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Chapter Four

The Third Phase 1808 to 1811 

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

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 The Veto and its Aftermath

(January 1808 to December 1809) .........................

The Fifth Resolution and its Aftermath

(January to December 1810) ...................................



This phase involves the attempt to gain Emancipation by offering the right of veto to the king, and the controversy that resulted from this offer up to the beginning of the Regency of the Prince of Wales. During this period Napoleon occupied the Papal States and took the Pope prisoner. Napoleon tried to occupy Spain and Portugal which resulted in the British intervening in what became known as the Peninsular War. Sir Arthur Wellesley was given charge of the British and Portuguese armies. Opinion at home regarding the war with the French and its great cost was evenly balanced, but Wellesley, despite many set-backs, won a sufficient number of battles to maintain the pro-War Tories in power. About this time Daniel O’Connell began to attend the meetings of the Catholics. The Catholic gentlemen in Ireland split into two factions on the issue of the royal veto though the matter scarcely concerned them. These became known as Vetoists and Anti-Vetoists.

At the same time the Catholic bishops began to meet together to study the implications for themselves of a royal veto on the appointment of Catholic bishops, on the appointment of bishops appointed by the Pope under duress from Napoleon, and of a conclave to choose a new Pope if the choice was dictated by Napoleon. The infant Catholic Church in the United States was drawn into these discussions.

The Veto and its Aftermath (January 1808 to December 1809)

            [January 1808] The petition of 1807 had been left hanging in the air, so a meeting was held on 5 January 1808 at Fitzpatrick’s the bookseller’s with Fingall in the chair, and it was decided unanimously to petition in the following session. Mr Edward Hay was recorded as Secretary to the meeting. No doubt, nobody expected that the Government would do anything, but at least the petition could be laid on the table in Parliament. At another meeting on 19 January Mr Costigan attacked the aristocracy for alleged ‘clandestine activities’. Mr O’Connor of Mount Druid said the wording of the petition had been changed from what he had approved in the committee (DEP 23 January 1808).

            [April 1808] The Catholic petition was entrusted to Grattan in the Commons and Grenville in the Lords after the Duke of Portland had refused to present it. The procedure regarding petitions was as follows. First the petition had to be presented by a member of the House, who made a speech regarding it. If the House accepted the petition it was ordered to lie on the table. Then a motion of a general character was proposed based on the petition, for example that the House should consider the matter contained in the petition. If this motion passed, a Bill on the subject was drawn up, and a suitable time for the debate was negotiated with the Leader of the House. The bill had to pass various stages, the First Reading which dealt with the principle of the Bill, the Second Reading which dealt with the details of the Bill, the Committee Stage where the Bill was sent to a committee of the House which could bring in alterations and amendments suggested during the Second Reading. The next was the Report Stage when the committee reported back to the House, which then voted on the Second Reading. The Third Reading was a formality and consisted in reading through the Bill in its final form. The Bill was then taken to the other House which also went through the three stages. A bill could be first introduced in either house. If amendments were made in the other House the Bill was referred back to the first House for its assent. On questions of religion, the Committee Stage was taken by the Committee of the whole House.

            John Foster, in the Commons, proposed an increase in the Maynooth Grant from £8,000 to £9250, because of an increase in the number of students. The Irish bishops refused to recognise any Irish students who studied in the colleges under Napoleon’s control in France.

            [May 1808] On 2 May, the famous Dos de Mayo, the people of Madrid rose up against the French, and the revolt spread to other parts of Spain. Spanish resistance crystallised around the junta in Seville. The Peninsular War, which was to absorb so much of the energies of the peoples of Britain and Ireland, commenced. As far as Britain was concerned the War had taken a new direction, and in this direction most of her energies would be directed for the next seven years. Arthur Wellesley was ordered to take the troops being assembled in Cork for another expedition to South America, and proceed to the Iberian Peninsula to support Spain. The Irish student James Doyle had been arrested when the French first captured Coimbra but was later released. Now the university students enthusiastically took up arms and Doyle joined them. When Wellesley arrived Doyle offered his own services and that of two fellow Irish students as interpreters. Later, after the Convention of Cintra he was sent to the Portuguese court, or what was left of it, at Lisbon. He was recalled home to study as best he could in Ireland, and arrived in Cork in the autumn of 1808, apparently on a troopship returning to Cork. It is doubtful if Wellesley met him. He was then 22 years old. The Orangemen in Ireland noted balefully the part played by the popish clergy in this uprising. (General Nicholas Trant from Dingle, county Kerry, the following year raised a corps from the students of Coimbra university, but by that time Doyle was no longer there.) Some Jesuit students continued studying in Sicily, the only Catholic state not under Napoleon.

A few days before Grattan was to present the petition the Earl of Fingall introduced Milner to Ponsonby, saying that he could give better information on theological matters. In the course of the conversation Milner (22 May) agreed that a veto on the appointment of bishops could be allowed. Grattan and Ponsonby, when presenting their petition on 25 May 1808, claimed that they could speak with some degree of authority, and say that if Emancipation were conceded the Catholics would be prepared to concede to the king a negative on the appointment of bishops. Ponsonby gave more details, re-stating more or less what had been agreed by the bishops in 1799 (SNL 30 May 1808, DEP 31 May 1808, 31 May, 7 June 1810, 26 January 1822). Grattan and Ponsonby, being lawyers, were only interested in introducing new grounds for considering the claim for Emancipation after the question had already been rejected by the House. In this they had some success in influencing members of Parliament. The opposition to the petition was led by Spencer Perceval and the vote was lost by 281 votes to 128 (Ward II).

The secret negotiations of 1799 were now out in the open. Only those directly involved, and a few outsiders like Milner, had known about them. The Whig leaders of the Opposition clearly had not, along with most of the Irish public. The actual veto was of little concern to the average Irish layman. Nor were the bishops at that time engaged in politics. But once the suspicion was implanted in men’s minds that the bishops and the aristocracy were engaged in secret negotiations with the Government for their own ends it was hard to get rid of that idea. The matter had of course not been discussed since Castlereagh’s departure from Ireland, and it is doubtful if many in the Government had even heard of the negotiations. Fingall had taken part publicly in all the petitioning since 1805, and if he ever thought of the matter it would have been to regard it as a part of canon law already agreed by the Pope. But opinion among the bishops was turning against it, and the present Government, unlike that of Pitt, had no intention of negotiating with the Pope, until the structure of the Roman Church was changed, as Perceval made clear.

