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Chapter Five

The Fourth Phase 1811 to 1815 

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

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The Regency Question

January (1811 to January 1812) ...............................

The Open Principle in Cabinet

(February to December 1812) .................................

Canning’s Bill

(January to May 1813) ..............................................

Poynter’s Recourse to Rome

(June 1813 to April 1814) .................................................

The Quarantotti Rescript and the Genoese Letter

(May 1814 to June 1815) ..........................................



From now on until the end of his life, among the Irish Catholics O’Connell is too big to be ignored. But he was never the undisputed leader of the Irish Catholics, and for a large part of his life he was the leader of a smaller and more discredited part. His only real triumph was in the final campaign from 1824 to 1829, and this was only because he agreed to work with all the others involved and not against them. He was a man of extraordinary ability and energy.

            In this phase the initiative gradually passed from the Whigs to the moderate Tories like Castlereagh and Canning. In this phase too the Whigs finally lost their chance of coming to power, for the Prince of Wales rejected them. They had assumed that the Prince of Wales, when he became Prince Regent would favour the Catholics, but in the end he decided to retain his father’s ministers. It was to be another nineteen years under a different monarch before the Whigs were again called on to form a Government. Opinion among moderate Protestants was moving towards the Catholics, and all cabinets contained ministers both for and against further relief.

In this phase too the English Catholics seized the initiative from the Irish Catholics by being the first to refer the matter to Rome. This period can be divided into two parts, the first leading up to Canning’s near success in May 1813, and the second dealing with the subsequent appeal to Rome. It was several years after Canning’s failure before any serious attempt was made again. When it was understood in Rome that a Bill granting full emancipation to Catholics would be passed the Pope'’ representative in Rome Monsignor Quarantotti, in the Pope's name conceded the right of veto to the British Government.


The Regency Question January (1811 to January 1812)

            [January 1811] Negotiations between Prince George and Perceval continued. Perceval told the prince firmly that the conditions for the regency would include the same restrictions as the previous time. Wellington at Torres Vedras was increasingly confident that he had out-witted Massena, but he still had to convince Parliament at home. The ministry was defeated in Parliament more than once in January, and Prince George turned to Grenville and Grey, the Whig leaders in the Lords. He also consulted behind their backs Sheridan and Adam, Whig leaders in the Commons, which Grenville and Grey highly resented when they found out. They undertook to try to form a ministry provided George did not consult secret advisers again. They found out however that George, without consulting them, was already promising offices to particular friends, and that Sheridan was to be Irish Secretary. These proposed appointments they over-ruled. George consulted Lady Hertford and Mrs Fitzherbert (to whom George was secretly but illegally married, and they recommended accepting Perceval’s offer. On 4 February he announced that he would retain his father’s servant in office, and the Regency Bill was passed on 5 February. The Whigs could only console themselves with the fact that the restrictions would last only one year. The prince was influenced in his decision by the fact that his father was showing signs of recovery (DNB). The years 1811 to 1820 are known as the Regency. It was the period of some of the greatest military and diplomatic victories in British history. The term Regency as an adjective is also applied to the elegant styles in art and dress characteristic of this period.

The year began with a circular letter sent out by Edward Hay to the Catholic leaders in all the counties asking them to appoint managers of their affairs in Dublin. Presumably this word was chosen to circumvent the Convention Act (1793). O’Connell began his campaign by listing all the grievances of the Catholics. (These have been given in the first chapter; see SNL 17 January 1811.) He tried to get a system of collecting a Catholic Rent adopted but the Committee did not agree with him. This was still January and the Catholics were still full of confidence that they were on the verge of success. Lord Fingall and Lord Ffrench thought they might be in breach of the Convention Act, but O’Connell replied that the Committee had been empowered to deal with all Catholic affairs. If the Committee  was only a Dublin club, presumably it could deal with Catholic affairs. If its sole object was to petition parliament, again presumably it could seek signatures  from all over Ireland for their petition. But the combination of the two was highly risky.)

[February 1811] The Irish Secretary, Wellesley-Pole agreed with the two lords and on 11 February 1811 sent a circular letter to all the magistrates in the various counties warning them that an attempt to breach the Convention Act was about to take place, and pointing out their duty to arrest any delegates. The Catholic meetings continued in their stormy way in February, and George Keogh, son of John Keogh (2 February) attacked O’Connell, the rising star. (Another son of Keogh, Cornelius, was also on the committee.) He asked to know by what authority the enlarging of the committee was being carried out. O’Connell retorted by asking him how he got on the committee. It was explained that a power of co-option had been granted by a general public meeting. O’Connell explained it was necessary to publish the exact state of the Catholics. Even people like Grattan were unaware of the extent of Catholic exclusions. The Edinburgh Review thought that, beside the exclusion from Parliament, Catholics were only excluded from 40 military posts. In fact the total number of posts they were excluded from either by patronage or positive enactment exceeded 30,000 (SNL 8 February 1811. At the meeting on 9 February Fingall was attacked for supporting the Union and for voting thanks to Lord Talavera (Wellington). This last attack was made by a fiery man from Ulster called Barney Coile. A young man named Mr Sheil, described as an eighteen-year-old, also spoke. Richard Lalor Shiel, then about nineteen was finishing his arts degree in Trinity College.

        Some Irish magistrates at least considered that appointing delegates to represent rural interests in the Catholic Committee in Dublin was not a breach of the Convention Act. On 23 February Wellesley-Pole sent the Dublin Magistrate, Alderman Darley to disperse the Catholic Committee. He arrived before the meeting commenced, and when he enquired if this was the Catholic meeting, Lord Ffrench replied it was not. The meeting did not assemble until after the departure of the magistrate. Darley had no orders to disperse any other Catholic meeting, but only the Committee.

 Lord Moira (18 February) and the Whigs including Grattan bitterly attacked the Government for this action. They charged the Government with persecuting the Catholics. Lord Liverpool, who had little information about the actions of the Irish Government, had to try to defend the actions of the ministry as best he could. He was rescued by the Earl of Donoughmore who said he was not prepared to condemn the Government on the information available to him. He added that the object of the Catholics was well known, namely to meet to petition Parliament for Emancipation, and he was astonished that this measure had not the previous consent of the Regent and the Government. He also considered that asking country gentlemen to attend was merely to give weight to their petition. At Hay’s request he had personally delivered several copies of the circular, so there was nothing secret about the activity. To this Liverpool replied that their petition had already been agreed on and prepared before Hay’s letter was sent out, so that enlarging the Committee in this way must be for ulterior purposes. The addition of 338 extra delegates must be for some reason. It did not occur to him that the sole reason was to give Keogh’s and now O’Connell’s party extra leverage against the aristocratic party and their supporters. These might be fewer in numbers but were higher in rank (SNL 27 February). There was also the question of the jealousy of the country people who felt that those in Dublin were taking advantage of their exclusion by distance. Sir Henry Parnell noted that there was an objection to presenting up to thirty separate county petitions because nobody would have control over the language used and they might be asking for different things. He added that the proposal of county delegates came from Lord Fingall as being more conducive to rational debate than either Aggregate Meetings or separate county meetings  (FJ 14 Feb 1812).

[March 1811] An Aggregate Meeting of the Irish Catholics was called for 8 March in the private theatre, Fishamble Street, Dublin, in order to address a vote of loyalty to the Prince Regent according to custom. An Aggregate Meeting was simply a public meeting widely advertised beforehand to which all Catholic men were invited. Because of incessant complaints from the likes of Keogh of the non-representative character of particular meetings, all major decisions from about 1810 onwards were taken in Aggregate Meetings. If the sole purpose of the meeting was to petition Parliament these meetings were perfectly legal, and the Aggregate Meeting could pass resolutions establishing a Committee to carry out its will, and authorise it to do other things in connection with the petition such as collecting money for expenses, getting backers in Parliament, getting the petition engrossed in due form, and sending deputies to London to explain the circumstances to their parliamentary representatives. It seems to have been the case that when the petition was presented, or it was decided not to present it, the committee lapsed until it was given a new mandate.  It was apparently also lawful for a body of men to assemble to draw up and approve an Address to the monarch, and appoint a committee as above. These rules seem to have been evolving at this time judging by questions raised at various meetings of the Committee. It was clear however that the existing Committee had received no mandate to address the Regent so another Aggregate Meeting had to be held this purpose. The address was proposed by O’Connell and seconded by Cornelius Keogh. Major Bryan also wanted an address that would ask for the recall of the Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Richmond, but O’Connell considered this too divisive, and also that those who knew Richmond liked him and did not regard him in the way they regarded Perceval and Pole (SNL 9 March, 24 April). The matter was referred to a committee. Young Mr Sheil made a brilliant speech and his style was highly commended.

        The Catholic Committee met on 16 March to draw up two addresses, one to the Regent and the other for the removal of Richmond and Wellesley-Pole. The Committee found this latter task distasteful but proceeded with it because of the mandate of the Aggregate Meeting. The Committee continued to meet regularly with much squabbling usually involving the Keoghs who were carrying on a Dublin-wide campaign again O’Connell’s friend Major Bryan who appears to have been representing the country gentlemen. On 31 May Grattan presented the Catholic petition to a very thin House, and his motion was defeated. Donoughmore’s motion on the petition in the Lords was also defeated. Mr Hutchinson put of his Bill to repeal the Convention Act until the next session. The Catholic delegates who went to London to present the petitions included Lord Fingall, Lord Castlerosse (son of the Earl of Kenmare), Lord Southwell, Lord Killeen, Sir Hugh O’Reilly, Sir Francis Goold, and various Catholic gentlemen including Edward Hay and Major Bryan.

[March 1811] Meanwhile events in the Peninsula began to run Wellington’s way. Massena had kept his starving army as close to the lines as he could while he awaited reinforcements. But as the French stripped the country bare of food they had to retreat further and further to find it. Wellington had one great worry and that was that when the Prince of Wales became Regent he would bring in the Whigs who would promptly abandon Spain to Napoleon. The French were able to maintain themselves in Portugal for far longer than Wellington expected, and too long for their own good. But on 5 March 1811, Massena suddenly struck camp and retreated covered by a thick fog. They were thirty miles away before the British became aware of the fact. Wellington’s army, unlike Massena’s was well-fed, but had to make forced marches to catch up with the French. Massena had intended merely to withdraw to a part of Portugal where there was still food, and then resume his attack on Lisbon when the good weather came. He was out-manoeuvred by Wellington and the Portuguese militia under the Irish General, Sir Nicholas Trant, and on the 15 March 1811 he ordered his army to abandon all its equipment and hasten to the safety of the Spanish frontier. By the 8 April, Massena reached safety at his base at Salamanca, but had lost 25,000 men in the retreat. Wellington’s army was learning its trade, and had displayed an astonishing manoeuvrability in the pursuit of the French. The astonishing turn of events came as a great relief to Perceval’s ministry which was fast running out of money. The loss of trade caused by the Continental System had not yet been made good by the development of new markets especially in Spanish territories. Though the Whig chiefs were profuse in their congratulations in Parliament it could not be denied that Perceval as well as Wellington had won a victory. On 16 May Marshal Beresford (of the Waterford Beresfords) fought a French army under Marshal Soult at Albuera to a standstill in one of the bloodiest battles of the war in which neither general distinguished himself. Nevertheless the French were prevented from entering Portugal from the south while Wellington was engaged in the north.

At home John Foster in his seventy first year retired from the post of Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Wellesley-Pole undertook the work of this office beside his own. Milner renewed his attacks on Poynter and accused him of sheltering Gallican clergymen in his diocese. He considered Poynter remiss in not censuring a book written by a French émigré priest, the Abbè  Blanchard. As usual, Troy and the Irish bishops backed Milner. Poynter was correct in considering that it was a matter solely for himself as the responsible bishop, after consulting the Holy See, to decide.

[July 1811] The Big Committee established to petition the previous year decided that its mandate had now expired. An Aggregate Meeting was held on 9 July 1811 in the little Theatre, Fishamble Street with Lord Fingall in the chair. A new Committee was approved to consist of the members of the aristocracy, of the Catholic bishops, the members of the counties, the survivors of the 1793 delegates, and representatives of the Dublin parishes. These parish meetings seem to have been the places where the Keoghs felt most at home, for they had organised parish meetings against Major Bryan the previous year. The Dublin parishes proceeded to choose their representatives and on 30 July the Lord Lieutenant proclaimed the Committee thus constituted. In the month of July Fingall had several meetings with Wellesley-Pole who considered the Committee illegal, but neither could agree with the other. The Catholic Committee met the following day 31 July in the Committee Rooms, Capel Street.  and passed a resolution stating that its sole purpose was to petition Parliament, and its meeting were not under the pretence of preparing petitions, but actually preparing them. Many of the country magistrates too maintained that Wellesley-Pole was misinterpreting the Act. An eminent barrister was quoted by Saunders that a court case would have to be brought in the courts to establish the true interpretation of the law.

It is not obvious why Wellesley-Pole took such a strong line as he was usually a man of moderation and common sense. No doubt the driving force behind the move was Saurin the attorney general. But he was also influenced by a book recently published in Ireland by some Catholic saying that the Catholics had a legal right to three quarters of the land in Ireland. At that time Catholics held about one tenth of the land in fee i.e. they were the landowners. (Feudal theory stated that all land was held from the king, and owners of land in fee were supposed to be holding directly from the crown. These lands could be leased to others, and the Catholics held much more land by lease (O’Connell, Evidence). The implication of the book was that Catholics after Emancipation would seize back the lands in fee from the Protestants (Wellesley-Pole DNB). Wellesley-Pole gave a long account of his version of the affair to Parliament on 2 February 1812 (RWC 15 February 1812).

[September 1811] A Catholic meeting was held in Meath, and the lords Fingall, Netterville, Gormanston, and Killeen were chosen as the representatives of the county on the Catholic Committee. In Louth, Sir Edward Bellew, Lord Southwell, Francis Bellew, Michael Chester and others were chosen.

        [October 1811] The new Committee met at the Theatre, Fishamble Street on 19 October 1811 with Lord Fingall in the chair. Two policemen sat through the entire meeting to ensure it was a meeting of the Catholic Committee. The galleries were filled with spectators. Lord Netterville introduced the proposed petition to Parliament for Emancipation.

