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Chapter Two

The Initial Phase 1793-1804  

[The Grail of Catholic Emancipation Copyright © 2002 by Desmond Keenan. Book available from and]

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Aftermath of the Relief Act 1793

(January 1793 to June 1794) .....................................

The Coming of Earl Fitzwilliam

(June 1794 to March 1795) .......................................

Earl Camden

(March 1795 to June 1798) .......................................

Cornwallis and Castlereagh

(June 1798 to February 1801) ..................................

Addington and Harwicke

(February 1801 to May 1804)


This chapter recounts the reactions to the passing of the Relief Act in 1793, the expectations and disappointments caused by the appointment of Earl Fitzwilliam as Lord Lieutenant, the various difficulties and disturbances arising from the French Revolution and the United Irishmen leading up the passing of the Act of Union with Great Britain in 1800. The Prime Minister, William Pitt, hoped to be able to get the consent of the king, George III, for a further measure of relief following the Act of Union but he failed. Nor did any Tory Prime Minister until 1827 feel able to introduce a Relief Act until 1827 because of the strong opposition of the king, of a majority of the House of Lords, and of a majority of Members of Parliament. As the country remained in an excited and disturbed state until 1804 it was not a suitable time to seek further relief. [Top]

Aftermath of the Relief Act 1793 (January 1793 to June 1794)


[January 1793] The Catholic delegation from Dublin arrived in London seeking further relief for the Catholics, and were presented to the king on 7 January 1793. But the international situation was deteriorating fast. The king of France, Louis XVI, was beheaded by the extremists of the French Revolution on 21 January 1793. A flood of Catholic priests and bishops fled to England and a relief committee was set up to provide for them On the committee were William Pitt, Edmund Burke, Robert Banks Jenkinson (Lord Liverpool) Earl Fitzwilliam, the Marquis of Buckingham (brother of Lord Grenville) and William Wilberforce. King George appealed for subscriptions, and Prince George with Mrs. Fitzherbert personally welcomed some of them. As private subscriptions proved inadequate Pitt procured assistance from the state to the émigré clergy as they were called. Payments continued until the end of the War in 1815. The Pope was apprehensive of an attack by the French, so he suspended all public works to prepare for defence, and sent an emissary to London to ask for assistance in case he was attacked. The envoy approached Dr Douglas, vicar apostolic of the London district who approached Lord Grenville, the Foreign Secretary. This raised the question whether anyone in office in Britain could legally receive communications from the Pope. Grenville consulted a lawyer in Lincoln Inns Fields (presumably Charles Butler) who informed him that though receiving a message from the Pope was technically a breach of the statutes of Praemunire there was no practical danger in receiving letters from the Pope. Grenville informed Douglass that he could receive the message but not the ambassador. In the Mediterranean, where the Papal States were situated, and where the Pope was the local secular ruler, British officials or military officers had no more difficulty in dealing with the Pope than with the Sultan of Turkey.

[February 1793] France declared war on Britain and Holland in February 1793.  On February 2 there was an attempt in Rome to set up a republic. The disturbance was quickly quelled but a French citizen was killed, and this could provide a pretext for intervention. The Pope apologised to the French authorities. Pitt began to organise the First Coalition against France. He believed correctly that the finances of France were in a very bad state, but concluded erroneously that France could not resist for long.

Neither Westmoreland the Lord Lieutenant nor Hobart his Secretary, were favourable to the claims of the Catholics. In view of the international situation Pitt hastily sent instructions to Westmoreland to bring in a generous measure for Catholic Relief, so Hobart introduced a Bill on 18 February 1793 and the Bill was passed with large majorities. In 1815 Lord Grenville (younger brother of the Marquis of Buckingham) noted that he had been intimately connected with the Relief Act in 1793. He said that Act had been conceived in a spirit of liberal conciliation, the Government deciding to give to the Catholics ‘all that they could give them’ at that time. ‘But he did not think then, nor had he ever thought since, that the subject was closed, or that it rested on any general principles that would preclude any further consideration of it’ (DEP 15 June 1815). Pitt and Grenville got as much relief for the Catholics passed by Parliament as they felt that the king and the Parliament would stand.

[April 1793] The Catholics in the two kingdoms concurred with them, and awaited a more propitious moment before asking for a further instalment. The Irish Catholic Committee appointed a sub-committee to wind up its financial affairs and dissolved itself on 23 April 1793. They stated that there was no longer a need for a specifically Catholic body to agitate and they could take part in the normal political process (SNL 27 April 1793). Before dissolving itself the committee remunerated its assistant secretary the Protestant barrister Theobald Wolfe Tone. The sub-committee did not dissolve itself, and in 1806 the treasurer, Denis Thomas O’Brien, reported that there was still £360 in government stocks to hand (DEP 30 Dec. 1806). All the delegates to the Catholic Convention attended the Court of King’s Bench to take the oath of allegiance. There was great rejoicing among the Catholics at the passing of the Act. Some Catholics were called to do service on Grand Juries. James Plunkett of Monaghan was the first Catholic to be appointed a magistrate. Another Catholic, James Scully, was appointed a magistrate, and deputy governor of his county, and was summoned to Grand Jury service. Denis O’Conor of Ballinagare was made a deputy governor of Roscommon, and his son Owen O’Conor made a magistrate. Some Catholic lawyers like William Bellew were called to the bar. Catholics were allowed to study for degrees in Trinity College, Dublin. The members of the late committee gave a dinner to their supporters, the Duke of Leinster, and the new Earl of Moira. The eighteen-year-old Daniel O’Connell was sent to the Inns of Court in London to study for the bar. (At the age of sixteen he had been sent to study at the English College of St. Omer in North Eastern France, and was transferred to the College at Douai also in North Eastern France where he studied for a few months under Dr William Poynter who was prefect of studies there. He later denied that he was intended for the priesthood. He experienced the French Revolution at first hand when the college was suppressed in the autumn of 1792. He returned to Ireland in January 1793.)

But there was also a great resistance on the part of many Protestants in Ireland to allowing the appointment of Catholics to those posts to which they now had access. While eight Catholic gentlemen were called to the county of Dublin Grand Jury none at all were called to the city of Dublin Grand Jury. The omission was pointed. Several Catholic merchants petitioned to be made freemen of the Corporation of Dublin but all were rejected. In Galway however several were made freemen of the corporation of Galway city. Some of the trade guilds of Dublin, like that of the Tailors, admitted Catholic tailors to their guild, but others like the Shoemakers did not. Those Catholics who were admitted to the freedom of some guilds were refused the freedom of Dublin by the city’s Common Council. Several Catholics were admitted to the freedom of Galway. It was not necessary to be a freeman of a guild to become a freeman of the city. In fact, tradesmen were normally admitted as freemen of the city first by the mayor, and afterwards to the freedom of their respective guilds (SNL 31 Oct. 1793). . Edward Byrne, the leader of the Catholics in Dublin, a very rich merchant, was rejected by the guild of Merchants. The reason for the rejection by 67 votes to 63 was given by Sir Edward Newenham, that if Catholics were admitted to the guilds they would elect only Catholic mayors and sheriffs and all Protestants would be put out of their jobs. By October 1793, the editor of Saunders Newsletter considered that the Act would have to be amended.

From the very start it was clear that the greatest resistance not only to granting further Catholic claims, but of allowing them their rights under the existing laws came from the corporations of towns and cities. The ‘Orange’ or ‘Ascendancy’ faction had its deepest roots in the corporations. The reason was that they expected that the Catholics would not only replace them in their offices, but would also exercise the patronage connected with the various posts to appoint only their friends and relatives. This was a very important, if rarely acknowledged factor in Irish life where who you knew was always more important than what you knew. While aristocratic leaders like the Earl of Fingall or Sir Edward Bellew had no intention of being other than completely impartial we can assume that the popular faction led first by Keogh and later by O’Connell fully intended replacing Protestants with Catholics whenever they could. Resistance to Catholic claims was fuelled less by bigotry than by self-preservation.

        Wolfe Tone, the former assistant secretary to the Catholic Committee, had a different grievance, that when the vote was extended to the forty-shilling freeholders, no change in the manner of electing to parliament had been made. Tone was a strange character. His grandfather had been in the service of Arthur Wolfe, hence Wolf Tone’s name. He was the son of a wealthy Dublin coachmaker who sent him the Trinity College, Dublin for his education. He became a lazy and ignorant barrister who had proposed various schemes to the British Government for founding colonies (with Tone as governor of course) which were politely rejected (DNB). He turned to politics instead. Neither the Whig nor Tory parties would offer him a seat, nor could he afford to purchase one, nor to fight a contested election. He could see no hope of advancement unless Ireland was completely separate from England. This idea was stimulated by the outbreak of the French Revolution, and the fact that its principles were spreading among the Presbyterians in the north of Ireland. Tone gradually became a republican, and joined those in Belfast who celebrated the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille. He aimed at uniting Presbyterians and Catholics to fight if necessary for full independence. He was helped in this by the Catholic leader John Keogh who secured for him the post of assistant secretary to the Catholic Committee. Keogh had succeeded in getting Richard Burke, son of Edmund Burke, dismissed. Tone discharged this post with satisfaction, though he contributed little overall to the passing of the Relief Act. But the association with Tone, even in this limited way, was to prove very disadvantageous to the Catholics, for grounds were given for confusing agitation by the Catholics for civil rights with a secret conspiracy to overthrow the Government. Keogh was oblivious to the difficulties that his association with Tone brought to the Catholics. But like many members of the United Irishmen themselves he was ignorant of Tone’s real intentions.

    The United Irishmen were originally mostly Whig Protestants from the North of Ireland. They were inspired partly by the Volunteer movement of the 1780’s and partly by democratic principles springing from the French Revolution. The society was originally just another of the Whig clubs who followed the principles of Charles James Fox. It was founded by a group that included Tone, William Drennan, Thomas Neilson, Samuel Neilson, Henry Joy McCracken, and Thomas Russell. Tone, with the help of Drennan, developed a similar club in Dublin. When they were formed in 1791 their objectives and methods were entirely constitutional: to secure rights for the Catholics and a considerable measure of reform of Parliament. At that period Belfast was perhaps the most liberal and tolerant town in Ireland. But many of them became disillusioned when Pitt ruled out parliamentary reform for the foreseeable future. Pitt was influenced in this decision by the activities of French agents in England. It was Tone’s idea to unite Protestant, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian under the common name of Irishman. But his vision did not embrace the Orange faction against which the others were to unite, and if necessary to slay them in battle.

[July 1793] The Irish Volunteers had held a national convention of delegates in 1783 to make demands of the Government. The new United States held a Convention in 1787. In 1792, the revolutionaries in France summoned a national convention. In 1793, the Catholic Committee in Ireland summoned a national convention of delegates to demand rights for Catholics, but it dissolved itself immediately the Relief Act was passed. Finally, in 1793 the United Irishmen called for a National Convention. The United Irishmen at the time were simply aiming for a reform of Parliament. This was too much for Pitt who felt that any elected representative body other than Parliament could be a threat to Parliament. He was at this time clamping down on possible revolutionary movements in England, and even had the Habeas Corpus Act that guaranteed the personal liberty of each individual suspended. His actions, as his biographer conceded, cannot be wholly justified (DNB). But the laws he imposed in England were much more severe than those imposed on Ireland, where no restrictions were placed on the press. He had the Convention Act (1793) passed by the Irish Parliament. This was introduced in the Irish House of Lords in July. It was not aimed at the Catholic convention but at the proposed convention of the United Irishmen whose aims were more overtly political. The attorney general (Arthur Wolfe, Lord Kilwarden) expressly stated that the Act was not aimed at the Catholic Convention but against another society. But the Act was used against Catholics until 1829 every time they attempted to show the broad base of their support by means of elected delegates. The Act did not bother the English Catholics, or the aristocratic Catholics in Ireland and their supporters. They were happy to pursue their aims by the ordinary means of the time when the support of several noblemen was regarded as more important than the support of a multitude of landless men. (William Wilberforce pursued his highly successful campaigns against slavery within the same constraints.) The Convention Act annoyed Keogh who had quarrelled with the aristocracy, and later Daniel O’Connell who hated playing second fiddle and required a popular mandate. In 1793 the Society of United Irishmen was largely innocuous, and Keogh’s association with it was not sinister. Like the Catholic Committee, it could have continued its campaigns in a perfectly legal manner. But the actions of the Government directed against various members of it and the total refusal of the Government to consider parliamentary reform, together with the republican aspirations of some of its members, led them to communicate with the French government and to form themselves into a secret society within the original society.