Edward Hay immediately protested to Fingall that the aristocracy and the people were keeping the people in the dark, and he also immediately informed the English vicars apostolic that that such proposals would never be accepted in Ireland. Hay had been speaking to Fingall before the petition was presented, and Fingall had said nothing about the veto to him. He clearly believed that Fingall was playing a secret game. But there is much to be said in favour of his comment at that time, ‘The principal object the bishops have had steadily in view, and pursued with an unremitting perseverance, has been to secure the nomination of their own order to themselves (FJ 21 January 1819). In the disputes in the coming years there were many corners being defended.

Replying to an anxious letter from Milner who was clearly taken aback by the storm his communication to Ponsonby had stirred up, Troy reassured him that the Irish bishops had full confidence in him, and said there was no doubt that the Irish bishops would approve of the proposals subject to certain restrictions. Dillon of Tuam wrote in similar vein, but Dr Coppinger of Cloyne wrote to him protesting at his intervention (Ward II).

While the petitions were being presented in Parliament, some of the English Catholics decided to form a Catholic Board and they met on 23 May 1808 to form it. Edward Jerningham, not Charles Butler, was elected Secretary. Priests were allowed to join so that theological matters could be sorted out from the very start. Its initial aim was to secure accurate reports of what was said about Catholics in Parliament. Milner joined it but was later expelled from it (DNB, Ward II).

 [August 1808] Milner came to Ireland to discuss matters with the Irish bishops. There was a fierce outcry against him, Troy, Fingall, and Coxe Hippisley. Milner was burned in effigy. Here one can clearly detect Keogh denouncing a secret plot and a sell-out by the aristocracy and the bishops. Milner went to Maynooth to meet the assembled bishops but was not admitted to their discussions. A majority of the bishops were now opposed to a veto. A vote of thanks to Milner was passed on the understanding that he no longer ‘either write or speak in public in favour of the veto’. Milner however considered that the bishops would re-open the question when there was a friendly minister to support the measure (Ward II). As always, there was a distinction between what the bishops preferred, and what they were prepared to concede. Some of the bishops at least convinced themselves that a royal veto would mean the ruin of the Catholic religion, a view the Pope found incomprehensible.

[September 1808] When the bishops met in September they rejected the veto on grounds of ‘inexpediency’.

‘…it is the decided opinion of the Roman Catholic prelates of Ireland assembled, that it is inexpedient to introduce any alteration in the canonical mode hitherto observed in the nomination of Irish Roman Catholic bishops, which mode long experience has proved to be unexceptional, wise, and salutary;

that the Roman Catholic prelates pledge themselves to adhere to the rule by which they have hitherto been uniformly guided, namely to recommend to his Holiness only such persons as are of unimpeachable loyalty and peaceable conduct’ (DEP 17 September 1808).

        As noted in Chapter One, the selection of bishops in Ireland was not regulated by canon law as there were no chapters, but by local custom. This custom could be over-ruled at any time by the Pope who could issue an Apostolic Constitution to deal with the matter. The bishops did not wish to see any of their acquired powers eroded in such a papal decision. But the second part of their resolution was missing the point, namely that there should be a minimal external check on their decisions.

        While this was going on the British Government in September made its first attempt to rescue the Pope from the captivity of the French. A ship was fitted out in Sicily to go to Rome and smuggle the Pope on board, and to take him wherever he wanted to go. Fr. Peter Kenny, the Irish Jesuit, then studying in Sicily was to be an interpreter. A friar sent ashore was suspected by the cardinals of being in the pay of the French, so they did not believe his story (Allies).

[October 1808] The primate, Dr. O’Reilly, replying on 29 October to a query from Lord Southwell and Sir Edward Bellew explained that the ‘circumstances’ were the existence of a no-popery Government, and that ‘inexpedient’ meant what it said, and referred only to the present circumstances. The bishops did not intend their decision to be final or permanent (DEP 8 November 1808). Troy later made the same points But in a letter to Dr. Hamill, vicar general of Dublin, Dr Ryan, the co-adjutor bishop of Ferns denied this interpretation, and maintained that a majority of the bishops opposed the veto in any form (Ward II). There is no contradiction between these reports.

[November 1808] Archbishop Troy formally asked that the Daniel Murray, a secular priest attached to the metropolitan chapel, a doctor of theology of Salamanca, a canon of the chapter of Dublin, a celebrated preacher, curate of the mensal parish, forty years old, and with no connection or relationship with the archbishop, be made co-adjutor bishop of Dublin with the right of succession (Scritture Referite 1808).

[December 1808 to February 1809] Wellesley, in Portugal had defeated Junot, but was superseded by a more senior general who agreed with Junot at the Convention of Cintra on 30 August 1808 that the French could freely leave Portugal. He then returned to his duties in Ireland. Sir John Moore was left in command of the British troops fighting along with the Spanish troops under General Blake who actually was born in Ireland. Blake was defeated, so Sir John Moore made his celebrated retreat to Corunna in the north west corner of Spain where the British army was re-embarked. Sir John was killed at Corunna by a stray shot. Ten thousand British troops in Portugal were not involved in the advance and retreat and remained in Portugal. Parliament opened on 19 January 1809. A small meeting of some Catholics met on 4 February to decide whether to petition again this year, but Fingall left the chair before a vote could be taken.

[March, April 1809] In March the new English Catholic Board met and decided to petition, and it drew up a petition which was signed by 300 priests, 8 peers, 13 baronets, and 8000 gentlemen. Wellesley convinced Castlereagh that Portugal could be held indefinitely. Castlereagh secured his appointment to command the British troops in Portugal, so he resigned from Parliament and from the Irish Government. He had reached the rank of lieutenant general. He continued working in Parliament until he sailed for Portugal on 14 April 1809. He was succeeded by Robert Dundas as Irish Secretary. Rumour went out that Portland would have to resign and that the Marquis Wellesley would become prime minister. But the Marquis went to Spain to assist his brother.