[November 1811] The case was brought in the Court of King’s Bench on 11 November 1811. Several members were charged with breaches of the Convention Act, and the City of Dublin Grand Jury found true bills against them. The defence objected to the composition of the Grand Jury claiming that the Government was ‘packing’ it (Keenan II). It was agreed that one delegate, Thomas Kirwan, should be tried and all would abide by the verdict. There was a lot of legal fencing regarding the composition of the jury, and whether liberi meant freeholders or freemen of the city. Judge Day decided that the latter meaning was tenable. Another lawyer for the defence suggested that the court was sitting on a commission of gaol delivery, but if the offence took place outside Dublin city it should proceed by writ of certiorari. To which it was replied that it could treat the case as one under the commission of oyer and terminer. Tricks of defence lawyers do no change much. The defence objections were over-ruled and the judges decided that the Grand Jury had been properly formed. A date was set for the case before the trial or petit jury and the case against the first defendant, Dr Sheridan, commenced. Luby notes that O’Connell, though he appeared for the defence could not be the leading counsellor, not having been called to the inner bar. Though Sheridan was found not guilty, the judges gave the necessary interpretation of the law, namely that delegated bodies were illegal, whether for the purpose of petitioning or for other purposes. The Government got the construction it needed and did not propose proceeding against any others for it could get the police to disperse any attempted illegal meeting.

[December 1811] In December the police broke up a proposed Committee meeting and removed Lord Fingall from the chair. But the attorney general, Saurin, the most bitterly anti-Catholic member of the Government was not satisfied and determined to proceed against the delegates from Meath and against those charged in the first batch including Thomas Kirwan, with new bills. This included lords from county Meath, and Wellesley-Pole’s family was also from Meath. An attorney general could proceed by ex officio informations without a Grand Jury. O’Connell too wanted the trials to proceed so the accused could be cleared  of charges of disaffection and treason. But Saurin replied that they were not charged with such. After the trial of Kirwan in February under differently worded charges when he was found guilty, the Government did not proceed with the other charges. Saurin entered a nolle prosequi to withdraw the prosecution. Kirwan was fined one mark.

An Aggregate Meeting was called on 27 December to petition, and this was perfectly legal. A letter from Milner to the editor of the Dublin Evening Post was published in which he stated that the English Catholics had a Catholic Board . Milner approved of the Catholic Board because it was not Butler’s Catholic Committee. However, he deplored the relations of some of them with Lord Grey over the veto. This appears to be the meeting at which the poet Shelley was present (Luby).

In the Peninsula Massena had counter-attacked in May but was repulsed by Wellington at Fuentos de Onoro a village on the Spanish-Portuguese border, a charge by the Connaught Rangers driving the French from the field. Marmont replaced Massena. Wellington’s first task was to capture the frontier fortresses of Badajos and Ciudad Rodrigo. He failed to take the first when Soult advanced again with a large army and the arrival of Marmont with fresh troops prevented him from taking the latter. During this time, his confidant was his brother William (Wellesley-Pole) to whom he could speak plainly about his difficulties. William always wrote back to cheer him up. In September Wellington withdrew to the safety of Portugal, and Marmont did not pursue him. Wellington’s army rested for three months until December 1811, and Napoleon came to their aid by transferring 15,000 men from Marmont’s army to Suchet’s on the opposite side of Spain.

 [January 1812] Napoleon was preoccupied with eastern Europe, so Wellington was gradually getting the upper hand over the dispersed French armies under different marshals. He was able to defeat them singly, but lacked the forces to deal with them if they combined.  Wellington commenced his campaign early by besieging Ciudad Rodrigo on 8 January 1812 and the fortress was taken by storm on the 19th.  He then besieged Badajoz, the siege commencing on 16 March and the place was taken by storm on 6 April. Wellington then marched his army north again to deal with Marmont. Marmont was now short of troops as Napoleon was preparing to invade Russia and was unwilling to attack unless he had the advantage. Wellington, too, ever short of troops, was unwilling to attack unless the advantage was with him. The fortune of the Catholic Question was closely linked to the fortune of the army in the Peninsula, and all parties eagerly studied the reports and prognostications coming from there. Napoleon later moved the Pope from Savona to the palace of Fontainebleau outside Paris. Napoleon was to attack Russia, an event commemorated among other places in Tchaikovosky’s Overture 1812.

As Wellington and Marmont were marching and counter-marching seeking the advantage, Wellington received much information on Marmont’s movements from a strange quarter. There was an Irish priest from co. Meath at the Irish College in Salamanca called Dr Patrick Curtis. He organised a system of spies and runners to bring information about the French to Wellington. At the same time he kept on good terms with the French so that they did not suspect him for a long time. Finally he was arrested as a spy, but was saved from death by an unexpected advance by Wellington. On the latter’s recommendation he was given a small government pension and he returned to Ireland where he lived quietly for some years. He was very respected by his former students amongst whom was Archbishop Murray. Curtis was to be archbishop of Armagh seventeen years later when Wellington introduced his own Emancipation Bill.

The fickle Prince Regent was growing tired of the War and tired of his ministers. He still was not ready however to recall the Whigs and he disliked Grenville and Grey. In September 1811 he began to cultivate close relations with the Marquis Wellesley. His chief interest was to secure the best deal he could for himself, with the revenues of the monarch’s civil list transferred to himself, and a modest provision being made for the king, queen, and princesses. He himself was in poor health and was constantly taking laudanum because of a sprained ankle. He was also grossly overweight. Wellesley, though still Foreign Secretary, was now in opposition to many of the cabinet because of his view that the Government itself should bring in an Emancipation Bill, and he resigned from the Government on 16 January. Parliament had re-assembled on 7 January, and the first point to be decided was making the Regency unrestricted, and making suitable provision for the Regent.

The hopes of the Whigs had been high in January 1812 as the restricted Regency came to an end. They were convinced that the Prince would send for the friends of his youth. The Regent invited Grenville and Grey to join the Government but framed his invitation in such a way that they would refuse. They insisted that Perceval should go, and that the Government would bring in an Emancipation Bill. Most importantly, they insisted that the Regent should get rid of the Hertfords (Butler. Donoughmore also detested the Hertfords, and this was to have strange consequences later.) These conditions the Prince would not accept. He was now very much under the influence of the Marchioness of Hertford, and when he had assumed the Regency he gave orders that Mrs Fitzherbert who was a Catholic should be given no official recognition. Perceval and his ministers had always been satisfied that Lady Hertford would prevail. The atmosphere between the leading Whigs and Lady Hertford’s party was poisonous. Lord Grey incurred the enmity of the Regent when during a speech in the Lords in January he attacked Lady Hertford as ‘unseen and pestilent secret influence which lurked behind the throne’ Grey DNB). Grenville and Grey were far more concerned about the Regent consulting Lady Hertford in private than about any conversation with the aged Sheridan.

Constitutionally, of course, the question was not that the monarch had no right to have his personal friends and take private advice from them. Indeed, thirty years later, Lord Melbourne pointed out the young Queen Victoria the impropriety of having only Whig Ladies of the Bedchamber when there was a Tory Government. The reason was that Lady Hertford was a strong supporter of Spencer Perceval, and a strong anti-Catholic. By the Constitution the ministers were the king’s advisers representing Parliament and the country. They did not want to be in a position of putting forward, as the monarch’s constitutional advisers, policies like Emancipation or making peace with the French, when he could then turn to an unconstitutional clique to have the advice overturned. Curiously, Lady Hertford, and her son Lord Yarmouth understood and accepted the conditions of the Whigs, but Prince George was unwilling to promise not to discuss politics with him. Many years later the Marchioness of Conyngham was in a similar position, but she used her influence to assist, not oppose, the then prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington.

The question remains why the Whigs were so bitter against Lady Hertford. They were very experienced in politics and used to its up and downs. Nor, as Regency gentlemen, were they likely to be concerned by the Prince’s morals which were not notably worse than those of other gentlemen at the time. Nor is even clear if their anger was directed primarily at Lady Hertford or at Spencer Perceval whom they particularly detested. It would seem however that the Earl of Donoughmore, his brother Baron Hutchinson, and Lord Moira, the long-standing companions of the Regent since their youth, felt themselves edged out by Lady Hertford’s party. Also, according to Roberts, Donoughmore felt he had been used by the Regent to pacify the Catholics, while at the same time listening to the advice of the anti-Catholics to do nothing for them. But the Regent had an intense personal dislike of Lord Grey. The fact remains that they were furious, and expressed their fury openly, and this openly expressed fury was to find its echo in the ‘Witchery Resolution’ some months later. More immediately, all these factors came into play in May after the assassination of Perceval (Roberts). The end of the matter was that the Prince Regent retained Perceval and his ministry. [Top]

The Open Principle in Cabinet (February to December 1812)

             [February 1812] Castlereagh rejoined the ministry on the understanding that a free vote on the Catholic question would be allowed. He got the post of Foreign Secretary just vacated by Wellesley. Though he favoured the Catholics, he did not wish to proceed with a Bill at that particular moment. Lord Sidmouth (Addington) also joined the ministry on the same condition as Castlereagh. Young Robert Peel had already accepted the office of Under-secretary for War. For a second time the Whigs missed their chance, and were to miss it a third time in May when Perceval was assassinated. Wellesley-Pole remained in office deciding that Arthur need his support more than Richard who confidently hoped shortly to be prime minister. Indeed the Regent would probably have preferred him, had he been able to secure a following in Parliament. Lord Moira had withdrawn from the Prince’s Carlton House circle after the Regent had retained Perceval the preceding year.

 The Irish Catholics set about organising a Catholic Board, no longer with delegates, and the merit of its name was that it was not called the Catholic Committee which Wellesley-Pole was authorised to suppress. An Aggregate Meeting was held on 28 February 1812 in Fishamble Street to transfer to it all the privileges, properties, and powers of the Catholic Committee. The Board was in fact composed of the same people who had composed the Catholic Committee. An address to the Regent and petitions to both Houses of Parliament were  approved and the Board met to select delegates to present it.

 [March 1812] The ballot took place on 4 March. Besides the nobility the following gentlemen were selected, George Bryan of Jenkinstown, Owen O’Connor of Ballenagare, John Burke of Glynsk, W.G. Bagot of Castlebagot, Randall MacDonnell of Dublin, Thomas Wyse of Waterford, John Lalor of Cranagh, Miles O’Donnell of London, Major General Ambrose O’Ferrall, Peter Bodkin Hussey of Dingle, and Dominic W.O’Reilly of Kildargan Castle. It will be noticed that with the exception of Randall MacDonnell all were country gentlemen. The Dublin barristers would have been on the legal circuits through the provinces. Edward Hay accompanied the delegates, and his alleged communication with ministers was later to form the basis of O’Connell’s attacks on him.

            Wellesley-Pole’s son William married Catherine Tylney-Long, an heiress, and added her names to his becoming the celebrated William Pole Tylney Long-Wellesley! (He was celebrated only for his name, and his obituary notice said he had not a single redeeming virtue). An Irish general petition for Emancipation open to Protestants was adopted. Protestant gentlemen with property in Ireland met in London, 3 March, with Earl Fitzwilliam in the chair. Among those who signed were the Dukes of Devonshire and Bedford, the Marquises of Lansdowne, Downshire, and Sligo, Earls Fitzwilliam, Moira, Essex, Derby, Bessborough, Darnley, Fortescue, Donoughmore, Temple, and Upper Ossory, Lords Dillon, Clifton, Ponsonby, Muskerry, and Duncannon. Among the commoners were Ponsonby, Grattan, Newport, and Parnell. In all about 4,000 Protestant gentlemen signed. Numerous local county meetings also were held to petition. The Earl of Fingall wrote to Mr Richard Ryder, the Home Secretary, enquiring how they should present the petition, and was informed that it could be presented at a levee. The Prince Regent received the Irish Catholic delegation at a levee, but refused a private meeting, and made no comment on the petition (FJ 19 June 1812, RWC 25 June 1812). (A levee was an afternoon session in which the monarch received only men. It was originally held in the morning after the king rose from bed.) The Earl of Fingall presented his son, Lord Killeen, now come of age, to the Regent. It should be noted that though Catholic lords were excluded from Parliament they never were excluded from Court, and in this respect had the same rights as Protestant peers.

            [April 1812] Donoughmore, seconded by the Duke of Sussex, the Regent’s brother, presented the Irish petition on 21 April 1812, but his motion was defeated. Donoughmore made a violent attack on Lady Hertford. He referred to her and her circle as an influence behind the throne, which ‘issuing forth from the inmost recesses of the gaming houses and the brothel presumes to place itself near the royal ear…an associate and adviser from Change Alley and from the stews’ (Roberts).  The number of supporters of the Catholics in the Lords was steadily increasing. The Marquis Wellesley made a notable speech in favour of the Catholics.

 On 20 April Mr Elliot in the Commons presented the English Catholic petition, and Mr Maurice Fitzgerald presented the petition of the Protestant gentlemen connected with Ireland. Wellesley-Pole conceded that the majority of Protestant gentlemen in Ireland now favoured Emancipation. He also stated that the Government had not exercised any influence or pressure on those asked to sign the petition. He found himself on the same side as Protestant hard-liners like Patrick Duigenan. On 23 April Grattan presented the principal Irish Catholic petition. He proposed a motion to consider the Catholic claims but it was defeated by 82 votes. The growing support for Emancipation on all sides was noted. By 1812 the Catholic Question, like the anti-slave trade question became a non-party issue.

            Seeds of more disputes were sown at a meeting in Galway in April 1812, with Lord Ffrench in the chair, when it was decided to impose a pledge on future MPs that they would vote for Emancipation if they were returned. Other counties too passed similar resolutions, but this was not general.

            At this time Sir John Coxe Hippisley made his own attempt to rescue the Pope. The English and Scottish vicars apostolic decided to appoint a Scottish priest, Dr Paul MacPherson as their agent and to send him to Rome. Coxe Hippisley came to an arrangement with the Hon Mr Yorke and the ministry and sent for Dr MacPherson to explain his plan. A Captain Otway was to command the expedition. Ships of war and transports were to assemble off  Cagliari in Sardinia, and British troops were to land at Savona at night. Dr MacPherson was to travel to Savona, make himself known to the Pope so that he would not be alarmed and would be ready to escape. But by this time, fearing such an attempt, Napoleon had removed the Pope to Fontainbleau on 9 June 1812 so that when MacPherson was landed on the coast of Brittany to make his way overland to Savona, he heard that the Pope was no longer by the sea. He proceeded to Rome as the accredited agent of the English and Scottish vicars apostolic, and had great influence on Dr Poynter’s behalf with Monsignor Quarantotti, whom the Pope had left in charge of affairs in Rome when he and the cardinals had been removed thence (Ward 2, MacPherson had also been involved in a British plot to rescue Pius VI DNB).  Monsignor John Baptist Quarantotti had been Secretary of the Congregation of Propaganda in Rome in charge of missions in non-Catholic countries, but now was acting as pro-Prefect of Propaganda with extended powers. He relied on MacPherson for information about English affairs. Monsignor is a rank in the papal household below that of cardinal. The holder is not necessarily a bishop. The Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda at the time was Cardinal di Pietro.