        There were sporadic outbreaks of Defenderism in the course of 1793. In June 1793 there were serious disturbances in Wexford, and Edward Hay, a Catholic gentleman and future Catholic Secretary joined with other local gentlemen to put them down. More of a problem was the outbreak of widespread resistance to compulsory balloting for the militia that had been embodied at the outbreak of the War. It was rumoured that the militia could be forced to serve overseas. The militia was a local defence force; raised to defend their own counties, but which could be asked to serve anywhere in Ireland.

[September 1793] In September 1793 the Protestant bishop of Winchester wrote to Sir John Coxe Hippisley the agent of the British Government concerned with contacts with the Papal States. He was a barrister of independent means who was residing in Italy. The bishop expressed a desire to see closer links with the Papal States. In October, Edmund Burke wrote to Hippisley in the same sense. In the same month the Pope, Pius VI, decided to send a personal envoy to London. He chose a Scottish lawyer, Charles Erskine, who had taken holy orders as a sub-deacon, and was commonly called Monsignor Erskine. He was to bring the Pope’s thanks for the Government’s generosity to the émigré clergy and for the British protection of the Papal States. He was not officially received, but the Government promised to continue its protection. Early in the War a fleet under Admiral Hood was sent to the Mediterranean but had difficulty in getting supplies locally. Hood approached an English gentleman, presumably Hippisley, to ask the Pope if supplies could be purchased in the Papal States. The Pope ordered the necessary supplies to be transported to the coast, all customs duties to be remitted, and a discount of 40% to be allowed on the price. He also ordered gunpowder to be supplied (Vane-Stewart, Ward I).

        The idea of state provision for the Catholic clergy by the British Government rose again in 1793. The general idea was to bind the Catholic clergy closer to the Government, and make them less dependent financially on their parishioners. The Irish Catholic clergy had no lands or endowments, and were entirely dependent of contributions from their flocks. It had been proposed fifteen years earlier by Frederick Augustus Hervey, fourth Earl of Bristol, and Protestant bishop of Derry. It had been opposed at the time by Archbishop Troy of Dublin and Archbishop Butler of Cashel. When the matter was raised again 1793 Troy again opposed it. In October 1793 rumours were circulating in Dublin that the Government intended endowing four ecclesiastical colleges, one in each ecclesiastical province. The Irish bishops approached the Irish Secretary (Hobart) to discuss the matter. (As the sinecure office of Irish Secretary virtually lapsed in 1794 with the death of John Hely-Hutchinson, the term Irish Secretary is used to refer to the Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. The offices were amalgamated in 1801, but from 1795 onwards the two offices were granted to the same person.)

        Around this time too those Protestants who opposed the Catholic claims, the ‘Orange’ or ‘Ascendancy’ faction, were coming to the conclusion that Protestantism in Ireland would only be safe if there were a political union between Ireland and the great Protestant state of England. The ‘patriot’ tide of 1782 was beginning to recede, and conditions were becoming more favourable for Pitt’s plan for a union of the two parliaments.

[December 1793] In December 1793 some of the leading Dublin Catholics began to prepare a petition to have the defects of the 1793 Act emended, because the corporations were frustrating its aims. In the event no petition was presented in 1794.

[January 1794] the execution of the French queen, Marie Antoinette, on 16th October 1793 and the commencement of the Reign of Terror (5th September 1793 to 27th July 1794) under the Committee of Public Safety, removed any lingering doubts about the nature of French Revolution, and both Parliaments united behind Pitt. More and more of the Whigs were attracted to Pitt’s policy regarding France. In the Irish Parliament Henry Grattan remained in opposition but supported the Government’s policy regarding the War. Agrarian terrorism continued in Ireland, and some of the United Irishmen began to consider an armed rebellion with the support of Revolutionary France. In the north of Ireland Protestants were beginning to organise themselves against the Catholic Defenders.

[May 1794] In May Richard Brinsley Sheridan with Fox’s support, brought forward a measure to rectify the anomaly between the appointment of army officers in Ireland and in England. His motion seems to have been badly drafted, and Henry Dundas the Home Secretary, said it tended to abolish all tests and moved the previous question. (A formal motion has the effect of terminating a debate without taking a vote.) As Dundas’s formal motion was carried Sheridan’s failed. Saunders Newsletter had expected that a motion would be brought forward to close the loopholes in the 1793 Act, and in particular to allow them to be sheriffs so that they could not be excluded by malignant Grand Juries. But no motion was brought forward in Parliament. Neither Westmoreland or Hobart did anything to assist the Catholics, and Pitt was ill-advised to leave them to execute a measure to which they were opposed.  Fox brought forward a motion favouring the ending of the War but got almost no support.  [Top]


The Coming of Earl Fitzwilliam (June 1794 to March 1795)

            [June 1794] Despite a great naval victory on 1st June 1794 (known as the Glorious First of June), the War was going badly for England and the army had been defeated at Tournai. Pitt was introducing legislation of increasing severity in England, and the Habeas Corpus Act was virtually suspended. He wished to strengthen his majority in Parliament, and an important group of Whigs led by the Duke of Portland agreed to join his ministry. The ministry had to be re-organised and posts found for the newcomers. Portland became Home Secretary. One of these Whigs, Earl Fitzwilliam, contacted Grattan and the Ponsonby family to see if they would support Pitt in the Irish Commons. By August rumours were rife in Dublin that Earl Fitzwilliam was to be the new Lord Lieutenant, that the Orange faction was out, and the Ponsonbys were in. Indeed Earl Fitzwilliam intended making George Ponsonby attorney general. Fitzwilliam was married to Lady Charlotte Ponsonby daughter William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough, and sister to the 3rd earl. George Ponsonby was a grandson of the 1st Earl of Bessborough in the cadet branch. Another rumour went round that the new Irish Secretary was bringing over proposals for a new emancipation Bill. On the 28 July 1794 the execution of Robespierre marked the end of the Reign of Terror. But the tide of war was turning in France’s favour, the Revolutionary armies having been reorganised by Lazare Carnot the ‘Organiser of Victory’.

[August 1794] In August 1794 Fitzwilliam informed Grattan that he was indeed to be the next Lord Lieutenant. Grattan went to London to hold discussions with the Duke of Portland, and agreed to support the Government from the backbenches. But the Orange faction in September 1794 also sent representatives to England. They claimed to be the Government’s loyal supporters and said they should not be dismissed from office to make room for appointees of Earl Fitzwilliam. The outgoing Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Westmoreland supported them, and wrote to Pitt saying how much he was indebted to them, and asked that all his appointments be allowed to stand. There is no doubt that Westmoreland intended to support the anti-Catholic faction. But it would seem that the person who co-ordinated the plot was John Beresford who had been managing Pitt’s affairs in the Irish Parliament since 1784.

 When Fitzwilliam finally got to hear of this he was astonished. Every new administration made its own appointments and rewarded its own supporters. This was the principle on which the Duke of Portland and his party had accepted office, and on which Fitzwilliam had accepted the Lord Lieutenancy. It was inconceivable that anyone should be tied to his predecessor’s appointments. Ponsonby was a man of great weight and influence, and firmly attached to the crown (SNL 16 May 1795). The cabinet temporised, not wishing to lose the support of the Orange faction who had a majority in the Irish Parliament. There was a rumour in Dublin that they might go into opposition. Westmoreland was to be recalled but restrictions were to be placed on Fitzwilliam’s powers of dismissal and appointment. It was left to the Duke of Portland to explain these restrictions to Fitzwilliam, but apparently Fitzwilliam was not paying much attention, or was unaware of the extent of the restrictions. Among those to be retained was the attorney general of Ireland John Toler (later first Earl of Norbury) an unbending opponent of the Catholic claims, though Fitzwilliam had designated Ponsonby for this job. Nor was he aware of how the Orange faction regarded the restrictions. In September 1794 Westmoreland’s departure was announced.

[November 1794] Fitzwilliam was formally appointed on 26 November 1794. By then it was known in Dublin that the Orange faction would not be dismissed, and it was regarded as a mark of their triumph that Portland and Fitzwilliam did not resign. It was however reported that Grattan had got what he wanted regarding Emancipation. George Damer, Viscount Milton was made Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant.

[December 1794] On 23rd December 1794 a catholic meeting was held in Dublin with Edward Byrne in the chair. As a Relief Act was expected in the next session they wished to have a petition to Parliament for relief prepared and signed in advance. The meeting resolved to petition ‘for the total repeal of the penal and restrictive laws’. A committee consisting of Doctors MacNevin and Ryan, and Messrs Byrne, MacDonnell, Braughill, Sweetman, Hamill, McCormick, and Keogh, were appointed to supervise the presentation of the petition. This was a meeting of the Catholics of Dublin only. The very rich merchant, Edward Byrne, was the recognised leader of the Catholics in Dublin. Richard McCormick described himself as Secretary of the Catholics of Dublin. Petitions were adopted in other counties as well.

[January 1795] Earl Fitzwilliam landed in Dublin on 4th January 1795, and before he was two days in Ireland, as he later recounted, he found how far his hands were tied regarding appointments. On 8th January he dismissed Beresford, Commissioner of Customs, Edward Cooke, Military Under-secretary, Wolfe, the attorney general, and Toler, the solicitor general. One of them, Beresford, went to Weymouth in England to explain matters as they saw them to the king in person and was re-instated, while he was told that the resignations of Wolfe and Toler would not be accepted. With regard to Toler, he had been informed that he was not to be removed unless an alternative suitable post was provided for him. As Toler, a not very learned lawyer, was later made Chief Justice of Common Pleas (i.e. civil actions), there is little doubt that this was the way Pitt had intended Fitzwilliam to proceed. Fitzwilliam was not distinguished for his tact or skill in management. On 14th January Edward Byrne led a procession of Catholic gentlemen from the Rotunda to the Castle to present their address of welcome. The first appointment Fitzwilliam made was of his personal secretary the Rev. Mr O’Beirne to be bishop of Ossory. It was rumoured in Dublin that George Ponsonby was to replace Beresford, John Philpot Curran to replace Toler, Col. Doyle to replace Cooke, and Lodge Morres to replace Sackville Hamilton as Civil Undersecretary.

The discussions continued with the Irish Catholic bishops over the foundation of a Catholic college, and whether the Irish bishops would accept state provision for the clergy, and some form of royal nomination or veto, and whether the Government could nominate professors. Troy consulted the other bishops who replied that the Government could not be allowed to nominate either professors or bishops. In fact, the very learned Benedict XIV in a letter to the bishop of Breslau in 1748 had clearly stated that direct nomination could not be allowed to a non-Catholic.  However, Dr. Thomas Hussey, then a chaplain at the Spanish Embassy in London, wrote to Burke on 29 January saying that he thought some kind of veto was being considered, probably in the form that the priests in a vacant dioceses would present three names to the king so that he could choose one. According to Cannon, it would seem that this meeting of all the Irish bishops was the first ever held, at least in modern times. These meetings of the Irish bishops were not synodal in form and involved only the bishops. There were no representatives of the lower clergy, laity, or religious orders, and they could make no laws. Their sole purpose was decide if possible on a common policy. After 1815, the bishops’ conference seems to have taken joint control of the Irish colleges on the Continent (Cannon). The meetings of the Bishops’ Conference continue to this day.

The Irish Parliament opened on 24 January 1795. Grattan sat on the Government benches. Fitzwilliam had been given instructions not to bring in a further measure for Catholic relief, and if others brought forward such a proposal he should do his best to have it postponed. Only if he was unable to secure a postponement and the measure was likely to pass, was he to give Government support. This was obviously the message given to Grattan as well. Fitzwilliam, in his opening address did not mention a measure for the Catholics, but Grattan moved the acceptance of the speech and was seconded by the Hon. Mr. Stewart. Grattan referred to the Government’s proposal to build a new Catholic college for candidates to the priesthood in Ireland. Many petitions for further relief were sent in from various parts of Ireland. On 26 January Grattan presented the petition from the Catholics of Dublin but did not move on it. On 29 January, the king wrote to Pitt expressing his disquiet over Fitzwilliam’s actions (Barnes).

