” colleges under the proposal for Queens Colleges. The non-sectarian Young Irelanders split from O’Connell in 1846 over this and over the issue of physical force.
In 1847 the Repeal Movement divided. The Young Irelanders established the Irish Confederation under William Smith O’Brien. O’Connell supported the new incoming government until he died in 1847 .
In 1848 the Young Irelander leaders were arrested in advance of an anticipated uprising and convicted of treason felony and transported. The government suspended Habeas Corpus outlawed radical newspapers increased the Army presence and introduced other suppressive measures.