            [May 1812] Bishop Douglas, the vicar apostolic of the London district died, and was succeed by his co-adjutor, Dr Poynter. On 15 May the prime minister, Spencer Perceval, was assassinated by ‘a man of disordered brain’, a bankrupt gentleman named John Bellingham, in the lobby of the House of Commons. The plea of insanity was rejected by the court, and he was hanged for murder.

            The whole question of who would form a ministry for the Regent was opened up for the third time in little over a year. Lord Liverpool tried to carry on but lost a vote of confidence. The Marquis Wellesley and the Earl of Moira were asked in turn to form ministries, but failed. Very few people were willing to serve under the imperious marquis. George Canning, on the marquises behalf wrote to Lord Liverpool on 23 May 1812 asking his support for a ministry whose first object would be to bring relief to the Catholics, and secondly the vigorous prosecution of the War in the Peninsula. Wellesley wrote to Grenville and Grey with the same proposals (SNL 14 February 1829). Lord Moira consulted with Grenville and Grey, and they once again insisted that Lady Hertford’s son Lord Yarmouth should be removed from the royal household. Lord Yarmouth had in fact informed Sheridan that he intended resigning if the Whigs came in, but Sheridan told Tierney the exact opposite. Sheridan then denied that he had been given a formal message. Henry Grattan junior, in his Life of his father, maintained that Sheridan did this deliberately in a pique at being excluded from the cabinet, but this cannot be proved (Grattan). Moira himself considered the question of the composition of the royal household irrelevant to Parliament (Letter to the Earl of Fingall 23 June 1812; FJ 17 July 1812).

[June 1812] Moira then secured the adhesion of Lord Liverpool, but gave up trying to form a ministry when the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Erskine (Thomas Erskine, Lord Chancellor in the Ministry of all the Talents) made difficulties. Some Irish Catholics were very angry with Moira for giving up so easily. But it was clear that as the question was now a non-party one it could be as easily achieved under a Tory prime minister as a Whig one. Liverpool was then asked to try and form a ministry. He succeeded in putting one together, which though it was regarded as weak at the start, lasted fifteen years. Wellesley-Pole now resigned from his position as Irish Secretary to assist the marquis still in opposition in his campaign for Emancipation. He said he had always been in favour of Emancipation provided that the establishments in Church and state were safeguarded, and now that the Regent had given his consent to the discussion of the matter, he was in favour of conditional Emancipation. Castlereagh remained as Foreign Secretary but got in addition the post of Leader of the House. This was a strategic one as far as the Catholics were concerned because it was the Leader who arranged the order of business in Parliament. Castlereagh always ensured that there was sufficient time early in the session for Catholic business. The young Robert Peel, then aged twenty-four, became Irish Secretary. He was overshadowed for some years by the somewhat older and more experienced William Vesey Fitzgerald who became Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer at the age of twenty nine and who had been on the Irish Treasury Commission and a privy councillor for two years.

The Irish Catholic Board continued to meet regularly, and drew up addresses of thanks to the Duke of Sussex, the Earl of Donoughmore, and Henry Grattan. It was reported that George Canning was intending to take some action on behalf of the Catholics. Edward Hay remained in London when a committee of nine was appointed to draw up Resolutions to be put before an Aggregate Meeting for approval. The Irish Catholics met together in an Aggregate Meeting on 18 June 1812 in the Little Theatre, Fishamble Street, with Fingall in the chair. Fingall recounted how the delegation had been snubbed by the Regent, and how he had again communicated with Mr Ryder, who said the Regent had nothing to communicate. According to a later account of this meeting by Edward Hay who was then in London, some members of the committee who had drawn up the Resolutions met again and substituted a different set of Resolutions, and also sent a copy of them to the Dublin Evening Post for publication, and for transmission to London. One of Hay’s informants promptly wrote to him in London. Luby said the new Resolutions had been compiled by Scully. Daniel O’Connell read out the Resolutions at the request of Lord Killeen who was to propose them. The Resolutions should have been read by the proposer or by the Secretary of the Board. Presumably Killeen found the handwriting difficult. O’Connell read them out in a low tone, different from the one he usually used. He was unaware of any substitution. The members of the Board  were unaware of the content of the Resolutions and made no comment, presuming that the members of the committee had done their job properly. It was noted later that it was possible to get almost anything passed by an Aggregate Meeting. It should be remembered that there were no loudspeakers in those days. Presumably, the Chairman and the proposer sat on the stage while the rest of the members sat in the body of the hall. So if the text of the Resolutions were read out in a low tone pro forma nobody would hear it. It is possible that O’Connell considered that the reading was just pro forma, but obviously he had no comment to make on the text. He was more concerned with censuring Lord Moira. Most of the Resolutions were innocuous intending merely to make explicit that the function of the Catholic Board was to carry out a Resolution of an Aggregate Meeting to petition Parliament. Because of a report that Canning was to attach conditions it was resolved that the Catholics  would reject them in advance. It was the Third  Resolution known ever afterwards as the ‘Witchery Resolution’ which caused the storm.

In London, George Canning had refused to serve under Lord Liverpool, preferring to join the Marquis Wellesley in opposition. But he now felt that George III’s scruples regarding Emancipation could be ignored when the Regent allowed discussion of the question. So despite the defeat of Grattan’s motion in April he felt he could proceed with a similar motion of his own in June. As it was nearing the end of the session, the motion was just to consider the Catholic question in the next session.

 The text of the Resolutions arrived in London just as Canning was about to propose his motion on the Catholic Question in Parliament. The relevant phrases of the Third Resolution were as follows,

…that from authentic documents now before us we learn with deep disappointment and anguish how cruelly the promised boon of Catholic freedom by the fatal witchery of  an unworthy secret influence, hostile to our fairest hopes, spurning alike the sanctions of public and private virtue, the demands of personal gratitude, and the sacred obligations of plighted honour…that to this impure source we trace but too distinctly our baffled hopes and protracted servitude, the arrogant invasion of the undoubted right of petitioning, the acrimony of illegal state prosecutions…That cheerless would be our prospects were they to rest on the constancy of courtiers, or the pompous patronage of men  who can coldly sacrifice the feelings and interests of millions at the shrine of perishable power, or deluded by the blandishments of a too luxurious court can hazard the safety of a people for ill-timed courtly compliments. The pageants of a court command not our respect- our great cause rests upon the immutable foundations of truth, justice, and reason.

Though the unworthy secret influence undoubtedly refers to Lady Hertford’s group, yet many of the phrases would seem to have been aimed rather at Lord Moira. There is no direct attack on the Regent himself. The writer too seems to have been unaware of the latest developments in London, where Canning had decided he could succeed where Grattan had failed. Copies of the Dublin newspapers arrived in London  on the morning of 22 June, the date on which Canning was to introduce his motion. Such language from the Irish Catholics was the last thing he needed.

 Edward Hay had been given a seat in the Strangers’ Gallery in the House of Commons, and was immediately besieged by those seeking an explanation, but was unable to provide one, apart from the information of his correspondent who had been present at the meeting, but was unable to hear the Resolutions themselves. Canning said he could not put forward a motion in favour of the Catholics without reprobating the language of the Dublin Catholics. However after much discussion among the MPs the Resolutions were deplored rather than reprobated. (Hay finally in 1819 sent an account of the affair in explanation to Canning). He noted that the language of the Resolutions strongly resembled what he had heard in the corridors of the Commons about the time of Perceval’s assassination, but they were purely confidential and not suitable for public resolutions. Nevertheless it was held by many that the Resolutions originated in London, Donoughmore’s name in particular being mentioned. But Hay was convinced they originated in Dublin (DEP 13 July 1819). The best guess is that they were substituted by Scully for the Resolutions he had presented to the Committee and had been accepted by the Committee.

Parliament voted on Canning’s motion on 23 June and his motion was passed with a majority of 129. Castlereagh and Wellesley-Pole voted for the motion. As Hay observed, ‘The judicious management pursued by Mr Canning and the transcendental ability which he displayed on this occasion produced a triumphant majority of 129 in support of the first favourable motion for the Catholics  which carried in the Imperial Parliament’ (loc.cit.).

[July 1812] The parallel motion in the Lords was introduced by the Marquis Wellesley on 1 July and was lost by a single vote. The parliamentary session ended on 30 July 1812, giving everyone time to prepare for the big vote the following year.

Lord Moira now passes from the scene of Irish politics. In November he accepted from Liverpool the post of Governor General of Bengal, Wellesley’s old post, and he continued Wellesley’s policies. He dealt with an invasion of the Gurkhas from Nepal and concluded a peace treaty with Nepal that survives to this day. Moira was made Marquis of Hastings. He also dealt with the robber bands called Pindaris, and firmly established British authority in Central India. His numerous successes in India would seem to indicate that he would have made a better prime minister than Liverpool. He resigned from his post  in 1821 and Canning was appointed he successor. However, Castlereagh committed suicide before Canning sailed for India, and he was appointed Foreign Secretary instead.

Napoleon, on 24 June 1812, ordered his armies to march towards Russia as the Czar was backing out of the Continental System. The Russians were narrowly defeated at Borodino on 7 September 1812 (Gregorian calendar), and withdrew their army to the other side of Moscow which Napoleon entered unopposed a week later. In the Peninsula, Wellington and Marmont marched and counter-marched until outside Salamanca on 22 July 1812 Marmont made a fatal mistake. Seeing a cloud of dust on the horizon he concluded it was Wellington’s army hastening towards the Portuguese frontier and set out in hot pursuit. Wellington’s army had not moved and was still on the other side of a hill. Wellington caught Marmont’s divisions in line of march on the flank, and utterly routed the French army. Nonetheless, the exact moment to attack, the point of attack, and the troops to be used in the attack all had to be judged exactly. Armies could march at about four miles an hour so the local divisional commanders would have about an hour’s warning. Their commander-in-chief then had to be notified and his orders issued to meet the attack. Wellington’s timing was such was that the individual French commanders could turn their units about to face the attack, they could not form a continuous line. Marmont was severely wounded, Bonnet his successor was killed  and General Clausel had to get the shattered French army away as best he could. Wellington’s reputation as a first class general soared throughout Europe. His army entered Madrid on 12 August 1812 to the ecstatic welcome of the Spanish inhabitants. The Prince Regent made him Marquis of Wellington. He advanced into northern Spain to besiege the fortress of Burgos. Fresh French armies came up and he had to retreat precipitately towards the Portuguese frontier. He withdrew from Burgos on 21 October to extricate his army. Three days earlier Napoleon had abandoned Moscow for the same reason. But Wellington successfully extricated his army, and Napoleon did not. By 31 October Wellington’s army was safe and he congratulated himself on getting clear of the worst scrape he was ever in. Napoleon was not defeated by the Russians but had walked into a trap. As the Russians were systematically removing food from around Moscow, he had to retreat to winter quarters in Poland. Though he marched back by a different route, the Russians everywhere removed food from in front of his army. Of the 600,000 persons who had  entered Russia only a body of 10,000 men able to fight remained with Napoleon’s main force when he recrossed the Berezina River in November. Prussia and Austria joined the Russians to form the Fourth Coalition in 1813. Both Wellington and Napoleon spent the winter and spring months building up their armies. France was nearing the end of its ability to recruit sufficient soldiers to make up for losses. He called up the conscripts for 1814 a year early, hastily trained them. But he also had to thin out his armies on other fronts to concentrate against the Russian and Prussian advance in Central Europe. He left just sufficient troops in Spain to hold up Wellington.

On the other hand, Britain had got itself embroiled in a totally unnecessary war with the United States that it took Castlereagh two years to extricate Britain from. The war was caused by the slackness of the Marquis Wellesley in not promptly informing President Madison that some offending Orders in Council had been withdrawn.

Though Liverpool’s ministry was neutral, the Irish Government under Richmond was still anti-Catholic, though all of its members were not equally strongly anti-Catholic. William Gregory was appointed in October 1812 as the Under-secretary for Civil Affairs, in effect Irish Home Secretary. He was then fifty six years old, and a determined anti-Catholic, and he took the young Robert Peel under his wing. The powers attached to the Under-Secretary’s office had grown up during the years when the office of the Irish Secretary was a sinecure. Not until ten years later, when faced with Gregory’s intransigence, did any Lord Lieutenant make a determined attempt to subordinate the Under-Secretary to the Secretary. This Lord Lieutenant was the imperious Marquis Wellesley. The Irish Secretary at this time, especially if inexperienced, was regarded as merely the Lord Lieutenant’s message boy. Wellesley-Pole was different, and it is not clear why he felt he had to resign, but he did so after a dispute with Richmond. In doing so he virtually handed over control of the Irish Government for ten years to Gregory. Though he was appointed by the Lord Lieutenant and in theory could be removed by him, there was considerable difficulty in dislodging Gregory and he was not actually removed from office until 1831. He was a very capable administrator. Saurin continued as attorney general until 1822 when Wellesley removed him. The Lord Chancellor, Manners survived until 1827. There were three Irish Secretaries between 1812 and Liverpool’s death in 1827, Peel from 1812 to 1818, Charles Grant between 1818 and 1821, and Henry Goulburn 1821 to 1827. Peel and Goulburn were anti-Catholics, Goulburn being appointed specifically to counteract the pro-Catholic tendencies to Wellesley. This period of fifteen years from 1812 to 1827 was the heyday of the Ascendancy faction during which any attempts to appoint Catholics to offices in Ireland, or to extend their civil freedoms were systematically blocked by a clique in Dublin Castle. The solicitor general Kendall Bushe might have pro-Catholic sympathies but he was removed from the political arena in 1822 by making him a judge.

The next Aggregate Meeting was held in the Little  Theatre, Fishamble Street, on 2 July with Fingall in the chair. He noted that there was now a real prospect of Emancipation. A petition of the Catholics of Ireland was transcribed with some verbal changes from one of the Dissenters. At this time the affair of the Rev. Dr. Charles O’Conor, a close relative of both Owen O’Conor (the future O’Conor Don) and of Matthew O’Conor of Mount Druid came to a head. Dr O’Conor became chaplain to the Marchioness of Buckingham, a Catholic, and also librarian of the future Duke of Buckingham, (Richard Temple Grenville,  Earl Temple, first Duke of Buckingham and Chandos) who was Lord Grenville’s nephew, at Stowe, the chief seat of the Grenvilles. He was an antiquarian and between 1810 and 1813 he wrote ‘Columbanus ad Hibernos, or Seven Letters on the Present Mode of Appointing Catholic Bishops in Ireland’. He clearly and correctly pointed out that the Irish Church in the past had elected its own bishops without reference to Rome. He attacked the ultramontane party, and supported the veto, and preferred Domestic Nomination, and was predictably denounced by Milner. Predicable too he was suspended by Troy, and the Irish bishops denounced his book. The library at Stowe had a great collection of Irish manuscripts. He was a timid scholarly man, but was ill-advised to cross Milner even if his views were more historically correct.