[May 1809] Several Irish gentlemen decided to requisition a public meeting. The meeting was held on 10 May in Dignam’s Tavern, Henry Street. Among them were Lord Netterville, Sir Francis Goold, Thomas Wyse of Waterford, Nicholas Mahon, Richard O’Gorman, Luke Plunket, N.P. O’Gorman, John Lawless, Edward Hay, James Ryan, Dr. Drumgoole, and J.B. Clinch. (DEP 11May 1809; it would seem that this Thomas Wyse was the eighteen year old then studying at Trinity College, later Sir Thomas Wyse (DNB)). Two barristers, Counsellors Plunket and Finn objected to the non-representative character of the meeting. A meeting at Lord Netterville’s on 21 May and it was decided unanimously to proceed with the petition.

 A General Meeting of the Catholics was held on 24 May 1809 in the Exhibition Room, William Street, with Lord Fingall in the chair. It was clear that the first thing to be done was to re-constitute the old Catholic Committee, which had virtually come to an end in 1790 with the secession of the aristocratic party. Several complicated resolutions were passed. Among them was the following,

‘That the noble lords who compose the Catholic peerage, and survivors of the persons who were in the year 1793 delegates of the Catholics of Ireland…with the persons who were appointed by the Catholic citizens of Dublin to prepare a late address, do possess the confidence of the Catholic body’.

This indicates to us how it was proposed to restore the Catholic Committee. All present agreed to their claims to represent the Catholics, either because they were hereditary noblemen, or because they had been legitimately elected by some body. Though this would seem to exclude Ryan, it was further resolved, that the Committee could co-opt new members (presumably by voting), and that the petition committees of 1805 and 1807 be added. It was resolved to have a petition ready for the next session. It was further resolved that the above were not ‘representatives’, that they could collect subscriptions (towards their petition), and that Edward Hay be appointed Secretary to the aforesaid body (SNL 6 June 1809). The Committee on 5 July elected a sub-committee of peers and 21 gentlemen chosen by ballot. County gentlemen were free to attend its meetings. It met rarely and was often inquorate. Once again we can suspect that Keogh’s criticisms were behind this tortuous attempt at establish the legitimacy of the petitioning body. According to Luby, Keogh was opposed to petitioning. The Lord Lieutenant, Richmond, decided to ignore the new Catholic Committee.

Fr. Luke Concanen was still in Rome, and was still able to get some letters through to Troy. In fact Troy was the only way had had of communicating with his own metropolitan, Archbishop Carroll. On 20 May 1809, he wrote to Troy, and said he was translating Troy’s and Milner’s remarks on the veto for the benefit of the Pope. He informed Troy that his request for a co-adjutor had been granted. The bulls appointing Daniel Murray as bishop could not be dispatched, being too bulky. If the bulls cannot get through Troy will be allowed to consecrate Murray without them (Moran). He was almost starving for his money was running out, and could get no more.

Austria, inspired by the revolt in Spain, came back into the War and Napoleon immediately attacked it. The allies were now getting the measure of Napoleon, and he was never from this time onwards to have easy victories. The Austrians defeated him in a bloody battle at Aspern-Essling on 24 May, the first military defeat he ever suffered.

[July 1809] He recovered and defeated the Austrian army at Wagram on 5 July, and Austria agreed to the Treaty of Schoenbrunn in October. In May Napoleon ordered the arrest of the Pope, and the Pope was seized by Marshal Murat and was moved to a fortress in Savona in northern Italy which had recently been annexed to the French Empire. His Italian servants were not allowed access to him. The Pope issued a general excommunication, but did not specifically name Napoleon. In Spain, Wellesley cleared the French out of Portugal and advanced into central Spain along with a Spanish army. Though he defeated Marshal Victor’s superior army at Talavera (28 July), he could not maintain his position and had to retreat back to the Portuguese frontier. He was raised to the peerage as Viscount Wellington; Wellington in Somerset being the supposed place from whence the Wellesleys came to Ireland in the twelfth or thirteenth century. Arthur Wellesley is hereafter referred to as Wellington. 

            [October 1809] The Duke of Portland’s health was visibly declining, and Canning was plotting behind Castlereagh’s back to succeed him as prime minister. They fought a duel and both resigned from the ministry. Portland himself resigned in October 1809 and shortly afterwards (30 October) he died. Spencer Perceval asked Grey and Grenville to join the cabinet. They declined unless a pledge to do something for the Catholics was included. Perceval managed to put together a cabinet, with neither Castlereagh nor Canning in it, and his majority in Parliament was always doubtful. With regard to Ireland, Wellington’s brother, William Wellesley-Pole, became Irish Secretary. (In 1788, William Wellesley added Pole to his name on inheriting the estates of his cousin William Pole. He was the second son of Garret Wellesley, first Earl of Mornington; Arthur was the fourth son.) It was commented on at the time that accepting the posts of Irish Secretary and Secretary to the Admiralty did not require resignation from parliament and re-election. James Warren Doyle was ordained a priest on 1 October 1809, having been four years in the Augustinian Order, and three years professed. It was common at the time for members of religious orders to be ordained after studying arts and before studying divinity. He was appointed to study divinity and teach logic (Fitzpatrick).

            [November 1809] The full Committee of the Catholics re-assembled on 8 November with 58 members present. A petition had been prepared but a sub-committee was set up to revise it. The meeting was very harmonious. The Committee met again on 13 November and accepted the revised petition.

The problem with petitions lay in the Preamble that set out the reasons for the petition. The language in this had to be carefully modulated. There was a great difference between petitioning for a favour and demanding a right. However strongly individuals might feel about it, the difficulties from which the petitioners begged for relief should never be attributed to the present Government. Still less should it be stated or implied that Parliament acted unlawfully or illegally. The language should be dignified, and not whining or pleading. Some people like Keogh never grasped this point, or else considered that ordinary people ought to be able to demand rights. To take this latter attitude was to chase two hares at the same time. For Catholics, it could be pointed out that the laws against them were passed in totally different times, that the reasons for them no longer applied, and that their continuance led to considerable and unnecessary disadvantages to some of His Majesty’s loyal subjects, and so to His Majesty himself. The procedure originated in the Middle Ages. The king with his council could issue statutes. If a particular group of people, for example those living in a particular town, wanted a statute passed in their favour, they had to petition the crown, and later the Houses of Parliament, for the statute. In the course of time all laws were passed by the king in parliament. In the present case, the revising committee that included the Earl of Fingall and Daniel O’Connell produced a text satisfactory to those present. Fingall sent the petition to Grattan who acknowledged its receipt in December. The Earl of Donoughmore agreed to present a petition from the Catholics in Cork, and his brother, Mr Hutchinson, promised to do the same in the Commons.