[February 1795] On the 5 February Portland, the Home Secretary, presented Fitzwilliam’s dispatches to the cabinet and expressed his own concurrence with Grattan’s proposed Bill. In accordance with the Act of 1782 the king could no longer modify an Irish Bill but had either to accept it or reject it in its entirety. The king was not satisfied with some of the proposals and on 6 February wrote to Pitt setting out his own ideas. He maintained that the admission of religious dissenters to all offices was contrary to the practice of every European state, and furthermore it was not a matter to be settled by the cabinet alone, but by the whole Government, consisting of king, Lords, and Commons. (Clearly George did not understand the implications of the 1782 Act, for by that Act the Lords and Commons were those of Ireland.)  The cabinet instructed Fitzwilliam not to commit the Government to the support of Grattan’s Bill. It is not clear if Grattan was informed of this.

On 12 February 1795 Grattan moved that a Bill for the further relief of the Catholics should be brought in and leave was given. Though this was a private member’s bill, it was felt that it had the backing of the Government, and it was expected that it would be rapidly passed. Saunders Newsletter expected that up to ninety members (out of 300) would vote against it. But first it had to be submitted to the Privy Council in London for approval. On 19 February the cabinet decided to recall Fitzwilliam and replace him with another Portland Whig, Earl Camden. Ponsonby seems to have been informed of this decision and to have concurred. There was no intention of getting rid of Ponsonby or Grattan, so some at least of Fitzwilliam’s appointments might still be approved. Pitt had no intention of positively backing the anti-Catholic faction even if he was dependent on their majority in the Irish Commons. Fitzwilliam’s list of changes was in fact quite modest and reasonable, but exaggerated rumours about his intentions had probably been circulated. There is little doubt too that Beresford had poisoned the mind of the king about what was being proposed to do for the Catholics. Fitzwilliam later had an interview with the king and found him misinformed on various matters. Again, the claims of people like Keogh for total emancipation probably did great harm. The cabinet too may have thought that Fitzwilliam had committed himself too firmly to the support of Grattan’s Bill for him to withdraw his support. Nor should we imagine that Grattan had gone further that Pitt wished when the matter was discussed the previous autumn. Though some think it possible that Grattan too had read more into Pitt’s words than was intended. But if Pitt was already considering coupling Emancipation with an Act of Union a certain vagueness in his words might be expected. Pitt knew, and Wellington much later was to find out, that until the king was won over, it was best to say as little as possible. There can be little doubt that Beresford’s direct approach to the king, and his considerable exaggerations wrecked Pitt’s chances of getting even minor improvements to the 1793 Act accepted by the king. In any case, the Portland Whigs in London did not support Fitzwilliam. More interestingly, George Ponsonby supported Pitt in the Irish Parliament.

Rumours about Fitzwilliam’s recall or resignation were soon circulating in Dublin. The Whig Sir Lawrence Parsons wished to restrict the Government’s Money Bill because the Government was not keeping its part of the bargain. A meeting of the Dublin Catholics was held in Francis Street chapel on 23 February 1795 to protest against the reported departure of Fitzwilliam, and to choose a deputation to proceed to London with their petition. Those chosen were Edward Byrne, John Keogh, and Baron Hussey. The were accompanied by the Secretary of the Irish Catholics, Mr Wolfe Tone (Tone resigned from this office on 28 April (SNL 13 March, 5 April 1795). They had sailed from Dublin on 4 March and arrived in London on the 9th.They were received by the king who promised a reply through the Lord Lieutenant. A deputation was sent from Wexford as well. One of the delegates was an energetic young man called Edward Hay who collected 22,251 signatures before going to London. When in London he got introductions to Fox and Burke and kept up a correspondence with them. He was later to be Secretary of the Irish Catholics for many years.

[March 1795] On 7 March 1795, the king asked the Lord Chancellor (Loughborough), Lord Kenyon, and the Archbishop of Canterbury whether the concession of Emancipation was contrary to his coronation oath. In his letter to Kenyon, the king pointed out that there were now only four Acts which affected the papists in Ireland, the Act of Supremacy and Uniformity, the Test Act, and the Bill of Rights. He asked how the king could give his assent to the repeal of any of these acts without breaching his coronation oath (SNL 15 June 1827). Only the archbishop replied definitely that such a concession would violate his oath, so the king remained doubtful. But this question was always to worry the king (Barnes). The text of the oath was, ‘I promise to do the utmost in my power to maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the gospel and the Protestant reformed religion established by law, and I will preserve unto the bishops and clergy of this realm, and to the churches committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain unto them, or any one of them.’ The Protestant editor of Saunders Newsletter said he was at a loss to understand how the measure of Catholic Emancipation could be supposed to be a violation of the coronation oath (SNL 13 Feb 1801) On 13 March Earl Camden was appointed as the new Lord Lieutenant.

The recall of Earl Fitzwilliam has a memorable place in Irish history, but was momentous chiefly for its effect on the Protestant United Irishmen than on the Catholics. The Dublin merchants under Keogh, who was the driving spirit, proceeded without the Catholic aristocracy and were politely brushed off. Despite their own self-importance, nobody else took them seriously. Nor perhaps did many Irish Catholics believe that Keogh’s truculent approach was the best advised. Nor, at that stage of the War was his association with Wolfe Tone likely to advance his cause. Neither the Government nor Tone told him that certain members of the United Irishmen were known to be communicating with France. The inner core of the United Irishmen were at this time transforming themselves into a secret oath-bound society aiming at starting a revolution with the assistance of France. A young man of 21 with strong Whig views named Valentine Brown Lawless (Lord Cloncurry) had finished his studies and his Continental travels returned to Ireland at the time of Fitzwilliam’s recall and enthusiastically joined the United Irishmen. He was offered only the first innocuous oath with nothing in it about secrecy, which he took. The new oath was introduced in May 1795. But in 1798 he was considered to be a member of the oath-bound secret society. Daniel O’Connell returned to Ireland in 1796 and apparently was offered the old oath which he took (Luby). Tone escaped prosecution for treason by doing a deal with the Government that if charges were dropped he should go to America, and sailed from Belfast on 13 June with the aim of assisting the revolution from outside Ireland. But Keogh, like Cloncurry, knew nothing of this. [Top]

Earl Camden (March 1795 to June 1798)

             [March 1795] The appointment of John Jeffreys Pratt, 2nd Earl Camden, as Lord Lieutenant did not mark a change in Government policy, but a return to what had always been intended. Thomas Pelham (afterwards 2nd Earl of Chichester) became Irish Secretary. Pelham was also a Portland Whig. The instructions to Camden were to try to conciliate all parties. Beresford was restored to office, though this displeased Pelham who wrote to Portland that this was putting the interest of a faction before that of the nation. Pelham wished to retain Ponsonby and Grattan but they unwisely crossed the floor to join the Opposition. Fitzwilliam departed on 25 March and Camden arrived on the 31 March. Camden also brought Robert Stewart (Castlereagh) with him. Robert Stewart got the courtesy title of Viscount Castlereagh on 8 August 1796 when his father was made Earl of Londonderry. (His father was made Baron Londonderry in 1789, Viscount Castlereagh in 1795, Earl of Londonderry in 1796, and Marquis of Londonderry in 1816 and that remained the family title. He had married Camden’s sister as his second wife.) Castlereagh was lieutenant colonel of the Londonderry militia, but Camden used him for particular tasks. One of these was to persuade the young men in county Down who were openly drilling to abandon the United Irishmen. In drilling they carried their shovels as muskets. He had joined a Whig club in 1790 but was from now on a convinced supporter of Pitt, and was accused by some of his old associates of betraying their principles.

            [April 1795] On 9 April 1795 an enormous crowd estimated at 4,000 people, tried to cram itself into Francis Street chapel to hear the report of the deputation. Keogh made the report. A letter from the Duke of Portland was read out and part of another expressing the desire that the Catholics would not raise the question of Emancipation again until the War was over. Dr Ryan denounced an Act of Union which he said was referred to in a letter of Fitzwilliam to Lord Carlisle (SNL 10 April 1795). James Ryan recorded much later that the Catholic body ‘in a state of great excitement and disappointment entered into a resolution never again to assemble as a distinct body, but at once to co-operate with the Dissenters of the North of Ireland in their endeavours to promote a reform in the representation in the then House of Commons’ (DEP 28 Jan 1834). This determination, he went on, threw the Catholics into the arms of aspiring agitators like Arthur O’Connor and Thomas Addis Emmet, (leading United Irishmen), and this led to the sanguinary events in 1798.

On 13 April Grattan introduced a motion on the recall of Fitzwilliam, but it was defeated. He maintained that Fitzwilliam had only accepted office on the condition that a Relief Bill would be brought in and certain officers dismissed, and these matters were clearly understood. In this he was supported by Mr George Ponsonby and his brother Mr William Brabazon Ponsonby (SNL 22 April 1795). The Hon. Mr. Stewart opposed Grattan. Castlereagh seems to have grasped the situation better than Ponsonby and Grattan for he supported Pelham. The work of Castlereagh and Cornwallis later would have been much easier if they had had the consistent support of these two. Nor do their grounds for deserting Camden seem adequate. They could hardly complain if the Orange faction retained much of their influence if they refused to accept office under Camden. Neither Castlereagh nor Arthur Wellesley saw any need to resign, and Fitzwilliam cheerfully accepted another office. Wellesley had been aide-de-camp in Dublin Castle from 1787 to 1793, but in 1795 Camden refused an office to Lieutenant-colonel Wellesley who had returned from the War in the Low Countries and had learned ‘what one ought not to do’. After this refusal he rejoined his regiment and sailed for the Indies. Arthur was joined by his elder brother Richard, Lord Mornington (Marquis Wellesley) a personal friend of Pitt, who went to India as Governor General of Bengal.

            Pitt’s policy remained unchanged, but the Government was no longer supporting Grattan’s Catholic Relief Bill (1795). Pelham introduced the Government’s proposals for a single new Catholic college. He noted that the Government would have not patronage or role in appointments, nor would it have any share in its direction. The Government would pay a sum of £10,000 and an annual grant thereafter for its maintenance. In the course of the debate Grattan said that Fitzwilliam had plans for two Protestant schools, i.e. for Dissenters. Pelham replied he was not informed of this but was prepared to listen to any proposals. Leave was given to bring in a Bill for the Maynooth College, and Pelham along with Mr Robert Stewart were asked to prepare it. In the English House of Lords, Fitzwilliam, assisted by Lord Moira, got a debate on his recall and denounced Westmoreland for trying to tie his hands over appointments. It was extraordinary, he said, how some Irish officials had dashed to London as soon as they were relieved of office. Mr Ponsonby had not done so.

            [May 1795] The Second Reading of Grattan’s Relief Bill took place on 5 May 1795. Maurice Fitzgerald, the twenty one year old Knight of Kerry, in a maiden speech supported Grattan. The debate commenced at 5 p.m. on Monday evening and continued until 10.30 a.m. the following morning, being one of the longest debates ever recorded in the Irish Parliament. Inevitably the Catholic Committee was associated with the United Irishmen, and the fact that Tone was treating with the spy of the French Government, the Rev. William Jackson. The Bill was defeated by 155 votes to 84 and discussion of the question ceased in Parliament for ten years. It was Pitt’s growing conviction that Emancipation would have to be tied to an Act of Union. The Rev. William Jackson was dealing with Tone, but committed suicide in prison when on trial for high treason. It was for this reason that Tone entered into a compact to go into voluntary exile. Immediately on the defeat of this Bill, the transformation of a Whig club, the United Irishmen into a secret society commenced in Ulster. The date given for this is 10 May 1795, but the organisation of the other provinces did not commence for another eighteen months, which explains why Cloncurry was offered only the old oath. Even so, by May 1798 only Ulster and Leinster were properly organised, and even in Leinster Wexford had hardly been touched.

            The Government proceeded with the erection of the new college on land near the town of Maynooth. Control of the college was entrusted to a panel of leading Catholic laymen drawn for the most part from the nobility. There were also representatives of the Government and the Catholic bishops on the Board. The Government representatives were to be the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and the Chief Justices of the other three courts. Their presence was purely symbolic and they rarely attended. Meetings of the Board were chaired, in the absence of the Lord Chancellor by the highest in dignity of those present. This was either Arthur James Plunket, 8th Earl of Fingall or Sir Edward Bellew. The Chief Justices attended the triennial visitations. This structure should be carefully noted for it was on it that the proposed commissions for the royal veto and the examination of correspondence with Rome would have been based. Had the matter been proceeded with in 1799, there would have probably been little resistance either to the veto or state provision (Healey). Ward notes that the question of the royal veto went back to 1795 when the Government first began taking an interest in Catholic Church affairs (Ward II).