[August 1812] Dr Poynter on 23 August 1812 again wrote to the Irish bishops saying that no veto had been intended, and that no innovation could be introduced without the consent of the Pope. But Milner insisted that they ‘retract’ their errors. None of the three Irish archbishops to whom the letter was sent replied (Ward II).

        [November 1812] Liverpool’s ministry was now surprisingly secure. There was no strong anti-war faction. Liverpool asked the Regent for a dissolution of Parliament and a general election. Peel’s first job in Ireland was to organise it for the Government. Peel wrote light-heartedly to his friend Croker, that he was ‘bound to secure the Government’s interests if possible from dilapidation, but still more bound to faint with horror at the mention of money transactions’. These were not particular instruction to Peel to bribe right left and centre while at the same time denying it. Every out-going Government in the early nineteenth century tried to influence the outcome of elections. The Irish Government had little money to spend on bribery. But promises of future favours could always be made to important landowners whose forty-shilling freehold tenants would vote as instructed, or to borough-owners who would instruct the handful of voters in the boroughs. O’Connell said he had no doubt that John Burke and John Lalor had thus been approached, and perhaps they had been. He was then fifty six years old. The Catholics had no general policy regarding which candidates they should support. Donoughmore’s brother was defeated in Cork and he expressed his displeasure to Fingall, saying that the Hely-Hutchinsons were thrown out of Cork after representing it for fifty years. (This seems to be one of the earliest cases where attempts were being made to break the stranglehold of certain Tory families on certain constituencies. Some time later the Fosters were thrown out of Louth, and the Beresfords from Waterford.) In some constituencies there was a policy of extracting pledges from candidates, in other not. Owing to a mix-up John Philpot Curran was defeated in Newry. John Burke of Glynsk and John Lalor of Cranagh supported a Government candidate. John Lawless wanted them expelled from the Catholic Board, but Fingall defended their liberty of conscience. O’Connell, in a typical remark said that while he did not doubt for a moment the baseness of their motives he considered the Board incompetent to expel them, i.e. it was not a matter concerning a petition to Parliament. Burke replied that Emancipation was a single issue, and opening up the county of Galway, which was nearly as bad as a borough was a more important task. Despite help from Edward Jerningham, Sheridan was defeated in Stafford, and his long and distinguished parliamentary career came to an end. He was by then an alcoholic, and he died in 1816. The new Parliament opened on 30 November 1812.

        This election seems to have been the first in which a Catholic priest acted as an election agent. His name was Fr Cornelius O’Mullane, and the disturbances in which he became involved resulted in lawsuits for many years to come. He brought an action for damages in Galway in 1816 against someone who had described him as a degraded and convicted clergyman. When it was related in court that he was suspended by his bishop for taking part in politics, and because of a legal conviction for causing  a riot and assault in his own chapel, and for his connection with the Catholic Board, and that the other bishops of the province had added their names to his suspension, he was awarded damages of six pence. He was at that time serving as a curate in Dublin. Another priest who involved himself in politics in this election was Fr John England from Cork, who also started a newspaper. The other Irish bishops were relieved when he left Ireland in 1820 to become bishop of Charleston in South Carolina in the United States where he had a very successful career. The case is of interest as showing the strong reaction of the bishops at that time to priests involving themselves in politics. Some superiors of religious orders like the Franciscans and Carmelites  seem to have taken a more relaxed line with regard to priests attending meetings purely to petition parliament. In 1815 James Magee of the Dublin Evening Post was trying to recover the costs of damages resulting from a report which he had published relying on the account of Nicholas Purcell O’Gorman (DEP 16 Dec 1815).

The Irish bishops met on 18 November 1812. They condemned O’Conor’s book and again stated that no changes could be made in the mode of appointing Irish bishops without the consent of the Pope. The also condemned Blanchardism, though this did not exist in Ireland, except in Milner’s imagination (RWC 5 December 1812). The Catholic Board seemed to be more interested in the question of Burke and Lalor, than on the dilemma which faced them. Canning was going to bring in a Relief Bill, and he would attach Securities to that Bill. The Board seems to have been burying its head in the sand. It was not a question whether they liked Securities, but what they would do about them.

Ward quotes a passage that shows Milner’s mind at this time. It refers to proposals which Dr Moylan of Cork had made in his attempt to get an agreement between the Irish bishops and the English vicars apostolic. Had these proposals been adopted

        Perfect peace and harmony would have been restored among the Catholic pastors of these two islands; the mischievous Resolution of the Tavern meeting would have been rendered  innocuous; the schismatical clauses of the ensuing Bill would not have been brought forward; the Blanchardist schism would have been suppressed, and hundreds if not thousands of the emigrant French who during the following six years died in acknowledged schism without any other chance for eternity but that which invincible ignorance afforded would have died in the open communion with the Catholic Church (Ward II).

        Milner was convinced that the discord among the bishops was caused by his opponents who refused to recognise the truth, that the French émigré clergy would be damned for ever for not agreeing with his views of the truth, and that George Canning’s Securities would cause a schism in the Catholic Church. It is hard to believe however that Troy among other Irish bishops accepted these extreme formulations.

        [December 1812] At his home in Tinnehinch, Co. Wicklow, Grattan with the help of Mr Plunket, Mr Burrows, Mr Burton, and Mr Wallace was drawing up a Bill to be submitted to Canning (Grattan). Grattan’s version lacked Canning’s additional clauses. In England, Charles Butler had been asked to draft a suitable Bill subject to certain conditions, that the Established Church be maintained, that the Protestant succession to the throne be maintained, that few a few exception, and consistent with these two conditions, all statutes against Catholics be repealed (Ward II). Sir John Newport consulted the local bishop, Dr Power, in Waterford, but when he reported his views to Grattan the latter was of the opinion that those views were not common. [Top]

Canning’s Bill (January to May 1813)

            [January 1813] For the next few years the main scene of activity shifted to England. Firstly, Canning decided without consultation, to settle the matter himself in his own way. Catholic petitions were therefore unnecessary. Secondly, Dr Poynter took a somewhat more flexible and pragmatic view of the Securities, and did not regard them as an unmitigated disaster. He decided it was best if the bishops gave a lead rather waiting for laymen to make honest mistakes and then condemning them. The agent of the English vicars apostolic, MacPherson, had now safely reached Rome. The Irish bishops could also have requested a clarification from Rome, but they probably suspected that it would not be favourable to them, and preferred to wait until they could send representatives to Rome to see the Pope himself. In the normal course of events, replies from Rome are replies from the relevant part of the papal curia even if approved by the Pope. Thirdly, with the defeat of Napoleon, the Foreign Secretary was able to deal directly and even personally with the Cardinal Secretary of State. As the matter directly concerned foreign governments it came under the Secretariate of State not the Congregation of Propaganda.

[February 1813] The Irish Catholic Board balloted to select members to accompany the Earl of Fingall to London. These included the Earl of Kenmare, Sir Francis Goold, Owen O’Connor,  Randall McDonnell, and Peter Hussey. The English Catholic Board asked Charles Butler to draw up their petition. It contained the following passage,

Your petitioners also humbly conceive that further securities cannot reasonably be required of them, but this. With a perfect spirit of conciliation, they leave to the wisdom and decision of the legislature, feeling confident that the legislature will never undo or render nugatory its own work by accompanying the relief granted with any clause or clauses to which your petitioners cannot conscientiously object (Ward II)

Grattan now got the assistance of Ponsonby and Elliot, another Whig MP to draft the Bill. Neither Canning nor Castlereagh seem to have been involved in the preliminary drafting. Charles Butler was asked to write out the first draft as he had done on a previous occasion in 1788. Involving Butler was a mistake, because then Milner would spare no effort to destroy the Bill. The whole preparation of this Bill presents a scene of confusion. What was Canning doing to co-ordinate efforts? Castlereagh seems not to have been consulted, and at his first intervention he said he could not support a bill without Securities. Donoughmore requested Fingall to find out the views of Grey and Grenville (Fingall NLI).  Neither the English nor the Irish framers of the Bill included Securities in their drafts though they may have been aware of the distinct possibility that others would insist on including them. Or perhaps they knew that it was intended to include the Securities as a separate Bill, and to amalgamate the two Bills later. But this seems unlikely. Monsignor Quarantotti sent a rebuke to Troy and Milner for interfering in the affairs of the London District, clearly at the request of MacPherson. Communication with Rome was now clearly much easier. Poynter kept MacPherson informed of developments (Ward II). After Napoleon’s defeat in Russia, Murat in Naples made peace with the British. The French still held the Papal States and the rest of Northern Italy until defeated by the Neapolitans and Austrians in April 1814.

            On 25 February 1813 Grattan introduced his motion on the Bill. Peel was now the chief Protestant champion and was to hold that position almost to the end sixteen years later. Sir Henry Parnell noted that there was no longer a question of examining Catholic doctrines, catechisms, or oaths as Mr Perceval and Lord Liverpool had agreed that such matters were irrelevant (Only the aged Patrick Duigenan persisted in resurrecting them. Duigenan was married to a Catholic lady and permitted her to keep a chaplain. Duigenan was almost as famous in the House of Commons for his antiquated bob-wig and Connemara stockings as for his anti-Catholic opinions. He was MP for Armagh DNB). Wellesley-Pole made a long speech in favour of Emancipation. Peel made a powerful speech in reply, accusing Pole of inconsistency. He also accused the Irish Catholic peers of inconsistency, for in 1791 they broke away from the Catholic Committee, and today, when they have greater reason to break away they do not. Castlereagh wished to see the matter discussed ‘ with temper, and moderation, and coolness’, but insisted that there must be some Securities. He himself had none in mind at the moment, but noted that the Bill as it now stood lacked them. He noted that all Catholic rulers had some controls over the Pope’s actions. He did not think that the veto was incompatible with Catholic doctrines. The Irish bishops had proposed it to him and not he to them. They merely stated that the head of their Church must sanction it. He could not support the Bill in its present form because it contained no Securities. On this point he confessed pessimistically that he had little hope that a solution would be arrived at (  8 March 1813).Grattan’s motion to go into a Committee to examine the Catholic claims was passed by  264 votes to 224. It was then proposed to present a series of Resolutions to the House, which being passed would form the basis of the Bill.

[March 1813] On 9 March 1813 the Speaker left the Chair and the whole House went into committee. The Speaker of the House, Charles Abbot, the former Irish Secretary, could now speak, and he spoke against the Catholics. The chairman of the committee was Mr Lushington.

Lushington introduced the topic saying he was unclear about definite proposals. Three plans had been brought forward. The first was for unlimited concession, but this was now abandoned. The second had been proposed by Mr Grattan which proposed Securities, but these were never spelled out in detail. In any case the Catholics would resist these, and  had done so as recently as the previous November. The third was put forward by a noble viscount, but was so loaded with that it had little chance of being adopted. He objected to sweeping aside ancient safeguards like the Test Act, but would approve of removing particular restrictions like those which prevented Catholics becoming generals. This was a fair summing-up and was very close to the mood of the House which eventually prevailed.  The first Resolution that the disabilities of the Catholics should now be removed, with certain safeguards being introduced, passed by a majority of 67. A parliamentary committee was then selected to draw up the Bill. It consisted of Henry Grattan, George Ponsonby, Lord Castlereagh, George Canning, William Elliot, William Conyngham Plunket, Sir John Newport, Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, Sir Henry Parnell, Sir Arthur Pigott, Sir Samuel Romilly, Samuel Whitbread, and William Wilberforce. Seven of the MPs were from Ireland and six from Britain. The English MPs were Whigs, except Canning.

[April 1813] Archbishop Troy received a letter on 4 April 1813 from a noble lord (Donoughmore according to Ward) who communicated the heads of Grattan’s Bill and Mr Canning’s additional clauses. Troy consulted his parish priests and replied on 12 April deprecating lay interference not authorised by the Church in the appointment of bishops, and also the proposed commission of laymen to inspect correspondence which would be a form of eldership unknown in the Catholic Church. He told Lord Fingall before his departure with the Address to the Regent that the exclusion of bishops from the proposed commission was insulting to the Catholic clergy. The Board of Trustees of Maynooth College was obviously to be the model for the proposed commission, and the laymen were mostly members of the Irish Catholic aristocracy.

Castlereagh knew, if nobody else did, that what the Bill proposed was perfectly compatible with Catholic discipline, and that the Pope’s assent would be required, and also that the Pope’s assent would be forthcoming. He also knew, and Troy knew, that European governments routinely examined correspondence, and that it was to everyone’s advantage that respected Catholic laymen with a few token Protestants should be appointed openly to this commission, to exercise their right of examination should they ever think it necessary. He knew and Troy knew that the vast bulk of communications with Rome dealt with minor dispensations like allowing the eating of meat in Lent to particular individuals. The only correspondence that it was envisaged would be examined concerned the election of bishops. It could be quickly agreed with the Irish bishops that all correspondence on that subject, and only such correspondence should be forwarded and received through the Government office. But both knew that it was not possible to discuss such matters openly in any meeting in Ireland. We can also assume that Castlereagh and Canning knew that the Irish bishops were aiming to get the recommendation of bishops exclusively in their own hands, while the clergy of the various dioceses were trying to secure the nominations to themselves. Even if Castlereagh did not consider these matters before, a brief conversation with Grattan, Plunket or Parnell would have informed him of recent developments. Canning decided to act on the views of Dr Power of Waterford. The latter, when he heard this, informed Milner, who went on the warpath again, and set out for London. The opponents of the Bill made full use of Milner’s rejection of it. At a meeting held at Ponsonby’s house  Donoughmore, Grattan, and Ponsonby registered their disapproval of Canning’s clauses, but they were over-ruled. Castlereagh said he had clauses of his own to add to give to the crown greater powers over the appointment of Catholic bishops (Grattan). The Irish noblemen to be lay commissioners were to be Lords Fingall, Kenmare, Trimleston, Gormanston, and Southwell. The peers on the corresponding English commission were to be Lords Shrewsbury, Stourton, Petre, Arundell, and Clifford (Ward II ).