A certain change in attitude in favour of the Catholics was discerned when the sheriffs of Dublin city summoned Catholic gentlemen to the city Grand Jury for the first time in centuries. Fifteen years previously, after the passing of the 1793 Act, Catholics had been deliberately excluded from the city Grand Jury. Among those summoned were Nicholas Mahon, James Edward Byrne, John Burke and Val O’Connor. On 30 November 1809 Daniel Murray was consecrated co-adjutor bishop of Dublin with the personal title of Archbishop. He had not the jurisdictional powers of an archbishop, or indeed of any bishop, being merely Troy’s assistant, with whatever powers Troy delegated to him. Powers delegated to co-adjutor bishops were usually very extensive as the aged incumbent realised he was not able to cope with the work in his diocese. It seems that Archbishop Murray was largely employed in visiting the parishes outside the city, and presiding over the work on the new cathedral when it was commenced. Even Daniel O’Connell did not realise he was not really an archbishop. About the same time Dr Flynn of Achonry was consecrated bishop. These were the last bishops to be appointed until the Pope was released from French captivity.

In the Peninsula Wellington, when the winter rains stopped campaigning, was safely back in Portugal. He knew that he could defend Portugal indefinitely, if given the necessary support in men and cash. The problem lay with Parliament where support for Perceval was always doubtful. Perceval could not even get anyone to act as Chancellor of the Exchequer, so he had to undertake that job himself. It appeared that support for the Whigs and the peace party was growing. A defeat like that of Sir John Moore would bring down the government. Wellington assured Lord Liverpool, now at the War Office, that he could hold out in Portugal, and he commenced fortifying the ‘lines’ (system of defence) at Torres Vedras, but they were not used this winter. The Marquis Wellesley accepted the post at the Foreign Office, and was replaced in Seville by his brother Henry. The Earl of Fingall’s eldest son, Lord Killeen was sent to Edinburgh university to study, and Fingall himself was now residing in that city.

 Coxe Hippisley was bustling about and kept up a correspondence with Fingall and Troy offering his advice on a veto scheme of his own. Lord Grenville was in Oxford canvassing before the election of the chancellor of the university which was noted as a stronghold of anti-popery, His pro-Catholic views had little effect on his candidacy, and this was considered a favourable omen. He was duly elected. Hippisley, writing to Fingall on 21 December 1809, stated

‘Lord Grey has expressed to me his anxious wish that some new ground should be taken to support your friends in Parliament – something to that effect, and assuredly, it will be difficult to deny the right of a government to interfere so far as to say that you shall not send the name of a rebel to Rome to receive institution to the exercise of an office, though merely spiritual within the realm, which office necessarily must have a great influence on the minds of those of your communion, and every mind is not strong enough to discern the limits of a spiritual and temporal influence’ (Fingall Papers PRONI).

Milner had by now turned against the veto and had written to Hippisley to tell him so.  [Top]


The Fifth Resolution and its Aftermath (January to December 1810)

[January 1810] The session of Parliament commenced on 22 January 1810 It was rumoured that the English Catholics were going to concede the veto (DEP 16 January 1810). On 16 January the Post clarified that it was the English lay Catholics who were making the concession. They were expecting daily to be called to form a government, and wanted above all to avoid a debacle like that which befell Ponsonby eighteen months earlier. Perceval however survived an attack on him in the vote on the King’s Speech. Parliament still preferred Perceval.

The Irish Catholic petition was left in the ‘Committee Room’ in Crow Street for signing.  Edward Hay seems to have maintained some permanent office in Dublin. Hay wrote to Bishop Douglass in London that never before had he seen such an outcry against the Bill, the veto, and the English laity. Douglass told his co-adjutor Poynter (26 Jan 1810) that the Whig leaders were getting rather tired of the Irish Catholics, and that Coxe Hippisley was merely sounding out possible grounds for an agreement. This was regarded in Ireland as a Government plot. The new Secretary of the English Catholic Board, Jerningham who had replaced Charles Butler, wrote to Troy that the English were guided by the Irish, and would put off their next meeting until 1 February so that the Irish deputies with their petition could be present. Troy wrote back to say that if any Irish bishop were to advocate the veto he would be regarded as an apostate (Ward II). Hay then sailed for England.

            Concanen wrote to Troy on the 3 January 1810, and noted that though Murray had the title of archbishop he would not received the official insignia, the pallium, until he succeeded to Dublin. He said nothing could be done about the appointment of any new bishops until the Pope returned from captivity, as he had not delegated this faculty. He wrote again on 26 January that the Irish bishops must make up their own minds on the veto as no instruction on the matter can now come from Rome. The archbishop of Tuam had died, and Oliver Kelly’s name had been put forward for the see, but no decision could be made (Moran). Pius was refusing to appoint Napoleon’s nominees to vacant French sees at this time. Napoleon decided to transfer the Pope and his attendants to Paris.

            The Whig leaders wanted a firm commitment from the Catholics that some definite form of security would be offered. Grenville wrote to Fingall on 22 January 1810 advising against petitioning at this time. He had twice presented the Catholic position in the Lords though he had disagreed with the timing. This third time was unsuitable as the Government was very hostile and also because of the ‘unexpected difficulties which have arisen in Ireland’. He reminded Fingall that the reasons put forward for granting Emancipation were the peace and happiness of Ireland and the union of the Empire in affection as well as government. To achieve these ends it was insufficient merely to repeal the few remaining statutes. Other extensive and complicated arrangements must be made for the maintenance of the civil and religious establishments of this United Kingdom; many contending interests must be reconciled, many jealousies allayed, many long cherished and mutually destructive prejudices eradicated. Among the measures to be taken must be the vesting in the crown an ‘efficient negative on the appointment of your bishops’. Anxiety on this score had been heightened by the capture of the Pope, and Napoleon’s declaration that he would appoint future Popes. On the precise nature of the Securities to allay Protestant suspicion etc. there need not be a quibble, but there must be some. He noted that there was no ecclesiastical objection to these proposals for the Catholic Church had conceded them with other Governments. He would in these circumstances present the petition but would make no motion on it (DEP 30 January 1810, where the letter was printed in full).