            Coxe Hippisley continued his one-man crusade in Rome. The Holy See opened its archives to his inspection. Two matters in particular bothered him. One was the fact that England had no Catholic bishops but vicars apostolic appointed by the Pope. He was informed that there was no sinister plot to take over England involved in this, and that the Pope was willing to restore bishops duly elected by Englishmen according to the norms of canon law. The restoration of the English hierarchy would have been an integral part of Pitt’s settlement. But it was not to take place for more than half a century. The other point that bothered him was the choice of friars as bishops. The Cardinal Secretary of State assured him that it would be quite easy to ensure that friars did not become bishops in His Majesty’s dominions if that were the royal wish (Vane Stewart). Despite Hippisley’s efforts and those of Cardinal Erskine, diplomatic relations were not established between Britain and the Papal States. (Erskine was in England from 1793 to 1801. He was made a cardinal in 1803 and was appointed a member of the Congregation of Propaganda and Cardinal Protector of Scotland; Catholic Encyc.)

            [July 1795] In Ireland Ribbonism and Defenderism had flared up again. As the Catholic terrorism grew so too did Protestant working class counter-terrorism. From this Protestant reaction arose the long-lived Orange Order. The word ‘Orange’ was used to refer to strict supporters of William of Orange, but it came to mean those Protestants who opposed further concessions to the Catholics. It was often used by Catholics to refer to any Protestants. It was widely believed by Catholics that an Orange jury would always side with the Protestant in a dispute between a Catholic and a Protestant. The Protestants assumed that in many parts of Ireland no jury would convict Catholic terrorists no matter what the evidence. The county or baronial, police forces, the ‘ould barnies’ were useless in any kind of disturbance. (A barony was a sub-division of a county). Many Protestants joined local horsed defence groups, or the yeomanry from 1796 onwards. Yeomanry was not made legal in Ireland until the following year. Many companies of yeomanry refused to accept Catholics in their ranks, but this was not universal. Many too acquired a reputation for great brutality when dealing with disturbances but often those making such allegations were not unbiased. Edward Cooke, whom Fitzwilliam had wanted to remove, was in favour of developing an all-Protestant yeomanry.  This view was to surface at various times, and had the merit that it would be force the Government could rely on. But successive governments preferred to enlist Catholics as far as the laws allowed. The only reliable forces in Ireland for enforcing law and order, combating smuggling and agrarian crime, guarding gaols and escorting prisoners were the regiments of the line. But splitting them up into small groups all over Ireland to do police work was very bad for discipline. It is rather strange at this point to find Grattan insisting that the newly-formed Dublin police should be disbanded and the old night-watch restored. (The city of London likewise totally refused to accept Peel’s Metropolitan Police in 1829.) In the disturbed years that lay ahead the city of Dublin had no police force. Some counties were taking steps to establish a county police force under the County Police Act (1787) which allowed armed constables

            The usual pattern of agrarian crime and counter-crime was disturbed when the United Irishmen turned into the path of revolution. The leaders were young Protestant gentlemen from Belfast and Dublin who tried to build up a military organisation over the whole country. It can be assumed, though there is no direct proof of the matter, that most of the Catholic working classes who joined them were already members of the various agrarian gangs. There are no records of any disputes between Whiteboys and United Irishmen such as occurred nearly a century later between the Ribbonmen and the Land League. The exception to this was in Ulster where republican principles were widely spread among the Protestant linen workers in counties Antrim and Down. Only in these two counties could the United Irishmen really claim to have success. But over most of Ireland it really made no difference if raids for firearms were made on behalf of the Whiteboys or the United Irishmen. What the leaders of the United Irishmen were oblivious of, though it was obvious to everyone else, was that if they established an independent republic in Dublin on the most idealistic and democratic lines, local government and consequently the local rackets would be in the hands of these Catholics.

            Recruitment for the armed forces in Ireland since the outbreak of the War was high. Many joined the army or the navy, and many more, after an initial resistance joined the militia.  At least 100,000 passed through Duncannon Fort alone on their way to enlist. The only hope the United Irishmen had of a successful revolution was if they could persuade the Catholic enlisted men in the line and militia regiments to join them. In this they signally failed. Lieutenant General Lord Carhampton was sent to Connaught to suppress the Defenders. Those that he apprehended he normally allowed to enlist in the navy. But Saunders Newsletter reported that his leniency was not so effective against the Defenders as it had been against the Whiteboys (SNL 31 July 1795).

[August 1795] Archbishop Troy issued a pastoral letter in August 1795 to his diocese condemning agrarian crime. He denounced their attacks on the priests, and their imposition of unlawful oaths, and said it was a greater sin to keep such an oath than to break it. He imposed excommunication on all members of oath-bound societies. Open battles took place in Ulster between the Defenders and various Orange groups. The most famous of these, called the Battle of the Diamond after a village in Armagh, was fought on 21 September 1795. After this some local magistrates in Armagh decided to form the Ulster workmen into a disciplined body under their own direction and to be called the Orange Order. This was not an armed body, but its members were advised to join the yeomanry or the militia to protect their homes in a legal manner against the Defenders. The name was unfortunate, for just at this time the Protestant Peep o’Day Boys also began to call themselves Orangemen.

[February 1796] The situation in Ireland was becoming more disturbed. The Irish Catholics took no action when Parliament opened. The Government introduced an Insurrection Act (1796) to give itself greater powers to act against disturbances. It also passed an Indemnity Act (1796) to prevent actions in the courts against any of Lord Carhampton’s officers who might not have acted in a strictly legal fashion when disarming Connaught. The fear of a French invasion began to pre-occupy the minds of the Government. On 26 April 1796 the Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor laid the foundation stone of the new Catholic College at Maynooth. The French army in Italy had been placed under a young twenty seven year old Corsican general called Bonaparte on 27 March 1796. He defeated the Sardinians and then the Austrians, and the occupied the part of the Papal States called the Legations, so that the Pope too had to seek an armistice. As most of the European powers withdrew from the coalition against the French the Pope had to agree to severe French terms in July 1796. The ports were to be closed to France’s enemies, part of the papal lands were to be transferred to France, French armies were to have free passage across the papal states, and a huge cash indemnity had to be paid to France. The kingdom of Naples then seized parts of the Papal States on its southern side. This left the Pope with only one reliable ally, the Protestant state of England. Captain Nelson in the Agamemnon rescued the Stuart Pretender Cardinal Yorke, gave him money, and landed him in Austrian territory.

[Autumn 1796] Catholic affairs receded into the background, as the activities of the United Irishmen grew, and the French were known to be preparing a fleet for the invasion of Ireland. Yeomanry units were set up all over Ireland, the officers in many places being Catholics. Daniel O’Connell finished his studies for the bar in the Inns of Court in London in 1796, and was called to the Irish bar in 1798, being one of the first Catholics to be called. The lawyers attached to the courts in Dublin formed their own corps, and two young Catholic barristers, O’Connell and Noel Purcell O’Gorman enrolled with them and went on patrols at night. O’Connell was rapidly disillusioned with the United Irishmen. (In June 1798 he prudently retreated to his home in Kerry). The Irish Parliament was recalled early, on 13 September 1796, and a Suspension of Habeas Corpus Act (1796) was passed. The Dublin Journal noted that this was usual when an invasion was expected.

[December 1796] The year ended with a report that 17 French warships under Admiral Hoche had arrived at Bantry Bay in Cork.. They had sailed from France on 27 December 1796 with 43 ships and 14,000 men on board. As it happened Castlereagh was with his regiment in Limerick and they received orders to march towards the coast, and everywhere received support of the local Catholic population. The French had arrived in the wrong part of Ireland; only in Antrim and Down was there any considerable organised support for them. (As events were to prove, it was the only serious attempt at a French invasion in the whole course of the war. The French troops did not even disembark, having become separated from the transports with the ammunition.)

[February 1797] Napoleon, having succeeded against the Austrians, announced on 1 February 1797 that the armistice with the Pope was broken and the following day invaded the Papal States. Napoleon seized the papal province of Romagna and added it to the papal legatine provinces of Bologna and Ferrara, and the duchies of Reggio and Modena to form the Cispadane Republic, later enlarged as the Cisalpine Republic. Getting these territories back with the assistance of Castlereagh was Cardinal Consalvi’s chief preoccupation after Waterloo. The Pope was forced to sign the Treaty of Tolentino on 19 February 1797 agreeing to these terms.

Ireland was growing more disturbed, but Camden rejected a suggestion of Portland that future measures of parliamentary reform and relief for the Catholics should be considered (Camden DNB). Camden preferred to use the troops to disarm the population, especially in the Protestant parts of Ulster where the danger of revolution was greatest.

[May 1797] In May a Secret Committee of Parliament was set up to examine documents of the United Irishmen captured in Belfast and it reported (11 May 1797) that it was now clearly established that the United Irishmen were no longer merely seeking Catholic Emancipation and Reform of Parliament but were plotting an armed insurrection. On the following day a number of men in the Monaghan militia confessed that they had taken the oath of the United Irishmen, and begged pardon. It is probable that they had taken the same oath as Lord Cloncurry. On 15 May Castlereagh moved that the House join the Lords in an address to the Lord Lieutenant for an amnesty for those who had taken the United Irish oath through intimidation or misrepresentation. Grattan and his friends refused to concur with the motion but it was carried without a division. The text contained thanks to the Lord Lieutenant for measures already taken, which explains the action of the Whigs. William Ponsonby brought forward a motion in favour of parliamentary reform and emancipation, but the Government opposed this on the grounds that the time was inopportune. The motion was defeated by 117 votes to 30 (SNL 16 May 1797). Four men in the Monaghan militia were court martialled and shot for accepting commissions in the rebel corps. Some soldiers in the Louth militia, after being court martialled asked to be allowed to volunteer for foreign service in the army and their request was acceded to. It is clear that, especially in Ulster, there was much confusion regarding the United Irishmen and the Defenders. The Defenders were distinguished from the ordinary agrarian terrorists not by their methods but by their aims that were purely sectarian. They were a purely Catholic body that was organised specifically to fight Protestants. Defenders too might organise and drill large bodies of men locally to be prepared for large-scale clashes with the local Orangemen, especially on a fair day.

Pitt sounded out Fitzwilliam to find out would the Irish Whigs support the Government if Emancipation were conceded, and Fitzwilliam replied that only the dismissal of Lord Clare (Fitzgibbon) and his associates would satisfy them.  Camden, hearing of this approach to the Ponsonbys, wrote to Pitt not to concede Emancipation except in the context of an Act of Union (Bolton). But he also considered that a new parliament would be more likely to concede Emancipation than the last one that had voted three times against it.

        Just at this time Pelham approached Archbishop Troy about a royal veto. They met on 23 May 1797, and Pelham asked could the Pope give a power of nomination. As he informed Dr Plunket of Meath on the same day, Troy replied that the Pope could, but had never done so except in cases where the clergy had estates or revenues under the patronage of the crown. Troy re-stated his objection to state payment. Pelham asked him to consider the case where the Government provided the revenues to the bishops and clergy. Troy replied that he doubted the ability of the state to provide such a large sum. But even if it did, it would undermine the preaching of the Catholic clergy to keep the peace, because their preaching would be attributed merely to self-interest. Troy did not mention what he had in mind, that state payment would encourage the most forward and least submissive to their bishops, and intriguing clergy would get livings, not the most meritorious. The Irish bishops were prepared however, as a compromise, to accept a royal veto (Ward II; In March 1850 the judicial committee of the privy council over-ruled the bishop of Exeter regarding the appointment of vicar, the Rev. George Gorham, whom he regarded as unsuitable. The ‘Gorham judgement’ definitively established that laymen had the final say in appointments in the Established Churches.)