The Irish Catholic noblemen at the time were Arthur James Plunket, Earl of Fingall; Valentine Brown, Earl of Kenmare; Jenico Preston, Viscount Gormanston; John Netterville, Viscount Netterville; Thomas Anthony Southwell, Viscount Southwell; Nicholas Barnewall, Viscount Trimleston; and Thomas Ffrench, Baron Ffrench. Also counted as an Irish peer was Charles Talbot, Earl of Waterford but more commonly known as the Earl of Shrewsbury in England. Lord Kenmare eldest son was called by courtesy Lord Castlerosse, and Fingall’s eldest son was similarly called Lord Killeen. Trimleston was 84 years old and inactive, but one of his sons, the Hon. John Thomas Barnewall was active in Catholic circles. The Southwells were unusual in that they were a Protestant family which had become Catholic in the 18th century (RWC 10 December 1812). Not counted in this list were baronets like Sir Edward Bellew, as these were not considered peers and had no rights to seats in the House of Lords. They were like hereditary knights.

Archbishop Carroll of Baltimore had been trying to contact the Pope since the death of Dr Concanen in 1810, and on 12 April 1813 wrote to Troy that he had been unable to reach him. It was thought that one letter got through, but there was no reply (Moran). Troy had similar problems because there were now several vacancies among the Irish bishops which could not be filled. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Irish bishops were using the excuse that they could not reach to Pope personally to prevent any discussions of ecclesiastical discipline until they were in a position to put their views to the Pope. Carroll, in the United States, was in the unique position at the time of being under the one Government, Catholic or Protestant, in the world that did not seek some control over the appointment of bishops. Carroll’s trouble was that Troy wanted some influence over the appointment of American bishops. Troy succeeded in 1814 in getting another Dominican Dr Connolly OP, to which Order Troy belonged, appointed to New York. This was a reversion to the practice in the previous century when Rome accepted recommendations or endorsements from any quarter. As Dr Patrick Curtis a few years later asked the Duke of Wellington for his endorsement, the practice clearly had not died out.

[May 1812] Canning wrote to Troy on 3 May 1813 out of courtesy informing him of the additional clauses. This was merely to inform him, not to invite a debate for Parliament would decide. Troy replied to him on the 8th noting the strong objections in Dublin; he said that if the commissions were ever admitted they should have a majority of bishops, or at least an equal number of peers and prelates, and he reminded Canning that nothing could be changed without the consent of the Pope. At this point too, Edward Hay wrote to Counsellor Finn saying that the Bill would not pass without the Securities, but that he had been able to secure some modifications to them, and that the intended commissions had been altered so as to be only a kind of registry (SNL 9 June 1813). Both Hay and Troy, by these admissions of correspondence had laid themselves open to charges by the Catholic hard-liners that they were negotiating away the rights of fellow-Catholics for personal gain. Hay and Troy were realistic enough to see that if the Bill were to pass it was best to secure the most modifications that could be attained. People like Milner thought that any Bill that did not meet their full approval should be killed. There were many people like Milner in Ireland. Clear-minded people like Lushington could see that the Catholics could have either a wholesale purging of the Penal Code accompanied by Securities, or a series of piece-meal and gradualist reforms allowing them into particular offices and without Securities. But as always in Ireland, and not only in Ireland, there were always those fired with an ideal or ideology who saw any kind of compromise as a betrayal of the cause.

The Catholic Board met on 1 May with Lord Fingall in the chair. This meeting was conducted in private, but O’Connell gave a full account of it to the Dublin Evening Post which printed it on 4 May (DNB). Two letters from Edward Hay were read out explaining his prolonged stay in London. It was decided that the mandate of the delegates to present the address to the Regent was expired, so an additional mandate was passed and Sir Edward Bellew, Major Bryan, Denys Scully, Daniel O’Connell, and John Bagot were appointed as additional delegates. Fingall promised that they would sail on the first fair wind. O’Connell spoke eloquently on the proposed Bill. He apparently had been given a good indication of what the Bill would contain. He denounced the Bill as ‘restricted in principle, doubtful in its wording, and inadequate to that full relief which had been generally expected’. The ecclesiastical provisions of the Bill he left to the bishops, but with the warning, that if the bishops accepted them he might find it his duty ‘to protest against any measure that might tarnish the last relic of the nation’s independence – its religion (DNB). It is a curious argument. The clauses were an additional minor reduction of the powers of the native chiefs of Ireland who had been under the crown since the reign of Henry II of Anjou in 1171. He emerged as a populist orator, prepared for his own purposes to pander to the prejudices of his audience, and ready with a host of alternative suggestions regarding what the Government might do with a total disregard for their practicality. These traits remained with him for the rest of his life. O’Connell was a man prepared to use every trick in the book to win an argument; outright lies, bluff, coarse abuse, challenges to fight duels, allegations  regarding the drawbacks of possible interpretations, and back-stabbing with allegations of treating with ministers (SNL 6 May 1813).

On 4 May 1813 the text of the proposed Bill was published in the Dublin papers. All future Bills except the final one were modifications of this Bill. A simple oath of allegiance to His Majesty would be required. Catholics could sit in Parliament, could vote and could be promoted to all civil offices except Lord Chancellor of England and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (these were excepted because patronage in the Established Churches was connected with the offices. All Catholic clergymen were to take the oath of allegiance. This same oath to be used by all Catholics when an oath is required in the king’s courts. They could be members of any corporate body, including the Bank of Ireland and the universities, provided this does not interfere with appointments in which the Established Churches have an interest such as ecclesiastical courts, or an office in a university with an ecclesiastical foundation. Only British subjects could become bishops, and those elected bishops must be residents in the United Kingdom for a period before their election.

The additional clauses stated that certain persons, to be named,  were to be appointed Commissioners for the purposes of the present Act; such a commissioner must be a resident peer or a commoner with a freehold of £1,000 p.a.; the Commissioners had power to appoint and remove a Secretary paid out of Government funds; every person nominated, elected or appointed ‘according to the usages of the Roman Catholic Church, was to notify the said Secretary who would inform the Commissioners who by majority vote would decide on his loyalty; a similar commission was to be appointed for Ireland. Bulls and rescripts were to be presented to a similar commission, but this one, following the Maynooth model was to include the Lord Chancellor, the Irish Secretary, and the Catholic archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, unless the recipient testified under oath that the communication was purely of a spiritual nature. This last clause virtually repealed the Statutes of Praemunire) (SNL 4,5 May 1813).

Nothing more innocuous  could be devised, and similar tests of loyalty had been imposed by Catholic monarchs since feudal times. The Catholics in Great Britain and Ireland had accepted royal nomination by the exiled Stuart monarchs until about twenty five years previously. The British king had definite rights in the appointment of bishops in Canada. Furthermore, as Castlereagh was to point out, it was his duty as Foreign Secretary to advise the Regent on whom to nominate as the Catholic bishop of Malta, ‘who, having been nominated by the crown, received afterwards his canonical induction from the See of Rome’ (SNL 15 May 1813) . (Malta was a peculiar case. It was a sovereign state under the Knights of Malta, was captured by Napoleon in 1798 and returned to the Knights in 1802. The people however preferred British rule. The Prince Regent was obviously exercising the powers of the Grand Master of the Knights with the consent of the Holy See.) Yet these clauses which everyone knew could be conceded but which most of the Irish bishops and laymen (with Milner) felt ought not to be conceded paralysed Catholic action for nearly a decade. Not only were the Irish lay Catholics (with Milner) divided into s and anti-s, but also the Irish Catholic laity became very suspicious of the Irish bishops.

As Hay had written to Counsellor Finn, the commissions had been reduced virtually to a species of registry. Catholic priests had to be registered since 1703 while bishops were excluded. Now bishops were to be added to the register. When Finn disclosed this to the Catholic Board a delegation was sent to Troy to find out what he had been negotiating behind their backs. Troy wrote to Donoughmore saying that his letter was confidential and wanted to know how Hay got to see it, and he was still more surprised that Mr Hay had asserted that he had assented to the clauses. Troy later explained that he had discussed the matter with a certain baronet. (Ward thinks it was Coxe Hippisley, but references in the Irish newspapers seem to point rather at Sir Edward Bellew.) Troy had told him what the Irish bishops would accept if they were forced, not what they wished. Troy about this time wrote to Dr MacPherson in Rome saying that it was impossible to prevent the passing of the Bill, but they were doing what they could to get modifications. The modification he was looking for was equal representation of the bishops on the commissions. As with the Maynooth Board the lay representatives would be there pro forma, and all the real discussions would be confined to the bishops. (It was remarked even a century later, that the episcopal trustees of Maynooth discussed the affairs of the College with the President of the College outside the door!)

On 11 May 1813 Canning introduced his proposed Securities in Parliament, making it clear that he required a royal veto on the appointment of bishops, but he had difficulty in drafting his clauses and on 19 May, at Castlereagh’s suggestion withdrew the clauses for further discussion. This veto was clearly to be purely a negative veto, and the veto would be activated only in cases of suspected treason as testified by the Commissioners. Charles Butler wrote to Troy to say that he had been merely consulted on points of canon law. He considered the additional clauses both unnecessary and innocuous. He added

The clauses were not imagined by me, the only part I have taken in them is that finding that safeguards were absolutely required, I have worked day and night to bring them down to a form the least unpleasant to the Roman Catholics which those who require safeguards could be brought to endure...

I beg leave however to add that in practice the commission will prove a mere matter of form; secondly that it deserves consideration that if any bull or other instrument described by the Act should be obtained and not produced it will be next to impossible to convict the party of it by legal evidence; and thirdly, as the law now stands the obtaining of such a bull is in Ireland punishable by the forfeiture of all the party’s real and personal estate and by his being put out of the king’s protection; and that in England it is high treason, so that in such an extreme case as I have mentioned, the Act will be beneficial to the party convicted (Ward II).

Butler seems to be referring to a decision of a former Lord Chief Justice of England who refused to convict a Catholic priest of saying mass on the grounds that the Protestant informer did not know what a mass looked like. The last clauses show some ways in which English and Irish statutes could differ. Contacting the Pope in Ireland without permission resulted in forfeiture of lands and outlawry; in England it amounted also to high treason the punishment for which was beheading.

            Once again it is difficult to determine the grounds of objection of the various parties. Milner considered it a Gallican plot. The bishops seem to have been trying to increase the influence of their own order, without admitting that this was what they were doing. The view of the laymen reflected by O’Connell seems to have been that in some way one of the last surviving relics of Irish independence whittled away since the twelfth century was being tampered with. But there was the long-standing connection between the campaign for Relief for the Catholics and the original ideals of the United Irishmen, reform of Parliament, greater democratic participation, and control of the influence of the crown which was seen as malign and corrupt. Yet these were very unformed ideas. Popular democracy and manhood suffrage were not thought of, though they existed in the United States. Ideas of ending corrupt boroughs and ending control of the counties by the great landowners were only just being considered. The parish priests were just beginning to claim a right that historically they did not have of choosing their bishops. But none of these points figured prominently in the debates. The Catholic laity recognised that choosing bishops was a purely ecclesiastical matter. (This Hildebrandine view was completely accepted at the time; only after the Second Vatican Council 1962-1965 was this view challenged.) Yet the popular feeling against the ecclesiastical clauses was very strong.

            The Irish bishops met on 26 May and duly condemned the clauses, echoing Milner and  claiming it would cause a schism. Milner produced a flysheet and distributed it among the MPs condemning the Bill on 21 May . He went so far as to say that the proposed clauses were totally incompatible with Catholic doctrine and would cause a schism if adopted. He did not say how exactly this schism would occur. Presumably, and against the evidence, he believed that the Pope would reject the Securities, and that some of the vicars apostolic would defy the Pope and accept them. This danger only existed in his imagination. It did not cross his mind that the Pope might accept the Securities, and that in such a case he and the Irish bishops would have to accept them or themselves cause a schism. It is worth remembering that the opinion of Rome never changed. The Pope was prepared to grant the necessary powers or most of them to the British Crown, and finally did not grant them only because Peel refused to ask for them. Nor did he consider the case where the Pope granted the necessary powers, and the Catholic laymen accepted their positions on the Commissions. Rome in that case would simply direct all correspondence to the Commissioners, and only receive nominations through the commissioners.  The Pope would then do, as he eventually did, step in and regulate the election of Irish bishops, restricting nominations to the clergy of the diocese and the bishops of the Province. He ignored any effect his words had on Castlereagh who knew he was not speaking the truth. (This did not mean the Milner was deliberately telling lies; it was just that he always believed that his views were correct, and those of his opponents obviously wrong.) The English Catholic Board got Butler to write a pamphlet against Milner. Poynter, more reasonably, refused to commit himself until he saw what modifications could be obtained. Poynter, over the next few years was to prove to be the outstanding bishop as far as good judgement and a spirit of tolerance and conciliation was concerned. It is the greatest pity that the Irish bishops preferred to rely on Milner than on him. More astonishing than Milner’s views, for he was an obstinate and self-opinionated man, was the fact that the Irish bishops endorsed his views. If Milner could not see the consequences of his words, they collectively should have been more far-sighted and thorough.