            Grenville was pointing out that there were two parties in this dispute, and there must be some give and take. There were prejudices of long standing to be removed and mutual jealousies to be allayed. The Catholics might want the full restoration of their civil rights, but many Protestants feared for their cherished liberties. He did not refer to the constant terrorist campaign directed against Protestants, or to the enthusiasm with which some Catholics embraced the French Revolution. Memories on either side were very selective in these regards. But he did point out that the Pope was held captive by Napoleon. It would seem from the tone of this letter that Grenville required the Securities in a Bill purely in order to allay Protestant fears, and so to allow the passage of the Bill through Parliament. Whether they remained a dead letter afterwards does not appear to have concerned him. Nor does he seem to have believed that any group of senior and responsible Irish priests in any diocese would actually send the name of a rebel priest to the Pope. After all, only a small handful of Irish Catholic priests had participated in the insurrection in 1798. But Protestant popular memories, like those of the Catholics, went back to the time of Cromwell 150 years earlier, when the Catholic bishops allied themselves with the papal nuncio Archbishop Rinuccini to gain the help of either France or Spain and to import arms and ammunition. Ward believed that Earl Grey (Lord Howick; 2nd Earl Grey 1807) had no intention of seeking a veto. One should not confuse the approach of the Whigs with that of Castlereagh and Canning.

 Once again, it is hard to discern why the Irish Catholics reacted so violently to any proposal concerning a Security, but it is clear from Hay’s letter that this was the case. The matter did not concern the laity, nor were the bishops at that time taking any part in secular politics. It was not until 1812 that any priest engaged in political activity of any kind, and it was not until the 1830’s that clerical participation in secular politics took place on any large scale. Once again we are left with the impression that if Keogh could find any flames of suspicion to fan, he would do his best to fan them. But again, as Hay warns us, distrust was deepest in rural areas, where Keogh’s influence was minimal. Luby, in his Life of O’Connell, says that he believed that Keogh at this stage preferred that the cause should fail, rather than that another person should get the credit for success.

 So the chief cause was probably the mutual distrust of Catholics and Protestants who had been separated into two different groups for centuries, with each side believing that the other was attempting something underhand. As MacHale on the Catholic side many years later constantly warned his hearers to beware of the Greeks even when they are bringing gifts. A few years later, when the Tory Government began giving public money to education, its primary concern was that all Irish children should be educated in the same schools so that the centuries old barriers of prejudice could be broken down. It is to this prejudice or lack of it that we can trace the divisions between the English Catholics and Irish Catholics, and between the vetoists and anti-vetoists in Ireland.

Daniel O’Connell did not yet to make his bid to be the leader of the Catholics. Nobody appears to have been disputing Fingall’s position as the Catholic leader. O’Connell, by the standards of the time was a rather poorly educated man. His schooling was interrupted by the French Revolution. Though he doubtless had a schoolboy’s knowledge of Latin he never matriculated in any university. Nor did he study for any law degree; all that was required was that he reside in the Inns of Court in London for some terms before being called to the Irish bar. Like Doyle and MacHale he was largely self-taught. The fact that cases could be deferred until the next term (traverse in prox) meant that any barrister had plenty of time to look up relevant points of law. Other rising Irish Catholic barristers at the time like Richard Lalor Sheil and Nicholas Ball had the benefit of a full proper grammar school education and degrees from Trinity College, before keeping terms in London. Even Lord Killeen was sent to university. Until his dying day O’Connell never understood Protestant prejudices or saw any need to remove them or to make allowances for them. He was at his best playing on the prejudices of his fellow-Catholics from Munster for he shared their prejudices.  He probably shared their belief that all the thousands of jobs from which they had been unjustly excluded because of their religion should be instantly handed back to them. (When full Emancipation was finally conceded in 1829, it occurred at a time when some qualifications were beginning to be required for various posts, such as an ability to read or do arithmetic. So the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act (1829) made virtually no difference to most Catholics, leading to a great sense of disillusionment. O’Connell was then able to harness this in his campaign for Repeal.

            Lord Grey too spelt out the requirement for the English Catholics,

‘the Catholics should declare by some instrument that they are ready and prepared to give some pledge which should not be repugnant to the principles of their religion respecting the loyalty of those who should be appointed to the prelacy’.

 Poynter was unable to accept this condition. The English Catholics felt unable to give any pledge before the arrival of the Irish deputies. So a further meeting with the Whig leaders had to be held. But on the eve of the English meeting they agreed with Lord Grey, ‘that only a general declaration should be made, which would express what the Catholics were prepared to do on their part, those things which, while they were conformable to their religion, might at the same time give mutual satisfaction to Government and the Catholics’ (Ward II). As the meeting was to take place the following day a resolution was drafted by Grey, Grenville, Jerningham, Charles Butler, Throckmorton, and Silvertop

            ‘That the English Roman Catholics, in soliciting the attention of Parliament to their petition are actuated not more by a sense of the hardships and disabilities under which they labour than by a desire to secure on the most solid foundation the peace and harmony of the British Empire, and to obtain for themselves opportunities of manifesting by the most active exertions their zeal and interest in the common cause in which their country is engaged for maintenance of its freedom and independence;  and that they are firmly persuaded that adequate provision for the maintenance of the civil and religious establishments of this kingdom may be made consistently with the strictest adherence on their part to the tenets and discipline of the Roman Catholic religion;

            And that any arrangement on the basis of mutual satisfaction and security, and extending to them the full enjoyment of the civil constitution of their country will meet with their grateful concurrence’ (Ward II).