 It should be noted that though many people regard canon law as a complete and clear-cut body of laws, it was actually several collections of various canons of various local or ecumenical councils which various canonists down the centuries had reduced to some kind of order. It was not codified until 1917. It is perhaps true to say that there were more exceptions than rules as various places benefited from various bulls, privileges, indults, and dispensations. What Troy was making plain here was his total objection to a system where all the clergy were paid, and consequently were appointed and promoted by the crown. In such a system the authority of the bishops would virtually disappear. Just about this time the Irish bishops were finally able to enforce their claim that they alone had the right to appoint (as distinguished from approve) all parish priests, and to appoint, move, or remove all curates. No longer could a priest appear and claim that he had been appointed by the lay patron or by the Holy See. As the saying is ‘The devil is in the detail’ and it was precisely the details rather than the principles regarding the appointment of bishops and the payment of the clergy which was to cause so much dispute over the next twenty years. The Catholic laymen were only interested in the principles, but the bishops were very much concerned with the detail. State provision could be acceptable if it took the form of a perpetual royal grant, and was paid through the bishop of each diocese. It would be unacceptable if it were the subject of an annual debate in Parliament, and was paid directly to each priest by a commission of laymen. The state paid the professors in Maynooth through an annual bulk grant, and soon county Grand Juries were to pay prison chaplains. This latter was to cause conflict when certain Protestant Grand Juries tried to insist on a right to appoint the Catholic chaplains they paid. (The Presbyterian regium donum or royal gift was paid through an agent, a clergyman elected by the Synod.)

[July 1797] The Lord Lieutenant dissolved parliament on 11 July 1797 and called a general election. A group of Dublin freemen met to decide on tactics. They included Oliver Bond, Thomas Addis Emmet, John Keogh, Valentine Lawless (Cloncurry) and James Tandy. Oliver Bond was United Irishman and a member of its Leinster Directory and the mainspring of the movement to establish an independent Irish republic. Thomas Addis Emmet also belonged to the Directory. Many drew the conclusion that Keogh and Cloncurry were also members of the Directory, which they were not. In the new Parliament, out of the 300 members elected no more than 50 could be regarded as Whigs. Most of the Tories were returned by the boroughs. Defence and finance were the major problems facing the new Parliament and it was becoming clear that paying for its share of the War was straining Irish resources to their limits. The War was going badly for Pitt. There were mutinies in the navy, and the last remaining partner in the First Coalition, Austria, made peace with Napoleon at Campoformio on 17 October 1797. The First Coalition thus ended.

[December 1797] The very able General Sir Ralph Abercromby was sent to replace Lord Carhampton as commander-in-chief in Ireland. Carhampton was blamed for the excesses committed by his troops in disarming the peasants. But his departure from Ireland was caused by his promotion to be Master General of the Ordnance. Abercromby asked for Sir John Moore as his assistant. Both were professional soldiers with strict ideas about military discipline. Lord Clare, Beresford, and John Foster would have preferred General Lake who was more ruthless in searching out rebels instead of Abercromby. As the year ended, rioting in Rome led to a second French invasion under General Berthier.

[February 1798] Berthier entered Rome and the Pope left Rome for Pisa. Ecclesiastical property was sequestered. French guards replaced the Swiss Guards, and the Pope was escorted to Siena, and from thence he was removed in May to a Carthusian monastery in Florence where he was detained for nine months (Ward I). Towards the end of 1798, in view of the great age of the Pope (he was 81) the cardinals asked for a bull modifying the procedure for electing a Pope, and he granted it. The English, Irish, and Scotch Colleges in Rome were closed, but the French gave the professors and students passports to return home. They arrived in London in June 1798 (SNL 16 June 1798). Until the re-capture of Rome by Captain Troubridge in the Culloden in September 1799 communication with Rome virtually ceased.

[March 1798] Pelham’s health deteriorated so that he was compelled to return to England. Though not formally appointed to the office until July, Castlereagh discharged its duties from March onwards. The hard-liners in the Tory faction rejected any concessions to the Catholics or the rebels, and the policy of disarming continued. Though Irish mythologists have fondly cherished the brutality of this process it is difficult to ascertain the actual facts. Gentlemen of equal authority on either side affirmed and denied the use of torture. There can be little doubt that torture was actually used, but this was not the policy of either the Government or of the senior British generals. Nor was it the policy of the United Irish leaders. But brutalities and counter-atrocities are inevitable in any civil war, as this had become. Among the lower ranks on either side were those whose families had suffered at the hands of the opposing side. Edward Hay specifically mentioned the use of the pitch-cap by Orange supporters in the North Cork militia. (Half-melted pitch was poured on the heads of those with short hair. The United Irishmen favoured cropped heads; hence their popular name Croppies. In some case the pitch ran into their eyes; in other cases it burned the scalp. In all cases it was painful and difficult to remove  (Hay). (The alleged atrocities on either side, and by the crown forces during this period have passed into the legends of Irish history, but it was not necessary for the purposes of this book to investigate what substance there was in them. The Catholic bishops and almost all the priests supported the crown forces.).

[May 1798] The leaders of the United Irishmen, long known to the Government from spies who had infiltrated the senior ranks of the United Irishmen, were arrested, preventing a concerted effort between the various parts of Ireland, and the French fleet. The arrest and dispersal of the leading directors of the United Irishmen prevented any co-ordination. Archbishop Troy wrote a pastoral letter to be read at each mass until further notice exhorting all Catholics to leave the United Irishmen. The Catholic lay leaders including the lords Fingall, Southwell, Gormanston, and Kenmare, and Sir Edward Bellew and Sir Thomas Burke published an address on the same lines to all Irish Catholics. It would appear that it was about this time that Pitt decided to link Emancipation to an Act of Union (Ward II; Bolton).

The disturbances first broke out in Wexford, and the failure of the local yeomanry to quash them immediately led to a widespread uprising in Wexford. But this particular rising had little to do with the United Irishmen and was more concerned with local issues. Though it has achieved an honoured place in Irish mythology the rising in Wexford had little for anyone to be proud of. As Edward Hay of Wexford remarked later rumour and counter-rumour wrought both sides to a pitch of fury and animosity. Not for the last time the British Government had to try to govern while at the same time keeping two antagonistic factions from each other’s throats. The Orange faction could have had much more support for law and order if they had accepted offers of help from Catholics, but in many cases they refused it. All the early fights were between equally unskilled combatants, the largely unskilled and undrilled peasantry who armed themselves with any agricultural weapon or with captured guns, and the scarcely better trained militia and yeomanry companies on the other. These latter had of necessity to fight in ad hoc groups and do their best to defeat such bodies of rebels they met and were often overwhelmed by drunken mobs. A month later when they were joined by some regiments of the line and steadied by experienced officers they did much better. (Over Ireland as a whole, the United Irishmen had assembled 48,000 assorted guns, and 70,000 pikes. This latter out-of-date weapon could be made locally by blacksmiths, voluntarily or otherwise. The theory was that a strong but compact body of pikemen could overwhelm any defence. But conditions that favoured pikemen were more likely to favour cavalry, and the Government was not short of these. The chance of pikemen defeating regular infantry, well drawn-up and well supplied with ammunition, was nil. Much of the fighting on the Government’s side was done by the Irish militia regiments and by the Irish yeomanry. It was in Wexford that the rebels had the greatest initial success. Thereafter, large bodies of rebels were fairly easily broken up by field guns. The rebels dispersed into uninhabited tracts and supported themselves by plunder. Indeed from the very start they had to support themselves by plunder (SNL 15 Sept. 1798).  In May the great forces Napoleon had gathered sailed for Egypt, leaving only a token force of ships carrying arms and ammunition to assist the United Irishmen. Pitt managed to put together the Second Coalition consisting of Britain, Austria, Russia, and Turkey, and initially it had considerable success. [Top]

Cornwallis and Castlereagh (June 1798 to February 1801)

[June 1798] On 13 June the king gave his assent to an Act of Union but not to further emancipation of the Catholics. On 14 June 1798, the Government appointed the experienced soldier Charles Cornwallis (1st Marquis Cornwallis) as Lord Lieutenant to replace Earl Camden, believing that the situation needed the control of an experienced general. But General Lake had won at Vinegar Hill just as Cornwallis was arriving in Dublin. The rebels in Wexford massacred 95 Protestants in cold blood on 20 June 1798. Further massacres were prevented only because the rebels were summoned to the camp at Vinegar Hill where General Lake defeated their main body the following day. The insurrection spread to the north of Ireland, but the authorities and the army had had plenty of time to prepare. Though large bodies assembled it was only a matter of time until they were dispersed. As they came from the most Protestant areas of Antrim and Down, few if any Catholics were involved. Some Catholic priests in Wexford had joined the rebels to the disgust of Catholic gentlemen like Edward Hay who considered them a disgrace to their Church. Though few in number it allowed Protestant extremists to associate Catholic priests with plots of rebellion and a French invasion. Castlereagh was retained as acting Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant and Irish Secretary, and on 24 July was formally appointed to those posts.

[August 1798] A token French force under General Humbert arrived at Killala on the west coast of Ireland. The single French regular battalion had an initial success against the local militia and yeomanry regiments, but these rallied and boxed in the French. Only a small number of the local Whiteboys joined the French, so the French commander surrendered on 9 September, and was given parole as a prisoner of war. The French commander believed that the Whiteboys had joined him principally to get arms. The French had nothing but contempt for the kind of ruffians that joined them.  He was treated with the courtesy accorded to officers at the time and several prominent people in Dublin called on him (SNL 14, 17 September 1798). On 3 August 1798 Admiral Nelson eliminated the chances of a French invasion for several years by signally destroying the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile. Cornwallis followed a policy of punishing only the ringleaders, and pardoning those he regarded as their unfortunate dupes. Wolfe Tone had made his way to France, and was commissioned into the French army. This commission he believed would save him from being hanged as a traitor if he were captured. He sailed in a small French squadron under Admiral Bompart on 20 September 1798 but a powerful English squadron intercepted them. Tone was captured, tried for treason, and was sentenced to be hanged, but committed suicide in prison. His long association with Keogh was remembered. Keogh had been arrested as a United Irishman in 1796 but later released. He appears to have done nothing in 1798. But it was all too easy to associate the Catholic Committee with the United Irishmen, and those Catholic priests who led the rebels to burning and looting Protestant homes, and the massacres of Protestants, despite the fact that the members of the Catholic Committee actively supported the Government.

 The principal events in the spring and summer of 1798 can be summarised as follows. The French imprisoned the Pope, and he and his successor remained within French controlled lands until 1813. The Government decided on an Act of Union conjoined if possible with Emancipation for lay Catholics, state provision for the Catholic clergy, and at least a royal veto over the appointment of Catholic bishops. The Catholic bishops had already conceded the possibility of a veto. The Catholic bishops and most of the clergy and all the Catholic gentry stood by the crown. A rebellion led by Protestant Whigs but manned by Catholic peasants occurred on a surprisingly large scale. Its most distinguished and long-remembered feature was the violence of the atrocities and counter-atrocities committed in Wexford. The Royal Navy put an end to any immediate prospect of a French invasion. Two very able administrators, Cornwallis and Castlereagh were able to regain control of the various local yeomanry and militia units, and also to enforce Pitt’s wishes over the hard-line Protestants in the Irish Government. Cornwallis and Castlereagh were much more independent of the Orange faction than Camden had been.

However, the savagery and brutality on both sides in this internecine struggle cast a long shadow over the future. It marked the lives of two men in particular; a young curate named Rev. Daniel Murray, who fled for his life when the yeomanry ravaged his parish when searching for rebels. He escaped to Dublin where Archbishop Troy recognised his extraordinary qualities and kept him by his side. The other was the young lawyer, Daniel O’Connell, who saw exactly the kind of Catholics the United Irishmen recruited, and heard at first hand about all the atrocities committed by both sides once law and order broke down, and how neither the Government or the military authorities could control their men or their junior officers once they were dispersed to hunt down rebels. All his life he was utterly opposed to the use of violence to achieve any end. He tried to disabuse young Americans of any romantic notions about the Rising they had heard in America.

[September 1798] The yeomanry was stood down from permanent duty. Cornwallis hoped that Emancipation would be an integral part of the Union but Pitt told him this was not possible in the circumstances. He wrote to Pitt on 30 September 1798 saying that he was not prepared to have the exclusion of the Catholics an integral part of the Union as Lord Clare (Fitzgibbon) wanted. Pitt agreed that there would be no anti-Catholic stipulation in the Act of Union. Cornwallis deplored the fact that England seemed to be making a Union, not with Ireland, but with a party in Ireland (Barnes). A majority of the cabinet agreed on the necessity for Emancipation. The difficulty lay with the king. Lord Clare favoured the Act of Union but without the concession to the Catholics. He considered that the chief opposition to the Union would come from the ‘jobbers’ (those who improperly use a public office, trust, or service for personal gain or party advantage OED). Clare succeeded in getting the Union Act and the Emancipation Act separated.