            The House went into committee on 24 May 1813, and the Speaker, Abbot. Having vacated the chair, proposed an amendment to the first clause on the grounds that Archbishop Troy and Dr Milner were opposed to the Bill. The amendment he proposed was that the clause proposing to give the right to Catholics to sit in Parliament should be deleted. Abbot said that for his part he would give the direct nomination of British and Irish Bishops to the king as was the case in Canada and Malta. But these two bishops had said that the Securities were even worse than a veto. This amendment was carried by a majority of four votes. The Whigs and Canning at this point withdrew their support for the entire Bill, though Canning later regretted his haste in throwing up the entire Bill when only one clause, admittedly an important one, had been lost. There was much to be said for Canning’s more considered view. It was also not possible to foresee the future, or to know that almost a decade would pass before the ground lost in 1813 was recovered. Milner, to whom the essential point in the Bill was the veto by laymen congratulated himself on stopping the Bill. The Clauses were not Whig policy so they were unconcerned by their defeat on that issue. The clauses were the policy of moderate Protestants whose support at that time was essential to get a Catholic Relief Bill passed. The issue had already been decided when the Irish bishops two days later objected to the ecclesiastical clauses. Grattan on 31 May announced that another Bill would be introduced the following session. Canning said that the Catholics should first free themselves from the tyranny of their bishops, which was rather misunderstanding the question for the bishops to some extent at least were reacting to the feelings of their flocks. Canning’s habit of making over-sharp comments was one of the reasons the office of prime minister was withheld from him for so long. He wished to take a sickly child to the sunnier climate of Portugal and so he applied for the post of ambassador to Lisbon

            The English Catholic Board met on 29 May 1813 and passed a vote of the warmest thanks to the parliamentary committee which had prepared the Bill. It dissociated itself from Milner’s writings and passed a vote of confidence in Charles Butler. The Irish Catholic Board met on 29 May 1813 in the Stationers’ Hall with Lord Trimleston in the chair. Trimleston announced the withdrawal of the Bill. O’Connell proposed a vote of thanks to the bishops. Not all the members present were happy with this. One member, Anthony Hussey, commented that the bishops would have done better to explain how exactly schism would have occurred. Counsellor Bellew said he thought the bishops had been extremely indiscreet. He and his brother, Sir Edward, with reason, considered that a plain vote of thanks was sufficient. Ominously, Bellew also proposed a vote of confidence in Edward Hay. Luby remarks that O’Connell never failed to mention that Counsellor Bellew had a small pension form the Government. Obviously, Hay’s efforts in London were coming under attack. The motion was duly passed. The person attacking Hay was O’Connell, and his attacks had started the previous year. Hay referred to his ‘unjustifiable insinuation’ and the ‘assassinating and calumnious attacks made on me in the discharge of my public duty in London’. This would seem to imply suspicion of Hay’s dealing in London, but O’Connell now demanded that Hay’s accounts be audited. The accounts were duly audited on 27 July 1813 by O’Connell, Nicholas Mahon a rich Catholic banker, and Mr J. Sugrue and found to be in order. Hay refused to keep the accounts any longer, so O'Connell took charge of them. Hay handed over to him a sum of just over £695 which was held in Ffrench’s bank (SNL 1, 12, 21 July 1824. Hay was later imprisoned for debt when O’Connell failed to pay certain debts of the Catholic Board, see also DEP 3 July 1819).

 [June 1813] At the next meeting of the Catholic Board on 5 June 1813, a long letter from Troy to O’Connell was read out in which he too denied negotiating with the ministers. He had only made some suggestion to the Earl of Donoughmore. He had also suggested to an unnamed baronet that if the commissions were set up it would be necessary to have bishops on them. Nor had he any communication with the baronet’s brother (presumably Counsellor Bellew). Sir Edward Bellew later wrote to explain how the misunderstanding between himself and Archbishop Troy had arisen. There was clearly a witchhunt in progress for the Earl of Fingall was asked to give an account of what passed between himself and the Regent. A Resolution of thanks to Milner was passed, and also one proposed by O’Connell for an address to the Princess of Wales, the Regent’s estranged wife. What he intended by this is anyone’s guess. Luby noted that the Board’s debts at this time amounted to £3,000 [at least £100,000 in today’s money]. [Top]

Poynter’s Recourse to Rome (June 1813 to April 1814)

            In May 1813 Napoleon fought the Prussians and Russians who were advancing through Germany at Luetzen and Bautzen, but in view of his heavy casualties agreed to an armistice. French armies all over Europe were thinned out to build up the emperor's army to meet the main allied advance. Wellington was not ready to advance until the middle of May, and this time, no longer fearing to be outflanked marched his army straight towards the French frontier. At long last his army now numbering 100,000 men were supplied with tents. The French blew up the fortress of Burgos and retreated towards the French frontier, and concentrated their army at a town called Vitoria. Wellington attacked the town on 21 June and drove out the French. The news of the aptly named victory sped around Europe . Prussia and Russia ended the armistice and resumed the war, being joined by Austria in August, and then by Sweden. Wellington advanced to the Pyrenees where his advance was slowed by the French now regrouped under Marshal Soult. A close relative of Daniel O’Connell, Lieutenant John O’Connell was killed at the siege of San Sebastien. In October, the combined armies of Prussia, Russia, Sweden, and Austria heavily defeated Napoleon at Leipzig. At this point recruitment to the French army started to dry up. By the end of the year, France was surrounded, and everyone knew that it could not last another year.

            At home, the Earl of Richmond was replaced in August by Earl Whitworth (Charles Whitworth, Earl Whitworth). He owed his appointment to the fact that his wife was related to Lord Liverpool. He had been a successful ambassador in Paris following the Peace of Amiens 1802. There was no change of policy in Ireland.

            [August 1813] Dr Poynter felt that the bishops were in a false position. Emancipation for laymen was not an ecclesiastical concern, but annexed to the Bill were proposals which affected the bishops and the Holy See. Many of the English Catholic laymen, and a number of the Irish Catholic laymen, were prepared to accept the Government’s proposals, subject of course to the approval of Rome. If the Bill were passed, Castlereagh would apply directly to the Holy See, bypassing the bishops altogether. On the other hand, as Dr Doyle was later to explain, the bishops had no wish to have the rejection of Emancipation laid at their door. O’Connell’s fulsome praise of the action of the bishops was clearly aimed at this end.

            The English Catholic Board requested guidance from their bishops who had dissociated themselves clearly from Milner’s views, and if recourse to Rome was necessary, the offered to pay all the expenses. Poynter invited all the English and Scottish vicars apostolic except Milner to meet him at Ushaw College. These bishops were thoroughly fed up with Milner’s conduct at meetings, at his reporting everything they said to the Irish bishops, and writing to the press providing distorted information about their proceedings. They were no longer willing to attend any meeting at which Milner was present. No formal meetings of the British bishops after the manner of the Irish bishops could take place until he died. The bishops met in August and again in October, and Poynter kept MacPherson in Rome informed who passed on the information to Monsignor Quarantotti. There is little doubt that Quarantotti was able to keep the Pope at Fontainebleau abreast of the main developments for a large ring of papal servants was engaged in smuggling tiny messages to the Pope.

            A meeting was held in Kilkenny with Major Bryan in the chair on 4 August 1813 .Bryan permitted the Kilkenny Resolutions to pass assuming that the proposer would take full responsibility for them, and that they were not to be published. Some of these the Government objected to. They were inserted in the Dublin Evening Post as a paid advertisement, in Magee’s absence, as he explained to the court ‘by his servants and agents in the course of his trade and for a fee for his master’s gain’ (SNL 5 February,17 March 1814).

[October 1813] The Irish Catholic Board continued to meet and preparations were made for a general petition and local petitions. At one point Troy summoned the clergy of his diocese to discuss the theological errors in the general petition, and found Socinian or even heretical expressions in it! The theological phrases were excised. (Socinians accepted the Bible but not the divinity of Christ) (SNL 19, 23 October 1813). There was a notable absence of members of the nobility, those who met in Lord Trimleston’s  house. Luby noted that O’Connell wanted the seceders to return, and O’Connell referred to the secession in 1813. It does not follow that rival meetings were held in Lord Trimleston’s house at this date, though they were held later.

            [November 1813] The session of Parliament opened on 4 November 1813. In November the Dublin Catholics decided to draw up their own Bill if Grattan and Donoughmore could be persuaded to present it. At a meeting on 13 November the implications of the battle of Leipzig were discussed and the possibility that the Pope would soon be free. O’Connell stress the necessity of forestalling the English Catholics by making the prior consent of the Irish hierarchy a necessary condition of any settlement. Dr Drumgoole however considered that this made the bishops the negotiators and they might not be reliable. O’Connell added ‘having once adopted the Resolution, gentlemen could as freeholders dictate a line of conduct to their representatives in Parliament, and punish them for not following it by refusing them support in the ensuing elections (SNL 15 Nov 1813). As Donoughmore’s brother had been thrown out by the electors in Cork in the previous election this was scarcely the most tactful approach, even if Donoughmore could stomach it on other grounds. O’Connell was not in favour of entering into a discussion with Grattan and Donoughmore over the content of the Bill, but rather in stating in writing before hand what the Bill must contain (SNL 17 Nov 1813).

Donoughmore wrote on the 12 November to Nicholas Mahon as Chairman of the Catholic Board that as he had read in the newspapers the nature of the communication to be made to himself he must decline to assist them. It was absurd that the Catholic Board should draw up a Bill, get the consent of the Irish bishops, and then present it to the Lords and Commons for their simple assent! (SNL 22 Nov 1813). Grattan on the 18th wrote that the sole function of the Chairman of the Catholic Board was to communicate with his parliamentary representative. O’Connell said it was all a misunderstanding! Mr Costigan said that the letters were a useful check to the violence of the party that continued to lead the Board. How the Catholic Ultras got so far out of contact with reality is a matter for astonishment. We might presume that they believed that Charles Butler had drawn up the previous Bill precisely in order to get English Catholics into Parliament at any cost, and that the vicars apostolic had concurred with Butler. Butler denied that he played any such part, and the vicars apostolic expressly denied that they had conceded any security.

            [December 1813] At a meeting of the Catholic Board on 8 December Lord Ffrench took the chair, and Richard Lalor Sheil spoke. Sheil noted that while he agreed with all the arguments against the Securities, all their representatives in Parliament had insisted on their necessity. The reason for this was that some concessions had to be made to English prejudices. At a meeting on 11 December the sum of one thousand guineas was voted for a service of plate for O’Connell. Luke Plunkett denied that he and Lord Killeen intended to secede.

There was at this time another episode taking place which did not concern the Irish Catholic Board but which Catholic barristers, principally O’Connell and Scully were deeply implicated. This was the campaign by the Government against ‘seditious libels’. This campaign had been started in England and was directed against sections of the English which printed articles considered favourable to the French Revolution. A seditious libel was a written or printed document like a newspaper which contained writing likely to cause a riot (Keenan II) . In one particular trial in Ireland the words concerning the Duke of Richmond’s administration ‘They insulted, they oppressed, they murdered, and they deceived’ were selected as being seditious. Articles in newspapers were anonymous, so the proprietor of the newspaper was indicted instead. The idea was to flush out the writer of the article. John Magee, the proprietor of the Dublin Evening Post was charged, and O’Connell was engaged for the defence. Luby considers that Peel started the campaign, but it is far more likely that it was Saurin. However O’Connell, who never forgot a real or imaginary injury commenced his life-long feud with Peel. His defence consisted in trying to provoke the attorney general to send a challenge to a duel. This was a tactic favoured by Irish barristers in the previous century when a pair of good duelling pistols was considered more important than a library of law books, but it was now going out of fashion. Everyone in the court recognised the tactic and it was deplored by the presiding judge who felt that he was doing his client no favours. The court found the defence, printed by Magee, an aggravation of the original charge and increased the sentence. He was sentenced on 29 November 1813 to imprisonment for two years and a fine of £500 [about £20,000 today]. After a second trial on a different charge, the Kilkenny Resolutions, in February 1814 when he was fined a further £1,000 and given an extra six months in gaol. Magee, a young and inexperienced man, pleaded guilty,  handed over the newspaper to his brother James, who hastily dropped O’Connell, and brought in the experienced Frederick Conway to act as editor of his newspaper. O’Connell never apologised to Magee, paid anything towards his expenses, or did anything to get him out of prison. Conway, editor and later owner of the Post never forgot the shabby way O’Connell had treated Magee. He realised that O’Connell used people as tools to be discarded when they were of no further use. The atmosphere surrounding the trial may explain the attitude of the Ultras on the Catholic Board, and why people of more moderate views stayed away. Not to mention the attitude of witch-hunting.  John (Honest Jack) Lawless was given the nickname by which he was ever after known, for proposing that those responsible for the printed articles should pay the costs incurred. Magee spent two years in prison, and paid one of the fines. The Government then remitted the other

In December 1813 Monsignor Quarantotti set up a special commission or Congregation to consider the communications from Dr. Poynter as well as communications from Dr Troy and Dr Milner. MacPherson  laid seven queries before the Congregation, who consulted four leading theologians:


1)                  Should the matter be reserved to the Pope?

2)                  Could the prescribed oath be taken?

3)                  Could the proposed Commissions be accepted?

4)                  Should the restriction of the reservation of the episcopal office to British and Irish nationals be allowed?

5)                  Should a royal veto be allowed?

6)                  Should the Resolution of the English vicars apostolic be considered?

7)                  If the Bill cannot in any way be accepted what reply should be made to the vicars apostolic? Ward II).

The rapid progress of the War was reflected by the fact that Castlereagh was able to travel to the Continent. He set out on 26 December 1813 to keep the Coalition together and to prevent the Allies from making a too easy peace with Napoleon, and allowing France to retain parts of its conquests. The winter in 1813 was one of the harshest in living memory so Castlereagh must have been very cold in his unheated coach.

            [January 1814] Napoleon was preparing to negotiate with the Allies, and especially with Catholic Austria from which his second wife had come. He therefore decided to restore the Papal States and to send the Pope back to Savona. In Dublin the Catholic Board was taken up with internal disputes and soon lost all respect. Jack Lawless attacked the ‘Knocklofty’ sentiments of Donoughmore, Knocklofty being where Donoughmore lived. O’Connell refused to divulge the contents of his Relief Bill, but observed that Canning’s Bill had been drafted by Charles Butler (SNL 10 January 1814). Purcell O’Gorman had been sent by the Board to Derry to assist the priest, Fr Cornelius O’Mullane, who was charged with promoting a riot when organising a petition, and found guilty. This priest seems to have been the first in Ireland to involve himself directly in politics. He was suspended by his bishop and is apparently the same priest who was secreted in a nearby cabin when O’Connell fought his duel with D’Esterre (MacDonough).

            [February 1814] Napoleon attacked the Allies and forced them back temporarily. He stripped the French armies in northern Italy on most of their troops leaving the Austrians virtually unopposed while he concentrated his main force against the greatest threat.  Wellington, now across the Pyrenees on French soil, on 14 February 1813 commenced the last campaign in the Peninsular War.

            Quarantotti’s Congregation met on 15 February 1814 and issued two ‘rescripts’ the following day. They were called rescripts rather than bulls or briefs because they were of the nature of private replies to private requests for guidance. (One standard reply to questions from individuals regarding disputed points of theology was ‘Consult approved authors’.) In this case, the Congregation of Propaganda gave definite guidance regarding what the Holy See was prepared to concede. There was no question of doctrine, still less of infallibility being involved. One of the letters was addressed to the British Government and again asked for its assistance. The other was addressed to Dr Poynter and is commonly called the ‘Quarantotti Rescript’. When the Rescripts were ready for dispatch they were handed to Dr MacPherson for carriage to England.

 On 17 February the English Catholics met and approved the petition for Emancipation and entrusted it to Lord Grey and Mr Elliot. The Catholic Board in Dublin sent their petition again to Donoughmore and Grattan apparently with the heads of O’Connell’s Bill.