            The text was shown to Milner who did not object. This Resolution was called ‘The Fifth Resolution’. To include it in the English petition it was necessary for those present at the meeting to sign it. It was made clear by all the vicars apostolic that they were not negotiating with regard to a royal veto or other security, but only expressing a willingness to co-operate with the lay Catholics and the Government to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

            [February 1810] The English Catholic meeting was held on 1 February 1810 in St. Alban’s Tavern, with Lord Stourton in the chair in the absence of Lord Shrewsbury. About a hundred gentlemen were present. It was made clear to the meeting, and by writing to Bishop Clifford who was absent, that no specific proposals were being made, and that no veto was intended. All the vicars apostolic and their co-adjutors except Milner signed the Resolution. One can only suspect that because Butler had a hand in the drafting he suspected that Gallicanism must lurk there somewhere. Ward treats Milner very gently, but he was quite unbalanced on this topic. Unfortunately, the Irish bishops accepted Milner’s interpretation against the combined testimony of the other seven vicars apostolic. As Ward observes,

            ‘…it is only fair to the Irish bishops to remember that their views on the English Catholic affairs were all derived from a single source. In his letters to Ireland Milner wrote without restraint, in his most partisan style, and Dr Troy accepted his accounts without question’.

        Milner never got the London Districted he wanted and the Irish bishops could only secure for him permission to reside in London briefly from time to time. Charles Butler on the other hand lived in London and was in frequent contact and was in frequent contact with the Whig leaders. Some of the English Catholic nobles contributed largely to the expenses of the London District, so in Milner’s view Douglass and Poynter were their pawns. Milner also wrote endlessly to Rome about this supposed Gallican plot. The other vicars apostolic finally refused to summon him to their meetings because he monopolised the discussions, and then immediately rushed into print, misquoting everybody. They finally refused to speak to him at all except in the presence of independent witnesses.

            The Irish Catholics met on 13 February and refused to consider the veto in any form. Lord Grey presented the English petitions but did not make any motion upon them. On 27 February 1810 the Irish bishops met and passed the following resolutions: that only bishops should discuss matters of doctrine and discipline; that the resolutions of 1808 were confirmed, that the oath of loyalty was a sufficient security, that the Pope had no temporal jurisdiction in Ireland so there was nothing wrong with the present mode of appointing Irish bishops; and that the bishops did not desire or seek any provision from the state for their clergy. These resolutions were missing the point which was that Grenville and Grey needed something to allay Protestant suspicions. The bishops treated them as if they were the most uncompromising members of Perceval’s cabinet. And even Perceval himself desired nothing more than to leave matters as they were.

 It would seem from Luby’s Life of O’Connell that the first division in Ireland between the ‘vetoists’ and ‘anti-vetoists’ occurred at this time. Though Luby may be placing here an episode which happened later. At a meeting in Limerick O’Connell opposed Stephen Woulfe, later Chief Baron of the Exchequer, on the question of securities and he told the story of how a wolf was trying to persuade the sheep to give up the protection of the sheepdogs.

Woulfe observed ‘How useless it is to contend with O’Connell! Here I have made an oration that I had been elaborating for three weeks previously, and this man entirely demolishes the effect of all my rhetoric by a flash of humour and a pun upon my name’.

But in this lay the secret of O’Connell’s success before country juries and popular audiences. He made them laugh.

            [March 1810] On 2 March 1810 the General Committee of the Catholics of Ireland, all 400 of them, met at D’Arcy’s in Earl Street, with Lord Ffrench in the chair. Troy’s new co-adjutor Archbishop Murray attended, and read out a communication from the bishops. A resolution was proposed and passed ‘That as Irishmen and as Catholics we never can consent to any dominion or control whatever over the appointment of our prelates on the part of the crown or the servants of the crown’. The Committee gave ample discretion to Fingall to deal with Henry Grattan, and the Acting Secretary of the Committee, Daniel O’Connell, was asked to communicate this to Fingall, together with a resolution of thanks to Fingall for his exertions (Fingall Papers PRONI. Hay presumably was still in England). On 8 March the Earl of Donoughmore presented the Irish petition in the Lords and his brother Mr Hutchinson did the same in the Commons. Grattan also presented petitions from other places, but said he was no longer allowed to offer securities. He said he preferred to believe that he had been mistaken rather than that the Catholics had changed their policies. Ponsonby, some months later, placed the blame squarely on Milner, saying that Milner had stated clearly that a veto would be conceded.

            The Irish bishops issued a pastoral letter in which they stated their position clearly. They pointed out that at this time the Irish bishops were being given their due weight in the selection of bishops for Irish sees, and that other influences customary in the past were now being given lesser weight. Foreign temporal influences and corrupt recommendations were being gradually excluded, so that everyone knew that bishops in Ireland were only appointed for the good of religion. It is clear from this that the bishops hoped that eventually only the recommendations of the Irish bishops would be heeded by the Holy See.  They expressly excluded the restriction of choice of a bishop to the chapters of the vacant diocese even if subject to confirmation by the archbishop of the province. They added

            ‘That by an act of the same day as these presents and encyclical to the Roman Catholic churches, we have judged, concluded, and declared that during the public captivity of his said Holiness, and until his freedom shall be unequivocally manifested by some act not merely of approbation or cession, we refuse, send back, and reprobate – and moreover for ourselves we annul and cancel as to any effect all Briefs, Bulls, or pretended Bulls and Rescripts even as of his proper motion [motu proprio] and certain knowledge, bearing title as from his said Holiness and purporting to be declaratory of his free will, or of any resignation of the papal office, and that during the said captivity of Pius VII we will account the years of his pontificate and no other (DEP 20 March 1810).If the Pope were to die they would regard the Holy See as vacant till proof were given of the ‘free, canonical, and due election of his successor’ (DEP 20 March 1810).

            If this declaration had come from the English vicars apostolic Milner would have found his worst suspicions of Gallicanism proved to the hilt. But the Irish bishops, in their ‘encyclical’ were dealing with a wider issue than the veto. Most Catholic bishops not under Napoleon’s control were in British territories, or in Spanish and Portuguese colonies. No instructions had been circulated to the bishops as to what was to be done in the event of the Pope’s death in captivity, or an attempt by Napoleon to impose his own choice on the ensuing conclave. (The Pope may have made such provision, but it was not communicated to the bishops.) There was indeed a rumour circulating that the next Pope would be a Frenchman who would live at Avignon. Sometime earlier, Archbishop Carroll of Baltimore had written to Troy suggesting that the Irish bishops, in concert with the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking bishops should concert common measures. Now in March 1810, he suggested to Troy that if the Pope did die, those bishops not under Napoleon’s control should themselves elect a Pope and ignore any decision by cardinals under French control (Carroll to Troy 21 March 1810, Moran). The Pope was sixty eight years old, a very old man at that period. When Carroll received his copy of the ‘encyclical’ he replied expressing his concurrence.