[November 1798] Early in November Castlereagh saw Lord Fingall and Lord Kenmare separately and secured their agreement with the Government’s proposals. Cornwallis was able to report to the Duke of Portland in December that the leaders of the Irish Catholics concurred with the Government’s proposals and considered that it would be easier to get an Emancipation Bill through a United Parliament than through an Irish Parliament. They also, he said, wished to see state provision for the clergy.

 [December 1798] He also reported that Archbishop Troy concurred, but he seems to have misunderstood Troy who was personally totally opposed to state provision for he considered it would lessen the authority of the bishops. But Troy reported his conversation with Castlereagh several months (17 August 1799) later to Cardinal Borgia in Rome. According to Troy, Castlereagh had said that the participation of some of the clergy in the late rebellion had made it desirous of the king having a greater control over them. The king felt that the dependence of the clergy on the laity made them vulnerable to pressures from their flocks. It would be suitable if the king had in the rest of his dominions the rights he had in Quebec regarding the appointment of bishops, namely the right to present to the Pope the names of the clergy he deemed suitable. Troy commented that few priests were involved in the late rebellion, and it was not proved that their participation was caused by their dependence on their flocks, that a salaried clergy would not be respected, that very much money would be required, and that only the Pope could decide such matters. The Pope was then in captivity. On the question of the Union, Troy said that he had not personally formed his opinion, but he knew the project was widely disliked. He promised Castlereagh he would consult the other bishops. Troy wrote to the other three archbishops, to his own suffragan bishops, and to other prelates. It was the conclusion of the bishops that it was necessary in the circumstances of the time to concede something. Lord Fingall called a meeting of the leading Catholic laymen in his own house. Thirty seven of them met on 15 December 1798 but there was considerable disagreement among them. Some felt that the Act of Union contained nothing for Catholics, that they would have a better chance of obtaining Emancipation in their own Parliament, and they still could retain their Parliament. Troy reported to Castlereagh that the Catholic laymen had decided to take no stance as a body on the question of the Union. Cornwallis reported this to Portland on 5 December with the comment that some of the Catholics, the Earls of Fingall and Kenmare in particular, were highly in favour. They were also in favour of state provision (Derry; Vane-Stewart). Time was running out for Castlereagh, for he had to present his Bill when Parliament re-assembled in January. On 21 December 1798, the Cabinet agreed Castlereagh’s proposals for the Act of Union.

[January 1799] Cornwallis warned Portland (2 January 1799) that the sentiments of the leading Catholics (presumably the leading merchants in Dublin) towards the Union were more lukewarm than those expressed by Kenmare and Fingall. In a later letter (25 January) Cornwallis said he thought the lukewarmness flowed from a desire to bargain, or to get an explicit recognition of their claims.(The merchants and masters of the trades in Dublin could expect a loss of trade if a parliament no longer met in Dublin.)

The trustees of Maynooth met at Lord Kenmare’s on 16 January 1799, and on three subsequent days the episcopal trustees discussed the ecclesiastical points involved. It is unlikely that any laymen were present at these discussions, though Fingall was informed of their outcome (SNL 23 June 1815, quoting Extracts from Parliamentary Documents relating to the Roman Catholics ordered to be printed 12 May 1815; Ward II.) Ward in 1911 noted that a similar plan for state provision and veto existed in Mauritius. Mauritius was a French colony captured by the British in 1810. The decisions of the bishops were,

1)      It was admitted that a provision for the Roman Catholic clergy of this kingdom competent and secured ought to be thankfully accepted.

2)      That in the appointment of the prelates of the Roman Catholic religion to vacant sees within this kingdom such interference of government as may enable it to be satisfied of the loyalty of the person appointed is just and ought to be agreed to.

3)      Agreeably to the discipline of the Roman Catholic Church these regulations can have no effect without the sanction of the Holy See; which sanction the Roman Catholic prelates of this kingdom shall, as soon as may be, use their endeavours to procure.

They added five rules to be followed in the conduct of elections by the clergy of a vacant diocese. It is interesting that the clergy were to elect one priest, as usual, who obtained more than half the votes, and were to send his name to the bishops of the province, who might accept the choice or choose a different priest. This person’s name was to be sent to the Government, who would either accept it and send it on to Rome, or reject it and return the name to the bishops who will convene another election. It is notable here that the bishops were claiming the right of election, and not of choosing three names to forward to the Pope to make his choice from. Rome was never to concede this return to the ancient practice. With regard to the appointment of parish priests, the bishops were satisfied that appointments would remain with them, subject only to the condition that the person appointed should take the oath of loyalty to the crown (Ward II). If the ‘as usual’ is pressed, it would seem that the common practice at this time was for the priests of the diocese to select one candidate whose name was presented to the remaining bishops of the province for confirmation and forwarding to Rome.    

            In addition, a small committee of bishops consisting of the two primates, Archbishops O’Reilly and Troy, and Dr. Plunket of Meath to treat with the Government regarding state provision were appointed. The Vicar Apostolic of the London District (Douglass) does not appear to have heard of the proposals before 1801. The editor of the Dublin Evening Post later accused Dr. John Milner the English priest and controversialist of concurring with the Irish bishops in 1799, but it is unclear how he heard of them. Castlereagh’s claim that the bishops offered him the veto in 1799 would seem to distort facts slightly. For them it was in the circumstances a necessary evil and the least worst option.

            Not all the bishops were equally enthusiastic. It was considered that four bishops were opposed to the proposals, Coppinger of Cloyne, O’Shaughnessy of Killaloe, Young of Limerick, and Power of Waterford. But the unexpected defeat of Castlereagh’s Bill for the Union removed the urgency, and a turn in British fortunes in the War meant that communication with Rome, if not with the Pope, became feasible. Captain Troubridge recaptured Rome in September 1799. Troy’s letter to Cardinal Borgia was sent on 17 August 1799.

            On 24 January 1799 the Irish Whigs led by Ponsonby combined with dissatisfied Tories to defeat Castlereagh’s Bill. A motion against the Union proposed by Sir Lawrence Parsons was carried by five votes.  The set-back was less serious than it seemed for the opposition was made up of such diverse elements that it could not act in concert. The Government normally had a majority in the Irish House of Commons, and their supporters realised that their votes had suddenly become valuable. But there was no more corruption in passing the Act of Union than there was in any other Act, but the Government’s supporters could afford to increase their usual demands (Bolton). The opposition too had to make promises to their supporters regarding what they would get if they defeated the Government and came to power. Those Catholics who wanted to again petition the Irish Parliament for Emancipation dropped their plan. Cornwallis wrote to Portland that it was not in the interest of the Irish Catholics to support the Union if they could get emancipation without it for they are increasing while the Protestants are not.

            [February 1799] At this point Sir John Coxe Hippisley, no longer living in Rome, began to interest himself in Irish Catholic affairs. He was a born meddler. Hippisley’s letter had been concerned with the religious orders. Troy replied on 9 February 1799 thanking him for his interest, and informed him that at their late meeting he and two other bishops were authorised to treat with Castlereagh regarding state provision. He praised Pitt’s speech regarding the Act of Union (Vane-Stewart). In the course of the year Catholic opinion gradually turned in favour of the Union. Hippisley then proceeded to give Castlereagh the benefit of his advice.

            [March 1799] The French in Italy decide to move the Pope to France.

[July 1799] But as Troy informed Castlereagh the bishops could not give any political directions to their flocks for such direction would be much resented by them (Vane-Stewart). Dillon of Tuam and Bray of Cashel considered any such direction would produce the contrary effect. Dr Francis Moylan, Catholic bishop of Cork, spent a week with the Duke of Portland’s home at Bulstrode to discuss affairs. Moylan was strongly in favour of the Union. He accepted the bishops’ proposal on the veto and state provision in 1799, but later became a strong opponent of them. Archbishop Healey noted later that the ‘patriots’ denounced Troy and Moylan as ‘Castle bishops’, but add that ‘they cannot with a shadow of truth be described as subservient to the Government’ (Healey). Healey noted too that Troy, despite Lord Norbury’s famous pun, was not a bon vivant. (Referring to a visit of Eneas MacDonnell to the archbishop, Norbury remarked ‘Behold the pious Aeneas coming from the sack of Troy’). John Keogh’s denunciation of some of the bishops that they were ‘old men, used to bend to power’ simply means that they did not agree with Keogh’s bull-at-a-gate tactics.

            The War, up to the Peace of Amiens in 1801 had a curious seesaw character, now favouring one side and now the other. When it was renewed under Napoleon’s firm and total command in 1803 its character had changed. Between 1803 and the Battle of Jena (14 October 1806) Napoleon swept all before him in a series of staggering and crushing victories. By that time, the Allied armies were beginning to get his measure, and though Napoleon continued to win battles it was at an increasingly heavy cost. But many of the battles were actually drawn, as the defeated side was able to withdraw in good order. As usually happens in such cases, the countries with the largest populations could most easily stand the war of attrition. The enormous losses in the campaign in Russia in 1812 could never be made good. For the British, the tide of war turned slightly earlier, though they did not have to face Napoleon himself until Waterloo. Nelson largely destroyed the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in October 1805 and a British force in Calabria destroyed a larger French force at Maida in July 1806.

            In 1799 matters were not going well for the French. Napoleon, then only one among numerous generals in the Revolutionary Army, was cut off in Egypt by Nelson, and then blocked at Acre in Palestine by Sir Sidney Smith who was assisting the Turks. On the Continent, especially in Northern Italy, the French armies were falling back and a decision was taken to remove the Pope from Tuscany to France. It was at this point, that Captain Troubridge in the Culloden, re-occupied Rome, but one ship’s company could not protect an entire state if the French returned. When the Pope was in Florence the British representative there offered asylum to the Pope in British territories. The British agent in Rome assisted members of the British and Irish religious communities to recover their properties.

            [August 1799] On 29 August 1799 the old Pope died in Valence in France, and a new Pope was not elected until the following March. Napoleon, hearing of the successes of the Second Coalition in Northern Italy, abandoned the army in Egypt and Palestine, and established what was virtually a military dictatorship in December 1799, though he was called First Consul. The cardinals, after the Pope’s death made their way to Venice in Austrian territory. No change could be made in the way Irish bishops were chosen until there was a new Pope. But an Emancipation Bill could not be prepared until the Act of Union was passed, and it could not be introduced until both Parliaments re-assembled in January 1800. Neither Pitt nor Troy was anxious to rush matters. Castlereagh was kept busy trying to get parliamentary support for the Union Bill, so narrowly and surprisingly defeated in 1799.

            The proposed terms of the Union were generous to Ireland. The most important benefit to Ireland was the right of access to British trade throughout the world, and the protection of the British navy and consular service. (The young American republic had to build its own navy to protect its ships overseas.) The leading Irish Catholics pressed Cornwallis for clarification regarding what was on offer. As Castlereagh put it, attempts were made ‘to bring Government to an explanation, which of course had been evaded’ (Barnes). Cornwallis sent him over to London to find out what exactly was intended. The problem for Pitt which this direct question posed was that he could give no direct answer, for he still had to persuade a reluctant king to make further concessions to the Catholics, and he really had no idea what George would concede or when. Castlereagh found the cabinet in principle favourable to Emancipation, though some of its members doubted the advisability of admitting them to the most senior offices. The difficulty with the king was explained to him, no doubt in indirect terms suitable for the ears of a very young and very junior minister. He was aged thirty. As far as the sentiments of the cabinet were concerned, Cornwallis need have no hesitation in calling on the support of the Catholics. No definite promise of Emancipation was to be given, for the cabinet felt that it was inexpedient at this time. He could, if necessary, explain to the leading Irish Catholics the grounds he had for his assurances to them. This can probably be translated that Cornwallis could explain the situation regarding the king to noblemen like Fingall and Kenmare. It is difficult to determine how much ordinary people knew about the king’s mind on the matter. The king’s personal views were never discussed openly. But on the other hand indiscreet gossips abounded, what are called nowadays ‘sources close to the palace’.