[March 1813] MacPherson left Rome on 10 March 1813 on the very day that Napoleon freed the Pope. The latter was released from Savona and made his way back to Rome. He and MacPherson passed each other but did not meet, MacPherson travelling through Germany. Pius however, on 29 March, came up to the British force at Modena under Lord William Bentinck, which was accompanying the Austrian unopposed march across northern Italy. Bentinck supplied the Pope with sufficient money to get himself back to Rome, and conveyed to him verbally the contents of the Rescript. The Allies entered Paris and a provisional French government was established. Cardinal Consalvi, the papal Secretary of State, when he was released from Fontainbleau, went to Paris to pursue the Pope’s main interest, the restoration of the Papal States. Once again the British Government was the only one the Pope could trust not to have designs for annexing the Papal States. As Secretary of State, Consalvi was only concerned with civil matters. He was not a priest, having taken only deacon’s orders. A cardinal had to be at least a deacon. The French army in Italy under Eugene de Beauharnais formally surrendered on the 16 April 1814.

Donoughmore replied stiffly to Mr P. Roche, the chairman of the Catholic Board on the day the petition was adopted. He said he received their suggestions as from an interested party, but does not bind himself to consider all or any of them, as it were a treaty between the Catholics and the sovereign power of the state, and not being bound in the remotest degree to regulate his conduct by them. Grattan on 7 March said he would take their suggestions into consideration (SNL 28 March 1814).

[April 1814] On 10 April 1813 Wellington at Toulouse fought the last battle of the War. On 11 April 1814 Napoleon abdicated. On MacPherson’s arrival in London on 26 April, Poynter took the civil Rescript to the Foreign Office and presented it to the Earl of Bathurst who was deputising for Castlereagh who was absent in Paris. Poynter translated the other Rescript from the Latin and published it. All the other newspapers quickly copied it. The Treaty of Fontainebleau was ratified on 16 April 1814 and Napoleon was exiled to Elba. Castlereagh offered to Wellington, now made Duke of Wellington, the position of Ambassador to Paris which he accepted. On 18 April the houses in Dublin city were illuminated for the victory. This meant candles were placed in every window. It was announced that the mailcoach from Dublin to Cork travelled the distance in 22 hours knocking four hours off the schedule. A fancy dress ball was held in the Rotunda in Dublin with Lord Killeen in Italian military uniform, and John Leslie Foster as the Grand Turk. [Top]

The Quarantotti Rescript and the Genoese Letter (May 1814 to June 1815)

The events in mid-April, the abdication of Napoleon, and the receipt of the Quarantotti Rescript produced sudden bursts of activity in several quarters.

[May 1814] The emperor of Russia and the king of Prussia visited London. Consalvi followed them to London, and on 5 July 1814 he was presented to the Prince Regent by Castlereagh. Consalvi was the first cardinal to come to England since the death of Mary Tudor in 1558. Lord Liverpool’s ministry had decided that it would seek no profit from the peace, a piece of disinterestedness which struck the French as the utmost folly. Consalvi wanted Castlereagh’s help in getting the Papal States restored, and Castlereagh wanted Consalvi’s help in getting the Pope to grant the Securities, and also to help in suppressing the Slave Trade. The Regent offered to pay all the Pope’s expenses until the papal treasury was back in working order. The Pope offered all the pillaged papal treasures to the Regent because he could not afford to transport them back to Rome. The French had no objection to them staying in France. The Regent had them carried back to Rome at his own expense.

On the 4 May a summary of the communication of the Pope to Bentinck was published in the Dublin newspapers. It was also reported that the Pope had confirmed the concession of the veto in a full consistory of cardinals. The Rescript was published in the original Latin in Saunders Newsletter on 7 May 1814. It conceded the veto and also to a certain extent the exequatur. The right of inspection of documents, and those only of a certain political nature, was conceded, not the right to suppress them. For communications of this kind by the Pope should be open to the inspection of all. Bishops were to be subjects of the crown, and to have resided for five years in the kingdom prior to appointment. If the Bill were brought in again, and the two commissions again proposed, let the Catholics accept the Bill with a grateful mind (gratoque animo excipiant).

O’Connell reacted violently to the Rescript. At a meeting of the Board  on  8 May 1814 with Mr Howley in the Chair, he said he would rather be guided by Constantinople than Rome in the matter. He had by now convinced himself that the honour of Ireland as a nation was at stake, but as always with him it is difficult to know his real feelings. If he felt it necessary to play to the gallery, or adopt a course to outwit a rival he would do so. Some of the Catholic clergy  of Dublin met on 12 May in Bridge Street chapel. There were six parish priests, twenty two curates or other clergy, and four regulars. Their leader was Dr Michael Blake, vicar general of Dublin, afterwards first rector of the restored Irish College in Rome, and then bishop of Dromore. They pointed out that the Rescript was not obligatory as it lacked the Pope’s signature. They passed resolutions saying that any such change was inexpedient. Other diocesan meetings of the clergy were held in other dioceses, Cloyne, Cork, Ossory, Dromore, Clonfert, and Meath, all denouncing the Rescript. Some assembled with the permission of their bishops, but Archbishop Troy forbade any further meetings of priests in his diocese. Most of the bishops seem to have accepted the Rescript, and probably a majority of the parish priests as well. It was the noisy protestors who caught the headlines. Milner then set off for Rome to put his case to the Pope in person. Troy was getting distinctly unhappy at the sight of ecclesiastical policy being decided at public meetings of priests and even laymen when the matter concerned only the bishops and the Pope. At the same time O’Connell and the Catholic Ultras were getting more and more suspicious of anything that was not discussed in a meeting open to all.  An Aggregate Meeting was held on 19 May with Thomas Wyse in the chair, and with the gallery full of ladies, and it rejected any rescript giving political control in Ireland. The Resolutions expressed the themes that the anti-s were to keep repeating over the next few years: that the Rescript was non-mandatory, that the concessions would be destructive of religion because of the anti-Catholic nature of the Government, and that Domestic Nomination would provide a sufficient safeguard. They ignored the need to pander a little to Protestant prejudice.

Troy accepted the Rescript, though when writing to Milner he deplored it. But other Irish bishops like Dr Coppinger of Cloyne, Dr Derry of Dromore and Dr O’Shaughnessy of Killaloe denounced it. The Irish Catholics were particularly annoyed that the reply had been sent to an English vicar apostolic (Ward II). Milner tried to mitigate the effect of the Rescript by getting the full text of Propaganda’s reply in 1805 to Dr Concanen printed in the Orthodox Journal. This preliminary statement was no more than a cautious Roman reply, citing earlier precedents, and valid only if the information supplied to Rome was correct. (The Curia had a supply of stock diplomatic phrases excluding itself from responsibility if the information supplied to it was incorrect, as was usually the case.) Quoted out of context, it would seem to an outsider that Rome had given one reply to Poynter and a different one to himself. But in this case the reply was not to hypothetical possibilities but to precise questions laid before Quarantotti by MacPherson.

On 24 May the Pope arrived back in Rome. Cardinal Litta was appointed Prefect of Propaganda. Milner arrived a few days later and predictably accused the other vicars apostolic of having schismatical tendencies. On 26 and 27 May Troy summoned a meeting of the Irish bishops and they decided to send Archbishop Murray to Rome to express their point of view. The Pope announced that the Order of Jesuits would be restored throughout the Church. The Order had been suppressed in 1773 but many of them still managed to keep together under a different name and to attract new recruits. They had a college at Stoneyhurst in Lancashire in England. Fr Peter Kenney SJ  studied in Stoneyhurst and joined the ex-Jesuits in 1804, and was sent to Palermo for his ecclesiastical studies at the former Jesuit university. He returned to Ireland in 1811, and assisted Archbishop Murray when he was asked to take over the position of president of Maynooth. In May 1814 he purchased a house Clongowes Wood, Co Kildare to start a college. Coxe Hippisley immediately raised the question in Parliament. Young Robert Peel was informed by some horrified Protestants that the Jesuits were back, but after making some enquiries from Peter Kenney he ignored them. Kenney assured him they were a lay institute, which was exactly what they were at that time. He confirmed however he was a professed Jesuit, but he refused to disclose where the money to buy the house came from. Sir Henry Parnell supplied the information that the money was Kenney’s own. Sir John Newport said that Archbishop Troy had at first refused to sanction the school, but changed his mind. Sir John Coxe Hippisley informed the House that when the Jesuits were suppressed they were ordered to hand over most of their ecclesiastical property to certain ecclesiastical persons, but individuals were allowed to retain some property until they died. There the matter rested (SNL 21 May 1814). So much for the supposed anti-Catholic bias of the Government. The aims of the Ascendancy faction were quite limited and quite specific, to preserve the senior offices in Church and State to Protestants. Otherwise, they did not care. Protestants peculiarly abhorred Jesuits. Had Peel wished to invoke the Registration of the Clergy Act (1703) to get them expelled he could have done so.

On 24 May Grattan presented the Irish Catholic petition but said he had no motion to propose on it at the moment. He had written to Lord Ffrench on 21 May saying that action was inexpedient at the moment. He repeated this in the Commons on 27 May when presenting the petition from Cork.

[June 1814] The Lord Lieutenant by proclamation suppressed the Irish Catholic Board under the Convention Act on 3 June 1814. According to his biographer Peel acted against the advice of Lord Liverpool and other senior Conservatives, some of whom felt that the Board did not come under the meaning of the Act. Whitworth, Liverpool, and Sidmouth, the Home Secretary considered him excessively zealous, especially as the Board was virtually defunct. Technically, it was not composed of delegates, but it did far more than prepare petitions for Parliament, for example by rejecting the Rescript, or assisting Fr O’Mullane. As usual, there was a local outbreak of agrarian crime, so that Tipperary had to be proclaimed and another emergency Peace Preservation Act had to be passed. Those of course who engaged in that kind of illegal activity were only concerned with their local issues, and had no concern how their actions might affect other fellow Catholics. On 8 June Donoughmore presented various petitions regarding Emancipation, but also stated that there was no intention to introduce a measure this session. One reason was that the various actions of the Irish Catholic Board over the past year were not calculated to accelerate the attainment of the objects they desired. Another was the manner in which the Rescript from Rome was received in Ireland. The Catholic bishops were sending a delegation to Rome to explain matters (SNL 13 June 1814). On 11 June 1814 an Aggregate Meeting was held in Clarendon Street chapel (Carmelite) with the Hon. Martin Ffrench in the chair. It formally allowed the Board to lapse, but declared that it had only existed to petition Parliament.

The Government was taking the usual steps to return Ireland to a peace footing. The militia was dis-embodied, some regiments of the militia having been embodied for twenty years. The volunteers in the yeomanry were thanked for their services and told to await instructions. The great war which had commenced in 1793 was finally over.Or so it seemed.

On 24 June 1814 the English vicars apostolic except Milner, but including the vicar apostolic of the Lowland District in Scotland accepted the Rescript. MacPherson was present at the meeting. The English Catholic Board were worried about what allegations Milner might be making in Rome, and wished MacPherson to carry an address of congratulation to Rome to the Pope and keep an eye on things. But the following day, the Pope hearing Milner’s allegations of their schismatical intentions withdrew the Rescript for fuller consideration. On 25 June Litta wrote to Troy and Poynter that the Pope now wished to reconsider the Rescript in a General Congregation of Cardinals. This obviously was not to reconsider the principles of the Rescript for these were to be re-affirmed the following year in the Genoese Letter, but to examine if the English Catholics wished to use the Rescript for schismatical purposes. A few days later the suave  and polished Archbishop Murray arrived in Rome, and made a much better impression than the unpolished Milner whose sweeping allegations about other vicars apostolic annoyed the cardinals. Nevertheless, Milner backed by Murray won over Cardinal Litta, a cardinal who unusually, could read English. The vicars apostolic also decided to send an address, and to thank the Pope for the Rescript even if it was not quite what they wanted.

[July to December 1814] After the flurry of activity which followed the defeat of Napoleon the pace of affairs slowed down again. MacPherson left to return to Rome, and when he arrived and found out about the allegations Milner was spreading broadcast in Rome he wrote back to say that it would be necessary for an English vicar apostolic to come to Rome to refute the allegations. It was decided to send Poynter. The Pope was very busy re-establishing the machinery of government in the Papal State, and catching up on a backlog of work. He was now seventy two. On 25 September 1814 he appointed seven Irish bishops to fill the sees that had become vacant since 1809. Saunders Newsletter commented that all except one were the choice of the priests of their dioceses (SNL 29 Oct 1814). He also appointed another of Troy’s protégés to New York to Archbishop Carroll’s annoyance. Cardinal Litta wrote to Poynter on 30 July telling him to pay back the money due to Milner. Milner was raking over every old grievance.

Rome was full of English visitors travelling on the Continent for the first time since 1803. Among them was the Princess of Wales, the Duke of Bedford, the Marquis Conyngham, and the Earl of Aberdeen. Lord William Bentinck arrived in Rome in January. Archbishop Murray was invited by the Jesuits to be present at the celebrations for the restoration of their Order, one of the few non-Jesuits invited. The Pope retired to his summer residence at Castle Gandolpho, and Murray returned to Ireland on 17 October. Milner was asked to stay in Rome until Poynter arrived. MacPherson wrote that it was intended to keep Milner permanently in Rome but Bishop Gibson warned that if this were reported in Ireland there would be a huge public outcry. The cost of travelling by public coach to Rome was about £40 (£1600 today). Poynter and Bishop Branston left for Rome on 28 November 1814. On arrival they found that nobody was in any hurry to deal with their case. Litta at first favoured Milner and then changed his mind.

There was in interesting article in Saunders Newsletter on 24 July 1814 regarding the meaning of Domestic Nomination, about which it said, considerable misconception existed. ‘By Domestic Nomination is meant the investiture and appointment of Roman Catholic bishops, by the authority of chapters, or by some other authority at home, independent of the see of Rome’. It noted that a recent bishop was not elected by Domestic Nomination, as his name was transmitted to Rome by Archbishop Troy for the Pope’s approbation. ‘If there be any circumstance in this recent appointment [of a successor to Dr Delaney of Kildare and Leighlin] not familiar for some time past it should seem to rest altogether between the body of the Roman Catholic clergy at large acting exclusively, and the Roman Catholic bishops’ (SNL 29 July 1814). Most Protestants would assume that by Domestic Nomination was meant election and confirmation of bishops at home without reference to Rome. But within the Catholic Church in Ireland it had come to mean the exclusive right of the local diocesan clergy to choose their bishops independently of the bishops of the province or the metropolitan.