            There was a sharp exchange of letters later in the year between Troy and Poynter. Troy accused the English vicars apostolic of giving a carte blanche to Grenville when they subscribed to the Fifth Resolution drawn up by a panel of laymen, some of whom were long notorious for laxity of principle and possessing a daring spirit of innovation in matter of religion. The Resolution was drawn up specifically to get round the previously expressed resolutions of the Irish bishops. They had furthermore ignored the recommendation of their zealous and enlightened colleague Dr Milner. To which Poynter replied that the vicars apostolic did not and never had supported a veto, and in any case they were not subject to the Irish bishops. Troy made matters worse, when at Milner’s instigation he tried to interfere in the London District regarding a priest alleged by Milner to be a Gallican. The exchange of letters continued for several weeks, with neither bishop giving way an inch. Poynter believed that Troy always wrote to Milner for instructions before replying to Poynter’s letters (Ward II). Ward notes that Lord Grey had disclaimed any intention of interfering with the principles or discipline of the Catholic Church. One can only wonder why the Irish bishops continued to support Milner who had lost the support of all his own colleagues.

            At this time some Irish Catholics were beginning to realise that something more than had been proposed would have to be done to allay the fears of the Protestants. At a meeting in Tipperary on 31 March, it was felt that the security could be afforded if the choice of the bishops should be confined to British subjects of known loyalty. The choice would be ‘substantially domestic’

‘Either by the votes of the surviving prelates or by the choice of the clergy of the diocese or by other such proceeding as shall be found compatible with Catholic doctrine’ (DEP 12 April 1810).

This solution, which became known as ‘Domestic Nomination’ was to cause as much trouble as any of the other solutions. Though the term originally meant choice or election by loyal subjects of the king of a name to be sent to the Pope for confirmation, in the rapidly changing circumstances of the early nineteenth century it came to have a more specific meaning. This was the right of parish priests to join together and select names for transmission to Rome. This fell foul of the undeclared plan of the bishops for the greatest weight in the selection of bishops, or even the exclusive right, should be accorded to themselves. O’Connell testified before Parliament in 1825 that the custom of parish priests meeting to elect a new bishop was quite recent, not dating back more than eight or ten years. This development may have occurred earlier in some dioceses for there was no uniform rule. Lord Killeen testified that the bishops objected to this practice (Evidence). As most laymen had only the vaguest idea how candidates for the episcopacy were selected, the publishing of results in the newspapers of the elections by the priests of various dioceses probably gave rise to the idea that this was the proper canonical procedure. In 1790 the sixty priests of the London District met to choose three names to send to Rome. Propaganda replied that this was a novelty, and asked the other vicars apostolic to send names (Ward I). Dr Doyle, in 1825 before the House of Lords, was unable to state what would happen if the Pope rejected all the names sent to him, for to his knowledge this had never occurred. He said that he did not believe that in dioceses in Ireland election was by the chapter alone, but by the chapter at times with the concurrence of the bishops of the province. In other cases all the clergy of the diocese selected a successor, and they too got the concurrence of the bishops. It is clear that by this time the bishops of the province had secured a right to take part in the selection of a bishop in their province (Evidence).

            The desire of the bishops was far from unreasonable. Various diocesan archives from this period show that an episcopal election in a diocese could degenerate into an open contest for power between different factions within the diocese. The clergy in Armagh were split into three different factions, those from county Louth, those from county Armagh, and those from county Tyrone, these divisions having originated in the Middle Ages. In other dioceses there were powerful clerical families dating back perhaps for centuries, which had supplied numerous priests and bishops to the diocese. The family that succeeded in getting its choice of bishop adopted stood to gain most from the various promotions that he made. (Diocesan archives do not necessarily present a complete picture, and the disputes they record are not necessarily typical. But they show us they did occur and explain why the bishops of a province might want to keep the selection of bishops as far as possible in their own hands.) Rome eventually in 1829 conceded the right of the parish priests to forward names. Dr Doyle was strongly opposed to leaving the choice of a bishop solely to the clergy of the vacant diocese. He maintained that everyone aspiring to the office of bishop would court the favour of the electors, their friends would be equally active, the great men of the parishes would be engaged, favours would be conferred and returned, simony would eventually prevail. If discipline in a diocese had become relaxed would they not prevent the election of a reforming priest (Fitzpatrick, Life of Dr Doyle. Actually, though the discipline of the clergy in Kildare and Leighlin had become rather slack they chose the best priest available, Dr Doyle himself. But one can see Doyle’s point.)

            But there was another issue, and that was whether Domestic Nomination excluded the right of the Pope himself to put forward a name. People like Grattan intended excluding nominations by people like Napoleon, but did the words mean excluding original nomination by the Pope himself? O’Connell testified that both the clergy and laity objected to original nomination by Rome. It would seem too that bishops like Dr Doyle would have preferred the restoration of the pre-Reformation right of election. When the bull was issued in 1829 the supreme right of the Pope to choose anybody he wanted was retained.

            [April 1810] On 19 April Grattan informed Lord Fingall that he would not mention the veto in his speech on the motion he was bringing forward, but would concentrate instead on ‘domestic nomination’. He added that he had received a strange letter from Dr. Milner – he seems to be very wild entirely misinformed on the subject of my motion. I will show you his letter when I see you (Fingall Papers NLI).