(The office of Irish Secretary was regarded as suitable for a young man at the start of his career as it had no executive duties attached to it. Castlereagh, Wellington, and Napoleon were all born in 1769. Napoleon at the age of thirty became First Consul. Arthur Wellesley had reached the rank of colonel. Castlereagh, as the eldest surviving son of a minor Irish nobleman, had a certain advantage over Wellesley who was only the fourth son of an equally minor Irish nobleman. It was an age when family connections were all important. Daniel Murray, the son of a farmer, was born in 1768, and had reached the rank of temporary curate. Murray and Wellington died in 1852, Napoleon in 1821, and Castlereagh in 1822. Archbishop Troy, born 1739, died in 1823. Daniel O’Connell was slightly younger than the others, being born in 1775.)

Castlereagh’s chief task in building up a majority for the Government was to offer suitable recompense to those who lost financially, or in their interests. The chiefs of those were the owners of boroughs. The ownership of a parliamentary borough, like that of a commission in the army, or an office with fees attached, was regarded as property that that could be bought and sold, and therefore had a price. As these offices offered occasions for corruption. Castlereagh wrote of the need to ‘secure to the crown the fee simple of Irish corruption which is considered by so many as their means of getting forward and which they all took as materially terminated by a Union’ (Hinde, Castlereagh).

[September 1799] In September Archbishop Dillon of Tuam wrote to Troy, and Dr Moylan of Cork wrote to Coxe Hippisley that public opinion was turning towards the Union. Cornwallis and Castlereagh proceeded to enlist the support of the Catholics on the basis of the explanations given by the cabinet.

[November 1799] Lord Hobart warned Pitt that Cornwallis and Castlereagh seemed to have misunderstood the views of the cabinet (Bolton). But it would seem that Pitt as well over-estimated the staunchness of the members of the cabinet in favour of Emancipation. The ultimate card that Pitt felt he could play would be the threat of resignation of the entire cabinet. As George could only then send for the Whigs who were even more in favour of Emancipation, he would be forced to concede defeat. As in the American War, after Yorktown, he would have to back down as gracefully as he could manage.

[December 1799] As the year ended, such cardinals as could attend met for a conclave in Venice under Austrian protection. After a 14-week conclave an Italian Benedictine cardinal was elected Pope under the name Pius VII.

[January 1800] On 13 January 1800, some Dublin Catholics led by the twenty five-year-old barrister, Daniel O’Connell got permission from Cornwallis to hold an anti-Union rally. O’Connell noted that because the Catholics had decided not to act as a body on secular political questions word had gone round that they favoured the Union. This Catholic meeting was therefore called to refute this. It was to be another decade however before O’Connell became a leading player. Though the Dublin Catholics declared against the Union, the Catholics in Meath led by Lords Fingall, Gormanston, Netterville, and Trimleston, Bishop Plunket of Meath, and Randall MacDonnell declared in its favour (SNL 15 January, 14 February 1800). Opposition to the Union was strongest in Dublin where the mercantile classes feared that the city would lose its prosperity if it ceased to be a capital. The barristers in Dublin also feared a loss of business from lack of Government transactions.  In the event it did not matter. Dublin’s prosperity and size increased immensely as it became the hub of the road system, and later of the railways. Already a regular journey by coach could be made to Cork a hundred and sixty miles away in two and a half days, down from five or six days a decade earlier.

[March 1800] This time the Government had no difficulty in getting the Act of Union passed through both Houses in both Parliaments. In the English House of Lords, Lord Holland tried to get Emancipation tied into the British Act but failed. The Act of Union (1800) was to come into force on 1 January 1801. It received the royal assent on 1 August.

[June 1800] The Austrians decided not to detain the new Pope in their territories, so he was permitted to return to Rome that was then under the control of the Kingdom of Naples.

[July 1800] The new Pope agreed to state provision in the case of Emancipation. Coxe Hippisley sent a copy of a recent letter from Cardinal Borgia dated 20 July which stated that the Pope approved of ‘un honesta provisione’ (an adequate provision) for the Catholic clergy. The letter had been read by the Pope and approved of by him (Vane-Stewart). The implication of course was that a negative veto on the appointment of bishops would also be conceded. (This was made explicit in 1805 by Cardinal Borgia in a letter to Milner.)

[August 1800] The Irish Parliament sat for the last time on 1 August 1800.

[September 1800] Unfortunately, at this juncture Pitt fell ill, and was also in very distressed circumstances. It was a time of great difficulty for him. The Second Coalition was failing. The cost of the War was enormous. To meet the cost of the war taxes had to be raised, but Pitt had also to borrow heavily, at high interest rates in the City of London. The price of ordinary foods soared. In his personal finances he was also over-stretched. As a younger son, he had few sources of private income. As an honest politician, he had no source of income from that quarter. Nor was he a member of the armed forces, the Church or the bar, from which he might derive an income. He never had a sufficient income to allow him to marry.

    On 30 September 1800 Pitt called a cabinet meeting. He wished to secure a united front in the cabinet with regard to the abolition of the sacramental test, state provision for Catholic and Dissenting clergy, and the commutation of tithes in both kingdoms (Pitt in DNB). The Lord Chancellor, Loughborough, had some scruples about removing the oaths of supremacy and abjuration. The Oath of Abjuration required by 13th William III required to person taking it not to recognise the claims of the Stuarts to the throne of England. The Oath of Supremacy recognised the king as head of the Church of England in accordance with the statute 26 Henry VIII. The relevance of these oaths is not obvious. In a letter to Castlereagh on 23 March 1801, Edward Cooke, the Under-secretary said that Pitt had sent the papers on the Catholic question to the king on 13 September 1800, and had raised the matter with him on the 13 and 18 December 1800 (Vane-Stewart). Loughborough, with the king at Weymouth, however, showed the agenda of the proposed cabinet meeting to the king who became annoyed that the cabinet was discussing a matter that he had forbidden to be discussed without his prior permission. The idea that a cabinet needed the prior permission of the king to discuss any subject was rejected by every cabinet. It would appear that the disclosure of the cabinet’s discussions to the king was accidental, but it did alert the king to the fact that the matter was being discussed behind his back, and also probably to the fact that there were divisions in the cabinet regarding the matter. Arthur Wellesley, far away in India, considered that the king was mad before he forbade the consideration of Emancipation. He wrote, ‘I conclude that the derangement of the King’s mind was the cause of his opposition…he must have known of [his ministers’] intentions respecting the Catholicks when they …carried through the Union’ (Longford).

The king was aware of Loughborough’s own worries at least by 13 December 1800 (Barnes).   Pitt’s position was weaker than he thought. Like many men of limited intelligence and ability the king resented being manipulated by more clever and able men. George in fact was already looking for a way to replace Pitt. With regard to Emancipation George had long since made up his mind; he was totally opposed to it. But Pitt still believed he could not dismiss a united cabinet who were in favour. By this time several senior members of the cabinet, including Portland, were having doubts about Emancipation. Castlereagh informed Moylan that Emancipation had been carried in the cabinet, with the proviso that the king in an episcopal election should be free to choose one of three names presented to him (Ward 1).

[December 1800] In December John Toler was created Baron Norbury, Viscount Donoughmore was made Earl of Donoughmore, and Viscount Kenmare was made Viscount Castlerosse and Earl of Kenmare. Castlereagh’s biographer remarked that the 20 new baronies and 15 promotions in the peerage as favours to those who had assisted the Government were not regarded as excessive by contemporary standards. Castlereagh was pressing on with his plans for the payment of the clergy, and received from Dr Troy details of the number of priests and men and women members of religious orders.

Napoleon swiftly smashed Pitt’s Second Coalition (now including Great Britain, Portugal, Russia, Turkey, Naples, and Austria) by defeating Austria at Marengo (June 1800) and Hohenlinden (December 1800). He opened negotiations with the Pope for a Concordat before Pitt could do so. The peace party was gaining strength in England, and it was felt that if Pitt were removed, a peace with France could be obtained. The British House of Commons was dissolved on 31 December 1800.

The king received letters from the Protestant archbishops of Canterbury and Armagh, and from Loughborough stating their objections to Emancipation (George III DNB), while neither Pitt nor the other ministers communicated with the king on the subject.

[January 1801] On 1 January 1801, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland came into existence formally. The balloting of Irish borough members, now reduced to one per borough to the new House of Commons commenced. The county members simply took their seats in the new House. George Ponsonby lost his seat as a borough member and had to stand for a by-election in Wicklow county, and won the seat. On 1 January 1801 Castlereagh wrote a long letter to Pitt pointing out that he and Cornwallis had been given to understand that the cabinet supported Emancipation and had so informed the Irish Catholic leaders. On 21 January 1801 the Earl of Fingall called on Cornwallis and informed him that the Irish Catholics were proposing to get up a petition for Emancipation to the United Parliament. Cornwallis asked him to use his influence to dissuade the Catholics from such an untimely step. He also asked the Earl of Donoughmore to use such influence as he had with the Catholics in the same direction.

At a levee on 28 January 1801 the king asked Henry Dundas, the Secretary for War ‘what the ministers were going to throw at his head, and pointing at Castlereagh said the proposed scheme ‘was the most Jacobinical thing I have ever heard of’. When Dundas attempted a reply the king said ‘None of your Scotch metaphysics’. The king required the Speaker of the House of Commons, Henry Addington, to make known his sentiments to Pitt. Pitt replied on 31 January 1801 saying that he and the majority of the cabinet considered that concessions to the Catholics and Dissenters were essential for the peace in Ireland. He concluded by saying that if his majesty did not agree he must tender his resignation (SNL 15 June 1827).

[February 1801] The king replied that he gave his consent to an Act of Union based on a trust that no more Catholic legislation would be brought in. He was not prepared to discuss a subject with ministers who were not prepared to discuss the subject with him. He must accordingly ‘yield to his entreaties of retiring from the Board of Treasury’. Several of the cabinet, including Pitt’s brother the Earl of Chatham, did not see a need to press matters as far as resignation. But Pitt, with several others, felt that they had already committed themselves to the Irish Catholics to such an extent that they would have to resign. The king asked Addington to form a ministry. On 5 February George accepted Pitt’s resignation. By the 13 February, the resignation of Pitt was common knowledge in Dublin, and on the following day it was known that he was to be succeeded by Mr Addington.  About 10 February George showed great signs of agitation, and by 22 February his mental alienation was unmistakable. In Dublin it was clearly recognised that the Lord Chancellor, Lord Clare, had won. Lord Clare’s position now was a very strong one, for it was chiefly due to his support that Castlereagh carried the Act of Union.

         On the 7 February 1801, the first parliament of the United Kingdom opened, and as expected the king’s address contained no mention of a measure of relief for the Catholics. It was reported however that Lord Cornwallis would proceed with such a Bill in accordance with his promise. Cornwallis and Castlereagh also felt that they had committed themselves to the Catholics and considered that they must resign. But until either the king recovered or a regent was appointed no replacements could be made. Addington included in his cabinet two young men. One was Robert Banks Jenkinson, then Lord Hawkesbury, and later 2nd Earl of Liverpool. The other was Spencer Perceval. Both were future prime ministers. Cornwallis refused to serve in a cabinet that excluded the Catholics, but accepted a very important naval appointment as the admiral in charge of the defence of the Channel. The question of a limited regency was again raised. It was considered that if a regency was declared the Prince of Wales would ask Lord Moira to form a ministry. The king blamed Pitt for causing his injury and extracted a promise from him that he would never again disturb him with proposals for Emancipation. Pitt agreed, doubtless recognising that worries regarding the coronation oath were at the back of the king’s attacks. Nobody expected that the ailing sixty-three year old monarch would live for another twenty years. Nor that the Prince of Wales would desert the Whigs. The War of the Second Coalition virtually came to an end when Austria and France concluded a peace treaty at Luneville on 9 February 1801. [Top]


Addington and Harwicke (February 1801 to May 1804)

            [February 1801] Another Portland Whig, Philip Yorke, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, was appointed Lord Lieutenant and he wrote to Cornwallis telling him of his prospective appointment and asked his advice regarding the Catholic question. Pitt wrote to Cornwallis explaining the circumstances of his resignation. Cornwallis on 13 February 1801 sent for Archbishop Troy and Lord Fingall and explained the circumstances, and gave them two papers on the subject to be circulated in Ireland (Vane-Stewart; see SNL 4 March 1801 for what seems to be a conflation of the papers.) Cornwallis believed that he had an explicit commitment in writing from Pitt that the Act of Union would be followed by an Emancipation Act (SNL 26 January 1828). Apparently, about this time the English and Scottish vicars apostolic were informed, probably by Dr Moylan, on the discussions regarding the bishops (Ward I).