In September Donoughmore refused to present a petition from Cork, and Grattan likewise refused. Parliament re-assembled on 8 November. Donoughmore asked Lord Liverpool if the Government intended introducing a Bill for the relief of Catholics, and Liverpool replied that his sentiments were unchanged. In November 1814 O’Connell wished to call an Aggregate Meeting, but both Lord Fingall and Sir Edward Bellew advised against it saying the time was premature. Some Catholics continued to meet at Fitzpatrick the Bookseller’s declaring they were not the Catholic Board. Fingall considered it better to await the results of the appeal to Rome. There was a reference in Saunders Newsletter to Fingall and the ‘Seceders’, but this does not appear to mean a formal secession, but rather a reluctance to attend Catholic meetings as they were being then held. At a meeting on 3 December 1814, with Owen O’Conor in the chair, it was agreed to choose a committee of 31 members to prepare an Aggregate Meeting and petition. This met on 13 December at Lord Fingall’s, Fingall was accused of sending a haunch of venison to Peel, which he denied. Such gifts were common by gentlemen who kept deer on their estates, and there was no reason why Fingall should not have sent it. But the implication was that he was doing deals with the Government. At another meeting, Fingall asked that their discussions should be kept confidential, with no allegations like his supposed gift to Peel published in the newspapers. All except O’Connell and one other agreed. Sheil was asked to draw up the petition.

[January and February  1815] In January the long expected secession of Lord Fingall’s party took place. At a meeting in January three drafts for a petition were read out but none secured the adhesion of a majority of the committee. The problem was that one party wanted it made plain that no Security of any kind was acceptable, while the other party led by Fingall and Sheil wanted it so worded that their friends in Parliament could use it. They were not advocating a veto, but were prepared to accept it if that was the only way to get a Relief Bill passed. The other party refused to accept the veto on any grounds. These groups became known to history as the vetoists and the anti-vetoists. The names were those chosen by the Catholic Ultras because they wanted to smear their opponents both in England and Ireland with the allegation that they advocated the veto. Their opponents always made clear that they too opposed the veto, but if their Parliamentary supporters felt it necessary to include some Securities to get the Bill passed and the Pope gave his consent they were reluctantly prepared to agree, especially as it was clear that the effect of the Securities would be minimal. Their opinion was the same as that of Henry Grattan and the Earl of Donoughmore. They regarded the Securities as unnecessary, but were not prepared to vote against a Bill just because it contained Securities.

The logic too of the Ultras was dubious. Why were they so insistent on petitioning for a Bill that could not be passed during the time the Tories were in power when by waiting patiently until the Whigs returned, as they eventually would, they could have their desired Bill? Their actions seem petulant and childish. They wanted their democratic rights? They had only to wait for the return of the Whigs. They wanted a purge of the Orange corporations? Again wait for the return of the Whigs. But if they wanted immediate access to Parliament, then they should accept the Securities.

At a meeting of the committee at Lord Fingall’s on the 17 January 1815 there arose the question of admitting the representatives of the press. As there was only one reporter he was not admitted. Saunders Newsletter however managed to get a report . The interest shown by the ordinary Dublin Protestant newspapers in Catholic affairs is astonishing. Saunders especially was notable for its neutral reporting. Frederick Conway was an enthusiastic supporter of the Catholics, so it is less surprising if the Dublin Evening Post devoted space to Catholic affairs. O’Connell reported that they could not get Fishamble Street Theatre for a public meeting so they had to ask Archbishop Troy for the use of a chapel. Troy, considering that the matter was sufficiently connected with religion to warrant the use of a sacred building consented. O’Connell proposed a petition for total and unqualified repeal, and said ingenuously that Sheil was making difficulties by rejecting the word ‘unqualified’. Fingall said he had agreed to participate in the meetings on the condition that no religious topic was introduced. Circumstances had changed, and now a single word stood for a whole policy. He deplored approach of smearing opponents, particularly himself. If it were insisted on retaining the word ‘unqualified’ he would withdraw from further meetings. O’Connell of course contended that ‘unqualified’ was not a religious term, blithely ignoring the fact that the qualification was a veto on the appointment of Catholic bishops. Sheil pointed out that O’Connell could restore unanimity to the committee by giving up a single word. Also, the ecclesiastical side was being discussed in Rome and it should be left there. And even if the Pope did set aside the three names sent to him from Ireland, the Irish Church would not go into schism. The matter being put to the vote, O’Connell won. (SNL 17,19 January 1815).

However O’Connell could never leave things alone. At a meeting on 21 January he gave a lengthy explanation of how the disagreement with the Earl of Fingall had occurred, but said they must stick, on their part, to the exclusion of Securities even if the matter was being decided in Rome. In the course of the speech he referred to the ‘beggarly Corporation of  Dublin’ which was to lead to his duel with D’Esterre. Duelling was an accepted practice, and a gentleman if insulted had no choice but the challenge his opponent to fight a duel. O’Connell later attempted to fight Peel, who was by no means reluctant to oblige. Even the Duke of Wellington, when prime minister, found it necessary to challenge an opponent of Emancipation to fight a duel.

An Aggregate Meeting took place in the Carmelite church in Clarendon Street. Fr L’Estrange O. Carm., of that church was for some time O’Connell’s spiritual director. The Earl of Fingall declined the chair so it was taken by Owen O’Conor. Edward Hay was confirmed as the Secretary of the Catholics A letter was read out from the Earl of Donoughmore declining to act for them because of reports of their activities in the newspapers, and begged not to be associated with them in the future. Fingall made it clear that though he was not wedded to any particular scheme he was unwilling to adopt this one before Rome had pronounced. The Earl of Fingall, Lord Killeen and some other gentlemen including Sheil then withdrew. This was the beginning of the split, with two sets of meetings. Edward Hay went to both sets, which did not improve his standing with O’Connell. But it marked the end of any serious attempt at petitioning in Ireland for several years. Nicholas Mahon, now  the leading Catholic banker, was appointed treasurer of O’Connell’s group. (Ffrench’s bank had collapsed, and Lord Ffrench committed suicide. Nicholas Mahon later unsuccessfully sued the remaining partners in the failed bank, to get some money back.) O’Connell proposed setting up a Catholic Voluntary Association, ‘fully consistent with any real or imaginary provision of the Convention Act’ to pursue their aims, and this was agreed to. (This ‘association’ was formed merely by members writing their names in a book.) It first met at Fitzpatrick’s in Capel Street on 28 January 1815.

 The duel between O’Connell and D’Esterre took place on 1 February. Though D’Esterre was killed his family did not press charges for murder, and no action was taken against O’Connell. Archbishop Murray was detained on various affairs concerning the Irish College in Paris, and did not reach Dublin until February 1815. O’Connell was anxious to lead a delegation to meet Murray, but others were reluctant to interfere in a purely ecclesiastical affair. A delegation was appointed and Murray agreed to meet them, though he only reported to the bishops who had sent him. Murray told them what was generally known in Rome, and about the activities of the English Catholic representatives. He himself had made known the views of the Irish. The Securities had been referred to a General Congregation (SNL 16 February 1815). Reports were reaching Ireland that Marshal Murat, now king of Naples, was sending troops into a part of the Papal States, the Marches, which he claimed had been awarded to him, and that the Austrians were colluding with him. The big issue in Parliament that year was the proposed introduction of Corn Laws to protect the farmers in the post-war slump. A letter of the Pope to the Irish bishops thanking them for their address exhorted them to tell their flocks to do nothing ‘to irritate the Government’ (SNL 7 March 1815). This was more calculated to irritate O’Connell. The rival party continued to meet at the Earl of Fingall’s house to petition and the Dublin Evening Post noted that the Government did not interfere. It was not passing resolutions about the Princess of Wales, or Orangemen, or appealing to the Cortes of Spain (DEP 18 Jan 1815).The Post of which Frederick Conway was now the editor, was however violently against Fingall.

        In Rome matters proceeded at a leisurely pace. Milner recited all his old complaints against Poynter and the late Bishop Douglass, and Cardinal Litta required Poynter to make his reply to each individual charge. Poynter received assistance from an unexpected quarter. Edward Cooke, who had been Under-Secretary in Ireland when Castlereagh had been Secretary was now Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office again under Castlereagh. So he was able perfectly to put Castlereagh’s viewpoint on the Securities, and was himself a supporter of Emancipation.

        At the consecration of the newly appointed Irish bishops in Townsend Street chapel in Dublin on 24 February, the preacher on the occasion before the assembled prelates, a Dominican friar named Fr Ryan, urged the necessity of submission to the Holy See. This caused an immediate storm, for some suspected that he had been asked to preach thus by his fellow Dominican, Archbishop Troy. Troy supported the preacher saying that there was no doctrinal error or personal allusion in the sermon. The editor of the Dublin Evening Post (presumably Conway but not identified) made several attacks on Ryan and Troy, and reminded his readers that Troy had got government posts for two of his nephews. Ryan in fact was not personally in favour of the veto. The editor was convinced that the bishops wanted to substitute a clerical Board for the Lay Commissioners, and to keep down the lower clergy (DEP 28 February,20 April 1815).

[March 1815] After a lull of several months events started to move rapidly. Murat, who had deserted Napoleon the previous year, hoping to be allowed to keep his kingdom, now made a treaty with him. The treaty of Caza Lanza restored Naples to the Bourbons. Napoleon escaped from Elba on 28 of February and made his way rapidly to Paris gathering forces on the way. Murat advanced on Rome with the intention of striking at the Austrians in northern Italy. The Pope abandoned the city before the start of Holy Week expecting to arrive in the Grand Duchy of Florence in time for Easter Sunday, 26 March. The Pope did not stay there, though the Austrian army was advancing, but proceeded to the coast near Leghorn and took a felucca to Genoa where there was a British force stationed. He arrived there on 3 April.

        English visitors rapidly dispersed from Rome. On 22 March the Allies assembled in Vienna outlawed Napoleon.

[April 1815]. The cardinals, followed by Milner, Branston, and Poynter, joined the Pope in Genoa (Diario di Roma 1815). As the Pope and the cardinals had little else to do they discussed the veto. All their needs were provided for by the British Government, a government which was not asking anything in return. British troops formed the papal bodyguard all during the Pope’s stay. Castlereagh had made it clear that the Government itself was not seeking Emancipation for the Catholics, but if it were conceded certain conditions would be attached. Nor was it looking for diplomatic relations to be restored. Castlereagh and Consalvi had discussed the matter but had decided that it was better to continue to use informal channels (Webster). Cardinal Litta told Poynter that he had instructed Milner in Archbishop Murray’s presence to desist from publishing ecclesiastical affairs. Litta wished to detain Milner in Rome, but Milner was unwilling to stay. Litta told Poynter that no letter was given to Milner on his departure lest he try to make use of it. Litta had learned a lot about Milner’s character. Poynter remained to receive the Pope’s reply to the queries of the English vicars apostolic. The special Congregation of Cardinals met on the 20 April. A letter was drawn up which the Pope personally revised and it was handed to Poynter on 26 April, and on 28 April he left Genoa to return to England, being forced to travel through the Brenner Pass into Germany, and he passed through Brussels six days before the battle of Waterloo. The Pope left Genoa on 18 May. The Papal States were restored in their entirety.

        This letter has always been known as the Genoese Letter. The text of the oath of loyalty agreed between Castlereagh and Consalvi contained no explicit renunciation of the temporal power of the Pope in England, and so was unlikely to be approved by Parliament. It approved the veto with certain safeguards. Neither the Placet nor Exequatur were conceded. Privately Consalvi agreed that the Commission to examine communications could be tolerated, but not approved. Poynter was reminded of the existing rule that when bishops made their reports to the Holy See they were strictly prohibited from including anything of a political nature (Ward II, DEP 26 December 1815). Beyond communicating the reply to the other bishops and showing it in secret to some leading Catholic laymen, Poynter did not publish the letter, and its existence was not widely known for over a year. Neither Milner nor Troy saw fit to publish it either. 

       [May and June 1815] In face of the Austrian advance Murat retreated, and was crushed at Tolentino. Napoleon struck at the British and Prussian armies in Belgium, hoping in the old way to defeat them separately, and very nearly succeeded. After separate heavy attacks on the Prussians at Ligny and the British at Quatre Bras on 16 June during which he inflicted heavy casualties on both but without defeating either, he came up against Wellington’s main force at Waterloo on 18 June 1815.The Duchess of Richmond was giving a ball in Brussels where the duke was now residing. Wellington attended, but slipped away unobtrusively. The battle raged, and finally the cry went up ‘La Garde recule’ (The Old Guard is falling back). It was the last battle of twenty three years of war, and shortly afterwards Napoleon surrendered to the British Captain Maitland on board the Bellerephon. His return had lasted 100 days. He was sent to St Helena, an island from which there could be no escape.

        O’Connell’s committee continued to meet, but Grattan refused to present their petition. The task was undertaken by the very inexperienced  Sir Henry Parnell. The Bill, which had been drawn up by O’Connell, Scully and O’Gorman never had the slightest chance of being passed even if it were introduced. There is an interesting letter of O’Connell’s from this time in which he says,

‘The crown priests (i.e. those in favour of the veto) will be despised and deserted by the people who will be amply supplied  with enthusiastic anti-anglican friars from the Continent. There is a tendency already to substitute friars for any priests who are supposed to favour the veto. This is very marked in Dublin already, and they know little of Ireland who suppose that they could abolish friars by law’ (Fitzpatrick, Correspondence).

Reading between the lines we can conclude that most of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Dublin had followed Troy’s advice to accept whatever decision came from Rome. Some of those in religious orders in Dublin may have been more inclined to defy Rome. For many years there had been disputes and rivalries between the secular and regular clergy, but these died out in the nineteenth century (Fitzpatrick, Life of Doyle). The Irish clergy however, unlike those in England did not object to the restoration of the Jesuits. The Jesuits had been far more numerous in England than in Ireland. From letters like this we can see why Troy and Murray became very circumspect and correct whenever in future they had to deal with O’Connell.

            On 30 May 1815 when the House was considering what to do with Napoleon, Parnell brought in his motion to consider the Catholic claims. Many of the Whigs did not turn up, and Ponsonby walked out. Castlereagh considered the vote to be on unqualified Emancipation and he was anxious that the House would vote on the matter. The motion was defeated by 81 votes. A motion by Donoughmore in the Lords to consider the state of His Majesty’s Roman Catholic subjects was defeated by  86 votes to 60.

            In the same month that Napoleon was defeated a tiny vessel driven by steam against tide and wind crossed the Irish Sea. A new age had begun. Parliament rose on 12 July 1815. The battle of Waterloo marked the end of an age. The nineteenth century and the modern world may be considered to have begun on the following day.



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