            [May 1810] In May 1810 Grattan, supported by Coxe Hippisley brought forward a motion to establish a committee to consider the claims of the Catholics on the Catholic question. He said that the security he was offering would be domestic nomination. Unlike Grattan, Ponsonby was determined to set the record straight regarding the veto, and said that on the previous occasion he had been acting on information supplied to him by Dr. Milner in a discussion lasting over two hours, and also that Milner had put the matter in writing. He read out Milner’s letter on the subject in which he clearly stated that the Catholic bishops of Ireland were willing to give a direct negative power to the king’s ministers. He also said that his proposed veto would not go beyond what Milner himself had proposed He had therefore been astonished some time later to see a publication in Ireland in which Milner stated the exact opposite (DEP 31 May 1810). The debate was perhaps most notable for the fact that for the first time since the fall of the Talents’ Ministry, a member of Portland’s cabinet spoke in favour of Emancipation. Castlereagh, now out of office, decided that he could once more support the Catholics. But the Catholic ultras were not pleased when he said that he would accede to their claims ‘as soon as he saw a proper disposition on their part to abandon tenets that were subversive to the British constitution’ (SNL 30 May 1810). Canning opposed Grattan’s motion saying that the time was not ripe for it. Grattan’s motion was defeated. The Dublin Evening Post noted that the majority against the Catholics in 1805 was 212, in 1808 153, and in 1810 only 105.

            The Earl of Donoughmore replaced Lord Grenville as the champion of the Catholics in the Lord’s. He was still at this time a member of the Prince of Wales' circle. In the debate Lord Liverpool insisted that Emancipation would not be conceded unless securities were conceded. The Whig leaders asked the English Catholic leaders to state plainly that Milner did not represent their views. This assurance they gave on 29 May. The Duke of Wellington noted later that after 1810 it was only possible to construct a cabinet on the ‘open principle’, namely that each minister was free to follow his own conviction on the Catholic Question.

            [June 1810] Moran cites an interesting letter from Concanen to Troy that throws an interesting light on conditions at the time.

            I shall make every attempt to get from Mr Paul [the Pope] what you and your companions called for. I well perceive the great need there is of his compliance and therefore send him an epilogo of the whole business. He does some things at his country house, whereas very little is done at his shop. It is for fear of Mr Martin [Napoleon] that Oliver Kelly has not been served ere now (Moran).

Letters had to smuggled in and out of the Pope’s rooms by his servants, and one servant who had legible handwriting was employed to write the Pope’s communications. A smuggling organisation grew up for this purpose, until in January 1811 Napoleon ordered a search of the Pope’s rooms, and brought various charges against some of the Pope’s household

[July 1810] On 13 July 1810 there was a stormy meeting of the Catholics at the Farming Repository, Stephen’s Green, in Dublin with Dr Sheridan in the chair. The old argument whether or not to petition raged. O’Connell’s motion for a committee to continue petitioning was defeated by 162 votes to 112.He then put a motion for an adjournment. His courtroom tactics stirred up a riot with people jumping on to the tables which collapsed under them. O’Gorman put forward a motion that they should elect delegates. Keogh claimed he was being attacked in the press where he was accused of having secret dealings and private negotiations with Mr (afterwards Sir) Evan Nepean in 1793. Shortly afterwards James Ryan published his account of what had happened in 1804. The meeting adjourned to November. Milner wrote several letters to The Statesman of Wolverhampton in Staffordshire trying to justify himself with regard to the veto.

            Perceval’s government staggered on until the end of the session of Parliament at the end of June. A modest Irish Arms Act (1810) and a limited Insurrection Act (1810) were passed to deal with possible outbreaks of terrorism or insurrection.

            [September 1810] On 18 September 1810 a public meeting against the Act of Union was held in Dublin. Luby dates the rise of O’Connell’s influence from that meeting. During the autumn rains Wellington retreated behind the fortified lines at Torres Vedras, fighting the battle of Busaco on the way in order to prop up Perceval’s government. Marshal Massena now commanded the French forces. Massena came up to the lines, and made a personal reconnaissance of them on 14 October. He decided not to attack, and drew back short distance from them. His army was caught in the open in the wintry rainy season without supplies. Gradually, as sickness and hunger increased in his army he had to retreat further. The 14 October proved to be the turning point in the War. The Czar of Russia began to defy Napoleon and to admit British merchandise.

            [November 1810] The Irish Catholics re-assembled on 2 November 1810, with O’Connell unusually in the chair. The moderate Catholics wished to confine themselves to one point, namely to seeking Emancipation. Increasingly O’Connell sought to interfere in all sorts of causes that had little connection with the Catholic cause. Technically he might claim that he did not breach the letter of the Convention Act (1793), but that Act was passed to prevent assemblies, purporting to be representative of the people, discussing matters which were the proper affairs of parliament. This meeting was chiefly famous for the fact that an inflammatory journalist called Peter Finnerty, who had long lived in London and who had been prosecuted in 1798 for helping the United Irishmen, was asked to speak. Tact was never a strong point of O’Connell. Finnerty was at this time publishing attack on Castlereagh’s conduct of the War, and two months later he was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for libel.(There was indeed much to criticise about the Walcheren Expedition to the Low Countries in 1809 when most of the troops involved contracted a particularly virulent and persistent form of malaria, and were rendered useless for the rest of their lives.) Several meetings of the Catholic Committee were held at this time, with O’Connell obviously trying to find work for it to do. But a clear majority determined to continue petitioning come what might.

Parliament re-assembled on 29 November but by this time the king was unable to speak.

[December 1810] In December a sub-committee was established to examine alleged Catholic grievances, and undertook to defend a Catholic soldier. Wellesley Pole pointed out that these activities contravened the Convention Act. The Committee met regularly in December, and on 15 December O’Connell proposed that they should study how to concert their actions with the gentlemen in the country. He was of course aware that opinions in the country parts were closer to his own than to those of the aristocratic party. At a meeting on 22 December Counsellor Hussey defended Grattan’s record with regard to the veto. O’Connell said he would prefer if the Earl of Fingall did not deal with both the petition for Emancipation and the proposed address to the new Regent. At the last meeting in the year on 30 December 1810, it was decided that delegates should accompany Lord Fingall to London. O’Connell said that there would be an Emancipation Bill shortly, and it would be necessary to have some Catholic lawyers in London to ‘prepare, advise, and examine’ any bill being presented to Parliament (RWC 5 January 1811).

        The king’s mind finally gave way. A parliamentary committee was set up to examine the medical evidence. It was agreed that the king was no longer capable, but discussion concerning the form of the regency continued until February 1811. The state of the king’s mind was public knowledge in Dublin from December. Perceval out-manoeuvred the Whigs by getting parliament to agree to a restricted regency for one year. This of course displeased the Prince of Wales, and he associated himself with Lord Moira and Lord Hutchinson. The Whigs expected shortly to be in office.



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