[March 1801] Hardwicke was formally appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on 17 March 1801 and he arrived in Ireland and was sworn into office on 25 May 1801. He was originally a supporter of Fox, but followed the Duke of Portland in joining with Pitt. Harwicke had not yet made up his mind on the question of Emancipation and wished for guidance on the subject. At first he had an open mind regarding the Catholic question, but came round to favour Emancipation. He wished to be fair-minded and even-handed, but like all the British administrators until Marquis Wellesley he failed to recognise that the only way to be fair to the Catholic was to clear their hard-line opponents out of Dublin Castle. Surprisingly, too, most of these hard-liners who had strongly opposed the Union quickly accepted office in the United kingdom (Beckett). It was an age when almost all public appointments were made by patronage, the requirements for a post were minimal, and each side had to reward its own supporters. (For a legal appointment, the only requirement was that the appointee had ‘kept terms’ and eaten the requisite number of dinners in the Inns of Court. He was not required actually to know anything about the law. For an appointment in the Church, one had to be an ordained minister. There was no need to know any divinity. Only in the navy and in the Royal Artillery was some professional competence required.)

 But it was also fortuitous that power of the anti-Catholic clique remained for twenty years. The king could have died at any time, and the Whigs come to power. The Whig ministry of All the Talents could have survived. After the death of Pitt a new Prime Minister could have decided to end the War. But after the Duke of Portland succeeded in forming a ministry the Tories remained in office until 1830. In 1812, both Lord Moira and the Marquis Wellesley failed to get sufficient support to form cabinets. All the Lords Lieutenant appointed up to 1820 were given the same basic instructions, to keep the peace, and to try to reconcile the warring factions. There was no anti-Catholic policy either in politics or in religion. Nor was there any anti-Catholic bias in the administration of the laws. It was just that until Catholics were allowed into offices with patronage over jobs Catholics would not get their fair share of jobs. In the circumstances of the time and place that would have meant a minority of jobs. People are inclined to forget that although those baptised Catholics formed three quarters of the population, Catholics of wealth and position were few compared with their Protestant counterparts. Voting rights were tied strictly to what a person was expected to pay in taxes, and most people felt that this was proper.

 In the event the king recovered fairly quickly. By 14 March his recovery seemed so far advanced for Pitt finally to leave office. Hardwicke was appointed on 17 March but Cornwallis stayed until he was sworn in on 25 May 1801. No Lords Justices were appointed to cover a vacancy. Pitt’s resignation and those of Cornwallis and Castlereagh were formally accepted and Addington took over as Prime Minister. The offices of Irish Secretary and Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant were combined. After Castlereagh’s resignation Charles Abbot, an Englishman, was appointed, but was replaced in February 1802 by William Wickham. There followed 8 Secretaries in the following 8 years. Abbot remained in London to conduct the business in Parliament, and arrived in Ireland in July 1801.The emergency legislation of the previous decade due to expire was renewed.

Cornwallis and Castlereagh had to explain the debacle to the Irish Catholic leaders. In Dublin, Counsellor Bellew told Marsden the Under-secretary in Dublin that he thought it would be possible to get a declaration from the Catholics acquiescing in the postponement of Emancipation in the circumstances. Cornwallis told Castlereagh on 18 March 1801 that he did not think the Catholics were sufficiently united on the point to risk an attempt to get up an address, especially as there were jealousies at Bellew’s taking the lead. Bellew was associated with Fingall’s party, and as such detested by Keogh who felt he ought to be the leader.

 [May 1801] Hardwicke arrived, and Cornwallis held an undress levee before he departed. In October, the War came to a temporary halt with the negotiations that led to the Peace of Amiens in March 1802.

[August 1801] The Irish bishops about this time received two letters from Rome, in which the Holy See expressed disapproval of the way they had acted with regard to the appointment of bishops and the acceptance of state provision for the clergy. Troy replied on behalf of the bishops, explaining what they had agreed to and why. One suspects that some Irish priests at Rome were deliberately supplying misleading information to the Holy See. It would not be the last time (Cannon, DEP 15 Dec 1825). Irish bishops like Curtis, Murray, and MacHale had on occasion to point out the Holy See had been supplied with inaccurate or incorrect information. Rome was used to this, so the first reply from Rome on any given point usually amounted to no more than general warnings and exhortations to episcopal zeal. Or else it contained a warning to local bishops not to decide on matters which the Pope had reserved to himself or which infringed the privileges of the Holy See. Only after a point had been discussed for several years was a decision finally made. They Government did not proceed with Castlereagh’s plan for state provision for the Catholic clergy, though it did increase the Regium Donum to the Presbyterian clergy. On 7 August 1801 Rome expressed its disapproval of state provision and the Irish bishops cheerfully acquiesced. The Holy See had condemned state payment of clergy by the French Revolutionary Government in 1791, and in Corsica, when occupied by the British from 1794 to 1796, had refused to countenance state provision there (SNL 13 May 1814; DEP 15 Dec 1825). The Irish bishops and clergy were not suffering hardship under the system of voluntary contributions, and saw no need to change. On the other hand, they saw several disadvantages in the state system. There the matter rested as far as the Irish bishops were concerned.

The questions regarding the veto and state provision were dealt with at some length, partly because of their connection with the Act of Union and partly because of the major controversy between the ‘vetoists’ and ‘anti-vetoists’ over a decade later. This latter dispute was between Catholic lay would-be politicians who considered their political implications. But at this stage very few people knew of the negotiations that had already taken place. Castlereagh who conducted them, Cornwallis, some members of the cabinet and the Irish Government, and the Irish Catholic bishops. Of the Catholic laymen, probably only a handful like Lord Fingall, Lord Kenmare, Sir Edward Bellew, and Counsellor Bellew, were given some information, though they were not directly involved in Church discipline. Pitt and the British and Irish Governments were seeking means to combat the French Revolution, and the endemic agrarian disorders in Ireland which the events in 1798 showed could, if combined with revolutionary movements, produce a formidable conspiracy. It was felt that some direct controls over the Catholic clergy would be useful, but the comparative ease with which the various disturbances in were put down in 1798, and the general loyalty of the Catholics, showed they were not essential. As far as the Holy See was concerned, it seems to have been resolute against accepting state provision, no doubt for the same reasons which influenced Troy and the Irish bishops. It was opposed to direct nomination by non-Catholic sovereigns, but was prepared to accept a negative veto, but saving the rights of the Irish clergy and the Holy See. In other words, the Irish clergy would present the Pope with a short list of names from which he would select. But the list would first be shown to the Government that could object to one or more names and ask for others to be substituted. In the event, no proposals were made to Rome which were satisfactory in these three respects. As far as the Holy See was concerned, there the matter rested. (How the Holy See expected the bishops and priests to support themselves is not clear. That some religious orders of friars should expect to live solely on the contributions of the faithful was approved. It was expected that the parochial clergy would have a secure income, usually from endowments of land. But as Ireland came under Propaganda and was regarded as a mission land, the dependence of the parish clergy on free contributions of their parishioners was condoned. The question of the possible subservience of the clergy to popular feeling did not arise at this time, though it did later in the century.)

There is one last piece of the jigsaw concerning relations with Rome that must be fitted in if only because both the British Government and the Irish bishops took careful note of it. This was the concordat between the French Republic under Napoleon and the Pope which was signed on 15 July 1801. It was expected that the concordat between the Pope and the British monarchy would be concluded shortly and would be on similar lines. The French Government and others who had seized Church property were allowed to retain it. The Government was to pay suitable salaries to the clergy. The state was given the power of direct nomination of bishops; the number of bishops was to be reduced, the Pope was to depose those bishops who did not resign. In England the émigré clergy were not pleased, but the matter was handled sensitively by the vicar apostolic of the London District, Dr. John Douglass, who was content with the vaguest and most loosely-worded submissions. Dr Milner, then a priest in the Midland District, and not really concerned in the matter, insisted that only a full and explicit submission should be allowed.

Castlereagh, as MP for county Down, was not prepared to drop his pet project, and continued with the matter though it was no longer his concern. Addington however asked him to pilot some bills concerning the disturbed state of Ireland through the Commons. He was soon advising the Government on the commutation of tithes, state provision for the Catholic clergy, the admission of Catholics to Parliament and the building of fortifications against a French invasion in Ireland (Castlereagh DNB). In July 1802, strongly pressed by Pitt, he rejoined the Government as President of the Board of Control (of India) with a seat in the cabinet. Thereafter he was little involved with Ireland, though he always strongly supported the Catholic claims. Castlereagh wrote to Addington on 21 July 1801, and told him he had been taking soundings among the Irish Catholics. Though some of the more democratically inclined, as in the Presbyterian Church, disapproved, he felt that Troy, Moylan, and Fingall supported the proposals (Vane-Stewart). Addington did not take up his proposals

 [1803] In April the war with Napoleon was resumed, and the Papal States were immediately invaded. In July, a young barrister called Robert Emmet made an inept attempt to start another rebellion, but its only result was the murder of a fair-minded judge called Lord Kilwarden. Archbishop Troy issued a pastoral letter condemning all who took part in it, and praised the conciliatory policy of the Earl of Hardwicke. Other leading Catholics in Dublin also condemned the murder. Fingall, Gormanston, Archbishop Troy, Archbishop O’Reilly, and several other leading Catholics presented an address to Hardwicke deploring the outrage. Dr Coppinger of Cloyne issued a pastoral denouncing Emmet, and praising Hardwick’s mild administration. He exhorted all members of his diocese to prepare for defence against a French invasion. It was, he said, an act of religion to join this war against irreligion (On 26 September the bishops of Connaught issued a joint pastoral against the adoption of ‘French principles’ SNL 19 August, 6 October 1803). Fingall was then given a commission as a magistrate. When granting him this commission, the new Lord Chancellor, Lord Redesdale, exhorted Fingall to inculcate loyalty among the Catholics in county Meath. But he went on to attack the teaching of the Catholic Church and its bishops that the Roman Church was the only true Church. To teach that, Redesdale maintained was implicitly to preach rebellion, for it implied that the Church of which His Majesty was Head was a false Church, and common people might think they were free from allegiance to the crown. A public exchange of letters occurred, and Fingall was able to show that Redesdale was totally ignorant of Catholic theology.

. Dr John Milner was made a vicar apostolic (bishop) in 1803, and was pursuing his lifelong feud with Charles Butler. He made various enquiries in Rome regarding what had been or could be conceded, but was just furnished with the replies that Rome had already sent to the Irish bishops. A letter of Propaganda to Dr Luke Concanen OP, agent of the Irish bishops in 1805 again re-stated the position. A copy of this letter was published in Milner’s Orthodox Journal in May 1814 (DEP 15 Dec 1825).Bishop Douglass, vicar apostolic of the London District, obtained the appointment of Dr William Poynter, now back in England as his co-adjutor with right of succession. Pointer succeeded Douglass in 1812.

[1804] In February 1804 Charles Butler wrote to Lord Fingall and said he had seen the exchange of letters with Redesdale and denied he had any part in publishing them. He informed him that Pitt’s friends say he will not bring in a measure for Catholic relief during the present king’s reign. At this stage, the English lay Catholics, especially those in the London area were better placed to maintain contacts with Pitt and the leading Whigs. It was unfortunate, that Dr Milner regarded them as heterodox in doctrine. It is also unfortunate that the Irish bishops decided to use Milner as their London agent rather than be guided by the more moderate counsels of the other vicars apostolic with whom Milner was perpetually at war.

In April 1804 Pitt decided that he could stand Addington’s management of the War no longer. A French invasion seemed imminent. He wanted to form a broad-based coalition, including Fox, and Lords Grenville, Spencer, and Fitzwilliam. The king refused to allow Fox into the cabinet, and Lord Grenville and the others refused to serve without Fox. Addington did not join him either. Pitt’s team when he got it together lacked big names, but it included capable young men like Castlereagh, Hawkesbury, Perceval, and Canning, besides the Duke of Portland. The young men were known as Mr Pitt’s friends. Four of the above were to become Prime Minister, and they formed the nucleus of the Tory Party in the nineteenth century. Pitt took over the reins on 10 May 1804. Of the twelve members in the cabinet, only two, Pitt and Castlereagh, were in the Commons (DNB).



Copyright Desmond J. Keenan, B.S.Sc.; Ph.D. ;.London, U.K.